Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Today Tuesday, August 15, 2006, violence and chaos continue in Iraq, two days remain before Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing begins, William Caldwell IV's "gas" explanation yesterday leaves him red faced today (try Tums -- though Bully Boy Pioneers tend to prefer Rolaids), and in the inquiry into the death of Jake Kovco in Australia, Soldier 46 seems to rebut the earlier testimony of Soldier 30. 
Well start with US military spinmeister William Caldwell IV.  As some will remember, he asserted yesterday that the Baghdad violence on Sunday was the result of "a major gas explosion" and cited "specialists" and "experts."  (Apparently similar to the "grass experts" of the Michael Bloomberg administration that Mara Verheyden-Hilliard noted on yesterday's WBAI's Law & Disorder when explaining the systematic attempts/plot to prevent the 2004 anti-war demonstrations in NYC to coincide with the GOP convention.) 
As though Neil Young had hollered "Don't need no more lies!  Don't need no more lies!" ("The Restless Consumer" from Young's Living With War), the US military corrected their version of events today.
Damien Cave (New York Times) notes Lt. Col. Barry Johnson explaining that Caldwell IV "was speaking in good faith, but had incomplete information" which may be the understatement of the week. Cave reports that the US military now says that in addition to Caldwell's 'gas explosion' there were four car bombs. Though Cave doesn't currently note it, Vijay Joshi (AP) does: Iraqi's maintain that rockets and mortars were used.  AFP notes that the death toll for Sunday's attacks has now reached 73 and that US military is now "back-pedalling from a previous statement that the deaths were the result of an accidental gas explosion" while "Iraqi officials have insisted from the outset that car bombs and rockets caused the blasts."
In reality news (as opposed to reality-based news) from Iraq . . .
Bloomerg News reports nine dead and 36 injured from "a bomb attack on the Mosul headquarters of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan". The count is up from China's Xinhua's earlier report which identified the source of the bomb as a "suicided bomber [who] detonated his explosive-laden truck near the office". CNN (going with the figure of nine dead, 36 wounded) notes it was a truck bomb.   Reuters notes a roadside bomb in Baquba that killed a police officer and left four wounded; a roadside bomb in Huwayder that left three police officers wounded; and three police officers wounded from two roadside bombs in Samarra.  Not noted in the above is an Australian contractor who died today in Germany, Australia's ABC reports, "from injuries sustained" in a Baghdad bombing "about two weeks ago."
Associated Press reports: "Fierce gunbattles broke out Tuesday between armed supporters of an anti-U.S. Shiite cleric and Iraqi security forces after a raid on his office" in Karbala. Reuters identifies the cleric as Mahmoud al-Hasani and notes that a vehicle curfew has been imposed upon the city. Australia's Herald Sun identifies the dead as: "[t]wo Iraqi army officers, a soldier and three civilians".  CBS and AP place the count of dead from the gunbattles in Karbala at "at least seven".
In Baquba, Reuters notes that "police lieutenant Fadhil Uthman" was shot dead.  Australia's Herald Sun notes the shooting deaths of "two civilian contractors supplying food to the Iraqi army . . . in Muqdadiya" as well as a civilian shot dead "in a Baquba market," a civilian shot dead in Amara,  and another civilian shot dead in Khalis. Reuters ups the Muqdadiya toll to three (from "two civilian contractors supplying food . . .") and identifies them the three as "bakers" and also notes five people "wounded when gunmen in a car shot at shoppers in a market in central Samarra."
Corpses?  Australia's Herald Sun reports two corpses were discovered in Kerbala and three in Suweira.
In peace news,  Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing begins in two days.  Jeff Paterson (Indybay Media) writes about the warm reception Watada got as "a keynote speaker" last weekend with those gathered chanting "thank you LT!" As the August 17th hearing approaches, Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) reports that Watada's attorney Eric Seitz will call "[t]wo experts on international law" Francis Boyle and Denis Halliday as well as "retired Army Col. Ann Wright".  Nina Shapiro (Seattle Weekly) reports that "Francis Boyle, a University of Illinois international law professor, . . . will testify about the legality of the war; Denis Haliday, a former United Nations assistant secretary general, [will be] presenting evidence on the same subject; and retired Army Col. Ann Wright, . . . will talk about how she used to train soldiers to decline orders if they appeared illegal." Shapiro notes that althought the hearing is scheduled for two days, Seitz "expects the hearing to be over in one day."
The hearing will begin Thursday, August 17th and remember that Courage to Resist and ThankYouLt.org are organizing and trying to get the word out for "a National Day of Education" on August 16th (that's tomorrow). Cedric (Cedric's Big Mix) is advising those calling to leave a message for Donald Rumsfeld (703-545-6700) or mailing him (1000 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301-1000) to say: "Hands off Ehren Watada! Let him go."
Last weekend's event that Watada got a warm reception at was the Veterans for Peace conference. Sunday's The KPFA Evening News had a lengthy report on the conference and quoted Gerry Condon explaining how the cases of Jeremy Hinzman, Brandon Hughey, Patrick Hart and others are hampered by the fact that they have to make their arguments on a "case by case [basis].  And it doesn't really resolve the problem for the increasing numbers of war resisters that are coming to Canada.  That's why we're calling on the [Canadian] government to create a policy of sanctuary, to make an easy way for war resisters to immigrate to Canada rathter than be deported back to the United States to go to prison for refusing to participate in the illegal war."
During the Vietnam era, war resisters could apply for asylum but today that's not the case.  And, as noted in the report, arguments about the legality of the Iraq war have not been allowed in court.  Mike's "KPFA reported on the war resisters in Canada" offers more on Sunday's report. Jeff Paterson (Indybay Media) reports on Sunday's action where "150 U.S. military veterans boarded buses for Peace Arch Park on the US/Canadian border to celebrate resistance to unjust war with U.S. troops currently taking refuge in Canada" and quotes Ann Wright stating, "It is part of military tradition that you can refuse illegal orders.  They have the courage to stand up and say . . . 'I'm not going to have this war on my conscience'."
The Veterans for Peace conference was where Ricky Clousing announced his decision to turn himself into the US military after being AWOL for a year.  Jane Cutter (Party for Socialism and Liberation) quotes Clousing saying: "I witnessed our baseless incarceration of civilians.  I saw civilians physically harassed.  I saw an innocent Iraqi killed before me by U.S. troops.  I saw the abuse of power that goes without accountability" and notes that also at Clousing's news conference were Camilo Mejia, Sharon Pankalla (Ricky Clousing's mother) and "Vietnam war resister Michael Wong".
In other new Richard Benedetto (Baxter Bulletin) reports on the bust that was Bully Boy's vacation, noting the lack of attention Bully Boy & Condi Rice got for a press conference, the lack of attention the media gave to Cindy Sheehan (who filled out a voter registration Card at the Crawford Post Office Tuesday) and concludes that, for Bully Boy, "it was not a vacation."  As the emotion (giggles) subsides, Emily Ingram (Waco Tribune-Herald) reports that Bully Boy's "shortest summer vacation yet" hasn't deterred Camp Casey III supporters who, in the words of Dave Jensen of Tyler, TX, maintain: "Regardless if Bush is here or not, we'll be here.  I think all of us feel like he's cut and run."  Ingram notes that since being released from the Providence Health Center in Waco, Sheehan's divided her time between the camp, a hotel (for the "wireless internet") and Willie Nelson's home. 
Sheehan was reportedly hospitalized for exhuastion, dehydration and some medical issues (she was hospitalized Thursday, in Seattle where she was taking part in the Veterans for Peace conference, and in Texas on Friday, Saturday and some of Sunday).  Per doctors orders, she had to begin eating but the Troops Home Fast continues (through September 21st) and currently 4,549 people around the world are participating in this CODEPINK action.
More information can be found at Troops Home FastThose taking part in the action so far have included Laura Flanders, Howard Zinn, Kim Gandy (president of NOW), Will Durst, Jonathon Tasini, Kevin Zeese, Jim Hightower, Greg Palast, Al Sharpton, Marianne Williamson, Julia Butterfly Hills, Pratap Chatterjee, Fernando Suarez del Solar, Ray McGovern, Bonnie Raitt, Alice Walker, Dolores Huerta, Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, Michael Franti, Eve Ensler, Ed Asner, Graham Nash. Dick Gregory and Willie Nelson.  (That's not a full list.)  Those interested can grab a one-day fast, a one-day-a-week fast, or they can try for something longer. Before beginning any multi-day fast, please consult your medical go-to.  Brenda Payton (Oakland Tribune) reports that Jane Jackson (70-years-old) "was taken to Highland Hospital's emergency room Sunday after fasting for 41 days as part of the national Troops Home Fast action."  (Jane Jackson is reported to be doing okay.)
In other peace news, nycnion (NYC Indymedia) reports that August 19th will be a non-silent vigil for Abeer Qassim Hamza who would have turned 15-years-old Saturday had she not been murdered (along with three family members) and allegedly raped (alleged by US troops)..  Actions will take placefrom 7:30 pm to 9:30 p.m. at the following locations: in NYC at Washington Square Park -- W. 4th STreet & MacDougal; in Los Angeles at MacArthur Park -- 6th and Alvarado St.; and in Berkeley at Willard Park -- Telegraph & Derby St.
Sandy LeonVest (Toward Freedom) notes a number of issues (Steven D. Green -- one of those accused of murdering and raping Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi; Ricky Clousing, etc.) observes: "There was a moment in time, before the media simply turned its back on Iraq -- and before reporters became frustrated and bored by their inability to get out of the 'green zone' and cover the story -- that Pentagon officials allowed them to talk relatively freely with (pre-selected) recruits."
One of the things LeonVest notes is the 300 members of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team who made it home to Alaska only to learn they were going straight back to Iraq for at least four more months (after having already served a year in Iraq).
Russ Bynum (Associated Press) reports that the 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment will be returning to Iraq "as early as the end of November" and that the 1st Brigade Combat Team "is preparing for a possible third combat tour in Iraq."  And the war drags on.
In Australia, the inquiry into the April 21st death of Jake Kovco continues.  Today's big talking point: He was a cowboy.  Report after report emphasizes that.  On ABC's PM, Mark Douglass told Mark Colvin that a Soldier 3 had reprimanded Kovco for the use of his weapon: "You know you shouldn't be doing that.  It's a dangerous weapon and accidents can happen and peopl do get hurt when you play with weapons."  A variety of this tale is repeated throughout the reports.  Though the Kovco Cowboy has been a popular talking point for the month, Soldier 3 is only the second witness to testify that he observed such behavior.  (Go back to August 2nd's snapshot for more on this.)  Let's say it's true (it may be), where is the documentation?  This is the second to claim he reprimanded Kovco for playing with a gun.  Even were this an oral reprimand, this should have been documented.  If it's not, that's an issue the hearing needs to look into.
Kovco grew up with guns, was a marksman before he joined the military.  Could he have played with his gun?  Aboslutely.  He could have been so used to it that he took it (and safety) for granted.  If that's the case, there should be something more than two people saying they reprimanded him and a host of others saying "I didn't see it myself but I heard even though I can't say from whom."  So let's see some documentation for this behavior.  That's two supposed reprimands from superiors.  If it didn't make his personnel file than they've got some serious tracking problems (and can add that to the mythical 'buddy system' for unloading a weapon as something the Australian military needs to address). 
As they all rush to do the Cowboy Kovco talking point a few miss Soldier 46's damning testimony.  AAP reports that Soldier 46 (a military police captain -- all witness are identified with "Soldier" and a number in the inquiry) "told the inquiry that within hours of the shooting he passed on requests from his bosses to army chiefs in Baghdad about how the investigation should be handled" including securing Jake Kovco's room, preventing the departure of soldiers whose testimony would be needed, etc.  Now note: "WITHIN HOURS."
For those who've fogotten, we've heard that the room/crime scene was stipped clean (before investigators arrived four days after Kovco's death) because it was basically bringing everybody down.  We've heard that preserving the crime scene never occurred to anyone.  Soldier 46 testified that not only did it occur to him but he said the room needed to be secure within hours of Kovco's death.  Is he telling the truth?  If so, why didn't this advice get noted by previous witnesses? 
The Courier-Mail reports that Soldier 46 was at the room/crime scene "about one hour after the shooting" and passing on the instructions (from his own superiors) about securing the room.  So why is the hearing only now hearing of this and how does one resolve that testimony from the man who earlier stated the room was cleaned because it was bringing the others down and he hadn't thought it was important to preserve the scene? 
For any who've forgotten, August 10th's snapshot covers the testimony of Jake Kovco's "commanding officer." Soldier 30: "The room is right in the middle of where all the other soldiers are accommodated. It was becoming a morale issue."  Is Soldier 30 going to testify again (via video-link) as to whether he ignored Soldier 46 or just didn't hear that the room needed to be secure?  (If Soldiers 46 and 30 are both telling the truth, then the hearing needs to examine issues of communication.) 
Finally, in the United States, David Ammons (AP) reports that War Hawk Maria Cantwell is having to reposition on Iraq, declaring "that she's anxious to see a transition plan for shifting responsibilities to the Iraqis" (sounds like Rumsfeld, Bully Boy, et al) and quoting her saying: "I certainly want to change the course and get our troops home.  The United States has done its duty in helping a new government get formed, and now it is time for that new government to take over."  Senator Cantwell is facing re-election and is seen as "one of the Democrats' more vulnerable incumbents".

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