Friday, August 11, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Chaos and violence continue in Iraq today, Friday, August 11, 2006 with two police officers dead from a roadside bomb in Kirkuk, another police officer shot dead in Mosul and a man on his way to work in Baiji shot dead.  In the United States Ricky Clousing says no to war; in a sotto voice US military flacks give statements about the two US soliders who died in Tuesday helicopter crash and while recruiters struggle to meet their lowered targets, some applicants remain unwelcome.
Starting with the last item, the AP reports on Haven Herrin who would like to serve in the military but she is a lesbian and wink-wink-nudge-nudge no gays or lesbians have ever served in the US military. Reading the report which begins and ends with the Clinton era "Don't Ask Don't Tell," news consumers are probably left unaware that an openly gay man has served in the US military.
While some can't get in, others refuse to serve in an illegal war based on lies. 
Writing for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Mike Barber broke the news today that Ricky Clousing would turn himself in.  Ricky Clousing, 24-years-old, checked himself out of the military after serving in Iraq.  Speaking to the AP, Clousing stated, "My experience in Iraq really made me second-guess my ability to perform as a soldier and also forced me to question my beliefs in associating myself".  Clousing's announcement comes on day two of the Veterans for Peace convention in Seattle (which concludes Sunday the 13th).  Clousing questions the legality of the illegal war and "I came to the conlusion that I could not train or be trained under a false pretense of fighting for freedom."  Barber notes that Clousing went AWOL from "Fort Bragg in 2005 after returning from Iraq with the 82nd Airborne Division."
Barber broke the news, the AP is all over it.  And gold stars for others?  They'll have to demonstrate that they're going to cover it.  Not, "Look how much I care, today I'll make time for this issue and then next week . . . Back to Israel non-stop!" (or whatever the topic is).  Too much isn't being covered.
Clousing is one of many war resisters.  This week, Meredith May (San Francisco Chronicle) took a look at some who had decided to do a self-check out and go to Candada -- mentioned were Ryan Johnson, Patrick Hart, Christian Kjar, Brandon Hughey, Darryl Anderson.  Brandon Hughey and Jeremy Hinzman will learn  shortly whether they're appeal will allow them to remain in Canada or not.  Other war resisters include Camilo Mejia, Pablo Paredes, Aidan Delgado, Kevin Benderman. Katherine Jashinski.  Camilo Mejia is generally considered to the the "first Iraqi War Resister."  Benderman is attempting to appeal the Court-Martial and has been designated a "Prisoner of Conscience" by Amnesty International. Benderman's case hasn't vanished, just any coverage of it.  That's true of Hinzman and Hughey as well.  Let's be really honest, that's true of the independent media attention on all things having to do with Iraq.  (And remember it was Mike Barber who broke the story.)
Two names more recently in the news are Suzanne Swift and Ehren Watada.  Their cases haven't vanished just because, for example, an announced and filmed interview with Swift's grandfather never aired as Iraq fell off the radar. Watada faces an article 32 hearing on August 17th which is next Thursday.  Courage to Resist and are organizing and trying to get the word out for "a National Day of Education" on August 16th.  Writing of Watada, Cedric (Cedric's Big Mix) noted Watada's refusal to deploy to Iraq was a "no" and that: "When we say 'no' the war ends.Ehren is saying 'no.'  He can make a difference.  He is making a difference but it will be a huge difference with quick impact if we show our support."  Noting the work of his parents,  Courage to Resist and, Cedric wondered where the coverage was? 
Attending the conference in Seattle was Cindy Sheehan who is offering Camp Casey III "as a refuge for U.S. troops who desert to resist the war in Iraq." As The State News notes on Bully Boy's low approval numbers, "Clearly, Sheehan is not alone in her position.  But while a large population within the United States disapproves of Bush and the war in Iraq, it seems only a small population is doing something about it."  Sheehan does her part and then some but it "seems" others aren't because of the lack of media attention.  Watada and Swift are 'doing something.'  Across the country, across the world, people are engaged in attempting to end this war, day in and day out.  It's the media that can make it appear nothing is happening or report what's actually going on.  Credit to Barber, AP, May and others in big media who've been covering these issues (especially the press in Hawaii) while others had other things to emphasize (non-stop). Or, as Molly Ivins points out: "The more surprising development is how completely one story drives out another.  At other times, the collapse of Iraq would have been news."  A collapse that has included, as Riverbend (Baghdad Burning) wrote, "There are no laws that say we have to wear a hijab (yet), but there are men in head-to-toe black and the turbans, the extremists and fanatics who were libearted by the occupation, and at some point, you tire of the defiance.  You no longer want to be seen.  I feel like the black or white scarf I fling haphazardly on my head as I walk out the door makes me invisible to a certain degree -- it's easier to blend in with the masses shrouded in black.  If you're a femal, you don't want the attention -- you don't want it from Iraqi police, you don't want it from the black clad militia man, you don't want it from the American soldier.  You don't want to be noticed or seen."
Reuters notes six corpses were discovered in Baghdad ("bound and blindfolded")  Of the six, AP notes that they had all ben shot execution style.  This was the week that, as the BBC noted, the body count at Baghdad's central morgue for July only had been 1,855.  AP noted Dr. Sabah al-Husseini's declaration that "two-thirds of the deaths reported in Baghdad since January were due to violence."
This was the week of the Article 32 hearing to determine whether or not to file rape, murder and arson charges against US soldiers James Baker, Jesse V. Spielman, Bryan L. Howard and Paul Cortez.  (Steven D. Green, who is also accused in the incident will stand trial in US federal court because he was discharged before the incident was uncovered.  Anthony W. Yribe is accused of dereliction of duty for not reporting the incident.)  The incident?  Abeer Qasim Hamza.  Presenting his closing argument in the hearing, Captain Alex Pickands stated, "They gathered over cards and booze to come up with a plan to rape and murder that little girl.  She was young and attractive.  They knew where she was because they had seen her on a previous patrol.  She was close.  She was vulnerable."  The defense (and the New York Times) offered stress of combat and fatigue.  Pickands response?  "Murder, not war. Rape, not war. That's what we're here talking about today. Not all that business about cold food, checkpoints, personnel assignments. Cold food didn't kill that family. Personnel assignments didn't rape and murder that 14-year-old little girl."
It was the story that should have gotten intense coverage.  Rebecca (Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude) has argued Abeer's story is the story of the illegal occupation boiled down to one person.  Instead, as Mike (Mikey Likes It!) has pointed out, you had the New York Times offering the defense's argument and Abeer?  Silence.  She wasn't even named.
This was also the week of yet another poll finding where respondents echoed earlier polls by standing strongly against the illegal war.  CNN found that 60% of Americans responding in their poll were against the war  -- the highest opposition since the war began in March 2003.
Those were among the Iraq related stories that should have received coverage, discussion and exploration. 
Another, in Australia, would be the military inquiry into the April 21st death of Jake Kovco in Baghdad.  Belinda Tasker (Herald Sun) reports on Solider 1's testimony which resulted in tears for Shelley Kovco (widow of Jake Kovco) and Judy Kovco (mother of Jake Kovco).  While the family of Kovco has every reason to well up when their lost one is spoken, the press has no excuse to go soft and mushy but, apparently, despite repeated testimony to the contrary, the nonsense of the 'buddy system' is back.  Soldier 1 tossed off a few words (via video-link) and then used Jake Kovco to argue that they'd reworked the "buddy system" since his death.  The press runs with it, failing to note that there witnesses' testimony (as opposed to the statements the military wrote and submitted in their name) that there was no "buddy system" in place.  Ian McPhedran (Courier-Mail) offers a less sentimental view as he weighs in on Jake Kovco's death and Australia's involvement with Iraq: "We're being kept in the dark."
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