Sunday, June 25, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

Iraq snapshot.

The Associated Press is reporting that Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, "offered an olive branch to insurgents who join in rebuilding Iraq and said Sunday that lawmakers should set a timeline for the Iraqi military and police to take control of security nationwide." The AP reports maintains that there's no timeline. Discussing this news on Sunday's RadioNation with Laura Flanders, Flanders noted how key events are disappearing from the reporting as the story continues to get covered and Dahr Jamail offered his opinion that the news of setting a timeline for foreign forces to withdraw from Iraq has led to some exchanges between D.C. and Baghdad. Steve Negus (Financial Times of London) reports that: "Mr Maliki’s initiative was less detailed than some Iraqi politicians had earlier implied it might be, and did not spell out how key points such as an amnesty for some insurgents and a timetable for Iraqi troops taking over security might be implemented." Tom Hadyen (Common Dreams) notes the Senate posturing last week on the issues of who will and will not receive amnesty while pointing out: "In their quest to be macho, however, Democrats may be undercutting an avenue towards peace. All military stalemates end in agreements between enemies who have fought and suffered. If there can be no consideration of amnesty for those the US is fighting, then there can be no settlement short of US military victory. " Paul Reynolds (BBC) reports that the plan is "part of a grand strategy by the Bush administration to stabilise Iraq -- or to stabilise the perception of Iraq - in advance of the mid-term elections for Congress in November." Tom Hayden concludes:

Most likely, a contradiction is unfolding within the American political hierarchy and national security establshment over whether this war is winnable. It also is a question of maintaining the American power posture, or its appearance. Those who know the war will end in defeat or quagmire favor a political strategy aimed at cutting losses, channeling the insurgency into talks and removing the issue from American politics in 2006. Others cling to the goal of eventually subduing the insurgency militarily and maintaining 50,000 troops permanently in Iraq.

This as Autralia's ABC reports that Japanese troops have begun their withdrawal from Iraq. Meanwhile, Australia's ABC reports that Australian Peter Lockwood "has been selected as the next commander of up to 2,000 coalition naval forces in the northern Persian Gulf." This as an investigation is launched into the shooting death of a bodyguard to Iraq's Trade Minister by Australian forces.

In Baghdad on Saturday, Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) notes a bomb killed two Iraqi police officers and wounded at least five more while a car bomb killed five and wounded at least eleven people. Also on Saturday, the AP reports, a corpse was discovered in Baghdad ("handcuffed, bound by the legs . . . shot to death").

On Sunday, Baghdad was rocked by explosions. Al Jazeera reports that a bombing in a maket (clothing market) resulted in at least six deaths while a mini-van bomb took two more lives.
Reuters reports mulitple killings and bombings -- two dead thirteen wounded from a car bomb near Mosul, two shot dead "in a poultry store" in Hawija, "police General Hussein Abdul-Rahman" and two other police officers shot dead while in their car in Baquba, also in Baquba, an attack on a checkpoint led to five Iraqi soldiers being killed, a carpenter killed in Mosul, a "municipal council employee" killed in Baiji, an Iraqi soldier killed in Tikrit . . .

The AFP reports that, over the weekend, the Mujahedeen Shura Council in Iraq released a videotape claiming to have killed the four Russian diplomats kidnapped on June 3rd in Baghdad. The Russian government notes that the deaths of Fyodor Zaytsev, Rinat Aglyulin, Anatoly Smirnov and Oleg Fedosseyev have not been confirmed.

Reuters reports that: "Gunmen have abducted 16 employees of a government institute north of Baghdad, in the second mass kidnapping in the area in a week, police say."

As operations take place outside the media eye in Ramadi, Dahr Jamail and Ali Fadhil (IPS)report on Falluja which suffered similar seiges in 2004. They report that the city remains surrounded by checkpoints (biometrics measure decide whether you enter or not), the rebuilding is a joke (hospital officials note that they'll all be dead before the supposed construction of a new hospital is completed), unemployment is rampant, and as to the US "the promised compensation funds, of the 81 reconstruction projects slated for the city, less than 30 have been completed and many others will most likely be cancelled due to lack of funding."

Though the mainstream press continues to show little interest in Falluja, they were full of happy talk last week about new training and guidelines resulting in less deaths at US checkpoints in Iraq. Despite those claims, questions remain unanswered about the shooting of journalist Giuliana Sgrena's car which wounded her and killed Nicola Calipari. Fritzroy Sterling (IPS) details some of the questions in the incident. Some questions may never be answered because, as Sgrena told Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez on Thursday's Democracy Now!, the US military maintains that they have destroyed the logs of the events. Italian prosecutors are attempting to try US Army Specialist Mario Lozano for the death of Calipari.

This as Wil Cruz (Newsday) reports that National Guard Sgt. Milton Ortiz Jr. is being "charged for his role in planting an assault weapon near the slain body of an unarmed Iraqi civilian whom another guardsman had just fired upon." In addition, Cruz reports that "Nathan Lynn, 21, of South Williamsport, Pa., is accused of fatally shooting the unarmed man in front of a home near Ramadi, where Lynn was on security detail for members of his unit, the military said."

Elswhere, Brian Conley's Alive in Baghdad posts a video interview with an Iraqi woman who states that the US military killed her son in Samarra 'in cold blood.'

On the issue of "we were all wrong," one disputing answer is emerging reports the AFP (noting a Washington Post) article, Colin Powell's laughable claims to the UN were vetted and items removed. Tyler Drumheller, a CIA veteran, told the Post's Joby Warrick that the section of the speech relating to mobile biological weapons labs was crossed out by the agency -- despite that fact, it ended back in the speech when Powell delivered it.

What does "AWOL" stand for? Ann Wright reports that, more and more, it now stands for "Against War of Lies" as she documents the efforts to support war resistors. Noting the eight-thousand who are AWOL, Wright also notes: "Individual non-public resistance in the military generally results in an administrative discharge without publicity. Thousands have turned themselves in to military authorities and have been administratively discharged from the military. US military bases discharge dozens of war resisters each week."

In related news, Courage to Resist notes that Tuesday is a national day of action for war resister Ehren Watada and provides a list of national events.

"On the other hand I knew that we were not fighting for Democracy, we were not fighting just terrorist, we were fighting an indigenous insurgency who was resisting our occupation. And many loves were being sacrificed for what I thought was nothing. I came to the point where I could no longer look at the pain and suffering of so many members of the armed forces, so many families being devastated by these loses, and the grief and suffering of Iraqi citizens and all for what I felt was an intentional deception, to wage a war without any purpose, without any noble purpose."
"So, I came to the point to where I believed as a person, not only as a human being, not only as a citizen of this country, but as a member of the military, that I could make a difference in helping to end this illegal war."
[. . .]
Two websites about this courageous stand:
Courage To Resist
Thank You Lt
Many thanks to Courtney Scott for producing this interview. This file is 10 minutes in length.
Lt. Ehren Watada, RealPlayer
Lt. Ehren Watada, MP3

The above is Ehren Watada speaking. You can read about it in Jim Lockhart's "AUDIO FILE: Local Interview With Lt. Ehren Watada" (Portland Indymedia and noted by community member Portland) and you can also use the links to listen to the interview conducted by Courtney Scott. Please note that Tuesday, June 27th is a day of action where there's a call to stand up for Watada. To find out more, click here.

Snapshot (Jim's statement) "Written by C.I. with help from Rebecca, Mike, Jess, Ty, Ava, Dona and Jim." (My statement -- which, watch, won't get posted elsewhere: it was a group effort in every way.)

Though the Senate offered little to be exicted over last week, The Nation's "Moving Toward the Exit," noted by Molly, saw signs of hope in the House:

When House Republican leaders responded to bipartisan calls for an honest debate on the Iraq occupation with a resolution endorsing the Administration's failed strategies and rejecting a timeline for withdrawal from a war that had that very day cost the 2,500th American life, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi countered with something Rove wasn't expecting: outspoken opposition.
"Stay the course? I don't think so, Mr. President. It's time to face the facts," Pelosi told the House. "This war is a failed policy of the Bush Administration.... We need a new direction in Iraq." Echoing the sentiments of the overwhelming majority of Americans, the minority leader thundered, "The war in Iraq has been a mistake--a grotesque mistake."
Pelosi, who became minority leader in part because she voted in 2002 against authorizing Bush to attack Iraq but who has since taken hits from the Out of Iraq Caucus for adopting a cautious approach, did more than just serve up the right rhetoric. She led a huge majority of Democrats in voting against the resolution. Even members like minority whip Steny Hoyer and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Rahm Emanuel, who have sided with the White House in the past, voted no. Ultimately, the resolution passed, 256 to 153, a disappointing result but still the biggest Democratic break so far from the Administration's line on the war.
Pelosi's strong statement and the willingness of most Democrats to cast what they knew would be seen as an antiwar vote signal an election-year shift in the right direction. House Democrats are starting to talk seriously about the war, calling it the mistake most Americans know it to be and embracing the discussion of withdrawal most Americans know must take place if there is to be any hope of ending the killing in Iraq and restoring some sanity to US foreign policy.

Can we reach or find sanity when the major media continues to play war cheerleader? Darcy notes Robert Parry's "Wash Post Smears War Critics, Again" (Consortium News):

One might think that a newspaper which helped fan a war frenzy that got more than 2,500 American soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis killed might show some remorse or at least some circumspection before attacking critics of that misadventure. But that is not the way of the Washington Post.
One also might think that a newspaper would have some interest in holding dishonest politicians accountable, especially when the consequences of their deceptions have been as grievous as George W. Bush’s Iraq War lies. But that also is not the way of the Post.
More than three years into the Iraq War, the Post's top news executives remain steadfast defenders of Washington’s neoconservatives who pushed the dangerous doctrine that military invasion was the way to "democratize" Muslim countries in the Middle East. In 2002-2003, the Post’s senior editors cast Iraq War skeptics out of the polite opinion-page society -- and are still at it.
After last week's House debate on Iraq, here is how the lead Post editorial treated Bush's critics for favoring a prompt U.S. military withdrawal:
"Many Democrats, looking to exploit bad news without appearing to rejoice in it, demagogued about presidential 'lies,' obtusely denied any relationship between Iraq and the war on terrorism and called for troop withdrawal without honestly facing the consequences of such a move." [Washington Post, June 17, 2006]
If you parse the Post's comment, you would have to conclude that Democratic war critics are truly despicable and crazy people. They eagerly exploit the "bad news" deaths and maiming of American soldiers and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis, while concealing a private joy over this mayhem for crass political reasons.
These Democrats also slander President Bush via the suggestion that he lied about the reasons for the Iraq War. The verb "to demagogue" means to manipulate a population by appeals to emotions or prejudices, suggesting the use of illogical or false arguments.
The Post apparently buys into the administration’s defense that Bush may have made statements about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction that turned out not to be true, but that he believed the claims were true at the time and therefore didn't lie.
And as for Bush's misleading juxtapositions linking Iraq and al-Qaeda in speech after speech before the war, the Post is apparently accepting Bush’s explanation that he didn't explicitly equate Iraq and al-Qaeda -- even if he did plant that impression in the minds of most Americans, including the troops sent to Iraq.
Lies & Lies
But, as we have written repeatedly at, even if one bends over backward to give Bush the benefit of every doubt -- as the Post would not do for almost any other politician -- there are clear cases in which Bush lied while knowing the facts.

So the House stood up and those questioning the war were again attacked by the mainstream press. And in Iraq? The mainstream media's referring to as one of the bloodiest weekends in some time. But we mustn't talk about exit plans, apparently.

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 fatatlities in Iraq stood at 2503. Right now? 2519. The numbers will continue to build up as long as the illegal occupation continues. With Pace's "plan" using years like 2009, expect the numbers to climb a great deal higher. Maybe all those fence sitters will make up their minds in 2009? Maybe they'll feign shock and wonder how it could have happened, how such a large fatality count could have piled up?

People are dying. Iraqis are dying. There's a laughable (to me) report that places the Iraqi fatality count at 20,000 higher than the figures used by the Bully Boy. 20,000? Try, minimum, 200,000. We're not linking to that report.

But as the fatalities and casulities mount (for everyone in Iraq), the money keeps rolling in. Asking questions as to why there's no accounability, Trevor's highlight, Katrina vanden Heuvel's "Rumsfeld Must Go" (Editor's Cut, The Nation):

William D. Hartung, senior fellow at the World Policy Institute, has a decidedly different take: "Under Donald Rumsfeld's tenure, weapons costs have skyrocketed, and one Pentagon official has been convicted for favoring Boeing in a major weapons deal. Rumsfeld claims he can't recall if he approved the actions that have led to this state of affairs. For his failure to hold weapons contractors accountable as military spending tops $500 billion per year, Rumsfeld should resign."
And so, five years into the Bush Administration, with the Pentagon's own inspector general and the Government Accountability Office characterizing the Defense Department's procurement system as "broken and dysfunctional," we have arrived at yet another reason Rumsfeld Must Go.
We might not be able to divine souls in an instant as George Bush boasts of being able to do, but we have had ample opportunity to discover what Donald Rumsfeld is all about. To say the American people deserve better is as understated as saying the rationale to invade Iraq was somewhat flawed.
Get him out.

Pru always gets the final word. Before we go to that, a visitor sent something to the public account. It's marked "Immediate Release" so we're going to treat it as a press release (meaing it can be run in full). Not this Sunday, but last Sunday someone passed away who'd dedicated their life to the struggle for peace:

Was Chair of War Resisters League
Norma Becker, teacher, civil rights activist, and
towering figure of the peace movement during the
Vietnam War, died of lung cancer in her New York City home June 17. She
was 76.
A founder of the Fifth Avenue Vietnam Peace
Parade Committee, which drew tens of thousands to
protest the Vietnam War, and a founder of the
Mobilization for Survival coalition, she was
crucial to the antiwar movement. She served as
chair of the pacifist War Resisters League from 1977 to1983.
"One of the truly great has passed," said
longtime War Resisters League staffer David
McReynolds on hearing of her death. "As much as
any, and more than most, she provided leadership
in hard times and for the long and horrific years of [the Vietnam]
Becker was a New York City schoolteacher in 1963,
when, as she said later, she was "recruited into
the civil rights movement by Sheriff 'Bull'
Connor of Birmingham [AL]." Appalled by media
accounts of Connor's use of dogs to subdue civil
rights demonstrators, Becker went South to teach in the summer Freedom
Over the next couple of years, Becker--and the
burgeoning movement against the war in
Vietnam--found that she was as gifted an organizer
as she was a teacher. In 1965, she helped to
start the Peace Parade Committee, which organized
massive antiwar protests in New York City. Wendy
Schwartz, a younger WRL activist who came to the
antiwar movement during those years, adds, "It
was Norma's energy, intelligence, and charm that
helped make those demonstrations so large and so
peaceful. She worked as well with the disparate
peace movement factions as she did with the police."
In 1977, after the Vietnam War had ended, Becker
helped create the Mobilization for Survival,
which linked the emerging movement against
nuclear power to opponents of nuclear weapons and the wider antiwar
But whatever other organizations she worked with,
Becker also remained involved with the War
Resisters League. Only a week before she died, at
the annual WRL dinner, the organization paid
tribute to Becker's profound influence on the
struggle for peace. WRL and peace activists
across the country mourn her loss and send
condolences to her daughter and son-in-law, Diane
and Stephen Tosh, her daughter-in-law Anita
Becker, and her four grandchildren, Sarah,
Nicholas, and Katrina Tosh and Alicia Becker.

Now Pru's highlight from Great Britain's Socialist Worker:

"Pulling out of Iraq is Prodi’s first test"
by Massamiliano Sfregola and Jason N Parkinson
Tony Blair has promised the Italian government that British soldiers will replace Italian forces currently stationed in Iraq in the event of Italy pulling out of the occupation.
Blair met Italy's new prime minister Romano Prodi in Rome on 2 June. At the meeting he agreed that British forces would replace 2,600 Italian troops based in Nassirya, Iraq.
Italy's occupation of Nassirya is thoroughly bound up with the oil interests of Italian companies -- in particular those of Eni, the country's energy company, which was privatised in the 1990s.
The Italian troops were deployed in June 2003 by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who lost a tightly contested general election to Prodi's centre left coalition in April.
Article 11 of Italy's 1948 constitution states that the country "repudiates war as a means for settling international disputes". This effectively makes it illegal for Italy to occupy a foreign country.
Italy's troops were consequently deployed under the ruse of a "humanitarian mission" to bring peace to Iraq. Their real duties were to protect the convoys and installations of Italian oil interests.
Antonio Martino, defence minister under Berlusconi, recently admitted that Eni signed a commercial agreement with the Saddam Hussein regime in 1997 to extract 2.5 to 3 billion barrels of oil every year from the Nassirya area.
Martino denied this contract had anything to do with the positioning of Italian troops. But a document released by trade minister Cosimo Ventucci undermined Martino's claim by confirming that Nassirya was the recommended site for Italian oil business development.
A documentary on Italy’s Rai TV station last month proved that Eni had set up a branch in Nassirya and was extracting oil. Italian troops were in charge of security for truck convoys at the depot.
These revelations are the latest twist in the long running political struggle over Italy's military presence in Iraq. Berlusconi caused widespread panic in George Bush's "coalition of the willing" last year when he said Italian troops would leave Iraq by September. He backtracked on this decision after a call from the US president.
During the general election campaign, Berlusconi's right wing coalition promised that 1,000 troops would be withdrawn from Iraq by June, the rest leaving by the end of the year.
In contrast Prodi's L'Unione coalition promised a complete withdrawal from the occupation along the lines of that promised during the 2003 Spanish general election, which saw the right defeated by José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's centre left party.
But since winning the election, L’Unione has been hit by internal wrangling over how to implement the withdrawal. The radical left side of L'Unione, including Rifondazione Comunista and the Green Party, is calling for the "Zapatero Way" -- an immediate end to the occupation.
But L'Unione's left democrat and Catholic Margherita components want to hold back. Massimo D'Alema, the new foreign affairs minister, says he expects Italian troops to be retired gradually over this year in accordance with the wishes of the US and Britain.
On 31 May the new defence minister Arturo Parisi said Italian troops would retire from Iraq -- but only to be redeployed to Afghanistan. This announcement has sparked outrage in Italy, which has seen large anti-war protests in the last few years.But it is entirely in line with the "Zapatero Way" -- the Spanish withdrawal from Iraq in 2003 led only to the repositioning of troops to Afghanistan.
Nuri al-Maliki, the new Iraqi prime minister, expects most coalition troops to have left Iraq by the end of the year. This coincides with US plans to scale back the occupation and hand over "security" duties to coalition trained Iraqi army and police.
But these assurances are constantly being questioned. Bush recently authorised a further US 1,500 troops to be deployed to Anbar province.
The occupation is bogged down by ongoing resistance and escalating violence in Iraq. That battle is widening cracks in Prodi’s coalition. The Italian troop withdrawal from Iraq is set to be Prodi’s first and most controversial test.
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