Saturday, October 21, 2006

Violence and chaos continue in Iraq, Bob Watada continues speaking out

Mortar rounds rained down on a crowded outdoor market south of Baghdad on Saturday, killing at least 18 people and injuring dozens, police said.
A bicycle rigged with a bomb tore through the market in Mahmoudiyah first, followed by at least a dozen mortars, said army Capt. Oday Abdul Ridha.

The above, noted by Lloyd, is from the AP's "Mortar Rounds Hit Iraqi Market; 18 Dead" (via Washington Post). Brad notes Sinan Salaheddin's "Iraqi Shiite Militias Clash Near Babylon" (AP via Forbes):

Rival Shiite militiamen battled near the ancient city of Babylon on Saturday until American forces and helicopters rushed to separate the combatants. Gunfights broke out in Hamza al-Gharbi, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, after a bomb exploded near the offices of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a leading Shiite political party that sponsors the Badr Brigades militia.

And the AFP reports:

Iraqi Shiite and Sunni clerics meeting in Islam's holiest city signed a text calling for a halt to sectarian bloodletting in war-torn Iraq, al-Arabiya television reported.
At the meeting, organised by the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference, the clerics from the two sides of the country's religious divide signed a document stipulating that "spilling Muslim blood is forbidden".
The 10-point text, drafted by a smaller group of four clerics from two communities under OIC auspices, draws on verses of the Koran and sayings of the Prophet Mohammed.

Followed by this:

A suicide bomber has blown himself up on a bus crowded with Baghdad holiday shoppers, killing four people only hours after Iraq's religious leaders issued a call from Mecca to end the bloodshed.
Children's clothes and toys were scattered across a bridge over the Tigris Saturday from one of Baghdad's biggest public markets, crammed with families preparing for the Eid holiday at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
"Is this the Mecca document? Killing children and those buying toys for them?" roared Abu Sajad, a stocky, white-bearded man in his 50s at the scene. "The holidays are the only days now when children are happy."

In some of the other reported violence in Iraq on Saturday, Reuters notes that two Iraqi soldiers and one police officer were shot dead in Kirkuk, three car bombs in Baghdad killed one person and inured nine and "Around 150 Gunmen loyal to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr battled police in Suwayra, 45 km (30 miles) south of Baghdad, in clashes that left eight gunmen dead and two civilians wounded, said Police Lieutenant Ali Naamah. A spokesman for Sadr's office in Suwayra said the attack was a response to an earlier raid by U.S. military forces, backed by helicopters, on a Sadr office, that killed six people."

As noted previously, war resister Kyle Snyder is planning to return to the United States from Canada. In other news of war resisters, Bob Watada, father of Ehren Watada, has now done two speaking tours to raise awareness on his son -- the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to fight in the illegal war. He's hitting the road a third time. That's because it matters to him and, hopefully, it matters to you as well. Texas members should take note that he will be speaking in Austin and Houston. (Dallas isn't on the list yet.) Keesha notes his new speaking schedule, via Veterans for Peace:

Bob Watada Speaking Tour
Oct 26-Nov 17, 2006
Please check the schedule for locations closest to you. If you are interested in hosting Bob Watada in your city, please contact
Doug Zachary.

Oct 26, 7PM
Phoenix, AZ
Location: TBA
Sponsor: Veterans for Peace Chapter 75
Contact: John Henry, 602-400-9179, 408-704-0192,
Oct 27, 7PM
Albuquerque, NM
Location: Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice
202 Harvard Dr SE
Sponsor: Veterans for Peace Chapter 63
Contact: Sally-Alice Thompson, 505-268-5073, 512-463-2014,
Oct 28, 1 – 4:30PM
Houston, TX.
Sponsor: Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace Chapter 12, Iraq Veterans Against the War , Cy-Fair Democratic Club
Location: Live Oak Friends House, 1318 West 26th StreetEntertainment by Bill Passalacqua and Hank Woji, "
Sir, No Sir"
Oct 28, 6:15PM
Houston, TX
Location: Dan Electro's Guitar Bar, 1031 East 24th Street. "Celebration of Resistance"
Sponsors: Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace Chapter 12, Iraq Veterans Against the War
Contact: Sherry Glover,,
(H) 832-363-1741, (C) 713-929-1132
-Bob Watada, ---- David Rovics

Oct 29, 1PM
Austin, TX
Sponsor: Code Pink/Austin, Veterans for Peace Chapter 66
Contact: Fran Hanlon, 512-454-6572,
Peter Ravella, 512-220-1740
Heidi Turpin, (C)512-565-2242,

Oct 29, 5:30PM
Austin, TX
Café Caffeine -- 206 West Mary
Sponsors: Code Pink, Veterans for Peace Chapter 66, Iraq Veterans Against the War
Contact: Doug Zachary,, (C) 512-791-9824
Heidi Turpin, (C) 512-565-2242,
Fran Hanlon (H) 512-454-6572, ,

Oct 30
Austin High Schools
Oct 31, 7-9PM
Norman, OK
Location: Cleveland County Fairgrounds - Lobby
615 E. Robinson
Sponsor: Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War
Contact: Jeri Reed, 405-307-0352, cell 405-606-9598,
Nov 1, TBA
Miami, Florida
Democracy for America Miami Dade and the South Florida Veterans For Peace Chapter 32
Venue and time TBA
Nov 2, TBA
Cincinnati, OH
Meet Dr. Victoria (Vic) Wulsin, candidate
for congress 2nd district Ohio currently leading Jean Schmidt who
called Rep John Murtha from PA. a coward.
Sponsor: Vietnam Veterans Against the War
Venue: TBA
Nov 3, TBA
St. Paul MN.
Location: Quaker Peace Center -- 1725 Grand Avenue
Sponsors: Veterans for Peace Chapter 27
Contact: Barry Reisch, (H) 651-641-1087 © 612-269-8934
Nov 4, 11AM
Milwaukee, WI.
Location: Great Lakes Arlington Event
Contact: Mark Foreman, 441-760-9991,
Sponsor: VFP Chapter 102
* See the unveiling of a new "Arlington"
Nov. 5, 2PM
Boston, MA
Encuentro 5
33 Harrison Ave. 5th floor
Asian American Movement Ezine
Asian American Resource Workshop
Boston Hawaiian Club
Chinese Progressive Association
Massachusetts Global Action
New England Japanese American Citizens League
Nov 5, 7PM
Cambridge, MA.
Location: Unitarian Church, Harvard Square
Sponsor: Veterans for Peace Chapter 9, Smedley Butler Brigade and Chapter 45, Samantha Smith Chapter
Contact: Lee VanderLaan, 978-257-2350

Nov 6, 2-4:30PM
Boston, MA
Location: University of Massachusetts/Boston
Sponsor: The Institute for Asian American Studies
William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequence
Time: 2-4:30 pm
Nov 6, 7PM
Worcester, MA.
Location: Clark University – University Building, Lurie Room
Sponsors: Veterans For Peace Chapter 10
Contact: Bob Flanagan, 508-755-1479,

Nov 7, 4:30PM
Portland, ME
Location: Meditation Center
Sponsor: Veterans for Peace, Chapter 1
Contact: Doug Rawlings, 207-293-2580,,
Nov. 7, 6-9PM
Brunswick, ME
Location: Morrill Room, Curtis Memorial Library, 23 Pleasant Street
Pot luck supper and speaking engagement
Time: 6 - 7:30pm
Nov 8, 7PM
Albany, NY
Sponsor: VFP National
Location: TBA
Contact: Elliot Adams, 518-441-2697,
Nov 9, TBA
Philadelphia, PA.
Location: Annenberg School of Communication, Penn University, Room 109
Sponsors: Iraq Veterans Against the War, Delaware Valley Veterans for America, Military Families Speak Out, Gold Star Mothers
Contact: Bill Perry, 215-945-3350,

Nov 10, 7:30PM
New York City, NY
Location: St. Paul/St. Andrews Methodist Church
West End Avenue and West 86th Streets,
Sponsor: NYC Area Chapters of VFP & IVAW Contact: Thomas Brinson, 631-889-0203,
George McAnanama,

Nov 11, 11AM-5PM
New York City, NY
Veterans Day Parade
Sponsor: NYC Area Chapters of VFP & IVAW
Contact: Thomas Brinson, 631-889-0203,

Nov 12, TBA
Long Island, NY

Nov 13, 7PM
Ann Arbor, MI “The Ground Truth” and Bob Watada
Location: TBA
Sponsors: Michigan Peace Works,
Contact: Phillis Engelbert, 734-761-5922,

Nov 14, TBA
St. Louis, Mo.
Location: Friends Meeting House
1001 Park Avenue
Sponsors: Veterans for Peace Chapter 161, 314-754-2651
Contact: Chuc Smith, 314-721-1814,
Nov. 15, TBA
Norfolk, VA
Location: Norfolk/Virginia Beach
Contact: Tom Palumbo, 757-470-9797
Nov 16, 9AM
Asheville, NC
Location: Warren Wilson College
Sponsor: Veterans for Peace Chapter 99
Contact: Tim Pluta, 828-645-1717,

Nov 16, Noon
Asheville, NC
Location: TBA -- media conference
Sponsor: Veterans for Peace Chapter 99
Contact: Tim Pluta, 828-645-1717,

Nov 16, 2PM
Asheville, NC
Location: Mars Hill College -- class presentation
Sponsor: Veterans for Peace Chapter 99
Contact: Tim Pluta, 828-645-1717,

Nov 16, 7PM
Asheville, NC
Location: University of North Carolina -- public presentation
Sponsor: Veterans for Peace Chapter 99
Contact: Tim Pluta, 828-645-1717,

Nov 17, 7PM
Atlanta, GA
Location: The First Iconium Baptist Church, 542 Moreland Ave
Sponsor: Veterans for Peace Chapter 125, The Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition/Atlanta, and Atlanta WAND
Contact: Debra Clark, 770-855-6163,

Monday through Friday, in the snapshot, we will try to note the next day's events as we did with the previous speaking tours. It starts next week. If he's coming to your area, please turn out. If you see an event scheduled somewhere that you have friends or family, please contact them and let them know.

On the topic of Ehren Watada, Zach notes this letter to the LA Times:

Re "Loyal to Country or Conscience?" Oct. 16
The headline on the article about Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada is confusing. I think it presents a false choice. Watada refuses to be deployed to Iraq. He sees President Bush's invasion as illegal and immoral. I agree with him. So do many of his fellow Americans. Watada is loyal both to his country and to his conscience.
Los Angeles

It's followed by a letter from someone who'd do well to read Staughton Lynd's "Soldiers of Conscience" (The Nation) or Ruth's Report (August 26th) or Ruth's Report (September 4th).

Liang notes Ben Hamamoto's "New Charges Filed Against Lt. Watada; Father Speaks in Southern California" (Nichi Bei Times) and thinks the point by Kathy Masaoka is worth noting:

"It has nothing to do with what they did in World War II," she says. It has everything to do with what is going on today.
The Sansei activist says she is proud to see an Asian American taking a strong position against the war. Watada's actions, she thinks, serve to undermine stereotypes and are positive for the community. She is pleased to see several Asian Americans prominently "taking a stand against wrongs in the world."

Liang: It's so strange that the ringleader of the attacks against Ehren is always presented as though he fought in the Korean war and then did nothing when the reality is he attacked Vietnam veterans who were opposed to the war and his history as a right-wing arm chair warrior in other regards never gets noted.

Agreed. But the difference is, we know his story. Some of the press may not. Those who do and stay silent to present him as someone who just decided that the issue of Watada meant he needed to speak out should be ashamed. If only he'd keep his long made threat to veg out in front of the TV. A threat that's been reported for what, thirty years now? But all the coverage of him (and isn't he getting a lot?) acts as though this was the thing that made him raise his voice. It has nothing to do with Watada, it has nothing to do with today. He continues to try to refight old battles and that he wants to use an Asian American to do so, while questioning Watada's loyalties may be a new low even for him.

And to be clear, I'm not objecting to his trotting out the same argument he makes every war. I am objecting to the press allowing him to dust it off and paint it as "new" and "fresh." Bufallo Ghosts, indeed.

The following have posted since yesterday morning:

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

Ruth guest blogged for Kat on Wednesday, Betty did so on Monday and I filled in last night.

The e-mail address for this site is

Kyle Snyder, war resister, plans to return to the US

After arriving in Iraq, the heavy construction equipment operator was reassigned to a security detail. Kyle quickly realized that no reconstruction was taking place with the exception of military bases. "I can't take this anymore!' That's what I thought to myself." A survivor of string of foster homes since he was 13-years-old, Kyle joined the Army in 2004.
Faced with few job prospects and wanting to provide for himself and his family, "I was an easy target for recruiters, plain and simple," explains Kyle. "This is not what I signed up for and it’s not what’s being shown to the American public. So, why the hell should I fight?"

Kyle is Kyle Snyder and the above is from Courage to Resist. Kyle Snyder self-checked out of the military and went to Canada. Next month he returns to the United States. FluxView has videos of Kyle Snyder and other war resisters discussing why they went to Canada. I wrote about this last night at Kat's Korner.

It is news, it is important. Marci e-mailed about it and a few other things. (I'll add the snapshot. The link's there but apparently I spaced out and left out the text. I was just off a flight and just wanting to crawl into bed. I'll do one more entry here this morning and then go fix it.) I'm thinking Ruth's going to grab that topic (Kyle Snyder) for her report today so I'll move on to another question Marci had that also was a topic of Kevin, Lewis, Hannah and Kavette's e-mails which was Amara and specifically the way August is being reported. Markus noted AFP's summary:

British troops patrolled Amara until August, when they pulled out of a base on the outskirts of the city that was coming under regular mortar attack and handed over security duties to Iraqi forces.
Following the withdrawal the British base was looted and the Mahdi Army -- a loosely-organised militia force nominally loyal to Sadr, the leader of a radical Shiite faction -- declared victory over the "occupier".

That's the reality. If other outlets can't report it as such too bad, but that's reality. Elaine addressed the difference between reality and many of the press reports last night:

If you're a community member, you already knew Amara was out of control and that this was the reason the British pulled out in August. They did not "turn" their base over. They abandoned it. They gave 24 hours notice to the Iraqi authorities and got out. The base was not turned over, it was looted. Walls and doors were torn down within hours of the British driving off. There is no base, it was all looted. So when you read a report or hear or see one, if the report says that the British turned over their base, the reporter either doesn't know what he or she is addressing or doesn't think you deserve to know reality.

That is the reality. For some, they weren't covering Iraq then. They were all leaping on the one story they gave you for six weeks. Like the British forces in Amara, many press outlets in August withdrew in terms of their Iraq coverage. So now they show up this month and maybe it's hard to cover Amara because how do you explain the reality and explain that you're only now telling readers about it? (Or viewers or listeners?)

But there was an effort to pretty it up in real time by some who covered it. One example would be the New York Times which relied mainly on statements from the British flack. A friend who covered Vietnam for the networks referred to it as "a mini fall of Saigon." It was and it should have been covered. The decision to pull out was made because of the nightly attacks. The decision was made quickly and, as soon as they pulled out, the looting began. Everything was stripped. Saying that the base was turned over isn't reality. For some like the Times, it has a great deal to do with the reliance on statements from officials. But Amara in August is one of the incidents that military historians will write about over and over.

As for why we covered it the way we did, I honestly don't remember but am happy to give credit to others. The friend who called it right back then probably did so when the first snapshot was being written. I spoke to him this morning to get his take on it and he feels that post-1968, a similar situation could have been covered with reality but not prior to that. He pointed to the disgraceful re-writing of Michael Luo's report this week (by a Times writer in New York) and suggested that for all the progress that's been made this year in reporting from Iraq, it's still not been enough to allow for reality. He also agrees that, for outlets that didn't cover it Amara in real time (in any form), there's a level of embarrassment.

But when you "turn over" a base, you don't give 24 hours notice. No matter how you spin it or Happy Talk it, that's reality. And the reality of where the US press today is, in terms of the mainstream, is that they still have tip-toe around the issue of Iraq. And, as we saw with the rewriting of Luo's reporting (which, again, was straightforward, not controversial, just the type of reporting that the Times is supposed to do), the press is still willing to ignore eye witnesses (and their own reporters) when it's time to please the military.

My call, focusing on the Times, it's gotten better but it's still not good enough. To their credit, unlike other outlets, it's been awhile since they've run in print anything the US military has heavily shopped around. If the reporting they print (and note "they print," others can and do rewrite the original reporting before it makes into the paper -- though it's very rare they go to the steps they did with Luo's report which is why that was and is disgraceful) today had been the way they reported on the war in 2003 or 2004, a lot of people would have had a better idea of what's really going on in Iraq.

In an example of that improvement in reporting, I think (my opinion) you can look at Sabrina Tavernise's "Many Iraqis Look to Gunmen as Protectors" in today's paper:

Behind the maze of men with guns in Iraq is a very simple truth: their barrels offer protection, something Iraqis say the government has never given them.
On Friday, the web wound tightly around the southern city of Amara, where the two largest and best-armed militias, both made up of religious Shiites, were fighting for control of the city.
But when the prime minister speaks of disarming militias -- those mushrooming armies of men with guns that carry out most of the killing here -- Iraqi brows begin to furrow.
"He's just talking," snapped Fadhil Sabri, a 37-year-old generator repairman in a grease-stained shop in Sadr City, a Baghdad stronghold of the Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia.
"Not now. Not even in 10 years. You need arms to defend yourself," he said.
Iraq is awash in killings, and many are blamed on the Mahdi Army, the militia commanded by a glowering Shiite cleric, Moktada al-Sadr. An indignant Mr. Sadr called his men to fight against the American military twice in 2004. It was bloodied, but survived. Since then the Mahdi Army, and a growing criminal breakaway element, have grown into one of the government’s biggest problems and are a major obstacle to the success of the American enterprise here.
Despite its new rogue fringe, Iraqi Shiites see the Mahdi militia as their most effective protector against the hostile Sunni groups that have slaughtered Shiites and driven them from their homes. Shiites say that as long as the government cannot keep them safe, they cannot support the disarming of militias.
That paradox confronts the American military as it presses the Iraqi government to contain militias like Mr. Sadr's: how is it possible to control a militia when trust among Iraqis has vanished and the government is incapable of containing the spiraling violence?

That's a very straight-forward, very Times-like piece. The members e-mailing about Amara and noting their displeasure over the whitewashing of August 24th should also note that 'hospital officials' give a number that 'hospital officials' didn't give. It's the number that the US military gave.

Lloyd notes that John Ward Anderson's "Sadr Militia Briefly Seizes Southern City" (Washington Post) doesn't attempt to whitewash the issue of the base:

British troops withdrew from Amarah, the capital of Maysan province, two months ago after their camp came under repeated mortar fire from Shiite militiamen identified by local residents as members of the Mahdi Army.

For perspective on the week's events, Gareth notes Rupert Cornwell's "The week the war unravelled: Bush to 'refocus' Iraq strategy" (Independent of London):

In a new admission of the mounting crisis in Iraq, President George Bush is to have emergency consultations with his top generals today to see if any change of strategy is needed to cope with the escalating violence in a country seemingly spinning out of control.
[. . .]
It began amid consternation in London and Washington over the remarks of General Sir Richard Dannatt, chief of the general staff, that the presence of foreign troops might be "exacerbating" the situation in Iraq ­ words taken as a call from Britain's top-ranking soldier for a swift pull-out of coalition forces. Caught off balance, Tony Blair first insisted that there would be no withdrawal "until the job was done," claiming that was the view of General Dannatt as well. On Wednesday, only 24 hours later, the Prime Minister was stressing the desire of Britain and the US to leave Iraq as soon as possible ­ citing the opinion of General Casey that Iraqi security forces might be ready to take over in 12 to 18 months.
The same debate raged in Washington. Almost every day brings news of sectarian massacres and military casualties as US troops try in vain to halt the sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shia and cope with the anti-American insurgency. Seventy-four US soldiers have been killed so far in October, putting the month on course to be the bloodiest since January 2005. The death toll among allied forces this week overtook the number lost in the September 11 attacks.
At the same time, Washington is visibly losing patience with Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's Prime Minister, who has been deemed ineffectual and unwilling to take on the Shia militias who now control large areas of the south. Yesterday, the most powerful of the militias, run by the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, seized control of the city of Amarah in their boldest act yet. A day before, US commanders admitted that the joint two-month-old bid by American and Iraqi forces to pacify Baghdad had, in effect, failed, and the security effort would have to be "refocused" . A similar process is now under way in America, as President Bush's approval ratings tumble to fresh lows, and Republicans face the prospect of defeat at the mid-term elections on 7 November ­ in both cases primarily as a result of public dislike of a war which 66 per cent of Americans now say was a mistake.

Martha passes on what's scheduled for the Saturday and Sunday evening broadcast (on XM satellite radio, Air America radio stations and online -- live from 7:00 to 10:00 pm EST) of RadioNation with Laura Flanders:

This weekend on RadioNation -- on Sunday, The Nation magazine's CHRISTIAN PARENTI, just back from Afghanistan, on the Taliban and drug lords who are taking back the country. TARIQ ALI on Latin America's latest political revolutions, and on Saturday, we're live from the BIONEERS Conference in San Rafael, CA, on the latest revolutionary innovations on the environmental front...with founders KENNY AUSUBEL and NINA SIMONS and others. And AAR's THOM HARTMANN on why Air America is important! Coming up Is the Democratic Party prepared to stop election fraud? We'll talk, among others to RadioNation's STEVE ROSENFELD, co author of a brand-new book What Happened in Ohio? A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Election. (New Press, 2006.)

The e-mail address for this site is

Friday, October 20, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Friday, October 20, 2006.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq; an area the British abandoned heats up; Rumsfeld's 'big fellow' vouches for his honor; Max Boot demonstrates he was cursed with not only porcine features but analytical challenges as well; Bully Boy's Iraq to Vietnam comparison continues to be discussed (and will continue); another US soldier dies today in Iraq bringing the total for the month to 75; Ramadi's parade/independence statement is echoed elsewhere in Iraq today.
Starting in Amara.  On August 24th, came news that too much violence, too many attacks, led British troops to exit Amara quickly.  Spinning would continue August 25th and then it was largely forgotten.  Today, actions in Amara have reminded why British troops left and left so quickly.  Al Jazeera reports that "overnight clashes left 15 dead" and that the fighting continued today "after police arrested a member of cleric Maqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army on suspicion of killing a local intelligence officer in a bomb attack".  Christopher Bodeen (AP) reports that the town has been "seized" and that it's "one of the boldest acts of defiance yet by the country's powerful, unofficial armies, witnesses and police said."  CNN reports that 16 people have died and 90 wounded.  They also speak with British military flack Charlie Burbridge who stated that between 200 and 300 people attacked two police stations in Amara Thursday.  Christine Hauser (New York Times) reports: "The nearest British troops are now stationed more than 20 miles from the city" and that other police stations and "state facilities in Amara were attacked."  On the subject of British troops, AFP reports: "A British battle group of 600 troops backed by attack jets and armoured vehicles is standing by to intervene if Iraqi forces need support" according to Charlie Burbridge (so take it for what it is worth).
Kirk Semple (New York Times) reports that the militia have gain "control of entire neighborhoods" and notes theories that that a split between Maktada al-Sadr (whom some are linking the militias too) and puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki could impact the "stability" of the puppet government.  Meanwhile, James Hider (Times of London) notes: "As in Balad, militiamen set up roadblocks around the town and warned residents to stay indoors."
In some of the other violence today, Reuters notes that one person died and three were wounded in Baghdad from a roadside bomb (Dora district).  Also Reuters reports that one person was shot dead near Baiji and three others wounded.  AFP reports that three people are dead and three wounded from an attack in Khalis.
It's Friday.  News of violence trickles out slowly on a normal day.  Events in Amara meant today wouldn't be a normal Friday. 
In other news, Frank Jordans (AP) reports that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that "914,000 Iraqis have fled their homes since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003".  This at the same time as Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London) reports on the increased dangers in Iraqi hospitals both from the fact that the medical "system is breaking down" and also because of claims that "hospitals are now being used by al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia as its headquarters and hospital basements are used as prisons."
But no need to be concerned about any of the above.  For one thing, Peter Pace is standing by his man.  AFP reports the US general said of Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld, "He leads in a way that the good Lord tells him is best for our country."  God responds, "Don't blame that ___ on me!"
While Pace tells the world he's fond of his fella' Rumsfeld, Tony Blair warns the world that he's the house guest from hell.  Philip Webster (Times of London) reports that is bandying around the term "progressive withdrawal" and insisting that Iraqis won't be put out by foreign forces 'staying too long.'  At three years and eight months, Blair's stayed too long at the fair and then some. 
Meanwhile, AP reports that Bully Boy's poodle-in-waiting, John Howard, declares there "is no reason to for international forces to quite Iraq".  Pooh-pahhing Little Willie Caldwell's use of the term "disheartening" yesterday, Howard declared, "In any military operation, you have heartening and disheartening things".  Backing him was Australia's former chief of the Defence Force, Peter Cosgrove, who doesn't believe that Vietnam and Iraq are anything alike.  It helps his self-serving refusal to focus on the conflict in Indochine and the Indochina War which, for the record, wasn't the question put to Bully Boy on Wednesday. Possibly Cosgrove misunderstood the question?
For those confused, the Khaleej Times brings you up to speed: "At last, President Bush has come to acknowledge what many in and outside US have been arguing for some time.  That Iraq is increasingly looking like Vietnam.  In a rare confession during his interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulus, the president admitted that as in Vietnam, America faces 'a stepped-up level of violence' in Iraq.  Stepped-up level of violence, Mr. President?  This is an all-out and free-for-all bloody civil war, which has already claimed 655,000 Iraqi lives, as medical journal Lancet disclosed last week."
For anyone who may still be confused, from yesterday's snapshot:
Starting with the Bully Boy.  As Demetri Sevastopulo (Financial Times) noted, Bully Boy "drew a comparison between Iraq and the Vietnam war for the first time on Wednesday when he said Thomas Friedman, a New York Times columinst, 'could be right' in writing that the violent situation in Iraq was the 'jihadist equivalent of the Tet offensive."  Summarizing the interview, Ed O'Keefe (ABC) notes, "Bush said he could not imagine any circumstances under which all U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Iraq before the end of his presidency."  Bully Boy doesn't seem to register of what his comparison would result in.  Mark Tran (Guardian of London) walks readers through:
"Mr Bush has strongly resisted comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq. Vietnam remains a touchy subject for America; the war deeply divided the country, ended in an ignominious retreat for the US after the loss of more than 57,000 American lives, and has become synonymous with political and military debacle.  The 1968 Tet offensive was a military failure for the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese, but it turned American public opinion against the war and fatally damaged President Lyndon Johnson, who abandoned his re-election campaign two months later."
The 'crackdown' cracked . . . down.  Up?  The measure began in mid-June was supposed to secure the capital but violence not only continued in Baghdad, it increased.  As John F. Burns (New York Times) reported, Bully Boy "is now left with only a handful of tough and politically unattractive options" as a result of the cracked-up 'crackdown.'  Michael Abramowitz and Thomas E. Ricks (Washington Post) reported, "Senior figures in both parties are coming to the conclusion that the Bush administration will be unable to achieve its goal of a stable, democratic Iraq within a politically feasible time frame."  Despite that, CNN reports that White House flack Tony Snow has stated, "There will be no change in strategy."  Bully Boy would publicly agree later in the day.  Steve Holland (Reuters) reports that Bully Boy, deluded or in denial, insists there will be no changes while Democratic House Representative John Murtha notes: "We've lost the hearts and minds of the people and we've become caught in a civil war."  CBS and AP report that Bully Boy's pushing a teleconference tomorrow "with U.S. generals" to determine what to do next.  (Those who remember the infamous Hurricane Katrina teleconference will rightly shudder.)
Though Max Boot hasn't lost his heart (can't lose what you don't have), he appears to be losing his grip on reality.  Speaking to Michelle Nichols (Reuters), the balding gas bag offered that American troops dying in Iraq has a less of an impact than Americans dying in the Vietnam conflict due to the fact that today "the impact here is more isolated because so many soldiers come from military communities which are clustered in a handful of states."  Oh really?
American troop fatalties?  Alabama: 47; Alaska: 10; Arizona: 66; Arkansas: 35; California: 284; Colorado: 34; Connecticut: 22; Delaware: 12; Florida: 117; Georgia: 83; Hawaii: 13; Idaho: 16; Illinois: 107; Indiana: 56; Iowa: 33; Kansas: 31; Kentucky: 46; Louisiana: 63; Maine: 12; Maryland: 52; Massachusetts: 45; Michigan: 97; Minnesota: 39; Mississippi: 35; Missouri: 48; Montana: 12; Nebraska: 29; Nevada: 24; New Hampshire: 14; New Jersey: 47; New Mexico: 21; New York: 132; North Carolina: 63; North Dakota: 13; Ohio: 125; Oklahoma: 47; Oregon: 46; Pennsylvania: 135; Rhode Island: 10; South Carolina: 39; South Dakota: 17; Tennessee: 58; Texas: 245; Utah: 14; Vermont: 18; Virginia: 83; Washington: 53; West Virginia: 18; Wisconsin: 60; Wyoming: 7.
A "handful of states"?  Can we get some talcum powder for Max Boot?  His desk jockeys have apparently left his brain chafed. 
The Booty's foolish remarks come as the US military announces another death: a US soldier died in Baghad today from an IED.  This death brings the total US fatalities in Iraq for the month of October to 75 and the total of US troop fatalities since the start of the illegal war now stands at  2788.
The news of the death comes as Hamza Hendwai (AP) reports that the parade/declaration of independence earlier this week in Ramadi have now been echoed today "in a string of towns west of Baghdad . . . . the latest parades -- including two less than a mile from U.S. military bases -- were staged in support of an announcement this week by a militant Sunni Arab group that it had created an Islamic state in six of Iraq's 18 provinces, including the capital, Baghdad." 
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The Shiite militia run by anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr seized total control of the southern Iraqi city of Amarah on Friday in one of the boldest acts of defiance yet by one of the country's powerful, unofficial armies, witnesses and police said.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki dispatched an emergency security delegation that included the Minister of State for Security Affairs and top officials from the Interior and Defense ministries, Yassin Majid, the prime minister's media adviser, told The Associated Press.
The Mahdi Army fighters stormed three main police stations Friday morning, planting explosives that flattened the buildings, residents said.
About 800 black-clad militiamen with Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers were patrolling city streets in commandeered police vehicles, eyewitnesses said. Other fighters had set up roadblocks on routes into the city and sound trucks circulated telling residents to stay indoors.
Fighting broke out in Amara on Thursday after the head of police intelligence in the surrounding province, a member of the rival Shiite Badr Brigade militia, was killed by a roadside bomb, prompting his family to kidnap the teenage brother of the local head of the a-Madhi Army.
The Mahdi Army seized several police stations and clamped a curfew on the city in retaliation.

The above is from Christopher Bodeen's "Shiite militia seizes control of Iraq city" (AP). Amara. It happened during 'summer break' for many (too many) so it probably won't get the attention it needs. You can read about Amara's summer development at The Third Estate Sunday Review,
in the August 24th snapshot here, and in the August 25th snapshot. What happened then in Amara? The British abandoned their base. They were attacked constantly and they abandoned the base (the 'happy spin' was "We gave 24 hours notice!" -- Iraqi officials stated for the record that the move caught them by surprise). When some buy into the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk it's usually because they have no idea about the rest of Iraq. In Amara, at the end of August, the British forces were driven from their base. That was a pretty big development. Not enough to make many cut their 'summer breaks' short, maybe, but it was big. The only ones who are surprised by what's going in Amara are the ones who took the summer off.

In equally nonsurprising news, Colum Lynch's "Iraq Aims to Limit Mortality Data: Health Ministry Told Not to Release Civilian Death Toll to U.N." (Washington Post) explains how the puppet government (as the strings are tugged hard from DC) intends to 'address' the mass fatalities:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office has instructed the country's health ministry to stop providing mortality figures to the United Nations, jeopardizing a key source of information on the number of civilian war dead in Iraq, according to a U.N. document.
A confidential cable from the United Nations' top official in Baghdad, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi of Pakistan, said the Iraqi prime minister is seeking to exercise greater control over the release of the country's politically sensitive death toll. U.N. officials expressed concern that the move threatens to politicize the process of counting Iraq's dead and muddy international efforts to gain a clear snapshot of the scale of killing in Iraq.
Qazi warned in the cable that the development "may affect" the United Nations' ability to adequately record the number of civilians killed or wounded in the Iraq war as it endures a bloody new phase of sectarian violence. He said U.N. human rights workers would have "no guaranteed means to corroborate" figures provided by the government.
Iraq's acting U.N. ambassador, Feisal Amin al-Istrabadi, said he was unaware of his government's decision, "so I don't know what the rationale for it is. It has not reached our mission."
The ongoing debate over the Iraqi death toll was reignited this month after a team of Iraqi and American epidemiologists estimated that 650,000 more people have died in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 than would have died if the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime had not occurred.

That's Lloyd's highlight, by the way. Vic and Vince each have a highlight of Canadian news. The story is about a Canadian soldier who is a war resister. Canada's not part of the so-called 'coalition of the willing' in Iraq. They do have troops in Afghanistan. Vic actually noted the story yesterday and I couldn't get it to fit into "And the war drags on . . ." last night. Then, this morning, Vince also e-mailed regarding Francisco Juarez. First up, Irwin Loy's "War Resister Tells Story" (24 Hours):

A B.C. man who quit the Canadian Army Reserve over the direction of the military mission in Afghanistan wants to tell his story tonight in Vancouver.
Former officer cadet Francisco Juarez, 35, transferred into the reserve earlier this year, intent on volunteering for Afghanistan. But he soon became uncomfortable with the military's "changing mission."

Now from BC Mary's "First Canadian War Resister to spea Oct. 19, Vancouver" (Vive le Canada):

"Just as we support US war resisters seeking sanctuary in Canada, we support Canadian soldiers and their families taking a courageous stand against the misguided and failing war in Afghanistan," says Bob Ages, chair of the War Resisters Support Campaign in Vancouver.
The War Resisters Support Campaign, and dozens of other organizations will be participating in a national day of action on Oct 28 with speeches, marches and events across Canada.
Mr. Juarez's engagement, beginning at 7:30pm, will be the first opportunity for the public to hear a new voice in the movement calling for the Canadian troops withdrawal from Afghanistan. Francisco states, "With a minimum of debate the Harper government has taken Canadians into an American model of war-making in Afghanistan which I believe to be counterproductive to the stated goals of humanitarian assistance and meaningful democratic reform. I hope that more and more people will start to question what Canadians are really doing over there. I chose not to go."

This week's developments in Iraq really did call for a "news analysis" in the pages of the New York Times and today, Megan notes, David E. Sanger and David S. Cloud's "Bush Faces a Battery of Ugly Choices on War Tactics, if Not on Strategy" offers that:

He can once again order a rearrangement of American forces inside the country, as he did in August, when American commanders declared that newly trained Iraqi forces would "clear and hold" neighborhoods with backup support from redeployed American forces. That strategy collapsed within a month, frequently forcing the Americans to take the lead, making them prime targets.
There is no assurance, though, that another redeployment of those forces will reduce the casualty rate, which has been unusually high in recent weeks, senior military and administration officials say. The toll comes just before midterm elections, in which even many of his own party have given up arguning that progress is being made or that the killing will soon slow.

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NYT: "U.S. Says Violence in Baghdad Rises, Foiling Campaign" (John F. Burns)

In one of the most somber assessments of the war by American commanders, a statement read by the spokesman, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, said the campaign had been marked by increasing attacks on American troops and a spike in combat deaths. Attacks soared by 22 percent, he said, during the first three weeks of Ramadan, the holy month now nearing its end. With three new combat deaths announced on Thursday, the number of American troops who have lost their lives in October rose to 73, representing one of the sharpest surges in military casualties in the past two years.
General Caldwell said American troops were being forced to return to neighborhoods, like Dora in southwestern Baghdad, that they had sealed off and cleared as part of the security campaign because "extremists" fighting back had sent sectarian violence soaring there. The security plan sent heavy deployments of American troops into troubled neighborhoods, reversing the previous policy, which was to allow Iraqi troops to police the capital.
[. . .]

President Bush, who ordered the rearrangement of troops to begin the campaign, is now left with only a handful of tough and politically unattractive options.
The general’s remarks, unusual for their candor and unvarnished portrayal of bad news, appeared to mark a new setback for the American military effort. Stark new videotape broadcast on Thursday by Al Jazeera from Ramadi, an insurgent stronghold 80 miles west of Baghdad, showed heavily armed insurgents taking over a busy city street in broad daylight to celebrate the proclamation by their leaders of an Islamic state in wide areas of Iraq’s Sunni heartland. There was no sign of any attempt to intervene by the heavy concentration of American and Iraqi troops in the city. The Iraqi government said the demonstrators fled after 15 minutes.

The above is from John F. Burns' "U.S. Says Violence in Baghdad Rises, Foiling Campaign" in this morning's New York Times. On her self-titled first album, Carly Simon covers the song "Dan, My Fling" (written by Jacob Brackman and Fred Gardner) which includes the lines "Dan, my fling is all flung out." To update it for the above, "Baghdad, my crackdown is all cracked out."

Staying on that theme, Martha notes Michael Abramowitz and Thomas E. Ricks' "Major Change Expected In Strategy for Iraq War" (Washington Post):

The growing doubts among GOP lawmakers about the administration's Iraq strategy, coupled with the prospect of Democratic wins in next month's midterm elections, will soon force the Bush administration to abandon its open-ended commitment to the war, according to lawmakers in both parties, foreign policy experts and others involved in policymaking.
Senior figures in both parties are coming to the conclusion that the Bush administration will be unable to achieve its goal of a stable, democratic Iraq within a politically feasible time frame. Agitation is growing in Congress for alternatives to the administration's strategy of keeping Iraq in one piece and getting its security forces up and running while 140,000 U.S. troops try to keep a lid on rapidly spreading sectarian violence.

On the campaign trail, Democratic candidates are hammering Republican candidates for backing a failed Iraq policy, and GOP defense of the war is growing muted. A new NBC-Wall Street Journal poll released this week showed that voters are more confident in Democrats' ability to handle the Iraq war than the Republicans' -- a reversal from the last election.
Few officials in either party are talking about an immediate pullout of U.S. combat troops. But interest appears to be growing in several broad ideas. One would be some kind of effort to divide the country along regional lines. Another, favored by many Democrats, is a gradual withdrawal of troops over a set period of time. A third would be a dramatic scaling-back of U.S. ambitions in Iraq, giving up on democracy and focusing only on stability.

Same topic, Steven Thomma's "Iraq threatens to cripple the GOP" (McClatchy Newspapers via San Jose Mercury News):

Regardless of what politicians and the media talk about from week to week - the Foley sex scandal in the House, a nuclear test in North Korea, a soaring stock market - what dominates American politics this fall is Iraq.
It's consuming George Bush's second term, threatening his party's control of Congress and endangering his dream of forging a Republican majority that would rule the country long after he retired to his Texas ranch.
Yet the debate over Iraq won't be settled on Election Day, Nov. 7.
Even as public skepticism about the war spreads, it's not producing any consensus on what to do about the mess, and thus the elections will offer little direction and no mandate for the U.S. government heading into next year.
Voters split four ways in a recent McClatchy-MSNBC poll - send more troops, keep the same level, start withdrawing, or withdraw them all. They split evenly in another poll over whether to keep troops in Iraq or pull them out.
That helps explain the growing cracks in Republican support for the White House's open-ended, stay-the-course approach to the war. And it makes clear why Democrats don't offer a clear alternative - and why they'd have a hard time reconciling their competing visions of what to do should they win the House of Representatives or the Senate.
"It is THE dominant issue," said Andy Kohut, the director of the Pew Research Center, a non-partisan research group.

Back to the cracked down 'crackdown,' Zach notes Louise Roug's "U.S. Rethinks Strategy to Cut Iraqi Violence" (Los Angeles Times):

Despite the joint operation, launched in June, sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite Arabs continues unabated. And U.S. troops are increasingly being targeted, Caldwell said. He charged that Iraqi paramilitary fighters were attacking American forces more frequently because of the upcoming U.S. midterm election, in which the Iraq conflict and the American lives being lost are key issues.Caldwell said that at least 73 U.S. troops had been killed so far this month, putting October on track to be the bloodiest month for American forces since the battle of Fallouja in 2004. The U.S. military also announced that a Marine died Thursday and two U.S. soldiers on Wednesday. Ten American troops were killed Tuesday.On Thursday, seven suicide attackers struck across northern Iraq, targeting American and Iraqi troops as well as civilians. The bombing attacks killed at least 20 Iraqis and wounded 80. No U.S. troops were reported killed in the blasts. Elsewhere, at least 30 Iraqis died in various attacks.Most of the U.S. deaths this month have taken place in Baghdad despite the security crackdown aimed at reducing sectarian killings in the capital.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

Death squads from the Ministry of Interior posing as Iraqi police are killing more people than ever in the capital, emerging evidence shows.
The death toll is high - in all 1,536 bodies were brought to the Baghdad morgue in September. The health ministry announced last month that it will build two new morgues in Baghdad to take their capacity to 250 bodies a day.
Many fear a government hand in more killings to come. The U.S. military has revealed that the 8th Iraqi Police Unit was responsible for the Oct. 1 kidnapping of 26 Sunni food factory workers in the Amil quarter in southwest Baghdad. The bodies of ten of them were later found in Abu Chir neighbourhood in the capital.
Minister for the Interior Jawad al-Bolani announced he is suspending the police unit from official duties, and confining it to base until an investigation is completed.
But sections of the ministry appear responsible for the abductions and killing. Ministry of Interior vehicles were used for the kidnapping in this case, and most men conducting the raid wore Iraqi police uniforms, except for a few who wore black death squad 'uniforms', witnesses told IPS.
The leader of the police unit is under house arrest and faces interrogation for this and other crimes, according to an official announcement.
"It is for sure that they did it," one of the victim's neighbours told IPS on condition of anonymity. "The tortured bodies were found the second day. They came in their official police cars; it is not the first time that they did something like this. They do it all over Baghdad, and we hope they will get proper punishment this time."
Men of the police unit meanwhile do not face imminent punishment. "They are going to be rehabilitated and brought back to service," director-general of the Iraqi police Adnan Thabit told IPS.

The above is from Ali Al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail's "Government Death Squads Ravaging Baghdad" (IPS). This isn't a new topic to IPS (or Jamail), they've been addressing it for some time. The same can't be said for all media which will now have to play catch up having spent far too long buying into the Bully Boy's happy talk.

If you check the links on the side (I'm too tired for transition but, for those in need, "From happy talk to reality . . ."), you may notice we have Ricky Clousing, Agustin Aguayo, Mark Wilkerson and Ehren Watada's individual sites noted. Finally. I hate going into the template. There are other new links added as well. War resisters matter and Staughton Lynd addresses that in Rachel's highlight, "Soldiers of Conscience" (The Nation):

In the company of these heroes and heroines we turn to the message of another hero, Ehren Watada. In the military system of justice--the system that Congress recently turned its back on in setting up military commissions--there is a proceeding similar to the convening of a grand jury. It is called an Article 23 hearing. The hearing officer decides whether there is sufficient evidence to justify a court martial. This past August 17, at Fort Lewis, Washington, there was an Article 23 hearing for Lt. Watada. Early in the hearing the prosecution played video clips from his recent speeches. In one of these speeches, to the national convention of Veterans for Peace, Lt. Watada said: "Today, I speak with you about a radical idea...The idea is this; that to stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers...can choose to stop fighting it."
Of course in itself this was not a new idea. It was another way of saying, Someday they'll have a war and nobody will come.
But what is unusual is Lt. Watada's basis for saying No. Like David Mitchell in the 1960s, Ehren Watada is not a pacifist. He offered to go to Afghanistan but refused to go to Iraq. He refused to go to Iraq for the same reason David refused to go to Vietnam, not because of objection to all wars, but because of a conviction that war crimes were being committed in this particular war, giving rise to an obligation, under the principles declared at Nuremburg, to refuse military service.
Take a minute to recognize how radical a change this would be. The concept of Conscientious Objection, as set forth in Selective Service law during and after World War II and in the existing regulations of all the military services, is based on the Christian teaching of forgiveness of enemies, of doing good for evil, of turning the other cheek, of putting up the sword. To become a conscientious objector the applicant must, first, object to "war in any form", which is to say, to all wars, and second, do so on the basis of "religious training and belief."
This is a noble idea. I happen to adhere to it, personally. But it is unlikely ever to be the conviction of more than a tiny minority of persons of military age. It is a legal system written to accommodate the tender consciences of members of certain small Christian sects that came into being during the Radical Reformation: Quakers, Amish, Mennonites, Brethren, and the like. And let's be honest, Conscientious Objection thus defined exists because the powers that be know that it will never be the worldview of more than a handful of persons.
In a volunteer military, there will be very few persons who object to war in any form. Had this been their belief, why would they have volunteered in the first place? True, it is possible to become a conscientious objector while serving in the military. Certain remarkable individuals like [Camilo] Mejia and Kevin Benderman will deploy to Iraq, be horrified by what they experience, and on reflection conclude that they will never again fight in any war. But common sense tells us that such conscientious-objectors-from-experience will be few.

The above is a speech worth checking out (time permitting, we'll note it in tomorrow's snapshot also). War resistance within the military is growing and the Pentagon notices it, even when media's looking the other way. Attending Ricky Clousing's court-martial last Thursday were five unnamed soldiers who would soon be facing their own for self-checking out of the military. Known war reisters include Clousing, Watada, Mark Wilkerson, Jeremy Hinzman, Brandon Hughey, Patrick Hart, Corey Glass, Carl Webb, Kyle Snyder, Agustin Aguayo . . . What was once confined to solitary figures like Camilo Mejia was followed by many others. (Including Pablo Paredes and Aidan Delgado.) It's not just a few and there will be more. This is a movement the same way it was during Vietnam (Lynd covers some of that in his feature for The Nation and it's also covered in David Zeiger's Sir! No Sir!).

It matters. Earlier today, we noted Melanie McPherson's case. Her case, though not war resistance, matters as well. I received an e-mail from a family member of a war resister and we now use the term "war resister" only to apply to those who state their objection to the war itself. That is how it should be. And thank you to _____ for noting that we followed a phase in labeling someone a war resister who wasn't. Others may do that with McPherson as well. Thus far, she has not cited objection to the war itself as a reason for not going to Iraq. Her objection, which is a solid objection, is based upon the fact that she was trained to be a military journalist and now the military wants to send her to Iraq and put her in a position she's untrained for. As she wrote in the note she left before checking out, she didn't want to be "a bullet catcher." Too many are being used as just that to make the 'count.'

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 total number of US troop fatalities stood at 2758. Right now? 2787. That's 29 more deaths since last Thursday. (Iraqis? 655,000 and counting. We go with the study.)
Making the 'count' was the topic a few moments ago. Today's CBS Evening News with Katie Couric addressed the issue of the 'count.' Sharyn Alfonsi's "Troops With Stress Disorders Fit For Duty?" addressed the issue of how making the 'count' means troops suffering from PTSD are suddenly 'fit' to serve. Larry Syverson spoke of how his son Bryce was sent to Walter Reed from Iraq and placed in the psychiatric ward (on suicide watch) but he got sent back over in August to make that 'count.' Jason Gunn had PTSD following an explosion in Baghdad but after four months, even though he had PTSD and was suffering from paranoia, the military e-mailed (e-mailed!) and he's back in Iraq as well. Alfonsi reported that the military thought it would be good for Gunn to 'face his fears.' As though he'd just fallen off a horse, apparently.

The US military is finally admitting that their 'crackdown' didn't work so maybe they could admit some other things: (a) the war is illegal, (b) there is no 'win' to be had, (c) they're putting people into Iraq that don't belong there (Steven D. Green being the strongest example), (d) their backdoor draft is demoralizing the military.

There were two big issues for visitors who e-mailed today (of what I read, there were too many to read all of tonight). The first issue was over the fact that someone (a US citizen) was sentenced to death and why hadn't we noted that? When? We've noted it before. Saturday, we noted the case of Mohammad Munaf and we noted a problem with his legal team (a hearsay sworn statement). Did they ever get their act together? (Munaf had a solid case, this about the way attorneys argued his case in the US.) No. If you're late to the topic, Munaf was facing the death penalty (after two US "officials" -- including a general -- spoke with an Iraqi judge in private). He is an American citizen. The hope of his US attorneys was that, since he is in US custody, a US federal judge would bar US forces from turning him over for an execution. Monday on Democracy Now! this occurred:

AMY GOODMAN: How did he end up in Iraq?
JONATHAN HAFETZ: He traveled to Iraq with three Romanian journalists. He had been living in Romania with his wife and three children, who are also all U.S. citizens. He traveled with the journalists to serve as a guide and interpreter as the journalists covered stories in Iraq. And he was called upon, because of his knowledge of the language and of the terrain. They were all kidnapped.
AMY GOODMAN: He was kidnapped, as well.
JONATHAN HAFETZ: He was kidnapped, as well, released two months later. They were kidnapped by an insurgent group, released after two months. And Munaf was then taken into custody by the Americans and has been held by the Americans for 15 months.
AMY GOODMAN: What happened to the Romanians?
JONATHAN HAFETZ: They were set free. They were freed by the kidnapping, and thy’re back in Romania.
AMY GOODMAN: And what do they say?
JONATHAN HAFETZ: Well, we haven’t spoken with them. We’re hopefully calling for a hearing, at which point Munaf could testify, present his case and the evidence of witnesses in his favor to demonstrate that he is innocent, that he had no part in planning the kidnapping. He comes to the federal court as an innocent man who has been held by his own government for 16 months. And the United States takes the position that because the United States is operating as part of a multinational force, the court has no power to review his detention.

Did you catch the key moment? Goodman asks what the Romanians say and the answer should be, "The Romanians say . . ." Instead, the answer was "we haven't spoken with them." Allowing that people had to scramble, there's still no excuse for that. There should have been an answer to Goodman's question. It was a basic question, she wasn't attempting to trip the guest up, she was asking what any journalist would, what any lawyer would, and what any court would want to know. The fact that on Monday they still didn't have it together was sad. [And the guest identifies the 'officials' as "two soldiers" -- when they attorneys were speaking to the press last week, they were stating a general and an unidentified official, another example of how they didn't have it together.] All the more so with the latest news, noted by Jonah (a member, not a visitor) from AP's "Judge: American Can Be Transferred to Iraq for Execution:"

An American citizen facing a death sentence in Iraq lost a court challenge Thursday that would have prohibited the military from turning him over to Iraqi authorities.
Mohammad Munaf was convicted and sentenced to death by an Iraqi judge last week on charges he helped in the 2005 kidnapping of three Romanian journalists in Baghdad.
Munaf, who was born in Iraq and became an American citizen in 2000, sought an emergency order blocking U.S. military officials from turning him over to Iraq. He claimed his trial was flawed and his confession was coerced.
Those would normally be grounds for American citizens to challenge their imprisonment. But U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth said he had no authority to intervene because Munaf was being held by coalition military forces, not by the U.S. military alone.

We had noted it before. Now this isn't the only case involving a US citizen in Iraq. In this case, US 'officials,' wanted to circumvent the rule of law with private testimony. In this case, the Justice Department opposed the appeal (the judge sided with them). It was a different case last week:

In Iraq, the puppet governments continue to raise eye brows. Al Jazeera reports on Ayham al-Samarraie who was arrested "on charges of finanical and managerial corruption in August" for his actions while serving as a minister in Ayham al-Samarraie's government (the first post-invasion puppet government) but he was taken from the court and is now protected by US forces. al-Samarraie's "protection" raises serious questions about whether even the appearance of independence will be allowed for the puppet government. It also raises a serious issue of what was a US citizen doing holding government office in the supposedly independent Iraq.

In this case, the US didn't seem to trust Iraqi justice. From CBS' "Millions Stolen From Iraq's Treasury:"

More than half a billion dollars earmarked to fight the insurgency in Iraq was stolen by people the U.S. had entrusted to run the country's Ministry of Defense before the 2005 elections, according to Iraqi investigators. Iraq's former minister of finance says coalition members like the U.S. and Britain are doing little to help recover the money or catch suspects, most of whom fled the country. The 60 Minutes investigation also turned up audio recordings of a suspect who seems to be discussing the transfer of $45 million to the account of a top political adviser to the interim defense minister.
Correspondent Steve Kroft reports on this mother of all heists this Sunday, Oct. 22, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
"We have not been given any serious, official support from either the United States or the U.K. or any of the surrounding Arab countries," says Ali Allawi, who was confronted with the missing funds when he took over as Iraq's finance minister last year.
He thinks he knows why Iraqi investigators have gotten little help.
"The only explanation I can come up with is that too many people in positions of power and authority in the new Iraq have been, in one way or another, found with their hands inside the cookie jar," says Allawi, who left his post when a new Iraqi government was formed earlier this year.
"And if they are brought to trial, it will cast a very disparaging light on those people who had supported them and brought them to this position of power and authority," he tells Kroft.

In one instance, the US government says "Go ahead and execute," in another they say they have to take custody of the man because Iraqi 'justice' is so in question. (Surely, secret testimony won't make it any stronger.)

The other big issue for some visitors was these statements: "Many reports have the, the US joining the crackdown (the thing that hasn't 'met . . . overall expectations') on August 7th. However, the 'crackdown' began in June. That's the reality. It's been juiced up, beefed up and through various versions but it's gone on since June. Little Willie will next entertain the press corps on Karaoke night by singing 'What A Fool Believes'."

One visitor, especially sure of himself, offered that "You shouldn't write what you don't know about." Right back at you. And it's not my job to spoonfeed every visitor who stumbles past this site. This community didn't take the summer from Iraq. No member questioned that statement because we covered the 'crackdown' from the beginning. We're fully aware of what panic led to the 'crackdown' (though it's doubtful the visitors complaining today are). But for those who seem to think that they must be spoonfed, from the BBC:

Launched in June, Operation Together Forward is a joint US and Iraqi security drive in which thousands of extra troops have been deployed in Baghdad.
The operation was seen as key to asserting the authority of the Iraqi government over all of the capital and eventually the rest of the country, paving the way for the withdrawal of US forces.
But Gen Caldwell said attacks on US troops and Iraqi forces in Baghdad has risen significantly in the first three weeks of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began in the last week of September.

I can be, and often am, wrong. But before someone e-mails to gripe about something as long lasting as the ongoing 'crackdown' has been, they might want to do a little work of their own. August is when even more US forces pour in for yet another 'juiced up' version of the 'crackdown.' It is not when the crackdown began and US forces were a part of the crackdown from the beginning. So visitors who objected, you've now been spoonfed, look to someone else to burp you.

Here, we knew the crackdown wasn't going to work. Go to the middle of June when it started and you'll find that stated. It was never going to work and the only people are surprised are the ones who always think 'force is the answer!' Baghdad was already forced against the wall for anyone not in the Green Zone. The 'crackdown' was pouring gas on a fire.

One of the objecting visitors offered that the 'crackdown' should be given twelve months before being discontinued. Apparently, after that comes the "bomb them all" from the Ann Coulter Playbook.

What has happened in Iraq is that it's one repeated battle after another. Why is that? Because there's no objective, none given to the US public, none given to the trooops, none given to the Iraqis. Now there have been ever changing objectives given. WMDs, liberation, democracy, Saddam Hussein, go down the list.

The troops can't fight the same battle day after day, week after week, year after year. Any of the four nonsense reason given should have resulted in the troops leaving long ago. WMDs? There were none. Call it a victory and bring the troops home. Liberation or Saddam Hussein? When Saddam Hussein was captured, bring the troops home (and turn Hussein over to an international body for a real trial). Democracy?

Iraqis are fully aware that they were told they'd be a democracy and they'd have elections. And Jay Garner tried to work on providing elections immediately. The US administration didn't want that and Paul Bremer quickly replaced Garner.

There is nothing left for US troops to do except to continue doing the same thing over and over. That's not a plan, that's not a strategy, that's not an objective for war. The troops are trained to fight a war.

The resistance in Iraq is deeply rooted and the Iraqi people want US forces out. They've wanted that for sometime now. They've seen they're living standards drop, they've seen the water systems and electrical systems destroyed during the war remain non-functioning or barely functioning. (And are quite aware that it's a different story in the heavily fortified Green Zone.) As the resenement continues to build, the resistance continues to grow.

There's no reason for the troops to be there. (They shouldn't have been there to begin with.) Iraqis are adults, they need to govern themselves. You have a civil war there now that results from the actions of this war. The troops aren't safe over there and the Iraqis aren't safe over there. There's no 'win' here. There's the same battle over and over and it will get bloodier and bloodier.

An objective would have been: "When Hussein is captured, the troops will have completed their mission." But there's not a consistent objective because the war was built on lies and greed continues it.

Congress abdicated their role. So did many citizens. The military is not a toy of the Oval Office (nor of the Congress). Civilian control of the military means civilian responsibility. There was no responsibility. Bully Boy scared a lot of people and a lot of people said, "Save us, Big Daddy, save us!" The real cowards are the ones who abdicated to their own responsibilities in the lead up to the war -- officials and average citizens. Some of them now want to sneer "coward" at a Watada or a Clousing. They aren't cowards. They're making a decision to take a stand that needs to be taken because America needs to wake up to reality that there are no goals shared in this illegal war. There's a lot of lofty talk (that the Baker Study Group has already undermined before releasing their report). There's a lot of reality hidden from the public.

New 'strategy' won't 'win' the war. It's unwinnable. Had Bully Boy any brains, he would have pulled the troops long ago and a lot of people would have been able to delude themselves still that the war was a good idea. It wasn't. It was illegal and and the longer the troops are over there, the more clear that becomes.

For Iraqis, reality can be 'managed' via Happy Talk. They have seen and heard stories, they've been touched by the war. A new puppet won't change it. A smarter illegal occupation won't change it. The tag sale on their public commons may be something some Americans can ignore but if you're dependent upon them, as Iraqis were, you can't.

The troops need to come home.

On that note, Brandon notes The Nation's "The War and the Election:"

New confirmation of the importance of ending the Iraq War has come recently with the release of two studies of its staggering costs. A September survey by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes found that 78 percent of Iraqis believe the US military presence is "provoking more conflict than it is preventing." Far from wanting American troops to "stay the course," as George W. Bush and his circle of true believers assert, Iraqis recognize that the occupation is contributing to their country's crisis. The extraordinary depth of that crisis was suggested by another study, this one from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, working with Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, which estimated the Iraqi death toll since the US invasion and occupation at 655,000--a dramatically higher figure than had been previously given.
The United States is in a different place now than it was when Wellstone cast his courageous vote: The war went forward, and the issue now is how to end it as quickly as possible. While far too many Democrats try to have it both ways, criticizing the President but not calling forthrightly for an end to hostilities, conscientious candidates in races across the country are demanding just such action. Over the months we have identified a number of these candidates. This past spring, for example, we noted the tough antiwar challenge that Californian Marcy Winograd was mounting to incumbent Jane Harman; we also applauded former NAACP head Kweisi Mfume's strong antiwar position in a Maryland US Senate primary. These challenges weren't successful, but others were.
[. . .]
As the election approaches, we will continue to bring attention to antiwar candidates on our website ( and urge readers to support them. As we stated in our editorial of last year, "We firmly believe that antiwar candidates, with the other requisite credentials, can win the 2006 Congressional elections, the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries and the subsequent national election. But this fight, and our stand, must begin now."

The Bully Boy broke the 'barrier' Wednesday when he made the obvious comparison that too many in the press shied from. Now that he's made it, it will continue to be made. The press needs an 'official' before they can get wiggle room these days. Mike notes Elizabeth Sullivan's "Vietnam & Iraq: Another 'Bright Shining Lie'" (Cleveland Plain Dealer via Common Dreams):

The ultimate tragedy of Iraq is that it was dreamed up by a generation that lived through an earlier war constructed atop deception and denial.
The Vietnam generation should have known better.
Yet Iraq is the same "bright shining lie" told by the same sort of smart men -- and this time, smart women -- that Neil Sheehan chronicled in his devastating book about the many-tiered American deceptions that made Vietnam such a quagmire. As with Vietnam, this nation is propping up a corrupt Iraqi government and distorting outcomes by picking its own political winners and losers.
As with Vietnam, U.S. officials faced with military stalemate are grasping at straws via vain attempts to "Iraqify" a national military and police force that lacks legitimacy with most Iraqis. Why else would Iraqis be able to take over only two of the nation's 18 provinces when -- according to ground commander Gen. George Casey -- 80 percent to 90 percent of current violence is concentrated in only five?

As Mike noted, Sullivan's column ran in Thursday morning's paper. She obviously wasn't waiting for permission before making the comparison. Dallas gets the last highlight, Cindy Sheehan's "Sit Down for Peace, Justice, and Accountability" (BuzzFlash):

I usually end my articles with a call to action, but today, I begin with one. Maybe readers get bored with my pieces before the end and don't get to the action part, which is the most important part.
Gold Star Families for Peace is calling for an action in front of the White House on the days of November 6th to November 9th (due to the urgency of our situation, we are beginning the sit-in on Saturday, Nov. 4) to perform a Gandhi-like sit down for peace and justice. Join us to sit down for all or part of the time we will be there. We might as well face it, the White House is where the power is. Congress has spent 6 years invalidating themselves and creating a Unitary Executive Branch that pats Congress on the head for being obedient and circumvents the Supreme Court and goes whining to the same agreeable Congress when the Court (in rare cases) slaps Georgie on the wrist. The potential Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) has already said that if the Democrats take back the House, impeachment proceedings will not be forthcoming. Who's going to sit down with us to hold the war criminals in power accountable for their war crimes and crimes against humanity and peace?
Tuesday, without a peep from we the people, and while 10 soldiers were being murdered in George's horrendous war for corporate greed, he signed HR6166 into law. 10 soldiers were killed defending the war machine's right to garner obscene profits while the soldiers were being told that they were spreading "freedom and democracy" to Iraq. While they were dying for this supposed "freedom and democracy" their commander in chief and Congress were busy taking away ours. Who's going to sit down with us for these 10 young people to make sure their deaths do count for freedom and democracy?
HR6166 is the Military Commissions Act which allows everyone from George on down to the actual torturer to inflict inhumanity on our fellow human beings with impunity. The Act also allows George to decide who is a terrorist who does not deserve the right to Habeas Corpus and who is not a terrorist who does deserve the right to Habeas Corpus. Who's going to sit down with us to say: "I demand my rights to Habeas Corpus and I repudiate torture in all forms."

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