Monday, November 20, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

On The KPFA Evening News today, Aaron Glantz reported the latest on US war resister Agustin Aguayo. Aguayo faces up to seven years in prison if court-martialed. Tomorrow his civil case is heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. The civil case revolves around the military's refusal, in July of 2004, to grant Aguayo conscientious objector status. The earlier civilian court sided with the Army and tomorrow's trial is the appeal of that verdict. Glantz noted that this was the first case of its kind "for a federal court since 1971" and that, should the earlier verdict be overturned, "the court will terminate the court-martial" planned. Glantz interviewed David Cortright, Vietnam war resister and author (Soldiers in Revolt: The American Military Today was the book mentioned on air).

Cortright noted that, as with today, the military then "kept transferring us to other bases". After turning himself in, Aguayo was immediately shipped to Germany. Cortright noted that soldiers today are seeing the same pattern that they saw when he was in the military: base transfers, instead of isolating them, put them in contact with "other soldiers who were opposed" to illegal wars. Then, Cortright stated, "many of us who were in the military, once we saw what was happening . . . on the ground . . . we felt compelled to speak out."

From Kevin Dougherty's "Arguments to begin in soldier’s conscientious objector case" (Stars & Stripes):

Aguayo, a 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment medic, refutes Secretary of the Army Francis J. Harvey's rejection of his application for discharge on the basis of being a conscientious objector. The July 2004 decision came despite a favorable recommendation by the officer who led the investigation into the claim. He was overruled by an Army lawyer and chaplain.
In court documents, Army attorneys stated that Aguayo failed to "present clear and convincing evidence" that he was a conscientious objector.
Earlier this year, a U.S. District Court judge strongly sided with the Army, which led Aguayo to petition the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. Tuesday’s hearing before a three-judge panel -- docket number 06-5241 -- will consist of just oral arguments. Each side has been allotted 15 minutes to articulate their case.
Aguayo, 34, surrendered to Army authorities in California last month before his status changed from absent without leave to desertion. Some of his supporters fear the Army will not only charge him with missing a unit movement but with desertion, even though he was AWOL for less than 30 days, the standard benchmark.

This is the replacement post for Sunday (which I slept through). Ehren Watada was noted here today and Ruth's working on a report that will go up after this and will note Watada but, just a reminder, a pre-trial hearing is set for January and the court-martial is set to begin February 5th. Resistance will end the war, within the military and outside of it. People need to be using their voices and when they do, they need indepdent media to amplify them so that the word get outs. That's true when it's Medea Benjamin and CODEPINK taking a stand, it's true when it's someone within the military taking a stand. The war drags on otherwise.

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 2848. Right now? 2867. Nineteen more in eight days. While the war drags on, the bodycount goes up. As Alieen Alfandary noted today on KPFA's The Morning Show, number of Iraqis killed in November (1370) thus far has already surpassed October' s toll (1,216). These are reported deaths (as Sandra Lupien noted on The KPFA Evening News today. These are not all the deaths, all the deaths do not get reported.

When the 'cakewalk' started there were those who were okay with a few deaths (on either side) because they bought the lie of the cakewalk. With over 655,000 Iraqis estimated to have died in the illegal war and with the US military toll (of those who died on the ground in Iraq) edging closer to 2900, have we reached the magic number or are we even close?

As the fatalities and abuses continued to pile up in Vietnam, the American people didn't just grow weary, they increased their activism. Vietnam? Billie notes Danny Schechter's "Bombing In Hanoi : Apocalypse Now 2" (News Dissector):

Two earlier U.S. Presidents bombed Hanoi. The current one bombed in it.
It was hard not to think of Vietnam this past weekend, with the head of the Bush League in Hanoi being photographed under a picture of Ho Chi Minh. Talk about sacrilege. "The Decider," of course, denies any link between the war we fought and lost there to the war we are fighting and losing in Iraq today. Amazingly, he told the Vietnamese that the lesson of that war for him (war he avoided and evaded), was that we didn’t fight to the finish, asserting that in Iraq "we will succeed unless we quit."
Mike Littwin of the Rocky Mountain News said dismissively that that "sounds like stay-the-course-plus" adding some are already calling it "the Quagmire Redux Tour." Artists of the Hanoi National Conservatory performed the symphony Tro Ve Dat Me (Return to Motherland) composed by late musician Nguyen Van Thuong, known for songs of the South Vietnam Liberation.
A Vietnamese friend shared a comment with me from a colleague in Hanoi:
"Bush's visit has been an embarrassment for everyone. Within a few hours of his arrival he was asked about Iraq, and he said that the U.S. would have won in Vietnam if we had "stayed the course" and let "The Generals" fight the war..... His audience was dismayed. The guy is obviously on some heavy meds.”
Clearly he has no idea of what happened in Vietnam, and that the US did not have the option or the ability to stay, as everyone who remembers that mad dash from the roof of the Embassy in former Saigon to that Navy battle group in the South China sea knows. How pathetic.
“History has a long march to it,” he then said, mimicking Mao when he arrived "in-country," as US soldiers used to say when they were in "the Nam," even after his White House misidentified the country's red flag on the White House web site, not a place you would ever turn for accurate information anyway. He also traveled there after members of his own party vetoed a bill encouraging trade between our two countries. Supposedly Bush favored the bill but couldn't get it passed. What a further embarrassment.

Staying on the topic of what we can learn from the past (or can't, in Bully Boy's case), Cindy noted Juan Espinoza's "Vietnamization Didn't Work Then, Won't Work Now" (Pueblo Chieftain Online via Common Dreams) where a gift of There But For Fortune (Phil Ochs collection) leads Espinoza to compare then and now:

I remembered the last years of the Vietnam War and talk of Vietnamization - the notion that the U.S. could pull out of Vietnam as soon as the South Vietnamese Army was able on its own to stand up to the North Vietnamese regulars. Meanwhile, talk radio hosts were ranting on about how that now the Democrats had control of both houses of Congress, Bush's "Stay the course" policy would be traded for one of "Cut and run."
Since the election, there has been considerable rhetoric about pulling out of Iraq. President Bush wants to stay until we "win." Even the Democrats are saying that though many were opposed to the war in the first place, they can't now in good conscious abandon our allies on Iraq. In the absence of U.S. troops, the country would become enmeshed in an inevitable civil war, they say.
Like in Vietnam, as a nation we're determined to stay until the new Democratic government of Iraq can stand on its own and put down the insurgents. Since all the kings horses and all the kings men haven't been successful in putting down the Iraqi insurgents on our watch, I doubt that anytime in the near future the propped-up government of Iraq will ever win that fight on its own.

And today in Iraq? Well, there's the attempt by puppets of the puppet to attempt to wound the Muslim Scholar Association by attacking Harith al-Dhari. On that topic, Craig notes Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily's "Support Gathers for Sunni Leader" (IPS):

The arrest warrant issued last week by the Iraqi government for Sunni leader Dr. Harith al-Dhari has sent shockwaves through the government, and galvanised much of the Sunni population.
Iraq's minister for the interior Jawad al-Bolani told reporters that al-Dhari was wanted for inciting terrorism and violence. At the same time, Vice-President Tariq al-Hashimi said the warrant was "destructive to the national reconciliation plan."
Sixty-five-year-old Harith al-Dhari heads the influential Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), the leading Sunni religious leadership of Iraq. Al-Dhari is currently in Jordan; he left Iraq five months back for fear of personal safety. The AMS is known to have contacts with the Iraqi resistance, and has been opposed to the U.S. occupation and the U.S.-backed Iraqi government.
AMS has refused to participate in any political activity under the occupation, and has insisted on withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq so that elections and other activities would be "honest and transparent."
Al-Dhari denounced the warrant for his arrest as "proof of the failure and confusion of the Iraqi government," and suggested that Shia ministers were attempting to divert attention from security scandals that showed links between the militias and police.
The Shia-dominated government is seen by Sunnis as responsible for widespread killing of Sunnis through its 'death squads'. Shias are the second largest denomination among Muslims, who believe that Prophet Muhammad's teachings were best propagated by his cousin Ali rather than a caliphate as believed by Sunnis. In Iraq Shias form about 60 percent of the population of 25 million. The minority Sunnis had been dominant under the regime of Saddam Hussain, a Sunni Muslim.

There's also the dance that politicians are doing currently to try to show some semblance of having heard the will of the people (in all countries). On that, the last word gets to be Pru's highlight, "Bush humiliated in US elections -- now get the troops out" (Great Britain's The Socialist Worker):

Suddenly, debate on both sides of the Atlantic centres on what was once seen as impossible – withdrawal of US and British forces from Iraq.
Just two of the key architects of the Iraq war -- George Bush and Tony Blair -- remain in office. Both are yesterday's men.
In 24 hours last week, Bush lost control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and had to say goodbye to his hardline defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
For months, as the death rate in Iraq soared, Bush and Blair repeated their mantra that they would "stay the course" and maintain the occupation.
Now their tune has changed radically.
Bush claims that he is awaiting the Iraq Study Group's report on the way ahead for the US in Iraq, expected early next year.
Blair appeared before the Study Group on Tuesday of this week.
While his whips dragooned Labour MPs through the lobbies to vote down any inquiry into the war in Britain, the Washington Post reported that he "has been anxious to talk to the panel" in the US.
The Study Group is led by former US secretary of state James Baker, who served both Ronald Reagan and George Bush senior, and the Democrat Lee Hamilton, who is a member of Bush's Homeland Security Advisory Council.
The rest of the group is made up of Washington insiders.
Nonetheless, Bush's interest in the Study Group's findings marks a major shift.
The hardcore neoconservatives with whom Bush surrounded himself are being sidelined in favour of traditional, mainstream Republicans.
Baker, like Blair, has openly suggested seeking Iran's help in policing the Iraqi resistance.
It is widely believed that the Study Group is considering three options for the US presence in Iraq -- staying the course, setting a date for pulling out or partial withdrawal leaving US forces in permanent bases in Iraq and neighbouring states. The overriding concern of the US establishment is to avoid the humiliation that followed the US's defeat in Vietnam.
For the majority at the bottom of US society the priority is to end the increasingly bloody occupation. The Democrats secured their poll success on the back of mushrooming opposition to the Iraq war.
But they are deeply divided on Iraq.
Many parade their desire for a bipartisan policy with Bush. Some talk of a pull out beginning in six months, other in 18 months. Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton wants to commit more US troops.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the new speaker of congress, Nancy Pelosi, "is privately trying to insist that liberals damp down expectations of getting out of Iraq now. Democratic allies in the House say she wouldn't do anything to jeopardise the new recruits’ electoral future, and by extension Democrats’ newfound power."
The key concern of Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and other leading Democrats is to readjust to limit US losses in the Middle East, but maintain a grip on the region.
However, the debate on withdrawal from Iraq is now out in the open. That is to the credit of the global anti-war movement on both sides of the Atlantic.
Over the coming weeks, we need to mobilise to get US and British troops out of Iraq, with no delay.
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