Friday, August 25, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Friday, August 25, 2006, chaos and violence continue in Iraq despite the wave of Operation Happy Talk launched yesterday by US military boys John Abizaid and George Casey that things are looking up and corners will be turned, equally laughable was Brit military boy Charlie Burbridge claiming that a base in Amara hadn't been abandoned.  He offers a new punch line today. The inquiry into the death of Jake Kovco continues and Soldier 14 testifies again.  But we'll start with the latest on Ehren Watada -- the first US officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq.
"Late Thursday" J.C.Matthews told the AP that a recommendation had been reached by Lt. Colonel Mark Keith in Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing. Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) reports that the recommendation is "Ehren Watada face a general court-martial for failing to join his unit in Iraq" and Keith "has endorsed two other charges: conduct unbecoming an officer and contempt toward officials."  Translation, Keith has endorsed all three charges made on July 5th. As the AP notes, "Keith could have recommended anything from dismissal of the charges to a general court-martial" as he weighed the issues and the testimony given on August 17th.  Gregg K. Kakesako notes that Keith did feel that Ehren Watada was "sincere in his beliefs" which "should mitigate any future punishment" and Kakesako outlines the next step: "Keith's decision now goes to Col. Cynthia Murphy, U.S. Army Garrison commander at Fort Lewis, who will review it and then submit her recommendations to Lt. Gen James Dubik".
The AP quotes Ehren Watada's civilian attorney, Eric Seitz, stating: "We always believed that when they went so far as to convene an Article 32 hearing that they had alread made a decision to proceed."  Hal Bernton (Seattle Times) notes Seitz was left  "somewhat astounded" that the charges endorsed by Keith included anything other than "missing the troop movement" because of "important First Amendment issues" that surround the other two charges.
Sarah Olson (Truthout) reports this today (of the August 17th testimony of Denis Halliday: "Halliday was called to testify regarding the impace of war on the Iraqi people.  'The people of Iraq had become used to living under very difficult conditions after the destruction in the name of the United Nations by the United States of the civilian infrastructure, water supplies, sewer systems, electric power, use of depleted uranium and cluster bombs.' Halliday was prevented from providing complete testimony when the investigating officer presided over the Article 32 hearing ruled that the 'consequences of the war or the situation on the ground' were irrelevant to Lieutenant Watada's argument that the war was illegal and that he had an obligation to refuse to fight it."  That is the most that's been written of Halliday's testimony to date (which, for the record, wasn't delivered via mime).
Bob Watada continues his speaking engagements in the San Francisco Bay Area to raise awareness of what his son, Ehren, is facing.  The events include:
Fri. 8/25
No. Cal. Japanese
Christian Theological Forum
Berkeley Methodist United Church-
1710 Carleton St/McGee in Berkeley
Contact: Laura Takeuchi 510-848-3614

Film Screening & Speakers
Santa Cruz Veterans Building
Contact: Sharon Kufeldt 650-799-1070

Sat. 8/26 7-9pm
Educational & Cultural Event
Berkeley Friends
Church; 1600 Sacramento St.,
Contact: Betty Kano 510-684-0239

Sun. 8/27 4-6pm Speaking Event
AFSC building, 65-Ninth St., SF
Contact: Martha Hubert 415-647-1119
A complete list of the events Bob Watada will be taking part in can be found here.
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.
Turning to the illegal occupation, violence and chaos continues.
Reuters reports one Iraqi soldier dead and two others wounded from a roadside bomb in Rashad and a "hand-grenade attack on a market in Hawija" left three people wounded.  AFP notes the death, late Thursday, of "an Iraqi army officer" with four soldiers left wounded.
AFP notes that five were killed by gunfire in Baquba, two in Tirkit (bakery workers) with three other people wounded,
Reuters notes that, in Nasiriya, gunfire claimed the lives of two and left two others wounded.
Reuters notes the discovery, in Qaim, of an Iraqi soldier ("signs of torture") while AFP notes that three corpses were discovered in Kirkuk ("tortured and bullet-riddled bodies").
In other violence, despite the British military flacks that were so eagerly allowed to spin in this this morning's New York Times, Haidar Hani (AP) reports: "Looters ravaged a former British base Friday . . . taking everything from doors and window frames to corrugated roofing and metal pipes".  As Ross Colvin (Reuters) reported yesterday, the base, which had come under nightly, heavy attacks, was abandoned. The AP story today notes: "Iraqi authories had complained that the British withdrawal had caught them by surprise" and allows flack Charlie Burbridge to holler Not-true-we-gave-them-24-hours-notice!  Well, Charlie, on a rental, you usually have to give a minimum of 30 days notice.  But it is good to know that as they packed up everything they could carry, someone did think to make a quick call saying, "Hey, we're about to split.  If there's anything you want, better grab it quick, dude!"
Along with an adequate heads up, Iraqi politicians have other complaints they're sharing.  Aparism Ghosh (Time magazine) reports that Abdul-Azziz al-Hakim states that for over three years Iraqi politicians have persistently requested "and reliable evidence" that "Iran is interfering in Baghdad's affairs" only to be rebuffed.  al-Hakim is quoted as saying, "[A]nd for three years we've told them, 'Show us proof.' But they never have." al-Hakim and others speaking to Ghosh make clear that they feel there is no proof and that Iran is being blamed to divert attention from the failure of the illegal war.
This as Aaron Glantz reports for OneWorld that Nuremberg prosecutor Benjamin Ferenczz has declared that Bully Boy and Saddam Hussein "should be tried for war crimes."
In Australia, the inquiry into the April 21st death of Baghdad of Jake Kovco continues.
Figuring into the most recent testimony were "NSW Police scientific officer Stephanie Hales" and Soldier 14.  Soldier 14 has made mutliple appearances in the hearing.  On August 9th, his testimony rejected the so-called buddy system where a pair was responsible for checking one another's weapons at the end of a shift (he also testified that what he said and what the military wrote up in his official statement were quite different). Last Friday, a DNA witness, Michelle Franco, identified some of the DNA on Jake Kovco's gun as belonging to Soldier 14.  [Again from last Friday: 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."] Soldier 14 has maintained that he did not touch Jake Kovco's pistol (and he's refused to be questioned by the NSW). 
At the start of this week, Soldier 14 again testified to the hearing and maintained that the DNA must have gotten on the pistol some other way such as via other equipment he acknowledges that he and Jake Kovco both handled such as a megaphone, a radio or telephone.  Also in that testimony, Soldier 14 declared that "people" had warned him that Jake Kovco's widow, Shelley Kovco, was 'out to get him.'  That was his excuse for avodiging her. Belinda Tasker (The Daily Telegraph) noted, of that testimony, that 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.  Who these 'people' were warning him of Shelley Kovco will apparently not be explored.
That was some of the previous testimony.  Today Soldier 14 testified again (not via video-link and remember he has stated he wants to get back to the apparent calm of Baghdad).  Malcolm Brown (Sydney Morning Herald) reports that the issues today revolved around: "Did you silently cock Private Kovco's pistol?" which Soldier 14 asserted he did not.  Soldier 14 has maintained that he saw Jake Kovco a few days prior to his death.  Brown describes the process as "a silent cocking operation, where the weapon is stripped down, a round put in he chamber, then reassembled, leaving the round in the chamber."  Soldier 14 will also be testifying Monday.
Stephanie Hales' testimony is characterized by the AAP as asserting that residue tests can not determine "whether Private Jake Kovco shot himself in Iraq or if someone else pulled the trigger" for a variety of reasons including the fact that Jake Kovco's "clothes . . . were destroyed," "the barracks room where PTE Kovco was shot was cleaned before NSW Police arrived in Baghdad to carry out their forensic tests," Jake Kovco's body was washed in a Kuwait morgue, Jake Kovco's hands were not wrapped "in paper bags" and the two roommates were allowed to shower and wash their clothing with no forensic tests being performed.
Finally, in England, British soldier Jason Chelsea has been buried.  The BBC reports that the nineteen-year-old "killed himself because he feared . . . he might have to shoot children" as he asserted he had been told in his training.  The BBC notes that:
"Earlier this month the MoD released figures showing 1,541 soldiers who served in Iraq are suffering from psychiatric illness."

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