Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, September 6, 2006, chaos and violence continue in Iraq, England's Tony Blair and the United States' Donald Rumsfeld cause waves, Condi Rice -- who failed at national security -- fails at US history, Australia's Defence Minister Brendan Nelson tries to pretend he didn't say what he said and peace activities are ongoing at Camp Democracy.

In Iraq, the parliament yesterday, Al Jazeera reports voted to extend the state of emergency for the country (not for Baghdad as I noted yesterday). AP reports that the measure "has been renewed every month since first being authorized in November 2004" before the slaughter of Falluja. Edward Wong (New York Times) notes that
"[t]here has been no serious move to roll it back" and that "[d]espite the affirmation of emergency powers, violence continued to roil Iraq." Also raised yesterday was the issue of breaking up the nation into a federation. Al Jazeera reports: "Abbas al-Bayati, spokesman for the largest Shia bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance, predicted: 'In the next few sessions the parliament will discuss the law for the formation of provinces.'" Also making predictions is Mahmoud al-Mashhadani (whom many predicted would be gone when parliament resumed -- they were wrong). CNN reports that al-Mashhadani, the speaker of parliament, estimates that Iraq has "three to four months" before collapse if the warring factions persist.

Over the weekend, "Iraqi army boasts they squeezed out Number Two -- but did they remember to wipe?" and the boast was called into question by Richard A. Oppel (New York Times) who reported that an unnamed American official expressed doubts as to the man being a "top-tier guy" and stated "I'm not sure we are ready to put a number on him." Now Qais al-Bashir (AP) is reporting that the arrest did not take place recently, it "took place in June" -- June 19th. A battle of spinmeisters causes William B. Caldwell IV to emerge and state that fellow spinner Mowafak al-Rubaie was wrong that the so-called "number two" was squeezed out this weekend, but that "permission to announce the arrest . . . had been given a few days earlier." For those assuming that he truly is number two . . . if he were flushed down June 19th, it obviously didn't make a damn bit of difference since the violence and chaos hasn't been effected (or diminished) by his June 19th arrest.

Their eyes are all asking
Are you in, or are you out
And I think, oh man,
What is this about?
-- "In or Out" written by Ani DiFranco

Tony Blair, is he in or out? Should he stay or should he go? Nick Assinder (BBC) reports that while Blair wants another year as prime minister, "Senior party figures were openly arguing over whether prime minister should be allowed to stay for another 12 months or beforced out, in a Thatcher-style coup, much sooner." CNN reports that: "The acrimonious row over the timing of the departure . . . has grown with the resignation of a dissident minister and six ministerail aides." A memo has been leaked, reportedly detailing the plans for his exit, and Blair refuses to comment on it. Gulf News says the plans "will see him treated like a rock star, with slots on popular TV shows and a stage-managed farewell tour. It opened the Prime Minister to charges of vanity and ruined his attempts to douse speculation of an imminent departure that he fears could turn him into a lame duck." Commenting on attempting to sell Blair as a much wanted rock star, Iain Macwhirter (The Herald) points out: "Where have these people been for the last two years? The crowds aren't calling for more, they're calling for Tony Blair to go -- now." Fiona Hudson (Herald-Sun) reports, if the memo is accurate, Blair would "step down as Labour leader on May 31 next year and quit as PM on July 26."

And, in the United States, Donald Rumsfeld? The Secretary of Defense was rumored to face Democratic opposition in the Senate but Andrew Taylor (AP) reported it was a ceremonial measure (nonbinding resolution) and that "Democrats conceded there's not likely to be any vote whatsoever." White House Lap Dog Tony Snow says, "It's not going to happen." David Lightman (Hartford Courant) reports that Ned Lamont, who is vying with Joe Lieberman for the Senate seat Lieberman currently occupies, has stated that if he wins the race and Bully Boy attempts to replace Donald Rumsfeld with Joe Lieberman "he would probably not vote to confirm" No-mentum.

Meanwhile the AP reports that Condi Rice, US Secretary of State, is comparing the current on the ground realities in Iraq to the US Civil War. While it is true that the Bully Boy, in March 2003, issued what could be termed an Obliteration Proclamation, no foreign invasion is known to have started the US Civil War.

Turning to Iraq . . .


China's Xinhua reports that, in Nineveh, a car bomb killed six police officers and left an additional six wounded. AFP reports that at least six people died "in twin bombings in Baghdad." AP notes that nine people died from the Baghdad bombings (not six) and 39 were wounded. Al Jazeera also reports nine dead and notes that they included two Iraqi soldiers. CBS and AP report that: "Mortar attacks in residential areas in Diyala province, north of Baghdad, killed three people: a two-year-old child in the Khan Bani Saad area and two people in Muqdadiyah". Reuters notes a bomb took the lives of two and left eight wounded when it went off near a funeral tent in Baghdad.


In Baquba, AFP reports a woman was shot dead and a the owner of a store was shot dead as well. AP notes that "three construction workers waiting for a bus" in Baquba were shot dead. Reuters notes that two people were shot dead in Mosul. (The total for the above, bombings and shootings, should add up to twenty-seven reported dead from bombings and shootings.)


CNN reports that 19 corpses were found in Baghdad ("Overnight . . . signs of torture"). Reuters reports the 19 and notes that 15 more corpses were found in Baghdad today ("blindfolded with some showing signs of torture").

Still a wee bit touchy about abandoning a base (see August 24 and August 25), AFP reports that the British continue to maintain that, basically, they left because they felt like it. Of course they did.

In peace news, Camp Democracy is up and running and "free and open to the public."
Petula Dvorak (Washington Post) quotes Charlie Richardson (Military Families Speak Out) stating, "Every day, we realize there is a war in Iraq. But the vast majority of Americans don't; the forget. Less than 1 percent of this population has gone to war. And we need to get those troops out now." Australia's The Advertiser reports that the
"[f]ive tents will be open until at least September 21 for panels, protests and press conferences" and quotes Charlie Anderson stating, "This administration does not want to have a discussion especially with those of us who have lived the nightmare of what this war is really about." Anderson was also quoted on The KPFA Evening News yesterday where he spoke about his growing realization that the war was wrong and what encouraged him to speak out.

Tomorrow is Immigrants' Rights Day at Camp Democracy and director Robert Greenwald (The Burning Bed, Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War; Uncovered: The War on Iraq; Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices and the upcoming Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers). A complete schedule can be found here.

Other peace actions are going on and will be going on. In NYC, Friday September 15, Saturday September 16 and Sunday September 17 (7:00 pm each night), The People Speak directed by Will Pomerantz and Rob Urbinati. This is a workshop adaptation of Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove's Voices of a People's History of the United States. The workshop will take place at The Culture Project's Bleecker Street Theater on 45 Bleecker Street. Tickets are ten dollars and can be ordered online here or here or purchased in person at the box office (box office does not take ticket orders). For those in NYC or that will be during those dates, click here for a map. The presentation is part of the Impact Festival.

Ongoing? CODEPINK's Troops Home Fast action continues is on day 64, and due to continue through September 21st, with at least 5,023 people participating. Those wanting to fast can grab a one-day fast at any point between now and the 21st or grab a one-day a week fast. Long term fasts are also possible but seek out advice before embarking on any long term fast.

In Australia, the inquiry into the April 21st Baghdad death of Jake Kovco continues.
Another soldier has testified via videolink. This one, Soldier 20, shared a room with Soldier 14 whose DNA was found on Jake Kovco's pistol. Soldier 20 appears to have left himself ample wiggle room. The Advertiser reports that Soldier 20 stated Soldier 14 was in the room with him, that they both yelled at the room next door (Kovco's) due to the "loud music, singing and 'obnoxious digger s**t" and that he was attempting to sleep and Soldier 14 was on a laptop. But when asked "if Soldier 14 could have left the room while he was trying to sleep" the response from Soldier 20 to this yes or no question was, "To the best of my knowledge sir, he didn't leave the room."

More wiggle room could be found in the testimony of Brendan Nelson, Defence Minister and "star on the rise in the Government" (Michael Edwards, ABC's PM). Nelson's come under considerable heat for issuing statements, attention getting ones (well he's a 'star on the rise,' isn't he?). So Brendy gave his statement to the inquiry and, guess what, it wasn't him. Malcolm Brown reports (Sydney Morning Herald) that "Brendan Nelson, has distanced himself from a story that circulated soon after Jacob Kovco was killed in Iraq -- that he [Kovco] accidentally shot himself while cleaning his weapon." Nelson's statement contains this laughable statement: "The media used the term, 'cleaning his gun,' I never did, now was I told by any person." Fortunately for Chuckles Nelson, ABC is more than ready to clean up after him. On PM, Michael Edwards states Nelson's laughable claim (we'll get to it -- it's laughable) and then an actor recites Nelson's statement (in a re-inactment). That passes for reporting.

Will it pass for the truth? Only if ABC scrubs their own earlier stories. Nelson's trying to deal reality. We noted reality here on April 27th:

"As noted by Australia's ABC and WBAI's Wakeup Call, Jake Kovco remains in Iraq. Kovoco died in Iraq last week. Jacob Bruce Kovco was twenty-five years old and was to be honored this week in the Gippsland community of Briagolong. For that to happen, Kovco's body would need to make it to Australia. The wrong body was in the coffin. Brendan Nelson, Australia's Defense Minister, tells of breaking the news to Shelley Kovco and when the widow demanded to speak with Prime Minister John Howard, Nelson dialed the number. Nelson then angered family members (brother of the deceased, Benn Kovco, and mother of the deceased, Judy Kovco) by making statements regarding the death (which is still under investigation)."

From ABC's "Kovco's family demands answer" (April 27, 2006 8:12 pm): "Defence Minister Brendan Nelson has further angered the family of dead Australian soldier Jake Kovco with comments about the manner of the Private's death in Iraq last week. . . . . Dr Nelson had previously said Private Kovco was maintaing his weapon when it discharged, killing him, but today he told Macquarie radio that is not the case. 'He wasn't in fact cleaning his weapon,' he said. There was obviously a live round in it which there should not have been.' His comments have angered Prviate Kovco's mother Judy."

While his original statements did use "maintaining" (as opposed to "cleaning"), it is the same difference. And when he felt the need to take to the airwaves with new statements, he clearly stated "cleaning." AAP reports that Nelson's statement also included this: "I would like to say there was no attempt at cover-up, deceit or misinformation." Presumably, he means then because his statement to the inquiry seems to attempt several.

Brendan Nelson's original statement: "I am advised that the soldier was simply handling his weapon and maintaining it as soldiers are required to do and for some unexplained reason, the firearm discharged and the bulletin unfortunately uh-uh entered the soldier's head.

Brendan Nelson's second statement (April 27, 2006): "He was in a room, uh, with two of of his mates who were doing other things, working on a computer and so on, and he was, it appears, the information I now have, is he wasn't, in fact, cleaning his weapon. It was near him, in his vicinity, and he made some kind of movement which suggest that it discharged. Obviously there was a live round in it which there should not have been. That's as much as I should probably say right now."

Or maybe it was more than you should have said to begin with? The media used the term because Nelson used "maintaining" and Nelson used "cleaning" himself. Take some accountability.

Things just happen under Chuckles Brendy Nelson's watch. Things just happen and they're never his fault. The Kovco family is obvioulsy overreacting. So is the Lawton family, we're sure. The Lawton family? Oh, Paul Lawton died August 31st. Mark Dunn (Herald Sun) reports that his mother and his "former wife" learned of his death via . . . a cell phone calls (no sympathies expressed). So, no, it's not just the Kovco family. Nelson's department appears as unwilling/unable to learn from mistakes as he does. (Hint: First step is accepting the blame for your actions.)

The hearing also heard from someone many Americans probably hoped never to hear from again: Robert Jensen. Speaking in his role as mouth piece, president and CEO of Kenyon International, Jensen told the hearing the mix up between the corpses of Jake Kovco and Juso Sinanovic wasn't his company's fault. Michael Edwards reported to Eleanor Hall (The World Today) that Jensen blamed (a) "the lack of experience within the Australian Defence Force," (b) the use of visual identification [which apparently wasn't used -- but it's clear you can say anything to this inquiry board and never be challenged], (c) Australia lacks clear guidelines on how to "repatriate bodies" [which one might assume is something Kenyon International should have pointed out when they won the contract] and (d) "unreal expectations."

Flashback to Robert Jensen jawing in the after effects of Hurricane Katrina a year ago: "This is not going to be quick or easy. It is not something that will be handled in a couple of weeks." Well he got that right. While he was jawing away, it's surprising no one asked him to offer a theory as to how Soldier 14's DNA ended up on Jake Kovco's gun because Jensen is a forensic scientist (or was i.d.ed as such plenty of times on CNN prior to Hurricane Katrina). But apparently physical evidence, like shifting stories, are something the inquiry will ignore.

Russell Skelton (The Age) reports that Jake Kovco's father-in-law, David Small, has termed Jensen's comments "pathetic nonsense" and stated, "We are utterly disgusted. The contract was to bring Jake Kovco home and they failed to do that. They had an obligation to check the contents of the casket. . . . Kenyon was not hired just to bring a casket home."

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