Monday, February 05, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Monday, February 5, 2007. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, Ehren Watada faces his court-martial, the US Senate does little and "Idoit Wind"? Yes, that does seem a good song for independent print media to adapt as their theme.
As noted by Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) today: "In the state of Washington, the court-martial of First Lt. Ehren Watada begins today.  Seven months ago, he became the first commissioned officer in the country to publicly refuse deployment to Iraq.  He faces four years in prison.  He is charged with one count of missing movement and two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer for refusing to ship out with his unit."  Aaron Glantz (IPS) reports on actions that took place Sunday in Tacoma, Washington as Iraq Veterans Against the War and others organized a strong show of support for Watada and notes that Helga Aguayo and her children left California to be present and speak to the crowd: "We are here because it's important to show support for people who resist wars.  We know what Watada's family is going through.  My husband has been fighting for more than three years to be declared a conscientious objector.  He is so opposed to war that when his commander sent him out on patrol he did so without putting any bullets in his gun."  Helga Aguayo is married to Agustin Aguayo  who awaits word from the US Court of Appeals on his c.o. status but the military isn't waiting on the verdict and has scheduled his court-martial for March 6th. 
Aaron Glantz also reported this morning on the news break of KPFA's The Morning Show, where he described to Aileen Alfandary that "hundreds of people" were present on Sunday (including Sean Penn) and that "People feel that this a very important moment for the anti-war movement."  Glantz will be reporting on the court-martial for The KPFA Evening News today (6:00 pm PST) as well as for KPFA's The Morning Show while the court-martial lasts.
Sunday Medea Benjamin told  The KPFA Evening News, "I think that there's a lot of pressure coming down on the military to not allow this officer to prove the unconstitutionality of this war because that would open the floodgates not only for other people in the miliitary to make the same claim but what does that say about President Bush and the Bush administration for getting us into this war in an unconstitituional way.  That would lead, to me, to say there's grounds for impeachment."   They are attempting to make an example of Ehren Watada with the mistaken belief that coming down hard on him will 'whip' the others into line.  Of course, it was doing his job that led Watada to his stand.  As Watada explained to Tomas Alex Tizon (Los Angeles Times), he began researching the issue of Iraq on the advice of his battalion commander, "He told us, 'If you don't know all there is to know about your mission, you're failing yourself and you're failing your soldiers."  Attempting to honor and live up to his commission led Watada to discover the realities of the illegal war and to the stand he has taken.
Today, Mike Barber and Kery Murakami (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) report that the main expected issue at the 9:00 am start of the court-martial was to be the selection of officers to serve on the jury.  As Hal Bernton (Seattle Times) reported on Sunday: "The officers will form a 'panel of peers,' the military equivalent of a jury, and determine whether Watada spends up to four years in prison in one of the most high-profile cases to be tried at Fort Lewis."  Present at today's court-martial, to show support, was Vietnam war resister David Mitchell.  Khurram Saeed (The Journal News, White Plains) noted that Mitchell states Watada's "stand is the same" as the one he took during Vietnam and that Bob Watada and Rosa Sakanishi (Watada's father and step-mother) requested he attend.  Hal Bernton and Nancy Bartley (Seattle Times) report: "As the court-martial began, anti-war activists converged outside the fort for vigils and rallies in support of Watada.  By late morning protesters were setting up in a park a few blocks from the fort's main gate.  Many trucks and cars arriving at the park bore anti-Bush bumper stickers.  A charter bus from Portland drove up and a stream of Watada supporters emerged carrying signs.  One sign said, "Thank you Ehren Watada."  
There was action inside Building 2027 as well.  Adam Lynn (The News Tribune, Tacoma) reports: "Honlulu attorney Eric Seitz said rulings that have gone against the Stryker Brigade officer in pre-trial motions, including the exclusion of many defense witnesses, rendered the proceedings 'almost comical' and at one point called the case 'an attrocity.'  'There's really nothing for us to say in this courtroom,' Seitz said during pre-trial motions in a wood-paneled courtroom."  Needless to say, Judge Toliet wasn't pleased. (Judge Toliet?  From The Third Estate Sunday Review: "The 'judge by the way is John Head.  We think it's fitting that his first and last name are both slang for toilets.  We think the 'judge' has taken justice into the crapper and flushed it down.")  Pleased or not, Seitz made his points.
And others are making a point of standing up.  Anita Weier (The Capital Times) reports that actions are ongoing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where students are showing their support for Watada and quotes student Chris Dols: "Today is the date of Watada's court martial.  We wanted to show soldiers who resist that they have our support, and others who are thinking about resisting that they will have our support.  I agree with Ehren Watada that this is an illegal war, and that it is right to refuse to carry out illegal orders.  The U.S. was not acting in defense.  This was an agressive war based on lies." 
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.
As today we are a nation at war, it is good to keep in mind that things can change.  People learn, little by little.  Lies are exposed.  Wars once popular gradually come under suspicion.  That happens when enough people speak and act in accord with their conscience, appealing to the American jury with the power of truth.
-- Howard Zinn, "A  Break-In For Peace," A Power Governments Cannot Suppress, page 219.
Ehren Watada and all war resisters expose the lies.  They do so when there is coverage and when there isn't.  And, as we all know, they do it when independent media, print division, can't be bothered to cover them or to honor the honor the power of the people or what Zinn's rightly called "the American jury". 
In other news of war resistance, US war resister Kyle Snyder has returned to Canada.  Gerry Condon (Soldier Say No!) reports that Kyle Snyder and Maleah Friesen "moved to the quaint little town of Nelson" where "they have joined another war resister couple, Ryan and Jenna Johnson from California.  Now the four of them are urgently seeking funds so they can rent a 2-bedroom apartment together" -- donations can be sent to Kyle Snyder, 310 A Victoria St., Nelson, BC, V1L 4K4, Canada or online via Courage to Resist (where they are tax-deductable). Synder depolyed to Iraq and, returning to the US in April of 2005, made the decision to self-check out and went to Canada.  Following war resister Darrell Anderson's return from Canada to the US, Snyder decided to return as well, his attorney worked out an agreement with the US military, so, on October 31st, he turned himself in at Fort Knox only to self-check out again when the military refused to live up to the agreement.  Condon quotes Synder stating: "I didn't leave Canada in order to go to jail -- just the opposite.  I returned to the U.S. because the Army said they would discharge me with no jail time.  But the Army lied to me -- again."
Following his decision to self-check out again, Snyder remained in the United States speaking out against the war, raising awareness on the issue of war resisters, doing reconstruction work in New Orleans over the Thanksgiving week.  During all of that, a warrant for his arrest existed.  In December, things changed a bit as police began showing up at his scheduled appearances with the intent to arrest him.  They never managed.  Synder would speak via cell phone when unable to appear in person and he is now back in Canada.
And Iraq?  Ashraf Qazi, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, noted Sunday the "seemingly unending cycle of violence".  The cycle of violence includes what Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Qais Mizher (New York Times) described as "[a] mammoth truck bomb" in Baghdad Saturday "ripping through scores of shops and flattening apartment buildings, killing at least 120 people and wounding more than 300".
CBS and AP report a Baghdad mortar attack that killed one person. CNN notes the same central Bagdhad attack and adds that six were wounded. Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports seven died from mortar attacks "in south Baghdad" and that 15 people died "as they waited to buy gasoline when two car bombs blew up in quick succession in south Baghdad."  CNN notes two additional bombings in Baghdad -- car bombing that killed 4 and left 14 wounded when it went off "near a children's hospital along central Baghdad's Nidhal Street" and another car bombing that killed 10 and wounded 15 "near a vehicle repair center in the Nahda commerical area of central Baghdad".
Reuters reports that a police officer was shot dead in Samawa (also one wounded).  CNN reports that Abdul Hussein Jafara ("with Iraq's Ministry of Transportation") was shotdead in Baghdad.
Reuters reports a corpse discovered in Kirkuk. Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) notes
IRIN takes a look at ten-year-old Fatah Barakat, who lost his right leg when US forces and residents of Sadr City staged a battle in his neighborhood, -- Barakat explains why he holds his other leg now, "Since I lost one of my legs, I like to make sure that the other one is still there.  My mother tells me that I have to stop doing this.  But it is hard for me, knowing that I will never be able tplay other children and play football as I used to every day."  Now, Irin reports, Fatah's mother doesn't let him go outside due to the continued violence and Khalid Ala'a (Keeping Children Alive) reminds, "Every explosion, air strike, fighting or targeting in Iraq makes a child injured.  In addition, we cannot forget the remaining UXOs [unexploded ordnance] whos victims are mostly children". 
And the British military announced: "It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death of a British soldier in Basra, Iraq today, Monday 5 February 2007.  The soldier was killed in a roadside bomb attack and was serving as part of the British contingent of the Multi-National Force (MNF) in" Basra.  The BBC notes this is the 131st United Kingdom soldier to die in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.  Esme Choonara (Great Britain's Socialist Worker) reported Saturday on the planning for the February 24th demonstration that will take place in London: "Across the country, activists report new people getting involved in anti-war campaigns.  Manchester Stop the War Coalition steering committee met last Saturday and lots of new people came to discuss building for the demo."
Monday's troop fatalities also included US troops.  The US military announced: "Coalition Forces from Task Force Lightning were conducting combat operations in Diyala province when they received small-arms fire from insurgents. A Soldier died of wounds as a result of injuries sustained during the attack Feb. 4."  And they announced: "A 13th SC(E) Soldier was killed Feb. 4 as a result of injuries sustained from an improvised explosive device which detonated on his M-1117 Armored Security Vehicle while conducting a combat logistics patrol north of Baghdad."
On Sunday, the giddiest Gabor in the Green Zone, Willie Caldwell, had to drop the boa long enough to sprinkle in a little reality he'd been concealing for some time.  As the BBC reported, Caldwell admitted, on behalf of the US military that the four US helicopters that had most recently crashed were shot down ("admitted publicly for the first time"):
In the United States, the Green Zone delusions waft through the halls of Congress as Senate Democrats use all their energies on the laughable lunchtime poll that would say: "We are opposed to escalation, do whatever you want, Bully Boy, you always do, but we are opposed and you better believe we will say 'I told you so!'"  Today on Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman interviewed Ralph Nader and asked him what he thought of the symbolic measure being pushed in the Senate?  Nader called it a  "tepid tip-toe  which will serve the purpose of getting Congress off the hook in the following weeks and months, saying, well, they did what they could do.  Thre's got to be much more agressive moves by Congress -- maybe reflected in Congressman Jim McGovern's bill, which will deal with the appropriations process and protect the soldiers as they withdraw.  If we don't withdraw on a timetable, our military and corporate occupation of Iraq, including the oil industry, the bottom will never all out of the insurgency.  In the process of withdrawing, we develop what can be called the Iraq reconciliation plan that Dal Lamagna and CODEPINK initiated with members of the Iraqi parliament, tribal leaders and victims of torture in Amman last year."
Of the toothless, symoblic measure -- the lunchtime poll of the US Senate, Noam N. Levey (Los Angeles Times) observes, "Not a single American soldier will do anything differently this week if the Senate approves a resolution criticizing President Bush's plans to increase troop levels in Iraq.  The nonbinding resolution would have no more force of law than the one approved Thursday commending the Miss American organization for its commitment to 'the character of women in the United States'." 
As noted above, US Senator Russ Feingold has expressed his opposition to the toothless measure that has also been repeatedly watered down:
I oppose the weak Warner-Levin resolution as currently written because it misunderstands the situation in Iraq and shortchanges our national security interests. The resolution rejects redeploying U.S. troops and supports moving a misguided military strategy from one part of Iraq to another. The American people have rejected the President's Iraq strategy and it's time for Congress to end our military involvement in this war. We must redeploy our troops from Iraq so that we can focus on the global threats that face us.
Yesterday, Feingold introduced the Iraq Redeployment Act of 2007. Feingold's bill would force the President to safely redeploy U.S. troops out of Iraq by prohibiting further funding of military operations in Iraq six months after enactment. Information regarding Senator Feingold's legislation can be found here[.]

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