Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, November 14, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, another mass kidnapping rocks Baghdad, Ramadi's under attack, Donald Rumsfled learns it's not a lot of fun to be seen as a war criminal (Kissinger makes it look so much easier!), and press estimates say "at least 82 people" have died from violence in Iraq today.

Starting with KPFA's Flashpoints on Monday, Nora Barrows Friedman interviewed activist, journalist, author and vet Mike Ferner.

Nora Barrows Friedman: Mike, as a veteran, what can you say about the growing momentum of combat of soldiers who are starting to organize and are refusing to serve, refusing to go to Iraq and fight Bush's illegal war?

Mike Ferner: "I think it's one of the best developments we've seen happen. I hope it increases exponentially. And I hope hundreds and hundreds of soldiers will take a look at their comrades who are doing this and say: 'That's something I should seriously think about.' I hope that we get large numbers of these soldiers just plain refusing to be deployed. If they're thinking about doing it, they need to call the G.I. Rights Hotline [(800) 394-9544; outside the US, (510) 465-1472 -- additional numbers are at the site], the need to seriously considering doing it prior to being deployed because once you're there [Iraq] it's far more difficult. But I would love to see whole companies and battalions of people just sit down and refuse to board that plane to be taken back to Iraq. I got out of the Navy as a Const. Objector during the Vietnam war and at some point you just have to look into your heart and ask can i continue to do this and can I live with myself given the culpability that I'm going to have given that I'm following the orders of a government engaged in an illegal war."

War resisters? Has independent media bothered to note, forget cover, that Ehren Watada will be court-martialed? No. D.D. Delaney (Port Folio Weekly) reports that Watada is facing up to "eight-and-a-half years in prison for the charges the Army has brought" against him. Meanwhile another war resister, Mark Wilkerson, who awaits word on what the military intends to do with his case, notes e.e. cummings' "I Sing of Olaf Glad and Big" -- a poem about a man "whose warmest heart recoiled at war; a conscientiour object-or". Wilkerson served one tour in Iraq and then applied for conscientious objector status only to see that denied. Following the denial, Wilkerson self-checked out for a year-and-a-half before announcing August 31st that he was turning himself in. As Wilkerson told
Dennis Bernstein on KPFA's Flashpoints August 31st, when his c.o. status was denied, he at first prepared a rebuttal but was told it would be shelved until he returned from his second deployment to Iraq. In an echo of Mike Lerner's comments yesterday, Wilkerson told Bernstein August 31st, "I completely stand by my decision. For me this was a time in my life when I decided I had to make a stand regardless of whether [it meant] prison or death".

While many avert their eyes, the war drags on. Today in Baghdad, another mass kidnapping -- the sheer number of those kidnapped may generate some interest. Most press estimates agree to at least 100 and many go with 150. (Christopher Bodeen of AP goes with 130 based upon a later statement by the Health Education Ministry.) CBS and AP note: "CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports . . . that about 80 men in some kind of Iraqi police uniforms surrounded the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education building in broad daylight and then fanned out inside the building, according to witnesses. The abductors then led the men and women captives out of the building to waiting pickup trucks and left the area, all before the real Iraqi police showed up." Pedistrians outside were encourage to clear the streets, inside the four story building, women and men were separated with the women locked in a room and only the men apparently kidnapped by people claiming to be with the Iraq Public Integrity Commission (which does not exist). What appears to be blood was noted on the floor of an entryway, phone receivers were ripped from phones, ashtrays knocked over. CNN reports that a witness "saw the gunmen check identity cards, pick out Sunni employees, including a man 'who was just delivering tea'." Sam Knight (Times of London) reports that the kidnappers used "around 40 new camouflaged pick-up vehicles" and "[a]round 80 gunmen dressed as police commandos" were involved. Whether or not they were part of the Iraqi police force has not been established.

AFP reports that "five police commanders" have been arrested and quotes Major General Abdel Karim Khalaf stating that they "should be held responsible." Reuters quotes a civil servant who witnessed the mass abductions stating that, while this was going on, "I saw two police patrols watching, doing nothing." Christopher Bodeen (AP) reports that "the commander of the police brigade in charge of the area and three other officers" were also "taken into custody." Reuters also quotes the minister of Higher Education, Abd Dhiab, who states: "As far as we know, this area is full of police and Defence Ministry checkpoints and we know police vehicles followed the kidnappers to a specific area and after that we don't know what happened." The New York Times notes that: "After the kidnappings, the minister of higher education, Abdel Salam Thiab, a Sunni, rushed to Parliament, where he interrupted a national televised session to denounce the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite, for rebuffing repeated requests for improved security." CNN rounds that out: "Al-Ajili said he had sent a letter to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki last week, asking for better protection for universities and education buildings. The defense and interiour ministers had rejected earlier requests for 800 university guards, he said."

Reuters notes the targeting of educators since the beginning of the illegal war as well as this: "Just this month, Jasim al-Thahabi, the dean of Baghdad's University's Administration and Economics, was killed with his wife and son in a drive-by shooting." That was November 2nd and AP estimated he was at least the 155th educator killed since the start of the illegal war.

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reports that Ramadi was attacked yesterday by US forces who "destroyed several houses in an attack on al-Dhubat district" and quotes Dr. Abdullah Salih, of a hospital in Ramadi stating that 35 corpses had been brought in. Though military flacks played dumb when asked for a quote by news services, they later issued their own statement that 11 'insurgent' were killed in Ramadi where alleged 'insurgents' allegedly intended to plant alleged explosive devices and later they observed more alleged 'insurgents' allegedly planting more alleged explosive devices but "Coalition Forces have conducted no air strikes in the vicinity of these events today."


Al Jazeera notes a car bombing in west Baghdad which took three lives and wounded seven people. Reuters notes a mortar attack that left six injured and four dead in al-Zuhur, a bus station bombing in Baghdad that wounded ten and left two dead, a car bombing in central Baghdad which killed 10 and injured 25, and a car bombing in Tikrit that left ten wounded. Christopher Bodeen (AP) reports a car bomb in "along a highway linking downtown Baghdad with the Shiite slum of Sadr City" left 21 killed and 25 injured and threw Mohammed Ali "from his motor cycle" as he was attempting to drive home after work -- Ali states: "I could see people on fire. We tried to rescue some women from a minibus, but they died in our arms."


Al Jazeera notes an ambush near the Iranian border that left seven people in a mini-bus dead and two others wounded while two police officers were shot dead in Diyala.


Reuters reports ten corpses were discovered in Baquba ("bound, blindfolded . . . gunshot wounds").

In addition, the British military has released the names of the four soldiers who died Sunday in Basra while on boat patrol: Jason Hylton (father of two, 33 y.o.), Ben Nowak (27 y.o.), Lee Hopkins (35 y.o.) and Sharron Elliott (34 y.o.). Reuters notes that Elliott is "the second British female servicewoman to die in action."

Returning to Nora Barrows Friedman's interview with Mike Ferner on KPFA's Flashpoints yesterday (this is the segment Rebecca was noting last night), the two of them spoke of Abu Sifa, which is near Balad, and what was taking place there as it was under the supervision of the US army's Fourth Infantry Division. Shortly before Ferner arrived (about six weeks), 80 males, of various ages, had been rounded up and taken away. Following that . . .

Mike Ferner: The army came again late one night with the Bradley fighting vehicle and just emptied the few remaining residents in this one particular house and just blew the hell out of it. And did that again a few days later. So when I was visiting the . . . interviewing some of the army troops it was from that very same batallion. and luckily I was able to have interviewed the iraqis so i had times and dates and names and all the details. And I asked Lt. Col Nathan Sassaman, who was the battalion commander, "What's the deal? How come you guys came and rounded up everybody in this village and you're only looking for one person?" And he said, "Yeah, we got him." And I said, "Yeah, I know. You took eighty-some --" He said, "Well it wasn't 80, it was 76." And I said, "Well, okay, whatever the number was." He said, "Well we found weapons buried in the surrounding fields there and these were all suspected terrorists." Including a couple of very elderly men that had to be helped into the truck and young teenagers and so forth. And I said, "Well then how come you came back a few days later and blew up this one house?" He said, "Well we had been getting mortar fire from that area and we wanted to send them a message." And I said, "Well what about -- came back a few days later and did the same thing?" He said, "Well they continued mortaring our base." Well this is a direct violation of the Geneva Convention. It's called Collective punishment and because you're getting mortar fire from one area, most of the time you don't know exactly where it's coming from, and uh to go into a village and just blow up a couple of houses to try to teach them a lesson is a war crimes. The American soldiers that were there told these folks, "We'll make this place look like the moon and you'll never be able to grow anything here again." If that isn't terrorism, I don't know what is. It was not even tried to be denied by the US Army officers that were repsonsible for it. So you start multiply this, over and over again and around the country. And it should be no surprise to anybody that we're not welcome there and that there's a violent armed resistance to our presence that's going to continue until we leave.

Fener's new book is entitled Inside the Red Zone and he'll be at Spritzers, 734 Central Ave., Alameda, CA on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.

Before moving on to another topic, let's note that Nathan Sassaman expressed shock at another event (assault on Iraqis through the use of the Tigris River leading to one death). It would be so bad that the New York Times' Dexy Filkins, who spent a great deal of time with Sassaman (apparently in sleep quarters -- Dexy: "He never took his boots off" -- embedded much?) would later write of him in "The Fall of the Warrior King" (New York Times). Dexy went far back with Sassaman as Ira Chernus noted. In the 'Warrior King' piece, as Ty noted, Dexy's question of "Where is the line?" could apply to his own 'reporting' which addresses Sassaman ordering the destruction of homes and Dexy terming those sort of actions 'non-lethal force.'

In Germany, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the International Federation for Human Rights, the Republican Attorneys' Association, et al. have filed their criminal complaint against Donald Rumsfeld and others because "[f]rom Donald Rumsfeld, go down, the political and military leaders in charge of ordering, allowing and implementing abusive interrogations techniques in the context of the 'War on Terror' since September 11, 2001 must be investigated and held accountable." That includes then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee, John Yoo, George Tenet, Ricardo Sanchez, David S. Addington and William James Haynes Jr. CCR notes, "The complaint is being filed under the Code of Crimes against International Law (CCIL), enacted by Germany in compliance with the Rome Statute creating the International Criminal court in 2002, which Germany ratified. It enables the German Federal Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute crimes constituting a violation of the CCIL, irrespective of the location of the defendant or plantiff, the place where the crime was carried out." CCR has set up a page at their website which focuses on this criminal complaint. AFP reports: "A key witness for the bid to put Rumsfeld and others on trial in Germany is the former commander of US prisons in Iraq, Brig. General Janis Karpinski, who alleges she was made a scapegoat for the Abu Ghraib scandal." Michael Ratner (president of the Center for Constitutional Rights) tells Germany's Der Spiegel, "These crimes are not the work of a few bad apples. They were planned and executed at the highest levels of the US government." Der Spiegel notes, "It's been a bad few days for former United States secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld."

In other legal news, CBS and AP report that the Pendleton Eight now has four agreeing to plea bargain with Jerry E. Shumate Jr. becoming the latest to cop a deal in the April death of Hashim Ibrahim Awad in Hamdania. Schumate's attorney, Steve Immel, tells The Seattle Times that Shumate has admitted to the crime of kidnapping an Iraqi but that he thought it was an 'insurgent' until Awad was dead. The other three who have entered into plea bargains are Melson J. Bacos, John Jodka III and Tyler A. Jackson.

Finally, Ehren Watada's father, Bob Watada, and his step-mother, Rosa Sakanishi, continue their speaking tour to raise awareness on Ehren but that tour is winding down. It ends on the 17th (Joan noted Sunday that there's an event in Honolulu on Sunday). and then they'll be in Hawaii preparing for the court-martial. In addition, Ehren's mother Carolyn Ho has also been speaking out. The US military announced Thursday that they were planning to court-martial Ehren Watada. Those interested in catching the speaking tour, a full schedule can be found here, will need to grab the final dates which include:

Nov 14, TBA St. Louis, Mo. Location: Friends Meeting House, 1001 Park Avenue Sponsors: Veterans for Peace Chapter 161, 314-754-2651Contact: Chuc Smith, 314-721-1814, vfpch61@riseup.netiraq

Nov. 15, Norfolk, VA, Location: Norfolk/Virginia Beach, 40th Street Stage, 809 W 40th St (corner 40th St and Colley Ave -- across from Felini's), Sponsors: Veterans For Peace National In Affiliation with the Norfolk Catholic Worker, Local members of VFP, Military Families Speak Out, and the Active Duty Military Project, Contacts: Tom Palumbo, DissentingSoldier@Yahoo.Com, 757-470-9797, Ann Williams, 703-867-2174
Nov 16, Noon, Asheville, NC, Location: TBA -- Media Conference, Sponsor: Veterans For Peace Chapter 99, Contact: Tim Pluta, 828-645-1717, timpluta@hotmail.com
Nov 16, 2PM, Asheville, NC, Location: Mars Hill College -- Class Presentation
Sponsor: Veterans For Peace Chapter 99, Contact: Tim Pluta, 828-645-1717, timpluta@hotmail.com
Nov 16, 7PM, Asheville, NC, Location: University of North Carolina -- Public Presentation, Sponsor: Veterans For Peace Chapter 99, Contact: Tim Pluta, 828-645-1717, timpluta@hotmail.com , Lyle Peterson, 828-206-0245, Ahmad Daniels, War Resister Vietnam Era (appears in "Sir, No Sir!"), Mark Gibney Human Rights, International & Constitutional Law, Law, Ethics and Public Policy
Nov 17, 11:00AM, Asheville, NC, Location: Warren Wilson College, Sponsor: Veterans For Peace Chapter 99, Contact: Tim Pluta, 828-645-1717, timpluta@hotmail.com, Lyle Peterson, 828-206-0245, Professor Paul Magnarella (Peace Studies, Warren Wilson College)
Nov 17, 7PM, Atlanta, GA, Location: The First Iconium Baptist Church, Sponsor: Veterans For Peace Chapter 125, The Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition/Atlanta, Atlanta WAND, Contact: Debra Clark, 770-855-6163, dclark@antiwar.com

Cheap Talk? Check out Yahoo! Messenger's low PC-to-Phone call rates.