Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Iraq snapshot

January 30, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, Bully Boy's spin on Najaf comes loose, Ehren Watada's court-martial is still scheduled for Feb. 5th but there is a new development,
and US Senator Russ Feingold maintains he is not running for president in 2008 but delivers something sharper, more focused and harder hitting than any of the declared candidates has yet to offer:  "In the United Sates of America, the people are sovereign, not the Presidents.  It is Congress' responsibility to challenge an administration that persists in a war that is misquided and that the country opposes.  We cannot simply wring our hands and complain about the Administration's policy.  We cannot just pass resolutions saying 'your policy is mistaken.'  And we can't stand idly by and tell ourselves that it's the President's job to fix the mess he made.  It's our job to fix the mess, and if we don't do so we are abdicating our responsibilities."
Last week, Ehren Watada, the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq appeared on NPR's Fresh Air with his attorney Eric Seitz where they were interviewed by NO HELP TO ANYONE Terry Gross.  Gross cited the laughable Seattle Times editorial  and Watada's response was:
When we join the military we don't swear an oath to a person or, especially officers, in our oath we do not swear an oath of loyalty to any one person or any  group of people or even an institution.  We swear an oath to protect the Constitution and also the American people as a whole and we have to follow the rule of law as it says in the Constitution and when we have .  .  . When I joined the military in March 2003, I believed the administration when they said there were Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, there were ties with Sadam to al Qaeda and 9-11.  We all know those lies were false now and there have been many reports coming out of retired CIA analysts and officers saying that the intelligence was not bad it was intentionally falsified to fit the policy.  When we have as I said a group of people in our government who mislead the public who mislead the other branch of government in order to justify their war that is a violation of the Constitution.  And, um, I just have to say that regardless of what they convict me on, if they convict me or sentence me, I am doing what I swore an oath to do when I joined the military 3 years ago and as I said I did not realize the extent of the deception that was waged upon us that I do now.
That was the first segment of the January 25 show.  The second is where she got into real trouble and there's a reason for that:  Terry Gross can find a man anywhere.  Her next book might need to be entitled Manhunt.  It's women she can't find.  And she's far from alone on that -- as of the February 5, 2007 issue of The Nation, for the magazine to offer women in equal number (equal, not more) there February 12, 2007 issue would have needed to print 37 pieces written or co-written by women and none by menThe Nation ratio by gender is basically 1 female for every 4 males.  Gross specializes in her nerdy dominitrix pose on air -- full of tension and archness -- and it's a laughable bit but she's made it profitable.  What she has not done (appalling when you consider that NPR broke down barriers for women -- including Gross) is do her part to offer women an equal platform.  Appalling considering the history of NPR, more appalling considering the information she was seeking in the second segment of the show when she interviewed Eugene Fidell asking him questions about issues that he frequently hems and haws on.  If you're asking about the Law of Land Warfare, Gross, you can go to a woman.  Retired colonel Ann Wright taught that. 
NPR audiences were cheated out of a full discussion about Ehren Watada because Queen Bee Gross can have countless males on her show each week (several guests each day) but somehow more than two or three women send Gross into a panic.  It's harmful to all women and, in the case of Ehren Watada, it prevented Gross from being able to find the answers to her questions. 
Had Ann Wright been invited into the second segment (instead of one male 'expert') she could have stated, "As part of our overal military training there is a history of service personnel being told that you do not have to follow an illegal order.  It comes from the commissions that we take that we are to uphold the lawful orders of our superios.  Implicit in that is that if there is an illegal order you are under no obligation to follow it."  Wright served in the military, served in the US State Department and the quote is from what she testified to in the August Article 32 hearing. 
Ehren Watada faces a court-martial on February 5th (and got the Diane Sawyer "Aren't you ashamed!" treatment from Gross last week).  Though it never would have been the court-martial of Sarah Olson (despite where independent media put their emphasis in what passed for 'coverage'), she and Gregg Kakesako will not appear in court.  All the hand wringing was for nothing.  All the, "Phil, you've got to write about this!  We need you!" phone calls were a waste of time.  Already today Amy Goodman's interviewed Olson and no one ever needs to do so again.  Goodman made the mistake of asking a very basic question -- Now that she's not going to be asked to testify, will she be covering the court-martial?  It was too much for Olson -- she sputtered, she stammered, she had no answer.  The parody "Run, Olson! Run!"
never looked so true.
Ehren Watada was always the defendant in his court-martial -- even if that basic point couldn't be grasped by indy pundits.  The charges reduce the maxiumum number of years Watada could serve if he is punished in the court-martial -- from six years, it has now dropped to a maximum of four years in prison.  Eric Seitz, Watada's civilian attorney, told AP, of the kangaro court awaiting his client: "This is not a justice proceeding but a disciplinary proceeding.  Really, the only thing the Army is interested in here is what kind of punishment to mete, not whether Lieutenant Watada is guilty or innocent of the charges."
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, Matt Lowell 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 Matt Lowell who was attempting to receive refugee status in Canada and has heard back from the Immigration and Refugee Board: "Eight pages long, it can be summed up in one word: No."  The article also notes a meeting this Thursday at 7:00 pm at the Tolpuddle housing co-op, common room, 380 Adelaide St. at King Street in London (Ottawa, not England) where you can meet with Iraq war resisters and those "offering support to military resisters."
In Iraq, the big (press) issue is still what happened in Najaf. 
Sam Knight (Times of London) reports an "explosion, in the town of Mandali, 60km north east of Baghdad and near the border with Iran, claimed the lives of 23 worshippers at a Shi mosque, doctors said.  A further 60 people were injured when a suicide bomber detonated a belt of explosives in the midst of a crowd of around 150 people entering the Ali al-Akbar mosque".  Michael Howard (Guardian of London) reports a mortar attack in Baghdad that killed "at least 17 people and injuring 72." Kim Gamel (AP) notes "a bomb in a garage can exploded as scores of Shiites - most them Kurds -- were performing rituals in Khanaqin, a majority Kurdish city also near the Iranian border. At least 13 people were killed and 39 were wounded, police Maj. Idriss Mohammed said."  Reuters notes a car bomb in Mosul that killed two police officers (wounded two more) and a secon mortar attack in Baghdad left nine people wounded.
Al Jazeera reports that "four Ashura pilgrmins" were shot ded with an addition six injured in Baghdad today.
Also today the US military announced: "One Marine assigned to Multi-National Forces-West died Monday from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province" and they announced: "LSA Anaconda, Iraq– A 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Soldier was killed in an accident when a M-1114 HMMWV rolled over northwest of An Nasiriah Jan 29."
Meanwhile Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) further discredits Bully Boy's false assertion that the February 22nd bombing in Samarra of a Shi'ite mosque began the sectarian violence -- Fadel notes that the claim is already disputed by "U.S. diplomats, Iraqi politicians, U.S. intelligence analysts and journalists [who] had reported throughout 2005 that attacks on Sunnis by Shiite militias were rising and that the militias had infiltraded the security forces"; however, Fadel reports that Ibrahim al Jaafari (former prime minister of Iraq0 states "he told U.S. officials nearly two years ago that Shiite Muslim militas were infiltrating the country's secuirty services".
In latest lies the Bully Boy told the world, CBS and AP report that Bully Boy continues to cite the recent events in Najaf as proof of yet another turned corner: "My first reaction on this report from the battlefield is that the Iraqis are beginning to show me something."  Marc Santora (New York Times) reported today that, contrary to the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk: "Iraqi forces were surprised and nearly overwhelmed . . . and needed far more help from American forces than previously disclosed".
In other news, does US Senator Arlen Specter watch Democracy Now!?  If so he may have seen the speech US Rep Maxine Waters delivered at the rally in DC Saturday -- where she made the point that Bully Boy was not the decider.  AP reports that Arlen Specter said something similar, in milder terms, today: "I would suggest respectfully to the president that is not the sole decider.  The decider is a shared and joint responsiblity."  Then, Specter saw his shadow and won't be spotted again until spring.
Staying on the topic of the US Congress, Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report) notes US Rep Maxine Waters recent appearance on CNN where she outlined the plans by the  Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus to visit "early Democratic primary states" in order to make some Democratic presidential candidates demonstrate a spine.  When asked by Wolf Blitzer if this were a reference to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, "they both have to prove themselves," was Waters' response.
Also addressing the issue of spine and justice, Anthony Arnove (author of IRAQ: The logic of Withdrawal) observes (at CounterPunch): "The other night, on 60 Minutes, President Bush said 'Everybody was wrong on weapons of mass destruction.'  Yet millions  of us who protested this war before it started were right, and were ignored.  We did not have access to any special intelligence.  We simply used our intelligence.  And today we have the intelligence to know that each day we continue the occupation of Iraq, the situation gets worse.  Every time we have been told 'we are turning the corner,' the situation gets worse.  And we have the intelligence to know that you cannot oppose the war, as some Democrats have proclaimed, and yet fund this war.  To those who say we cannot withdraw 'precipitously,' there is nothing precipitous about pulling out after four years of occuyping another country against its will.  And to those who say we are abandoing the troops, the best way to support the troops is to bring them home."
Today, US Senator Russ Feingold held a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on "Excercising Congress's Constitutional Power to End a War" to explore the issue of what powers Congress has in ending Bully Boy's illegal war.  From Feingold's opening statement:
"It is often said . . . that the only poll that really matters is the one held on election day.  On November 7, 2006 we had such a poll, and all across this country, the American people expressed their opinion on the war in Iraq in the most significant and meaningful way possible -- they voted.  And with those votes, they sent a clear message that they disagree with this war and they want our involvement in it to stop.  The President has chosen to ignore that message.  So it is up to Congress to act."  Noting the words written into the US Constitution (Congress has the power to declare war, the power of the purse, etc.), Feingold then stated, "The President has made the wrong judgment about Iraq time and again, first by taking us into war on a fraudulent basis, then by keeping our brave troops in Iraq for nearly four years, and now by proceeding despite the opposition of the Congress and the American people to put 21,500 more American troops into harm's way.  If and when Congress acts on the will of the American people by ending our involvement in the Iraq war, Congress will be performing the role assigned it by the founding fathers -- defining the nature of our military commitments and acting as a check on a President whose policies are weakening our nation. . . .   There is little doubt that decisive action from the Congress is needed. Despite the results of the election, and two months of study and supposed consultation -- during which experts and members of Congress from across the political spectrum argued for a new policy -- the President has decided to escalate the war. When asked whether he would persist in this policy despite congressional opposition, he replied: 'Frankly, that's not their responsibility.' [. . .]  It’s our job to fix the mess, and if we don’t do so we are abdicating our responsibilities.  Tomorrow, I will introduce legislation that will prohibit the use of funds to continue the deployment of U.S. forces in Iraq six months after enactment. By prohibiting funds after a specific deadline, Congress can force the President to bring our forces out of Iraq and out of harm's way."
On last weekends protests, rallies and marches, Danny Schechter writes at BuzzFlash to remind everyone that the numbers reported do matter as do media coverage: "Do the anti-war organizaers see this as a problem?  Don't they think they should try to do something about it as a problem and protest this ritualistic treatement?  Shouldn't they make the media coverage a issue?  Are they only listening to themselves?  I was on Air America in LA on Saturday afternoon and feisty host Bree Walker, a former TV anchor, agreed.  But the anti-war movement continues to pay lipservice to this problem, perhaps for fear of 'alienating' the press."  To be clear, Danny's writing of the mainstream press.  I would expand that to include independent media as well (and no community member would disagree with that assertion).
Also addressing the issue of big media at BuzzFlash, Cindy Sheehan writes: "In the United States today, we have a media controlled b corporations that are, for the most part, controlled by other entities that profit off of war.  NBC is owned by General Electric, a major war profiteer (which used to be a crime punishable by hanging).  The corporate media has a lot at stake by keeping the wag-the-dog occupation of Iraq aloat on BushCo's failed ship of state.
Attempting to get the word out on her son Ehren Watada, Carolyn Ho is rallying for one more speaking tour.  Some of her dates this week include:
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
Finally, the lies that led to war include the false claim of 'yellowcake' in Bully Boy's 2003 State of the Union address.  When it imploded on him, they attempted to attack and silence Joseph Wilson by destroying his wife Valerie Plame -- a CIA agent until those at the White House decided to blow her cover.  Rory O'Connor is blogging about Scooter Libby's trial and Judith Miller was supposed to appear today.

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