Thursday, August 10, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Chaos and violence continue in Iraq today, Thursday, August 10, 2006.  At least 35 die in a bombing, Ehren Watada supporters try to raise awareness of his upcoming Article 32 hearing, no one appears to be watching the American fatality count and a witness in the death of Jake Kovco tells the military inquiry, of his statement, "That's the words that were already on the computer" -- not what he actually told investigators.
As all things media big and small go breathless and stupid over the fact that 4 captors or "captors" of Jill Carroll may or may not have been arrested (three of which would have been arrested back in May) reality's out there and two families in America probably won't be joining the blather.  Yesterday the American military announced that on Tuesday a "60 Blackhawk helicopter from 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing" crashed.  The crew numbered six.  Four were found (injured).  Two were missing. 
As some blather on over (at best) a three month old bust, the US military sneaks out the whisper that the two missing are dead.  As well as those two dead, KUNA reports US army publicist Barry Johnson announced "three soldiers died in attacks in Al-Anabar."  Of the three, Reuters reports they "were assigned to the 1st Brigade, 1st Armoured Division".  We're going to drop back to June 15, 2006 for a moment when the Pentagon announced that 2500 American troops had died in Iraq. 
For over six weeks, as big media and indy media have provided their wall-to-wall, non-stop coverage of Israel's armed aggression, would you guess that the body count is up to 2597.
Let's repeat that.  On June 15, 2006 the Pentagon announced 2500. 
97 American troops have died since then -- and where is the coverage?
Big media, little media, do American news consumers grasp that since June 15, the number of US troops killed has risen by 97?
Starting with peace news, though many in the media continues to ignore Camp Casey III, the Green Party has announced that "Greens Join Cindy Sheehan at Camp Casey."  Bill Holloway states: "We stand by Cindy Sheehan and the Gold Star Families for Peace in calling for an immediate end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq.  The Green Party has opposed the war from the beginning, before the invasion was launched."
In other peace news, Karen Button ( interviews war resister Kyle Snyder who went on self-leave from the US army a year ago and is now in Canada.  Snyder addresses his time in the military (including being prescribed Lorazipam and Paxyl for grief -- grandfather passed away, fiancee miscarried) and the 'reconstruction' he saw: "I was in Mosul.  I was in Baghdad.  I was in Stryker.  I was in Scania.  I was in Tikrit. . . Iraq is the size of Texas, it's a small country.  People need to realise that. There were reconstructions of forward operating bases and military bases, but no city work being done.  I mean, none of that.  So, why are engineers there."
Ehren Watada is the first known commissioned officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq.  In exactly six days  Courage to Resist and are calling for a "National Day of Education" on August 16th, the day before Ehren Watada would be 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."
Rod Ohira (Honolulu Advertiser) reports on the upcoming rallies and speaks with Michael McPhearson who speaks of the issue of consciousness being raised by Ehren Watada's actions: "That's the most dangerous to the pro-war people."  Lester Chang (Kauai Garden Island News) reports that Watada's mother, Carolyn Ho, will visit Kauai September 10th (5:30 pm, United Church of Christ in Hanapepe) to talk "to Kaua'i folks about my son's stand and issues that surround that particular stand, and why he thinks the way he does."   On this visit and the actions taking place to support Ehren Watada, his attorney tells Chang: "It is important that public opinion supports Lt. Watada.  I think it will have impact on how the case proceeds." 
Turning to the violence and chaos in Iraq, we'll start with news of bombings.
Of the reported violence today, the one most covered is the one that Elsa McLaren (Times of London) describes this way: "A suicide bomber has killed at least 35 people and wounded 90 near a sacred Shia shrine in the city of Najaf in southern Iraq today."
The explosion occurred, BBC's Mike Wooldridge reports, as "the streets leading to the shrine were packed with pilgrims and shoppers in the middle of the morning".  CBS and the AP quote a man injured during the explosion: "Before I reached the checkpoint, only a few (feet) from the shrine, I heard a huge explosion.  Something hit me on the head and I fell.  I couldn't hear for a while but I saw bodies and human flesh everywhere."  Elsa McLaren (Times of London) reports: "Television footage of the devastation showed the body of a child being laid besides other bloodied corpses on a patch of ground beside a hospital. The dead were marked and numbered with white labels on their foreheads for identification."  AFP notes: "The attacker detonated an explosives-packed vest at a police checkpoint in the historic city of Najaf, a short distance from the mausoleum of Imam Ali, one of the most revered figures of the Shiite faith, police said Thursday."  Reuters reports: " Ambulances drove through the streets of Najaf appealing for blood donations as the scale of the carnage became clear."
Reuters notes that a roadside bomb in Hawija killed two police officers and left two more wounded. Reuters reports: "Six people were killed by a bomb in a restaurant in southern Baghdad".  In Baghdad, three people died and at least five were wounded when mortar bomb landed on a restaurant (this is not the same incident as the bomb that killed six in southern Baghdad).
Reuters reports a police officer shot to death in Falluja, a civilian killed in Mosul and "Maad al-Saadoun, a brother of Sunni legislator Mudhhir al-Saadoun, was shot dead by gunmen in his car in the town of Muqdadiya".  CBS and AP report four police officers were shot dead in Baghdad, AFP puts the number at seven (citing "security and medical sources")..
The AP notes that five corpses were found today.  From AFP: "Baghdad's main morgue last month handled the corpses of 1,850 people from its immediate region alone, most of them gunshot victims, Iraqi health ministry spokesman Qasim Yahia told AFP." Reuters notes: "The July morgue toll of 1,815 marked a big jump over the 1,595 in June and is the largest since the aftermath of the February bombing of the Shiite Golden Mosque of Samarra, which triggered an explosion of sectarian violence.:
On April 21st, Jake Kovco died in Baghdad.  How he died is the main issue of an inquiry currently going in Australia.  Other issues include why the death scene was cleaned up before investigators arrived, how a Bosnian carpenter was confused with Kovco and shipped to his grieving family in Australia (Shelley Kovco, widow and mother of their three children; parents Judy and Martin Kovco).  Soldiers serving in Iraq have been brought before the hearing in person and via "video-link" testimony.  Soldiers are identified not by name but given a number.
Yesterday, "Soldier 14" dropped a bombshell.  Peter Charlton (Courier-Mail) reports that the soldier "told the inquiry that a statement he made to military investigators was not accurate."  The so-called buddy system policy (where they were paired up and responsible for checking each other's weapons to be sure they were unloaded at the end of their shift) doesn't appear to exist.  Which is strange considering how much the hearing had previously heard of it.  Tom Allard (Sydney Morning Herald) notes that Soldier 14 "is the second soldier in Iraq to say their statements were strongly guided by military police."  Allard reports of Soldier 14's statements: "His testimony came as more irregularities about the investigation emerged, with the military failing to pass on to police in NSW a second weapon in the room when Private Kovco died from a gunshot wound to the head."
Dan Box (The Australian) reminds that "Military police investigators also failed to conduct any forensic tests, while the army's decision to clean the room in which Kovco died and the clothes his roommates were wearing meant potentially vital forensic evidence was lost."  The AAP reports that Soldier 30 has spoken (via video-link) to the hearing ("Jake Kovco's commanding officer") and he is claiming that the orders not to preserve the death/crime scene came from him because he saw it as a way "to help boost the morale of his soldiers."  Which is either the biggest lie or the most frightening thing about the hearing this week. 
In America, the legal news is over Nathan Phan will face charges.  As reported by Josh White and Sonya Geis (Washington Post), Lt. Phan is rumored to soon be facing charges for an April 26th incident in Hamdaniyah where US Marines alleged "grabbed an Iraqi man from his home, bound his arms and legs and shot him in the face."  Daniel Strumpf ( traces the other allegations against Kilo Company (Phan is "the commanding officer of the Camp Pendleton based 2nd Platoon of Kil Company in the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment") noting "seven Marines and a Navy corpsman . . . were charged with murder, kidnapping and conspiracy, in connection with the April 26 death of Hashim Ibrahim Awad . . . in Hamdaniya"; and that "six Marines from Kilo Company, three of whom were already charged in Awad's death . . . were accused of assaulting three Iraqi men on April 10".
Finally, in election news, Derrick DePledge (Honolulu Advertiser) reports that Dennis Kucinich (who came in second in ""Hawai'i presedential cacus two years ago") is in Hawaii to campaign for US senator Daniel Akaka.  Next month, Akaka faces Ed Case in a primary race. Case doesn't support a withdrawal of troops from Iraq and though Case would no doubt call it a 'tremendous oversimplification,' he's a War Hawk.  His motto "The Time is Now!" apparently refers to dragging the illegal war on: "The Time is Now to Continue The Illegal War!"  Like a Little Joe Lieberman, Case flounders while Akaka makes Iraq a central campaign issue. Ad DePledge notes, Daniel Akak was one of thirteen senators on June 22nd willing to call for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq by July 2007.
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