Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Iraq -- Rockwell, Hayden, Jamal and Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff

A soldier of conscience is coming home. On Saturday, September 30th, US Army war-resister Darrell Anderson, supported by Ontario military families and Iraq war veterans, will cross the Peace Bridge from Canada to the US.
When asked why Darrell, after years of exile, is turning himself over to the military, his mother, Anita Dennis, told the Toronto Star: "He feels that everything he did was a moral stand and he has to follow it through, which means coming back and facing it, telling everybody what's happening to soldiers and the innocent Iraqi people."
Darrell is a 22-year-old soldier from Lexington, Kentucky, who won a Purple Heart after he was wounded in Baghdad, where he spent seven months on duty. Darrell enlisted in the Army in 2003 in good faith. He wanted money for college, and he wanted to serve his country in time of need.
It was the daily atrocities that turned Darrell against the war and transformed his view of military service.
"I can't go back," he told me in an interview. "If I return to Iraq, I have no choice but to commit atrocities. And I don't want to kill innocent people."
In one incident, Anderson was stationed at a checkpoint near a police station in Baghdad when a speeding car swerved in his direction. Darrell said he received orders to shoot. There was a family in the car - two children, a man and his wife. Darrell's buddies screamed: "Shoot! Why don't you shoot? Why don't you shoot?"
He simply could not pull the trigger of his M-16. "The car posed no threat," he told me.
"My superior came over and said, 'What are you doing!?' I said, 'Look, there's children in the back. It's a family. I did the right thing. It's wrong to fire in this situation.' My superior told me: 'No, you did the wrong thing. You will fire next time, or you will be punished. That's our orders.'"

The text above is from Paul Rockwell's "A Soldier of Conscience Is Coming Home" (Truthout) and was noted by Trevor, the illustration is from "Editorial: Darrell Anderson Needs You" (The Third Estate Sunday Review). Anderson returns Saturday and are you talking about that? Getting the word out?

At CNN, "Poll: Terrorism, Iraq very important to midterm voters" summarizes their latest poll.
What does it find? Besides no up for Bully Boy in the approval ratings (2% is within the statistical margin of error), it finds that 59% of respondents were opposed to the war (40% in favor) which was "statistically unchanged from a poll conducted in early August" and that 46 percent or respondents rated the war "extremely important, 36 percent very important and 14 percent moderately important." That's surprising only in terms of what has passed for media coverage on the issue of Iraq all summer. It's not surprising to anyone who's paid attention. The country is against the war, people are interested in hearing about the topic and it's only the political parties and the media that have largely avoided it (the two main political parties). Though Dems have been more vocal than Repubes, not enough when you consider the poll found that 47% of respondents felt Dems was "the party better able to handle the situation in Iraq" (also a figure "that is virtually unchanged since August" -- the last CNN poll).

That's in the United States. What about Iraq? Addressing the question of "What do the Iraqis really want?" is Tom Hayden's "One Hundred Iraqi MPs Try to Force a US Withdrawal Plan" (The Huffington Post):

Reliable surveys show that the percentage of Iraqis favoring a withdrawal timeline has risen from thirty percent in February 2004 to 76 percent in February 2005 to 87 percent earlier this year. [NYT, Mar. 19, 2006] of 70 to 82 percent, Moreover, 47 percent of all Iraqis, including 88 percent of Sunnis and 41 percent of Shiites, approved attacks on American forces in a January 2006 survey. [Knight Ridder, Jan. 30, 06, posted on www.worldpublicopinon.org] Only the pro-Western Kurdish minority want the US troops to stay. Perhaps in response to this overwhelming popular sentiment, large numbers of elected Iraqi parliamentarians have been trying to force the US pullout by legislation.
On September 12, 104 Iraqi parliamentarians signed a petition calling for a withdrawal timetable. There are 275 members of the Iraq parliament, and frequently as many as eighty are not present. The constitution allows a measure to become law if supported by a majority of those present and voting. So the withdrawal proposal suddenly would have become law if it wasn't arbitrarily ordered to a committee for "review".
A similar scenario occurred in July 2005 when at least 82 parliamentarians signed a petition for the "speedy departure of the occupation", and denounced the Iraqi executive for failing to consult parliament as required by law.
Since this year's parliamentary election, when large numbers of Sunnis chose to vote rather than abstain, the number of anti-occupation parliamentarians inevitably grew. According to one Iraqi analyst I have interviewed, between 140 and 160 members would vote for a timetable if one was proposed. That would end the United Nations authorization of the occupation, and presumably force the withdrawal of American troops. It would be the signal the international community is looking for before engaging in a stabilization process.
Apparently only the Associated Press reported this squelching of the parliamentary peace protest. By contrast, the American media has overflowed with discussion of partition as the only response to civil war without end.

Brandon noted Hayden, Kayla notes Dahr Jamail's "A Broken, De-Humanized Military in Iraq" (Truthout) on the situation in Iraq:

While the deranged chicken-hawks who "lead" the US continue their efforts to wage another unprovoked war of aggression, this time against Iran, what's left of their already overstretched military continues to be bled in Iraq.
When the situation is so critical that even the corporate media is forced to report on it, you know it's bad. Last week on the NBC Nightly News, General Barry McCaffrey, now retired, said of the current state of the US military, "I think, arguably, it's the worst readiness condition the US Army has faced since the end of Vietnam." This isn't a big surprise when we consider the facts that many soldiers are already into their third combat tour, frequent deployments have cut training time at home in half, and two thirds of all Army combat units are rated not ready for combat.
The fact that 60% of National Guard soldiers have already reached their limit for overseas combat is most likely not going to slow down the Cheney administration's lust for more war. Most likely, they'll just have Rummy change the Pentagon's policy that currently limits Guard combat tours to two out of every five years.
This change was apparently already expected by Lieutenant General Steven Blum, of the National Guard, who told NBC, "If you think the National Guard's busy today, I think we're going to look back and say 'these were the good old days' in about three years." A comment to which General McCaffrey responded: "More is being asked of them, particularly the National Guard and reserve components, than they signed up to do. And in the near-term, we think it's going to unravel."
That "near-term" seemed to be about 72 hours away from McCaffrey's comments. On Monday, the Army announced that because it is stretched so thin by the occupation of Iraq, it is once again extending the combat tours of thousands of soldiers beyond their promised 12-month tours. It's the second time since August (i.e., last month) that this has occurred. The 1st Brigade Armored Division, which is having its tour extended, just happens to be located in the province of Al-Anbar, which the military has long since lost control of. Between 3,500 and 4,000 soldiers are affected by this decision.
The move prompted defense analyst Loren Thompson to tell reporters: "The Army is coming to the end of its rope in Iraq. It simply does not have enough active-duty military personnel to sustain the current level of effort."

Staying on the topic of Iraq, Marcia notes Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff's "The Rape of the 'Hadji Girl'" (Off Our Backs) which ties in a supposed 'humor' song with what was done to Abeer and her family:

The Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned the song and performance, as did the Marine Corps, announcing an intention to investigate. But pro-war Americans defended the song as "funny," the author explained that the Arabic words were actually from a South Park movie, and in short order the author became a sort of hero among pro-war conservatives, even announcing at one point that he was recording the song and taking the show on the road.
Shortly thereafter, 14-year-old 'Abir Hamzah was brutally gang-raped, then burned by soldiers after her family--father, mother, and younger sister, had been shot by them. The soldiers who murdered her had been sexually harassing her (described as "making advances" towards her) every day as she passed through a checkpoint near her home to do chores for her family. She was scared and had told her mother about it several times, and her mother had spoken with friends and even asked whether her daughter could stay with them. Several times the soldiers had staged searches of the family home, presumably in the course of planning the rape and murders.
A neighbor who was an eyewitness to the murders described troops storming the home, then more troops returning within hours to explain that the murders and rape were the work of terrorists, although neighbors knew the family was Sunni, highly respected, and would not have been targeted by terrorists. Some months passed, soldiers who knew what had happened confided in a counselor who reported what he was told to superiors, and this July, nearly four months after the fact, six arrests were made, including the arrest of a discharged soldier living in the United States., Steven Green, 21, who is said to a have masterminded the attack. Green was discharged shortly after the attacks as a danger to civilians because he had a "personality disorder."
'Abir's rape mimics not only the song, "Hadji Girl," but imagery from the now-defunct "Iraqbabes" website which featured photos of U.S. troops raping Iraqi women. One horror of U.S. culture is that all that has to be done to make rapes less than "real" in the public imagination is to turn them into pornography.

The 'composer' also garnered headlines of his non-apology apology (weak and quickly forgotten when he smelled money). One of the few less eager to jump on the "It's an apology!" bandwagon was Sandra Lupien covering the story on the breaks during KPFA's The Morning Show. Lupien is now co-anchoring KPFA's The KPFA Evening News and she notedthis evening that tomorrow on KPFA's The Morning Show the topic of war resistance via c.o. status would be discussed. That's Tuesday morning.

Finally, on the topic of Ehren Watada, Mia notes Paul Rockwell's "Judicial Complicity in US War Crimes: the Watada Case" (CounterPunch):

For Vietnam War veterans, the pending court-martial of Lt. Ehren Watada is déjà vu "all over again." Watada may be the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq, but he is hardly the first American soldier to face trumped-up charges for denouncing U.S. aggression abroad.
It has been over 40 years since Army Pfc. James Johnson, Pvt. David Samas, and Pvt. Dennis Mora, plus dozens of other war-resisters, were court-martialed for challenging the gross illegalities of U.S. devastation in Vietnam. Few Americans remember the dark days of wartime jurisprudence, when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a single challenge to the Vietnam War, and when judges deliberately and consistently ignored international law.
It is in the context of judicial abdication during the Vietnam War that the full implications of the Watada trial can be understood. Until the rulings of the '60s are overturned, there will be no justice for Lt. Watada, or for his comrades engulfed in atrocity-producing situations in Iraq.
In the mid-'60s and early '70s, American soldiers were sent to jail for refusing to commit war crimes. Dr. Howard Levy, a Green Beret dermatologist, spent two years in prison for refusing to violate his Hippocratic Oath when the Green Berets used medicine as a political tactic in Vietnam.
[. . .]
The future of Lt. Watada is now in the hands of Lieutenant General James Dubik, Commanding General at Fort Lewis, Washington. He has yet to set a date for the court-martial. Will he drop the charges against Watada, as letter-writers urge? Or will he, like his timid predecessors, repeat the follies of the past?
There is no man or woman in uniform who speaks with greater passion, force and clarity than Lt. Watada: "It is my conclusion as an officer of the armed forces that the war in Iraq is not only morally wrong, but a horrible breach of American law."
Peace activists are planning large demonstrations and actions in the event that a court-martial takes place at Fort Lewis. To learn more about upcoming events, to support Watada's cause, go to:

More information on Ehren Watada can also be found at Courage to Resist. The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.