Monday, August 21, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Monday, August 21, 2006, violence and chaos continue in Iraq, Ehren Watada's father Bob travels to raise awareness of what his son is facing, Cindy Sheehan and others continue to up the ante, Soldier 14 testifies he was scared of a widow, and the Bully Boy holds an inner-dialogue with himself while the world watches.

Having long ago spent any perceived political capitol his illegal war of choice or the 2004 elections might have fronted him, Bully Boy struggles to justify why the United States should continue a war that, on Sunday, claimed the lives of three more American troops in the al Anbar Province. Daniela Deane (Washington Post) reports that the Bully Boy stated it would be a disaster to leave . . . the disaster that is Iraq (link contains video to the speech) -- sounding a bit like the guy who begs you to invest in his sure-thing investment and then, when it goes to hell, tells you that if you pull out, it will destroy him. That is what is now at stake. Not Iraq, not US trooops, Bully Boy's own historical role and don't think he hasn't grasped that. Deane quotes the Bully Boy stating: "We're not leaving so long as I'm president" apparently goading the growing impeachment movement, "That would be a huge mistake." "Huge mistake" would be a nice way of describing the illegal war the Bully Boy started with lies and inference.

If there's a grown up present in the White House, might they suggest to the "We're not leaving" Bully Boy that he listen to KPFA's Against the Grain from this afternoon, where Sasha Lilley interviewed Dan Berger on the topic of the Weather Underground and what denials/refusals led to the formation of that group? (Lilley, not C.S. Soong as I wrongly stated Saturday, conducted the interview.) As Deane (Washington Post) notes: "Bush made his comments as support for the Iraq war among the American public continues to plummet and Bush's approval numbers stay stuck in the 30s. More conservative commentators are raising questions, expressing doubts or even attacking the president outright on his foreign policy decisions, with the Iraq war figuring prominently." That's something he might want to consider, as well as
Judge Anna Diggs Taylor's decison in ACLU v. NSA ("There are no hereditary kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution"), before he issues his next royal edict on what he says the nation will do. His only alternative is to out-Nixon Tricky Dick. (Something he already seems bound and determined to achieve before he completes his term or is removed from office.)

On the ground in Iraq, Baghdad's so-called crackdown (6.0) returns to 'normal' crackdown status (which never worked either) as the vehicle ban is lifted in Iraq's capital. And the reaction? CNN reports an armed attack in Adan Square resulting in at least one dead and at least five wounded, while in western Baghdad an Iraqi army patrol was attacked resulting in three deaths (Iraqi soldiers) and two wounded (ditto) and, just north of Baghdad, a US soldier was killed by a roadside bomb. As Reuters notes, the roadside bomb death brought to four the number of US troops killed in the last 24 hours. In addition to the three Iraqi soldiers killed in Baghdad, AFP reports a civilian was killed by a drive-by shooting.

Outside of Baghdad, things weren't 'calm' (though that's today's talking point -- look for it in print tomorrow and wonder about domestic outlets -- whether they cheer the war or not -- who use calm to described a 24 hour period that saw four US troops die).
Reuters notes violence in Basra -- Fadhil al-Magsusi was shot dead (he's "colonel in the Facility Protection Services") and that two members "of the Interior Ministry Intelligence Service" were shot dead on Sunday -- while in Iskandariya a roadside bomb claimed the lives of two Iraqi police officers. AFP reports a bomb injured a police officer in Baquba. CNN adds to the Baquba details noting two shot dead and another two wounded in Baquba from shootings and "In another incident, gunmen shot dead an Iraqi civilian in Khalis town about 12.4 miles (20 kilometers) north of Baquba. Two people, including a teacher, were killed by gunmen in Balad Ruz, about 31 miles (50 kilometers) east of Baquba Monday morning, an official with Baquba police said."
That makes eleven (includes the American soldier) and that passes for "calm" as surely as Bully Boy's failed war of choice passes for "success." In the reality based world, The Feminist Wire reports that 35 lawyers in Iraq have been killed since October of last year "many of whom were defending women's rights." While Andy Webb-Vidal (Financial Times of London) reports that things are getting nasty between US military outsourcer Blackwater and the mercenaries they contracted for security duties from Columbia (where else?) as the mercenaries claim that they are being paid only a quarter of what they were promised. (Apparently Blackwater pays a monthly salary and not by 'the kill.') The dispute could spell problems for many reporters in Baghdad since the thirty-five mercenaries are assigned to the Green Zone.

Last Thursday, in the United States, Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing was held. Watada is the first known commissioned officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq. Currently, the presiding officer, Lt. Col. Mark Keith, is weighing whether or not the record/evidence demonstrates the need for futher action (which could include a court-martial). Washington's Spokesman Review quotes Watada stating: ""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." Following Thursday's hearing, Jeff Patterson (Indybay IMC) reports that Watada spoke to a group of supporters in Tacoma, Washington and restated "his willingness to go to jail for the truth if needed." Patterson (of Not In Our Name) reports that attorney Eric Seitz explained that the Watada's defense is based on "the duty of individual soldiers to look at the facts and fulfill their obligation to national and international law" and that it is the prosecution's efforts that put the war on trial.

Bob Watada, father of Ehren, is currently speaking at various events in the San Francisco Bay Area to raise awareness of his son's case. Upcoming events for today and tomorrow include:

6:00-8:30pm Reception & Event in SF Japantown
Japanese Community & Cultural Center of NC
(JCCCNC) 1840 Sutter, San Francisco
Contact: Pete Yamamoto 415/921-5007

Tu. 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

6-9pm Buena Vista United Methodist Church-
Reception & Event
2311 Buena Vista Ave. Alameda
Contact: Rev. Michael Yoshii

A full list of events can be found here. The Santa Cruz Sentinal notes one of Friday's events, a 7:00 pm benefit showing of Sir! No Sir! at the Veterans Memorial Hall -- 846 Front St., Santa Cruz -- co-sponsored by the Santa Cruz chapter of Veterans for Peace and the Resource Center for Nonviolence.

And we'll continue to note the following: 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 other peace news, Saturday, Cindy Sheehan, Ann Wright and over fifty others protested an Austin, TX appearance by Karl Rove with chants of "Try Rove For Treason" and cries of "Karl Rove, You Are A Criminal." The Associated Press places the number of participants at seventy. The Austin American-Statesman reports that "Tiffany Nicole Burns of Los Angeles has been charged with inciting a riot and criminal trespass because she 'responded with physical resistance' when an officer tried to apprehend her outside a ballroom at the Renaissance Austin Hotel." Burns is out on bail but, if convicted, could face a maxiumum of 180 days in jail and/or a maximum fine of $2000. Burns told Austin's CBS 42, "The police made it really clear to me that their objective was to get us out of the reception so we wouldn't bother Karl Rove while he was speaking. Rather than let us, find some peaceful resolution and leave after we said what we came to say." CODEPINK notes: "Who's that telling Karl Rove he should be indicted for war crimes? Or interrupting Dick Cheney at the RNC? Or walking 40 miles for peace? Or planting a peace garden in Crawford, Texas in 105 degree heat? It's CODEPINK'S beloved Tiffany Burns. Always pushing the envelope (and getting arrested!)" (link contains video of an interview with Burns).

Despite the protests, the questions remaining about his role in the outing of then CIA agent Valerie Plame, the predictors said to bode poorly for Republican election prospects in November, there were no reports that the portly Karl Rove's extremely healthy appetite was effected.

Whether the Bully Boy and Condi Rice will have such healthy appetites next week in Salt Lake City when they are greeted by protests led by the city's mayor Rocky Anderson and Cindy Sheehan remains unknown at present.

The Associated Press notes that Sheehan traveled "about 100 miles" from Camp Casey III to take part in the demonstrations in Austin. Actions at Camp Casey III continue through September 2nd then it moves to DC for Camp Democracy (opens September 5th). CODEPINK reports on the hard work put into a recent addition at Camp Casey III: the Visions for Peace garden (link contains photos).

The upcoming DC events in September to protest the illegal war are only a few weeks away. In a review of Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber's new book The Best War Ever: Lies, Damned Lies, and the Mess In Iraq, David Swanson (Political Affairs) notes that Rampton will be at speaking at Camp Democracy in DC and that "[o]ther speakers at Camp Democracy will include: Cindy Sheehan, Antonia Juhasz, Gael Murphy, Raed Jarrar, Anne Feeney, Lennox Yearwood, Ann Wright, John Kim, Kevin Fagan, Ryan McAllister, Regina Miranda, Mike Gravel, Elizabeth Holtzman, John Nichols, Marcus Raskin, Elizabeth de la Vega, Michael Avery, Ray McGovern, Dave Lindorff, Barbara Olshansky, Jennifer Van Bergen, Geoff King, David Waldman, Dan DeWalt, Steve Cobble, Anthony Arnove, Howard Zinn, and many others."

Turning to Australia, the military inquiry into the April 21st death of Jake Kovco in Baghdad continues. Last week, DNA tests came back on Kovco's gun which is identified as the weapon that killed him. Some of the DNA on it not belonging to Kovco was identified as belonging to Soldier 14. (Some, not all could be conclusively identified.) After refusing to consent to a police interview last week, Soldier 14 again took the stand today and, as Australia's ABC reports, he continued to maintain that his DNA must "have been transferred by a megaphone, telephone or military radio they both handled on the day of Private Kovco's death." Soldier 14 also used his testimony to note Shelley Kovco, widow of Jake Kovco and the mother of their children Alana and Tyrie Kovco. Leonie Lamont (Sydney Morning Herald) reports that in reply to questioning from Shelley Kovco's attorney (Lieutenant-Colonel Tom Berkley) Soldier 14 stated he had wanted to speak to her but "felt that people were out to get me, they thought I was responsible, and I thought she was one of those people. The last thing I wanted to do was have to listen to someone accuse me when I knew I had nothing to hide." A strange statement since Soldier 14 is speaking of the time immediately after Jake Kovco's death and until Friday's DNA testing was revealed, no one was aware who, if any one, might have handled the gun that killed Jake Kovco. As Tracey Ong ( notes, Soldier 14 continues to maintain that he never touched Jake Kovco's pistol and that, via video-link from Baghdad, Kovco's roommates (Soldiers 17 and 19) gave testimony regarding how often the soldiers showered and washed their hands -- seeming to address the issue of whether stray DNA could have landed on Kovco's gun without Soldier 14 ever touching it. As Belinda Tasker (The Daily Telegraph) notes, Soldier 14's avoidance of Shelley Kovco -- out of fear of being accused of something,apparently -- translates as Soldier 14 aoviding contact with her for "more than three months" and notes that Soldier 14 said "people were telling me" that Shelley Kovco was out to get him -- apparently no one asked Soldier 14 who these people were or why, since his DNA was only identified last Friday, anyone would think he was suspected of anything in the death of Kovco. No one has placed Soldier 14 as being present in the room when Jake Kovco died, however, Leonie Lamont reports that Soldier 14 testified he was in the room next to Kovco's and, although he maintains he did not leave his room, he stated to the inquiry that he did yell "about the keeping the noise down" [music] and went over to the room after he heard the gunshot. Tracey Ong reports: "Soldier 14 will return to the stand for a fourth time as early as the end of the week for further questioning by Frank Holles, counsel representing Pte Kovco's parents, Martin and Judy. Lieutenant Colonel Holles is away on another case this week" and notes that Soldier 14's lawyer voiced his objection to this stating that the stress was too much and Soldier 14 needed to return to the, apparently, more peaceful, less stressful locale of Baghdad. The roommates testimony (via video-link from Baghdad) rejected, ABC reports, the notion that Kovco's death resulted from "a prank" Kovco was playing and both Soldiers 17 and 19 continue to maintain that although they saw him dancing around (to the Cranberries), they did not see the gun go off.

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