Monday, January 29, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Monday, January 29th. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, massive demonstrations took place in the United States over the weekend, another US helicopter is shot down, and Carolyn Ho hits the road again to raise awareness of her son, Ehren Watada.

Starting with news of Ehren Watada, Iraq war resister, the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq who now faces a February 5th court-martial in Fort Lewis, Washington. Speaking with Tina Chau (KGMB), Watada explained why he took his stand against the Iraq war: "I believed the justifications. I believed they were true and factual and as we know now, they were grossly negligent and wrong. . . . Just being part of that [war] would be adding more fuel to the fire instead of putting it out." Saturday, columnist Joe Copeland (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) covered Watada and the reasons why he took his stand against the illegal and immoral war: "His views changed as he read up on Iraq in preparation, as he put it, to be a better leader of troops under his command. Instead, the growing knowledge led him to become the only commissioned officer known to refuse Iraq duty, acknowleding from the start that he might have to carry the imprisonment that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other practitioners of civil disobedience felt was their responsibility to accept in calling attention to wrongful government policy. In Watada's case, the prison time could be as much as six years."

Carolyn Jones (San Francisco Chronicle) reports that Sunday Ehren Watada's mother, Carolyn Ho, spoke in Chinatown to at least 200 people urging them to to support her son: "You celebrate the American dream. You live it. And that is what my son is fighting for now." Megan notes that Carolyn Ho was interviewed Saturday by Kris Welch on KPFA's Saturday Morning Talkies and that Carolyn Ho noted she is starting another speaking tour to raise awareness of her son that will run right up to the February 5th court-martial. In addition actions are being planned around the country for February 5th -- click here for a list of demonstrations. Carolyn Ho's announced speaking dates:

Chicago, IL,
Tuesday January 30,
Tentative Operation Push Chicago event
Japanese American Citizens League
5415 N. Clark, Chicago
Wednesday January 31
3:00 to 5:00pm
The Center for Race, Politics & Religion
University of Chicago
Chicago, IL
St. Xavier University
3700 West 103rd St. (103rd & Pulaski)
McGuire Hall
Professor Peter N. Kirstein (773) 298-3283
Thursday February 1
10:00 to 12:00am
Emerson High School
716 East 7th Avenue
Gary, Indiana
Carolyn McCrady (219) 938-1302
Jim Spicer (219) 938-9615
12:30 to 2:30pm
Purdue Calumet University
2200 169th St.
Hammond, Indiana
Professor Kathy Tobin
(219) 989-3192
Classroom Office Building CLO 110
7:00-9:00 pm
Valparaiso University
U.S. Hwy 30 & Sturdy Rd
Room 234
Neils Science Center
Valparaiso, Indiana
Libby A Hearn
Partners for Peace (student group)
(309) 834-2199
Lorri Cornett
Northwest Indiana Coalition Against the Iraq War
(219) 916-0449
Friday February 2
Noon Purdue University
Wesley Foundation
435 West State St.
West Lafayette, Indiana
Sheila Rosenthal (765) 404-5489
Lafayette Area Peace Coalition

Watada is a part of a movement of resistance with the military that includes others such as Agustin Aguayo (whose court-martial is currently set to begin on March
6th), Kyle Snyder, Darrell Anderson, Ivan Brobeck, 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.

On CBS' Sunday Morning, Rita Braver examined the issue of war resisters who go to Canada ("Estimates say there are between 200 and 250 of them") and interviewed Justin Colby and Dean Walcott as well as Vietnam war resister. Colby explained how he signed up after 9--11 only to see his support for the war vanish after a serving a tour in Iraq: "When I realized these people we were killing -- 'cause we killed a lot, I saw a lot of dead people -- when I realized the people we were killing had nothing to do with 9/11, that's when I was, like, 'Okay, this is not for me! This, ya know, I was wrong." Dean Walcott spoke of how he felt there was nothing else he could do but self-check out after serving two tours of duty in Iraq and now focusing on "talking about it, raising the issue, getting it out there for people to debate about it." After his first tour and before his second, Walcott was stationed at a hospital in Germany: "A lot of guys who skin was melted off. A lot of guys who you couldn't recognize literally from their face to their feet. Missing arms, missing legs, couldn't breate on their own, couldn't feed themselves. These kids, literally kids -- 17, 18, 19, 20. And this look in their eyes that -- Oh, I'm never gonna forget it. The look in their eyes when they finally came to understand that they're never gonna walk again. They're never gonna hold their wife and their children again. And having them ask me, 'Why?' Ya know -- a 'big-picture why.' And I couldn't tell them."

Calling for an end to the illegal war, at least 500,000 people demonstrated in DC on Saturday. Speakers included Iraq vets (such as Iraq Veterans Against the War's Garrett Repperhagen), activists (Feminist Majority Foundation's Eleanor Smeal, Kim Gandy. president of NOW, Leslie Cagan of United for Peace and Justice, Jesse Jackson, Noura Erakat, Gold Star Families for Peace's Carlos Arredondo and others), and artists such as Jane Fonda, Eve Ensler, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins and Sean Penn. The link goes to today's Democracy Now! which covers the protest -- all but Ensler are included in the segment which can be read (transcript), listened to or watched. The demonstration also included a message from US Senator Russ Feingold -- the closest anyone in the US Senate got to the rally. US House members Maxine Waters, Lynn Woolsey and John Conyers spoke and US Rep and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich spoke noting that "We are the peacemakers." And it included Bob Watada (click here for Democracy Now!'s report feature Bob Watada, Maxine Waters, John Conyers, Lynn Woolsey and Jonathan Hutto). Bob Watada is Ehren Watada's father and while he and his wife Rosa Sakanishi spoke in DC, Ehren spoke in Seattle and his mother Carolyn Ho spoke in the Bay Area.

The most cited speech by participants we spoke to at the demonstration was Bob Watada. As he declared, "We are a civilized nation, we need to bring an end to a war for blood oil" the crowd erupted in chants of "Say it! Say it!" He spoke of the importance of speaking out (and quoted Abraham Lincoln: "To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.") and he spoke of his son: "The military commanders want to punish him -- and punish him for saying the emperor has no clothes . . . The truth is a danger to the Bush empire."

Ehren's step-mother Rosa told the massive crowd: "And you know, you and I know, that we have to live for peace and justice and that is what Ehren's doing . . . Bring the troops back home now!"

The Honolulu Advertiser reported that Rosa collapsed at the DC demonstrations (and was caught by Ann Wright) due to what doctors at George Washington University Hospital have diagnosed as "a mild stroke."

The second most cited speech by participants we spoke with was Jane Fonda's -- "I haven't spoken at an anti-war rally in 34 years because of lies about me that were used to hurt the anti-war movement. But silence is no longer an option. . . . Thank you so much for the courage to stand up to this mean-spirited and vengeful administration." Fonda was joined by her daughter Vanessa Vadim and Vanessa's two children. During Vietnam, as Fonda noted in her speech, Vanessa was often accompanying her on the road (and got used to sleeping in dresser drawers converted into makeshift cribs). She noted her pride that her family was participating but her sadness that once again the citizens of the US have to protest an illegal war and lobby their elected representatives to take action to end it.

Protest took place elsewhere in the United States and Adam Schreck, Ashraf Khalil and David Streitfeld (Los Angels Times) put the number demonstrating at 3,000. Vietnam vet Ron Kovic and Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan were among those making their voices heard. Kovic stated, "I'm seeing soldiers and veterans like myself who trusted and believed at first and who are realizing they've been lied to." Cindy Sheehan observed, "There's definitely a groundswell growing. I just wish it was growing faster. If half the people of Los Angeles who disagree with this war were here, then we would have miles of people." Laurie Phillips (Tri-Valley Herald) reports that the police estimate "3,000 to 4,000 people" participated in the Bay Area demonstration and that Carolyn Ho spoke to the crowd: "What is going on here, in Washington, D.C., and in this country cannot stop. There is a momentum that is growing" and that her son, Ehren Watada, enlisted because of a desire to do what was right only to learn that the Iraq war is based "on a lie." Aaron Glantz (IPS) corrects the low balled police estimate and notes that the crowd numbered 5,000

In Seattle, Ehren Watada spoke as part of a discussion on the war. Lori Hurlebaus (Indybay IMC) reports that, in addition to the rally, the march took on a military recruiting center led by Iraq vets Darrell Anderson and Chanan Suarez-Diaz (both of Iraq Veterans Against the War) "were attempting to present the recruiters with a book of photos of all U.S. service members who have died in Iraq, but the center was closed as the demonstrators arrived and the recruiters would not accept the book" and that participants chanted "Occupation is a crime, Ehren Watada should do no time!" and "You gotta resist, don't enlist!"

And actions continued today in DC. AP reports that nine people arrested while gathered "around a courtyard pool inside the Rayburn House office building, throwing yellow roses onto the ice as they recited the names of Iraq War victims" and their crime, according to the police was unlawful assembly. Unlawful assemble in the Congress? The First Amendment to the US Constitution: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abriding the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assmeble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Learn it, memorize it, it will put you one up on the Capitol police.

AP also notes that at least 100 people took to the Hart Senate office building "waving children's shoes to represent Iraqi children killed in the war" and quotes CODEPINK's Medea Benjamin stating, "We feel the American people don't know how many Iraqis have been killed because of the American invasion."

And in the Winter 2007 edition of Ms. magazine (now on sale), Patricia McFadden reports on the recent "Feminism and War" conference at Syracuse University noting participants (Cindy Sheehan, Cynthia Enloe, Patrice N. Delvante, Zillah Eisenstein and others): "The three-day conference gave feminist voice to the most urgent political matters of the day. We debated, for example, the ways in which war and religion oppress and exclude women, and how issues of identity are easily conflated into belief systems. At the 'Rally Against Iraqi War and Occupation,' justice activist Angela Davis spoke in a local park about the necessity of resisting the seduction of right-wing propaganda associated with 'homeland security' and 'terrorism.' She discussed ways in which feminism could better engage with notions of security and community."

And in Iraq?


CBS and AP report two car bombings in Kirkuk which resulted in 11 dead and 34 wounded, while, in Baghdad, a car bomb claimed at least 4 lives and left another 6 wounded and a construction worker was killed and two more wounded by the explosion from "[a] bomb hidden under a concrete barrier". Reuters notes five people killed in a rocket attack on a Shi'ite mosque in Tuz Khurmato and eleven people killed (28 injured) in Zaafaraniya.

Damien Cave (New York Times) reports that "at least five girls" died in Baghdad on Sunday in a mortar attack on a girl's school. Cave quotes a teacher on one of the girls who died, "She hugged and kissed me, then went outside and the bomb hit. After a few minutes, she was dead." The BBC quotes a 15-year-old, "I couldn't see much but what I saw was my friend Maha, who was lying beside me on the ground. The shrapnel hit her in th eyes and there was blood all over her face. . . . She was dead."


Mohammed Al Awsy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports "this noon a sniper in karada area shot a policeman who was guarding HAY AL WIHDA bank" and "According to a security and medical source from baqouba city today, a group of terrorists attacked a residential complex for AL BAYAT tribes in KARA TABA village which led to the killing of 8 civilians." Al Awsy also notes: "According to the police chief of diyala province general GHANEM AL QURAISHI, 1,500 police staff and officers have been dismissed, and 950 volunteers were accepted."


CNN reports that 22 corpses were discovered in Baghdad today.

In Najaf, a fight began on Sunday (or Saturday depending on the report) and may or may not be over. There is reality, there are reports and then there's what the US military is saying. Their chief talking point, the US military's, is that the fighting of resistance forces was carried out by the Iraqi military and US troops only came in afterwards -- rah, rah, the Iraqi military is leading -- that sort of thing. CBS' Lara Logan lets the hot air out of that ballon by noting that "the heavy American involvement shows how reliant the Iraqis still are on U.S. Military backup." The US military claims do not hold water but some outlets are reporting that US troops didn't even move in to assist until early Monday. The reality is, and this is from Centcom, a US helicopter left the sky in Najaf and two US soldiers were killed. Left the sky? It crashed. It was brought down. But we're not ever supposed to note that. Now for those outlets reporting that US troops didn't join in the battle until Monday or that US troops weren't there until late Sunday, please note that the Sunday crash is identified by Centcom as "earlier today." You can all loosen your belts, relax a little, it's okay to tell the truth, Centcom's waived you through on it. The Iraqi military had US support from the beginning and when the Iraqi military wasn't effective, the US military had to come in. It's the same story, day after day.

Richard Mauer and Qassim Zein (McClatchy Newspapers) report that the helicopter was shot down"by what appeared to be a ground-fired rocket" -- and they're quoting unnamed generals from the US military. Borzou Daragahi (Los Angeles Times) reported Sunday that US military had announced the death of seven troops on Saturday. Today, Daragahi noted that in addition to the two deaths from the helicopter, the US military also reported three more deaths of US troops. AFP reports: "Sunday was one of the deadliest days in recent months, with at least 115 people killed or found dead across the country from a wave of bombings and shootings.

On the speculation (reported as fact) that the Najaf battle was over a "cult" and the numbers being fed to the press, The BBC notes: "BBC's Mike Wooldridge in Baghdad says there is no independent confirmation of the scale of casualties and there is still uncertainty about the group." Stephen Farrell and Hassan al-Jarrah (Times of London) also note that events are unconfirmed and in dispute.

Drew Brown (McClatchy Newspapers) reports on the Pentagon's latest effort to persuade people to become cannon fodder as part of $1.2 billion a year they waste on recruitment --they're going after "parents and other role models to encourage youth." Maybe they'll start offering parents' signing bonuses next, "Sign up Bobby or Bonnie and we'll give you fifty dollars!" In addition, Brown reports, the Pentagon is also considering granting citizenship to non-citizens residing in other countries if they will sign up to fight.

Meanwhile, CNN reports that Major General Richard Zilmer admitted today that Al-Anbar Province is not dominated by foreigners fighting for the resistance. He did, however, link them with al Qaeda -- score: one lie cleared up, another continues to be advanced. As Dahr Jamail (among others) has repeteadly reported (for longer than we can count), the resistance in Al-Anbar Province is homegrown. It was created by the US. It was fueled by the US. Ramadi doesn't want to be the new Falluja (and after the slaughter and desctruction there, who can blame them?). Zilmer tells CNN that the US military is working with tribal leaders in the region -- some tribal leaders. Left unstated are two obvious facts: 1) that 'plan' proved to be a real solution in Afghanistan, didn't it?, (2) the US military has put tribal leaders on the payroll. As this becomes more and more apparent to Iraqis in Al-Anbar Province, any sway the mini-leaders had (they don't even have any major tribal leaders on their side) is lost. It also needs to be noted that those put on the payroll have gotten a little flashy with the bling-bling further alienating Iraqis in the region.

The general is all a ga-ga-goo-goo over Bully Boy's planned escalation and is ready to spin (who allows themselves to be spun since they don't point out the obvious) with how much the addition troops (4,000) that would be sent to Al Anbar Province will do. Left unstated is that the number still leaves foreign fighters (US, British) in a strong minority. Left unstated is that, as Blair's cabinet faces the deadline of the timeline they've tossed to appeas British citizens, the number will only be replacement numbers for the soon to leave British.

Finally, Levi Pulkkinen (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) reports on the January 11th death of Dale Noyd who served in the Air Force, achieved the rank of captain and then said "NO" to deploying to Vietnam and was court-martialed in 1967 -- Pulkkinen notes Ehren Watada spoke of Dale Noyd Thursday at the Blaine Memorial United Methodist Church in Seattle:
"Nothing has changed (since Vietnam) except the names and the faces. We are here today because we did not learn our lesson." Also today, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) reported on journalist, columnist and author Molly Ivins whose cancer has re-emerged and was recently hospitalized. Editor & Publisher noted that in her second to last column (In the Jan. 11th column) she "wrote that she would dedicate every single one of her syndicated columns from now on to the issue of stopping the war in Iraq, until it ended." She may still -- she's beat cancer before.

damien cave