Monday, August 28, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Monday, August 28, 2006 and chaos and violence continue in Iraq, England's defense minister attempts to bring back Top Of Pops -- live from Baghdad -- as Operation Happy Talk continues to reject reality, eight US soldiers died on Saturday and Sundy, and, in Australia, Soldier 14's DNA argument is rejected by a forensic expert in the military inquiry into the April 21st death of Jake Kovco.
On Sunday, as Ellen Knickmeyer (Washington Post) reported, "Gunmen and bombers claimed at least 69 lives in Iraq".  That would be the same Sunday that puppet of the occupation (officially billed as prime minister) Nouri al-Maliki declared on CNN, "In Iraq we'll never be in a civil war."  Downplaying "unemployment as high as 40 percent,"
al-Maliki stuck to the Operation Happy Talk latest wave, "But this is a new Iraq."
Speaking Sunday on The KPFA Evening News, Antonia Juhasz responded to the latest wave of Happy Talk by noting, "The statements run counter to the facts that, well have been on display every day on our televisions, but even in mainstream media, of violence increasing between Iraqis, between the Shia and Sunni, but also violence increasing tremendously against the presence of the occupation, against US forces.  Security is definitely down in Iraq, as are basic services.  What is, what is up is Bush administration pressure on the Maliki government to put up a better public face."
Juhasz, the author of The BU$H Agenda: Invading the World One Economy At A Time, will be at Camp Democracy in DC on September 5th and, Texas community members, she will begin a Texas speaking tour on September 26th.
On Monday, Des Browne, the British defense secretary, wanted to duet with his Iraqi counterpart Abdul Qader Jassim.  Reuters reports the two held a publicity conference where they dueted on how things were looking up, things were looking up, things were looking up . . .  They spoke in the heavily secure Green Zone, the bunker-like compound in the midst of Baghdad -- Baghdad being the site of the 'crackdown' with the huge influx of US soldiers since the 'crackdown' began on June 14th.  Things are looking up?  Apparently that means next week they might step a toe outside the Green Zone.  Maybe just half a toe. In the meantime, possibly they could consider recording a duet of Ashford & Simpson penned Motown classics?   "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing?"
The real thing?  CNN reports that, when not dueting with Des Browne, Jassim was busy today "sending reinforcements to the Shiite city of Diwaniya to try to stem ongoing clashes that have resulted in the deaths of 23 Iraqi soldiers and 38 militia fighters".  Reuters reports that: "Ahmed al-Haji, in charge of the town's main hospital, said the bodies of 25 soldiers and ine civilians have been brought in."
Sudarsan Raghavan and Ellen Knickmeyer (Washington Post) report that a car bomb went off "at a checkpoint leading into the Ministry of Interior" in Baghdad.  Reuters puts the dead at 16 and the wounded at 47.  AFP notes that, "The blast and the carnage in Diwaniya were [the] latest blow to Prime Minister Nuri  al-Maliki's campaign to convince Iraqis and the world that his government and security forces are up to the tast of restoring order in Iraq."  The BBC reports that the Ministry was "frequently targeted in the past and is heavily guarded."  In addition to that car bomb, Reuters reports that a roadside bomb in Baghdad claimed the life of one police officer and left two others wounded while, still in Baghdad, a civilian was injured by a roadside bomb. Another civilian was killed in western Baghdad, according to the AP, who notes the dead was in "a car transporting five barbershop workers" and that four were wounded.
Today, Reuters reports, the US military announced six US soldiers died from bombings in Baghdad yesterday: "Four . . . killed by one roadside bomb north of Baghdad and two others killed by separate devices around the capital".  AP notes that if you put together Saturday and Sunday's count, eight US soldiers "in and around Baghdad."  8 US troops dead and US military flack wants to brag, "We have reduced the amount of violence.  We are actually seeing progress out there."?  Try "Iraq: This is what failure looks like" (The Third Estate Sunday Review). 
Reuters reports a a police officer was shot dead in front of his house in Mosul, that three other police officers were shot dead "in separate attacks",  and that "two women and one man" were shot dead ("members of the same family). AFP reports: "A security official says gunmen have also killed four of former Sunni deputy prime minister Abd Mutlaq al-Juburi's bodyguards in an ambus on their car in Baghdad's Ameriyah neighborhood."
Reuters reports four corpses were discovered in Baghdad ("gunshot wounds").
Maybe Caldwell can join Browne and Jassim as some sort of power-trio?  They couldn't cut it as Cream or The Jimi Hendrix Experience, but possibly as some sort of homage to Grand Funk Railroad they could have some chart success?  There first single could be "Ride That Wave (Of Happy Talk)".
They might want to review, before warbeling again, what Nancy A. Youssef and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reported Sunday: that families are swapping houses in Baghdad "as Iraqis find themselves searching for ways to avoid becoming vitctim to Baghdad's increasingly vicious cycle of sectarian violence.  Shiite families in Sunni neighborhoods and Sunni families in Shiite neighborhoods change places."
In peace news, Ehren Watada's case was addressed by Charles Burress (San Francisco Chronicle) this weekend and he noted that some Japanese-American war vets were against Watada and, as Joan noted this morning, so is Daneil Inouye.
Speaking on Sunday's The KPFA Evening News, Bob Watada (father of Ehren) explained that people need "to get behind him so that the military knows that what he did, the steps he has taken, and why he's taken these steps is-is-is for democracy, he refused to kill Iraqis, innocent Iraqis, and he's spoken out on it and we're talking about free speech so we need people to support Ehren for standing up [for] the Constitution."  Jim McMahan (Workers World) notes, "Many people now consider Watada's statements to be not only his right but his duty."
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.
Ehren Watada refused to deploy to Iraq (the first officer to have done so publicly) because it is an illegal war.  Other resisters have found other ways of refusing.  Peter Laufer (Times of London) reports on four who went to Canada:  Darrell Anderson: "Soldiers were describing to me how they had beaten prisoners to death."; Joshua Key: ""We was going along the Euphrates river.  It's a road right in the city of Ramadi.  We turned a sharp right and all I seen was decapitated bodies.  The heads laying over here and the bodies over there and US troops in between them."; Ryan Johnson: "I had two choices: go to Iraq and have my life messed up, or go to jail and have my life messed up.  So I came here to try this out."; Ivan Brobeck: "I have seen the beating of innocent prisoners.  I remember hearing something get thrown off the back of a seven-ton truck.  The bed of a seven-ton is probably something like 7 or 8ft high.  They threw a detainee off the back, his hands tied behind his back and a sandbag over his head, so he couldn't brace for the impact."  Peter Laufer's most recent book is Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq.
In other news of resistance, Bully Boy's latest vacation didn't go as quietly as he might have hoped.  From Sunday's The KPFA Evening News, Vanessa Tait: "Anti-war protestors have followed President Bush to Maine at his summer house in Kennebunkport.  An estimated 700 anti-war demonstrators got to within an half-mile of the Bush compound in Kennebunkport yesterday before being stopped at a security checkpoint. They sang, chanted, beat drums and waves signs calling on the president to bring US troops home from Iraq."  AFP reported Saturday that Jamilla El-Shafei stated: "Our message to President Bush is: We want the troops brought back home, we want democracy to be restored, we want you to stop trampling on our civil rights."
Things were chilly for US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as well when he was in Alaska Saturday meeting with military families.  Kristin Roberts (Reuters) reports that the questioning got a little intense in a closed-to-the-press encounter.  Roberts quotes Jennifer Davis, "wife of one soldier in Iraq," as stating, "I think it was a show." 
Cindy Sheehan remains in Crawford, Texas at Camp Casey III and notes "and hoping to be back on my feet . . .  to go and protest George with Mayor Rocky [Anderson] in Salt Lake City and be up and about when he comes back to Crawford for the Labor Day Weekend.  Apparently George Bush is a 'regular guy' who meets with his constituents, so I am looking forward to finally getting the meeting with him that I have been asking for all year long."  Sheehan recently had surgery ("hoping to be back on my feet").  August 31st is the day of action in Salt Lake City, when Bully Boy (who arrives August 30th) make a speech there.
And CODEPINK's Troops Home Fast is on the fifty-fifth day of action with at least 4,833 people participating (that's how many have registered their participation at the site).  The action continues up to September 21st.  Those wanting to take part can grab a one-day only fast, a one-day a week fast or something longer (on longer, seek advice from your medical adviser).
In Australia, the military inquiry into the April 21st Bagdad death of Jake Kovco continues.  To recap in light of today's issue, Soldier 14 testified Friday and denied 'silent cocking' Jake Kovco's gun.  Soldier 14 also continued to maintain (as he did on August 21st and as he did on August 18th ) that he did not touch Jake Kovco's gun the day Kovco died.  On Kovco's gun, which is thought to have been the gun that killed him, DNA other than Jake Kovco's was found. Soldier 14 has suggested that a share radio, megaphone, etc. may have led to his DNA being transferred to Jake Kovco and Jake Kovco then transferred Soldier 14's DNA to the Kovco gun.  On August 18th, the results of DNA analysis were testified to in the hearing by Michelle Fanco, forensic biologist, who stated that a match could be made of Soldier 14's DNA and the DNA found on the slide of Jake Kovco's gun. Other DNA may have matched Soldier 14 as well and some press reports stated it did; however, Franco testified that only the DNA on the gun's slide could be considered a conclusive match.
Today, Michelle Franco testified to the hearing again.Australia's ABC notes "forensic expert Michelle Franco told the inquiry it was more likely that the presence of Soldier 14's DNA on Private Kovco's gun was from direct contact."  Malcolm Brown (Sydney Morning Herald) reports that Michelle Franco ("of the NSW Department of Health's Analytical Laboratories) rejected the idea that one person's DNA could transfer via an object to another person and then to an object required a very specific time frame and stated "[a]fter 10 minutes it could probably be found but after 30 minutes it would be virtually all gone."  Belinda Tasker (The Age) reports that although Jake Kovco and Soldier 14 were on duty together the day of his death: "Given Private Kovco had changed out of his combat gear after finishing duty with Soldier 14 at the Australiam embassy compound in Baghdad, any traces of Soldier 14's DNA on his hands probably would have been wiped off, she said."  In addition to the issue of timing, there is the DNA found on the slide which matched Soldier 14's DNA.  The Australian reports that Franco also noted the "concentration" of Soldier's 14 DNA on the gun's slide.  Malcolm Brown reports: "Had Soldier 14's DNA been deposited onto the pistol in the way he suggested, she would not have expected it to be the major component of the DNA."  Meaning it would be secondary and not "a greater concentration" than Jake Kovco's.  Belinda Tasker reports that when Jake Kovco's parents' attorney Lt. Col. Frank Holles asked Franco if her testimony meant that Soldier 14 handled Jake Kovco's gun and Franco responded, "It is consistent with that."  Jake Kovco's parents are Judy and Martin Kovco, his widow is Shelley Kovco.  Soldier 14 is expected to be called to testify re: the latest DNA testimony. Tasker closes with: "Soldier 14, who has refused to be interviewed by police about the DNA tests, will return to the Syndey inquiry tomorrow for more cross-examination." 
Friday, we noted the burial of British soldier Jason Chelsea who took his own life (he was nineteen) "because he feared . . he might have to shoot children" (BBC) as he maintained he'd been told during his military training.  Felicity Arbuthnot (Palestine Chronicle) provides more details of Jason Chelsea which include that he "joined the Regiment at sixteen" and that, in his final moments, he told his mother, "I can't go out there and shoot at young children.  I just can't go to Iraq.  I don't care what side they are on.  I can't do it."

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