Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, January 9, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, more legal news for US soldiers, a newspaper attempts to 'whip' a war resister 'into line,' US Senator Ted Kennedy stands loudly against more troops giving their lives in Bully Boy's illegal war, a slaughter takes place on a residential street in Baghdad and the US press rushes to 'report' from one side, a UNICEF worker is shot dead, and Bully Boy wants a 'fresh start' after promoting, selling and starting an illegal war nearly four years ago.

Starting with US war resister Ehren Watada who, in June 2006, became the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to the illegal war. Last Thursday, at the Fort Lewis Army, a military pretrial, presided over by Lt. Col. John Head, heard arguments to outline the scope of the scheduled February 5th court-martial.

Today, the supposedly educated (if not enlightened) members of The Seattle Times editorial board issued their own journalistic ruling -- one that they apparently hammered out with bully clubs. Representing the finest of mob mentalities, if not journalism or democracy, The Seattle Times argues that Ehren Watada should be convicted on both counts (missing deployment and conduct unbecoming an officer) because . . . well the system just won't survive otherwise. Having killed the invidual to "save" what they see as a weak and dottering system (otherwise Watada wouldn't have to be convicted -- if they had any faith in the strength and resiliency of the American system, the Nervous Nels wouldn't have argued for his conviction for the good of the system), they embrace a long history of knuckle draggers who chose expediency over true democracy because there's nothing like a moral imperative to have the most closed minded reaching for the white sheets and rope.

For the system to struggle on, the editorial board argues, the individual must be stamped out and the accusers of Socrates couldn't have said it better in ancient times. If they've learned anything from their (limited) education, the only evidence is that, while calling for a judicial death, they stop short of imprisoment because they fear a martyr who could galvanize a public.
So, by their rudimentary and flawed logic, Ehren Watada must be found guilty to give pause to any other service member that might follow in his footsteps thereby defending the "good Nazi" argument overruled in the Nuremberg Trials which found that following orders was not a valid excuse and that each soldier is an individual agent responsible for his or her own actions.

The Seattle Times sees service members as worker bees and one wonders how far they'd be willing to carry out their flawed logic. Were it The Berlin Times in the immediate aftermath of WWII would they editorialize in favor of Nazis sending Jews, gypsies and gays to the gas chambers? Doubtful because the only basis for their stand today is that the individual must be stamped out at all costs due to the board's own deluded belief in the weakness of the American system. (Possibly they'd term it "the American experiment"?). In an apparent correction to Max Weber (and a dismissal of Robert K. Merton's work on Universalism), the editorial board argues that the state must not only use military might as they see fit but also narrowly define "justice" when it suits their own purposes.

In a decade of journalistic cowardice, the editorial echoes many of the themes that saw the punishment of those journalists who, in real time, called out the Bully Boy for his Bunny-Fu-Fu hop around the continental United States on September 11th for what it was (cowardice), and saw a rush to pass off press releases as investigative journalism. The system will survive, it always does, it's modern day journalism that has decayed.

In the real world, where a spine is required to stand erect, Ehren Watada is part of a movement of resistance within the military and The Seattle Times hoped for guilty verdict hasn't stopped the movement which includes people such as Watada, Kyle Snyder, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo, Joshua Key, Ivan Brobeck, Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Jeremy Hinzman, Corey Glass, Patrick Hart, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Appeal for Redress is collecting signatures of active duty service members calling on Congress to bring the troops home -- the petition will be delivered to Congress next week (MLK day).

As Bernard Weiner (New Zeland's Scoop) notes, "The refusal of Lieutenant Ehren Watada to return to Iraq is just the tip of the iceberg of resistance inside the officer corps, and among the rank-and-file troops as well: Hundreds of on-duty soldiers have signed a petition calling for "redress," urging the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq."

As Bully Boy prepares for his US primetime address tomorrow (which, as Cedric and Wally point out, shouldn't startel viewers usually tuned in at that hour to The Biggest Loser, Criminal Minds and Lost), a new poll on escalation (sending more US troops to Iraq) is out. CBS helpfully (that's sarcasm) leads with a 48% to 45% split (48% opposed to sending more US troops into Iraq for the "short term') and then gets around to noting the obvious, "A majority -- 59 percent -- would prefer to see troop levels either reduced (30 percent) or brought to zero with a full withdrawal (29 percent)." Though Michael R. Gordon and others in the mainstream media can wax it on about the escalation, where are the articles (or editiorials) reflecting the American people's majority belief that it's time to bring troops home?

The same poll finds the American people better able to articulate the current state of the illegal war -- 71% believe the war is "going badly" and 72% disapprove of Bully Boy's " handling of the war."

Proving that the escalation is not just pie-in-the-sky dreaming from a cracked mind, Estes Thompson (AP) reports the an unnamed US Defense Department official has confirmed the escalation noting that "3,500 soliders of the 2nd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division" who are waiting in Kuwait "will be the first to move into Iraq" and that "[u]p to 20,000" other "troops will be put on alert and be prepared to deploy under the" Bully Boy's "plan" while March should see "about 17,400 Marines from Camp Lejeune are expected to be in Iraq as well." Ewen MacAskill (Guardian of London) reports: "As part of what could be Mr Bush's last Iraq gamble, the White House is trying to present the revised policy as a fresh start." In American society, convicts are supposed to get a fresh start . . . of course, that's generally after they've served time.

Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) reports that the escalation would require overturning policies and utilizing the National Guard for "lengthy second tours in Iraq" which may prove
"controversial among state governors, who share authority over the Guard, and could heighten concerns in Congress over the war and Bush's plans for a troop increase."

And where is the US Congress?

As Jeff Zeleny (New York Times) reminded today: "By law, Congress can limit the nature of troop deployments, cap the size of military deployments and cut financing for existing or prospective deployments." Following Speaker of the House of Representative's Nancy Pelosi's lead on Sunday, others are beginning to issue stronger statements. (Others, of course, do not include Joe Biden.) Kate Phillips (New York Times) blogs that US Senator Edward Kennedy spoke this afternoon at the National Press Club where he termed the illegal war "George Bush's Vietnam." CBS and AP note that Kennedy announced he was "introducing a bill to block Mr. Bush from sending additional troops to Iraq without the consent of Congress." Susan Cornwell (Reuters) highlights this section of Kennedy's speech: "My bill will say that no additional troops can be sent and no additional dollars can be spent on such an escalation, unless and until Congress approves the president's plan." CNN reports that Kennedy sees the legislation as Congressional attempt "to reclaim the rightful role of Congress and the people's right to a full voice in the president's plan to send more troops to Iraq."

From Kennedy's speech (posted in full by Phillips):

As the election in November made clear, the vast majority of Americans oppose the war in Iraq, and an even greater number oppose sending even more troops to Iraq today.
Families like the Harts and all Americans deserve a voice in that profound decision. Our Constitution gives them that right. The President is Commander-in-Chief, but in our democracy he is still accountable to the people. Our system of checks and balances gives Congress -- as the elected representatives of the people -- a central role in decisions on war and peace.
Today, therefore, I am introducing legislation to reclaim the rightful role of Congress and the people's right to a full voice in the President's plan to send more troops to Iraq. My bill will say that no additional troops can be sent and no additional dollars can be spent on such an escalation, unless and until Congress approves the President's plan.
My proposal is a straightforward exercise of the power granted to Congress by Article I, section 8 of the Constitution. There can be no doubt that the Constitution gives Congress the authority to decide whether to fund military action. And Congress can demand a justification from the President for such action before it appropriates the funds to carry it out.
This bill will give all Americans -- from Maine to Florida to California to Alaska and Hawaii -- an opportunity to hold the President accountable for his actions.

The speech comes as Richard Borreca (Honlulu Star-Bulletin) reports that the incoming chair
of the US House's Armed Service Committee, Neil Abercrombie, stated, ""We are not going to fund any surges. We are not going to support expanding this war." In the interview, Abercrombie voices strong criticsm of US Secretary of State Condi Rice and says of the expected testimony before the Armed Service Committee of US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, "My question for Gates? What do they propose to do now? That was not obvious four years ago, and what will they propose that is different from the wrong path they have been following all these years?" Appears not everyone is willing to act as though the illegal war wasn't devised by the Bully Boy and a 'fresh start' occurs just because the Bully Boy says so.

In Iraq?


Reuters reports: "A house in the volatile Shi'ite district of Sadr City in eastern Baghdad was blown up and local residents said it was caused by a U.S. air strike. Doctors showed journalists the bodies of two men, a woman and two children they said died in the house. The U.S. military had no immediate comment." Reuters also notes a mortar attack in Mahmudiya that took one life and left three other family members wounded. AP reports two roadside bombs in Baghdad, one wounded a police officer, the other "wounded an 8-year-old girl."


UNICEF notes the shooting death of one of their own, Janan Jabero ("a 52-year-old Iraqi national") who was killed as he was driving through Baghdad and leaves behind two children and a wife -- "Roger Wright, UNICEF Representative for Iraq, says: 'Janan Jabero was a brilliant engineer and had been a key part of UNICEF's school rehabilitation programme in Iraq since 1999. His death has cost Iraq's children a staunch advocate and we deeply mourn his loss'."


Reuters notes 40 corpses discovered in Baghdad and six in Mosul.

In "Who new Baghdad was a seaside port?" news (it isn't), today a plane crashed at Baghdad International and the AP states that the 35 who died on board ("29 Turks, . . . on American, three from Oldova and on each from Russia and Ukraine") died, quoting "a Foreign Ministry official," due to "heavy fog." Remember that when flying into Phoenix. (Well maybe the 'fog' derived from the much talked of plans to encircle Baghdad with a 'moat' for 'security' reasons.)

In "I can't believe it's butter" news, Haifa Street, a residential street in Baghdad (though AP prefers "combat zone" which distinguishes it from any other street in Baghdad how?), was the site of a major assault. CBS and AP quote Iraqi government flack Ali al-Dabbagh stating, "God willing, Haifa Street will never threaten the Iraqi people again" to which the world responds, "They read Gone With The Wind in Baghdad?" Though translanted in many languages (including 24 times in Spanish, 19 times in Chinese) there's no record of it being translated into Arabic so let's help Ali al-Dabbagh by responding with the most famous line, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." CBS News' Lara Logan notes that, despite today's full out assault, "What is particularly interesting about this is that for two years the U.S. military has held the street up as a part of their success in Baghdad. There was much violence along Haifa Street two years ago, and a deal was made between the Iraqis and insurgents living there to keep everything quiet as long as they didn't attack in that area. That deal now seems to be off." That is interesting, equally interesting is how CBS, CNN and everyone rushes in to prop up the joint-organization as an Iraqi call as if we're supposed to all believe now that the occupying force (US) doesn't call the shots. Equally interesting is the lack of skepticism and the (over) reliance upon what military flacks say occurred. Apparently, were the press not spoonfed, it would starve. CNN doesn't even present the qualifier "suspected" before using the catch-all "insurgents" (50 Iraqis died, at least 50, in the blood bath -- war planes, tanks, guns). Oh well, as Eason Jordan demonstrated some time ago, truth is something you tell only after a despot falls. (See Bonnie M. Anderson's News Flash.)

Turning to legal news, Reuters reports that Juston Graber has pleaded guilty to "aaggravated assault with a dangerous weapon" (and only to that charge) for his actions in the May 9, 2006 murders of three Iraqis near Tikrit and will now be expected to testify against the other three US soldiers (Raymond Girouard, William Hunsaker and Corey Clagett) whom military prosecutors say released Iraqis they had apprehended with the intent to then kill the three Iraqis with the cover of 'they were trying to escape.'

Meanwhile, Ryan Lenz (AP) reports the latest on the rape of fourteen-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, the murder of her, her five-year-old sister, and both of her parents on March 12, 2006 by US soldiers. (James Barker has confessed to his crimes and will be testifying against others 'alleged' to have been involved.) Lenz reports that three months prior to the crimes, "homicidal ideations" were detected in Green by the Army Combat Stress Team ("Dec. 21, 2005") and they were . . . 'treated' with "several small doses of Seroquel -- a drug to regulate his mood" while he was instructed "to get some sleep" which obviously was a modern medicine at its finest (that was sarcasm). Lenz notes that, "If the charges are true . . . the attack would be among the most horrific instances of criminal behavoir by American troops in the nearly four-year-old war. It also would represent a worst-case scenario for the military's much-criticized practice of keeping mentally and emotionally unfit personnel in the killing fields of Iraq." But why stop there? Green, who will be tried in a civilian court because he'd already been discharged by the military when the realities came to light, was recruited despite having no high school degree and despite going from jail to the military -- he signed a "'moral' character waiver" which allowed him to enlist despite a reported history of prior drug and alcohol related offenses.

Lenz recounts the basics that emerged during the Article 32 hearings and James P. Barker's court hearing where he admitted his own crimes:

The plot to rape and kill was hatched as the soldiers hit golf balls at a checkpoint. They had seen the older daughter on patrols in the area. After drinking whiskey bought from Iraqi policemen, they masked their faces and crept through backyards in afternoon daylight to get to the family's home.
They knew the family kept a gun in one bedroom for protection.
Once in the house, Green herded the father, mother and 5-year-old daughter to another room, closed the door and shot them dead. Green had blood on his clothes and boots when he returned.
Green and at least two others took turns raping the other daughter before killing her with the family's AK-47. They set her body on fire with kerosene dumped from a lamp in the kitchen in an effort to hide evidence.

Recounted primarily because independent media has been too busy to report it.

In news from Iraq, Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) report on a ten-year-old boy, Yassir, playing with a toy gun becoming the target of US troops who pursued the child back to his house "and smashed almost everything in it" and quote a witness who stated that this came "after beating Yassir and his uncle hard, and they spoke the nastiest words." Hearts and minds and war crimes apparently.