Monday, July 17, 2006

Iraq snapshot

The US tries to firm up a commerce deal in Iraq, Jake Kovco's family learns more details and despite all the happy talk, chaos and violence continue with one single event that is being called the "bloodiest" by many.

A US soldier was "fatally wounded" in Baghdad today, the AP notes pointing out that since Saturday four US soldiers have died "in the Baghdad area." Baghdad, location of the month-plus security 'crackdown.' Sunday, in Basra, a British soldier died and the BBC reports that he was John Johnston Cosby. Also on Sunday, Reuters reports that Laith al-Rawi ("local leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party") was killed in Haditha

Today, the AFP notes that six died in Baquba. The biggest attack (AFP calls it the "deadliest since the July 9 bloodbath") took place in southern Iraq. Reuters notes that, in Mahmudiya, "[g]unmen stormed a crowded market" and at least 56 are dead with at least 67 wounded according to "a local hospital" (Ministry of Defence says 42 dead). James Hider (Times of London) reports that along with attempting to downgrade the number of those killed "a Defence Ministry spokesman tried to convince reporters that the deaths had been the result of two car bombs, insisting that no gunmen had been involved. That statement was flatly contradicted by the testimony of survivors."

Alastair Macdonald (Reuters) explores the events and notes Muayyad Fadhil, mayor of Mahmudiya, stating: "There was a mortar attack. Then gunmen came from . . . the eastern side of town. They came into the market and opened fire at raondom on the people shopping." The AFP notes the attack was "a coordinated assualt of car bombs, mortar attacks and rampaging masked gunmen". One victim, Muzzaffar Jassem, tells AFP: "About six cars with at least 20 masked gunmen blocked the market road from two sides, got out of the car and opened fire randomly on women, children and elderly people in the market".

As the violence heats up, the so-called coalition gets smaller. Reuters reports that Japan has pulled "[t]he last contingent" of their troops out of Iraq today.

In Australia, some feel answers are arriving as to the death of Jake Kovco; however, his family wants more answers. As Bruce Scates (Sydney Morning Herald) notes: "It has been almost three months since Private Jake Kovco's body was finally returned to Australia." Australia's ABC reports that Dr. Johan Duflou, who performed the autoposy on Kovco, told an inquiry board that "his opinion was the death was the result of an accidental discharge of a weapon." Kovco's parents are requesting that "several soldiers" in Iraq give testimony to the board about the events of April 21st when Kovco became "the first Australian soldier" to die in the current Iraq war. Members will remember the Judy and Martin Kovco as well as the parents of Jake Kovco's widow Shelley (David and Lorraine Small) were bothered, not only by the fact that Kovco's body was lost when it should have been returning to Australia, but also angered by what they saw as an attempt to smear Kovco with baseless rumors.(Kovco died on April 21st but, due to mix ups on the part of the military, wasn't buried until May 2nd.)

Yesterday on KPFA's Sunday Salon with Larry Bensky, Bensky and Aaron Glantz discussed Iraq and Glantz noted, "The Iraqi paliament is on the verge of putting together a referendum demanding a timetable for the US withdrawal from Iraq and when they put forward that proposal, I think it will become a little bit more difficult for the Bush adminstration to say that we are there to help the Iraqi people when the Iraqi people say very clearly that they want the US military out within a specific amount of time."

Despite Dexy Filkins' 'reporting' for the New York Times, the issue Glantz outlined was one of "the Bush administration [. . .] rounding up these supporters of this idea including some people who are very high ranking in many of the political parties and this is the latest thing that we've been covering, the political crackdown by the US military of the people who want a timetable for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. "

[Saturday, we linked to a recent Glantz article on this topic.]

In other parliament news, as noted by Brian Edwards-Tiekert on KPFA's The Morning Show today, Shi'ites stormed out today in protest over the Mahmudiya killings.

In commerce news, Australia and Iraq have reached an agreement over the June 21st death of Abdul Falah al-Sudany's bodyguard by Australian soldiers. Reuters reports that compensation will be paid to al-Sudany (trade minister) and that al-Sudany has stated: "We don't have any vetoes on importing Australian wheat and we hope to go back to a normal relationship with Australia."

Also in commerce news from Iraq, CBS and AP report that: "U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Guiterrez arrived in the Iraqi capital for meetings aimed at jump-starting the economy." Though the US press is seeing this as some sort of 'big win,' the AFP reports Abdel Falah-al Sudany (the same trade minister noted in the pervious item) is much more cautious and declared that privatization would not happen "for at least five to 10 years."

Possibly the excitement stems not from a lack of caution but a desire to turn the topic away from William Lash III -- the topic Gutierrez was addressing this weekend: "Bill was a passionate, committed and hard working individual . . ." following the news that former assistant commerce secretary Lash had apparently killed himself after killing his 12-year-old autistic son.

In peace news, Eric Seitz, attorney for Ehren Watada, states that there is a date scheduled "tentatively" for "Watada's Article 32 hearing . . . Aug. 17 or 18." Seits tells Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) that this hearing would "determine whether sufficient grounds exist to warrant a court-martial" and that the maximum punishment for Watada's refusal to serve in the illegal war could be 7 and one-half years in prison.

Finally, Tommy Witherspoon (Waco Tribune-Herald) reports that the county of McLennan (where Bully Boy's ranch-ette is) is attempting to move Cindy Sheehan's lawsuit against the county into the federal court. The issue is whether or not Camp Casey can return to the activities and protests that first took place last summer or whether the county can now "ban parking and camping along roads leading to" Bully Boy's ranch-ette.

ADDED: The Legal Defense Network reports that Rhonda Davis participation in a June 3rd rally in support of sam-sex marriage has resulted in the US Navy bringing "discharge proceedings against a 10-year veteran." Davis states: "I am a proud, patriotic American who happens to be gay. My sexual orientation has never stood in the way of getting my job done, and I was looking forward to continuing my Navy career. Unfortunately, federal law places discrimination ahead of national security and gay service members are caught in the crossfire. It is past time for our leaders in Washington to repeal this senseless law and allow gay Americans who want to serve, like me, the opportunity to do just that."

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