Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, February 6, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq; Ehren Watada's court-martial continues in Fort Lewis, Washington; press in Iraq focuses on selling the latest version of the crackdown and other rumors; and the Occupation Project takes action.
Starting with the court-martial of Ehren Watada, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted, "The court-martial of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada is continuing today in Washington State.  Watada is the first commissioned officer in the country to publicly refuse deployment to Iraq.  On Monday, the judge, Lt. Col. John Head, reinforced an earlier ruling that Watada could not base his defense on his contention that the Iraq war is illegal."  The court-martial is expected to run through Thursday and Watada could be sentenced to four years in prison.  As Norman Solomon (CounterPunch) observes, "The people running the Iraq war are eager to make an example of Ehren Watada.  They've convened a kangaroo court-martial.  But the man on trial is setting a profound example of conscience -- helping to undermine the war that the Pentagon's top officials are so eager to protect."
Solomon's call of a kangaroo court-martial referes to Lt. Col. John Head (aka, Judge Toilet) making the decision that Watada could not present his best defense, could not argue the reasons for his actions, could not call witnesses to back up his conclusions.  In August, during the Article 32 hearing, to determine whether or not there was justification to go forward with a court-martial, Watada's defense called three witnesses, Francis A. Boyle of the University of Illinois' College of Law, Champagne; Denis Halliday, the former Assistant Secretary General of the UN; and retired Colonel Ann Wright.  That type of a defense has been disallowed in the actual court-martial by Judge Toilet.  In fact, Halliday's name was among the proposed defense witnesses brought up yesterday by Eric Seitz and Judge Toilet again refused.
Ehren Watada believes the war is illegal and immoral.  (Rebecca walks you through here.)  Judge Toilet doesn't want that argument made.  Toilet's 'ruling' flushed Watada's best defense down the toilet.  Today on KPFA's The Morning Show, Aileen Alfandary noted "Opening arguments take place today in the court-martial of Lt. Ehren Watada at Fort Lewis in Tacoma Washington" and then played this clip by Watada's civilian attorney on what he planned to do in today's opening statements: 
Eric Seitz: I'm going to tell them that he has always acted with sincerity and integrity.  He has always impressed everybody with whom he has met or spoken as to the basis for his beliefs.  He has not gone out of his way, or at anytime encouraged or counseled other people, to do an act or to take any action other than decide for themselves what their consciences require and to follow the dictates of their own consciences."
In the second hour's opening news break, Alfandary spoke with Aaron Glantz who stated: "The prosecution is expected to call three witnesses against Lt. Watada.  It's a lot shorter than the original witness list of eleven witnesses".
Alfandary: Who are the witnesses that Lt. Watada's attorney is planning to call to testify on  Watada's behalf?
AG Well, Lt. Watada will make his case tomorrow.  And his attorneys had hoped to call a wide array of witnesses including experts on constitutional law and war.  For example, Michael Ratner, the head of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Marjorie Cohn, the head of the National Lawyers Guild,  Ray McGovern, who's a former CIA analyst.  But the judge refused all of that.  The judge also refused to allow Gary Solis, the former Marine Corps prosecutor and Marine court judge to testify about the nature of the dissent within the military and what's acceptable and what's not.  But at the end of the day the only witnesses that will be called in Lt. Watada's defense will be Lt. Watada himself, who will testify in his own defense, and a colleague of his from the military who will speak as a character witness.
Glantz will report on the court-martial on The KPFA Evening News later today as well as, tomorrow, on KPFA's The Morning Show.  Megan and Zach transcribed that (thank you) and both asked that it be noted KPFA is in fundraising mode and that, if you have the money and can donate, you can do say online or using the 1-800 number if you're out of the listening area [1-800-439-5732].  During Music of the World, Megan notes, it was stated if you were listening online (they were apparently attempting to meet a match) you could call in.  Megan wants it noted that if you're donating during a matching period and donate online, that goes towards the match.  (Megan knows some members who listen online have one phone line and cannot call in without disconnecting from the internet.)  Again, Aaron Glantz will report on day two of the trial later today (6:00 pm PST) on The KPFA Evening News and Aileen Alfandary will speak with him tomorrow on KPFA's The Morning Show (which airs from 7:00 am to 9:00 am PST).
Yesterday, on The KPFA Evening News, a report Aaron Glantz filed for Free Speech Radio News was aired and featured Chanan Suarez-Diaz who stated: "There are more people in different ranks in the military that are actually speaking out and refusing to go to this war and it's not only, you know, the officers are in the minority in the military and the majority are enlisted, but I think it's important for officers to see Lt. Watada's courage as an example, if they feel that this war is wrong -- which it is -- then they should have the courage to resist like he has and countless others."   Chanan Suarez-Diaz served in Iraq in 2005, was wounded in February 2006 and is the recipient of a commendation of valor and a Purple Heart.
Glantz: Here at Fort Lewis, there have been so many people who have showed up at the base which is just outside of Tacoma that they've had to create an overflow room for the dozen of reporters that have come to cover the trial, only seven were actually allowed in the courtroom, it's a very small courtroom, they're not used to these kinds of very political trials and then there's also dozens of peace activists here in the overflow room as well.  Outside the gates of Fort Lewis there are demonstrations -- at this hour by Iraq Veterans Against the War.  There's another demonstration that will be held at 3:00 today by Lt. Watada's family.  Fort Lewis is kind of outside of town  and there's a number of entrances to it and the pickets have been set up at all the different entrances to the base
Sandra Lupien (co-anchor of The KPFA Evening News) noted that Glantz had stated Watada made the choice to be tried by a military jury "seven offiicers were chosen today, the court will allow only two defense witnesses one of whom is Ehren Watada himself who will take the stand on Wednesday."
Hal Bernton (Seattle Times) quotes attorney Seitz stating of the jury (or military panel), "The critical thing is that he be treated as someone who is principled.  Someone who is principled and has taken a stand.  Not somebody who should be treated as a criminal."  Adam Lynn and Mike Archbold (The News Tribune) report that the panel is made up of Col. Carl Chappel, "Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bryan, Maj. Patrick Wright and Capts. Angela Gentry, Greg Reger, Nichole White and Larry Dean."  As The Honolulu Advertiser notes, the seven were selected from "a pool of 10 officers."
Mike Barber and Amy Rolph (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) report that Monday saw mass action: "Outside the base, from hundreds of supporters, the answer was a resounding "no" to the war in Iraq in which Watada refuses to fight and to the Army's prosecution of him" and that "More than 1,000 people gathered along Interstate 5 on the exit 119 overpass, spilling down the grassy slopes on either side and filling the sidewalks of the surrounding DuPont neighborhood."  Actions took place outside of Tacoma as well.  Melinda Tuhus (New Haven Independent) reported that activsts like Chris Schweitzer's standing out in in what felt "like one degree on Monday afternoon," Mary Adamski (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) reports that 40 people gathered at "the Prince Kuhio Federal Building" on Monday in Honolulu.  Courage to Resist offers a listing of other actions taking place around the United States.
As part of a series honoring the late Molly Ivins, Ying Lee (Berkeley Daily Planet) observes: Individuals like Cindy Sheehan can galvanize part of the population with her just and emotionally effective call to end the war and we are grateful for our leaders against the war.  Lt. Ehren Watada is one of these leaders.  Lt. Watada is the first U.S. Army officer to refuse to serve in Iraq.  [. . .] My gratitude to him is expressed in committing civil disobedience by blocking the doors of the San Francisco Federal Building (450 Golden Gate Ave.) last month and again this first Thursday of February (every first Thursday) as well as joining a dozen or so Bay Area people, including Berkeley resident Betty Kano, who are traveling to Ft. Lewis to support Lt. Watada and to stand in protest of the war."
Marjorie Cohn was disallowed as a witness by Judge Toilet on Monday.  If she had been able to testify, she might have offered testimony similar to what she provided in US war resister Pablo Paredes trial.  Speaking at the Veterans for Peace conference in Seattle last August, Cohn discussed the judge's reaction to her testimony:
At the conclusion of my testimony, and after an inept cross-examination by Navy prosecutor Lt. J.S. Freeman, Judge Klant made a statement that astonished the spectators.  "I believe," he said, "the government has successfully demonstrated a reasonable belief for every service member to decide that the wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Iraq were illegal to fight in."     
Rick Rogers, the military reporter for the conservative San Diego Union-Tribune, characterized the judge's surprising statement as a "flip comment."  Lt. commanders presiding at Navy court-martials don't make flip comments.  Nevertheless, apparently at the suggestion of this reporter, the media representatives covering the trial agreed among themselves not to report the judge's statement.  Only The San Francisco Chronicle, a few small newspapers, and the electronic media published the quote.
In 2005, Marjorie Cohn and Pablo Paredes discussed the above with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! -- click here for audio, text and video. Had Cohen been able to testify, she could have refuted the ridiculous claim made by the prosecution today that Ehren Watada was some sort of publicy seeker for going public in June.  Watada went public in June, only after attempting to address the matter privately -- repeatedly attempting to serve in Afghanistan instead and repeatedly attempting to resign his commission.  Watada went public in June only after months of attempting to handle the matter privately.
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.
In Iraq today the violence continued while, as Kim Gamel (AP) notes, puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki complained about the delays in starting up Crackdown version 7.0.  And so important is it to treat the latest version of the cracked up "crackdown" (begun last June) as news (and push Operation Happy Talk) that Reuters is left alone to cover the daily violence today.
Reuters notes three car bombs and one roadside bomb killed 2 people and wounded 19. Kim Gamel (AP) reports that there were "eight slain by two car bombs in Baghdad" (and notes "At least 51 Iraqis also were killed or found dead" today in Iraq).
Reuters notes two police officers wounded in Baghdad, a woman shot dead in Mosul, a police officer shot dead in Mosul.
Reuters notes 25 corpses discovered in Baghdad.
Also today, the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldier died when insurgents targeted a security post southwest of the Iraqi capital Feb. 6. While manning designated battle positions in the area, the unit received small arms fire, killing one Soldier."  And they announced: "One Marine assigned to Multi-National Force - West died Feb. 5 from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province."
It's also true that the US government knew how to milk the will-they-or-won't-they release the friendly fire tape.  (Yes. CNN has the transcript of the tape.) 
James Glanz (New York Times) reported that:  "An Iranian diplomat was abducted Sunday evening when his convoy was stopped by men with official Defense Ministry identification in the Karrada neighborhood here, senior Iraqi and American officials said Monday."  Robert H. Reid (AP) reports that the US has involved any involvement in this kidnapping despite the fact that the culprits are believed to be with "the Iraqi Special Operations Command, an elite unit under the direct supervision of the U.S. military."
In the US, Bully Boy tries yet again to slash domestic needs while pushing for more defense funding.  Leigh Ann Caldwell (Free Speech News) addressed Bully Boy's proposed budget which Congress : "The Bush tax cuts total $1.3 trillion dollars in tax revenues in three years.  He asked Congress Monday to renew them when they expire. [. . . ]  The budget does not include the costs of the wars past 2009.  In 2009, President Bush proposes just 50 billion dollars  a sharp decrease from current costs of the war.  But this year's budget is the first time that the president has included war costs.   He asked for $145 billion for 2008.  But that's not part of the 10% increase in spending for the Defense Department -- a request of $480 billion.  In addition to the budget, he sent Congress a request for an additional 100 billion dollars for the wars for the remainder of 2007.  This is the first time war funding is expected to be scrutinized by Congress."
The Occupation Project is demonstrating in DC and around the United States.  Kathy Kelly recounted yesterday's events to Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!): "Well, we came to Washington, D.C. to be with companion groups: CODEPINK and Vets for Peace and the Military Families Speak Out, the Iraq Veterans Against the War, United for Peace and Justice. There's a long list, really, of people who are wanting to join together in the campaign called the Occupation Project. And also in Chicago, four people were arrested in Senator Barack Obama's office, four people in Senator Durbin's office. And we're aware of affinity groups that are organizing all around the country for this sustained campaign to make sure that the elected representatives know that we won't go away on this issue, that we won't be fooled by issues that are raised that would continue the spending for three, four, five years into the future. We want this funding turned off now."  The Occupation Project explains it's purpose as "a campaign of sustained nonviolent civil disobedience aimed at ending the U.S. war in and occupation of Iraq.  The campaign will begin the first week of February 2007 with occupations at the offices of Representatives and Senators who refuse to pledge to vote against additional war funding."
 The KPFA Evening News noted the group yesterday.  CODEPINK's Gail Murphy stated: "Although we voted on November 7th to stop the war, our elected officials are not listening, the president is certainly not listening, and so we need the pressure of the people to make sure that they hear our message." Sandra Lupien noted that the districts offices of Mike Honda and Doris Matsui (among others) in California. From CODEPINK:
Occupation Project In early February, the White House is exptected to submit a new supplemental spending bill to Congress, and CODEPINK has joined with Voices for Creative Nonviolence to launch Occupation Project, a campaign of sustained nonviolent civil disobedience to end war funding. As Kathy Kelly writes, "Now is the time for seriously strategizing about the best ways, in our hometowns, to engage in sustained civil disobedience at the offices of elected representatives, demanding that they vote against the supplemental spending bill..." See Monday, Feb 5 action photos at Senator McCain's office, and click here to learn more and join us.

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