Monday, January 22, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Monday, January 22, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue with over 100 Iraqis reported dead, Bully Boy tanks again in the polls (on a 'reality' show, we could vote him off the island by now),  the people prove they don't need the approval of 'judge' to argue Ehren Watada's case in a citizen tribunal on the illegal war held this past weekend, Kurdish forces make like many Iraqis in the military and self-check out, and -- what do you know -- with an eye witness who talked to the press this weekend an unnamed US military flack finally grunts - yeah, maybe they do shoot down US helicopters in Iraq.
Starting with US war resister Ehren Watada,  On February 5th, Watada faces a court-martial.  "Judge" Head has 'ruled' that Ehren Watada cannot explain the reasons he reached his decision to deploy to Iraq, he cannot explain which orders he honored in his refusal to fight in an illegal war and he cannot really present his case.  Saturday and Sunday, Citizens' Hearing on the Legality of U.S. Actions in Iraq was held in Tacoma, Washington and there, in a hearing by, for and of the people, the arguments could be made and were.
Among those testifying were Ann Wright (retired from the State Department, retired US army colonel) who was asked about the duty of Ehren Watada
Ann Wright: Now that's kind of the heart of it all, isn't it?  The conduct becoming an officer?  The ability to think.  The ability to take care of your troops, to keep them out of harm's way, to explore with your chain of command what's going on, why are you having to do certain things?  Trusting in your chain of command that you're asking questions that your seniors are asking, are asking, are asking . . .  
And I think what we we see in the case of Lt. Watada is that the entire chain of command has failed starting with the four-star generals that were the advisors to the Secretary of Defense and the president, with General Myers, the chief of staff, [. . .]  who  was such a weak chairman of the Joint Chiefs that he did not question it,  he was a toady of the Bush administration. 
We did have one four-star general who spoke out -- General Shinseki, chief of staff of the army -- who questioned.  He actually didn't question the war, he questioned the number of troops -- how the war was going to be prosecuted.  Our generals in the chain of command have not acted as they should have and it's just kind of gone all the way down.  The questioning that really goes up and down in the military because there is a dynamic part of the military it's just not one monolythic group there's a lot of debate going on in the scenes and behind the scenes. [. . .]     
For the Lt. to be the one that is carrying the load on questioning the war is a little unfair. There should have been people much higher up that were questioning, as they are now, the retired generals are questioning, but that's a little late. [. . .]  
It's hard to question sometimes even though you know it's your responsibility and your obligation to do it.  But we see here that we've got very few people in the military who are openly questioning but then you look at the polls in newspapers that are being taken of the service members in  Iraq and, what is it, 75% of them say we shouldn't be there.  So there is an underground movement  of the military itself.  They're not the ones that can stop wars from beginning but they're the ones that ultimately are the ground fodder for it and what they start saying, "It's not worth my life anymore" that's when these things will start slowing down.  And then it's up to us as civilians be going to our Congress to demand that the Congress stop funding the war.  If you want to support the troops bring them home, stop the funding of the war.
Amy Rolph (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) reports that David Krieger ("chairman of the tribunal") opened Saturday's proceedings by noting, "We believe that Lt. Watada's contentions about the illegality of the war deserve a full and fair hearing."  The Associated Press reported over 400 people were present on Saturday alone.  Also appearing was Ehren Watada.  Hal Bernton (Seattle Times) reports that Watada declared "Judge" Head's decision to disallow a defense in the court-martial to be "a travesty of justice.  That it is a violation of our most sacred due process, and indeed it is un-American."  Rolph notes that US war resister Darrell Anderson was also among those offering testimony about what he witnessed in Iraq and the "training that dehumanizes Iraqis".  Though arguments can't be made in the court-martial, they were made in in Tacoma.  John Nichols (The Nation) blogs at The Notion that: "It appears that the prosecutors do not want to provide Watada with an open and fair forum in which to explain his arguments against the war."  Of course, what the prosecution wants or doesn't only matters if the "Judge" rules and he did so when he released his decision on Tuesday of last week
In a speech given at the Church Center for the UN on December 8th by Watada's mother, Carolyn Ho, (broadcast on WBAI's Law and Disorder today) she explained how her son began researching Iraq in June of 2005 (one year prior to his going public), the basic research to get to know the country he was going to be deployed to, and, as he studied and studied, he came across the shaping of intelligence, the Downing Street Memos exposing that intel was being fixed, the phoney WMDs claims . . .  In January of 2006, she received a call from her son who explained that he had decided he wouldn't deploy to Iraq when the time came.  On June 7, 2006, Carolyn Ho recounted, "the day before his 28th birthday, he went public and announced his decision not to deploy when the unit went to Iraq."  Key point:  "I don't believe that my son has committed any crime and that he should be serving any time,"
Also on Saturday, Ehren Watada spoke at the Kitsap Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Bremerton.  David Vognar (Kitsap Sun) reports that over 70 people turned out to hear Watada explain how. in June,  he came to be the first US officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq -- Watada threw the responsibility back to the people noting, "It is the American people who have the power to end this war, but only if they have the will to do so."
Watada is part of a movement of resistance within the military that also includes Kyle Snyder, Agustin Aguayo, 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, Robin Long, Ryan Johnson, Chris Teske, Tim Richard and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Saturday, Patricia Sullivan (Washington Post) reported on the January 15th death of Oliver V. Hirsh:
In 1968, Mr. Hirsch was a 22-year-old enlistee from Bethesda, stationed at Almaden Air Force Station in California, where he was a radar instructor and held the rank of sergeant.  He joined eight other military men, representing the four branches of the services, who publicly refused to go to Vietnam and chained themselves to ministers at a chuch in Northern California.  Their arrests for desertion were a media spectacle, with polic cutting their chains and removing them from a Communion service.  The incident also served as one of the early indications that opposition to the war came not just from campuses but also from soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen who were serving in the ranks.
Hirsh was among the war resisters sharing their experiences in David Zeiger's Sir! No Sir! which is now available with bonus footage including Camilio Mejia, Cindy Sheehan and Jane Fonda discussing "the movement then and now." (Also note the DVD of the film is available free of charge to active duty and deployed soldiers.) 
Yesterday was also a signifcant day for war resisters.  Patrick Maloney (Canada's London Free Press) noted that Sunday was the thirty year anniversary of Jimmy Carter's pardoning of draft dodgers: "An estimated 50,000 came to Canada, of whom about half remain.  Now, in a quiet echo of an earlier generation's anti-war sentiment, the War Resisters Support Campaign is noticing growing interest in Canada as a haven for U.S. soldiers destined for Iraq."
Today, Dan Balz and Jon Cohen (Washington Post) report on the latest Washington Post poll (Washington Post-ABC News) which finds "48 percent of Americans calling the war the single most important issue they want Bush and the Congress to deal with this year.  No other issue rises out of the single digits.  The poll also found that the public trust congressional Democrats over Bush to deal with the conflict by a margin of 60 percent to 33 percent."  And symbolic measures won't build that trust for the Democratic Party, nor will doing nothing.  Someone might also want to share those results with independent media -- it will no doubt be a surprise for a great many who ignored Iraq throughout 2006 -- as well as those who tried to sneak it into some fawning coverage of some politician.
In Iraq today . .

Assel Kami (Reuters) reports "[t]wo simultaneous car bombs" which struck "a busy market in central Baghdad."  BBC reports 88 dead with 160 more injured.  Some of those injured will not recover (die) and some of the dead have likely not been recovered which is why Kami earlier reported 67 dead and 142 injured bu noted "the death toll of 67 could rise."  CBS and AP note the immediate aftermath: "body parts strewn on the bloodstained pavement, along with DVDs and compact discs as black smoke rose into the sky."  AFP quotes one of their photographers:  "There were so many victims they were piled up on wooden market carts, the wounded on top of the dead, and hauled to ambulances and police vehicles. Improvised rescue workers made their way through the carnage amid the cries of those wounded."  Mohammed al Awsy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that an "interiro ministry source" states that one car involved was left running with the driver of the car telling "people nearby that he was just buying things and would return very soon."
Al Jazeera notes: "A few hours later at least 12 people were killed and more than 40 were wounded when a bomb exploded in a market in the village of Khalis, near Baquba."  AFP reports it as a "bomb placed in a vegetable cart" combined with a mortar attack.  Reuters notes that already the death toll on the Khalis bombing has risen -- 14 people dead.  Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports a mortar attack "on a primary school in the Sunni stronghold neighborhood of Dora in southern Baghdad, killing a woman waiting for her child and wounding eight students".  Reuters notes a boming in Mosul that took the life of a woman left four people wounded (two were Iraqi soldiers and they note: "Two more soliders were killed when troops went to the scene to recover the casualties.") and they note a mortar attack "on a house in the Amil district in southwestern Baghdad" that claimed one life and left another wounded.
CBS and AP report that a teacher "was on her way to work at a girls' school" in western Baghdad when she was shot dead and the man driving the car she was in was also wounded. Meanwhile, CNN reports that a police officer and a police acadmy lecturer were shot dead on their way "home in eastern Baghdad."  Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports three shootings -- in Baghdad a "Sunni tribal chieftain" was shot dead in one attack and an employee of a cell phone company was shot dead in another while, in Mosul, an attack left an oil employee dead.  Mohammed al Awsy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports "a liquor shop owner [Christian] in AL JAMAAIAT area 8km west of basra" was shot dead today "after some clerics in basra warned the liquor shop owners that they should stop selling liquor in basra."
CNN reports 29 corpses were discovered in Baghdad today.
In addition, Mohammed al Awsy (McClatchy Newspaper) reports that an attack or attempted kidnapping took place when "unknown gunmen tried to storm inside the house of the deputy governor of diyala ABDUL AZIZ AL JUBORI" -- two body guards were wounded "but the deputay governor was not inside the house."  A kidnapping took place in Baqubua, Reuters reports: "Khaled al-Sanjari, a local government offical in Baquba," was kidnapped "while he was on his way to work" and the kidnappers "set the office on fire".
As Damien Cave (New York Times) and Borzou Daragahi (Los Angeles Times) reported this morning, at least 27 US troops died over the weekend in Iraq.  The 27 number stops with the two marines who died Sunday in Al-Anbar Province.  On Saturday, a US helicopter was shot dead.  Everyone on board died, all were American soldiers.  The BBC notes today that AFP and CNN have reported (today) that an anonymous US military official has stated it's possible that the helicopter was shot down by "a shoulder-fire missile".  This after denying -- as they've done with every crash -- that anything was shot down (they've even insisted -- Willie Caldwell, the Giddiest Gabor in the Green Zone, has been especially insistant -- that only coalition forces have those capablities in Iraq -- so note that "a shoulder-fire missile" is possible, according to the US military).  Ernesto London (Washington Post) reported Sunday (actually Saturday -- which is when the article first made it online, it was "20 dead" in the headline, now downgraded to 19) that Arkan al-Mujamai told the paper "that the helicopter was shot down by a group of Sunni Muslim insurgents, one of whom is his uncle." al-Mujamai stated that "a heavy machine gun" was used.
The 27 deaths include an attack in Karbala.  Leila Fadel and Hussam Ali (McClatchy Newspapers) report: "On Saturday, a civil affairs team of American soldiers sat with local leaders in Karbala's provincial headquarters to discuss security . . .   A convoy of seven white GMC Suburbans sped toward the building, breezing through checkpoints, with the men wearing American and Iraqi military uniforms and flashing American ID cards, Iraqi officials said. The force stopped at the police directorate in Karbala and took weapons but gave no reason, said police spokesman Capt. Muthana Ahmed in Babel province.  A call was made to the provincial headquarters to inform them an American convoy was on its way, said the governnor of Karbala, Akeel al-Khazaali. But the Americans stationed inside the building . . . had not been informed" because this wasn't a military patrol and, in the attack that followed (grenades, mortars, gunfire), 5 US troops were killed and 3 more wounded.   If you've forgotten, a tremendous amount of money was spent on new Iraqi uniforms and a huge publicity push came with that stating that no longer would the resistance or militias be able to impersonate -- that's disproven today and was always disproven because those uniforms don't come off some Mosul sewing machine, they're taken by people working within the forces.  Today, the US military announced: "A Task Force Lightning Soldier assigned to 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, was killed Monday when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle while conducting combat operations in Ninewa province.
On WBAI's Law & Disorder, a discussion by Anthony Arnove and Michael Schwartz  was also broadcast today.  Many topics were covered.  [Mike will be covering this tonight at Mikey Likes It!; Ruth and Rebecca passed on L&D and held the phone up for quotes included.]  They spoke, in particular, about the racism at play -- which includes the attitude of those 'sorry' Iraqis who just don't appreciate the illegal invasion the US administration has 'gifted' them with, that those 'bad' and 'backward' Iraqis are just lacking abilities since they can't 'build' a 'democracy' in the midst of the US' illegal occupation, and the racism that forgets who created the secetarian divide (the US).  The racism -- that urge to cast 'the other' -- is why they US administration believes that they can recruit more Iraqis to 'pacify' Baghdad and Al-Anbar Province.  Schwartz noted that as soon as US troops aren't assinged with Iraqi troops, Iraqi troops melt into the area and disappear -- the desertion rate from the Iraqi army that's rarely noted, especially now when Bully Boy's escalation depends on believing the lie that more US troops on the ground will solve the trick.    The admiinstration also believe they can bring the Kurds easily into the Iraqi military.  Leila Fadel and Yaseen Taha (McClatchy Newspapers) reported at the end of last week that it wasn't working out quite that way: "Kurdish soldiers from northern Iraq, who are mostly Sunnis but not Arabs, are deserting the army to avoid the civil war in Baghdad, a conflict they consider someone else's problem" and they quote Anward Dolani ("former peshmerga commander who leads the brigade that's being tranferred to Baghdad") declaring: "The soldiers don't know the Arabic language, the Arab tradition, and they don't have any experience fighting terror."  If the news of the Kurdish troops doesn't convey how no one wants to fight the illegal US war, Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) report on the latest in souther Iraq where "Shia Arab tribes in the south" are joining the resistance.  Jamail and al-Fadhily quote Jassim al-Assadi declaring: "People here have always hated the U.S. and British occupation of Iraq and remembered their grandfathers who fought the British troops with the simplest weapons." 
Anthony Arnove, author most recently of IRAQ: The Logic of Withdrawal, will be speaking in DC this weekend:
*January 27, 5 pm,   
Washington, DC (with Kelly Dougherty) 

Busboys and Poets 
Arnove will be among many in DC on the 27th.  From CODEPINK:
On Election Day voters delivered an unmistakable mandate for peace. Now it's time for action. Join CODEPINK in a national march to D.C. on January 27-29, to send a strong, clear message to Congress and the Bush Administration: The people of this country want the war and occupation in Iraq to end and we want the troops home now! See our latest actions, and click here for details.

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