Thursday, October 19, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

Death squads from the Ministry of Interior posing as Iraqi police are killing more people than ever in the capital, emerging evidence shows.
The death toll is high - in all 1,536 bodies were brought to the Baghdad morgue in September. The health ministry announced last month that it will build two new morgues in Baghdad to take their capacity to 250 bodies a day.
Many fear a government hand in more killings to come. The U.S. military has revealed that the 8th Iraqi Police Unit was responsible for the Oct. 1 kidnapping of 26 Sunni food factory workers in the Amil quarter in southwest Baghdad. The bodies of ten of them were later found in Abu Chir neighbourhood in the capital.
Minister for the Interior Jawad al-Bolani announced he is suspending the police unit from official duties, and confining it to base until an investigation is completed.
But sections of the ministry appear responsible for the abductions and killing. Ministry of Interior vehicles were used for the kidnapping in this case, and most men conducting the raid wore Iraqi police uniforms, except for a few who wore black death squad 'uniforms', witnesses told IPS.
The leader of the police unit is under house arrest and faces interrogation for this and other crimes, according to an official announcement.
"It is for sure that they did it," one of the victim's neighbours told IPS on condition of anonymity. "The tortured bodies were found the second day. They came in their official police cars; it is not the first time that they did something like this. They do it all over Baghdad, and we hope they will get proper punishment this time."
Men of the police unit meanwhile do not face imminent punishment. "They are going to be rehabilitated and brought back to service," director-general of the Iraqi police Adnan Thabit told IPS.

The above is from Ali Al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail's "Government Death Squads Ravaging Baghdad" (IPS). This isn't a new topic to IPS (or Jamail), they've been addressing it for some time. The same can't be said for all media which will now have to play catch up having spent far too long buying into the Bully Boy's happy talk.

If you check the links on the side (I'm too tired for transition but, for those in need, "From happy talk to reality . . ."), you may notice we have Ricky Clousing, Agustin Aguayo, Mark Wilkerson and Ehren Watada's individual sites noted. Finally. I hate going into the template. There are other new links added as well. War resisters matter and Staughton Lynd addresses that in Rachel's highlight, "Soldiers of Conscience" (The Nation):

In the company of these heroes and heroines we turn to the message of another hero, Ehren Watada. In the military system of justice--the system that Congress recently turned its back on in setting up military commissions--there is a proceeding similar to the convening of a grand jury. It is called an Article 23 hearing. The hearing officer decides whether there is sufficient evidence to justify a court martial. This past August 17, at Fort Lewis, Washington, there was an Article 23 hearing for Lt. Watada. Early in the hearing the prosecution played video clips from his recent speeches. In one of these speeches, to the national convention of Veterans for Peace, Lt. Watada said: "Today, I speak with you about a radical idea...The idea is this; that to stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers...can choose to stop fighting it."
Of course in itself this was not a new idea. It was another way of saying, Someday they'll have a war and nobody will come.
But what is unusual is Lt. Watada's basis for saying No. Like David Mitchell in the 1960s, Ehren Watada is not a pacifist. He offered to go to Afghanistan but refused to go to Iraq. He refused to go to Iraq for the same reason David refused to go to Vietnam, not because of objection to all wars, but because of a conviction that war crimes were being committed in this particular war, giving rise to an obligation, under the principles declared at Nuremburg, to refuse military service.
Take a minute to recognize how radical a change this would be. The concept of Conscientious Objection, as set forth in Selective Service law during and after World War II and in the existing regulations of all the military services, is based on the Christian teaching of forgiveness of enemies, of doing good for evil, of turning the other cheek, of putting up the sword. To become a conscientious objector the applicant must, first, object to "war in any form", which is to say, to all wars, and second, do so on the basis of "religious training and belief."
This is a noble idea. I happen to adhere to it, personally. But it is unlikely ever to be the conviction of more than a tiny minority of persons of military age. It is a legal system written to accommodate the tender consciences of members of certain small Christian sects that came into being during the Radical Reformation: Quakers, Amish, Mennonites, Brethren, and the like. And let's be honest, Conscientious Objection thus defined exists because the powers that be know that it will never be the worldview of more than a handful of persons.
In a volunteer military, there will be very few persons who object to war in any form. Had this been their belief, why would they have volunteered in the first place? True, it is possible to become a conscientious objector while serving in the military. Certain remarkable individuals like [Camilo] Mejia and Kevin Benderman will deploy to Iraq, be horrified by what they experience, and on reflection conclude that they will never again fight in any war. But common sense tells us that such conscientious-objectors-from-experience will be few.

The above is a speech worth checking out (time permitting, we'll note it in tomorrow's snapshot also). War resistance within the military is growing and the Pentagon notices it, even when media's looking the other way. Attending Ricky Clousing's court-martial last Thursday were five unnamed soldiers who would soon be facing their own for self-checking out of the military. Known war reisters include Clousing, Watada, Mark Wilkerson, Jeremy Hinzman, Brandon Hughey, Patrick Hart, Corey Glass, Carl Webb, Kyle Snyder, Agustin Aguayo . . . What was once confined to solitary figures like Camilo Mejia was followed by many others. (Including Pablo Paredes and Aidan Delgado.) It's not just a few and there will be more. This is a movement the same way it was during Vietnam (Lynd covers some of that in his feature for The Nation and it's also covered in David Zeiger's Sir! No Sir!).

It matters. Earlier today, we noted Melanie McPherson's case. Her case, though not war resistance, matters as well. I received an e-mail from a family member of a war resister and we now use the term "war resister" only to apply to those who state their objection to the war itself. That is how it should be. And thank you to _____ for noting that we followed a phase in labeling someone a war resister who wasn't. Others may do that with McPherson as well. Thus far, she has not cited objection to the war itself as a reason for not going to Iraq. Her objection, which is a solid objection, is based upon the fact that she was trained to be a military journalist and now the military wants to send her to Iraq and put her in a position she's untrained for. As she wrote in the note she left before checking out, she didn't want to be "a bullet catcher." Too many are being used as just that to make the 'count.'

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.

-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Thursday, the total number of US troop fatalities stood at 2758. Right now? 2787. That's 29 more deaths since last Thursday. (Iraqis? 655,000 and counting. We go with the study.)
Making the 'count' was the topic a few moments ago. Today's CBS Evening News with Katie Couric addressed the issue of the 'count.' Sharyn Alfonsi's "Troops With Stress Disorders Fit For Duty?" addressed the issue of how making the 'count' means troops suffering from PTSD are suddenly 'fit' to serve. Larry Syverson spoke of how his son Bryce was sent to Walter Reed from Iraq and placed in the psychiatric ward (on suicide watch) but he got sent back over in August to make that 'count.' Jason Gunn had PTSD following an explosion in Baghdad but after four months, even though he had PTSD and was suffering from paranoia, the military e-mailed (e-mailed!) and he's back in Iraq as well. Alfonsi reported that the military thought it would be good for Gunn to 'face his fears.' As though he'd just fallen off a horse, apparently.

The US military is finally admitting that their 'crackdown' didn't work so maybe they could admit some other things: (a) the war is illegal, (b) there is no 'win' to be had, (c) they're putting people into Iraq that don't belong there (Steven D. Green being the strongest example), (d) their backdoor draft is demoralizing the military.

There were two big issues for visitors who e-mailed today (of what I read, there were too many to read all of tonight). The first issue was over the fact that someone (a US citizen) was sentenced to death and why hadn't we noted that? When? We've noted it before. Saturday, we noted the case of Mohammad Munaf and we noted a problem with his legal team (a hearsay sworn statement). Did they ever get their act together? (Munaf had a solid case, this about the way attorneys argued his case in the US.) No. If you're late to the topic, Munaf was facing the death penalty (after two US "officials" -- including a general -- spoke with an Iraqi judge in private). He is an American citizen. The hope of his US attorneys was that, since he is in US custody, a US federal judge would bar US forces from turning him over for an execution. Monday on Democracy Now! this occurred:

AMY GOODMAN: How did he end up in Iraq?
JONATHAN HAFETZ: He traveled to Iraq with three Romanian journalists. He had been living in Romania with his wife and three children, who are also all U.S. citizens. He traveled with the journalists to serve as a guide and interpreter as the journalists covered stories in Iraq. And he was called upon, because of his knowledge of the language and of the terrain. They were all kidnapped.
AMY GOODMAN: He was kidnapped, as well.
JONATHAN HAFETZ: He was kidnapped, as well, released two months later. They were kidnapped by an insurgent group, released after two months. And Munaf was then taken into custody by the Americans and has been held by the Americans for 15 months.
AMY GOODMAN: What happened to the Romanians?
JONATHAN HAFETZ: They were set free. They were freed by the kidnapping, and thy’re back in Romania.
AMY GOODMAN: And what do they say?
JONATHAN HAFETZ: Well, we haven’t spoken with them. We’re hopefully calling for a hearing, at which point Munaf could testify, present his case and the evidence of witnesses in his favor to demonstrate that he is innocent, that he had no part in planning the kidnapping. He comes to the federal court as an innocent man who has been held by his own government for 16 months. And the United States takes the position that because the United States is operating as part of a multinational force, the court has no power to review his detention.

Did you catch the key moment? Goodman asks what the Romanians say and the answer should be, "The Romanians say . . ." Instead, the answer was "we haven't spoken with them." Allowing that people had to scramble, there's still no excuse for that. There should have been an answer to Goodman's question. It was a basic question, she wasn't attempting to trip the guest up, she was asking what any journalist would, what any lawyer would, and what any court would want to know. The fact that on Monday they still didn't have it together was sad. [And the guest identifies the 'officials' as "two soldiers" -- when they attorneys were speaking to the press last week, they were stating a general and an unidentified official, another example of how they didn't have it together.] All the more so with the latest news, noted by Jonah (a member, not a visitor) from AP's "Judge: American Can Be Transferred to Iraq for Execution:"

An American citizen facing a death sentence in Iraq lost a court challenge Thursday that would have prohibited the military from turning him over to Iraqi authorities.
Mohammad Munaf was convicted and sentenced to death by an Iraqi judge last week on charges he helped in the 2005 kidnapping of three Romanian journalists in Baghdad.
Munaf, who was born in Iraq and became an American citizen in 2000, sought an emergency order blocking U.S. military officials from turning him over to Iraq. He claimed his trial was flawed and his confession was coerced.
Those would normally be grounds for American citizens to challenge their imprisonment. But U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth said he had no authority to intervene because Munaf was being held by coalition military forces, not by the U.S. military alone.

We had noted it before. Now this isn't the only case involving a US citizen in Iraq. In this case, US 'officials,' wanted to circumvent the rule of law with private testimony. In this case, the Justice Department opposed the appeal (the judge sided with them). It was a different case last week:

In Iraq, the puppet governments continue to raise eye brows. Al Jazeera reports on Ayham al-Samarraie who was arrested "on charges of finanical and managerial corruption in August" for his actions while serving as a minister in Ayham al-Samarraie's government (the first post-invasion puppet government) but he was taken from the court and is now protected by US forces. al-Samarraie's "protection" raises serious questions about whether even the appearance of independence will be allowed for the puppet government. It also raises a serious issue of what was a US citizen doing holding government office in the supposedly independent Iraq.

In this case, the US didn't seem to trust Iraqi justice. From CBS' "Millions Stolen From Iraq's Treasury:"

More than half a billion dollars earmarked to fight the insurgency in Iraq was stolen by people the U.S. had entrusted to run the country's Ministry of Defense before the 2005 elections, according to Iraqi investigators. Iraq's former minister of finance says coalition members like the U.S. and Britain are doing little to help recover the money or catch suspects, most of whom fled the country. The 60 Minutes investigation also turned up audio recordings of a suspect who seems to be discussing the transfer of $45 million to the account of a top political adviser to the interim defense minister.
Correspondent Steve Kroft reports on this mother of all heists this Sunday, Oct. 22, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
"We have not been given any serious, official support from either the United States or the U.K. or any of the surrounding Arab countries," says Ali Allawi, who was confronted with the missing funds when he took over as Iraq's finance minister last year.
He thinks he knows why Iraqi investigators have gotten little help.
"The only explanation I can come up with is that too many people in positions of power and authority in the new Iraq have been, in one way or another, found with their hands inside the cookie jar," says Allawi, who left his post when a new Iraqi government was formed earlier this year.
"And if they are brought to trial, it will cast a very disparaging light on those people who had supported them and brought them to this position of power and authority," he tells Kroft.

In one instance, the US government says "Go ahead and execute," in another they say they have to take custody of the man because Iraqi 'justice' is so in question. (Surely, secret testimony won't make it any stronger.)

The other big issue for some visitors was these statements: "Many reports have the, the US joining the crackdown (the thing that hasn't 'met . . . overall expectations') on August 7th. However, the 'crackdown' began in June. That's the reality. It's been juiced up, beefed up and through various versions but it's gone on since June. Little Willie will next entertain the press corps on Karaoke night by singing 'What A Fool Believes'."

One visitor, especially sure of himself, offered that "You shouldn't write what you don't know about." Right back at you. And it's not my job to spoonfeed every visitor who stumbles past this site. This community didn't take the summer from Iraq. No member questioned that statement because we covered the 'crackdown' from the beginning. We're fully aware of what panic led to the 'crackdown' (though it's doubtful the visitors complaining today are). But for those who seem to think that they must be spoonfed, from the BBC:

Launched in June, Operation Together Forward is a joint US and Iraqi security drive in which thousands of extra troops have been deployed in Baghdad.
The operation was seen as key to asserting the authority of the Iraqi government over all of the capital and eventually the rest of the country, paving the way for the withdrawal of US forces.
But Gen Caldwell said attacks on US troops and Iraqi forces in Baghdad has risen significantly in the first three weeks of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began in the last week of September.

I can be, and often am, wrong. But before someone e-mails to gripe about something as long lasting as the ongoing 'crackdown' has been, they might want to do a little work of their own. August is when even more US forces pour in for yet another 'juiced up' version of the 'crackdown.' It is not when the crackdown began and US forces were a part of the crackdown from the beginning. So visitors who objected, you've now been spoonfed, look to someone else to burp you.

Here, we knew the crackdown wasn't going to work. Go to the middle of June when it started and you'll find that stated. It was never going to work and the only people are surprised are the ones who always think 'force is the answer!' Baghdad was already forced against the wall for anyone not in the Green Zone. The 'crackdown' was pouring gas on a fire.

One of the objecting visitors offered that the 'crackdown' should be given twelve months before being discontinued. Apparently, after that comes the "bomb them all" from the Ann Coulter Playbook.

What has happened in Iraq is that it's one repeated battle after another. Why is that? Because there's no objective, none given to the US public, none given to the trooops, none given to the Iraqis. Now there have been ever changing objectives given. WMDs, liberation, democracy, Saddam Hussein, go down the list.

The troops can't fight the same battle day after day, week after week, year after year. Any of the four nonsense reason given should have resulted in the troops leaving long ago. WMDs? There were none. Call it a victory and bring the troops home. Liberation or Saddam Hussein? When Saddam Hussein was captured, bring the troops home (and turn Hussein over to an international body for a real trial). Democracy?

Iraqis are fully aware that they were told they'd be a democracy and they'd have elections. And Jay Garner tried to work on providing elections immediately. The US administration didn't want that and Paul Bremer quickly replaced Garner.

There is nothing left for US troops to do except to continue doing the same thing over and over. That's not a plan, that's not a strategy, that's not an objective for war. The troops are trained to fight a war.

The resistance in Iraq is deeply rooted and the Iraqi people want US forces out. They've wanted that for sometime now. They've seen they're living standards drop, they've seen the water systems and electrical systems destroyed during the war remain non-functioning or barely functioning. (And are quite aware that it's a different story in the heavily fortified Green Zone.) As the resenement continues to build, the resistance continues to grow.

There's no reason for the troops to be there. (They shouldn't have been there to begin with.) Iraqis are adults, they need to govern themselves. You have a civil war there now that results from the actions of this war. The troops aren't safe over there and the Iraqis aren't safe over there. There's no 'win' here. There's the same battle over and over and it will get bloodier and bloodier.

An objective would have been: "When Hussein is captured, the troops will have completed their mission." But there's not a consistent objective because the war was built on lies and greed continues it.

Congress abdicated their role. So did many citizens. The military is not a toy of the Oval Office (nor of the Congress). Civilian control of the military means civilian responsibility. There was no responsibility. Bully Boy scared a lot of people and a lot of people said, "Save us, Big Daddy, save us!" The real cowards are the ones who abdicated to their own responsibilities in the lead up to the war -- officials and average citizens. Some of them now want to sneer "coward" at a Watada or a Clousing. They aren't cowards. They're making a decision to take a stand that needs to be taken because America needs to wake up to reality that there are no goals shared in this illegal war. There's a lot of lofty talk (that the Baker Study Group has already undermined before releasing their report). There's a lot of reality hidden from the public.

New 'strategy' won't 'win' the war. It's unwinnable. Had Bully Boy any brains, he would have pulled the troops long ago and a lot of people would have been able to delude themselves still that the war was a good idea. It wasn't. It was illegal and and the longer the troops are over there, the more clear that becomes.

For Iraqis, reality can be 'managed' via Happy Talk. They have seen and heard stories, they've been touched by the war. A new puppet won't change it. A smarter illegal occupation won't change it. The tag sale on their public commons may be something some Americans can ignore but if you're dependent upon them, as Iraqis were, you can't.

The troops need to come home.

On that note, Brandon notes The Nation's "The War and the Election:"

New confirmation of the importance of ending the Iraq War has come recently with the release of two studies of its staggering costs. A September survey by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes found that 78 percent of Iraqis believe the US military presence is "provoking more conflict than it is preventing." Far from wanting American troops to "stay the course," as George W. Bush and his circle of true believers assert, Iraqis recognize that the occupation is contributing to their country's crisis. The extraordinary depth of that crisis was suggested by another study, this one from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, working with Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, which estimated the Iraqi death toll since the US invasion and occupation at 655,000--a dramatically higher figure than had been previously given.
The United States is in a different place now than it was when Wellstone cast his courageous vote: The war went forward, and the issue now is how to end it as quickly as possible. While far too many Democrats try to have it both ways, criticizing the President but not calling forthrightly for an end to hostilities, conscientious candidates in races across the country are demanding just such action. Over the months we have identified a number of these candidates. This past spring, for example, we noted the tough antiwar challenge that Californian Marcy Winograd was mounting to incumbent Jane Harman; we also applauded former NAACP head Kweisi Mfume's strong antiwar position in a Maryland US Senate primary. These challenges weren't successful, but others were.
[. . .]
As the election approaches, we will continue to bring attention to antiwar candidates on our website ( and urge readers to support them. As we stated in our editorial of last year, "We firmly believe that antiwar candidates, with the other requisite credentials, can win the 2006 Congressional elections, the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries and the subsequent national election. But this fight, and our stand, must begin now."

The Bully Boy broke the 'barrier' Wednesday when he made the obvious comparison that too many in the press shied from. Now that he's made it, it will continue to be made. The press needs an 'official' before they can get wiggle room these days. Mike notes Elizabeth Sullivan's "Vietnam & Iraq: Another 'Bright Shining Lie'" (Cleveland Plain Dealer via Common Dreams):

The ultimate tragedy of Iraq is that it was dreamed up by a generation that lived through an earlier war constructed atop deception and denial.
The Vietnam generation should have known better.
Yet Iraq is the same "bright shining lie" told by the same sort of smart men -- and this time, smart women -- that Neil Sheehan chronicled in his devastating book about the many-tiered American deceptions that made Vietnam such a quagmire. As with Vietnam, this nation is propping up a corrupt Iraqi government and distorting outcomes by picking its own political winners and losers.
As with Vietnam, U.S. officials faced with military stalemate are grasping at straws via vain attempts to "Iraqify" a national military and police force that lacks legitimacy with most Iraqis. Why else would Iraqis be able to take over only two of the nation's 18 provinces when -- according to ground commander Gen. George Casey -- 80 percent to 90 percent of current violence is concentrated in only five?

As Mike noted, Sullivan's column ran in Thursday morning's paper. She obviously wasn't waiting for permission before making the comparison. Dallas gets the last highlight, Cindy Sheehan's "Sit Down for Peace, Justice, and Accountability" (BuzzFlash):

I usually end my articles with a call to action, but today, I begin with one. Maybe readers get bored with my pieces before the end and don't get to the action part, which is the most important part.
Gold Star Families for Peace is calling for an action in front of the White House on the days of November 6th to November 9th (due to the urgency of our situation, we are beginning the sit-in on Saturday, Nov. 4) to perform a Gandhi-like sit down for peace and justice. Join us to sit down for all or part of the time we will be there. We might as well face it, the White House is where the power is. Congress has spent 6 years invalidating themselves and creating a Unitary Executive Branch that pats Congress on the head for being obedient and circumvents the Supreme Court and goes whining to the same agreeable Congress when the Court (in rare cases) slaps Georgie on the wrist. The potential Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) has already said that if the Democrats take back the House, impeachment proceedings will not be forthcoming. Who's going to sit down with us to hold the war criminals in power accountable for their war crimes and crimes against humanity and peace?
Tuesday, without a peep from we the people, and while 10 soldiers were being murdered in George's horrendous war for corporate greed, he signed HR6166 into law. 10 soldiers were killed defending the war machine's right to garner obscene profits while the soldiers were being told that they were spreading "freedom and democracy" to Iraq. While they were dying for this supposed "freedom and democracy" their commander in chief and Congress were busy taking away ours. Who's going to sit down with us for these 10 young people to make sure their deaths do count for freedom and democracy?
HR6166 is the Military Commissions Act which allows everyone from George on down to the actual torturer to inflict inhumanity on our fellow human beings with impunity. The Act also allows George to decide who is a terrorist who does not deserve the right to Habeas Corpus and who is not a terrorist who does deserve the right to Habeas Corpus. Who's going to sit down with us to say: "I demand my rights to Habeas Corpus and I repudiate torture in all forms."

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