Thursday, September 14, 2006. The chaos and violence continues in Iraq, William Caldwell gets lost in his own spin while Harry Reid comes out swinging, two US soldiers are dead, actions on the part of Suzanne Swift result in some US Congressional support, Camp Democracy continues in DC, and 110 Australian soldiers return to Iraq from Australia.
William Caldwell IV, the liveliest Gabor in the Green Zone, explained the mounting corpses (about 100 in the last two days) discovered in the capital as "murder-executions" -- as opposed to "group hugs"? Somebody ask Willie to adjust the bra strap before the commercial break's over. Not content with being the giddiest Gabor in the Green Zone, Caldwell also told reporters today that another major terrorist had been captured. CNN reports that the Ethel Mertz of the occupation won't identify the captured but will give lots of non-specific details and, apparently, whine that Fred won't ever take her out anywhere! The non-specific details will allow gas bags to fill in their own details and a non-story to eat hours and hours of psuedo-commentary and it certainly minimizes the tragic reality that two more American troops lost their lives.
CBS and AP report: "Two U.S. soldiers died Thursday in and around Baghdad, the U.S. Command said. The first soldier died from wounds in the early morning hours after his unit came under attack by small arms. The second was killed after his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb south of Baghdad." AFP notes that the two deaths follow the Wednesday death of a US soldier as a result of "enemy fire" and CNN notes: "He was attached to the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division."
If it seems like Willie Gabor isn't aware of the body count, the AFP's reporting demonstrates US Senator Harry Reid is: "We have to change course in Iraq, we are approaching 2,700 dead American men and women, more than 20,000 wounded, a third of them greviously wounded, missing arms, and legs, and eyes, paralysis, brain damage. The cost is three billion a week. If Iraq is not in a civil war, I don't know what a civil war is, 100 killed yesterday, 100 killed the day before."
The Associated Press reports two car bombs in Baghdad that resulted in at least ten deaths and thirty wounded. CBS and AP note the second blast, outside the passport office, "created a large crater in the street in front of the office, destroyed at least three cars, scattered debris and knocked down the walls of a neibhoring house".
KUNA notes four wounded as a result of a bomb in Mosul. Reuters notes a "sucicide bomber" in Tal Afar has left one police officer dead and two civilians wounded; a roadside bomb in Falluja has left five civilians dead and 15 more wounded; and that "[a] bomb struck a U.S. military vehicle in Ur district, northern Baghdad, as the coalition forces were starting a serach operation. Witnesses at the scene said smoke was rising from the area. The U.S. military said it was unaware of the incident."
The BBC reports that a police officer "was shot dead on his way to work in Baghdad."
CNN identifies him as Col. Muthana Ali Hussein. Reuters notes that that a family of six ("including a three-month-old boy") "were shot dead in their home" in Baghdad.
CBS and AP note that two police officers were shot dead in a drive-by in Baquba while three people were shot dead in Ghazaniya. KUNA reports that a police officer was wounded in Kirkuk after being shot by "unidentified armed men". Reuters notes the death of a city council member (Abdulla Khalaf) and his son in Daquq; and "a police lieutenant--colonel" in Mosul.
CNN reports that 20 corpses were discovered in Baghdad ("most with signs of torture").
That's 53 that were reported dead so far today. (Includes the 20 corpses and the two U.S. soldiers.)
In peace news, Haveeru Daily reports that war resister Mark Wilkerson, "[n]early two weeks after he turned himself in to his unit at Fort Hood in Texas, the baby-faced 22-year-old soldier is still awaiting word on his punishment." Wilkerson returned from Iraq and attempted to receive conscientious objector status only to be denied and told he was redeploying to Iraq. Wilkerson then self-checked out and was AWOL for a year-and-a-half. Writing of Wilkerson's August 31st announcement that he was turning himself in, Aaron Glant (IPS) noted: "Observers say these developments are reminiscent of the Vietnam War, when the refusal to fight by hundreds of thousands of soldiers was a major force toward U.S. withdrawal. According to journalist and Vietnam War resister Peter Laufer, 170,000 U.S. soldiers filed for conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War. Between 50,000 and 60,000 fled to Canada. Others deliberately injured themselves or simply went AWOL." That topic is explored in depth in the documentary Sir! No Sir!, directed by David Zeiger. Wilkerson himself noted the historical connections writing, before his press conference at Camp Casey III, that "I am joining a long history of war resistors, many of whom have died for their beliefs and I know tomorrow they will be looking down on me and war resistors who are alive hopefully will respect what I have to say and I hope that with as big a stage as I am going to have tomorrow that I can make people proud of my message and that I can say everything I truly want to say."
At his own web site, Mark Wilkerson reports his first week at Fort Hood "was a good week. . . . I've spent a lot of time speaking with fellow soldiers about how their experiences were in Iraq. And while some had better experiences than others, they all expressed how lucky they were to make it back to the U.S. alive. And some have expressed their anxiety about having to return to Iraq for possibly the third time -- Imagine -- Three year-long deployments to Iraq in 5 years! For anyone reading this, let that sink in for a moment."
In news of war resister Suzanne Swift, actions on her behalf (a sit-in, phone calls, e-mails and faxes) have resulted in US Rep. Peter DaFazio of Oregon to promise "that he will be initiating a congressional investigation into" her case. Swift self-checked out of the Army after returning from a tour in Iraq where she has reported she was sexually assaulted. Supporters are calling for an honorable discharge of Swift.
In Washington, DC, Camp Democracy continues, free and open to the public. Today's events includes participation from the Green Party: Joyce Robinson-Paul, Steve Shafarman and Bob Firtakis. Greens are due to speak "between 4:15 and 5:30 p.m." and will address topics including the 2004 election. This evening, Danny Schechter scheduled to be among the participants with a screening of his documentary WMD: Weapons of Mass Deceptions. Friday's topics include election reform, Saturday's peace with Pat Elder, Nadine Bloch, Kevin Zeese and others participating. And on Sunday, Camp Democracy will host a number of events and the theme will be Impeachment Day. Among those participating: Elizabeth Holtzman, Michael Avery, Ray McGovern, David Green, John Nichols, Marcus Raskin, Elizabeth De La Vega, Dave Lindorff, David Swanson, Jennifer Van Bergen, Geoff King, David Waldman, Dan DeWalt, Steve Cobble, Anthony St. Martin, Cindy Bogard, Mubarak Awad, Susan Crane, Frank Anderson. The camp has daily activities and admission is free. A complete schedule can be found here. Free and open to the public with daily activites.
In Australia, Security Detachment IX returned from Baghdad. One member didn't return, Jake Kovco who died in Baghdad on April 21st. Edmund Tadros (Sydney Morning Herald) reports that Jake Kovco's widow Shelley Kovco was there to greet those returning. Belinda Tasker (NewsCom) reports that Shelley Kovco "finally had the chance to speak to one of the men who was with him [Jake Kovco] when he died" -- Ray Johnson who has previously been identified as "Soldier 17." Dan Box (The Australian) reports: "With the unit's return, however, restrictions imposed by the inquiry on reporting the names of soldiers have been lifted. Although not legally binding, these restrictions were imposed for operational safety and have been followed by The Australian." While the second half of the last sentence is correct (The Australian and most others have readily followed the restrictions), the first half? That's the claim by the government, not established fact. Noting that "One of the cornerstones of our justice system is transparency," Anthony McClellan went on to point out (in The Australian, one week ago today): "When the inquiry began, it was set in a small room that could not accommodate all the media who wanted to be there. On occasions such as this, the media are the public representatives. We have a right to know what happened, and why. Was making it harder for the media to report a deliberate decision or an example of military contempt for civilians being privy to this tragedy? Or was it plain incompetence? Whatever the reason, it neatly encapsulates the past five months. The larger issue is the suppression of the identities of many of the key soldiers connected with Kovco's death. We read about them as Soldier 14, Soldier 17 and Soldier 47. Why? If this set of events had occurred in a civilian setting, they would certainly be named. But no, the names are kept from us because the soldiers are serving in Iraq. It was interesting to see defence chief Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston and Defence Minister Brendan Nelson squirming in public this week when asked why the names were being kept secret."
"Soldier 19" is now identified as Rob Shore. "Soldier 14"? Belinda Tasker notes that he is Steve Carr. Box notes Carr is "a person of interest" to the inquiry into Jake Kovco's death due to his DNA being "found on the barrel of Kovco's pistol". The Herald-Sun notes: "The Kovco inquiry, at Sydney's Victoria Barracks, resumes on Monday for closing submissions. Ms. Kovco is to make a statement to the inquiry on Tuesday."
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