Monday, December 11, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Monday, December 11, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq; as the civil war in Iraq continues, families are forced to flee their homes due to sectarian violence;.in the United States, a verdict is delivered in the trial against Cindy Sheehan, Medea Benjamin, Missy Comley Beattie and Rev. Patti Ackerman; Alive in Baghdad is recognized for its groundbreaking coverage of on the ground reporting from Iraq; and, even when the police circle, US war resister Kyle Snyder continues speaking out.
Starting with news from New York, a verdcit has been announced in the free speech trial.
On March 6th, Patti Ackerman, Missy Comley Beattie, Medea Benjamin and Cindy Sheehan were among 100 women attempting to deliver a petition signed by 72,000 people to the United Nations Mission . The delivery should have taken place with no great stir as it did in 2005. The women had contacted the UN Mission, spoken with Peggy Kerry (sister of US Senator John Kerry) and been told she would accept the petition. Then on March 6th, Peggy Sheehan decided she couldn't stand the sight of peace and Cindy Sheehan or what she termed "the gaggle" of press present accomanying the women so she did what any unhinged, morally corrupt person would do and went back on her word by refusing the petition and calling in law enforcement. Missy Comley Beattie, Cindy Sheehan, Patti Ackerman and Medea Benjamin were arrested and charged with obstructing government business, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and trespassing.
Last week, the trial began on the fourth floor of the 100 Centre Street, Manhattan court room and was most notable for Bitter, Bitter, Bitter, Bitter, Peggy Pooh's court testimony was deemed "combative" by the AP. Clearly the years had not been kind and Pegs Kerry was apparently determined to grab the national attention she'd always courted but never received (for obvious reason). Snarling on the witness stand about how she'd been wronged by not being informed that Cindy Sheehan would be among the women (apparently Pegs allergy to peace requires that every group dropping off a petition provided an active roster of who may or may not be attending), Pegs got her moment and is now dealing with the fallout she never expected -- being the new Bay Buchanan isn't as easy as it looked.
On Friday afternoon, the jury went into deliberations. This morning they returned a verdict.
AP reports the jury dismissed three charges but did convict Medea Benjamin, Patti Ackerman, Cindy Sheehan and Missy Comley Beattie of trespassing. The women were ordered to pay $95 in court costs and could face imprisonment if arrested in the next *6 months.* Bitter, Bitter, Bitter, Bitter Peggy Pooh? She's sentenced herself to her own personal hell and while she attempts to tell friends some sort of "Both Sides Now" excuse the reality is she will continued to be "looking strange" and social pariah is own sentencing.
CNN reports that Cindy Sheehan, Missy Comley Beattie, Patti Ackerman and Medea Benjamin delivered the petition today after they left the court room and it was accepted by
the apparently less pry shy and less peace allergic Pegs and UN Mission director of extermal affairs Richard A. Grenell. CNN quotes Sheehan stating: "We should never have been on trial in the first place. It's George Bush and his cronies who should be on trial, not peaceful women trying to stop this devastating war. This verdict, however, will not stop us from continuing to work tirelessly to bring our troops home."
The petition was calling for an end to the war and as it drags on still, the number of US troops killed in Iraq this month stands at 42. Yesterday, the US military announced: " An improvised explosive device detonated near a Multi-National Division - Baghdad patrol, killing one Soldier west of the Iraqi capital Dec. 10. As the patrol was finishing its early morning security mission west of the city, the roadside bomb detonated killing one Soldier and wounding another." Today, the US military also announced that "A Marine Corps CH-53e Super Stallion helicopter . . . executed a hard landing at approximately 12:00 p.m. . . . in the Al Anbar Province" and "Marines in the area secured the landing site shortly after the" crash landing that left 18 of the 21 on board the helicopter injured "with 9 treated for minor injuries and returned to duty" which translates as nine were injured so badly that they are unable at present to return to duty (but the announcement doesn't translate the obvious). CBS and AP note the crash landing "was the third U.S. military aircraft to go down in the province in two weeks."
US military announced: "An improvised explosive device detonated near a Multi-National Division - Baghdad patrol, killing three Soldiers in the northern part of the Iraqi capital Dec. 10. As the Soldiers conducted a late night combat patrol, the roadside bomb detonated killing three Soldiers and wounding two others." Earlier today, the US military released another statement about an attack on a "Baghdad national police training tream" today which resulted in "the 2nd Brigade, 1st National Police Training Team" requesting "aviation support" who put on "a show of force"
Over 655,000 Iraqis have died in the illegal war and today offered no break from the daily violence and chaos.
CBS and AP report a man with a car bomb used the armed vehicle to attack a house in Dora that was being used by police officers and the explosion killed one police officer and left 5 others wounded, while a roadside bomb and a car bomb went off near two colleges in Baghdad (Mustasiriyah University and al-Maamoun college) killing a college student, wounding nine civilians and two police officers. In addition the US military announces an attack on a police barracks center in al-Jaza'ir: "A blue van reportedly rammed four National Police vehicles parked at the entrance to the barracks and detonated. Two of the vehicles were destroyed. Four policemen suffered minor injuries in the attack and were evacuated to a
local hospital for further treatment." al-Jazair is a district in the city of Al-Musayyib so, if the US military has issued the correct location, there were two bombing attacks on police buildings in Iraq today. (Remember the "if." Last week, the US military issued their "woopsie" stating that they had announced the same two deaths of US troops twice leading to the two being counted as four.) (Dora -- other spellings include Dura and Doura -- is a section of Baghdad.) The BBC reports four died in Baghdad from a mortar attack. Reuters notes two other bomb explosions in Baghdad that killed one and left seven wounded.
Lebanon's Daily Star reports: "Armed men burst into the home of a pregnant Shiite Kurdish woman and sprayed her and her children with bullets in the town of Salaja, 75 kilometers south of Kirkuk, Iraq's northern oil city. Three of her children, aged between 5 and 13, were killed while two other daughters survived the fusillade." The Daily Star also notes nine people were shot dead in the Diyala Province. Reuters reports a police officer was shot dead in Mosul, four men in a car were shot dead in Mosul. a home invasion in Tuz Khurmato that killed six family members and left the father of the family wounded,
Meanwhile the BBC reports that, in Baghdad, a one million dollar robbery occurred today when ten assailants (in Iraqi soldier unifornms) abmushed a "security vehicle" and kidnapped four guards in the vehicle. Also kidnapped, and also reported by the BBC, were five primary school teachers in Dujail.
Not all violence is reported in real time. As covered by The Third Estate Sunday Review, Saturday's RadioNation with Laura Flanders Saturday featured MADRE's Yanar Mohammed who addressed the targeting of and murdering of women in Iraq by fundamentalists. Of the three known murders last month in Baghdad, Mohammed focused on the November 19th one.which began with a woman being "dragged out of her house" by fundamentalists who proceeded to "beat her, they flooged her in the middle of the street. Then they brought a cable and wrapped it around her neck" which they used to pull her to the "nearest football field and they hanged her . . . They bring their machine guns and kill her." They also killed the woman's brother who attempted to stop them. Mohammed stated that the fundamentalists were "political groups who are ruling right now under the blessing of the US administration."
And the approval of the puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki. As the puppet continues to dangle in the wind, the future looks less bright. AP reports that following last week's meeting with the Bully Boy, Shi'ite parliamentarian Abdul Aziz Hakim has begun meeting with "[m]ajor partners in Iraq's governing coalition" for "behind-the-scenes talks to oust Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki" and form "a new parliamentary bloc that would seek to replace the current government and that would likely exclude supporters of the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr".
While they talk, violence continues including sectarian attacks in Baghdad. John F. Burns (New York Times), Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) and Nancy A. Youssef and Zaineb Obeid (McClatchy Newspapers) have all reported on the Shi'ite militias attacking Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad. Burns noted a Saturday attack that led to over 100 Sunnis fleeing their neighborhood and refusing to return even when the US military stated they could promise protection. Youssef and Obeid reported on the Hurriyah section of Baghdad and note: "Shiite militiamen loyal to rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr openly admit to entering their homes and forcing them to leave. That speaks to the ongoing open battle for control of the capital and the apparent domination by the Mahdi Army, Sadr's militia." Raghavan interviewed Ali "Farouk, a Sunni Muslim, [who] fears his home might be targeted next. In the past two months, Shiite militiamen have tightened their grip on his central Baghdad neighborhood of Tobji, purging dozens of Sunni families, by fear and by threats. His world has become even more precarious since a barrage of car bombs, mortar shells and missiles killed more than 200 on Nov. 23 in Sadr City, the Baghdad slum that is home to many of Sadr's loyalists."
While the violence, like the war, continues, some attempt to end the war. This weekend,
Courage to Resist held national days of action across the country in support of US war resisters. Cecilia M. Vega (San Franciso Chronicle) reports that US war resister Darrell Anderson spoke to a crowd in San Franciso Saturday in front of the War Memorial Veterans Building where he declared that "Action is the only thing that's going to stop this war." Vega reports that war resister Kyle Snyder was unable to attend the event following Friday's Alameda event where police were looking for him after being tipped off by "somebody in Kentucky" so, instead, Synder called in and delivered a speech that way.
The police were looking for Kyle Snyder because there is a warrant for his arrest. Returning the United States in April of 2005 from Iraq, Snyder self-checked out while on leave and went to Canada. In October of this year he returned to the US after working out an agreement with the military and, on October 31st, turned himself in at Fort Knox only to self-check out again when the military refused to live up to the agreement. Since then, a warrant has been issued for Snyder's arrest as he has continued to speak out against the illegal war. He spent Thanksgiving week in New Orleans doing reconstruction to areas destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and still not repaired. Currently, he is on a West coast tour speaking out against the war. Last Thursday, on KPFA's Flashpoints, Nora Barrows-Friedman interviewed Snyder.
Saturday, on RadioNation with Laura Flanders, Flanders interviewed Carolyn Ho, mother of Ehren Watada who became the first commissioned officer to refuse to deploy to the illegal war in June of this year. A court-martial is scheduled for Watada in February.
Carolyn Ho told Flanders that her son refused deployment because it wasn't an individual issue, he would be responsible not only for himself but for those serving under him. Ho stated she would be appealing to Congress to intervene noting that they have yet to conduct their promised investigation into the war (and the lies that led to it) but a military court will decide in February whether or not her son had a right to refuse to serve in an illegal war. Ho also appealed for people and groups to contact their Congressional representatives and ask that Congress perform the oversight function they have thus far failed today. (This is covered in greater detail at The Third Estate Sunday Review and an archived broadcast of Flanders' program will go up by Wednesday for those who missed it.)
Today, Carolyn Ho appeared on Democracy Now! and told Amy Goodman that she'd met with several members of Congress and been largely rebuffed with the excuse that it's not Congress' job. US representative Maxine Waters was the only one who told Ho she would have her staff examine the issue.
Anderson, Snyder and Watada are not three resisters within the military standing alone. This is a movement of resistance that also includes Joshua Key, Ivan Brobeck, Ricky Clousing, Mark Wilkerson, Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Jeremy Hinzman, Corey Glass, Patrick Hart, Clifford Cornell, Agustin Aguayo, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, and Kevin Benderman.

Information on this movement of war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, 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 next month.

In military legal news, there's a new development in the case of Suzanne Swift.
Speaking with Amy Goodman on today's Democracy Now!, Sara Rich spoke of the agreement that her daughter Suzanne Swift has reached with the US military. While serving in Iraq, Swift was sexually harrassed and sexually abused. Swift attempted to go through the chain of commaand but, no surprise, the military was interested in ignoring the problem. While on leave in the US, Swift self-checked out and returned only when arrested at her mother's house. A military investigation (ha) found proof of some of Swift's claims (an independent investigation would have found more proof). Rich told Goodman today that her daughter signed a statement on Friday -- one that originally had her agreeing that her sexual abuse was consensual but Swift refused to sign on to that and made changes -- so the next step is a summary court-martial this week which will not be a trial, just a sentencing, where Swift will be sentenced to thirty days of imprisonment and will then be assigned to another base and serve in the US military through January of 2009.
Finally, the BBC reports that Alive in Baghdad has "won a crop of 'Vloggie' industry awards for showing the human face behind Iraq's daily toll of deaths and kidnappings.". Founder Brian Conley reported on Iraq and other issues for Boston IMC and, the BBC reports, he is currently in Mexico setting up a citizen journalism website for that area while Omar Abdullah (cooridnator) and staff continue the project of real reporting from the ground in Iraq. The Vloggies were presented last month in California Alive in Baghdad won awards for best vlog, best group vlog, best political blog and favorite interview vlog. Alive in Baghdad is funded by donations. For those without the capability to stream on their computers, a recent Alive in Baghdad report was covered in the December 1st snapshot.
that puts a face on the daily chaos and violence.