Friday, August 18, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Friday, August 18, 2006, the so-called 'crackdown' continues (and early childhood experts may note the engaged-in-a-power-struggle nature of it all as well as the increasing futility), Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing started and concluded Thursday, Ricky Clousing returned to North Carolina and DNA on Jake Kovco's pistol is thought to have been indentified.
Ehren Watada is the first known commissioned officer to refuse to deploy in Bully Boy's illegal war.  Yesterday, the military held an Article 32 hearing to determine whether there was reason/cause to take the matter to a court martial.  Ehren Watada's attorneys were Eric Seitz and Cap. Mark Kim (of the US Army). While the prosecution called only one witness (to confirm that, as Watada had stated would be the case, Watada did not deploy) and spent the rest of its time showing excerpts o a speech Watada gave this weekend at the  Veterans for Peace conference (click here at CounterPunch and here at Truthout and the latter offers video clips of the speech).
Watada's side called three witnesses Francis Boyle, Denis Halliday and retired Amry Colonel Ann Wight.  Boyle testified as the nature of the war noting that the lie that Bully Boy pressed (for Congressional and public approval) of a link between Saddam Hussein and 9-11 "constitutes . . . a conspiracy to defraud the United States government."  Ann Wright testified: "I personally believe that the decision of the Bush administration to invade and occupy Iraq without getting the authority of the UN Security Council . . . falls into the category of a war of agrression, which is by international law a war crime.  So by a persaon saying 'Yes, I'm gong to Iraq,' one could argue that just by doing that, that is participating in a war crime.'"
As Eric Seitz had expected/predicted, the hearing lasted one day.  Watada could find that the hearing determined there were no grounds for proceeding to a court-martial or a court-martial could be the next step.  That call will be made by Lt. Colonel Mark Keith who presided over the hearing.  A court-martial could mean as many as seven years imprisonment.
Ehren's father Bob Watada will be in the San Francisco Bay Area on a speaking tour that starts tomorrow and ends August 27th.   A full list of scheduled appearances can be found here.  A sample of upcoming events includes:
Saturday 8/19
Vigil for Abeer Hamza
(14-year old girl who was raped & killed with her family by 5 US troops)
Willard Park (Telegraph & Derby), Berkeley
Contact: Not in Our Name 510-601-8000

Sunday 8/20
American Muslim Voice Foundation
12:45-1 pm Bob Watada speaks
5748 Mowry School Rd., Newark
Contact: Samina F. Sundas 650-387-1994

Monday 8/21
Press Conference
SF Japantown (Peace Plaza or NJAHS
Gallery) Contact: Grace Morizawa
gmorizawa [at]

Monday 8/21
Reception & Event in SF Japantown
Japanese Community & Cultural Center of NC
(JCCCNC) 1840 Sutter, San Francisco
Contact: Pete Yamamoto 415/921-5007
Tuesday 8/22
1-3 pm brown bag lunch & educational event
Peace & Justice Center of Sonoma County
467 Sebastopol Ave., Santa Rosa
Contact: Elizabeth 707-575-8902
Wednesday  8/23
UC Berkeley gathering with
students and campus organizers
Heller Lounge, Student
Union Building, UC Berkeley
Contact: Nina Falleunbaum 510-812-8026
noon-1:30pm Event at UC Berkeley ­ Sproul Plaza
Contact: Wesley Ueunten 510-579-2711
Thursday 8/24
World Can't Wait­Youth & Students Conference
San Francisco (site TBA)
Contact: Jessalyn Gagui 415-286-3408
Friday 8/25
7-10pm "Sir! No, Sir!"
Film Screening & Speakers
Santa Cruz Veterans Building
Contact: Sharon Kufeldt 650-799-1070
Again, a full list can be found by clicking here (Indybay IMC).
Once again, Cedric (Cedric's Big Mix) is advising those calling 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." Courage to Resist and will continue to offer resources, ideas and inspiration. Get the word out.
In addition Howie Hawkins (Green Party candidate for US Senate from NY) is urging "the peace movement to provide financial support to soldiers who are punished for refusing to participate in the war."  And, as many community members have noted, while there's been a "How Can They!" attitude regarding Hillary Clinton's Democratic opponent not being invited to a TV debate, the Green Party candidate is shut out as well -- despite the lack of op-eds, news segments, et al. (The Green Party candidate would be Howie Hawkins.) 
Another war resister, Ricky Clousing, is back at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.  The AP reports that he arrived back this morning. Clousing self-checked out of the army in June of last year.  Last week, Mike Barber (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) had the scoop that the 24-year-old Clousing would be holding a news conference to announce he was turning himself in.  Estes Thompson reports that after turning himself in at Fort Lewis in Washington, he was ordered "to report to a unit at Fort Bragg that handles absent soldiers." 
Turning to diplomacy issues, as trade talks went on in Jordan this week, talks which Petra noted were "co-chaired by Speaker of the Lower House of the [Jordan] Parliament Abdel Hadi Al Majali and his Iraqi counterpart Mahmoud Al Masshadani," Jordan's Ahmed al-Lozi became "the first fully accredited Arab ambassador in Iraq." 
Meanwhile in the United States, Free Speech Radio News reported Thursday that "twenty-one former generals and high ranking national security officials called on President Bush to reverse course . . . and embrace a new area of negotiation with Iraqn, Iraq and North Korea."  Speaking with Andrea Lewis on KPFA's The Morning Show today, Medea Benjamin noted that while the US administration makes no efforts to reach out to the Iraqi parliament, "we at the grass roots [level] have."  Benjamin was referring to the CODEPINK & Global Exchange sponsored trip to Amman, Jordan where she and others met with Iraqis including the "members of the largest Shia coalition, the largest Sunni block in their parliament, the largest secular coalition, torture victims from Abu Ghraib."
Benjamin observed, "It was quite an amazing coming together of people who, from all different perspectives, wanted to see an end to the US occupation, an end to the violence in Iraq, the reconstruction of their country  and we came awy from there, Andrea, with a lot of ideas about how to get the voices of the Iraqi people out in the US so that when we hear that same old excuse here 'We can't leave the Iraqi people now!'  we can hear the voice of Iraqis telling us precisely how they want to see an end to the occupation and a broader reconciliation plan."
This comes as Robert Reid (AP) reports that: "Key U.S. senators complain it's time to tell Iraqis that American troops won't stay indefinitely and to make political compromises to avoid all-out civil war."  This as a Dick Cheney stump speech/plea for cash turned into an event.  Jesse Harlan Alderman (AP) reports that a Boise, Idaho fund raiser included protestors in "orange [hunting] vests handing out leaflets on hunter safety"; "[p]eace activists silently lining a major downtown arterial with tombstones to mark the mounting death toll in Iraq"; and a "Dick Cheney look-alike contest" with an award of "$22 in free gas and a box of shotgun shells" (and hopefully a list of qualified plastic surgeons).
In Iraq, the chaos and violence continue.  Despite 'crackdown' 6.0 which now means that all vehicles are banned for two-days in the capital.  Reuters reports that this ban has been imposed due to the one-year anniversary of the stampeded that killed almost "1,000 Shi'ite pilgrims . . . in a stampede . . . when a crowd . . . was panicked by rumours of a suicide bomber."  Al Jazeera notes that the ban is in place until Monday morning. The BBC reports that, in addition to the vehicle ban, there are "[c]heckpoints, [and] body searches". Exactly how vehicle bans, checkpoints or body searches will stop rumors (the stated cause of last year's stampeded) remains unclear.
CBS and the Associated Press report that in Balad Ruz, a roadside bomb claimed killed at least one person. KUNA reports that today it was announced that a "multi-national force (MNF) soldier" died in southern Baghdad on Thursday from a roadside bomb. Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports that the "British military base near Amarah" was under mortar attack "Friday morning."  [In the United States, Amy Bartner (Indianapolis Star) reports on a "new 11-bed unit . . . at the Roudebush Veterans Affairs Medical Center where the most seriously wounded soldiers in the Iraq war will be able to recover" and notes that while body armor is credited with saving the lives of American troops, "that protection can't prevent potentially debilitating injuries to arms and legs".]  Australia's notes that a mortar attack on a city council member in Baquba wounded "[f]our bodyguards."

In Taji, a convoy ("civilian trucks") was attacked leaving one person wounded and a 'guard' dead the AP reports. Australia's reports that the truck went up in flames and had been carrying "kerosene" while also noting that a grocer was shot dead in Yarmuk.  (Other press outlets do not identify what the truck was carrying.)  Australia's The Advertiser reports that seven Shi'ite pilgrmins were shot dead by "gunmen" in Baghdad.  KUNA reports that "two civilians" were shot dead in Mosul.

AP reports five were discovered in Mahmoudiya ("gunshot wounds"). The Canadian Press notes the five and adds that six more were discovered "in the Tigris River" ("bullet-riddled and tortured").
CBS and AP report that journalist Saif Abdul-Jabbar al-Tamimi was kidnapped Wednesday and that "[t]here has been no claim of responibility". Reporters Without Borders notes that he was kidnapped in Baghdad as were journalists Reem Zeid and Marwan Khazaal who "have been hostages for more than six months" now while journalist Salah Jali al-Gharrawi has not been seen since his April 4th kidnapping.  Reporters Without Borders notes: "A total of 49 journalists and media assistants have been kidnapped in Iraq since the start of the war in March 2003.  Instead of being afforded a degree of security by the fact that they work for the media, journalists have been singled out as targets."
Meanwhile, AFP reports that Father Saad Syrop was kidnapped, also from Baghdad, Tuesday evening after he had finished Mass (at St. James Church) and was heading home.
In Australia, the inquiry into the April 21st death in Baghdad of Jake Kovco resumed.  Following Wednesday's hypnosis shocker, an unscheduled day-off was taken due to reported delays with DNA test that might reveal the 'owner' of the DNA found on Kovco's gun.  As Michael Edwards reports on PM (Australia's ABC) Michelle Franco ("DNA expert") testified that the DNA belongs to Soldier 14. Reporting on The World Today (ABC), Edwards noted that "Soldier's 14's DNA was found on the gun's slide, trigger, base plate, and magazine." 
Soldier 14 previously testified to the hearing on August 9th and dropped a bombshell when he testified that the (written) statements provided to the military investigation were not reflective of his (verbal) statements -- specifically, as Peter Charlton (Courier-Mail) noted this included the claim that there was a standard procedure (the so-called 'buddy system') in operation "where a pair of soldiers check each other's weapons to ensure they were unloaded."
The Herald-Sun reports that only the DNA "on the pistol's slide" were ruled by expert Franco to be a direct match (DNA on the "trigger, hand grip and magazine" are believed, by Franco, to be Soldier 14's but are "not direct matches.")  Tracy Ong (The Australian) reports that Soldier 14 testified, after the DNA results, that he had no memory of handling Jake Kovco's gun and that his attorney ("Lieutenant Colonel Bruce Green") cross-examined Franco who noted that skin celles "could be transferred through a handshake or carried in sweat."
The AAP calls the DNA "[s]ensational new evidence," notes that "Soldier 14 has refused to be interviewed by police about the tests" and reports that "Monday . . . Soldier 14 will be cross-examined by lawyers representing Private Kovco's widow, Shelley, and his parents" Judy and Martin Kovco.
The Daily Telegraph notes that Soldier 14 believes "that both he and Pte Kovco had probably used the same megaphone at the embassy on the day of the shooting" and that's where any DNA swap would have most likely taken place.
Finally, in peace news, Camp Casey III is ongoing in Crawford, Texas until September 2nd -- on September 5th it switches locations and becomes Camp DC.  AFP reports that it "will be located near the National Mall, the blocks-long expanse of lawn between the US Congress building and the White House".  While it's still located in Crawford, upcoming events include the following: August 18th forum on peaceful solutions moderated by Carroll Boone and an August 21st War Crimes Tribunal. Actress and activist Mimi Kennedy, of  Progressive Democrats of America, will be there on August 20th along with Carolyn Wonderland who will perform from 7:30 to 9:30 pm. 

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