Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, November 21, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq; Syria, Iraq and,yes, Iran prepare for a weekend summit; US war resister Agustin Aguayo's case lands in court; a new poll finds Shia and Sunnis in Iraq agreeing: US troops out of their country; and Kofi Annan sings a little Jimmy Cliff.

Starting with Agustin Aguayo. On September 2nd, Aguayo self-checked out of the US military after his repeated attempts to obtain conscientious objector status failed (2004), after his attempts to address the matter in the US federal courts failed (August 24, 2006) and while he was about to be sent back to Iraq. While serving in Iraq, as a medic, previously, Aguayo was confronted with the realities and decided that, due to moral and religious reasons, he could not serve in the illegal war. Helga Aguayo, Agustin's wife, explained to Mimi Mohammed (Los Angelest Times): "My husband has never broken a law and I am proud of him. He doesn't want to support the war -- he cannot do so conscientisouly. He is a conscientious objector, but the Army forced him to become a resister." On September 26th, less than thirty days after self-checking out, Aguayo turned himself at Fort Irwin. Though Fort Irwin is in California, Aguayo's wife and two daughters were not allowed to see him and the military quickly sent him back overseas to Germany.

On yesterday's The KPFA Evening News, Aaron Glantz reported on Aguayo's case which landed in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. -- the first "for a federal court since 1971." Glantz spoke with Vietnam war resister and author David Cortright (Soldiers in Revolt: The American Military Today) and Cortright noted the similarities between then and now: the "transferring . . . to other bases" and the fact that such transfers put them in contact with "other soldiers who were opposed".

Kevin Dougherty (Stars and Stripes) reported that the court schedule for today would "considst of just oral arguments. Each side has been alotted 15 minutes to articulate their case." Today, Glantz reports (at OneWorld) on the above and notes Aguayo's beliefs: "By doing guard duty, appearing to be armed, even without bullets, I gave the false impression that I would kill if need be. I am not willing to live a lie to satisfy any deployment operation. By helping countless soldiers for 'sick-call' as well as driving soldiers around on patrols I helped them get physcially better and be able to go out and do the very thing I am against -- kill. This is something my conscience will not allow me to do."

Matt Apuzzo (AP) reports: "Judge A. Raymond Randolph, one of the three judges on the case, said he'd been reading up on the Vietnam appeals and asked how the case differs from those filed decades ago by people who realized their opposition to war only after receiving a draft card. Attorney Peter Goldberger said the Aguayo's beliefs evolved over time and 'crystalized' to the point that he could no longer take a life." Joel Seidman (NBC News) notes that "Aguayo has unsuccessfully fought the Pentagon for more than two years to be declared a conscientious objector and win a discharge."

In his court statement, Agustin notes: "And even if I truly had non-combatant status, I have been to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom II, and I know what to expect. I know what will be expected of me. And because of this first-hand knowledge, I simply cannot take part in this deployment. Some people might think that a fear of death is the number one reason for refusing to deploy. But that is not correct. I have to be true to myself and do what is right. Even though I deployed as a non-combatant in 2004-05 I still carry guilt from my participation . . . When you know better you do better. Therefore, this time I will not deploy. My conscientious objection applies to all forms and aspects of war. . . I have come to believe and understand that the purpose of our existence on earth is to value, cherish and conserve the miracle that is human life. To do so one must show each and every day through actions that nothing is of greater importance than the conservation of life. . . . I have made my choice for peace, for humanity, and for a better tomorrow. Even though I understand that one of the consequences of refusing to deploy may possibly be a trial by court-martial and even my imprisonment, I cannot and will not deploy."


CNN reports: "A decoy vehicle used in a convoy of the Iraqi parlaiment speaker exploded Tuesday inside the heavily fortified Green Zone while parliament was in session, a parliament information officer said. The vehicle, part of Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani's convoy, was damaged when explosives placed under the rear right side of it exploded in a parking lot, the officer said. One of the drivers was slightly wounded."

Reuters notes a roadside bomb in Baghdad that left nine wounded and a car bomb in Baghdad that took one life and left six wounded.

A US raid in the Sadr City section of Baghdad resulted in deaths. Xinhua notes this was the third day in a row that US and Iraqi forces had "raided the Shiite slum". An early AP report by Thomas Wagner cited Mohammed Ismail ("Police Capt.") who "said a young boy and two other people were killed in the early morning raid and 15 people were wounded. Several houses were damaged." The US military has claimed that they are after a "cell [which] has more than 30 members" which apparently includes the young boy? CNN notes that "a mother and her 8-month-old child" were also killed and puts the wounded at 18.
Bassem Mroue (AP) reports that Shi'ite legislator Saleh al-Ukailli held "the body of the dead child* outside the hospital morgue and angrily condemned Iraq's government for allowing such attacks" while vowing not to "return to parliament until the occupation troops leave the country." [*When this was Thomas Wagner's article, it made sense. If you use the link, a whole chunk of it is gone. Including the paragraph that was before, the one on Mohammed Ismail.]


Reuters notes the shooting death of a police officer in Hawija, the shooting death of of another police officer in Mosul, and the shooting death of "Ali al-Shimari, the mayor of the town of Hibhib, near Baquba".


CBS and AP report that 24 corpses were discovered in Baghdad and Dujail.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the International Organisation for Migration has found (no surprise) that the at risk groups in Iraq of being left homeless and hungry are : "[s]ingle women, children and the old and sick" with "children . . . especially vulnerable to malnutrition and spread of disease." The United Nations Refugee agency (UNHCR) estimates that "at least 1.6 million Iraqis" are now displaced within Iraq.

This comes as the United Nations Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) reports: "Heavy rains, thunderstorms and enormous mudlsides in Iraq's northern Kurdish region have submerged vast areas and made nearly 3,000 families homeless, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) said on Tuesday."

For all the above and so much more, it should come as little surprise that the Iraqi people still want US forces out of their country. Editor & Publisher notes the latest polling which "found that 74% of Shiites and 91$ of Sunnis in Iraq want us to leave within a year. The number of Shiites making this call in Baghdad where the U.S. may send more troops to bring order, is even higher (80%). In contrast, earlier this year, 57% of this same group backed an 'open-ended' U.S. stay." Of course, "earlier this year," was prior to the 'crackdown' that only increased the chaos and violence in Baghdad. From World Public Opinion's poll summary: "An analysis of two nationwide polls taken by World Public Opinion.org in Iraq over the past year reveals both a heightened sense of insecurity in Baghdad, which is suffering from a wave of shootings, kidnappings and bombings, and an increasing desire to place some time limit on the presence of foreign troops. Unlike Shias elsewhere, those living in the capital do not favor disarming the militias. Eight out of ten Shias in Baghdad (80%) say they want foreign forces to leave within a year (72% of Shias in the rest of the country), according to a poll conducted by World Public Opinion in September. None of the Shias polled in Baghdad want U.S.-led troops to be reduced only 'as the security situation improves,' a sharp decline from January, when 57 percent of the Shias polled by WPO in the capital city preferred an open-ended U.S presence."

Meanwhile, a summit is expected for this weekend. As CNN notes, "Syria cut diplomatic ties with Iraq in 1982." They have restored ties and an summit is scheduled this weekend, in Tehran, for leadership from Iraq, Syria and Iran. CBS and AP note Hoshyar Zebari (Foreign Minister of Iraq) declared, "Iraq's flag will fly in the sky of Damascus and Syria's flag will fly in the sky of Baghdad." Jonathan Steele (Guardian of London) reports that Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will meet with Bashar al-Assad (president of Syria) and Jalal Talabani (president of Iraq).

At the start of the month, puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki, demonstrated that there was no freedom of the press (one of the points in the four-point 'plan' that the media avoided covering) by shutting down two television stations. As Riverbend (Baghdad Burning) reported, the crimes of Salahiddin and Zarwra was "showing the pro-Saddam demonstrations." And how's that working out for the puppet? Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that the latter is back on air, in spite of al-Maliki: "Al-Zawraa's ability to broadcast round the clock in defiance of the government is yet another example of the increasing technological prowess of insurgents and their supporters." Now beamed in from Egypt, Mishaan al-Jubouri tells Allam, "When we were broadcasting in public from inside Iraq, we had to respect Iraqi law. But when the Iraqi government broke the law and closed the channel for no legitimate reason, they turned us into a channel that broadcasts in secrecy."

So the puppet can't improve things. Can anyone?

Seems like I've
been sleeping in
your bed toolong
Seems like you've
been meaning to
do me harm
But I'll teach my
eyes to see
Beyond these
walls in front of me
Someday I'll walk
out of here again
Someday I'll walk
out of here again
Ooh yeah
Ooh Yeah
Ooh Yeah
Ooh Yeah

Who knew Kofi Annan (UN Secretary General) was a Jimmy Cliff fan? He might as well have been singing Jimmy Cliff's song when asked today what he thought of Tony Blair's agreement to the description of "disaster" applied to Iraq?

Kofi Annan: The US in a way is trapped in Iraq, trapped in the sense that it cannot stay and it cannot leave. There are those who maintain that its presence is a problem, and there are those who say that if they leave precipitously, the situation would get worse, and that they should stay on to help calm and stabilize the situation before they leave. I think the US obviously will have to think through this very, very carefully, but the timing of its departure will have to be optimal in the sense that it should not lead to further deterioration of the situation but try and get it into a level that when it leaves, when it withdraws, the Iraqis themselves will be able to continue to maintain a situation that would ensure a reasonable secure environment.

Meanwhile, in legal news from the United States, the Pendleton Eight is now four-to-four. The eight (one sailor, seven marines) are accused in the April 26th death of Iraqi Hashim Ibrhaim Awad in Hamdania. They are alleged to have kidnapped him from his home (when, supposedly, they couldn't find the person they -- not the military, they -- were after), killing him and then attempting to paint the grandfather as an "insurgent." AP reports that Jerry E. Shumate Jr. "has agreed to plead guilty to lesser charges . . . of aggravated assault and conspiracy to obstruct justice". Mark Walker (North County Times) notes that the other three to plead guilty Tyler Jackson, John Jodka III and Melson Bacos. The remaining four are Lawrence G. Hutchins III, Trent D. Thomas and Marshall L. Magincalda.

Also in the US, Eric Lichtblau and Mark Mazzetti (New York Times) report on "an anti-terrorist database used by the Defense Department" that was used to track and spy on peace "meetings held at churches, libraries, college campuses and other locations". As Mike noted yesterday (Mikey Likes It!), WBAI's Law and Disorder is doing a four-part series on the police state and, in the most recent installment, they spoke with Konstanty Hordynski of Students Against the War (UC Santa Cruz) whose group was among those spied on by the government. The illegal spying hasn't stopped others from speaking out against the war (or stopped Hordynski or Students Against the War). David H. Price (CounterPunch) reports on the most recent group to approve "resolutions condemning the occupation of Iraq and the use of torture": the American Anthropological Association.

As the calls for the war to end increase all over the world, the dangerous at any location, Bully Boy was in Hawaii today. CNN notes that "three poplice motorcycles excorting his motorcade crashed on slick pavement and rolled onto a grassy median" -- one is in serious condition, one in stable condition and no word on the third. Wait, there's more. AP reports that Greg Pitts ("acting director of the White House Travel Office") left Bobby G's Dance Club (Waikiki) at two a.m. (just when the Tru Rebels were winding down) and "was robbed and beaten". Dawg House and Coconut Willie's are so close by. But they do have the Monday night jello shots for a buck.

Turning to news of passings. The BBC reports on the funeral for Walid Hassan, sketch comedy star of the Iraqi TV show Caricature, who was shot dead Monday in Baghdad: "Mr Hassan's coffin was tied to the top of a taxi for the 160km (100 mile) journey from Baghdad to the Shia holy city of Najaf." Meanwhile director Robert Altman (Nashville, M*A*S*H, Short Cuts, The Player, Gosford Park, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Long Goodbye, and more) passed away Monday. The 81-year-old Altman was a vocal opponent of the illegal war singing on to the Not In Our Name petition in the fall of 2002 and continuing to speak his mind including while up for an Oscar (Best Director) for Gosford Park in 2003 when he stated "This present government in America I just find disgusting, the idea that George Bush could run a baseball team successfully -- he can't even speak!"

jane cutter
agustin aguayo
the los angeles times
mima mohammed
aaron glantz
the kpfa evening news
law and disorder
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