Thursday, August 31, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, August 31, 2006.  Chaos and violence continue, another war resister goes public and Dr. John Gee accuses the CIA of interfering with the work of the Iraqi Survey Group and points fingers at others who couldn't grasp that "there was no WMD in Iraq." 
Starting in Australia.  Dr. John Gee is considered "an expert on chemical weapons" and was part of the Iraq Survey group (a group of scientists made of British, Australian and American scientists sent into Iraq to attempt to find the WMDs).  Gee and other Australians have been truth telling with little attention from the US domestic press.  Rod Barton, who resigned in March 2004 from the Iraq Survey Group at the same time as Gee, has published The Weapons Detective which, UPI reported, maintained that: "British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Australian Prime Minister John Howard both knew before the invasion that the intelligence on Iraqi WMDs was false. . . . When shown the pre-war Iraqi WMD Australian intelligence assessment, Howard even asked, 'Is that all there is?'"  Peggy Lee remix: "Is That All There Is To A War?"
Apparently so.  Lies and more lies. 
Speaking to Samantha Hawley on PM, Gee stated: "There were no WMD in Iraq and we were all wasting our time pursuing the illusion that there was something there."  Australia's ABC reports that Gee "says he quit his job in 2004 because the group was focusing on trying to justify pre-war judgements rather than establish facts."  Appearing on the 7:30 Report, Gee discussed his interaction with Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer which was dismissive.  Appearing on the show, Rod Barton backed up Gee's account.  Alexander Downer states that Gee is "a scientist and we took his advice very seriously."
That's one issue.  Samantha Hawley (PM) noted another: "At the time of his resignation, Doctor Gee was serving under a contract with the Defence Department.  He claims his resignation letter never even made it to his superiors there, because it was stopped by the Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer." Downer denies blocking the resignation letter, which included references to CIA interference, and states that he "raised it [the issue] with Mr. [Charles] Duelfer himself."
On the letter that Downer denies suppressing, Marian Wilkinson (Sydney Morning Herald) reports that it "outlines in detail interference by the CIA and the Bush Administration in first reports abou tthe weapons hunt to avoid finding that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction." 
The Scotsman notes: "The CIA analysts in teams searching for chemical and biological weapons were the same ones who concluded before the invasion -- officially called Operation Iraqi Freedmon -- that they must exist, Gee wrote in his resignation letter.  'Much of the two teams' work is geared to trying to justify pre-OIF judgements rather than any attempt to establish the facts surrounding Iraq's WMD programs,' Gee wrote in March 2004."
Gee and Barton resigned in March of 2004.  In the United States, members may be more aware of David Kay who resigned January 23, 2004 and stated that he didn't believe WMD "existed."  Kay headed the Iraq Survey Group.  When he resigned, Charles Duelfer took over after being appointed by the then-CIA director George Tenet.
The Duelfer Report would come out in September 2004 and an 'epilogue' in March of 2005.  No WMD were ever found.  However, despite admitting that Gee informed of the fact that there were no WMDs in Iraq, Downer still stood side by side at a press conference with Charles Duelfer in April of 2004 and called the search "a work in progress."
Possibly, instead of scientists, they should have sent Donald Rumsfeld who claimed, to George Stephanopoulus on ABC's This Week, "We know where they are.  They're in Tikrit and Baghdad and East, West, South and North somewhat." (March 30, 2003.)?
As with the Downing Street Memos, this story may have trouble getting traction in the United States.  Two dailies are apparently having a real struggle dotting their "I"s and crossing their "T"s which would explain why, though they were made aware of this story on Tuesday evening, there's still been no report of it.
Turning to Iraq, where the chaos and violence continues.
CNN reports a car bombing "in a southeastern Baghdad neighborhood" ("near a gas station") that took the lives of two and left at least thirteen wounded, one in the eastern section of the capital ("near a restaurant") that wounded three and a car bomb in Harthiya that left two civilians and two police officers injured.  On the bomb near a gas station, Reuters notes that "four police commandos" were killed and 11 other people were injured.  (Which may mean two of the injured in the CNN report may have died.)   Also in Baghdad, AFP notes that six children were wounded by mortar rounds and roadside bomb injured eight "travelling in a minibus."  Baghdad.  The site of the 'crackdown.'  Is it time for another of US spinmeister William Caldwell IV's "three-day 'quick look'"sReuters reports: "A convoy of British diplomats and guards was blasted by a roadside bomb in western Baghdad on Thursday but the British embassy said no one was injured."  Rebecca Santana (AP) reports on a bomb "at a popular market" in Baghdad, that combined with two other bombings in the capital, has led to at least 20 people dead and at least 75 wounded.
Rebecca Santana (AP) reports that, in Mosul, "[a]n Iraqi soldier wearing civilian clothing was shot and killed while walking".  Reuters notes that in Samawa four people were wounded by gunfire; in Ramadi, "[a] former Iraqi Air Force commander" was shot dead; and, in Mosul, two police officers were killed by gun fire and two more were wounded.  AFP reports: "Police from the Diyala province, of which Baquba is the capital, said that at least nine people were killed in the province on Thursday" including two borthers when a store was attacked.  AP identifies the store as "a cotton shop" and notes that, in Baghdad, a security guard for the oil ministry was shot dead and another was wounded.
AP reports that a woman's corpses ("riddled with bullets") was discovered "dumped on a main road."  Retuers reports that, after four days missing, Turkey al-Duleimi ("a civilian judge") was discovered in Samarra.
In the most recent report, Rebecca Santana (AP) reports: "A series of attacks killed at least 46 people across Iraq Thursday, including 39 within a half hour in a Shiite section of Baghdad, officials said.  At least 118 people were wounded."
In peace news, following Ricky Clousing's lead, another AWOL soldier has come forward.  Speaking at Camp Casey III, Angela K. Brown (AP) reports, Mark Wilkerson announced that, after "a year and a half" of being AWOL, he would be turning himself in.  Brown reports: "Wilkerson said his views of the war changed and he realized he could no longer stay in the military, so he applied for conscientious objector status. But his request was denied a month before his unit was to return to Iraq. He said he was told his appeal would not be considered until after he came back. So Wilkerson then decided not to return from the two weeks of approved leave before the January 2005 deployment."
On August 11, Mike Barber (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) broke the news that Ricky Clousing, who also checked himself out after returning from Iraq, would be turning himself in.  As the war drags on, the resistance grows with the Pentagon estimating that 40,000 have deserted or checked themselves out of the military since 2000.
Michelle Mason's documentary Breaking Ranks covers the stories of some war resisters, including Jeremy Hinzman and Kyle Snyder, who've gone to Canada and it will air on Global TV October 7th.
Meanwhile in the United States, Ehren Watada awaits the military determining what they will do (the recommendation has been court-martial).  Watada is the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq.  Like Clousing and Wilkerson, Watada sees the war as illegal.
Speaking to Caroline Aoyai-Stom (Pacific Citizen), Watada explains his duty: "Despite conflicting loyalties, I am fighting for the allegiance to which I swore an oath to uphold and defend -- the Constitutional laws and principles of democracy. My decision brings honor to veteran JAs. Instead of perpetuating war crimes and a war of aggression, I am actively trying to put a stop to it. Instead of being the 'quiet, obedient Japanese,' I am fulfilling my oath to protect my soldiers and this country from our government. This is all at great expense -- when the easier, safer path would have been to do my tour in Iraq."
Susan Palmer (The Register-Guard) reports that Ehren Watada's father Bob Watada "spoke at a Eugene [Oregon] peace rally on Tuesday in support of his son and called for change in Washington, D.C."  Bob Watada tells Palmer, "My son has taken a stand for a very good reason and he is willing to suffer the consequences that the military wants to mete out."
More information can be found at Courage to Resist and and 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."
In Australia, the military inquiry into the April 21st Baghdad death of Jake Kovco is on hold as the attorneys and those on sitting on the board of inquiry practice shooting guns.  Luke McIIveen and Gemma Jones (PerthNow) recap some of the hearing's moments of this week.  They also note that Soldier 14 has claimed to be in the room after hearing a shot -- strange since the unit's commander didn't testify to that.
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