Monday, October 23, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Monday, October 23, 2006.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, US troops hit the 2800 fatality mark, Bully Boy sings a few bars of "Daddy Wasn't There,"  the former head of the US State Department's Iraq intel section tells the BBC there is no 'win' in Iraq, a US war resister who self-checked out and went to Canada announces he is returning to the US, and Ehren Watada's father prepares to take to the road again to raise awareness on his son's stance against the illegal war.
Today, the US military announced the death of a marine in the Al-Anbar Province.  He was a member of Regimental Combat Team 5.  And the military felt the need to add "This release is not a duplicate of the MNC-I press release #20061022-01, which announced the death of another RCT 5 Marine."  That's necessary due to the number of press releases on US troops the military has issued today to cover the large number of US military fatalities in Iraq which has hit 87 this month.  The number of US troops killed in Iraq since the beginning of Bully Boy's illegal war of choice now stands at 2800. CNN notes that October has been the deadliest month for US troops this year topping April "when 76 U.S. troops were killed."   As John Ward Anderson and Debbi Wilgoren (Washington Post) and John F. Burns (New York Times) noted the record high for US fatalities are November 2004 and April 2004 (137 and 135 respectively.)  At BuzzFlash, Cindy Sheehan provides historical perspective: "In the first 3 years, 7 months of the illegal and immoral occupation of Iraq, 2791 of our volunteer soldiers have been tragically killed and in the first 4 years of the illegal and immorcal conflict in Vietnam (which was never a 'war' constitutionally declared by Congress either), 1864 conscripts were killed."
That's just fatalities, not wounded, and just US fatalities.  Iraqis are dying and being wounded as well.
Reuters reports three people were wounded in Balad from a mortar and two roadside bombs in Baghdad resulted in five police officers being killed and left 15 wounded as well as two civilians injured.  CNN notes a car bomb "detonated on Palestine Street" in Baghdad that took one life and left 13 more wounded as well as a car bomb targeting a Baghdad market which took the lives of four and left six wounded. 
CNN reports that four people with "security services for Iraq's oil facilities" were shot dead in their car in Baghdad and that a woman ("the shop's owner") was shot dead when her "hairdresser's shop" in Baghdad was attacked. Reuters notes an Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Balad (four more wounded), a police officer was shot dead in Baiji, "four policemen from the Facility Protection Services" were shot dead in Baghdad,
Reuters reports eight corpses were discovered in Baghdad ("gunshot wounds to the head").
Meanwhile, KUNA reports that US forces "broke into offices of Shiite militias in the two cities of Holla and Diwaniya" -- noting that Holla was "the offices of Al-Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia led by Muqtada Al-Sadr" and AFP reports that Amara is now on curfew.  Curfews and 'crackdowns,' the hallmarks of 'democracy' and 'liberation' in someone's distorted view of the illegal war.
Staying in the real world before venturing into the soft underbelly of the Bully Boy and his administration, Wayne White's caused a stir.  Speaking to the BBC, the former US State Dept. who headed the Iraq intel "section until last year" stated of the illegal war: "The effort can't be sustained over the long haul, and so we can't stay a course, I think, that requires years and years more. . . . We're not winning.  It's apparent." 
Apparent to all who can face reality.
In the someone's been watching their Austin Powers in Goldmember DVD news, Reuters reports Bully Boy's none too pleased with his father: "Earlier this month, the elder Bush was reported to have told a Republican fund-raiser in a Philadelphia suburb that" things wouldn't be so good for sonny-boy if Democrats won control of the US Congress.   Reuters reports that the Bully Boy told ABC's This Week, "He shouldn't be speculating like this, because -- he should have called me ahead of time and I'd tell him they're not going to (win)."   Possibly Bully Boy's too busy feeling sorry for himself to remember his own response to a question about whether he went to Poppy Bush for advice on starting the Iraq war?  Bob Woodward told 60 Minutes Bully Boy responded to that question with: "He is the wrong father to appeal to for advice.  The wrong father to go to, to appeal to in terms of strength."
As Bully Boy trots out yet another karaoke version of "Daddy Wasn't There," Rupert Cornwell (Independent of London) takes a look at the 'daddy issues' and observes "the psychodrama that has been playing out here for four years, and whose climax may be yet to come -- the relationship between Bush the elder and Bush the younger -- '41' and '43' as they like to call each other . . . It is a tangled tale of love and rivalry, of admiration and intense competition.  And it may have brought us the disaster of Iraq. . . . As I write this, the President is closeted in the Oval Office with General John Abizaid, his top commander for the Middle East, trying to sort out the appalling mess.  More US troops or fewer, a phased withdrawal, the splitting of the country into some form of confederation (partition lite), or even talks with Syria and the arch-enemy Iran (the one indisputable beneficiary, along with radical Islam, of the mess)?  Who knows? Maybe none of the above.  As everyone but the White House acknowledges, there are no good options, there are only less bad options."
When not painting himself pathetic, Bully Boy practices denial.  The Guardian of London points out:  "Americans, Iraqis and many others must have wondered just what George Bush meant in his weekly radio address on Saturday when he insisted: 'Our goal in Iraq is clear and unchanging.  Our goal is victory.' The president's comments can only be counted as bizarre at a time when concerns about the deteriorating situation have reached a 'tipping point' due to a combination of events on the ground in Baghdad, Amara and elsewhere - and the impending decimation of the Republicans in the November 7 Congressional elections.  Mr Bush's nonsensical message, a variant of his stock line about 'staying the course,' is likely to be quickly forgotten. The phrase that will be long remembered is that of Alberto Fernandez, head of public diplomacy at the [US] state department: he told al-Jazeera that US policy in Iraq had suffered from 'arrogance' and stupidity'." 
After initially disputing that Alberto Fernandez made the remarks, Sean McCormack of the US State Dept. asserted the remarks resulted from a mistranslation, they tried a time-honored tactic: get the speaker to blame themselves.  Mistranslated was always a tough sell because, as CBS and AP note, Fernandez "spoke in fluent Arabic" during the interview.  So it was time for the self-flogging.  Neela Banerjee (New York Times) reported that Alberto Fernandez that the "senior State Department official apologized Sunday night" for his remarks.  CNN reports the apology came via e-mail (so modern!) and that he stressed to CNN he wasn't "dissing" the 'policy' but added that his remarks did not break "new ground".  So why the apology? 
Regardless, it's too late.  Just like Bully Boy's comparison of Iraq to Vietnam last week, it's out there.  As Meg Ryan's character tells Billy Crystayl's in When Harry Met Sally, "You can't take it back. . . Because it's already out there" (written by Nora Ephron, directed by Rob Reiner.)  Attempts to disown it are a bit like the administrations quibbles over "deadlines" vs. "milestones."  As the White House quibbles, Iraq's deputy prime minister, Barham Saleh, goes into a panice.  David Stringer (AP) reports that Saleh spoke with Tony Blair and has stated: "I do believe there is no option for the international community to cut and run."  Saleh, when not jetting off to England, stays safe and sound in the heavily fortified Green Zone of Baghdad.  No doubt the thought of living with the realities all other Iraqis have had to face since the start of the illegal war must be frightening -- especially the loss of water and electricity which has always been in abundance in the Green Zone. What's good enough for the people of Iraq has never been good enough for the puppet regime.  Al Jazeera reports that Saleh pooh-pahhed the "pessimistic tone" -- as would anyone in his secure quarters and lofty lifestyle faced with losing it all should foreign troops pull out. 
As Steve Kroft (CBS' 60 Minutes) reported Sunday, "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. . . One of the people praised in former U.S. Ambassador L. Paul Bremer's memoris is a major suspect in the case.  Ziad Cattan was in charge of military procurement at a time when the ministry of Defense went on a $1.2 billion buying spree.  [Ali] Allawi estimates that $750 to $800 million of that money was stolen." But don't forget it was a windfall for all.  As Greg Palast reports, on other thefts, in Armed Madhouse (p. 75): "Who pocketed the loot?  Don't ask Mr. Bremer.  Before he slipped out of Baghdad, he had a little trouble with CPA [Civilian Provisional Authority] bookkeeping himself.  We all lose an expense receipt or two on occasion, but the CPA's petty cash drawer was fatter than most.  They kept $200 million in bricks of U.S. currency in a room in Saddam's palace and another $400 million tucked away here and there.  Agents could check out these cash bricks, like library books.  Unlike a library, they didn't have to return them as long as they brought receipts.  One agent took $23 million in a tub of cash and returned with $6 million in receipts.  Another took $25 million and returned, it appears, with nothing at all.  In all, 363 tons of U.S. currency were shipped to Iraq.  Where did the cash go?"
The no-take-backs Bully Boy comparison of Iraq to Vietnam continues to receive attention.  Cindy Sheehan (writing at BuzzFlash) notes the similarities between Bully Boy's talk of presenting the Iraqi government with a timetable to Tricky Dick's oft campaigned on 'secret plan' for Vietnam: "The US plan for withdrawing from Iraq would include disarming militias and training more Iraqi security forces to take over security of the country -- which sounds suspiciously like Nixon's 'Vietnamization' program.  With the incipient warmonger Kissinger (we were wondering why Iraq was such an unmitigated disaster?) back in the Oval Office advising George, does this smell like a fiasco to anyone else?"  Reminder, Gold Star Families for Peace is staging a sit-in in DC, in front of the White House, November 6th through 9th.  BuzzFlash is offering Sheehan's Peace Mom, A Mother's Journey Through Heartache to Activism as a premium (BuzzFlash's portion of any sales go to keep BuzzFlash up and running).
In other peace news, war resister Kyle Snyder intends to return to the United States from Canada next month as Courage to Resist.reported in an e-mail sent out Friday. In August, Synder explained his decision to self-check out of the US military and go to Canada to Karen Button noting, "You know, if they want to help people in Iraq . . . imagine a 15 year-old kid, for the last . . . years all he's seen is [US] military personnel with weapons going through his city.  How is that child supposed to believe that the man, in that uniform is helping him?  Now, if that child saw a convoy of logs being brought to his city, or a convory of water being brought to his city, still guarded, it would be a completely different situation.  That's where the American military messed up.  Because they forgot about the perception of civilisation.  They forgot about the perception of the Iraqi people."
Meanwhile, Ehren Watada's father Bob Watada is launching another speaking tour to raise awareness on his son -- the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq.  The tour kicks off October 26 in Phoenix, AZ and is set to conclude November 17th in Atlanta, GA.  A full schedule can be found at Veterans for Peace.
More information on Ehren Watada, Kyle Snyder and other war resisters who have gone public can be found at Courage to Resist.  In addition, FluxView has videos  of war resisters who went to Canada and information on them can be found at War Resisters Support Campaign.
Finally, (as Rob and Kara noted this morning) a look at peace activists comes not from The Nation or The Progressive, but Christian Hill (The Olympian) who reports on
Olympia Movement for Justice & Peace and Olympians for Peace in the Middle East member Muhammad Ayub (a doctor inspired by his own observations while serving with the UN in Iraq during the first Gulf War, "I feel like political dissent is actually celebrated, not just stifled."),Veterans For Peace -- Rachel Corrie Chapter 109 member and board member of the Washington Truth in Recruitment Molly Gibbs (mental health counselor, "There are actually more people who share the concern I have than not.  Thirty percent are pretty entrenched in beliefs about the country and the moral values that they tend to think exist but in practice don't exist.") and Fellowship for Reconciliation's Glen Anderson (a c.o. during Vietnam, "This is grandparents, this is state employees, this is small-business people.  These are local farmers, our carpenters, the people who work for our local phone company and stuff. . . . At some point, we're going to win if we organize smart and if we work hard, and work strategically and smart and build enough grass-roots movement.").  Hill provides a look at three peace activists who are part of a movement to end the illegal war.
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