Thursday, February 01, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, February 1, 2007. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, the Najaf-'cult' story takes another hit, Ehren Watada's court-martial approaches, Bully Boy's Iran tales aren't easily swallowed, and Molly Ivins passed away yesterday.

In June of last year, Ehren Watada became the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq.In four days, he faces a court-martial in Fort Lewis, Washington where, if convicted of all the charges, he could face four years in prison. "You can jail the resisters but you can't jail the resistance," reminds Amy Goodman (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) before asking, of Watada and other war resisters, "Without Congress taking decisive action, these soldiers are left to fend for themselves. How many must die, how many must be sent to prison or flee to Canada, before Congress ends this war?"

Ehren Watada spoke at the South Puget Sound Community College in Washington yesterday. Christian Hill (The Olympian) reports that Watada "was greeted as a hero" with the audience providing him "several times with standing ovations." Hill reports: "Concluding his speech, Watada said that in the years ahead, Americans will look back and recognize 'the criminality of this current administration.' People then will ask who stood up against it, he said. He ticked off a several names: Women in Black, the local chapter that holds weekly silent vigils in downtown Olympia, and Veterans for Peace, an anti-war group that has been a key supporter of Watada. 'And Ehren Watada,' someone in the audience yelled out."

The court-martial is scheduled for Monday. Ehren Watada will not be able to present any defense, 'Judge' Head has ensured that will not happen. Paul Rockwell (Baltimore Sun) notes that with "the outcome of the hearing Monday . . . all but pre-determined, Lieutenant Watada's attorneys are prepared for appeals. Eventually, the Supreme Court may be called upon to reject the Machiavellian doctrine that 'in war, the laws are silent'." Events will be taking place around the country and Courage to Resist has more information on that.

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.

While war resisters continue to increase, the war enablers haven't dropped like flies. Two incidents aren't working out quite the way the US administration wishes they were -- Najaf and Iran.

Starting with Najaf. We're all supposed to buy a 'cult' was bound and determined to kill in a huge conspiracy-based plot (notice how those fly out of the mouths of domestic reporters when it involves another country) and the Iraqis led and the US backed them up and, goodness golly, justice was preserved, a cult stopped and al Qaeda thwarted.

Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) investigate and find things are far less 'blockbuster' than many of the reports keep telling you. Jamail and al-Fadhily: " Many southern Shia Arabs do not follow Iranian-born cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. They believe the religious leadership should be kept in the hands of Arab clerics. Al-Hatami and al-Khazaali are two major tribes that do not follow Sistani. Tribal members from both believe the attack was launched by the central government of Baghdad to stifle growing Shia-Sunni unity in the area." (And, it should be noted, when money's to be made rivalries become intense -- this is the area where the US government has bought off several tribal leaders.) The Independent of London's Patrick Cockburn appeared on Democracy Now! today and noted that "it's very difficult to maintain the theory that there was this bunch of conspirators that were about to attack Najaf and muder all the religious leaders there. The governor of Najaf, Asaad Abu Gildel, has actually said now that he -- his council had a convened secret meeting and made a decision to attack people who he describes as outlaws. So, even those who carried out the attack are no longer insisting that they discovered a conspiracy at the last minute and they were able to nip it in the bud. They've completely changed their story." Earlier this week, Cockburn reported on this incident and noted: "The story emerging on independent Iraqi websites and in Arabic newspapers is entirely different from the government's account of the battle with the so-called 'Soldiers of Heave,' planning a raid on Najaf to kill Shia religious leaders." As details continue to emerge, it's worth remembering what Bully Boy said of the events at the start of the week: "My first reaction on this report from the battlefield is that the Iraqis are beginning to show me something." Show him slaughter of innocents?

Moving to the second item of Lies My Bully Boy Told Me news, as Bully Boy continues to beat the war drums on Iran, Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times) notes the stone walling others ignore: "The Bush administration has postponed plans to offer public details of its charges of Iranian meddling inside Iraq amid internal divisions over the strength of the evidence, U.S. officials said. U.S. officials promised last week to provide evidence of Iranian activities that led President Bush to announce Jan. 10 that U.S. forces would begin taking the offensive against Iranian agents who threatened Americans. But some officials in Washington are concerned that some of the material may be inconclusive . . ." Doesn't it feel like a flashback to the lead up to the Iraq war? A lot of charges made. No proof offered. Tom Baldwin (Times of London) reports: "Senior British officials, citing mistakes over Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction, are voicing scepticism about US efforts to build an intelligence-based case against Iran. Sources in London and Washington suggest that the British Government has been 'badly scarred' by its Iraq intelligence dossiers. Amid signs of a concerted American operation to prove that Iran is threatening US troops in the region, British officials say that they are 'not aware of a smoking gun' they would justify taking military action against Tehran." File it under another story about a little (Bully) boy who cried wolf.


AFP reports a Baghdad bombing that "tore through a bus on the main room in Karrada district" that left 6 dead and 12 wounded while another car bomb claimed three more lives and left 2 wounded (also in Baghdad). CBS and AP report that two "bombers blew themselves up Thursday in a crowded outdoormarket in" Hilla. Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) reports that the death toll in the Hilla bombings has risen to 61 and 150 were wounded.

CBS and AP note report a mortar attack in Baghdad and quote eye witness Maamoun Abdel-Hadi: "We fell on the ground . . . I saw four wounded persons lying on the ground and screaming for help. We put them in the car and rushed them to the hospital. . . . We are peaceful people who have nothing to do with any militias or armed groups. What is the guilt of innocent children, women and men who were walking in the street?"

Reuters notes three Iraqi soldiers dead and six more wounded in Qaem from a car bombing,
four wounded in Tikrit from an attempted bombing of the governor, and 2 dead in Mosul from a mortar attack.


Reuters reports two police officers shot dead in Diwaniya and Walhan Hamed al-Rubaie (dean of the Physical Education College of Diyala) was shot dead.


Reuters notes ten corpses discovered in Mosul and Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) notes thirty corpses in Baghdad.

Today, the US military announced: "One soldier assigned to Multi National Force - West died today from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbrar Province Jan. 30. AFP places the number of US troops killed in Iraq during the month of January at 90 -- a figure that may increase due to the US military's delays in announcing deaths. CNN notes a source in Iraq's Interior Ministry who states that the toll they ministry has for January is 1,990 civilians killed, 1,9836 civilians wounded.

In addition, Reporters Without Borders has released their (PDF format) "Freedom of the Press Worldwide in 2007" which documents press freedom around the world and notes that 65 journalists were killed in Iraq in 2006 "making it the deadliest year since fighting began in the country in March 2003. The Iraqi authorities imposed restrictions on the media that could endanger news diversity." On the latter, "Iraqi journalists faced restrictions and bans imposed during the year by the authorities. The government of prime minister Nuri al-Maliki regularly threatened to shut down media outlets it blamed for 'inciting violence.' TV stations were accused of 'stirring up religious and ethnic passions' and banned from showing film of 'blood and killing' that officials said 'amplified the horror of the violence.' In addition, the report notes that 30 journalists were arrested in Iraq "during 2006 and four of them were still being held without charge at the end of the year."

In legislative news, KUNA reports that Mahmoud al-Mashhadani will lead a delegation to Kuwait "early next week for talks with Kuwaiti officials." al-Mashhadani is the Speaker of the Iraqi parliament and he and others will "implore them to waive off Iraq's debts to Kuwait."

Meanwhile, James Glanz (New York Times) reports on the fraud and waste found in Iraq reconstruction contracts which has ed to "the country's electrical output and oil production" being "still below prewar levels" Griff Witte and Renae Merle (Washington Post) zero in on the monies that were supposed to go to security forces in Iraq: "The police training program has been repeatedly flagged by U.S. officials as particularly crucial to the war effort. . . . At the $73 million Baghdad Police College, meanwhile, inspectors uncovered numerous examples of shoddy construction, including one that pose potential health problems to Iraqi recruits. The problems, some of which were first reported publicly in September, had still not been fixed when inspectors returned to the site months later for follow-up inspections. Auditors said the contractor, California-based Parsons, knew about the plumbing problems as early as a year ago but failed to correct them."

Finally, author, journalist, columnist, humorist and valued voice for democracy Molly Ivins passed away yesterday (1944-2007). Ivins wrote for many publications over the years. Of national magazines, she is most identified with The Progressive (most identified with by anyone with a functioning brain). Matthew Rothschild remembers her twenty years of contributions with "Molly Ivins, In Memoriam": "She was, far and away, the readers' favorite. Even my sister told me she read Molly first. She was the favorite not only because of her humor and her style. She was the favorite because she never lost hope in the promise of America." Along with remembering Ivins, Rothschild also provides a cutting from some of her columns over the years.
Strange that the New York Times couldn't remember Ivins association with the magazine when one of the paper's columnists (Nicky K) distorted what Ivins said (apparently Nicky K only reads headlines -- how very Cokie Roberts of him). "Enough of the D.C. Dems" (The Progressive) was one of the 2006 most popular columns in the magazine and online -- resulting in a huge outpouring to the magazine because readers recognized the honesty in the writing (a hallmark of Ivins' work). Another magazine the mainstream media ignores in their write ups is Ms. magazine. Ivins work was featured there as well (especially in 1988). The Feminist Wire Daily notes Ivins' passing due to breast cancer and reminds: "In her last column, 'Stand Up Against the Surge,' Ivins urged Americans to be active in their opposition to the war in Iraq, writing, 'We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous.'"
Margie Burns remembers Ivins here ("best way to praise her is to quote her writing"). Thomas P. Healy (CounterPunch) remembers asking her about the efforts to silence voices against the war and Ivins responded: "People asked me during the Iraq war if I was afraid to speak out. I said no. During World War I parades of patriots used to go around kicking dachshunds on the grounds that they were German dogs. But you'll notice people like that never kick German Shepherds." Anthony Zurcher, who edited her newspaper columns, notes: "Even as Molly fought her last battle with cancer, she continued to make public appearances. When she was too weak to write, she dictated her final two columns. Although her body was failing, she still had so much to say. Last fall, before an audience at the Univiersity of Texas, her voice began as barely a whisper. But as she went on, she drew strength from the standing-room-only crowd until, at the end of the hour, she was forecefully imploring the students to get involved and make a difference."
And on today's Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez offered Molly Ivins in her own words via a 2004 interview Goodman conducted with Ivins. In response to Goodman's point that Republican pollster Frank Luntz had "advised Republicans to explain 'the policy of pre-emption and the war in Iraq' by recommending that 'no speech about....Iraq should begin without a reference to 9-11," Ivins noted:
Well that's it. You keep making that connection, and that's why something like 70% of the American people thought, when we went into Iraq, that Saddam Hussein was directly linked to 9/11. And the Bush people just made that connection over and over and over and over and over. And it's phony. I mean, it's just not there. The interesting thing to me about politics these days -- and that Luntz piece reminds me of it -- he was explaining how, for example, a Republican candidate would deal with working women. Now, you're going to be amazed, Amy. But by dint of a shrewd professional questioning in focus groups, Frank Luntz determined that what working mothers need most is more time in their lives. We were all so astonished to hear this. And so, what he suggests is the Republican candidates say to a group, you know, when he's campaigning, "Now, I'll bet I know what it is you ladies need most. I bet -- I think you need more free time." And the ladies will nod, and they'll raise their hands and agree, and you've bonded with them, and you've shown empathy toward their major problem in life.
Well, yeah, you've shown empathy toward their major problem in life, but look at the record. The record is, you cut programs to early childhood education, you cut Head Start, you cut after school, you cut K-12, you cut housing vouchers. You're going to change your overtime. They have done everything they can to make this poor woman's life more harried and frantic than ever. That's the record. But what we call politics now and what most political writers write about is the empathy and the bonding and the word choice and the horse rights, and it has nothing to do with what's really happening to people's lives.

Words some should especially pay close attention to. Kat and Rebecca and Elaine have all written of Ivins recently.
Reminder: Trying to get the word out on her son Ehren Watada, Carolyn Ho is rallying for one more speaking tour before the court-martial next Monday. Some of her dates this week include:
Thursday February 1
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

amy goodman
democracy now

[C.I. note: Typos -- that I found -- in the section on Molly Ivins have been corrected.]