Monday, November 20, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Monday, November 20, 2006.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, Ehren Watada's court-martial gets a start date, talk of returning to a draft in the United States, the US military announces more deaths, Bully Boy finds that he's as unpopular in in Indonesia as he is elsewhere, a new military review quickly dispenses any hopes of the illegal war coming to an end, and the November death toll for Iraqis has already surpassed October's toll.
Starting with US war resister Ehren Watada.  In June, Lt. Watada went public with his decision to refuse to deploy to Iraq thereby becoming the first commissioned officer to publicly say no to the illegal war.  In August, an Article 32 hearing was held.  The US military announced August 24th that the recommandation by the hearing's presiding officer, Lt. Colonel Mark Keith, was to court-martial Watada. Thursday, November 9th, as noted on that day's broadcast of The KPFA Evening News, the Army announced it would court-martial Watada. As Gregg Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) reported then, no date had been set but Eric Seitz, the civilian attorney representing Watada, expected the court-martial would be held in 2007.  Today, Robert Shikina (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) reports "that Watada's pretrial hering is set for Jan. 4, with the court-martial beginning Feb. 5."
Sunday, the Japanese American Citizens League, Honolulu Chapter, held an symposium
at the University of Hawaii on Watada's decision to refuse to fight in an illegal war.  Bob Watada, father of Ehrne, Jon Van Dyke (of the University of Hawaii Richardson School of Law) and attorney Eric Seitz.  Robert Shikina reports that letter from Carolyn Ho, Ehren's mother, was read to those attending: "For some elected officials to claim that this is beyond their purview and Lt. Watada is courageous but should take the consequences for his decision is an outright evasion of responsibility and lack of moral courage."  On the same event, Derrick DePledge (Honolulu Advertiser) reports: "Van Dyke and Seitz say the war is illegal under United Nations charter and that Watada was right not to deploy on moral grounds.  The U.S., in its justification for war, alleged that Iraq had failed to comply with U. N. disarmament resolutions.  The U.S. and its allies discussed a new resolution on the war with the other nations on the U.N. Security Council, but when diplomacy stalled, determined that a new resolution was not required before the 2003 invasion. 'This war cannot be justified -- logically or factually or legally,' Seitz said."  Shikina notes 83-year-old John Masunaga's impressions: "'Ehren's standing up for something we all should have stood up for,' he said, noting the internment of Japanese Americans.  'The Time World War II started, we were trying to prove ourselves good loyal citizens.  Sometimes you have to speak up and try to right some of the wrongs."
At the gathering, Seitz spoke of the efforts to silence Watada.  Tomorrow (Tuesday) at 9 a.m., Ehren Watada will be participating in a "Tele-news Call" along with Seitz and Bob Watada.  More information can be found here. As The Honolulu Advertiser notesEhren Watada could be sentenced to up to six years if convicted in the court martial -- six years in a military prison.
Watada is part of a growing resistance to the war within the military.  Along with Watada, others standing up publicly include Joshua Key, Kyle Snyder, Ivan Brobeck, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Mark Wilkerson, Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Jeremy Hinzman, Corey Glass, Patrick Hart, Joshua Casteel, Clifford Cornell, Agustin Aguayo, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, and Kevin Benderman. And those are only some of the names of those resisting who have gone public.  In addition, over thirty US war resisters are currently in Canada attempting to be legally recognized. It is a movement regardless of how it is covered (or, more often, not covered) and regardless of what the likes of Mommy's Pantyhose may think.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, Soldier Say No! and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Appeal for Redress is collecting signatures of active duty service members calling on Congress to bring the troops home -- the petition will be delivered to Congress in January (on MLK day).  One of those organizing Appeal to Redress, Jonathan Hutto, was interviewed by John Catalinotto (Workers World) and explained, noting the MLK memorial, "I am moved by this, by King taking a place where there are memorials to Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson.  Theirs were dedicated to presidents.  King's is dedicated to justice and peace.  That's the vein in which we want to present this appeal."
In Iraq the violence and the chaos continues.
Reuters reports a car bomb in Ramadi that took two lives (plus the occupant of the car) and left six wounded, three more were wounded in Ramadi from a mortar round, in Mosul three Iraqi soliders were killed and four wounded from a car bomb, a roadside bomb in Iskandariya killed two, a roadside bomb in Baghdad killed three (five more wounded), and a second roadside bomb in Baghdad resulted in no known deaths but left two wounded.
Xinhua reports that two professors were shot dead: Ahmed Hamid al-Taie of the Mosul University (killed in Mosul) and Fulayeh al-Ghurabi of the Babil University (killed in Babil).
Over 155 educators have been targeted in killed in Iraq since the illegal war began.  Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily (IPS) reported on recent attacks and spoke with "an administration manager of a large university in Baghdad" who told them: "Iraqi universities have turned into militia and death squad headquarters. . . Pictures of clerics and sectarian flags all over are not the only problem, but there is the interference of clerics and their followers in everything [and that clerics can] sack teachers and students, forbid certain texts, impose certain uniforms and ever arrest and kill those who belong to other sects or those who object to their behavior."
In other shootings, AFP notes that Baquba was the location for where a police officer was shot dead in front of his house, where another police officer "and his personal driver" were shot dead, where "[s]ix civilians were killed in random gunfire" and where an attack on a police patrol resulted in one death and three injured. CBS and AP report that Walid Hassan was shot to death in Baghdad: "a famous comedian on al-Sharquiya TV . . . had performed in a comedy series called 'Caricature,' which mocked coalition forces and the Iraqi government since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq."  Reuters notes that he was shot three times in the head.
Reuters reports that sixty corpses were found in Baghdad, eight in Tikrit and fourteen "south of Baghdad."

AFP reports that, yesterday in Baghdad, "a health official" was abducted and that the kidnapping was confirmed today.  BBC notes that it is Ammar Al-Saffar who is Iraq's Deputy Health Minister and: "The Iraqi police say several vehicles pulled up outside Mr Al-Saffar's house in a Sunni neighbourhood of northern Baghdad.  Eyewitnesses say they were a mixture of pick-up trucks and police cars.  Mr Al-Saffar was taken away by six men wearing military uniforms and three men in suits."  Al Jazeera notes that Hakim al-Zamily was targeted (al-Zalimy is also a deputy health minister) and reports he stated: "We as health officials have become a target."
On KPFA's The Morning Show today, Alieen Alfandary noted that there have been more than 100 Iraqi deaths since Sunday morning and that toll for November (1370) thus far has already surpassed October's toll (1,216).
The US military announced this morning "One Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 died Sunday from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province" and they announced "A Soldier from 89th Military Police Brigade was killed by injuries sustained when his vehicle struck an Improvised Explosive Device southeastern Baghdad at approximately 8 p.m. Nov. 18."
In Bogor, Indonesia, the BBC reports, Bully Boy's photo op with Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the greeting was "[h]undreds of protestors" voicing their objection the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and carrying wanted posters of the Bully Boy.  The day prior, similar protests took place in Jakarta.  Alexandre Da Silva (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) reports that Bully Boy's next stop is Hickham Air Force Base in Hawaii this evening and "Motorists are warned to avoid any side roads near Hickam and Camp Smith 6 [p.m.] and 8 a.m. tomorrow because of possible delays from road closures".
In other peace news, Karen Dolan (via The Black Agenda Report) reports on the Cities for Peace success in this month's elections where "162 communities in Wisconsin, Illionis and Massachusetts voted on ballot measures calling for the U.S. to end the Iraq war.  In every one of those communities, the measures swept to victory."
That option, ending the war, was considered and dismissed by the Pentagon.  Thomas E. Ricks (Washington Post) reports that the Pentagon has a "closley guarded review" with "three basic options: Send in more troops, shrink the force but stay longer, or pull out".  Ricks notes that 'send more' option isn't an option "the study group . . . concluded that there are not enough troops in the U.S. military and not enough effective Iraqi forces".
The total number of US troops in Iraq? According to CBS' David Martin, not enough and never will be based upon John Abizaid's remarks to the Senate yesterday "But when you look at the overall American force poll that's available out there, the ability to sustain that commitment is simply not something that we have right now with the size of the Army and the Marine Corps." Let that sink in. According to Abizaid, a War Hawk who never met a battlefield he didn't go weak-kneed over, there are not enough available foot soldiers in the US army or members of the Marines to do what Abizaid feels needs to be done in Iraq.
Ricks reports the group favors an approach which "calls for cutting the U.S. combat presence in favor of a long-term expansion of the training and advisory efforts.  Under this mixture of options, which is gaining favor inside the military, the U.S. presence in Iraq, currently about 140,000 troops, would be boosted by 20,000 to 30,000 for a short period, the officials said."
And the withdrawal option?  Off the table. As Reuters notes, "Mr Bush has adamantly opposed setting a specific timetable for withdrawal" or, one could safely note, withdrawal at all since he's bragged that US troops would still be in Iraq after he was out of the White House.
Meanwhile, Kirk Semple (New York Times) reports that Walid al-Moallem, Syria's foreign minister, stated "Sunday that his government was prepared to help stabilize Iraq, and uring a visit . . . [in Iraq] called for a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops, saying that it would help reduce the violence."  As the BBC notes, "Britain's Prime Minister, Tony Blair, recently urged US President Georg W Bush to involve Iraq's neighbours, Syria and Iran, in an effort to stabilise the country."
Blair made headlines this weekend as a result of an interview with David Frost for Al Jazeera TV.  Tim Shipman (Daily Mail) reported: "Challenged by veteran interviewer Sir David Frost that the Western invasion of Iraq has 'so far been pretty much of a disaster,' Mr. Blair said: 'It has'."  Despite that admission, Blair doesn't believe in withdrawal.  Philip Webster (Times of London) notes the admission and ties it with British MP and Blair ally Margaret Hodge's statements last week.  As the Guardian of London noted last week, Hodge stated the illegal war was Tony Blair's "big mistake in foreign affairs" that it was exporting "moral imperialism".
From the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Sunday,  John Howard, who holds the position of prime minister in Australia and also fills in as "joke of the country" just for kicks, weighed in.  Reuters reports that Howard does not agree it's been a "disaster," "tougher," but not a "disaster."  Reuters notes that the "tougher" no "disaster" call by Howard came "on a day [Sunday] in which 50 people have been killed in attacks across Iraq."  Tougher, says Howard, not a disaster. 
He might consider speaking to person Ali Jasim did.  Jasim (Reuters) reports on Abd al-Sattar Obeid who states, "I'm alone now.  I have no sons. . . . Yesterday there was a mourning procession for my son and my brother and his two songs who were killed 40 days ago.  In the evening, during the rites, some gunmen arrived, about 20 of them.  They didn't bother to mask their faces.  They were carrying Kalashnikovs and pistols.  I begged them.  I told them: 'Please don't kill anyone.  We have done nothing.  What have we done to deserve this?'  But they didn't listen to me.  They killed my two other sons and ran." 
"Tougher" says John Howard, not "disaster."
Meanwhile, in the United States, AP reports that War Hawk/War Criminal Henry Kissinger has stated (on the BBC) of the illegal war, "If you mean by 'military victory' an Iraqi government that can be established and whose write runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war under control and sectarian violence under control in a time period that the political processes of the democracies will support, I don't believe that's possible."  For any who fell alseep, Kissinger said "no" to military victory in Iraq.  Australia's ABC reports that Kissinger "says it is now time to start talking to Iran and Syria to find a way out of Iraq."
Does it feel like we just went in a circle?  Back to Iraq and Syria, the puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki, and the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem are meeting and, as Xinhua reports, "discussing a range of issues" And Reuters reports that Iraq's president, Jabal Talabani, is due in Tehran to meet with Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, this weekend. Though Reuters says there's no word on Syria being included, Al Jazeera reports that Syria's president has been invited and quotes Ali al-Adeeb ("legistlator from the governing Dawa party of Nuri al-Maliki") as saying: "All three countries intend to hold a three-way summit among Iraq, Iran and Syria to discuss the security situation and the repercussions for stability of the region."  CNN also reports that the upcoming summit is expected to include Syria.
In US Congressional news, Charles Bibington (Washington Post) reports that Republican Senator John McCain wants "more U.S. troops in Iraq," while Democratic Senator Carl Levin believes "troop withdrawals must begin within four to six months," and Democratic House Rep. Charles Rangel is calling for a return of the draft and told Face the Nation Sunday, "I will be introducing that bill as soon as we start the new session." On CBS' Face the Nation, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham rejected such a notion but stated "I am willing to send more American troops".  Rangel, as host Bob Schieffer pointed out, will chair the House Ways and Means Committee in January.  Schieffer asked Rangel, noting that he had called for it before, if he was serious about bringing back the draft? 
Rangel: You bet your life, underscore serious.  There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft.  And if members of Congress and the administration  thought their kids from their communties would be placed in harm's way. . . .  I will be introducing that bill as soon as we start the new session.
Schieffer: You will, you will introduce that bill?
Rangel: You can depend on that.  I don't see how anyone can support the war and not support the draft.  To do so would be hypocritical.
The AP notes that the incoming (in Jan.) House Speaker, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, knows nothing about the draft proposal and would not support it according to incoming (in Jan.) House Majority Leader, Democrat Steny Hoyer.
Finally, on the topic of 'friendly fire,' on October 6th, an inquest was underway in London into the death of ITN reporter Terry Lloyd in Iraq with witness Nicholas Walshe testifying to seeing Lloyd "shot in the head by US troops as he was driven away from a gunfight."  Walshe was only one of many witnesses.  No US troops participated.  The coroner, Andrew Alker, ruled on October 13th that "Terry Lloyd died following a gunshot wound to the head.  The evidence this bullet was fired by the Americans is overwhelming" (CNN).  Terry Lloyd's daughter Chelsey was quoted by CNN stating: "They did not come to this inquist to explain their actions.  Let them do so in our criminal courts where they are guaranteed to get a fair trial."  David Johnson is the deputy US ambassador to England.  He is apparently overtaxed and heavily burdened.  All the above was over a month ago.  The Guardian of London reports that Johnson has stated that he will pass on "[g]overnment concerns about the failure of US soldiers to attend the inquest of British service personnel killed by so-called friendly fire in Iraq".  Again, one month after the Lloyd inquest issued its findings, the deput US ambassador to England intends to pass on concerns, weeks after the inquest into the deaths of British soldiers Kevin Main and David Williams. 

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