Thursday, September 07, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, September 7, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, in Australia -- Brendan Nelson learns the morning after isn't always pleasing; a US soldier who went AWOL to Canada may be returning; Bully Boy & the GOP continue "Dirty Depends" actions, in Baghdad -- puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki closes a TV station, al-Maliki also calls it "a great day" as Iraqis and US soldiers die throughout Iraq; and Camp Democracy continues in Washington, DC.

Starting with the US soldier who may be returning. Jim Warren (Lexington Herald-Leader) breaks the news that war resister Darrell Anderson "wants to come home." Anita Anderson tells Warren that she's urging her son Darrell not to come back "because he's probably going to get sponsorship in Canada now that he is married to a Canadian girl. But he's constantly stressed out and worried, and he feels like he can't live out the rest of his life this way."

War Resisters Support Campaign notes this of Darrell Anderson: "Darrell Anderson arrived in Toronto from Lexington, Kentucky in Januray 2005. He served 7 months in Iraq and was awarded a Purple Heart after being wounded by a roadside bomb. When faced with a second deploymnet to Iraq, he chose instead to come to Canada. His experience in Iraq convinced Darrell that the war was unjustified. Innocent civilians are being killed, and young soldiers are dying for an illegal war. 'Coming to Canada doesn't ruin your life,' said Darrell, 'it saves lives.'"

On the redeployment, Anderson told Gary Younge (Guardian of London): "I was supposed to leave for Iraq on January 8th. On the 3rd I started to talk to people about the war. By the 6th I woke up and had hit a brick wall. I just knew I wasn't going to be able to live a normal life if I went back."

His mother Anita Anderson cites his reasons for wanting to return as economic, his PTS has gotten worse and that he wants to make.

Darrell Anderson needs to make the choice that will serve him best. Should he remain in Canada, he will be part of a movement that includes Brandon Hughey, Kyle Synder, Jeremy Hinzman, Patrick Hart and others. He will also be part of a historic movement. (And it needs to be remembered that even in the wake of Watergate, Jimmy Carter, as president, would not grant an amnesty to those who checked themselves out. The amnesty only covered those who avoided the draft, not those who enlisted and checked out.) If he returns to the US, as his mother fears, he will be part of a movement of refusal. This summer has seen Ehren Watada become the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. We also saw Ricky Clousing and Mark Wilkerson turn themselves in.

There is bravery in either stand and Darrell Anderson needs to make the choice that's right for him. Like Cindy Sheehan, he's already done his part and then some.

Turning to cowardice, the Bully Boy continues his Dirty Depends campaign with the hope that it will scare up votes for the GOP in November. Which is why he boasts of his unconstitutional secret prisons, extends the national emergy act from 9-11 and attempts anything to change the topic away from Iraq. As Matthew Rothshchild noted on The KPFA Evening News yesterday, Bully Boy can't run on the war. How true that is gets brought home in a recent report by the AP that notes Bully Boy is losing his "once-solid relationship with Southern women" and quotes "self-described Republican since birth and the mother of three" Barbara Knight stating, "I think history will show him to be the worst president since Ulysses S. Grant. He's been an embarrassment."
AP notes: "The movement of some Southern women away from the Republican Party tracks with national poll results showing that women have become more disillusioned with the war and were more likely than men to list the conflict as the important issue facing the country." AP cites their own polling numbers and they track with Ms. Magazine's poll which earlier (poll conducted from May19th to 22nd) found 55% of women (43% of males) wanted US troops withdrawn "immediately or next year."

And in Iraq?

On KPFA's Flashpoints yesterday Nora Barrows Friedman spoke with Dahr Jamail about life on the ground in Iraq. Jamail: "Overall the situation in Iraq is worse than ever . . . but particularly in al-Anbar province the US military really doesn't have much control of anything there, outside of the areas around their immediate, or inside, I should say, their immediate bases. . . . It's important the people remember that Ramadi is the capital of al-Anbar province. So what the US has done there to try to get control of that city is there's an area right in the middle where the government offices are centrally located in Ramadi and the US has been unable to keep people, resistance fighters, from attacking the government offices so, as a result, what they're doing is literally demolishing, making a no-man's-land between, all of the buildings between the government offices in the middle of the city and then the rest of the city. So they're literally leveling at least eight city blocks, an area of at least eight city blocks, around those government offices to try to prevent them from being attacked so regularly. Of course what this is doing is infurating people of Ramadi who are saying, 'Look, you've already destroyed so much of our city, you've already launched massive operations in here . . .' Recently snipers, US snipers have killed at least four people there, mostly women and children. Just one travesty after another has been occurring inside Ramadi. The people are angry and now this takes it to a whole nother level where the people are outraged, they don't really know what to expect next. And, of course, the end result of these brutal, heavy-handed military tactics, just like we saw in Falluja, it doesn't actually stop the resistance. It maybe pauses it for a few days, or a few weeks. But then in the end it generates more people. It really causes more people to join the resistance or become sympathetic towards them if they're not already."

Two of the three US troops (one Marine, two soldiers) who died on Wednesday (US military announced deaths today) died of wounds received in al-Anbar province. The US government has announced that another Marine has died today from "wounds sustained from enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province September 6."

Oh, but, as the BBC reported, Nouri al-Maliki called it a "great day". He was referring to supposed "control" handed over by the US (to him, the puppet) of the Iraqi military. It's not really a handover. It's more like, "Here are the keys to the car and if you do everything we say, we might let you take it for a spin on the weekend but, right now, it's still our car." Which is why "[a] BBC correspondent in Baghdad says the transfer of control could be long, slow and fraught with problems."


AFP notes "a suicide bomber ploughed his explosives-laden car into a police fuel depot in the town centre, killing at least 12" police officers in Baghdad. AP notes another bomb, also in Baghdad ("hidden under a parked car") that killed three and wounded 20. Reuters notes two roadside bombs, also in Baghdad, that claimed the lives of two and left seven wounded while another roadside bomb, still in Baghdad, killed one person and left two wounded and, still in Baghdad, another roadside bomb left four wounded. Outside of Baghdad? Reuters notes four police officers were wounded by a roadside bomb in Kirkuk.


Reuters notes that two police officers were shot dead in Baghdad (four civilians wounded); a police officer was shot dead in Hay; and, in Mosul, a man and a woman were shot dead in parking lot while a father and his teenage son were shot dead elsewhere in the city.


CNN reports four corpses were discovered today in Baghdad. Reuters notes six corpses discovered in Mosul ("multiple gunshot wounds"), three corpses were discovered (one, a female, was beheaded) in the Tigris river near Suwayra and two were discovered in Kirkuk ("signs of torture").

On the subject of deaths, AP is reporting that contrary to the hype, there was no decrease in the figures for violent deaths in Baghdad. As Aileen Alfandary noted on KPFA's The Morning Show today, the US government had attempted to earlier say the numbers had lowered as a result of the 'crackdown' when in fact, August's actual numbers were "the same number as July."

And the BBC reports that Mahmoud al-Mashhadani's nephew has been kidnapped in Baghdad. al-Mashhadani is the speaker of Iraq's parliament and was also the target of a He's-Out-Of-Here-So-Out-Of-Here campaign at the end of July and start of August. al-Mashhadani remains in parliament, his nephew Ahmed al-Mashhadani has been kidnapped.

al-Mashhadani is Sunni and switching to parliament news, yesterday AFP reported: "Iraq's dominant Shiite alliance submitted a draft of a new law to govern the division of the country into autonomous regions". Today the Associated Press notes that Mahmoud al-Mashhadani "interrupted a stormy legislative session on Thursday after a draft bill submitted by the largest Shia party led to accusations from Sunni Arabas that they were trying to divide the country." al-Mashhadani: "The parliament speaker does not know about this draft bill. Is that credible? Who else should know about it if the speaker does not know? When was it announced?"

Switching to the issue of broadcasting, were they showing episodes of Barney Miller or NYPD Blue? Who knows but police pulled the plug on the satellite network al-Arabiya in Baghdad. CNN was told by a company official (Najib Ben Cherif) that the offices "is being shut for a month." AP is iffy on who gave the order but notes that Nouri al-Malike started making warnings/threats to television stations back in July. CNN reports: "A news alert on Iraqi State TV said the office of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered the office closed for a month."

In the United States, Camp Democracy continues, free and open to the public, five tents worth of activity and more in Washington, DC. Tomorrow's activities include a focus on labor issues. A complete schedule can be found here.

In Australia, the inquiry into the April 21st Baghdad death of Jake Kovco continues -- probably much to the regret of Chuckles Brendan Nelson. Yesterday, Nelson, the Defence Minister, sought to deny statements, credited to him in the press, made back when he saw himself as Johnny-On-The-Spot and felt that the nation needed each unparsed idea that tumbled from his mouth. Today?

Malcolm Brown and Cynthia Banham (Sydney Morning Herald) report that "Chief of Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, has contradicted the Minister for Defence, Brendan Nelson on key events surrounding the death of Private Jacob Kovco." How so? Dan Box (The Australian) sums it up as Houston states Nelson "had ignored repeated warnings not to speculate about the death" and that Houston denies evey telling Nelson that Jake Kovco had been "handling his weapon in some way and it discharged."

As AAP notes this "directly contradicts" Nelson's statement yesterday and, in addition, Houston states that he "told the minister several times that a proper investigation was needed". What was Chuckles Nelson, the 'rising star,' doing issuing those statements (statements he had to retract and yesterday attempted to disown)? Justin Vallejo (Daily Telegraph) notes that the statements came after Nelson was warned not once, not twice, but three times (by Houston) "that it was too early to speculate". But when your a 'rising star' and you can interject into a national story, even if your actions cause more pain to the mourners, why sit on the sidelines waiting for information to come in? Russell Skelton (The Age) reports that the three warnings were given the day after Jake Kovco's death "[b]ut Dr Nelson went ahead and told the media that Private Kovco was shot while 'maintaining' his nine-millemetre Browning pistol -- a statement he was forced to retract five days later."

Let's be clear. No one knows what happened in the room where Jake Kovco died. (Or, if they do, they're not telling.) However, the reason polls demonstrate Australians haven't bought the official story (whatever it was from week to week) goes directly to Brendan Nelson, with all the authority of his post, declaring X one week and then saying Y the next. Now Houston and Lieutenant-General Peter Leahy have both denied that they ever provided Nelson with any of the information he (Nelson) took to the airwaves with.

If the grief and heartache his statements have inflicted upon the Kovco family isn't enough to give pause, it needs to be noted that the doubts about the inquiry have their roots in Nelson's very public, ever changing story.

Anthony McClellan (The Australian) lays it out very cleary noting: "It has taken a clear cry this week from the Kovco family to help us understand how bad this is. The family is sitting there every day in Victoria Barracks in Sydney, listening, I would think with increasing incredulity, as incompetence after incompetence, and worse, is documented. The family has now taken its criticism even further from its intital rage over the mishandling of his body." McClellan notes the need for transperancy and calls the 'national security' claim (the excuse for not giving the names of the soldiers testifying) "plain bunkum" and closes with this:

To sum up, here's a short competency primer for Defence headquarters at Canberra's Russell Hill:
* Wrong body.
* Initial investigators underfunded, obstructed and overruled by army command.
* Interference in the investigation.
* Death scene not preserved; forensic evidence removed.
* Those present in the room allowed to clean up.
* A litany of miscommunication.
Can it get any worse? Yes. If we do not find out what really happened.

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