Thursday, August 17, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, August 17, 2006 -- the first day of Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing which will determine whether or not to start a court martial inquiry over his refusal to deploy to Iraq and fight in an illegal war, chaos and violence continue in Iraq with the seat of the 'crackdown' being rocked with bombs, in Australia, the Jake Kovco inquiry follows up yesterday's hypnosis shocker by grabbing an unscheduled day off, a new studay finds that Iraqis opinions of Americans have dropped further as the war has dragged on, and the political 'death' of Mahmoud al-Mashhadani still seems premature.

Today, the Article 32 hearing began and Melanthia Mitchell (AP) reports that the military is showing video from last weekend's Veterans for Peace conference as part of their 'evidence.' AP also reports that "The prosecution played a total of three video clips with comments Watada made over the weekend as well as on June 7, when he publicly announced his decision to refuse deployment." The speech Watada gave is here at CounterPunch and here at Truthout which also includes the video option (QuickTime and Windows Media). In addition KPFA's Flashpoints played one part of the speech yesterday night and, presumably, will air the second part today or later this week (Flashpoints airs at 5:00 pm PST, 7:00 pm Central and 8:00 pm EST -- can be heard archived at the show's website, archived at KPFA or live while the show broadcasts).

What did Watada actually say as opposed to what did the military argue? If your indymedia choices have been following this, you know this already. If they've not made time or space for Watada this week, that may say something about the quality of your go-to indynews outlet.

Again, 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." Billie advises that you can use to e-mail the Pentagon. She suggests "Re: Ehren Watad" or "ATTN: DONALD RUMSFELD." You can also check Courage to Resist and for the latest developments.

On his decision to say "no" to the illegal war, Watada told Melanthia Mitchell (AP): "You don't join the military just to blindly follow whatever orders you're given. An order to go to an unlawful and immoral war based on false pretenses is no different than to kill innocent civilians."

Writing at The Huffington Post, Peter Laufer notes the stands of Watada, Ricky Clousing and others. Peter Laufer observers: "With polls showing an increasing majority of Americans now opposed to the war, the question hangs in the air: When will our society honor and appreciate those soldiers who refuse to follow orders to fight in Iraq?"

Moving to an item a friend's wanted noted for the last two days: Where is Mahmoud al-Mashhadani? On Tuesday, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani was 'the' news in many Iraq reports. Was he on his way out? One report noted that al-Mashhadani didn't return a phone call -- why was that? Marie Cocco (Truthdig) offers today that he's "openly toying with relinquishing his post". From where? From where is he openly toying with the idea? Juan Cole (Salon) offers that "when the Iraqi parliament reconvenes next month, the first item on the agenda will be firing Mashhadani." Cole feels that al-Mashhadani "has put his foot in his mouth too many times." al-Masshadani may very well be on the way out next month but right now he is in Jordan working on a trade agreement. It's an interesting part of the story left out of the mainstream media's he's-so-out-of-here narrative. Whether or not he remains speaker after the parliament reconvenes may be influenced by what's going on in Jordan.

While that may (or may not) influence how he is seen upon return, other observations were noted today. The World Values Surveys ("collaborative project between the Univeristy of Michigan Institute for Social Research and Eastern Michigan University) has relased their survey results which found (a) from 2004 to 2006, the percentage of Iraqis (surveyed) stating they did not want Americans as neighbors went from 87% to 90%; (b) 76% surveyed feel the US invaded "to control Iraqi oil"; (c) while 27% of respondents in 2004 felt that religion and politics should be separate, that figure is up to 41% for 2006; and (d) in 2004, 46% of Iraqis surveyed agreed that "In Iraq these days life is unpredictable and dangerous" -- the 2006 figures finds the percentage in agreement has climbed to 59%.

And on the ground in Iraq today? The usual drill.


Michael R. Gordon, Mark Mazzetti and Thom Shanker (New York Times) reported that 1,666 bombs exploded in Iraq during the month of July (presumably this only covers bombings not called in by US forces). Bombings have continued in August. The BBC reports that a car bomb in Baghdad ("Sadr City district") took the lives of at least seven people and wounded an additional 25. The two month old 'crackdown' has not had any noticeable impact on safety in the region. AFP reports on two car bombs ("went off in rapid succession"), also in Baghdad, that left at least 65 wounded and at least 14 dead. Alister Bull (Scotsman) observes that the violence in the capital underscores "the precarious security situation as US and Iraqi forces try to stem sectarian violence." Reuters notes that a car bomb wounded three police officers in "west-central Baghdad". AFP characterizes it as "a sucide bomber" and notes that two civilians were also injured.

Outside of Baghdad, Reuters notes a roadside bomb in Daquq leaving two dead and a third wounded; mortar rounds wounded 21 in Muqdadiya in Sinjar, nine were wounded by "a suicide car bomber". Al Jazeera notes that the mortar attack in Muqdadiya took place in a market and that three police officers were among the wounded.


Reuters notes that a police officer (Lieutenant Colonel Abdul-llah Abdul-Kareem) was shot dead in Mosul while an unidentified police officer was shot in Falluja. AFP reports that "[a]nother six people were killed in a string of shootings in and around Baquba" and notes three brothers who owned a store together, "a salesman," a man whose car was stolen by assailants who then killed him, and a "civilian . . . shot dead in a coffee shop."


BBC reports that five corpses were discovered "near . . . Suwayra". Al Jazeera reports it was six and notes they were "mutilated." Reuters goes with six and notes that
the corpses were discovered "blindfolded . . . hands bound . . . multiple gunshot wounds" while the AFP notes five being discovered and adds that two more corpses were discovered "near Muqdadiyah". Reuters also notes that an Iraqi soldier was discovered shot to death (thirteen shots to the head) in Balad "a day after he was kidnapped."

In peace news, Matthew D. LaPlante and Rebecca Walsh (Salt Lake Tribune) report that Cindy Sheehan will visit Salt Lake City to protest Bully Boy who will be speaking to the American Legion August 31st. Kelly Patterson of Brigham Young University states that the protest may be larger than when Bully Boy spoke in Salt Lake City the year prior: "What's changed over the last year is public opinion about the war itself. Those kinds of shifts provide energy to people who feel very strongly about the war and its conduct. That makes this a more divisive environment -- even in Utah." KSL radio reports that "Sheehan indicated that Mayor [Rocky] Anderson had extended an invitation for her [to] come to Salt Lake and participate in the planned protest. Sheehan will give a speech during the protest at the city-county building downtown".

Camp Casey III continues through September 2nd and Camp DC opens September 5th and runs through the 21st to coincide with a week's worth of events lasting from September 21st to September 28th.

Writing on Sheehan's hospitalization last week, Missy Comley Beattie (CounterPunch) notes that a transfusion of five-pints of blood were required and compares that need to needs within this country. Comley Beattie concludes: "We are bleeding as a result of the president's insatiable lust for power." Noting Sheehan's return to Camp Casey III this summer, Cynthia Hall Clements ( observers: "The question should not be why Sheehan is the lone voice in the wilderness protesting for peace. The question should be why more of us aren't doing the same."

In Australia, the inquiry into the April 21st death of soldier Jake Kovco in Baghdad took an unscheduled day off. AAP reports that DNA tests were to be covered and whether or not "they had identified the source of DNA on the gun that killed Pte Kovco in his Iraq barracks." The inquiry is expected to resume on Friday.