Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, January 17, 2007. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq; two more US troops are announced dead; Mad Maddie sticks up for her daddy's favorite pupil; Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey and Maxine Waters stand strong in the US Congress; the US military is accused of again breaking diplomatic policies and flouting the law in Iraq; and US war resister Ehren Watada learns just how hollow 'justice' can be.

Starting with the latest news of Ehren Watada who, in June of last year, became the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. A strong stand that took tremendous courage (even his parents, Bob Watada and Carolyn Ho, have spoken of how they attempted to talk him out of it because of the scorn, silence and hostility he'd be greeted with). He faces a court-martial on February 5th and Lt. Col. John Head -- the so-called judge -- has issued a decision based on arguments presented in the pre-trial hearing earlier this month. As Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) summarized it today: "The judge in the case has ruled Watada's defense won't be able to present evidence challenging the legality of the war nor explain Watada's motive to resist deploying to Iraq." Hal Bernton (Seattle Times) notes it is "a major blow to the court-martial defense," which is putting it mildly, and quotes Watada's attorney Eric Seitz who declares, "We have been stripped of every defense. This is a disciplinary system, not a justice system. Otherwise, we would have been entitled to defend ourselves."

Which they are not. Ehren Watada was just stripped of any defense. As noted on January 4th when the prosecution presented their pre-trial arguments: "What the military would like to do in today's pre-trial hearing is reduce everything to whether or not Watada deployed with his unit? The answer, of course, is that he did not. The military does not want the issue of the legality of the war addressed. By closing off this discussion, they not only would destroy Watada's right to defend himself, they would be able, as the Bully Boy long has been able to, set the terms of the discussion and control what is and is not discussed."

Political Affairs offers a survey of the travesty and notes that Head's ruling reads: "The defense motion for a hearin gon the 'Nuremberg defense' is DENIED. The government motion to prevent the defense from presenting evidence on the legality of the war is GRANTED." Of the political prosecution (let's be honest, Watada's being politically prosecuted), Political Affairs notes that, in the pre-trial hearing, "Kueker replied that there are two separate prosecutions going on. The first is for Lt. Watada missing movement to Iraq -- a prosecution where his MOTIVE is so irrelevant that it needs to be barred from the military jury. The second prosecution will be for Lt. Watada publicly explaining his MOTIVE! Apparently this Orwellian formulation passes for military justice."

Apparently and sadly it does. It's complete nonsense. It's doesn't remotely resemble justice. It's a political prosecution of Ehren Watada where he is silenced to the point of being gagged. (Shades of the Chicago Eight.) He can be charged with crimes that, if convicted, carry six years of prison time, the prosecution can do whatever they want in the court-martial, but Ehren Watada cannot make the best defense he is entitled to. Not only can his attorney not put forth the best defense, the reasons for the actions he is now being persecuted for, those reasons cannot be discussed by the defense.

The prosectution can discuss it. They'll be discussing what Ehren Watada said here or there and why it is supposedly so objectionable but Ehren Watada will not be allowed to explain why he acted as he did, why he said what he did.

That's not justice. It's railroading him. It's denying him the right to offer any response to a government case against him. But the Coward's Silence will continue to cause many in independent media to ignore Ehren Watada. Follow that closley and note who stays silent. Those that stay silent are useless. They'd stay silent if you needed them as well.

Ehren Watada has been prevented from arguing any kind of defense. His court-martial now consists of nothing more than "yes" and "no" answers from him. That's not a defense. He took a stand. He's shown bravery. There is no hemming or hawwing, there is only standing up on his part. And for doing that, for saying no to an illegal war, he faces six years in prison -- all the more likely when he's not allowed to make his case.

To repeat, during the Article 32 hearing, Watada's defense called three witnesses, Francis A. Boyle of the University of Illinois' College of Law, Champagne; Denis Halliday, the former Assistant Secretary General of the UN; and retired Colonel Ann Wright. These three witnesses addressed the issue of the war, it's legality, and the responsibilities of a service member to disobey any order that they believed was unlawful. The testimony was necessary because Watada's refusing to participate in the illegal war due to the fact that he feels it is (a) illegal and (b) immoral. That will not happen now, 'judge' Head has denied that, has denied Watada the right to argue any sort of defense.

While the military attempts to throw the book at him (and asks that he stand still and repeat, "Thank you, sir. May I have another?") and independent media plays dumb (with few exceptions) the people react differently. On Saturday, Ehren Watada spoke at the Coupeville Recreation Center in Washington. Paul Boring (Whidbey News-Times) reports that over a 100 people showed up to hear him and burst into applause at various intervals. Watada asked: "Do we wanta a military that without hesistation, will turn on people simply because they ordered to do so? . . . What I have embarked upon and what I sacrifice today is for those who have lost their lives and for those still struggling to stay alive. . . . I do have the power to make you aware of why soldiers are dying and why this war is unjust. I do have the power to compel you to care. It is the American people who have the power to end this war. . . . They can try me, convict me or acquit me. My life does not matter. The lives of thousands of soldiers do . . . it is one thing to end a war. It is another to ensure it never happens again. We have the power to change history."

We do have that power. But only if we use it. Mark Taylor-Canfield reported for Free Speech Radio News and The KPFA Evening News yesterday on a speech Ehren Watada
gave as part of Seattle's MLK celebration where, no surprise, he received a standing ovation. The people are hearing him (which no doubts scares the military to death). Taylor-Canfield also noted Camp Resistance had set up "just outside the gates of Fort Lewis where Watada's hearing is being held." So that's two independent media outlets that have noted Camp Resistance -- will anyone be next? In a show of support for Ehren Watada, Iraq Veterans Against the War started Camp Resistance and intend to maintain it through the court-martial. They need money, volunteers and press attention.

Yesterday, we noted that Agustin Aguayo has received not the expected charge of being AWOL but the charge of "desertion." With Aguayo the US military is attempting to send a message both due to Aguayo's standing up and saying "no" and due to the fact that (as Mike pointed out last night) Aguayo didn't just sue the US military, he's made it up all the way up to the DC Court of Appeals. With Ehren Watada the US military is also attempting to send a message, to initmidate and frighten others from following in Watada or Aguayo's footsteps. Guess what? It's too late. It's already happening. (About the only one scared at this point is a healthy chunk of independent media.) Watada and Aguayo are part of a movement of resistance within the military that also includes Kyle Snyder, Ivan Brobeck, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Mark Wilkerson, Joshua Key, 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.

Today on KPFA's The Morning Show, US Congress member Barbara Lee discussed the Bring the Troops Home and Iraq Sovereignty Restoration Act. Which is? Legislation proposed by Lee and fellow Congress members Lynn Woolsey and Maxine Waters calling for the start of troop withdrawal and the start of "work with the regional countries in the Middle East to come up with a multilateral solution," Lee explained. Repeatedly, Representative Barbara Lee noted that the presence of US troops was fueling the violence. In addition, she noted that the violence "is only going to escalate as long as US troops are there," that "there is no 'win'" and that Bully Boy mentions mistakes but "whether than talk about to rectify it, he's talking about escalating the war." Andrea Lewis asked what everyone could do to support Lee, Waters and Woolsey's proposal and Lee responded that "the bill needs co-sponsors, the more co-sponsors you build, the more chance the bill will get a fair hearing" so start contacting your Congressional reps (especially the House because this is a House proposal) -- get on the phone, on the fax, on your feet, into your e-mail account . . . and tell them you want to see some support for Waters, Woolsey and Lee's bill -- Bring the Troops Home and Iraq Sovereignty Restoration Act.

Also appearing on The Morning Show was Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) stated, "I hope she gets a whole lot more signers on that" and that "This is what we need. This is what we must from our leadership, we must have courageous leadership." He then discussed how when the talk of escalation was first being floated, US Senator Harry Reid (Majority Leader) was all ready to go along publicly but public outrage changed that. "The Democratic Leadership, if left to their own devices will go along with Bush on that". Rothschild stated he is for all avenues ("Bascially, I'm for everything") including phone calls and e-mails (which he believes are counted -- they are, a tally is kept by your rep) but it's time to get "past the passive protests." He shared how he was speaking with an activist about the events to note the 3,000 mark for number of US troops killed in Bully Boy's illegal war. The activist stated, "We got to do more than candle light vigils 'cause they're fine with candle light vigils" and that until the actions turn to massive civil disobedience ("until we start interrupting Wall St.," his friend told him) "this war's going to go on" -- instead "the volume needs to go up, needs to increase and just passive resistance to this war" will not change anything.

Philip Maldari raised the issue of the way Bully Boy continues to attempt to sell the escalation on every and any outlet that will have him. Maldari noted that Bully Boy was on the NewsHour as part of the push and "he says he has faith in generals -- well, he just changed the generals." Rothschild responded that "The reason they can't defend the policy is its indefenseable" but Bully Boy "views himself as The Great Liberator -- he thinks he's got God talking to him in one ear and Cheney in the other" which is why he can drop the number of Iraqis killed into a speech (Rothschild was referring to last year when Bully Boy decided to use the Iraqi Body Count figure) and "it didn't have an impact on him . . . he just dropped it off . . . At what point will these catostrophic casualty figures coming out of Iraq really make an impact on Bush?"

In Iraq, the chaos and violence continue following what Leila Fadel and Zaineb Obeid (McClatchy Newspapers) term the "worst day of carnage in more than a month".


Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports that 17 people have died from a car bombing "in the Shiite district of Sadr City". Mariam Karouny and Claudia Parsons (Reuters) report that the bombing left a "mangled wreckage of a white and orange taxi and blood on the street". The BBC notes that this took place "near the outdoor Mereidi market, one of the neighbourhood's most popular commerical centres" and that "[t]he force of the blast shattered windows of nearby stores and restaurants."

Al Jazeera notes a truck bomb which claimed 10 lives in Kirkuk with at least 42 wounded and "[r]escuers are still searching for bodies." CNN notes that the truck bomb was "detonated remotely, police said. The blast heavily damaged the station, leaving a number of people trapped under the rubble and causing structural damage to other buildings."

Reuters notes a roadsidebomb in Basra has left "two coalition force soldiers" wounded in Basra and it is presumed those are British soldiers, while, in Baghdad, one roadside bomb killed a police officer and left three more wounded, another roadside bomb ("near a minibus") left six people wounded and mortar rounds are being used in the continued assault on Haifa Street.


Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports in an attack on two brothers who were construction workers, one was killed and the other wounded in Mahaweel,


Reuters reports a corpse was discovered (police officer) in Iskandariya. Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) notes five corpses were discovered in Baghdad.

In addition, Reuters reports that a "local government official in Mansour district of Baghdad was kidnapped" along with four his body guards.

Today, the US military has announced: "One Soldier assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 died Monday and one Soldier assigned to 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division died today from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province." The two deaths bring the ICCC count to 3028 (3028 is the AP count today as well).

Returning to the bill Barbara Lee spoke of, The Bring the Troops Home and Iraq Sovereignty Restoration Act, AFP reports that it is "calling for a full withdrawal of US forces from Iraq within six months" and that it "would repeal congressional authorization for the use of force in Iraq . . . [,] would also force the withdrawl from Iraq of US military contractors, and would prohibit permanent US military bases there, while continuing economic and political aid to the country."

From legal news to diplomatic news, the US military stands accused of raiding another diplomatic mission in Iraq. Al Jazeera reports that: "Sudan has summoned the senior US diplomat in Khartoum after it said American troops raided the Sudanese embassy in Baghdad, violating diplomatic conventions, a foreign ministry spokesmen has said." Last week, an Iranian consulate was stormed by US forces and diplomatic staff rounded up. Five still remain in US custody.

Staying with the topic of bully diplomacy, Mad Maddie Albright, the Sanctions Queen whose policies under Bill Clinton led to the unnecessary deaths of many Iraqis, marches her bald spot into the US House's Foreign Relations Committee today and, as KUNA's report demonstrates, proceeds to prop up Condi Rice (who studied with Mad Maddie's Daddy) and to boo and hiss the idea of cutting off funding for the illegal war. Cut off funds? Never says Mad Maddie who cut off medicine and a great deal more while once famously bragging, in an interview with Lesley Stahl (60 Minutes) that a half-million dead Iraqi children was "a very hard choice, but the price -- we think the price is worth it."

When asked about that by Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Mad Maddie showed her churlish side as she snapped and attempted to avoid making eye contact with Goodman. The neo-liberal is here to sell the war and while she may present herself as a disinterested party, Naomi Klein's groundbreaking reporting as 2004 wound down was not just on James Baker's efforts to make a quick buck in Iraq, Mad Maddie was a part of the effort as well. It should also be noted that Mad Maddie argued, immediately prior to the war, for Iraq to be broken up into three regions. She's hardly the disinterested diplomat she attempts to present herself as. But she's never been a honest broker.

While Mad Maddie laughably attempts to portray Condi Rice's Middle East trip as proof the Condi understands the importance of "a meaningful peace process," the reality of the trip? Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times) observes that "Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and five other neighboring states" have issued a statement "warning against foreign interference in Iraq" (excluding the US, of course) and that Rice was "traveling the region this week to build support for President Bush's new Iraq policy." That's why Rice has been traveling to the areas, to drum up support for Bully Boy's desired escalation, it's not about peace in the region. Mad Maddie also burped and growled about NATO.

Turning to true diplomacy, yesterday we noted the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq's report and this statement was included: "Well they have the option of 'honour killings' which, the UN report tells us, led to, in the first months of 2006, 239 women attempting to kill themselves -- burning yourself to death may be among the most popular 'roles' for Iraqi women in the public sphere" -- first eight months of 2006 -- it was the first eight months. We'll pick back up on the topic of Iraqi women in a moment. But, if you missed it, the reports states that 34,452 Iraqis died in 2006 and 36,685 were wounded and that the US led forces "restrict the enjoyment of human rights and . . . cause severe suffering to the local population." As Borzou Daragahi (Los Angels Times) notes: "The report paints a harrowing picture of life in Iraq. At least 470,000 Iraqis have become refugees in their own country" and that "Baghdad accounted for about 75% of all deaths in the last two months of 2006".

The report is harrowing and Sabrina Tavernise (New York Times) interviewed Um Qasim (who lives on Haifa Street in Baghdad) whose life demonstrates the realities -- since the illegal war began, Qasim has seen three brothers die, a sister-in-law die, a nephew, a step-son a son . . . while two of her own sons are imprisoned and her 16-year-old son was just shot dead.

So we've noted that. When will the press get serious about the report and note its findings on honor killings and sucides among Iraqi women? The rapes, the kidnappings, the attacks on women and the destruction of women's rights?

December 9th, on RadioNation with Laura Flanders, Flanders and MADRE's Yanar Mohammed spoke about these killings. Mohammed described an 'honor' killing in November where a woman was taken from her home by fundamentalists and then beaten and flogged "in the middle of the street. Then they brought a cable and wrapped it around her neck" and used that cable to pull her to the "nearest football field and they hanged her". That's not isolated. Yanar Mohammed could speak of two other 'honor' killings in November as well.
While grateful that Flanders and Mohammed can discuss it, when will the mainstream media? These crimes are in the UN report.

Finally. Ehren Watada is on trial, not Sarah Olson. Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) writes about Olson today (that's not a slap at Rothschild) and let's note this, while remembering Rothschild is not a 'creative' journalist (meaning he doesn't invent facts): "Olson says she is not in a position to discuss what she is ultimately going to do or 'what kind of legal strategy I will employ,' she says. But she appears to give a hint when she adds: 'My duty as a journalist is to the public and to their right to know, and not to the government."
Okay, are we all confused again?
She can't support her sources one moment, then the next she's telling Aaron Glantz she has always supported Ehren Watada and doesn't know why anyone would suggest otherwise. Rothchild writes today and Olson's doing what? Saying she can't declare what she intends to do. And yet . . . Olson goes on RadioNation with Laura Flanders and declares she will not testify. (This page takes you to archives where you can listen or just note "Journalist Sarah Olson on why she won't testify against Lieut. Ehren Watada.")
After we're all over the what-mixed-message-is-she-sending-now moment, it bears repeating that Olson is NOT the story. She is a reporter. Her public drama is boring, tiring and embarrassing. She needs to take herself off the public stage because Ehren Watada is facing six years in prison, not Sarah Olson. Or as Dolly Parton says in Straight Talk, "Climb down off the cross, honey. Somebody needs the wood."
Olson tells Rothschild, she's 'holding up' "just fine." Good. Good to know she's maintaining. Now how about remembering that reporters are not the story? Gregg Kakesako, also subpoenaed, told Rothschild "no comment" -- two words Olson would do well to learn unless "Naval Gazer" is the new occupation she intends to list on her passport. All journalists, say it together, "We are not the story. We are not the story. We are not . . ."
Programming note, tomorrow KPFA presents LIVE, gavel-to-gavel coverage of the US Senate's Judiciary Committee meeting entitled "Oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice." Larry Bensky will host the KPFA coverage which will begin at 6:00 am PST. Alberto Gonzales is scheduled to testify before the committee.

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