Thursday, June 22, 2006

Democracy Now: Giuliana Sgrena

Thousands Protest Bush in Austria
In Austria, at least 15,000 people gathered in Vienna Wednesday to protest the visit of President Bush. The President is in Austria for talks with European Union leaders. A group of protesters wore orange jump suits similar to those worn by detainees at the US prison at Guantanamo Bay. European leaders have used the meeting to call for Guantanamo's closure.
  • Unidentified protester: "We don't like Bush. We don't accept Bush, Bush is just a killer, a murdere, he doesn't make policy, he is just killing people for his interests, for economic interests, it's mainly for oil, everybody knows it."

7 Marines, Naval Corporal Charged With Murdering Iraqi Civilian
The US military has charged eight service members with the murder and kidnapping of an unarmed Iraqi. Hashim Ibrahim Awad was pulled from his home last April in the town of Hamdania. Military investigators believe the Marines shot him and then planted a shovel and an AK-47 rifle at the scene to make it appear he was an insurgent. Awad was in his 50's with a lame leg and bad eyesight. His family has alleged a small group of U.S. servicemembers offered them money in exchange for supporting the Marines' version of the killing. The charges were announced Wednesday at California's Camp Pendleton, where the servicemembers are being held. If convicted, the suspects could face the death penalty.
  • Marine spokesperson Colonel Stewart Navarre: "It is important to note that the charges are accusations, against the individual, and the accused is presumed innocent. All marines are trained in the law of armed conflict, and are expected to fully comply with it. The marine corps takes allegations of wrongdoings by its members very seriously, and is committed to thoroughly investigating such allegations."
2nd Consecutive Israeli Strike in Gaza Kills Pregnant Mother, Brother
For the second time in as many days, an Israeli air strike has killed Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip. On Wednesday, a woman and her brother were killed when an Israeli missile struck their home in the town of Khan Younis. The woman, Fatima Barbarawi, was seven months pregnant. Two of her children, aged one and two years old, were among thirteen wounded. The one-year old is in critical condition with shrapnel wounds to the head. Israel says it was targeting Palestinian militants traveling in a nearby vehicle.
  • Mark Regev of the Israeli Foreign Ministry: "We are saddened by the death of innocent civilians. That is not our intention, but the primary responsibility for the violence lies clearly on the shoulders of those Palestinian extremists who continue to terrorize Israeli cities, shooting their rockets into towns, communities, farms on our side of the border. 150 rockets since the beginning of this month."
The strike comes one day after three children were killed in an Israeli strike on a Gaza refugee camp. Israel has now killed up to 24 civilians in four attacks on Gaza in the last month.
  • Palestinian Deputy Speaker Mahmoud Aramahi: "This is the continuous Israeli aggression against our people, our civilian people. In the moment that the Israelis ask us not to attack the Israeli civilians, they continue to kill our children, our civilians, for that we said that if the aggression remained in this way, maybe it will be a dangerous situation in the Gaza Strip and the resistance factions will find themselves in front of a matter to continue their fighting."
The above three items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Skip, Maria and Kara. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for June 22, 2006

- 7 Marines, Naval Cpl. Charged With Murdering Iraqi Civilian
- Marines Dead in Anbar Province
- Senate Debates Dem. Proposals on Troop Withdrawal
- 2nd Consecutive Israeli Strike in Gaza Kills Pregnant Mother, Brother
- Report: Hamas Agrees to Recognize Israel
- 4 US Troops Die in Afghanistan Clashes
- Thousands Protest Bush in Austria
- Senate Rejects Minimum Wage Increase
- House GOPers Delay Renewing Voting Rights Act
- MLK Collection Displayed Ahead of Auction

Kidnapped in Iraq, Shot by U.S. Forces: Italian Journalist Giuliana Sgrena Says U.S. Army Destroyed Shooting Logs; Wants to Meet Soldier that Killed the Man that Saved Her, Italy's No. 2 in Military Intel

We spend the hour with Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena. In February 2005, she was kidnapped in Iraq. She was held for one month and then released. As she was being driven to Baghdad International Airport, the car she was riding in came under fire from U.S. forces. Her escort, Major General Nicola Calipari -- Italy's second highest-ranking military intelligence officer -- died in the shooting as he tried to protect her. Sgrena was seriously injured.
The U.S. military has maintained that the shooting was justified and that the car carrying the Italians was traveling at high speeds and refused to stop at a checkpoint. Giuliana Sgrena and the Italian government have denied the U.S. claims. While the Pentagon cleared the troops involved of any wrongdoing, Italian prosecutors are still pursuing the case and requesting the indictment of U.S. Army Specialist Mario Lanzo.

Chaos and violence continue in Iraq. Elsewhere some merely strike poses.

In the United States, the Senate has said "NO!" to US forces leaving Iraq by July 2007. As the so-called coalition continues to break apart with other nations deciding to pull their troops out of Iraq, one might think the issue would garner a serious debate. Always one to posture, John McCain (Senator from Arizona) declared: "The United States, with our Iraqi partners, has the responsibility to see this through" apparently auditioning for the role of passenger on the Titanic. Russ Feingold (Senator from Wisconsin) stated: "It is time to tell the Iraqis that we have done what we can do militarily." Instead of addressing that reality, most preferred to posture; however, 13 senators did vote in favor of the proposal John Kerry and Feingold were supporting (troops out by July 2007). The other (weaker and, as Sandra Lupien noted on KPFA's The Morning Show, "nonbinding") proposal much supported by Democratic Party hacks such as DiFi and Harry Reid? It lost in a 60-39 vote.

In Vienna, the Bully Boy faced questions about Iraq. "What's past is past," declared the Bully Boy on the issue of Iraq. What's past? How about what's passed? The 2500 mark for American military fatalities. As Amy Goodman noted today on Democracy Now!, 2512 is the current fatality count.

While the United States Congress can't say "Withdrawal" and the Bully Boy can't even toss out a phrase correctly (it is: "What's done is done."), it's not suprising that it has become increasing harder for US military recruiters to meet the needed recruitment numbers. As the UK's Daily Mail notes, the U.S. Army's decision to raise the maximum age for recruitment, to forty-two, is the second time this year that the military has raised the age. In January, the maxium age was raised from 35 years-old to 40. Why the Army? As Reuters notes: "More than three years into the war, the Army continues to provide the bulk of U.S. ground forces in Iraq." Which is why military recruiters, when not stalking school campuses, attempt to recruit at NASCAR events.

Speaking to Fluxview, for their AWOL in Canada series, Christopher Mogwai noted
that, "In the Vietnam era they didn't kick you out for drugs, now they do" so some choose any number of means to leave the service. Fluxview also interviews war resistors Darrell Anderson and Ryan Johnson.

Noting the charging of "eight US troops with kidnapping and murdering a handicapped Iraqi civilian," Demetri Sevastolulo and Neil Buckley (Financial Times of London) note that the speaker of the Iraqi parliment is asking "the US to investigate the killings of 'many innocent people' by American forces." According to CNN, Masmoud al-Mashhadani is specifically calling for "an investigation . . . into this week's U.S. bombing of a poultry farm in northern Iraq." This is the incident Amy Goodman noted yesterday where a human rights worker states that "two of the dead were young boys aged ten and twelve." As Al Jazeera noted: "The Association of Muslim Scholars said US warplanes bombed a house and a poultry farm in al-Bushahin village in northeast Baquba, then dropped soldiers to kill the survivors of the attack."

In Baghdad today, CNN notes a car bomb went off by a movie theater and two people were killed, five wounded. Reuters notes a motorcycle bombing, in Baghdad, which resulted in two dead and eight injured.

In Baquba, Reuters reports that Raad al-Mowla was wounded in a roadside bomb (al-Mowla is the governor of the Diyala province). The Associated Press notes a bomb in Jibla that resulted in the death of an unidentified civilian and an "Iraqi army solider."

As Amy Goodman noted this morning, "at least fifty of the more than eighty [kidnapped] workers have been released or freed."

Reuters notes the discovery of 14 corpses of electricity plant workers who were "abducted and killed June 12". Associated Press notes that six corpses ("bullet-riddled bodies") were found in Kut. In Najaf, a police officer was shot dead, Reuters notes, and, in Dhuluiya, an Iraqi soldier was shot dead.

Like the US Congress, John Howard (prime minister of Australia) plays baby Bully Boy and speaks of how things might get even riskier for Australians stationed in Iraq, Australia's ABC reports Labor leader Kim Beazley's response in Parliment: "Iraq is a quagmire and staying htere is not in our national interest. Make no mistake about it, we are opposed to the war in Iraq, we want these troops in Al Muthanna province home now."

While Japan used the Iraq government's decision to take over responsiblity for the Al Muthanna province as a sign to withdraw troops, Howard has decided to move Australian troops to other areas in Iraq.

Though of little concern to the mainstream US press, the shooting by Australian security guards yesterday of three Iraqi bodyguards (one dead, two wounded) for Iraq Trade Minister Abdel Falah al-Sudany has resulted in an expression of regret from the Australian Defense Force and, today, has led al-Sudany to issue a statement that he "demands an apology and payment of compsenation." Reuters notes: "The incident could potentially embarrass Australia, which has been trying to imrpove trade ties with Iraq after Iraq suspended dealings with Australia's monopoly wheat exporter AWB over a kickbacks scandal."

Besides trade deals being put at risk (remember, it's the markets), Labor and Green reps in Australia says that the incident is another reason Australia needs to withdraw troops from Iraq. Kim Bezley stated, "The point is this: we shouldn't be there." Bob Brown, Greens leader, stated: "It should send a signal to this Prime Minister, who just does not seem to connect that we should be bringing the troops home. They shouldn't have been there, they should be brought home."

Speaking to Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales on Democracy Now! today, Italian journalist Giulana Sgrena discussed the details of her kidnapping in Iraq as well as the details of the rescue that went wrong when US troops fired on her vehicle as it was enroute to the airport. During the interview, Sgrena stated: "So there are many things that we don't know and we would like to know. I don't want to accuse Mario Lozano to know who was in the car and to shoot because he knew that there, there were agents and me. But we want the prosecution just to know, to have more information of what happened, because we gave the information to the commander, the Italian one that was in touch with the American one in the airport, that we were on this road to the airport. And we know that they were monitoring the telephone that we used in the car, the Americans, and they were monitoring the mobile telephone on the satellite." Remember that: Sgrena will be in New York City Friday June 23rd for an event with Amy Goodman at Columbia University. (Event starts at 7:30 p.m.)

Lastly, Ted wanted a headline noted from Democracy Now! and we will but we'll pair it with something else as well:

Senate Rejects Minimum Wage Increase
Back in the United States, the Senate rejected a measure Wednesday that would have raised the minimum wage for the first time in nearly a decade. The proposal called for a 40 percent increase from the current wage of Five Dollars and Fifteen cents an hour. A study released this week by the Economic Policy Institute and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says the real-dollar value of the minimum wage is now at its lowest level in more than fifty years. But Congress has not rejected all federal pay hikes: last week, House lawmakers voted to increase their salaries by more than Three Thousand Dollars. It was their seventh straight pay raise.

What we're pairing it with is an excerpt from Antonia Juhasz' The Bush Agenda: Invading The World, One Economy at a Time (page 100):

Just compare CEO pay to that of the average worker. Twenty years ago, U.S. corporate CEOs earned on average forty-two times more than production workers. Today, they earn a whopping 431 times more. Put another way, if the average production worker's pay had kept pace with that of CEOs, he or she would be taking home more than $110,000 a year instead of less than $28,000. Likewsie, the average minimum wage earner would be taking home over $23 an hour instead of $5.15. Imagine what one could do with an extra $18 an hour -- perhaps afford a better place to live, child care during work hours, or health insurance for the entire family.

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