Thursday, January 04, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

Noor Ibrahim lay shivering underneath two blankets on a bed at al-Jarrah Hospital. Steps away was a red plastic bassinet. It was empty.
A few doors down, her recently born son lay wrapped in a pink blanket. He was a chubby boy of nearly nine pounds with a big patch of black hair. His eyes were closed, his head cocked to the left, his mouth slightly open, his skin soft and pale.
The boy was not in a bassinet. He was in a cardboard box. He was not heading to his mother's room. He was heading to the morgue.

"Fresh death," Ibrahim's obstetrician said as she reached into the box and lifted the boy's limp right arm, still covered in blood and amniotic fluid.
Giving birth is painful enough as it is. In war-torn Iraq, it's also becoming more dangerous.
Spontaneous road closures, curfews and gun battles make even getting to the hospital a challenge for expectant mothers. Once they arrive, the women have no guarantee that they will receive adequate health care from a qualified physician.
"It's spiraling downward. It's getting worse each day," said Annees Sadik, an anesthesiologist at al-Jarrah.

The above, noted by Martha, is from Nancy Trejos' "Iraq's Woes Are Adding Major Risks To Childbirth" in today's Washington Post. If you missed it, I did but I'll be listening shortly, Dahr Jamail was the guest for the full hour on KPFA's Flashpoints. Rebecca has a summary of Nora Barrows-Friedman's interview with Dahr: "nora barrows-friedman interviewed dahr jamail on flashpoints." If you're unable to listen to the interview (due to computers or hearing), Rebecca's got a pretty indepth summary. But to tie Barrows-Friedman's interview in with the above highlight, Dahr noted that the health care system was already under (prolonged) attack before the war due to the sanctions.

Tonight, we'll be focusing on the pretrial because I'm not sure how much time I'll have tomorrow morning. (I've got to speak fairly early.) But before we get to that, Keesha found a highlight that she felt offered "perspective often missing in a lot of the coverage. This is from
Robert Fantina's "Atrocities and Accountability in American Wars" (Political Affairs Magazine):

The parallels between the Iraqi war and the Vietnam war are evident: no clear mission, escalating casualties and no exit strategy. Another parallel is the growing number of veterans who are speaking out against this war after having fought in it, as many Vietnam veterans did after serving in that tragic war. Some of these brave men and women are deserting.
Several soldiers who deserted after a tour of duty in Iraq have stated that cruelty towards Iraqi citizens was a factor in their desertions. One of them, Lance Corporal Ivan Brobeck, witnessed the abuse of Iraqi detainees and the killing of Iraqi civilians. Another, Sgt. Ricky Clousing, had similar experiences. His allegations of systematic abuse of Iraqi detainees are now being investigated by the military.
Sadly, what these soldiers and others like them witnessed in Iraq is not unique in American history. While most Americans were shocked when the abuses at Abu Ghraib were first exposed, and at the charges filed against some American soldiers for the murder of Iraqi civilians, these behaviors are only ‘business as usual’ when the U.S. embarks on one of its imperial adventures. A look at just a few of America’s past wars is instructive.
In 1846 America declared war on Mexico. During this war, General Winfield Scott’s troops engaged in unspeakable crimes against civilians, including assaults against women, and the bombing and looting of churches. Prior to invading Veracruz, Scott bombed the city for six days, sending over 1,300 shells onto the city each day. Foreign consuls and the bishop begged for a short reprieve so that women and children could flee to safety; Scott ignored these pleas. As a result, of the 1,100 Mexicans killed, nearly half of them were civilians. Scott, the author of this atrocity, is considered by many to be a hero.
At the close of the nineteenth century the U.S. was at war with the Philippines. At the start of the Samar campaign, Brigadier General Jacob Smith gave his troops these instructions: “Kill and burn, kill and burn, the more you kill and the more you burn the more you please me.” His instructions included sparing no one over the age of 10. One soldier reported orders of “Kill all we could find.”
Another soldier fought in the village of Maypaja, which had a population of about 5,000. He reported that after the battle, “not one stone remain[ed] upon top of another. You can only faintly imagine this terrible scene of desolation. War is worse than hell.”
Although Smith was eventually court-martialed and convicted, his sentenced was reduced by Theodore Roosevelt. His assistant was charged with murder, but acquitted.

If the above gets you motivated, wonderful. If it depresses you (Keesha thought it might be too much of a downer -- we're all for reality here so no such thing), take a moment to note that the illegal war hits the four year mark in two months and the peace movement is larger than it was during the same time frame of the Vietnam era.

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 number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 2991. Tonight? 3006. Today, the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division - Baghdad patrol was attacked by small arms fire, killing one Soldier in the western part of the Iraqi capital today." If you're remembering that the 3,000 mark was hit on Sunday and thinking that six US troops have died in Iraq in 2007, that's incorrect. Two have died. What's happened is the usual slow trickle of announcements from the US military. Though it probably won't get noted by the media (and watch them refer to 109 or some other figure as the 'total' for December 2006 months down the line), 115 is currently the final number for US troop fatalities in Iraq for the month of December.

Also slow to trickle out is the news of life on the ground in Iraq. When all you do is jawbone over the show death, you don't have much space or time to note what happened to Iraqis who weren't leaders. Since the snapshot went up, Reuters has noted that 47 corpses were discovered in Baghdad today and mortar attacks in Baghdad killed five people and left seven wounded. But remember, the Giddiest Gabor in the Green Zone, Willie Caldwell, wants people to believe that things have calmed down in Iraq.

On The KPFA Evening News, Sandra Lupien just noted that activists protested outside Pelosi's office in the Federal Building (San Francisco) -- protesting the 3,000+ US troops killed and the over 655,000 Iraqis killed in the illegal war and demanding action on the war.

Now we're going to turn to the topic of Ehren Watada's pretrial that began today. Mark Taylor Canfield reported (for Free Speech Radio News and The KPFA Evening News) on the pretrial and spoke with Carolyn Ho, Ehren's mother, who stated "The issue of the illegality and immorality of the war needs to be raised. For him to be tried fairly" the issue of the war needs to be brought in. The US military is attempting to keep that issue from being addressed in the hearing. To shut out that issue strips Watada of his argument for refusing to deploy to Iraq and the military wants that because (a) it makes it easier for them to make a case and (b) it prevents questions about the legality of the war.

Now we're going to do like Brad suggested last Friday in the gina & krista round-robin, note who has covered the issue today. This is in addition to the others already noted today. Mia notes Melanthia Mitchell's "Judge hears motions during officer's pretrial hearing" (Associated Press):

Seeking to reduce charges against 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, his attorney Eric Seitz of Honolulu said the soldier should not be penalized for statements he made explaining why he was challenging the Bush administration's reason for going to war and refusing to deploy to Iraq.
Watada is charged with missing movement after refusing to deploy with his unit, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. The Army also proceeded with charges of conduct unbecoming an officer for statements he made to journalists and at a veterans convention.
Seitz argued to drop the latter charges.
"He should not face another four years of penalties because he chose to explain his reasons for opposing the war," Seitz told Lt. Col. John Head, the military judge overseeing Watada's case at this post south of Tacoma.
Army prosecutors argued that Watada's statements are offensive to the military and must be looked at in the context they were made and the effects they could as well as the danger they present to the military's mission.

Mitchell's covered war resisters before for AP. On the topic of peace activists being sought to give testimony (for the prosecution) in the court-martial (starts February 5th), Tori notes
Michael Gilbert's "Army versus activism: Scope of Watada trial to be argued" (The News Tribune):

Phan Nguyen, an Olympia activist who moderated the May news conference in Tacoma where Watada announced his decision to refuse the deployment order, said Army prosecutors served him with a subpoena last week.
He and others said they believe the move is an attempt to intimidate them by calling them to testify about their activities in support of Watada.
"It puts us in the position of helping the Army put this man in prison," said Liz Rivera Goldstein, an organizer with the Watada campaign. "Being put in that position harkens back to the McCarthy era -- it seems like the wrong direction for our country to be going in."

Another name that should be familiar is Christian Hill. Portland notes this from Hill's "Iraq War resister's court-martial turns on pretrial hearing today" (The Olympian):

On June 22, Watada, 28, a native of Hawaii, refused to board a plane headed to the Middle East with members of his unit, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. He publicly announced his intention to refuse two weeks earlier.
Fort Lewis announced Nov. 9 that Watada would be tried for missing movement and four specifications - or counts - of conduct unbecoming an officer for statements against the war during speeches and interviews.
If convicted, Watada could serve up to six years in prison and be dismissed from the military.

That provides the background for anyone who slept through the summer and also tells you what Watada's facing if found guilty. The charges? Jonah notes this from an AP story:

Watada is charged with missing movement after refusing to deploy with his unit, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. The Army also proceeded with charges of conduct unbecoming an officer for statements he made to journalists and at a veterans convention.
Seitz argued to drop the latter charges.
"He should not face another four years of penalties because he chose to explain his reasons for opposing the war," Seitz told Lt. Col. John Head, the military judge overseeing Watada's case at this post south of Tacoma.

In addition to the pretrial hearing, demonstartions of support for Watada took place today and Zach notes this report from KTVU:

San Francisco police arrested a number of antiwar protesters who were blocking the doors of the federal building during a rally Thursday afternoon.
The protesters were participants in a rally that began at 1 p.m. and was sponsored by the Declaration of Peace Campaign, First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco and Watada Support Committee.
The Watada committee is supporting Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who is currently undergoing a pretrial hearing at Fort Lewis, Wash., in preparation for a Feb. 5 court martial on charges of refusing to go to Iraq and of conduct unbecoming to an officer.

Emily and Keelan, in seperate e-mails, wanted it noted that Democracy Now! did not even mention that the pretrial hearing started today though, Elaine, "they had time to again note Gerry Ford" and though, Keelan, "Headlines included a lengthy critique of CNN." Information on Ehren Watada can be found by using the link. In addition, you can check Courage to Resist for updates.

And we'll go out with Kendrick's highlight, this interview with Ehren Watada from Kevin Sites' "Conscientious Rejector?" (Kevin Sites In The Hotzone):

KEVIN SITES: Now, you joined the Army right after the US was invading Iraq and now you're refusing to go. Some critics might look at this as somewhat disingenuous. You've taken an oath, received training but now you won't fight. Can you explain your rationale behind this?
EHREN WATADA: Sure. I think that in March of 2003 when I joined up, I, like many Americans, believed the administration when they said the threat from Iraq was imminent -- that there were weapons of mass destruction all throughout Iraq; that there were stockpiles of it; and because of
Saddam Hussein's ties to al-Qaeda and the 9/11 terrorist acts, the threat was imminent and we needed to invade that country immediately in order to neutralize that threat.
Since then I think I, as many, many Americans are realizing, that those justifications were intentionally falsified in order to fit a policy established long before 9/11 of just toppling the Saddam Hussein regime and setting up an American presence in Iraq.
SITES: Tell me how those views evolved. How did you come to that conclusion?
WATADA: I think the facts are out there, they're not difficult to find, they just take a little bit of willingness and interest on behalf of anyone who is willing to seek out the truth and find the facts. All of it is in the mainstream media. But it is quickly buried and it is quickly hidden by other events that come and go. And all it takes is a little bit of logical reasoning. The Iraq Survey Group came out and said there were no weapons of mass destruction after 1991 and during 2003. The 9/11 Commission came out and said there were no ties with Iraq to 9/11 or al-Qaeda. The president himself came out and said that nobody in his administration ever suggested that there was a link.
And yet those ties to al-Qaeda and the weapons of mass destruction were strongly suggested. They said there was no doubt there were weapons of mass destruction all throughout 2002, 2003 and even 2004. So, they came out and they say this, and yet they say it was bad intelligence, not manipulated intelligence, that was the problem. And then you have veteran members of the CIA that come out and say, "No. It was manipulated intelligence. We told them there was no WMD. We told them there were no ties to al-Qaeda. And they said that that's not what they wanted to hear."
SITES: Do you think that you could have determined some of this information prior to joining the military -- if a lot of it, as you say, was out there? There were questions going into the war whether WMD existed or not, and you seemingly accepted the administration's explanation for that. Why did you do that at that point?
WATADA: Certainly yeah, there was other information out there that I could have sought out. But I put my trust in our leaders in government.
SITES: Was there a turning point for you when you actually decided that this was definitely an illegal war?
WATADA: Certainly. I think that when we take an oath we, as soldiers and officers, swear to protect the constitution -- with our lives as necessary -- and those constitutional values and laws that make us free and make us a democracy. And when we have one branch of government that intentionally deceives another branch of government in order to authorize war, and intentionally deceives the people in order to gain that public support, that is a grave breach of our constitutional values, our laws, our checks and balances, and separation of power.

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and the war drags on

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