Thursday, June 15, 2006

Democracy Now: Sara Rich discussing her daughter Suzanne Swift; Peter Laufer ...

Lawmakers Protest Constraints on House Iraq War Debate
On Capitol Hill, the House will debate a resolution on the Iraq war today. Critics say the wording of the resolution will preclude any meaningful debate. The text of the resolution declares: "that the United States will prevail in the Global War on Terror [and] the struggle to protect freedom from the terrorist adversary." House rules will prevent Congress members from proposing amendments or alternative resolutions. At a press conference Wednesday, a bi-partisan group of lawmakers stood with yellow rope tied around their hands to symbolize what they called the lack of debate. Hawaiian Democrat Neil Abercrombie explained: "Our hands are tied literally on the floor of the people's house -- the one place that the American people should be able to expect a full and honest and open debate."

Kerry Calls for Troop Withdrawal
Today's debate comes as major splits continue to emerge within both parties over the war. On Tuesday, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry told a gathering of liberal voters at the "Take Back America" conference in Washington that the Iraq war was a mistake and he was wrong to vote for it. Kerry announced he is introducing a resolution for a withdrawal of troops by the end of the year. Kerry attacked the war's architects as "armchair warriors whose front line is an air-conditioned conference room." In an interview with the Boston Globe, Kerry later added: "It is both a right and an obligation for Americans to end a war in Iraq that weakens the nation each and every day we are in it." Kerry's proposal would keep some troops in Iraq to train Iraqi soldiers.

Reporters, Attorneys Barred From Guantanamo Bay
The US has barred journalists and lawyers from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. A group of visiting reporters was forced off the island Wednesday under a directive from the Pentagon. A Pentagon spokesperson said the removal was ordered following complaints from other media outlets who had complained they were being denied equal access. But questions are being raised over whether the removals were motivated by the reporters' coverage of the aftermath of Saturday's three detainee suicides. Their articles included interviews with the detainees' attorneys who criticized their clients' treatment. The reporters work for the Los Angeles Times, the Miami Herald and the Charlotte Observer. A Pentagon spokesperson said the revoking of the permissions came not from Guantanamo commanders but from the office of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Meanwhile, lawyers representing Guantanamo detainees have also been barred from visiting their clients at the prison. A lawyer representing a group of detainees said she was told the ban will be lifted on Monday. In a statement, the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has represented scores of detainees, said: "At a time when the administration must be transparent about the deaths at Guantanamo, they are pulling down a wall of secrecy and avoiding public accountability. This crackdown on the free press makes everyone ask what else they are hiding down there? The Bush Administration is afraid of American reporters, afraid of American attorneys and afraid of American laws."

Lawyers Fault US Military For Failing to Report Suicides
Meanwhile, lawyers for the detainees who committed suicide have criticized the U.S. military for taking nearly three days to inform them of their clients' deaths. The military initially claimed none of the men had legal representation but later realized their mistake. The news comes as the Pentagon has rejected calls from Amnesty International for an independent inquiry into the suicides.
Amidst the latest controversy, President Bush addressed Guantanamo at a press conference yesterday at the White House.
  • President Bush: "I'd like to close Guantanamo, but I also recognise that we're holding some people that are darn dangerous, and that we better have a plan to deal with them in our courts. And the best way to handle -- in my judgement, handle these types of people is through our military courts. And that's why we're waiting on the Supreme Court to make a decision. Part of closing Guantanamo is to send some folks back home, like we've been doing. And the State Department is in the process of encouraging countries to take the folks back. Of course, sometimes we get criticised for sending some people out of Guantanamo back to their home country because of the nature of the home country. It's a little bit of a Catch-22."
2,000 Immigrants Arrested in DHS Sweep
Here in the United States, the Department of Homeland Security has announced more than 2,000 undocumented immigrants have been arrested in a massive crackdown that began last month. Government officials said close to half of those arrested have criminal records. Just over 800 people have already been deported.

The above five items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Joan, Heath, Gareth, Nolanda and Domingo. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for June 15, 2006

- Reporters, Attorneys Barred From Guantanamo Bay
- Lawyers Fault US Military For Failing to Report Suicides
- 62 Killed Aboard Sri Lanka Passenger Bus
- Ex-Prisoners Lose Right To Sue Saudi Arabian Captors
- Lebanon Claims Capture of Mossad-Backed Assassin
- Bush Admin Eases EPA Law Following Industry Complaints
- Lawmakers Protest Constraints on House Iraq War Debate
- Kerry Calls for Troop Withdrawal
- Clinton Booed Over Iraq War Stance
- Marine Apologizes For Song About Killing Iraqis

"Our Military is Being Treated as Human Fodder" - Mother of Soldier Arrested for Refusing to Return to Iraq

Police in Eugene, Oregon have arrested 21-year-old Army Specialist Suzanne Swift for refusing to return to fight in Iraq. Swift served in Iraq for a year but decided she could not return and went AWOL. Not only did she feel the war lacked purpose, Swift said her superiors repeatedly sexually harassed her while serving in Iraq. We speak with her mother, Sara Rich.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you do as a counter-military recruiter?
SARAH RICH: We go to rural high schools, especially rural high schools because that's where the recruiters go, where there's kids that don't really have the money for education, where they don't have anything to do other than, you know, work in a gas station, possibly, that's, you know, what they have to look forward to. So when the recruiters come and they say, "let me take you out to lunch, let me give you this, let me promise you a college education. Let me promise you a future. Let me promise you world travel. And, you know, you probably won't go to Iraq, it will be over by the time you get in."
So we go and we talk to these kids and we get them real fired up, but it's the kids that are already with us that are already against the war that are -- you know, because this isn't about anti-military, this is about the way that our military is being deployed and treated as human fodder that is so wrong. And we get these kids fired up, and they're the ones that work with their peers. They're the ones that are most effective in telling their peers, "Don't sign up. Are you kidding me? Don't risk your life."
AMY GOODMAN: Sarah, if people want to reach you, do you have a website or an email address that you want to share? Remember, this is public; it goes out on hundreds of stations so you could get a lot of mail.
SARAH RICH: Sure, somebody did set up an email account, and it's at Yahoo, and it's And yeah, I'm already getting a lot of email. I was up for hours yesterday answering the emails.

Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No To Iraq

We speak with Peter Laufer, a Vietnam war resister and author of the new book, "Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq." The book profiles a number of soldiers who refuse to participate in what they believe to be an illegal and immoral war.

Mexican Police Accused of Killing 11 Striking Teachers in Oaxaca

Thousands of state security forces have raided the southern Mexican city of Oaxaca to break up a peaceful teachers strike. Witnesses say eleven people were killed, including two children. The state government denies the allegations. We speak to a teacher taking part in the strike.

In Iraq, Three Groups Struggle For Control Over Oil-Rich Kirkuk

Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs are competing for control over Kirkuk, Iraq's third largest city. Turkey recently sent thousands of troops to its border with Iraqi Kurdistan, amassing what is the largest buildup of Turkish soldiers along the Iraq border since 1999. We speak with John Tirman, Executive Director of MIT's Center for International Studies.

Iraq snapshot.

Today, Thursday, June 15, 2006, the fatality count for US troops in Iraq has officially reached 2,500. The Pentagon noted the loss of lives today. The Bully Boy marked the milestone by signing a Broadcast 'Decency Enforcement Act (because illegal wars are apparently 'decent') and by apologizing for insulting Peter Wallsten, reporter for the Los Angeles Times, who had the 'nerve' to ask the Bully Boy a question while wearing sunglasses. As 2,5000 Americans have now lost their lives in Bully Boy's illegal war of choice, there's something illuminating in his actions a) what he considers 'decent' and b) compassion is trumped by his sense of entitlement that allows him to mock someone who, it turns out, "has Stargardt's disease, a form of macular degeneration that causes progressive vision loss."

While Bully Boy marked the milestone with his usual lack of attention or sense of gravity, in Iraq, chaos and violence continue. In Baghdad, the "crackdown" continues. As Bloomberg News notes of the "crackdown" : "Measures include increased checkpoints, a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, and enforcement of weapons laws, the military said in an e-mailed statement today." The AFP reports that the "crackdown" also includes "a vehicle ban [which] was announced for during the Muslim midday prayer hours on Fridays."

Despite, or because of, the "crackdown" (but certainly "during" the "crackdown), the AP reports that kidnapping continues in Baghdad (an engineer) as does killing (an engineer and a "a detergent factory worker"). How common are those actions in Baghdad at this point? The Guardian of London reports those two deaths and the kidnapping while stating "but no major violence was reported in the capital." Not noted by the Guardian, but noted by Bloomberg (citing AFP) was the fact that discovered corpses remain a regular occurrence of the illegal occupation: in Baghdad on Thursday, seven corpses were found.

With "26,000 Iraqi soldiers, 23,000 Iraqi police and 7,2000 coalition forces deployed in Baghdad" (Bully Boy figures) for the "crackdown," what's happening elsewhere?

The AP reports that 10 Shi'ites were pulled from a bus and shot dead in Baquba -- "as they were heading to work" notes Reuters. In Qara Taba, Reuters notes an explosion in a graveyard which wounded "[a] woman and her son." In Tikrit, the Guardian notes the storming of "a Sunni mosque . . . killing four people and wounding 15". Reuters notes that three roadside boms in Tal Afar "killed five [Iraqi] soldiers" and wounded at least six; the death of another Iraqi solider in Haweeja; and, in Baquba, the death of "police Colonerl Ali Shakir Mahmoud, director of units protecting oil installations in Baquba".

Meanwhile in Ramadi, Al Jazeera reports that roads were "blocked, and a giant wall of sand has been piled up around the perimeter, and everything went silent preparing for the final onslaught, a scene we saw two years ago in another Iraqi city, Fallujah". Al Jazeera reports that the city is surrounded on all four sides; "jet fighters" and helicopters "hover over the city"; that American troops are preventing anyone from entering or leaving while they have cut "off all electricity supplies . . . as well as drinking water facilities": and that American forces have "shelled medical supply stores, closed down all medical clinics and confiscated all medical supplies". The Marines of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment are hoping to rename "the highway connecting Fallujah and Ramadi" "Darkhorse Drive" according to Marine Corps News. Possibly they should call it "Press Blackout Avenue"?

Stephen Fidler (Financial Times of London) reports that since "victims are killed by between four and 12 bullets, the cost of taking away a life in Baghdad is now $2.40." Reminder -- the US averages the worth of an Iraqi life at approximately $2,500 judging by compensation figures. As noted by Amy Goodman this moring, marine corporal Joshua Belile has stated his "song was intended as a joke and bore no connection to the killing of Iraqi civilians by US Marines." Margaret Neighbor (Scotsman) describes the song thusly: "In a four-minute video called Hadji Girl, a singer who appears to be a marine tells a cheering audience about gunning down members of an Iarqi woman's family after they confront him with authomatic weapons." As Sandra Lupien reported Wednesday on KPFA's The Morning Show the song included lyrics such as: "the blood sprayed from between her eyes." As Lupien noted today on KPFA's The Morning Show, the apologetic Belile stated that "People need to laugh at it and let it go."

The US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants has found that, "The global refugee population has begun to rise for the first time in four years, largely due to instability in Iraq" according to the AFP, resulting in "644,500 more Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Syria in 2005".

Along with noting the death of 2,500 American troops since the inception of the illegal war, the Pentagon also stated today that 18,490 troops have been wounded while serving in Iraq. On KPFA's The Morning Show this morning, Phyllis Bennis addressed the realities versus the photo ops noting that the flight in and out of Baghdad earlier this week by the Bully Boy was "One more attempt to add to a list of so-called turning points . . . We have a litany of talking points and turing points. . . . . [Reality in Iraq] is the lack of water, lack of electricity, lack of education and, worst of all, the lack of security." Commenting on the Pew Research Center poll that noted a decline in support for US policies around the world, Bennis noted that there was a line drawn between the government of the US and the people of the US in many minds because of the awareness of the peace movement against the war which "speaks to how much attention it gets globally even when the mainstream press in this country ignores it."

Meanwhile, as 450 Iraqi prisoners were released for US run-prisons in Iraq, the United States Senate voted the emergency funding bill that continues to fund the illegal war in Iraq (as well as other things -- the cost continues to be tacked on in a bill here, a bill there).

In Ireland, Owen Bowcott (Guardian of London) reports that the discovery of the "handcuffed and manacled marine . . . on board a military charter flight at Shannon airport" has led to Ireland's foreign affairs minister Dermot Ahern making statements that random inspections are now on the table involving US planes landing at Shannon. (Bowen reports the handcuffed marine was allegedly being transported to Georgia, reportedly accused of stealing clothes.)

Finally, again, the Pentagon has confirmed that 2,500 American troops have lost their lives in Bully Boy's illegal war of choice.

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[C.I. note: Post corrected thanks to Marci who e-mailed to note I'd called Suzanne Swift, Suzanne Smith. My apologies and thank you to Marci.]