Saturday, August 26, 2006

RadioNation with Laura Flanders: A look at the effects of Hurricane Katrina (and the administration) one year later and Danny Glover

It's Saturday which means the first of two broadcasts (Saturday and Sunday, 7:00-10:00 pm EST) of RadioNation with Laura Flanders. From an e-mail forwarded by Martha (and you can go to Laura Flanders website and sign up for the e-mailed heads up to each week's programs) comes the news that Flanders is on location this weekend:

This weekend, RadioNation marks the anniversary of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita by returning to Mississippi and Louisiana with two must-listen broadcasts.
On Saturday, we'll be in Gulfport-Biloxi for a special town meeting sponsored by the NAACP and OXFAM. We'll hear from residents, activists, Danny Glover, NAACP president Bruce Gordon, OFXAM president Ray Offenheiser and many others.
On Sunday, we'll be in New Orleans at the People's Hurricane Relief Fund. We'll bring you sounds from protests, commemorations and hear from people who refuse to let this city die. It's all on RadioNation with Laura Flanders this weekend on Air America Radio.

All that and Danny Glover. We'll also note that Laura Flander's program (originally titled The Laura Flanders Show, now known as RadioNation with Laura Flanders) will be on the fall Air America Radio schedule and it will be only one of three orignal shows that started when the network did and will still be on the fall schedule. (We'll note that The Randi Rhodes Show will also be returning and will skip the third show for obvious reasons.) You can listen (live) to RadioNation with Laura Flanders over the airwaves if you have an Air America Radio station in your area or if you have XM satellite radio and you can also listen to it online. In addition, a podcast is available that combines Saturday and Sunday's show online (usually goes up on Tuesday or Wednesday).

Quickly, China's Xinhau reports that a home in Baghdad was attacked and at least four family members were shot dead and eleven more were wounded. And the AP notes that two sisters who worked as translators for the British consulate were shot at in Basra today, one was killed the other wounded.

We'll close by posting Wally's "THIS JUST IN! BULLY BOY POUTS, DICK LAUGHS!" and Cedric's "Tricky Dick in the (White) House again (humor)" joint post:




















Recommended: "
Iraq Snapshot"
And the war drags on"
"'British Leave Iraqi Base; Milita Supporters Jubilant' (Amit R. Paley)"
"Other Items"
On Our Vacation, Thomas Friedman Got Burned"
thoughts on the bully boy with the emphasis on 'boy'"
Vets worry the draft's coming back, Zogby obsesses over Tom Cruise"
Bob Herbert disappoints"

The e-mail address for this site is

Ruth's Report

Ruth: First, let me thank the members, and two visitors, who e-mailed to say they'd missed the report the last two weekends. Thank you. I did enjoy working with The Third Estate Sunday Review the last two weekends. As anyone who saw my granddaughter's photos in the gina & krista round-robin should be able to surmise, the nine days in California with everyone were also a great deal of fun.

What wasn't fun was learning of the recommendation Lieutenant Colonel Mark Keith made regarding the Article 32 hearing of Lieutenant Ehren Watada. Tracey came over with Elijah a little after six a.m. Friday and was talking about it. I did not check my e-mail that morning and usually do not until I have had my first cup of coffee so I had missed the heads up e-mail from C.I. and the gina & krista round-robin. Later, when C.I. faxed me the report, I read it, while Elijah was napping and several things stood out.

The Third Estate Sunday Review will be spotlighting at least one thing and, luckily, the thing that stood out to me the most was the testimony of retired Army Colonel Ann Wright.

In today's Seattle Times, Mr. Hal Bernton writes: "Keith concluded that it would be "very difficult for Army officers to determine the legality of combat operations (nor should they attempt to do so)." That was a frightening conclusion for me. "Nor should they attempt to do so" had me recalling the horrors that emerged during the Nuremberg Trials. Perhaps, as a Jewish woman, my natural response is to go to that when I read that officers have no obligation to determine the legality of the actions they will be taking part in?

But the "I was only following orders" 'defense' is not a defense that was accepted at Nuremberg. Nor was it accepted during Vietnam when Lieutenant William Calley was court-martialed for his actions and the actions of those serving under him during the March 16, 1968 My Lai Massacre. The military court refused to recognize that 'defense' as a valid one. Lieutenant Calley was told, by the military justice system, that it was his responsibility to only follow legal orders. In the case of Lieutenant Watada, Lieutenant Colonel Keith decided that determining the legality of the orders was not permissable. In one instance, you have Lieutenant Calley held accountable for failure to use his judgement and, in the current instance, you have Lieutenant Watada held accountable for using his judgement.

Which is it?

The fact of the matter is that the military trains recruits to only follow lawful orders. This was the point retired Colonel Ann Wright stressed in her testimony at Lieutenant Watada's Article 32 hearing on August 17th:

During my military service I have instructed military personnel in connection with their duties under FM 27-10. I did this as an instructor at the JFK Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg. I taught about the Law of Land Warfare for approximately one year. During that time period I was able to explain to soldiers what the obligations and responsibilities of soldiers in an occupation scenario are.
As a part of our overall military training there is a history of service personnel being told that you do not have to follow an illegal order. It comes from the commissions that we take that we are to uphold the lawful orders of our superiors. Implicit in that is that if there is an illegal order you are under no obligation to follow it.
It is not to[o] often that a soldier will say; "I won't follow out that order, it was illegal." But it is part of our tradition that we call upon people in the military to use their brains to distinguish situations.
You don't want personnel who will carry out illegal orders and say that they were told to do it. You want military personnel who will think about what they are doing.
Yes, active duty personnel can be prosecuted for war crimes that they either commit or direct. There are two levels for that prosecution. The first are based on international laws against war crimes and the second is that the United States has codified the international laws on war crimes. This was done in 1996. This law says that you can be prosecuted for committing war crimes.
Right now there is a discussion going on within the Bush administration asking for modification to the domestic law. Because it appears that based on some of the actions in the administration may now fall under violations of that domestic law.
The obligation of someone such as the accused [Lieutenant Watada] who by participating in the current conflict in Iraq would be participating in war crimes would be to stand up and say that he cannot participate in it and that it would be an illegal order.
Under the Nuremberg Principles, both Germans and Japanese were executed for committing war crimes. The initiation of wars of agression is the supreme crime under the Nuremberg Principles. They are codified in other international bodies of law such as the Geneva Convention.

FM 27-10 and the Law of Land Warfare are the same code or law. Professor Nile Stanton of the University of Maryland University College has kindly posted the code online. The section that I was searching out was the following:

509. Defense of Superior Orders
a. The fact that the law of war has been violated pursuant to an order of a superior authority, whether military or civil, does not deprive the act in question of its character of a war crime, nor does it constitute a defense in the trial of an accused individual, unless he did not know and could not reasonably have been expected to know that the act ordered was unlawful. In all cases where the order is held not to constitute a defense to an allegation of war crime, the fact that the individual was acting pursuant to orders may be considered in mitigation of punishment.
b. In considering the question whether a superior order constitutes a valid defense, the court shall take into consideration the fact that obedience to lawful military orders is the duty of every member of the armed forces; that the latter cannot be expected, in conditions of war discipline, to weigh scrupulously the legal merits of the orders received; that certain rules of warfare may be controversial; or that an act otherwise amounting to a war crime may be done in obedience to orders conceived as a measure of reprisal. At the same time it must be borne in mind that members of the armed forces are bound to obey only lawful orders (e. g., UCMJ, Art. 92).
510. Government Officials
The fact that a person who committed an act which constitutes a war crime acted as the head of a State or as a responsible government official does not relieve him from responsibility for his act.
511. Acts Not Punished in Domestic Law
The fact that domestic law does not impose a penalty for an act which constitutes a crime under international law does not relieve the person who committed the act from responsibility under international law.

Leaving aside issues of Nazi actions during WWII which some might label "explosive," but I would argue are all too quickly forgotten, we are left with retired Colonel Ann Wright's testimony that it is the soldier's obligation to follow only lawful orders (which would require a deterimination on the part of the individual), the law she was teaching which backs her up, and the case of Lieutenant Calley who was court-martialed for his actions and informed that he had failed to refuse unlawful orders.

Are you confused? The military legal system appears to be. The message that Lieutenant Colonel Mark Keith appears to be endorsing is follow all orders but, if it later turns out that they were illegal, you are on your own and will take full responsibility. At best, like with Lieutenant Calley, the War Monger in the oval office may pardon you after you are convicted.

What is the message? Why teach the obligation to follow only legal orders, why refute "I was only following orders" as a defense and then punish Lieutenant Ehren Watada for doing just that while advising him that it is not his place to make such a determination when, in fact, the invididual who obeys the unlawful order is the one who will be held responsible by the military justice system?

While we try to sort that out, Lieutenant Watada's father, Bob Watada, is speaking out for his son. Today and tomorrow, you can attend the following in the San Francisco Bay Area:

Sat. 8/26
Educational & Cultural Event

Berkeley Friends Church;
1600 Sacramento St., Berkeley
Contact: Betty Kano 510-684-0239

Sun. 8/27
Speaking Event
AFSC building,
65-Ninth St., SF
Contact: Martha Hubert 415-647-1119

For those unable to attend, Wednesday, on KPFA's The Morning Show, Philip Maldari interviewed Bob Watada and you can listen to archived broadcast online, free of charge. Those unable to listen online, due to physical issues, stream issues or speaker issues, can also read Wednesday's snapshot which offers an overview of the discussion.

NYT: "Weary Iraqis Find New Foes: Rising Prices" (Damien Cave)

Damien Cave's "Weary Iraqis Find New Foes: Rising Prices" in this morning's New York Times is actually a stronger article than might be expected. Let's start with its weaknesses. In looking at the new economic realities in Iraq (brought on by the likes of the No Dinar Left Behind activities discussed in the previous entry), Cave offers that "the fallout from decades of government control," among other issues, "are kicking up the price of nearly everything". There's something a little embarrassing about that statement. It's the same sense of embarrassment I'd feel hearing someone who'd been a general studies major weigh in at length on Plato's Ladder of Love with the sort of 'analysis' that's a notch above a greeting in a Hallmark card. Journalists are rarely economists. The dime-store analysis mars the article (but is in keeping with the free market endorsement of the Times -- 'free market' translates at the paper as the citizens are 'free' to be gouged regularly and big business is 'free' to seek and be awarded corporate welfare).

Outside of dispensing economic (editorial) wisdom that he doesn't posses, Cave's article is a strong one. I'm counting five Iraqi citizens (possibly six) as being given a voice and the five even includes a woman (women in Iraq, as in an Oliver Stone film, are repeatedly rendered invisible). The citizens outweigh the 'experts' (from outside Iraq) and the government spokesperson. So we'll note that. Cave (or Qais Mizher, Wisam A. Habeeb and Omar al-Neami) actually took the trouble to speak to Iraqis and that's the strongest part of the article. That matters because the price shocks don't register as harshly with those running around with bodyguards. (Cave notes that the average Iraqi makes "only about $150 a month on average."

What I'm not seeing noted is that the gas being purchased is not just for cars. Due to the fact that electricity still only runs for a few hours a day in most of Iraq (including Baghdad, outside the Green Zone), many Iraqis, who can afford it, use generators (as Riverbend has noted frequently at her site Baghdad Burning).

Cave writes of the increase in prices. For instance, gas, after government subsidies were dropped, went from a four cents a gallon to sixty-seven cents a gallon -- if you can find it legally (shortages prevent that for many and on the underground market, it sells for as much as $3.19 a gallon). Abdul Rehman Qasim is quoted as explaining how he deals with the long waits and long lines to get to the gas pumps, "I'm a poor guy. So I leave some of my children here. They spend the night in the car." Zabkiya Abid Salman declares, at a market where she's purchasing egg plants, "We're tired, and the situation is horrible. There are no jobs, and the prices are always rising."

Yesterday, after the snapshot went up, Reuters noted that at least three people were killed and at least twenty-two wounded in Ramadi when a US tank shelled a mosque while, in Balad Ruz, teenagers engaged in a game of a football were surprised by a "makeshift bomb" that left three dead and three more wounded. KUNA reports that an Iraqi soldier was killed and two others wounded as well as five police officers injured in Kirkuk. In Dhuluiya, Reuters notes that an ice house owner was shot dead. That was part of some of the reported violence for Friday. (Is the Times also barred from occupation Nouri al-Maliki from commenting on the daily violence or are they just taking a holiday? Paul von Zielbauer is among the few who had any articles this past week noting the violence and there's no article in today's paper on the violence. Apparently, the new 'Iraq solution' for the Operation Happy Talkers is just to ignore the realities.)

With the eleven dead noted in yesterday's snapshot and the eight noted above, that's nineteen (and that's not counting the corpses that turned up on Friday or those killed on Friday that will be discovered later) so it's interesting that the AP deems it "quiet" on Friday. (The story also only notes only five dead so it was apparently filed early.) In another AP story, Robert Burns notes:

The death toll among National Guard and Reserve troops in Iraq has plunged this year as citizen soldiers play a smaller combat role against an insurgency that increasingly targets Iraqis.

AFP reports that Nouri al-Maliki met with tribal heads today and warned that the (illegal) occupation by foreign forces would continue until there was 'peace.' (His version of Bully Boy's speech earlier this week where Bully Boy announced that US forces would remain in Iraq as long as he occupied the oval office?) Also noted in the report is that "Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), said a referendum should be called in the region to endorse a breakaway, an idea which is fiercely opposed by Sunni leaders."

Another AFP report notes that: "Taiseer al-Mashhadani, a member of the Sunni National Concord Front -- the largest Sunni parliamentary bloc -- was released on almost two months after an armed gang snatched her in a Baghdad ambush."

The following sites have updated since yesterday morning:

Rebecca's Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Betty's Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man;
Kat's Kat's Korner (of The Common Ils);
Cedric's Cedric's Big Mix;
Mike's Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine's Like Maria Said Paz;
Wally's The Daily Jot:
and Trina's Trina's Kitchen

Tomorrow's The Third Estate Sunday Review will again focus on Iraq. The plan is for the majority of new content to be focused on Iraq. Ruth's Report goes up today. She's covering
Ehren Watada (and possibly other things as well).

Iraq: No Dinar Left Behind

I reminded the advisers that the president had just signed the $18.6 billion supplemental budget for Iraqi reconstruction. And that we had to move fast if these projects were to have a useful impact in the short time left.
"All right," I said in closing, "remember, we don't want to leave these ministries orphans. Make sure your Iraqi counterparts can continue to function once we're withdrawn." I added that I intended to establish several Iraqi institutions to fight corruption, the bane of many developing countries and something that had flourished under Saddam.

So brags Paul Bremer on pages 231 and 232 of his laughable My Year In Iraq. Bremer, for those late to the party, floundered for years in the State Department before becoming Bully Boy's It Boy in Iraq after Jay Garner foolishly thought democracy was planned for Iraq and demonstrated the he (Gardiner) intended to support its development. Bremer captures the difference between the two best in his book when he notes that, hearing that Garner was going "to appoint an Iraqi government by May 15 [2003], I almost drove off the George Washington Parkway." Oh how different things might have turned out if it hadn't have only been an "almost."

Instead, Bremer went to Iraq and everyone suffered. Other than the Bremer walls in the Green Zone (and now in Ramadi), there's not much that his name can be stamped on. Or not much that the press want to stamp it on. Which is why the New York Times runs an Associated Press story on A5 this morning entitled "Ex-Officer Admits Role In Iraq Deals."

Summary: Lt. Col. Bruce D. Hopfengardner has accepted a plea agreement wherein he admits to guilt in "conspiracy to commit money laundering and wire firaud." He was "a special adviser to the American-led occupation forces, recommending funds for projects in Iraq." In his agreement he admits to "conspiring with Philip H. Bloom, an American citizen with businesses in Romania; Robert J. Stein Jr., a former Defense Department contract offical; and others to create a corrupt bidding process that included the theft of $2 million in reconstruction money." If there's time to be spent behind bars -- which there should be -- the AP doesn't mention it. They also skirt the issue of when this now admitted conspiring took place. Rather shocking since not only is who-what-when a journalistic mantra, a criminal case also has to establish when the crime took place. It was while Bremer was "leading" -- while he was "leading" in such a manner that the Bully Boy would award him (December 2004) the Presidential Medal of Freedom. (Bremer was in charge of Iraq from May 2003 to June 2004.)

The conspiring, the graft, the criminal activity? All going on under Bremer's watch. From Harper's "Green Zone" -- and remember Hopfengardner has just admitted to conspiring with [Bob] Stein and [Phil] Bloom:

Posted on Friday, August 11, 2006. From emails between Robert J. Stein, Philip Bloom, and Army Reserve officers implicated as co-conspirators in an indictment against Stein, an employee of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq in 2003 and 2004. Stein was responsible for $82 million in CPA reconstruction funds. In February he pleaded guilty to five felony counts, admitting he stole more than $2 million and funneled $9 million in contracts to Bloom. Originally from Harper's Magazine, June 2006.

From: Bob
To: Phil
FYI, [redacted] and I got the contract through for ground prep at the police academy. I will give you 200K sometime tomorrow afternoon.
I love to give you money!
From: Bob

To: Phil
I was talking to [redacted] about your next set of projects. He is ready to award everything to you but asked me if there was any way we could use a name other than your company’s? He wants to make sure it doesn’t look like all the work is going to you. If you can, put your bid on new letterhead. I can award it tomorrow. Sorry to be so businesslike. I would love to slow down just for a few days and relax but I need to take care of all this stuff.
From: Phil

To: Bob
I will do that. Since we are paid in cash it doesn’t really matter tax-wise . . . See you tomorrow.

Bob Stein would "see" Phil Bloom but somehow Bremer, the one in charge of it all, never "saw" any of this going on during his watch?

Probably helps when you're a pompous blowhard who speaks of adults and cabinets in the patronizing terms like "orphans" (see book excert at the top of the entry). What is it, did Bremer see himself as the Wet Nurse of Iraq? Childless Condi speaks of 'birthing' democracy and she's just aping the men around her who all seem to suffer from a serious case of womb envy.

We've got at least two more entries this morning. The next one focuses on a Times story proper (one written by the paper). (But note, the paper's own coverage of this story was no better in July.)

The e-mail address for this site is

Friday, August 25, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Friday, August 25, 2006, chaos and violence continue in Iraq despite the wave of Operation Happy Talk launched yesterday by US military boys John Abizaid and George Casey that things are looking up and corners will be turned, equally laughable was Brit military boy Charlie Burbridge claiming that a base in Amara hadn't been abandoned.  He offers a new punch line today. The inquiry into the death of Jake Kovco continues and Soldier 14 testifies again.  But we'll start with the latest on Ehren Watada -- the first US officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq.
"Late Thursday" J.C.Matthews told the AP that a recommendation had been reached by Lt. Colonel Mark Keith in Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing. Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) reports that the recommendation is "Ehren Watada face a general court-martial for failing to join his unit in Iraq" and Keith "has endorsed two other charges: conduct unbecoming an officer and contempt toward officials."  Translation, Keith has endorsed all three charges made on July 5th. As the AP notes, "Keith could have recommended anything from dismissal of the charges to a general court-martial" as he weighed the issues and the testimony given on August 17th.  Gregg K. Kakesako notes that Keith did feel that Ehren Watada was "sincere in his beliefs" which "should mitigate any future punishment" and Kakesako outlines the next step: "Keith's decision now goes to Col. Cynthia Murphy, U.S. Army Garrison commander at Fort Lewis, who will review it and then submit her recommendations to Lt. Gen James Dubik".
The AP quotes Ehren Watada's civilian attorney, Eric Seitz, stating: "We always believed that when they went so far as to convene an Article 32 hearing that they had alread made a decision to proceed."  Hal Bernton (Seattle Times) notes Seitz was left  "somewhat astounded" that the charges endorsed by Keith included anything other than "missing the troop movement" because of "important First Amendment issues" that surround the other two charges.
Sarah Olson (Truthout) reports this today (of the August 17th testimony of Denis Halliday: "Halliday was called to testify regarding the impace of war on the Iraqi people.  'The people of Iraq had become used to living under very difficult conditions after the destruction in the name of the United Nations by the United States of the civilian infrastructure, water supplies, sewer systems, electric power, use of depleted uranium and cluster bombs.' Halliday was prevented from providing complete testimony when the investigating officer presided over the Article 32 hearing ruled that the 'consequences of the war or the situation on the ground' were irrelevant to Lieutenant Watada's argument that the war was illegal and that he had an obligation to refuse to fight it."  That is the most that's been written of Halliday's testimony to date (which, for the record, wasn't delivered via mime).
Bob Watada continues his speaking engagements in the San Francisco Bay Area to raise awareness of what his son, Ehren, is facing.  The events include:
Fri. 8/25
No. Cal. Japanese
Christian Theological Forum
Berkeley Methodist United Church-
1710 Carleton St/McGee in Berkeley
Contact: Laura Takeuchi 510-848-3614

Film Screening & Speakers
Santa Cruz Veterans Building
Contact: Sharon Kufeldt 650-799-1070

Sat. 8/26 7-9pm
Educational & Cultural Event
Berkeley Friends
Church; 1600 Sacramento St.,
Contact: Betty Kano 510-684-0239

Sun. 8/27 4-6pm Speaking Event
AFSC building, 65-Ninth St., SF
Contact: Martha Hubert 415-647-1119
A complete list of the events Bob Watada will be taking part in can be found here.
Again:  Cedric (Cedric's Big Mix) is advising those calling Donald Rumsfeld (703-545-6700) or mailing him (1000 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301-1000) to say: "Hands off Ehren Watada! Let him go." Billie advises that you can use to e-mail the Pentagon. She suggests "Re: Ehren Watad" or "ATTN: DONALD RUMSFELD." Courage to Resist and will continue to offer resources, ideas and inspiration. Get the word out.
Turning to the illegal occupation, violence and chaos continues.
Reuters reports one Iraqi soldier dead and two others wounded from a roadside bomb in Rashad and a "hand-grenade attack on a market in Hawija" left three people wounded.  AFP notes the death, late Thursday, of "an Iraqi army officer" with four soldiers left wounded.
AFP notes that five were killed by gunfire in Baquba, two in Tirkit (bakery workers) with three other people wounded,
Reuters notes that, in Nasiriya, gunfire claimed the lives of two and left two others wounded.
Reuters notes the discovery, in Qaim, of an Iraqi soldier ("signs of torture") while AFP notes that three corpses were discovered in Kirkuk ("tortured and bullet-riddled bodies").
In other violence, despite the British military flacks that were so eagerly allowed to spin in this this morning's New York Times, Haidar Hani (AP) reports: "Looters ravaged a former British base Friday . . . taking everything from doors and window frames to corrugated roofing and metal pipes".  As Ross Colvin (Reuters) reported yesterday, the base, which had come under nightly, heavy attacks, was abandoned. The AP story today notes: "Iraqi authories had complained that the British withdrawal had caught them by surprise" and allows flack Charlie Burbridge to holler Not-true-we-gave-them-24-hours-notice!  Well, Charlie, on a rental, you usually have to give a minimum of 30 days notice.  But it is good to know that as they packed up everything they could carry, someone did think to make a quick call saying, "Hey, we're about to split.  If there's anything you want, better grab it quick, dude!"
Along with an adequate heads up, Iraqi politicians have other complaints they're sharing.  Aparism Ghosh (Time magazine) reports that Abdul-Azziz al-Hakim states that for over three years Iraqi politicians have persistently requested "and reliable evidence" that "Iran is interfering in Baghdad's affairs" only to be rebuffed.  al-Hakim is quoted as saying, "[A]nd for three years we've told them, 'Show us proof.' But they never have." al-Hakim and others speaking to Ghosh make clear that they feel there is no proof and that Iran is being blamed to divert attention from the failure of the illegal war.
This as Aaron Glantz reports for OneWorld that Nuremberg prosecutor Benjamin Ferenczz has declared that Bully Boy and Saddam Hussein "should be tried for war crimes."
In Australia, the inquiry into the April 21st death of Baghdad of Jake Kovco continues.
Figuring into the most recent testimony were "NSW Police scientific officer Stephanie Hales" and Soldier 14.  Soldier 14 has made mutliple appearances in the hearing.  On August 9th, his testimony rejected the so-called buddy system where a pair was responsible for checking one another's weapons at the end of a shift (he also testified that what he said and what the military wrote up in his official statement were quite different). Last Friday, a DNA witness, Michelle Franco, identified some of the DNA on Jake Kovco's gun as belonging to Soldier 14.  [Again from last Friday: The Herald-Sun reports that only the DNA "on the pistol's slide" were ruled by expert Franco to be a direct match (DNA on the "trigger, hand grip and magazine" are believed, by Franco, to be Soldier 14's but are "not direct matches."] Soldier 14 has maintained that he did not touch Jake Kovco's pistol (and he's refused to be questioned by the NSW). 
At the start of this week, Soldier 14 again testified to the hearing and maintained that the DNA must have gotten on the pistol some other way such as via other equipment he acknowledges that he and Jake Kovco both handled such as a megaphone, a radio or telephone.  Also in that testimony, Soldier 14 declared that "people" had warned him that Jake Kovco's widow, Shelley Kovco, was 'out to get him.'  That was his excuse for avodiging her. Belinda Tasker (The Daily Telegraph) noted, of that testimony, that Soldier 14's avoidance of Shelley Kovco -- out of fear of being accused of something,apparently -- translates as Soldier 14 aoviding contact with her for "more than three months" and notes that Soldier 14 said "people were telling me" that Shelley Kovco was out to get him.  Who these 'people' were warning him of Shelley Kovco will apparently not be explored.
That was some of the previous testimony.  Today Soldier 14 testified again (not via video-link and remember he has stated he wants to get back to the apparent calm of Baghdad).  Malcolm Brown (Sydney Morning Herald) reports that the issues today revolved around: "Did you silently cock Private Kovco's pistol?" which Soldier 14 asserted he did not.  Soldier 14 has maintained that he saw Jake Kovco a few days prior to his death.  Brown describes the process as "a silent cocking operation, where the weapon is stripped down, a round put in he chamber, then reassembled, leaving the round in the chamber."  Soldier 14 will also be testifying Monday.
Stephanie Hales' testimony is characterized by the AAP as asserting that residue tests can not determine "whether Private Jake Kovco shot himself in Iraq or if someone else pulled the trigger" for a variety of reasons including the fact that Jake Kovco's "clothes . . . were destroyed," "the barracks room where PTE Kovco was shot was cleaned before NSW Police arrived in Baghdad to carry out their forensic tests," Jake Kovco's body was washed in a Kuwait morgue, Jake Kovco's hands were not wrapped "in paper bags" and the two roommates were allowed to shower and wash their clothing with no forensic tests being performed.
Finally, in England, British soldier Jason Chelsea has been buried.  The BBC reports that the nineteen-year-old "killed himself because he feared . . . he might have to shoot children" as he asserted he had been told in his training.  The BBC notes that:
"Earlier this month the MoD released figures showing 1,541 soldiers who served in Iraq are suffering from psychiatric illness."

Do you Yahoo!?
Everyone is raving about the all-new Yahoo! Mail.

Other Items

Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), once an ardent supporter of the war in Iraq, said yesterday that the Bush administration should set a time frame for withdrawing U.S. troops. He added that most of the withdrawal could take place next year.
Shays, who faces a tough reelection campaign because of his previous support for President Bush's war policies, made his comments after completing his 14th trip to Iraq this week.

[. . .]
Shays is one of only a few congressional Republicans supporting a timetable for ending U.S. involvement in the Iraq fighting, which has claimed the lives of more than 2,600 U.S. troops and an estimated 40,000 to 45,000 Iraqi civilians. Bush reaffirmed this week his opposition to the withdrawal of U.S. troops. "Leaving before the job was done would be a disaster," he warned.

The above, noted by Martha, is from Anushka Asthana's "Shays Urges Iraq Withdrawal: A Former War Backer, GOP Congressman Calls for Timetable" (Washington Post). And, if you're wondering, no, the Times isn't interested. Poli 'reporter' Adam Nagourney files from Detroit but is covering Iowa and Mass. as he gets giddy over the 2008 elections (where he will surely inflict more damage on standards of comprehension and journalism).

Though the Times isn't interested in Iraq, the chaos and violence continue. Thursday, Sandra Lupien noted, on The KPFA Evening News, the Associated Press' count of Iraqi civilians who've died thus far in the month of August -- "at least 605." That's the AP count and the month's not over.

And, if you missed it, ABC did a really bad report yesterday (Martha Raddatz was the correspondent) where the terms of what is up and what is down are set by the US military and the reporter nods and repeats; however, the point is "the military is making a big push" in Ramadi. How quickly forgotten.

Kyle notes Ellen Knickmeyer's "Disavowed by Mahdi Army, Shadowy 'Butcher' Still Targets Sadr's Foes" (Washington Post):

In a dirty war where shadowy death squads claim victims daily and leaders on all sides deny blame, there's one killer to whom Iraqis can attach a name, if not a face.
Abu Diri, or Father of the Shield, is the nom de guerre of a Shiite Muslim man. Sunni Arabs of Baghdad also know him as "the Butcher." Like countless other killers in Iraq's capital today, Abu Diri and his followers dump their victims in the streets bearing bullet wounds and sometimes the smaller holes made by electric drills.
But U.S. military officers, Sunnis and even many Shiites say they believe Abu Diri kidnaps and kills Sunnis and other rivals with a zeal that has made him notorious, even in Baghdad's daily carnage.
"He is a savage criminal; tens of murderers follow in his wake," said a posting on Truth, a Sunni Web site that is supportive of Iraqi Sunni insurgent groups. Many Iraqi Sunnis monitor its allegations regarding the country's growing sectarian strife.
[. . .]

Little is known about Abu Diri's background.

And, also by Knickmeyer and noted by Julie, "Sadr's Militia and the Slaughter in the Streets" (Washington Post):

In a grungy restaurant with plastic tables in central Baghdad, the young Mahdi Army commander was staring earnestly. His beard was closely cropped around his jaw, his face otherwise cleanshaven. The sleeves of his yellow shirt were rolled down to the wrists despite the intense late-afternoon heat. He spoke matter-of-factly: Sunni Arab fighters suspected of attacking Shiite Muslims had no claim to mercy, no need of a trial.
"These cases do not need to go back to the religious courts," said the commander, who sat elbow to elbow with a fellow fighter in a short-sleeved, striped shirt. Neither displayed weapons. "Our constitution, the Koran, dictates killing for those who kill."
His comments offered a rare acknowledgment of the role of the Mahdi Army in the sectarian bloodletting that has killed more than 10,400 Iraqis in recent months. The Mahdi Army is the militia of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, now one of the most powerful figures in the country.
The death squads that carry out the extrajudicial killings are widely feared but mysterious. Often, the only evidence is the bodies discovered in the streets. Several commanders in the Mahdi Army said in interviews that they act independently of the Shiite religious courts that have taken root here, meting out street justice on their own with what they believe to be the authorization of Sadr's organization and under the mantle of Islam.
"You can find in any religion the right of self-defense," said another commander, senior enough to be referred to as the Sheik, who was interviewed separately by telephone. Like the others, he lives and works in Sadr City, a trash-strewn, eight-square-mile district of east Baghdad that is home to more than 2 million Shiites. They spoke on condition that their names not be revealed and that specific areas of Sadr City under their control not be identified.
"The takfiris , the ones who kill, they should be killed," said the Sheik, using a term commonly employed by Shiites for violent Sunni extremists. "Also the Saddamists. Whose hands are stained with blood, they are sentenced to death."
"This is part of defending yourself," the commander said. "This is a ready-made verdict -- we don't need any verdict."

Finally on Iraq, the UN's IRIN notes that teachers are a favorite target in Iraq with "nearly 180 professors" killed (from February 2006 to today) and "at least 3,250" fleeing the country for their own safety (same period).

Last topic, Vic notes David McHugh's "Man Released From Guantanamo After 4-Plus Years" (AP via the Toronto Star):

A German-born Turkish citizen held for more than four years at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay has returned to Germany after being released, his attorneys said Thursday.
Murat Kurnaz, 24, was flown to Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany where he was set free, attorney Bernhard Docke said in a statement.
"He is now again in the circle of his family," Docke said in the statement. "Their joy at embracing their lost son again is indescribable.''

Closing out with the Center for Constitutional Rights' "CCR RELEASES NEWLY DECLASSIFIED EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF MILITARY POLICE ATTACK ON DETAINEES Rubber Bullets & Pepper Spray Used to Subdue Elderly Detainees Objecting to Searching of Koran Synopsis:"

On August 21, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) released newly declassified notes detailing an eyewitness account of the mistreatment of the Koran and a subsequent attack on detainees by military police at Guantánamo in early June 2006. CCR represents more than 200 detainees, but due to the security measures imposed on attorney-client communication at Guantánamo, this most recent account had previously been unavailable.
Ala' Ali bin Ali Ahmed is a twenty-three-year-old prisoner from Adem, Yemen. Although he has been imprisoned in Guantánamo since 2002, he has never been accused of fighting against the United States. Prior to July of this year Ala' lived in Camp 4, but it wasn't until a July meeting with his lawyer, CCR attorney Gitanjali Gutierrez, that he had a chance to describe how the military's mistreatment of the Koran led to violence.
According to Ala', on May 18th the GTMO Commander ordered the military police (MPs) to search the prisoners' Korans. Many prisoners voiced their opposition to the MPs searching and handling of the holy book, asking those who conducted the search, "Why are you doing this?" The MPs answered that they had orders to search the Korans and anyone who refused would be forced to comply.
Ala' explained that the English-speaking detainees attempted unsuccessfully to negotiate with the MPs to diffuse and resolve the situation. The MPs refused to discuss the issue and began their search on a block that housed 50- and 60-year-old Afghani prisoners. When these older men refused to allow their Korans to be searched, the MPs indiscriminately pepper-sprayed the detainees and opened fire on the older prisoners with rubber bullets.

Zach points out that Making Contact will look at the issue of water rights (access, et al) today at 1:30 pm PST on KPFA.

The e-mail address for this site is

"British Leave Iraqi Base; Milita Supporters Jubilant" (Amit R. Paley)

British troops abandoned a major base in southern Iraq on Thursday and prepared to wage guerrilla warfare along the Iranian border to combat weapons smuggling, a move that anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called the first expulsion of U.S.-led coalition forces from an Iraqi urban center.
"This is the first Iraqi city that has kicked out the occupier!" trumpeted a message from Sadr's office that played on car-mounted speakers in Amarah, capital of the southern province of Maysan. "We have to celebrate this occasion!"

Maj. Charlie Burbridge, a British military spokesman, said the last of 1,200 troops left Camp Abu Naji, just outside Amarah, at noon Thursday, after several days of heavy mortar and rocket fire by a local militia, which local residents identified as the Sadr-controlled Mahdi Army. Adopting tactics used by a British special forces unit in North Africa during World War II, 600 of the soldiers plan to slip soon into the marshlands and deserts of eastern Maysan in an attempt to secure the Iranian border.
The repositioning is the first public acknowledgment that forces from the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq have entered into guerrilla warfare to combat the insurgents and militias they have been fighting for more than three years.

The above is from Amit R. Paley's "British Leave Iraqi Base; Militia Supporters Jubilant" (Washington Post) and four members e-mailed to note it (Kayla was first) because, guess what, it's news. It's news even if the New York Times doesn't think so (hold on for that). A base has been abandoned, the guerrilla warfare of the so-called coalition goes public (it's been going on for some time as most who were paying attention noticed -- British forces were found disguised and with bombs should have been the first clue).

From Paul von Zielbauer's "Shiite Leader Urges Iraqi Politicians to Stay Home and Work Harder" in the New York Times:

Attacks in Baghdad killed or wounded dozens of people on Thursday. At 11:30 a.m., a roadside bomb detonated in the Bab al-Sharji neighborhood in central Baghdad, wounding four people, an Interior Ministry official said. Less than an hour later, a suicide car bomber blew himself up in the Mashtal district of southeast Baghdad, killing two civilians and wounding nine others, including two policemen, the official said.
Twenty minutes after that attack, a car bomb blew up in the Adhamiya neighborhood near a government security complex, killing two people and wounding four policemen in the mostly Sunni Arab area.
An hour after that, a parked car rigged with explosives went off. It was apparently aimed at a convoy of a Baghdad district police chief, wounding five officers.
Three American soldiers were killed in fighting in and around Baghdad during the past 24 hours, American military officials here said. One soldier was killed in Baghdad on Thursday when his patrol came under fire around noon, the military said; a second soldier died after a roadside bomb detonated near his vehicle south of Baghdad. On Wednesday, an American soldier was killed south of Baghdad.

They're playing round up, leading with al-Sistani's comments that members of the Iraqi government need to stay in Iraq and address the problem as opposed to traveling to various countries. "They" is Paul von Zielbauer who's been given the assignment of covering every event that's happened in Iraq in the last 24 or so hours prior to his deadline. Which is why the British abandoning a base is covered solely through the claims by the British military p.r. hack yesterday. Iraq is one story and one story only. How bad is von Zielbauer's article? When the Times only makes space for one story, we won't rip apart someone trying. von Zeilbauer's trying, it's an impossible task.

But the Times has other things to do. After all one of Judith Miller's play-dates couldn't be beating war drums (Sudan) if the paper made him actually work, could he? No, not the war pornographer, the other one, Warren Hoge.

On the subject of the Times, Cedric's "Bob Herbert disappoints" addresses Bob Herbert's column from Thursday's paper.

The e-mail address for this site is There's a second entry coming this morning but the phones are going crazy with friends wanting to weigh in on a number of articles so the next entry may go up a little later than usual.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

It is staggering. It is horrifying. But, then again, it isn't. It is what we have come to expect of this war and those who have misled our nation into it.
According to the Washington Post, the commanding officer of the battalion involved in the Haditha massacre last November told military investigators "he did not consider the deaths of 24 Iraqis, many of them women and children, unusual and did not initiate an inquiry."
And the New York Times reported last week on the felony assault conviction of
David Passaro, a CIA contractor accused of beating an Afghan prisoner for two days with "a flashlight and his fists" until the man pleaded to be shot and then died the following day.
These two stories reveal -- once again -- the lack of accountability and prosecution up the chain of command. Those who sit on high have attempted to erase such "quaint" legal restraints as the Geneva Conventions while blaming the lowest ranking soldiers for waging the war they have created.

The above is from Katrina vanden Heuvel's "Whitewash" (Editor's Cut, The Nation) and Maria noted it. Lack of accountability and prosecution up the chain of command is an issue, to be sure, it's also true that the 'few bad apples' tend to get slaps on the wrist. No one's being held accountable on any level.

And, as we noted this morning, from Josh White's "Marine Called Haditha Shootings Appropriate" (Washington Post), the person put in charge of the initial investigation didn't see anything worrisome about what happened (to Iraqis):

When asked if anyone ever hinted that the situation that day was considered inappropriate or if something bad had happened, Laughner answered: "No, just that a Marine died. That is the only bad thing."

That is the only bad thing. Well let's get to 'the only bad thing,' but first, the song:

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.

-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Thursday, the American troop fatality stood at 2604. Tonight? 2619. Now that's not 'the only bad thing' about the illegal war. But it is a tragedy. And it's a tragedy that latest wave of Operation Happy Talk wants you to ignore. That's fifteen deaths in seven days.

But AP is reporting that General John Abizaidsay the violence in Baghdad has 'slowed' and that he and George Casey are "optimistic." Maybe Johnny and Georgie are just plain stupid?

As the AP article, Patrick Quinn's "U.S. Generals say Baghdad violence slows," notes:

But the bloodshed persisted with three car bombs in Baghdad and a series of bombings and shootings across the country killing at least 16 Iraqis and two U.S. soldiers on Thursday. Another U.S. soldier was killed the previous day, the military said.

This went on and it's not very optimistic. The count doesn't include the corpses that were discovered today. They died when? Not in the daily totals. But they will be part of the monthly total that led the United Nations to estimate a hundred Iraqis are dying each day.

Quinn notes that 12,000 troops were sent into Baghdad (in addition to the ones already there before the latest juiced version of 'crackdown'). Yesterday's The KPFA Evening News noted that we're back up to 138,000 American troops in Iraq. So the AFP's "Marines Call-up Reflects Deepening Strains on US Military" isn't really suprising. (Rebecca and Mike both discussed it in their posts today and The Third Estate Sunday Review noted it Sunday.)

The crackdown is nothing but Whack-A-Mole and no cause for excitement. As John McCain noted, it's pulling everyone into one area to address a 'crisis' and then, when that's calm (or something else flares even more violent), moving to the next one. It's not a strategy. Neither is "add more" (McCain's belief -- more troops on the ground). Three years and five months into the illegal war and there's no new plan by the Bully Boy, just more of the same. (Adding more troops on the ground is more of the same.)

Brenda notes Kat's "The fear push is coming" and Norman Solomon's "The Mythical End to the Politics of Fear" (CounterPunch):

Nearly five years into the "war on terror," it's still at the core of American media and politics.
Yeah, I've seen the recent polls showing a drop in public support for President Bush's "war on terror" claims. And I've read a spate of commentaries this month celebrating Bush's current lack of political traction on the terrorism issue, like the New York Times piece by Frank Rich last Sunday triumphantly proclaiming that "the era of Americans' fearing fear itself is over."
That's a comforting thought, hovering somewhere between complacent and delusional.
Reflexive fear may be on vacation, but it hasn't quit. The "war on terror" motif is fraying -- but it remains close at hand as a mighty pretext for present and future warfare.
The U.S. war effort in Iraq is, if anything, more horrific than it was a year ago. Back then, in late summer, Frank Rich wrote a Times column -- under the headline "Someone Tell the President the War Is Over" -- mocking Bush's assertion on Aug. 11, 2005, that "no decision has been made yet" about withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Responding in print days later, Rich concluded: "The country has already made the decision for Mr. Bush. We're outta there."
A year later, are we "outta there"? Only via the intellectualizing gymnastics of punditland.

We're not out of there. Bully Boy's announced that as long as he occupies the White House, the war will drag on. (Again, is he attempting to incite the impeachment drive?) During Vietnam, the figures climbed as high as the low 70 percentile. The country has turned against the war, the opinion continues to harden (it's not changing). The ever cautious New York Timid had a low ball figure this week but it was still large enough. It'll continue to grow higher. You'll see more protests, more standing up like Ehren Watada.

Bob Watada is speaking out to raise awareness of his son's stand. Liang notes Ben Hamamoto's "Bob Watada, Lt. Ehren Watada's Father, Comes to Bay Area, Draws Supporters" (Nichi Bei Times):

At his JCCCNC appearance, the elder Watada answered those who said his son should not protest, as he knew there was a war when he signed up for the Armed Forces.
"When he first went to Ft. Lewis," the elder Watada explained, "there was a striker brigade that was going to be leaving for Iraq in several months. He offered to join that unit."
According to his father, Lt. Watada was turned down and while he awaited assignment to a unit that would deploy, he was instructed by his commanders to "study everything you need to know about Iraq, because you owe it to your men... this is when he began to realize that the president was openly lying to the people." After undertaking such studies, the younger Watada came to the conclusion that "the military is being used by the Bush Administration simply to provide cover for the multi-national corporations to privatize large parts of Iraq."
In the end, it was the news of the abuse and killing of Iraqi civilians -- men, women and children -- that brought him to the conclusion that he would resist deployment.
Initially, the elder Watada opposed the idea. "It's not worth it," he told his son. He felt that as an artillery officer, the lieutenant could avoid combat entirely by staying in the "green zone."
The younger Watada opted not to do this and instead took what his father calls "the more courageous path."
To those who think the younger Watada simply wants attention, his father says he does not think his son would find personal fame alone worth the attacks on his character, the stress and the jail time he faces.
"There is a bigger story that Ehren wants to get out," he says. "No matter what happens to him, he wants me to go out and tell people what is happening in Iraq. He wants me to talk about the men women and children, the torture that people are going through... The story you see in the mainstream media is not the true story of Iraq."

We're going to again note the story NBC11 did today "Army Officer Could Be Punished For Refusing To Go To Iraq" -- and we're noting it again for a reason:

Watada may stand trial on charges of missing troop movement, conduct unbecoming an officer and contempt toward officials.
If Watada goes to trial and is convicted, he could face more than seven years in prison.

There's an article from an indymedia site (one we often note and by a writer we've noted before) that three members e-mailed about. Had we all missed it? Had a decision been handed down on the Article 32 hearing? No.

A program decided this week to cover (in a few sentences) Ehren Watada. Possibly it was too embarrassing to note that they were playing catch up. So they presented the story (and Rebecca and Mike both covered this in detail) as 'new.' It led to people thinking that a decision had come down on the Article 32 hearing. On Tuesday, we noted here: "Despite confusion in the e-mails, he has not been charged with anything today. (A program announced he had, they were covering Thursday's Article 32 hearing.) " No decision has been made. If one had been made on Tuesday, Bob Watada would have known. As we noted Wednesday, Philip Maldari interviewed Bob Watada that day (live) on KPFA's The Morning Show. Had a decision been reached, Bob Watada would have noted it. No decision has been reached. (Like Eric Seitz, Ehren Watada's civilian attorney, Bob Watada expects that the decision will be to move towards a court-martial; however, no decision has been announced yet.)

That news item (on the Tuesday program), all three sentences, presented Thursday's hearing in such a way that people misunderstood what was being announced. The members e-mailing on the indymedia story wondered if a decision had been announced? No. The indymedia journalist obviously got his information from the Tuesday program. That's too bad because he has written a piece that would be worth highlighting were it not for the fact that it claims a decision of court-martialing Ehren Watada has been reached. I don't feel the need to link to something that's incorrect.

Again, there has been no decision made from the Article 32 hearing yet. It will probably come down shortly (possibly as early as tomorrow). But as of yet, no decision. When you're led to believe that, someone's either misinformed or they're trying to present you with last week's news in a manner that doesn't call attention to the fact that last week they elected not to cover it.

If that's harsh (no member's going to complain, I know) that's toobad. You present yourselves as a news program than you need to present the news accurately. Rebecca's got the item at her site (and refuting it) so we'll borrow it and post it here (with no link except to Rebecca so save the e-mails of complaint, we're not linking, the community's been very vocal on that):

In an update in a story we’ve been following: First Lt. Ehren Watada has been charged with three offenses for refusing to fight in Iraq. In June he became the first US military officer to openly oppose the war in Iraq. He was charged with Conduct Unbecoming an Officer, Missing Movement, and Contempt toward Officials.

That left some people confused. It should have read:

In an update in a story we last covered some time ago: First Lt. Ehren Watada was charged with three offenses for refusing to fight in Iraq and, last Thursday, an Article 32 hearing heard testimony. No decision has yet been reached but it is expected to come shortly. Watada's civilian attorney has stated that he believes the military will move towards a court-martial. In June Ehren Watada became the first US military officer to openly oppose the war in Iraq. The charges the presiding officer in the Article 32 hearing is currently weighing are: Conduct Unbecoming an Officer, Missing Movement, and Contempt toward Officials.

To repeat, no determination has been made. Lt. Col. Mark Keith is expected to issue the recommendation shortly but has not yet done so (he could recommend that the charges be dismissed, he could recommend court-martial).

Though independent media largely ignored the story (we noted exceptions here) in real time, mainstream media did cover it. When the finding is announced, you can expect to see it noted by many of the same organizations (big or small) that covered it in real time.

In case a visitor is confused, we'll go to Melanthia Mitchell's "Hearing set for Fort Lewis soldier refusing to go to Iraq" (AP) written before the hearing started, running the morning of August 17th (the day the hearing began and ended but had not yet started when the story began making the wires) and I'll provide comments in brackets:

A lawyer for an Army officer facing possible court-martial for refusing to go to Iraq says he has lined up two witnesses to support the soldier’s claim that the war is illegal.
A hearing to determine whether 1st Lt. Ehren Watada will stand trial was scheduled Thursday at Fort Lewis, about 50 miles south of Seattle.
Watada, 28, of Honolulu, was charged last month [that would be July] with conduct unbecoming an officer, missing troop movement and contempt toward officials. [Those are the charges the program repeated as 'news' on Tuesday.] He refused to deploy to Iraq on June 22 with his Stryker unit, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division based at Fort Lewis.

Sadly, there was another article that we'll have to take a pass on as well because it also maintains that it's been decided to court-martial Ehren Watada. That's likely what will happen; however, that decision has not been announced. To repeat, Bob Watada spoke with Philip Maldari on Wednesday. He thinks the military will move towards court-martialing his son. But the decision has not been reached and anyone still confused should listen to Wednesday's broadcast of KPFA's The Morning Show (the broadcast is archived, there's no fee to listen to it -- the interview comes following the news headlines in the second hour of the broadcast).

Marcia notes "Recuriters struggle to meet lowered targets but gays and lesbians are still 'unfit'" (The Third Estate Sunday Review) as well as "As Marine Corps Gay Discharges Increase, Bush Issues Involuntary Recall to Bridge Recruiting Gap; 953 Marines Discharged Since 1993" (Common Dreams):

WASHINGTON - August 23 - As the Marine Corps' dismissal of lesbian and gay troops increases, President Bush has authorized an involuntary recall of Marine Corps Individual Ready Reservists (IRR) "because there are not enough volunteers returning for duty in Afghanistan and Iraq," according to a report from CNN. The recall, which is meant to bridge a recruitment shortfall of about 1,200 people, follows a report in May that the Corps' dismissal of service members under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on lesbian and gay personnel has increased for the first time since 2001. Since 1993, the Marine Corps has dismissed 953 men and women under the law.
"If President Bush is truly interested in boosting the manpower of our services, he should immediately endorse repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'" said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). "Every day, our armed forces lose at least two people because of the ban on open service. Those men and women are ready, willing and able to serve, but are prohibited from doing so because of an outdated law that has no useful purpose. Our closest allies in Iraq and Afghanistan already benefit from welcoming openly gay troops, and we should as well. Today's news is yet another compelling reason for Congress to lift the ban."
More than 11,000 men and women have been dismissed under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" since the law was implemented. According to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), more than 800 of those had skills deemed "critical" by the Department of Defense, including linguistic training, medical skills and expertise in combat engineering.
"Every day, the Marine Corps loses good men and women because of this law, and every day, others choose not to re-enlist because they are officially unwelcome in the services," said former Marine Sergeant and Iraq War veteran Brian Fricke. "The readiness of our armed forces should be our primary concern, not the bias and prejudice that keeps 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' in place. Every American benefits when every qualified American who wants to serve is given the opportunity to do so."
A Congressional bill to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is now supported by 119 bi-partisan members of Congress. For more information on the law, visit

Lastly, the snapshot was tagged for Cindy Sheehan today but had no item. A friend passed on about her release from the hospital but there was no story on that yet. I had tagged the thing already and focused on the inquiry into Jake Kovco's hearing. When I finished that, I called around and still no story so I posted (and forgot Sheehan was in the tag -- those things are done in start-and-stops when I grab the time -- if they read disajointed to you, that's why). From the Waco Tribune's "War protester is on the mend, supporters say:"

War protester Cindy Sheehan was released from Providence Health Center today and is recuperating from surgery in a motel room in McGregor.
Depending on how she feels Friday, Sheehan may attend a news conference at her newly purchased property in Crawford. The conference is being held by Carlos and Mélida Arredondo of Roslindale, Mass., to commemorate the death of his son, Marine Lance Cpl. Alexander Scott Arredondo, killed in An Najaf, Iraq, on Aug. 25, 2004.
Sheehan, who first brought her protest of the Iraq war to President Bush's nearby ranch a year ago, has found this year's August peace vigil a trying one, marred by exhaustion, hospital stays, recuperation and Bush’s own altered schedule.

But she has fought on and Camp Casey III has gone on. She'll be taking part in the DC actions next month, she'll be in Salt Lake City August 31st to protest beside the city's mayor, Rocky Anderson, and others Bully Boy's speech. And of course, she started the month of August in Jordan with other peace activists as they met with Iraqis. August was also when, following doctor's orders, she had to go off the Troops Home Fast (after nearly forty days of fasting). The fast is on day 52 and 4,833 people were participating on Thursday. The mass action officially ends on September 21st (though some may continue) and those wishing to participate can grab a one-time, one-day fast, a one-day a week fast or a multi-day fast. Those grabbing a multi-day fast should seek consult with their health care provider/advisor before embarking on the action.

One more thing. A visitor responded to my comment that we weren't a court cite by noting the coverage of Jake Kovco. We cover Kovco because we have a lot of Australian members and they made it an issue for the community from the start. That's actually a military inquiry and not a civilian court case. If it was covered in the US media, we probably wouldn't cover it in the snapshot. We'd do excerpts in other entries. But it's not covered. For those late to the story, Jake Kovco died April 21st in Baghdad. He's the first Australian soldier to die on the ground in Iraq in this war. Before the wrong body was sent to Australia, we'd already been covering it. When the wrong body was sent back to Australia, I did think the US media might get on the story. That didn't happen. That's been true before the inquiry started and throughout the inquiry.

Did I think Kovco accidentally shoot himself? The visitor wanted to know that. I have no idea what happened. I don't think Kovco intentionally shot himself. After that, I have no idea. There is DNA from others on the gun. (One person has been identified but other DNA could not be called that person's.) The two roommates assert they don't know what happened. A soldier originally stated he heard a cry of "God Is Great!" before the gunshot. He's now retracted his statement. Witnesses testimony seems to contradict from one day to the next.

Assuming it was Kovco who (accidentally) shot himself, the procedures that should have been followed weren't and that goes to more than unloading the weapon at the end of a shift. There are some serious issues being raised in the hearing. (Australian members are no longer impressed with the media coverage they are getting now with few exceptions. They feel that it's too much, "Today . . ." that never bothers to examine how the testimony agrees or refutes earlier testimony.) I thank members for their e-mails and friends for taking my calls (despite the time difference) as I try to follow it. We cover it because big media didn't in the United States and because members in Australia take Jake Kovco very seriously (as does the rest of the communtiy thanks to their bringing the issue to the community's attention).

The visitor said he was tired of "the widow and his parents trying to use the guy for their anti-war beliefs." Shelley Kovco (Jake Kovco's widow and the mother of their two children) is not against the war. I don't believe Judy and Martin Kovco (Jake Kovco's parents) have issued any statement about the war. Jake Kovco's story should matter. Giving it the best possible outcome (it was an accident that involved no one else), the military created the environment in which it happened -- both the accident and the confusion that followed it -- and did that by ignoring procedures in place and not having procedures (such as the laughable 'we had a buddy-system!' no, you didn't). That's my opinion. We have members who would agree with that and we have members who are convinced that more went on. (And it may have.)

Olive was the first one to note Jake Kovco's death (the day after, I believe) and she included a copy and paste of a newspaper photo in her e-mail. I felt for him and his family then. (And do now.) But no, I didn't think we'd be covering it four months later. But that was dependent upon it being covered domestically (United States) and us being able to excerpt those highlights. Didn't happen. His story deserves to be known and we'll continue to follow the inquiry while it's hearing testimony and we'll note the final report they issue.

As for the Pendleton Eight, the visitor brought that up, we don't cover them "every day." We do pick up on something like Abeer because (as with Kovco) the coverage that should have been there wasn't. (We'll probably continue to cover that case when it moves to the US civilian court for Steven D. Green's case.) If, as you say, it bothers you, don't read it. We're not thrown to your doorstep and we haven't charged you anything to read. If the snapshot is "too much" for you then (a) don't read it and (b) consider asking yourself why you support the (illegal) war if you can't stomach the realities of it?

The e-mail address for this site is

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, August 24, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, John Abizaid must be drinking something stronger than cough syrup,  Ehren Watada's father Bob continues speaking out to raise awareness about his son, a British military flack plays word games, Operation Happy Talk launches a new wave and reality (as is so often the case) crashes into the propaganda. 
The BBC sums up the reality this way: "At least 12 Iraqis and three US soldiers have died in bombings and gun attacks across Iraq in the last 24 hours, officials say."  As Elena Becatoros (Associated Press) notes: "The killings came despite assurances from U.S. officials that progress was being made to improve security in the capital."
We'll start with the violence and chaos. 
Elena Beatoros (AP) notes that a US soldier died today "when his vehicle was hit by a a roadside bomb south of Baghdad."   Reuters  notes three car bombs and two roadside bombs today in Baghdad have taken at least four lives and left 24 injured. The AP notes that three police officers were killed in Baquba (minivan bomb) that left another wounded and, on the edges of Baquba, a roadside bomb claimed the lives of three Iraqi soldiers.
A US soldier was killed on Wednesday (one of the three noted at the beginning) in what the BBC describes as "small-arms fire" to the south of Baghdad. Also dying on Wednesday from gunfire (and not included in yesterday's snapshot -- it wasn't reported then) were three police officers in Balad. Reuters reports seven who had been shot dead were taken to a hospital in Mosul and that three police officers were shot dead in Balad (those six are today, yesterday three police officers were shot dead in Balad).
 Elena Becatoros (AP) notes that a US soldier was shot dead in Baghdad today while on a patrol.
Reuters reports a corpse discovered in Suwayra ("handcuffed . . . gunshot wounds"); one discovered near Latifiya ("handcuffed, blindfolded . . . gunshot wounds"), a third discovered in Tikrit; a fourth discovered Baiji (this was the body that went with an earlier discovered severed head) and three more ("handuffed . . . gunshot wounds") were discovered in Baghdad.
And in the face of the above, General John Abizaid launched a wave of Operation Happy Talk that out does the strongest happy talker.  (Okay, maybe not Dexy Filkins.)  "I think there has been great progress on the security front in Baghdad recently," declared Abizaid.  Nouri al-Maliki, Iraqi prime minister and puppet of the occupation, knew Happy Talk wasn't enough.  Instead, AFP reports, he "has banned television channels from broadcasting gory images of daily bloodshed in the country".  Keep it off the TV screens, the thinking seems to go, and Iraqis will forget that they're occupied.  This 'policy' seems to invite government censorship as someone has to determine what will "arouse passions and sectarian feelings".  All this time after Paul Bremer had a hissy fit over an editorial cartoon, the press is still the occupation's first target.
Meanwhile British troops of the Soldiers of the Queen's Royal Hussars are . . . on the move.  Ross Colvin (Reuters) reports a lot of talk about how they're 'stripped-down' and mobile (in Landrovers) but the reality is that they're also homeless -- they've "abandoned their base in Iraq's southern Maysan province on Thursday".  Though the base was under "nightly attack" and though it has, indeed, been abandoned, British flack Charlie Burbridge disagrees that "the British had been forced out of Amara". 
Meanwhile, in the United States, Ehren Watada's father Bob continues his efforts to get the word out on his son, the first known commissioned officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq.  Momo Chang (Oakland Tribune) quotes Bob Watada saying: "Ehren is not doing this for himself.  He is doing this for every American who believes in democracy and the Constitution. . . . And I am very proud of him."  NBC11 reports Bob Watada, speaking in San Jose, saying, "My son is very strong.  He's going to -- even if there's a court-martial, he's going to go to jail instead of killing innocent Iraqis -- that's the real tragedy here."
Chang notes that Bob Watada will have taken part in 25 speaking engagements during his brief time in the San Francisco Bay Area and that Sarah Olson (one of two journalists the governments wants as witnesses against Ehren Watada should a court-martial be scheduled) has stated, "It's not my job as a journalist to help the Army prosecute Lt. Watada."
Bob Watada continues to speak out and here are some of the upcoming events:

Thu. 8/24
7pm Reception & Educational Event
Newman Center, 5900 Newman Ct.,
Contact: Sacramento-Yolo Peace Action 916-448-7157
Fri. 8/25
No. Cal. Japanese
Christian Theological Forum
Berkeley Methodist United Church-
1710 Carleton St/McGee in Berkeley
Contact: Laura Takeuchi 510-848-3614

Film Screening & Speakers
Santa Cruz Veterans Building
Contact: Sharon Kufeldt 650-799-1070

Sat. 8/26 7-9pm
Educational & Cultural Event
Berkeley Friends
Church; 1600 Sacramento St.,
Contact: Betty Kano 510-684-0239

Sun. 8/27 4-6pm Speaking Event
AFSC building, 65-Ninth St., SF
Contact: Martha Hubert 415-647-1119
A complete list of the events Bob Watada will be taking part in can be found here.
Remember: Cedric (Cedric's Big Mix) is advising those calling Donald Rumsfeld (703-545-6700) or mailing him (1000 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301-1000) to say: "Hands off Ehren Watada! Let him go." Billie advises that you can use to e-mail the Pentagon. She suggests "Re: Ehren Watad" or "ATTN: DONALD RUMSFELD." Courage to Resist and will continue to offer resources, ideas and inspiration. Get the word out.
Ehren Watada is only one resister.  Yesterday on  KPFA's Flashpoints, Dennis Bernstein spoke with war resister Carl Webb who has repeatedly refused to serve in the Iraq war.  As noted at The Third Estate Sunday Review, Webb recieved a letter saying that he was released from the Texas National Guard but, as Jeff Mackler pointed out, Webb also got a second letter saying that "they were reassinging him to the pool for the people who could be drafted."  ("Drafted" refers to the stop-loss/backdoor draft program.  Those new to this topic can refer to Scott Cannon and Rick Montgomery's "Back-Door Draft Shakes The Military" from the Kansas City Star.)
Replying to a question from Bernstein as to whether or not he had any regrets, Webb replied, "No, I have no regrets at all" and noted the importance of raising awareness about the GI resistance and getting the word out on "how much GI resistance there is in the military because that's why I'm here, to tell my fellow soldiers that they don't have to obey orders, that they have to refuse by any means necessary."
Webb discussed the story of his refusal to serve in an illegal war and noted, "I'm here hoping to be an example not only to do those being called up but to anyone in the military".   Webb will be speaking this Saturday in San Francisco:
Aug. 26 7:30 pm
Socialist Action Bookstore
298 Valencia St.
San Francisco
Jeff Mackler is running for the US Senate out of California the seat currently occupied by War Hawk Dianne Feinstein. Yesterday, on The KPFA Evening News, Feinstein revealed that she'd come to the conclusion intelligence was misused and abused to lead us into war.  Three years and a primary challenger was all it took.  Possibly in three more years she may be able to note the illegal nature of the war as well.
[Rebecca noted Bernstein's interview with Carl Webb yesterday.]
In Australia, the military inquiry into the April 21st death of Jake Kovco in Baghdad continues.  The lead in the reports is about a big, teary performance delivered by a witness -- Brigadier Paul Symon.  The AAP tells you Symon is "Australia's former commander in Iraq" and that he "says he will take responsiblity for the bungled return of Private Jake Kovco's body" and he did so, according to the AAP, via "emotional evidence".    Australia's ABC informs that poor Symon "was reduced to tears".  If some felt it was performance akin to the one Patrick Walters reported on March 9th of this year (where Symon announced to the world that the corner had been turned and that troops were 'turning the tables') it may go to the fact that he blew his credibility in the eyes of some a long time ago.  It may also have to do with the excessive coverage his dramatics overshadow a genuine response by the family of Jake Kovco.
But let's back up, for those who've forgotten or are late to the discussion, Jake Kovco didn't make it back to Australia as planned.  Instead, Juso Sinanovic was sent to Austrlia -- a problem since he should have been sent to Bosnia (Sinanovic died on April 17th).  As Elizabeth Jackson reported on AM (Australia's ABC), April 27th: "The Body of an Australian soldier killed in a shooting accident last week in Baghdad has been accidentally left behind in Kuwait.  Privated Jake Kovco's body was due to arrive in Melbourne late last night on a flight from Kuwait.  But it didn't."  Jackson interviewed Brendan Nelson (Defence Minister) who declared that Kovco "was at all times appropriately identified by the Australian Defence Force and the Australian Army" which we now know, one of the few things the inquiry has established, that's not true.
In terms of Paul Symon, he was the commander when Kovco died.  He was reponsible.  That he broke down in tears after reading "a statement he had written to his superiors on April 27, explaining how the wrong body was sent back to Australia" says little about his compassion for Jake Kovco (it can be argued he had none, hold on for that), it has to do with the public humilitation of having to publicly have all eyes on him while he read his "Oops" in public.
The delicate flower was weeping for himself. After cry baby dried up his tears, he resumed testifying and went on to refer to Jake Kovco, as Tracy Ong (The Australian) reports (and one of the few to lead with this), as "a piece of cargo."  This caused a genuine objection from Judy Kovco (as opposed to the earlier theatrics from Symon) who shouted, "He's not a piece of cargo.  Don't you dare.  He was my son."
Now remember, this was the grown man who broke down in tears when he had to read his "Oops" to the hearing.  That wasn't about Kovco, the tears.  That was about the humilitation of having to own up to mistakes under his command.  Demonstrating this point further is Symon's response to Judy Kovco which was to describe his reference to Jake Kovco as "a piece of cargo" as being "not well chosen." 
Tara Ravens ( reports on his "Oops" he read to the hearing: "If mistakes are found to be made . . . I accept responsibility for those mistakes.  If mistakes have been made outside . . . I would expect their senior management to accept responsiblity in exactly the same manner.  After all, someone has to take responsiblity for this dreadful mistake."   Yes, someone does.  And despite the April 27 "Oops" where he spoke of "responsibility" it's still not happening.  The AAP notes that, at the hearing, while doing his responsiblity 'talk,' he "implored the federal government to adopt better repatriation policies."  Blah, blah, blah, "human emotions" are messy (this is a summary of Symon's supposed acceptance of responsibility) and we need "technical solutions" blah blah blah.  Referring to the body of Jake Kovco (the first Australian on the ground death in the current war) as "we have here a piece of cargo" doesn't indicate that Symon's lost in "human emotions."
The inquiry also addressed the movement of Kovco's body.  Again, Symon says it wasn't his fault.  Symon states: "When the advice came not to move the body, it had already been moved so I could not turn the clock back".
Yesterday, Soldier 47 gave testimony stating that he had "instructed authorities in Baghdad not to move the body" -- before leaving for Baghdad "immediately."  Though Symon congratulated himself for "common sense and good judgement," there's no indication that he applied either.  Tracy Ong reports: "Brigadier Symon said a request from military policy in Syndey that Kovco's body remain in Baghdad came after it had been moved to the US morgue at the airport at the request of medical staff.  He said he thought he was helping military police by having the body moved to the evacuation point in Kuwait where they could see it sooner."  The evacuation point refers to the private morgue -- soldiers have testified that if the US morgue had been used, the mix up wouldn't have happened and they've criticized what they saw as the cheapness in the decision.  Ong notes Anzac Day and Symon denies that there was a rush to get Kovco home in time for that holiday while admitting "I could see a certain poignancy in a good soldier being returned to the nation on Anzac Day."
Anzac Day is April 25th.  It's a national holiday in Australia, a day of memorial beginning in the 1920s and furthered by the human costs of WWII (it became an official holiday in 1916 to mark the actions of the newly independent Australia in WWI). A certain poignancy in Jake Kovco being returned to Australia on that day?
Does Symon mean poignancy or does he mean PR?

Possibly the remark underscores the PR hopes of Symon who's had his hand in selling and shelling an illegal war.  The hopes of a PR coup (remember, the month prior Symon was -- falsely -- telling reporters a corner had been turned) may be the what added further stress to an already difficult mourning for Jake Kovco's family and friends. 
The e-mail address for this site is

How low will we go? Check out Yahoo! Messenger’s low PC-to-Phone call rates.