Friday, July 28, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Chaos and violence continue.  And, as Peter Spiegel and Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) observe: "Bush's decision to increase the number of U.S. troops in violence-racked Baghdad has forced commanders to extend the tours of 3,500 soldiers and appears to eliminate prospects for significant withdrawals of American forces this year."
And as the US administration prepares to extend the tours of duty of 3,5000 soldiers (who were due to leave Iraq), Hassan Abdul Zahra (AFP) reports that Abdel Azia Hakim (Shi'ite leader; head of Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) declared in a speech today that the security of Iraq should be left to Iraqis. Zahra also quotes Mahmud Mahdi al-Sumaidaie (iman and Sunni Muslim Scholars Association member) saying: "The US occupiers are responsible for what is going on with the violence and destruction -- they are the ones controlling the security file."  This as John Tully (Colonel, commander of the 4th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade) informs reporters that in the Shi'ite section "south of Baghdad" attacks on US troops have incresed "by about 25 percent".
In another sign of how bad things are on the ground in Iraq, new "security" measures are being taken by individuals.  At the start of this month, Terry McCarthy (ABC -- America) reported on how fake identification sells for the US equivalent of ten and fifteen dollars and many Iraqis are puchasing them to reduce risk to their lives at checkpoints and noted: "Now many Iraqis carry two IDs in their pockets and will produce one or the other, depending on who is asking for it."   Now Antonio Castaneda (AP) reports a swap greater than IDs: "Fearing sectarian death squads, Iraqis are trading homes with trusted friends from the other sect, surrounding themselves with those who share their faith but creating segregated neighborhoods increasingly wary of one other."  Castaneda is reporting from Nasser Wa Salaam but notes the problem is not confined to that one location.
AFP reports  the bombing of a Shia shrine "to Imam Askar between the towns of Balad Ruz and Mandalay".  This as Reuters notes four are dead in Baghdad from a mortar attack on a Sunni mosque while a roadside bom wounded two police officers in Baquba.  AP notes that the Sunni mosque bombing in Baghdad has left nine wounded.  
And KUNA reports: "Iraqi police source added an improvised bomb exploded in one of the patrolling police vehicles on the main street of Kirkuk, while a similar attack targeted Multi-National Force (MNF) vehicle on the way to Kirkuk."
If the police source is correct, that's a new development -- bombs planted in cars of unsuspecting drivers. 
In Kirkuk, KUNA reports the shooting death of an Iraqi soldier.  In addition to that shooting, AFP also notes the Kirkuk shooting deaths ofa police officer "and a bystander"; two shot dead in Tikrit; and "a train station official" shot in Baiji. 
In addition, KUNA notes that "a security personnel from the Al-Qadisya area close to Kirkuk power statiion" was kidnapped.
In Australia, the inquiry into the April 21st death of Jake Kovco in Baghdad continues.  Australia's ABC reports that "a Lance Corporal" has informed the inquriy that Kovco was "reprimanded twice for misuing his pistol during his deployment in Iraq."  Whether or not the witness can affirm to two times should be in doubt because the second incident find the "Lance Corporal" saying he's 'aware' of it as opposed to knowing it or witnessing.  At any rate, the "Lance Corporal" has offered that Jake Kovco was reprimanded for "pointing his pistol at the torso of another soldier" which would probably be pertinent if Jake Kovco were accues of killing one of his roommates. As
"Lance Corporal" (or "Soldier Four") makes the news with his statements, Tracy Ong ( covers what everyone else seems to have missed:  "But other statements tendered yesterday were at odds with Soldier 4's recollection, many saying they had never seen Kovco playing 'quick draw' -- pulling a pistol out of its holster as quickly as possible -- or mishandling his weapons. One corporal from 3RAR said he had never had to 'pull Private Kovco up on his weapon handling'." 
On April 29th, Damien Murphy, Phillip Coorey, Ed O'Loughlin, Tom Allard and Cynthia Banaham (Sydney Morning Herald) reported: "Private Jacob Kovco grew up with guns. They were part of everyday life in his small home town of Briagolong in the Victorian high country. Come April each year, the four-wheel-drive vehicles from Melbourne would roar through the hamlet late on a Friday night on their way to bush camps in the nearby foothills for the start of the deer hunting season."
In peace news, Honolulu's KITV reports that a demonstration of support was held last night at Kalani High School for Ehren Watada -- the first commissioned military officer known to refuse deployment to Iraq. Showing their support for Watada (who faces an Article 32 hearing August 17th to determine whether or not a court martial is in order) were the Japanese American Citizen's League of Hawaii, the American Friends Service Committee "and others at the Nagasaki Peace Bell near City Hall" --
including: "Hawaii People's Fund, Code Pink Hawaii, Progressive Democrats of Hawaii, Veterans for Peace, World Can't Wait and Not in Our Name."  Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) reports that "Watada has again offer to resign his commisson from the Army and is willing to accept any type of administrative punishment in place of court martial" including "a reprimand, fine and reduction in rank".  Watada's attorney, Eric Seitz, tells Kakesako that this is the third time the offer has been made (it was refused twice prior).  Courage to Resist and are calling for a "National Day of Education" August 16th, the day before Ehren Watada is due to "face a pre-trial hearing for refusing to deploy to Iraq." ThankYouLt.Org notes: "On August 16, the day prior to the hearing, The Friends and Family of Lt. Ehren Watada are calling for a 'National Day of Education' to pose the question, 'Is the war illegal?' This day can also serve to anchor a 'week of outreach' leading up to the pre-trial hearing."
In The Fifth Book of Peace, Maxine Hong Kingston writes: "During war, mothers dream this dream: she -- mother -- is winged, and flies, swooping down upon the son, the brother, soldier, criminal in danger, and picks him up by the straps of his overalls or by his belt, or catches him up in her arms, and flies him high and away.  Unable to fly, she would go to the war in her son's place.  She would go ahead of him, walk point herself."
With news of the September events in DC, David Swanson (American Chronicle) reports that Camp Democracy sets up September 5th with many activities and, among many worthy goals, the intent to build "toward the International Day of Peace on September 21".  Swanson notes that Cindy Sheehan "will come to Camp Democracy following Camp Casey (Aug. 16 - Sept. 2 in Crawford Texas)". 
Sheehan is currently participating in CODEPINK's Troops Home Fast.  It is day 25 of the Troops Home Fast action with over 4,350 people fasting to the end the war all over the world.  The AP reports that Diane Wilson has thus far lost "20 pounds from her 170-pound frame" while taking part in the fast. Of fasting, Wilson states: "Ghandi always called it 'soul power' because it's got a real spiritual component to it."
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