Sunday, November 12, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

After an unexpected delay, the Army has announced the forwarding of charges against Lt. Ehren Watada by Fort Lewis Commanding Officer Lt. General James Dubik. Lt. Watada is to be court martialed for missing movement (article 87 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice) and multiple counts of "Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and a Gentleman" for his public opposition to the illegal and immoral occupation war in Iraq. In a pre-trial victory for Lt. Watada, the Army has retreated on all counts of "content towards government officials" -- specifically President G. W. Bush. The last known prosecution of this article was in 1965 resulting from Lt. Henry Howe's opposition to U.S. foreign policy during the Vietnam War. Lt. Watada's defense team believe the military favors the conduct unbecoming charges for their overly broad nature, versus the more controversial "contempt of officials" that would have opened the door to the obvious question, "can speech be contemptuous, if it is factual?"
Lt. Ehren Watada responds
"The referral of the charges was not unexpected. I'm moving forward as I always have with resilience and fortitude to face the challenges ahead . . . I think the recent elections show more and more Americans are opening their eyes, but we aren't there yet. I hope that actions such as mine will continue to help expose the truth behind the fundamental illegality and immorality of the war," said Lt. Ehren Watada.
"The reason I spoke out, I saw that what was being done in terms of this war was so illegal and so immoral, and not being checked. It was a danger to our troops and a danger to our country. So, I think what needs to be done is some kind of accountability in Washington (D.C.) and also investigations into how this war was started in the first place."
Lt. Watada told reporters at a press conference last Thursday that "almost every day, someone from the military or the outside sends me some kind of correspondence or approaches me in person to render support or their respect."

The above, noted by Brenda, is from an e-mail sent out by Courage to Resist. We'll note another thing from it tomorrow. Right now, we'll note an action they have planned for next month:

December 8-10 days of action to support Lt. Watada and all GI resisters
It's time for us to escalate public pressure and action in support of Lt. Watada and the growing movement of thousands of courageous men and women GI's who have in many different ways followed the their conscience, upholding international law, taking a principled stand against unjust, illegal war and occupation and stood up for their rights.
Widespread public support and pressure will help create true support for courageous troops facing isolation and repression, and help protect their civil liberties and human rights. We call for the following:
1) Support for all war objectors 2) Protect the right to conscientious objection 3) Protect the liberties and human rights of GI's4) Sanctuary for war objectors.
In the Pacific Northwest, these actions will serve as a warm up for larger mobilizations and events to coincide with Lt. Watada's trial early next year. The actual court martial date has not yet been sent.

By the way, the illustration of Ehren Watada is from "Remember Ehren Watada?" (The Third Estate Sunday Review). Let's stay on Watada because, as most members know, the news didn't get told last week. Joan notes Gregg K. Kakesako's "In the Military" (Honolulu Star-Bulletin):

The Honolulu chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League will hold a symposium surrounding the actions of Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who is the first military officer to face a court martial for refusing to fight in Iraq. It will begin at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 19 at the University of Hawaii's architecture auditorium. The featured speaker will be Watada's father, Bob; Jon Van Dyke of the University of Hawaii Richardson School of Law and Watada's attorney, Eric Seitz.

Joan wondered whether this meant Bob Watada was cutting his current speaking tour short? No, I don't think so. It was set to end on the 17th (Georgia and North Carolina). Eric notes Bryan G. Pfeifer's "Sheehan calls for 'Troops home now!'" (Workers' World):

"Millions of people around the world are counting on us" to stop the U.S. war on Iraq, declared Cindy Sheehan at a "Troops Home Now!" rally Nov. 4 in downtown Milwaukee. Hundreds attending the rally greeted Sheehan as the hero she is with rousing applause and cheers.
Sheehan began by announcing that, to date, over 600,000 Iraqis and 2,800 GIs from the U.S. have died with hundreds of thousands injured. She then spoke of what it had been like at "Camp Casey," the encampment near George W. Bush's ranch named after her son, who died in Iraq. Sheehan said "at least 15,000" people in 26 days visited the camp in 2005 and thousands of solidarity actions such as candlelight vigils and demonstrations took place internationally.
Hailing those such as Army First Lt. Ehren Watada who have refused to fight in Iraq, she said, "It takes so much more courage to stand up than to kill innocent children and to fight for corporate interests." She called Watada and his parents, who attended and spoke at the rally, "heroes."
Sheehan ended with a call for independence and for mass action in the streets to stop the war. "The Democrats and Republicans are different sides of the same coin. Our attitudes are not those of the corporate war machine. We don't countenance liars and murderers."

And I'll note Teresa Watanabe's "Dissenting officer faces court-martial" (Los Angeles Times):

The nation's first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq said he was disappointed by the Army's decision last week to proceed with a court-martial against him but reiterated that he believed he did the right thing in opposing the war.
As the nation honored its military veterans Saturday, Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada said he believed his refusal to lead his soldiers into what he viewed as an illegal and immoral war was fulfilling his duty to them and the Constitution he pledged to uphold.
"I am at peace with my decision because I feel that from the beginning I made it according to my conscience and my duty as a soldier and officer," said Watada, who is stationed at Ft. Lewis, Wash., about 50 miles south of Seattle. "The reason I'm standing up is that no one else is speaking up for the troops dying every day -- not to mention the 600,000 Iraqis who have died. "I'm willing to accept the punishment, whatever it may be," said Watada, whose case has sparked widespread debate over a soldier's duty to follow orders versus conscience.
In phone interviews Friday and Saturday, Watada also said that recent events had reinforced his belief that many Americans, including a growing number inside the military, shared his sentiments against the Bush administration's conduct of the war. Those events include the midterm election results giving Democrats control of Congress, the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, and a landmark editorial in four affiliated military-focused publications calling for the Pentagon chief's ouster.
On Thursday, the Army announced, as expected, that it would refer Watada's case to a general court-martial for refusing to deploy to Iraq.

Ehren Watada who has taken a stand against the war is part of a movement of resistance within the military. The illegal war won't end because everyone dishes 'strategy.' It will end for the same reason that the American people turned against the war -- reality getting out. Cindy Sheehan, noted above, sparked the movment by putting a face on the issue. It's easy to forget what it was like just a year ago. But with Bully Boy hiding bodies (no photographs allowed of coffins returning to Dover) and the press still loving their Bully Boy, the War Hawks still soaring, Cindy Sheehan went to Crawford, Texas and reminded everyone of the cost of the illegal war (as opposed to the benefits of it for the Bully Boy). Casey Sheehan died in Iraq in April 2004. Cindy Sheehan was there to ask why. Bully Boy wouldn't meet with her.

But she put a face on the war. She has continued to call for an end to the war. Voices like Cindy Sheehan, Medea Benjamin and others are, have been, and will remain important to ending the war. But I do sometimes wonder how much was grasped about what Cindy Sheehan did?

It was brave and she had fallout from it. She continues to show bravery and ignore the attacks. But why she was able to spark interest and take it to a new level was because her call for an end to the war was based upon her own life. It wasn't facts and figures. With Cindy Sheehan, big and small media had a story to tell. Story's involve us. They can be an end point (and often are, we're a nation built on the individual) but they can also serve as a spark. When the stories of the war resisters (and it's a long list now) aren't told, they movement to end the war is hurt. Kyle Snyder, Joshua Key and Ivan Brobeck are other examples of war resisters who've been ignored in the last two weeks. But let's make this about Ehren Watada (who also was ignored last week).
Carolyn Ho's story is part of her son's story. Bob Watada and Rosa Sakanishi are part of the story (his father and step-mother). All three of them speaking out to raise awareness on Ehren is part of the story.

And those are the parts that will engage Americans. Those are the parts that go beyond 'tactic' and 'strategy' talk. It's not 'pie in the sky,' it's putting a face on a policy. Until independent media is willing to do that, the war drags on.

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 Sunday, the American military fatality count in Iraq stood at 2834. Right now? 2848. 14 more since last week. 30 for the month. Meanwhile, British military reports that four of their troops have died and three are injured while they were on boat patrol in Basra which brings the total number of British troops killed in Iraq to 125. (The US military announced the death of three troops, Al Anbar Province, today -- the three died yesterday.)

And Iraqis? Mia notes Patrick Cockburn's "'We Worry About Staying Alive, Not the U.S. Elections'" (CounterPunch):

"A mortar round exploded on the roof of my next-door neighbour's house, frightening my whole family," said Marwan, a friend in Baghdad. "We worry about staying alive, not about the outcome of elections in the US or whether Saddam Hussein lives or dies."
Iraqis see that, realistically, the options available to the US are limited because it is so firmly stuck in a morass. It is not just that Donald Rumsfeld did not succeed in fulfilling his early boasts about defeating the insurgents.
The more astute and carefully thought-out strategy of the outgoing US envoy in Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad, has also failed. He has tried for over a year to conciliate the five million Sunni Arabs whose uprising defeated US ambitions and led to this week's defeat of the Republicans at the polls. He brought Sunni politicians into government, started talks with rebels and tried to reverse de-Baathification.
It did not work and attacks on US troops have risen. Islamists and nationalists are not likely to compromise with US occupiers. At the same
time, the Shia majority has become more alienated from the US. Only Kurds support occupation wholeheartedly.

In violence in Iraq today . . .

Reuters reports 22 corpses were discovered in Baghdad, two in Mosul and two in Mahaweel, 6 bombs (car bombs and roadside bombs) in Baghdad resulted in 11 deaths and 42 wounded (there's a Baghdad bombing in addition to the six that we'll grab in a second) while a car bomb in Yusufiya left three dead and 15 wounded, and "Gunmen killed the director of the main electricity power station in Kirkuk, police said."

Steven R. Hurst (AP) reports: "In Sunday morning's bombing targeting police recruits, two men detonated explosives strapped to their bodies simultaneously, police Lt. Maitham Abdul-Razaq said. The attack, killing 35 men outside the police station near western Baghdad's Nissur Square, was one of several blasts in the capital." So, in Baghdad alone on Sunday, 46 deaths have been reported from bombings. Hurst also notes 50 corpses discovered in Baquba as Reuters reports
"Around 1,600 bodies were taken to Baghdad's morgue in October as insurgent attacks and sectarian violence surged during the holy month of Ramadan, an official at the morgue said today."

But never fret, BBC reports that puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki is talking about changing up his cabinet. He's actually been making those noises for months now. This is the cabinet he couldn't put together in time to meet the Constitutionally mandated deadline. Well, it was supposed to be mandated. He skipped it and created a new deadline for himself which, for the record, he also missed. Shortly after he finally got a full cabinet (three spots were empty when spinners were claiming the cabinet had been named), came the noises from al-Maliki that he needed to make changes. At this rate, he'll still be making noises about changing his cabinet after he's removed (by the US). Maybe he'll move to London and run around with Chalibi?

Well he shouldn't be the only with his head up his ass and no plan, right? Micah notes Joshua Scheer's "Rep. Kucinich: America Needs Iraq War Hearings" (Truthdig) and, remember, Kucinich has had a plan for some time (a real plan as opposed to the noises so many Democratic 'leaders' make):

TRUTHDIG: Do you have a plan that could get us out of Iraq?
KUCINICH: I’ve had a plan to get us out of Iraq from the minute we got there.
I've had it on my website for three years--elements of which are still very viable. It calls for the U.S. to give up its control of the oil assets to move towards soliciting U.N. involvement.
TRUTHDIG: Do you think the neocons are done, or do they have life left in them yet?

[. . .]
TRUTHDIG: So how are you going to expose that coverup?
We may never get out of Iraq if we don’t tell the truth.
KUCINICH: We need to have hearings on Iraq again. We need to go over again why we went there. We need to review the statements and all the errors that were made, and from that we bring the country together to take a new direction. It's all fact-based. And then we start to heal our nation. But we cannot heal America if we continue with policies that are based on lies. We'll never be able to bring closure to this Iraq matter unless we tell the truth about what happened. So America needs a new approach of truth and reconciliation. This isn't a Democratic or Republican matter. This is a matter that relates to the conscience of this country. This is a matter of the heart--the heart of democracy itself. This is a matter of whether we're going to a sober reflection about the events that have transpired since 9/11, with respect to Iraq. And until we do this, we will be trapped not only physically in Iraq, we'll be trapped emotionally and spiritually in Iraq. We may never get out of Iraq if we don’t tell the truth.
There shouldn’t be any partisan direction on this. We should all be together. America wants a new direction in Iraq; it stated it loud and clear. It wants a Congress that’s going to question the president, not a rubber-stamp Congress. This is a time to tell the truth and to heal our nation. And the time for Congress to function as a co-equal branch of government and for the government to function as it was intended to function.
We must never forget that the people have asked for a new direction, and now it’s up to us to help them achieve that.
TRUTHDIG: So you're calling for hearings right now?
KUCINICH: We definitely should have hearings, but the actual decision about whether or not to convene them will be up to the Democratic leadership.

As usual, Pru gets the last highlight (we're doing it this way to include the "US troops revolt against Iraq war" which we highlighted on Thursday):

This article should be read after: » US troops revolt against Iraq war
Statistics show the growing strength of the resistance in Iraq
At the beginning of the Iraq occupation, supporters of the war talked about the "tipping point" -- the moment at which the occupation becomes accepted by the population.
Now the term is back in fashion, only this time in reference to the point at which the occupation begins to fall apart.
All the statistics emerging from Iraq show that this day is coming fast. The number of US casualties continues to rise, as does the nature and effectiveness of the resistance.
Last month was one of the bloodiest, with 105 US troops killed. This month looks set to continue the pattern - 19 US soldiers have died over the past seven days.
The majority of Americans who are paying the price for the occupation are white men aged 19–25 recruited from high unemployment "rust belt" states such as Pennsylvania, and also Texas and California.
Since June 2005, a rising number of US and Iraqi patrols have ended in "violent incidents" that prove that resistance fighters are becoming bolder.
Since summer of this year, the US military has recorded an average of 105 attacks on its soldiers every day. This is the highest monthly average since the invasion in 2003.
There has also been a steady rise in the number of attacks
initiated by the resistance. In July 2004, the resistance initiated over 2,000 attacks. By July of this year, it had risen to 4,000 a month.
For supporters of the war the term "winnable" has lost all meaning. As Richard Haass, a top ranking Republican, admitted to Time magazine, "We are reaching a tipping point both on the ground but also in the political debate in the US about Iraq.
"The real question is how poorly it's going to end up."
The following should be read alongside this article: »
US troops revolt against Iraq war» Bush and the neocons: rats leave sinking ship» Army newspaper says Rumsfeld must go» The 'war on terror' and the US on the web
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