Thursday, December 21, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, December 21, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, one US war resister prepares of his release while another prepares for his court-martial, 8 US troops are charged in slaughter, Bobby Gates meets with an arranged audience who tells him just what he wants to hear, and, as new attempts at a governing coalition are made in Iraq, no one's supposed to pay close attention.

Starting with news of peace and resistance, US war resister Ricky Clousing has spent three months in a military jail for his refusal to continue fighting in an illegal war. He is now being released and supporters are encouraged to be at the "Seattle-Tacoma International Airport at 10:15PM on Saturday, December 23rd, Concourse B, Baggage Claim 11" to welcome him home.

Clousing self-checked out of the US military in June of 2005 after serving in Iraq, on August 11, 2006, announced, during the Veterans for Peace conference in Seattle, that he would be turning himself in at Fort Lewis. David Swanson ( reported at the time, "Clousing said he did not apply for conscientious objector status because he is not certain he would oppose every possible war, such as one fought in self-defense. He said he has spent the past year trying to figure out how to turn himself in, that the military has refused to comment on his status and that he is now choosing to force them to deal with it. . . . Clousing said he served in Baghdad and Mosul as an interrogator, and that this meant he spoke to Iraqi civilians every day and learned what they thought about the war. Clousing said he witnessed the routine incarceration of civilians with no basis and no ability to contact their families. He spoke in particular of four brothers, the youngest aged 12, locked up for three to four weeks. Physical abuse of civilians and the killing of one Iraqi civilian were among the crimes Clousing said he witnessed."

Clousing did turn himself in at Fort Lewis but was told that he needed to turn himself at Fort Bragg which he did on August 18th. Bob Geary (Raleigh-Durham Independent Weekly) describes that episode: "The story of what it took for him to finally get arrested at Bragg is almost comical--his calls to Lewis were bucked to Bragg and vice versa; he was told his records were lost, but suddenly were found after he spoke out publicly against the war; and even then, he had to find his own way back to Bragg and knock on a bunch of different doors before a soldier finally did him the service of detaining him." September 1st brought the news that he would face a charge of desertion. On October 12th, Ricky Clousing was court-martialed in Fayetteville, North Carolina and pleaded guilty to being abesent without leave. Bob Geary (Raleigh-Durham Independent Weekly) reports that before Clousing leaves North Carolina Saturday, there is a scheduled rally in Fayetteville "midday Saturday to be greeted by human rights supporters at the Raleigh Friends Meeting House, 625 Tower St. (the street behind the Cameron Village Post Office). His reception is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., before he catches a flight from RDU back to his hometown of Seattle, Wash."

Turning to another war resister, Ehren Watada, something curious happens in the New York Times owned International Herald Tribune. Since it's going for an European audience (who doesn't think highly of the Times brand), it has to cover stories that the Times can't or won't. Which explains why the French version carries an AP story on Ehren Watada that the US version (or the Times for that matter) didn't. But who made the call that a hundred people attended Watada's speech? The speech, whose date and location (basic journalism) go unreported, is the same one he gave at Church of the Crossroads and Hawaii outlets that picked up the story illustrate it with a photo from that event. As noted in yesterday's snapshot, "Rod Ohira (The Honolulu Advertiser) reports that a crowd of 350 turned out to hear Watada speak at the Church of the Crossroads where he stated, 'The issue is about the war and people need to educate themselves about everything that's going on about the war. They need to take a position one way or another. If people agree with me or disagree with me, I really don't care. . . . What people need to do is take a stance. And if they truly believe there is something wrong with this war -- that it's immoral and illegal -- they should ask themselves what are they willing to sacrifice in order to stop this war?'"

It's interesting how 350 becomes "more than 100" when the AP article runs. 350 is more than 100, it's also more than 101 and 102 and 103 .
 . .

Leila Fujimori (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) describes the crowd: "A highly sympathetic crowd of a few hundred people gave Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada standing ovations before, during and after a speech at the Church of the Crossroads in Moiliili." AP also manages to miss the standing ovations. Possibly it's difficult to count accurately and to hear from the mainland?

The AP does manage to note Eric Seitz, Watada's attorney, wants a larger courtroom this time. During the August Article 32 hearing, one of the biggest obstacles was the fact that there was not enough room for those attempting to attend to be seated. A smaller courtroom may be in keeping with the US military's desire to bury the court-martial (why they feel they need to bother is surprising -- independent media didn't cover the Article 32 in real time) but it's not in keeping with the supposed spirit of justice that's supposed to be on display. The AP article also quotes Ann Wright, who testified at the Article 32 hearing and is retired from the US State Department and US army, stating, "I really do appreciate when these men and women step up and say, 'I will risk going to jail because this war is wrong and I will not participate in it'."

Leila Fujimori (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) quotes two audience members (as well as what Joan, who was present, swears was a "plant"), Kristen Clyne who enjoyed the message that people make changes, not 'legislators':"This war wouldn't really be permitted without the support of the people, and it is really on the people to stop this war"; and Daniel Chong who stated, "It's about time somebody did something. . . . Some people would rather die than admit they're wrong, but he's willing to put his reputation on the line. That's true patriotism," Chung said.

Ehren Watada's pre-trial hearing is scheduled for January 4th and the court-martial is scheduled to begin February 5th. His Article 32 hearing lasted one day, Ricky Clousing's court-martial lasted one day. How long this one will last is a question that competes with "Will independent media cover it this time?"

While we await those answers, Watada and Clousing are part of a growing movement of resistance within the military that includes more than just them or more than just them plus one. Among the other war resisters who have gone public during the illegal war of choice are Kyle Snyder, Darrell Anderson, Joshua Key, Ivan Brobeck, 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. In addition, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on 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. Information on past and present war resistance can also be found in David Zeiger's Sir! No Sir! which tells the story of war resistance during the Vietnam era and, in the new director's edition, also includes bonus material on Camilo Mejia's court-martial, interviews with Cindy Sheehan and Jane Fonda about today's war resistance, and more. The director's cut is availabe for $23.95 and the original version is currently available for $12.95.

Far from that reality, mainstream media outlets all over the for-show conference US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had, apparently forgetting how many have been scripted, where all the US soldiers speaking were in favor of more US troops being sent to Iraq. In a real world, in an unscripted event (a friend in the military states it wasn't "scripted," it was choreographed, FYI), might some of them have noted they want to go home? Not in the land of fantasy and propaganda.

Addressing the nonsense, Gabriele Zamparini (Op-EdNews) writes, "No soldier present said U.S. forces should be brought home, and none said current troop levels were adequate, as some commanders have argued. A young US soldier's mother recently wrote: 'Two weeks ago he called by satellite phone, awakening Amy and me in the dead of the night. Machine gun fire was all around him, the sound of war filling our ears and hearts with grief and fear of loss. (...) He says that this war cannot be won! He has no faith in the politicians who sent him there'." For context, earlier this year Leo Shane III (Stars & Stripes) reported on a poll of US military on the ground in Iraq which found "Seventy-two percent of troops on the ground in Iraq think U.S. military forces should get out of the country within a year, according to a Zogby poll released Tuesday."

So busy is the mainstream in selling another wave of Operation Happy Talk that few even make time to note the violence on the ground. (Apparently following the New York Times' lead of proclaiming "I Cover The Canapes.") Which may be why it's CODEPINK, and not the Times, noting US Senator Harry Reid's latest statement (Dec. 19th) re: the so-called "surge:"

Statement by Senator Harry Reid, December 19, 2006
Frankly, I don't believe that more troops is the answer for Iraq. It's a civil war and America should not be policing a Sunni-Shia conflict. In addition, we don't have the additional forces to put in there. We obviously want to support what commanders in the field say they need, but apparently even the Joint Chiefs do not support increased combat forces for Baghdad. My position on Iraq is simple:
1. I believe we should start redeploying troops in 4 to 6 months (The Levin-Reed Plan) and complete the withdrawal of combat forces by the first quarter of 2008. (As laid out by the Iraq Study Group)
2. The President must understand that there can only be a political solution in Iraq, and he must end our nation's open-ended military commitment to that country.
3. These priorities need to be coupled with a renewed diplomatic effort and regional strategy.
I do not support an escalation of the conflict. I support finding a way to bring our troops home and would look at any plan that gave a roadmap to this goal.
It's been two weeks since the Iraq Study Group released its plan to change the course and bring our troops home. Since then, the President has been on a fact finding tour of his own administration -- apparently ignoring the facts presented by those in the military who know best. The President needs to put forth a plan as soon as possible, one that reflects the reality on the ground in Iraq and that withdraws our troops from the middle of this deadly civil war.


AFP reports three police officers and twelve police recruits are dead (with fifteen more wounded) after a man wearing an explosive vest detonated it outside a Baghdad police academy. Reuters notes a roadside bomb, in Baghdad, that wounded one person, a car bobm that killed two and wounded two more; while a roadside bomb in Mosul wounded two; a roadside bomb near Kirkuk that wounded two police officers; and a car bomb near Kirkuk that killed one Iraqi soldier and wounded four more.


Reuters notes (today) two shootings from yesterday -- in Kirkuk, a wife and husband were shot dead and in Tikrit Lt. Col. Ahmed Saleh was shot dead. AFP reports four were shot dead today "including a pharmacist and his brother killed when gunmen burst into their shop in the flashpoint province of Diyala, said a security source." And Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reports: "Officials also announced the murder of Iraq's Olympic cycling coach, killed after gunmen kidnapped him from his home. Relatives identified the body of 48-year-old Mahoud Ahmed Fulayih on Monday, two days after he was abducted, said Hussein al-Amidi, the acting secretary general of Iraq's National Olympic Committee."


In the midst of their laughable coverage about the new 'crackdown' in Baghdad (the first came in June, beefed up in July, put on steroids in August and a failure to this day), CNN slips in that 38 corpses were discovered in the capital today.

In addition, the US military announced today: "One Soldier assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7 died Tuesday and one Marine assigned to 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division died yesterday from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province." The US military also announced: "An improvised explosive device detonated near a Multi-National Division - Baghdad patrol, killing one Soldier south of the Iraqi capital Dec. 20. The mounted combat patrol was escorting personnel to their forward operating base when a roadside bomb detonated. Three Soldiers were wounded and one Soldier killed in the blast." (The first release is a correction to this one -- which we've not quoted from in this entry. Two soldiers and one marine were announced deat today.) ICCC places the current total number of US troops who have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war at 2958.

In legal news, Rick Rogers (San Diego Union-Tribune) reports, "The military announced charges of unpremeditated murder Thursday against four Camp Pendleton Marines in connection with what could be the worst U.S. war crime reported during the Iraq war.
The defendants are rank-and-file members of the Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. They are accused of massacring 24 civilians Nov. 19, 2005, in the Iraqi town of Haditha." Noting the charges as "the biggest US criminal case to emerge from the war in Iraq in terms of Iraqis killed," the BBC reminds: "There was no full US investigation into what happened until three months later when video footage that was taken by a local human rights activist of the aftermath reached Time Magazine. Once their report showed flaws in the initial marine statement, an investigation began." CBS and AP note ". . . five Iraqi men were shot as they approached in a taxi and others -- including women and children -- died as Marines went house to house in the area, clearing homes with grenades and gunfire."

On the morning of 19 November 2005, a four vehicle convoy of Marines from Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division was moving through Haditha when it was ambushed by insurgents employing an improvised explosive device and small arms fire.
One Marine was killed and two were wounded by the explosion. Over the next several hours, 24 Iraqi men, women and children died in the vicinity of the IED explosion.
On 20 November 2005, 2nd Marine Division issued a press release stating that 15 Iraqi civilians were killed in an IED explosion, and Marines and Iraqi Army soldiers killed eight insurgents in a follow-on fire-fight.
We now know with certainty the press release was incorrect, and that none of the civilians were killed by the IED explosion.
As the result of a query by a Time magazine reporter in January 2006, there were several distinct but related investigations into the circumstances of the deaths of the 24 Iraqi civilians, and into how the chain of command reported and investigated those deaths.

[. . .]
It is important to note that the accused are presumed innocent. The charges and specifications are only accusations against the individuals.

Finally, Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reports: "Radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has agreed to allow supporters to rejoin the Iraqi government after a three-week boycott, officials close to the militia leader said Thursday, as political rivals pushed to form a coalition without him." The boycott was made clear November 24th ahead of puppet Nouri al-Mailiki's meetup with the Bully Boy in Jordan. The stated intent was enough to lead the puppet to snub Bully Boy the first day and then rush through a brief meeting the following day. Abdul-Zahra notes: "Al-Sadr's boycott has undercut al-Maliki's government and prevented the passage of legislation. During that time, other Shiite factions have teamed with Kurds and one Sunni party to negotiate a new governing coalition that would cross sectarian lines." This comes as the BBC reports, "Iraq's Shia Muslim leaders have begun talks in the holy city of Najaf with the country's most prominent Shia cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani." Getting Ali al-Sistani into the process of a new coalition surely has nothing to do with the US military turning Najaf over to Iraq, right? We're not supposed to notice that. Play dumb on that (just like the mainstream press) and pretend not to ponder what a new governing coalition might mean for al-Maliki.
Seventy-two percent of troops on the ground in Iraq think U.S. military forces should get out of the country within a year, according to a Zogby poll released Tuesday.

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