Sunday, June 18, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

Iraq snapshot.

Chaos and violence continue.

Reuters estimates that Saturday bombings claimed the lives of at least 43. This in the midst of the "clampdown." As Reuters notes of the "clampdown": "But the sweep, mounted one day after U.S. President George W. Bush made a surprise visit to Baghdad to bolster Maliki's month -- old government, has failed to stop attacks." Someone tell Bully Boy he needs to build a better photo-op. For photos as opposed to photo-ops, Polly suggests the BBC's photo essay on some of Saturday's violence and chaos.

So let's note three now common occurrences of the illegal occupation -- corpses, kidnappings and bombings.

Corpses? Reuters notes that ten corpses were discovered in Baghdad. AP notes "showed signs of torture."

Kidnappings? Witnesses are reporting that the two American soldiers missing Friday (these were the two that divers were attempting to find on Saturday) were kidnapped by"masked gunmen" (AP). The two currently missing have not been identified and they bring the MIA count of American troops to three. Batavia, Ohio's Keith M. Maupin has been missing since April of 2004 and declared captured by the US Defense Department April 16, 2004. Maupin's status has remained missing in action for over two years. The Associated Press reports that ten workers at a bakery were kidnapped Sunday.

Bombings? Reuters reports that four of Saturday's bombings have been claimed by the Mujahideen Shura Council which vowed in a press release to continue until "doomsday."
On Sunday, KUNA reports, a bomb thrown into a Kirkuk "wine store" injured at least four people. Reuters notes that six were killed by morters in Baghdad.

Reporting on a series of shootings in Baquba, the AFP notes that the following died on Sunday:
a truck driver, teacher and three brothers. In Basra, Reuters reports that, in response to Friday's mosque bombing, all but one Sunni mosque would be closed "until futher notice." Meanwhile, KUNA is reporting that a water shortage in Kuwait has led the cabinet to call on all residents to conserve water and is blaming the shortage on "obstacles" to "the implementation of the ministry's plans and programs."

The seige on Ramadi continues with mainstream sources relying on official statements from the US military. The AP notes that, on Saturday, "[t]wo long columns of U.S. and Iraqi armored vehicles . . . encircled the southern side of Ramadi". The BBC goes with "extra checkpoints" being set up this weekend and notes that Ramadi has a population of around 400,000. As Dahr Jamail has noted in numerous reports (and discussed with Amy Goodman last week on Democracy Now!), the city is under seige, US forces have set up snipers, cut off power, etc. in what strikes many as a replay of the leadup to the slaughter in Falluja in 2004. Though in multiple wire releases US military spokesperson maintain that people will be able to enter and exit, those who remember the assault on Falluja in November of 2004 where innocent civilians were killed after they'd been prevented from leaving the city (with males of all ages, including children denied exit by the US military) will remain skeptical of the official statements. As Kathy Kelly recently noted: "If the 2004 Battle of Fallujah is a precursor for an attack against Ramadi, the U.S. military may cordon off an escape route for women and children, but forbid the men and older boys to leave. It's also possible that the U.S. military will launch an offensive attack even if civilians remain trapped and have nowhere to flee and no means of getting food, medicine and water into the city." Reuters estimates that approximately 10,000 people (around 1,500 families) have left the city and quotes resident Thair Saad stating: "We're living in a war zone. What's more, we have no electricity, potable water or even telephones."

In Canada, United States peace activist Cindy Sheehan attended a rally Saturday for American troops who have elected to leave the military, the Associated Press reports, with at least twenty, of the estimated 200 who have elected to move to Canada and go AWOL from the US military, attending the rally including Darrell Anderson and Chris Magaoay. Sheehan spoke of her son Casey Sheehan who was killed while serving in Iraq: "And I wish he was standing up here with these people because he didn't want to go" [to Iraq].

Reuters reports that in the United States Senate, Democrats will offer a plan for phased withdrawal of troops from Iraq. This is not the plan proposed last week by Mass. Senator John F. Kerry which, as Democracy Now! noted, found only five other supporters: "Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Barbara Boxer of California, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Tom Harkin of Iowa and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts joined Kerry in voting for withdrawal." The plan to be proposed Tuesday is, again, a "phased withdrawal." Those with longer memories (Vietnam) will likely be unimpressed and the resolution, if backed by Republican members, would put the Senate in conflict with the House after the House passed their laughable "We Shall Win!" resolution last week.

Reuters estimates the number of Americans currently serving in the military in Iraq at 129,000. In 2004 and 2005, you may remember, the military had trouble meeting their recruitment targets (so they lowered the target). The drop from 150,000 to 129,000 might have something to do with the fact that the military continues to have difficulty meeting their targets and that 2004 and 2005 left them behind by about 20,000 recruits.

Finally, in a move seen by some as confirming press reports on Friday, the AFP reports that Junichiro Koizumi (prime minister of Japan) is considering announcing, prior to his June 29th meeting with the Bully Boy, that Japan will be withdrawing all troops from Iraq.

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 2492. Right now? 2503. We're three passed the mark the New York Times didn't feel was worth noting. The war drags on and the Bully Boy was pimping it in his Saturday radio address. Spinning wildly, he didn't even tell the American people that two soldiers were thought to be kidnapped, he runs from reality.

Gareth notes "Horror show reveals Iraq's descent" (Times of London):

THE morning rush had begun at the health ministry's morgue in Baghdad, and by 9.30am last Thursday 36 coffins already lined the street outside. A muffled wailing came from the minibuses parked nearby where women shrouded in black waited to go inside and search for loved ones, knowing too well what they would find.
The single-storey Al-Tub al-Adli morgue, whose nondescript appearance belies the horrors within, has become synonymous with the seemingly unstoppable violence that has turned Baghdad into the most frightening city on earth.
It is here that bodies from the nightly slaughter are dumped each morning. The stench of decaying flesh, mingled with disinfectant, hits you at the checkpoint 100 yards away.
Each corpse tells a different story about the terrors of Iraq. Some bodies are pocked with holes inflicted by torturers with power drills. Some show signs of strangulation; others, with hands tied behind the back, bear bullet wounds. Many are charred and dismembered.
So far this year, according to health ministry figures, the mortuary has processed the bodies of about 6,000 people, most of whom died violently. Some were killed in American military action but many more were the victims of the sectarian violence that US and Iraqi forces are struggling to contain.

That's reality. More reality comes via Olive's highlight, Paul Rockwell's "A Father Speaks Out Against the Iraq War" (Truthout):

His buddies in the Marines called him the "Aztec warrior." Jesus Suarez del Solar was one of the first Americans killed during the invasion of Iraq. On March 27, 2003 Jesus stepped on an undetonated U.S. cluster bomb and bled to death in a remote desert near Diwaniya. Jesus left behind his wife and 1-year-old son, his mother, three sisters, and a father who now speaks out against the occupation of Iraq. As a representative of Military Families Speak Out, a burgeoning organization of 1,500 families who call for an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq, Fernando Suarez tells high school and college students: Stay in school; don't be deceived by false promises from recruiters for Bush.
Fernando Suarez del Solar is a Mexican-born American citizen. With his wife and children, he immigrated from Tijuana, Mexico, to Escondido, California, where he delivered newspapers and worked at a Seven-Eleven store.
Paul Rockwell: How did your son lose his life in Iraq?
Fernando Suarez: On March 26th the army dropped cluster bombs outside a city. The next day my son's unit received orders to advance into the area. That's when he stepped on a cluster bomb.
Rockwell: Cluster bomb are anti-personnel weapons, with a failure rate of 15 to 20 percent. When they lie unexploded on the ground, like mines, they look like beer cans and are easy to step on. Did his commanders inform Jesus about cluster bomb drops in the area?
Suarez: He never received any information about the drop.
Rockwell: Was that a mistake, an exception to overall policy? Does the military put out fliers or warnings about cluster bombs in the area?
Suarez: No. What happened was, after my son was killed, the military in the area began to pay more attention. They publicized the accident.
Rockwell: I guess the Iraqi civilians, like kids playing in the fields, didn't get any warnings about left-over clusters?
Suarez: That's right.
Rockwell: How did your son get involved in the military?

Suarez: My son was in Mexico. Along the border there are military recruiters. My son told the recruiter he hoped to join the police in Tijuana. The recruiter said: "Don't join the Mexican police. It's dangerous for you in the police department in Tijuana. It's safer for you to join the Marine Corps."
In 1997 we moved from Tijuana to San Diego, where Jesus wanted to finish high school. That's where he joined the military.
Rockwell: Did the recruiters deceive Jesus?
Suarez: The military promised Jesus to provide money for school. They said Jesus would get $1,000 a month for school, but the recruiter never explained where the money comes from. When Jesus finished boot camp, he became very upset. He told me: "The recruiter said I am going to receive $1,000 every month. I only get $620."
So I talked with the recruiter. He explained, "Yes, you receive $1,000 a month, minus money for the scholarship, minus $100 for the uniform -- minus, minus, minus."

As Olive notes, Fernando Suarez del Solar was one of the leaders of the march for peace this spring (others included Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes and Aidan Delgado). Another parent who lost their child in Bully Boy's illegal war of choice is Cindy Sheehan and Brenda notes Sheehan's
"How Many More?" (Common Dreams):

On February 1st, I was arrested at the State of the Union address for wearing a Veterans for Peace shirt that read: 2,245 Dead. How many more?
A little over four months later, we are now tragically marking the deaths of 255 more of our brave and wonderful young American soldiers. So today, with 2,500 dead, I ask again: How many more? And with tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians--maybe even a lot more than 100,000--killed, I ask: How many more?
All of their families, American and Iraqi, will never be the same again due to the trickery and deceit of the commander in chief of the U.S. military and his advisers and cabinet members.
And for what?
So Halliburton can get reconstruction contracts and Exxon Mobil can lay its pipelines and charge $3.50 for a gallon of gas? So the war machine can feast off of flesh and blood of living people like greedy vampires?
Over the last year, I've spoken at a lot of high schools that have about 2,000 to 2,500 students on campus. I ask them to close their eyes and visualize an empty school. Only then can they begin to relate to this devastating number.
But for those of us who have lost a son or a daughter or a brother or a sister or a father or a mother in this war, the number one is more than enough.
One empty chair at the table.

We'll return to the topic of who rakes in the money off the illegal war but first we'll note a few other things. Kessha notes Robert L. Jamison Jr.'s "Silent sorority walks in soldier's boots" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) on Suzanne Swift:

The young woman responded by walking up to the officers with her hands positioned in custody mode -- behind her back.
With that, Spc. Suzanne Swift, AWOL from the Army, was placed under arrest on a federal warrant. The 21-year-old is now confined to Fort Lewis near Tacoma. Military officials are investigating her case, weighing her punishment.
Swift did break the law for abandoning her sworn duty. But the reasons Swift gave for running away after she served in Iraq shouldn't be brushed off.
It would be easy to make light of her claims that she was sexually harassed, or argue -- as some cynics do -- that she is looking for a quick excuse to avoid more combat.

Women who are victims of sexual harassment already have a tough time getting people to believe them.
Add the military factor, and it gets tougher.

From Jamieson's column, we'll drop back to the AP report (written by Carolyn Thompson, and this is my highlight so I'm joining Keesha in breaking our attempt to stay outside of the US mainstream as) "'Peace Mom' Sheehan supports deserters in Canada:"

"They're trying to deport me," said Darrell Anderson of Lexington, Ky., who arrived in Canada by way of Niagara Falls in January 2005. He spent seven months in Iraq with the Army's 1st Armored Division and received a purple heart following a roadside bomb attack before deciding during a leave he would not go back.
"When I was in Iraq we were killing innocent people for oil. It was obvious they didn't want us there," said Anderson, 24, who is petitioning to remain in Canada.
The gathering at a Fort Erie park was organized by peace groups on both sides of the border. About 20 former U.S. soldiers, referred to as war resisters, have applied for refugee status in Canada. Organizers estimated there may be as many as 200 soldiers in the country who have not yet sought formal protection.
"They say we're traitors, we're deserters," said Marine Lance Cpl. Chris Magaoay, 20, of the Hawaiian island of Maui. "No, I'm a Marine and I stand up for what I believe in, and I believe the Constitution of the United States of America is being pushed aside as a scrap piece of paper."
The soldiers thanked Canadians for their hospitality and were cheered by about 100 in an audience that included Iraq veterans opposed to the war and Vietnam-era resisters who sought refuge in Canada decades earlier.

These are the voices you don't hear in the mainstream media. We've noted mainstream coverage (in these entries) before on those who say "no" to serving in Bully Boy's illegal war and we'll continue to note those sources and any other. By the way, there wasn't time to note it last week, but when Democracy Now! did their interview with Suzanne's Swift's mother, they prefaced it with interviews they had already done with other war resistors. (If someone will remind me on Thursday, we'll include those excerpts.) You don't get much coverage of them, but their stories do matter.

Another story that matters both for itself and for ucpoming events is our next highlight,
DK notes John Nichols' "Who Supports the Troops" (The Online Beat, The Nation) about Thursday's Senate vote and worth reading especially now that Democrats are apparently going to propose a "phased withdrawal" this Tuesday:

The February Le Moyne College/Zogby International survey of U.S. troops serving in Iraq found that 72 percent of them thought the United States end its operations in that country by the end of 2006.
On Thursday, the U.S. Senate decided not to call for the withdrawal of combat troops by year's end when it shelved a measure proposing that "only forces that are critical to completing the mission of standing up Iraqi security forces" remain in Iraq in 2007.
After a stilted debate, the Senate voted to block the amendment 93-6.
Every Republican in the Senate voted for the amendment, which was advanced by their party leadership in as part of a coordinated political push by Karl Rove and the White House political shop to mock and minimize the debate about the war and create the impression that there is broad support for the long-term occupation of Iraq. So, too, did most Democrats, who chose not to oppose the latest administration strategy, just as they refused to challenge the Republicans prior to the disastrous 2002 and 2004 elections.
Who were the six senators who refused to play Rove's game and voted for the "Bring the Troops Home" amendment?

And you can't talk reality without talking of who rakes it in on the illegal war. James in Brighton notes a story at the Independent of London that he read in print but can't find online. Kansas notes the same story via Common Dreams, Francis Elliott's "Hush-Hush Honours for US Military Top BrassMPs demand to know why invasion chiefs and billionaire got awards:"

Britain has secretly honoured a raft of senior US military and business figures in the past three years, it emerged last night. The recipients include General Tommy Franks, the man responsible for the "Shock and Awe " Iraq war attack plan, and Riley Bechtel, head of the Bechtel Corporation.
Mr Bechtel, the billionaire head of the US-based engineering giant, was handed a CBE for "services to UK-American commercial relations" in 2003, according to information obtained by The Observer. He is a likely bidder for future nuclear plants in the UK and has made hundreds of millions of dollars in reconstruction projects in Iraq. Others honoured include several senior US military figures, among them Vice-Admiral Timothy Keating, the man in charge of maritime forces during the Iraq invasion, and Rear Admiral Barry Costello, commander of the Third Fleet and Task Force 55.
Releasing the information in a parliamentary answer, the Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, said: "Awards to citizens where Her Majesty the Queen is not head of state are not formally announced." The Government last night denied claims that it had made a secret of the honours, but a Foreign Office spokeswoman accepted they might not have been "pro-actively" publicised at the request of the recipients.

Sitting around waiting for Bully Boy (or Tony Blair) to come to their (unknown at this point but we can speculate) sense won't end the war. On what will, Pru gets the last highlight, "Stop the War Conference: prepare to encircle Labour's warmongers" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

The Stop the War coalition is preparing for a mass demonstration at the Labour Party conference in Manchester reports Esme Choonara
"We must flood Manchester with people saying that they are not prepared to let Bush and Blair attack Iran." This was the message from Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn as he called on people to mobilise for a national demonstration at the Labour Party conference in Manchester on 23 September.
Speaking at the fifth annual Stop the War conference last weekend, he told delegates, "Labour MPs need to understand that they are losing support as long as Iraq goes on, that the Labour Party is damaged, that politics as a whole are damaged by the occupation of Iraq."
Delegates from across Britain were enthusiastic about the chance to protest at the Labour conference.
Dod Forrest, a Unison union steward from Aberdeen City Council, told Socialist Worker that he thinks the trade unions will put on several coaches from the city.
He said, "I've been talking to friends who haven't been active in the movement for a few years.
"Many of them are planning to come to Manchester. They are angry with Tony Blair over many things, but the war brings it all together."
Respect MP George Galloway told the conference that the Manchester protest must be a demo of a new kind. "We should circle every hotel, lobby every delegate" he said.
"The Labour conference will be resounding with the question of time to go for Tony Blair. This will be analysed by the world's media and everyone will be listening.
"When the epitaph of Blair is written, no one should doubt he went because of the war."
Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, called on delegates to organise transport from across the country to turn Manchester into a mass demonstration.
"Demonstrations do make a difference," she told the conference, "They are not just about making the news -- they also strengthen our movement internationally and across Britain."
Rose Gentle, whose son Gordon was killed in Iraq, told Socialist Worker why many millitary families will be taking part.
"We need to show that we are not going away until Blair brings the troops home," she said. "We have seen too many killed or coming back mentally or physically wounded.
"There are a lot of mothers speaking out now who have sons still fighting in Iraq. At the Labour Party conference we can make sure that Blair hears us."
Manchester has more students per square mile than any other city in Europe.
Simon Byrne, co-convenor of School Students Against the War, said "Lots of school students made the effort to get to Gleneagles for the G8. I think that lots will get to Manchester. We are planning events and protests throughout the week."
John Cooper, a student at Liverpool university who was recently involved in the demonstrations against Condoleezza Rice, said, "We brought Liverpool to a standstill and alerted people to the size of the Stop the War movement both in Liverpool and across Britain.
"Manchester will have an even bigger impact. We need to be mobilising for this now."
Families of serving soldiers denounce the Iraq war
Last Saturday's Stop the War conference in London was the largest since 2003, attracting over 600 delegates and observers to take stock of the year's activities and discuss the way forward.
The highlight of the day was a session hosted by Military Families Against War, which for the first time involved families of soldiers currently serving in Iraq.
Lynda Holmes, whose son is a guardsman in Iraq, addressed the conference. "I work as a medical secretary -- we're facing 720 job losses and my department is under the threat of closure," she said.
"Given the amount of money they've spent on this war, I'd like to know why that money could not go into the NHS and into schools.
"But I know why – it's greed. The reason is oil and anything else they can get out of that country. This war is unjust for the people of Iraq who are now living in worse conditions than when the army went in."
Dani Hamilton, whose 18 year old son has been deployed to Basra, was one of several speakers to mention how the “mum factor”, as army officers call it, is severely hitting recruitment to the military.
The army has recently announced that it is paying a £1,300 "finder's fee" to serving soldiers if they persuaded friends of theirs to join up. This move was angrily denounced as a "bribe" by Rose Gentle.
But the military crisis for Bush and Blair in Iraq is generating new dangers as well as opportunities. In particular, several speakers warned anti-war activists not to underestimate the threats against Iran from the US administration.
The author Dilip Hiro spoke on the background to the conflict over Iran's nuclear programme, while Elaheh Rostami Povey argued that any attack on Iran would weaken the grassroots democracy movements in the country.
Mohammad Anoshehpour, an Iranian student at Leeds Metropolitan University, told the conference of his recent visit home. "I talked to lots of friends of mine -- they all agreed that if there was an attack by the US they would resist it," he said.
"We're not going to accept any foreign interference in our country. And that's because of our history -- we're not going to forget 1953, when the US overthrew the only democracy that we’ve had."
Anindya Bhattacharyya
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