Thursday, February 08, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, February 8, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, the court-martial of Ehren Watada comes to a surprising end (Aaron Glantz: "It seemed at the beginning that it would to be a slam dunk for the prosecutors but here we are, three days into the trial, and it's ended in a mistrial."), more US troops die are announced dead and the AP total reaches 31114 since the start of the illegal war; Baghdad's health ministry gets stormed and the "gunmen" aren't whom you might expect,

Starting with Ehren Watada. Yesterday, Lt. Col. John Head (aka Judge Toilet) decided to interject him into the proceedings -- going so far as to question Watada -- and then decided he would declare a mistrial. Aaron Glantz spoke with Sandra Lupien on yesterday's The KPFA Evening News and explained that the 'judge' was "essentially throwing out the agreement that the prosecution and the defense made together on the eve of the trial." The agreement was the stipulation that the defense and the prosecution came to an agreement on whereby Watada acknowledged making statements that were published and broadcast (thereby removing the need for reporters to come to court and affirm their reporting). Both sides agreed to the stipulation and the judge was aware of it and poured over it. Until Wednesday, it was not a problem. Daisuke Wakabayashi's (Reuters) explains the agreement, "In the stipulation, Watada said he did not board the plane with the rest of his unit to Iraq and admitted to making public statements criticizing the war and accusing U.S. President George W. Bush's administration of deceiving the American people to enter into a war of aggression. Watada does not dispute the facts, but said it was not an admission of guilt because it does not take into account the intent behind his actions." John Nichols (The Nation) picks up there noting the judge felt there was no "meeting of the minds" and without such a meeting "there's not a contract" -- despite the fact that both the prosecution and the defense agreed there was a contract -- and so, overruling efforts by the prosecution to again state "that they were not arguing that the agreement represented an admission of guilt by Watada." Eli Sanders (Time magazine) observes that Judge Toilet's declaration of a mistrial was "a surprising development that left military prosecutors clearly frustrated, observers stunned and defense attorneys claiming that the military had blown its only chance at a conviction." Frustrated? Stunned? As The Honolulu Advertiser notes this was "a weird bit of courtroom drama, both parties agreed with each other that Head was wrong." Sam Howe Verhovek (Los Angeles Times) reports that, regardless of what happens next, "the judge's ruling amounted to a temporary moral victory for the lieutenant in a case that many legal observers had considered a virtual slam-dunk for the Army."

So what does that mean? At this point, meaning is up in the air. Corey Moss (MTV News) was among the ones noting that Judge Toilet had scheduled a court-martial for next month. No, he's not planning on court-martialing himself though that would qualify as justice. He thinks Watada can be retried. Others aren't so sure. Mike Barber (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) reports that Watada's defense doubts that assertion and that John Junker ("University of Washington law professor") feels that another court-martial would be double-jeopardy for Watada, "The notion is that you can't just stop in the middle and say, 'I don't like the way it's going' and start over." Howe Verhovek quotes Ann Wright (retired State Department, retired col.) who declares, "The legal mess we saw here today reflects the major mess the Bush administration has made with the war in Iraq." If you can follow the above, consider yourself smarter than William Yardley (New York Times) who drops the issue of double jeopardy by merely noting that "the circumstances surrounding the mistrial, including the fact that the judge rejected a stipulation he had initially approved, could allow Lieutenant Watada to avoid prosecution altogether" -- all in the concluding sentence. Where it stands now for Ehren Watada? Aaron Glantz told Sandra Lupien (The KPFA Evening News) that if it another court-martial is held, "We're going to go back to the original charges. Some of the charges were dropped as a result of the agreement . . . Those charges are now back on the table."

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 continues.


AP reports 20 dead and 45 wounded in Aziziyah as a result of a car bombing "at a meat market". CBS and AP note a car bomb in Baghdad that killed seven on a minibus with at least more hurt.


The BBC reports that 14 members of one family were shot down in Balad. Al Jazeera reports that an attack on police in Baquba left 4 police officers "and a civilian" dead.


Today the US military announced: "Four Marines assigned to Multi-National Force - West died Feb. 7 from wounds sustained due to enemy action in two separate incidents, while operating in Al Anbar Province." The AP count of US troops who have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war is now "at least 3,114."

Meanwhile the US military is boasting of having 'captured a senior Military of Health official today' -- Hakim al-Zamili. How difficult is it to capture someone serving in the Iraqi ministries? Apparently quite difficult, Al Jazeera reports that "US and Iraqi forces have stormed the health ministry building in Baghdad" and quotes the ministry spokesperson (Qassem Allawi) saying: "American forces accompanied by Iraq forces broke into the ministry, forced the guards to lie on the floor and took Zamili." Damien Cave and Jon Elsen (New York Times) report an eye witness saying that the US troops were "like cowboys, firing their weapons into the air" and that "they broke dooors and window glass as they made their way through the building". AP reports: "A large white boot print was left on the bullet-pocked office door, which apparently had been kicked in by troops, and shattered glass and overturned computers and phones were scattered on the floor." Those details don't make it into the US military's official press release though "suspected of" "kickback schemes" is all over the place. In the US, that would be the equiavlent of storming the offices of Michael O. Leavitt, Secretary of Health & Human Services, or one of his undersecretaries; in Iraq, it's all rah-rah, all the time. No surprise, Al Jazzera reports that there is a talk that the health ministry will "go on strike unless al-Zamili is released" and their correspondent Hoda Abdel-Hamid states: "Under the current situation in Baghdad, that could have a devastating effect on the citizens."

The same rah-rah that leads to attacks on governmental offices in Iraq, also leads to the deaths in Amiriyah. What are the commanders hopped up on that the US military sees anything worth boasting of in those events? Let's start off with reality. AP reports: "Police and hospital officials in the area offered a conflicting account, saying the airstrike hit the village of Zaidan south of Abu Ghraib and flattened four houses, killing 45 people, including women, children and old people. An Associated Press photo showed the body of a boy in the back of a pickup truck at the nearby Fallujah hospital and people there said he was a victim of the Zaydan airstrike. Other photos showed several wounded children being treated in the hospital." Now you just know all of that gets left out of the official US military press release. What is included? "Intelligence reports indicated an individual associated with foreign fighter facilitation was in the targeted area." Intelligence reports indicated? Civilians were targeted and killed. At some point Americans are going to have to start asking questions about actions like this. This was one person "associated" -- who may or may not have been present. Not only is his or her presence in doubt, so is any link -- "associated." If you can grasp that, start asking who sends troops in to attack civilians? Four houses were flattened, civilians were targeted and killed. These are the actions that breeds the resistance. There's no, "Oops, meant well!" Not when it's your family or your friends who are dead. This is the (still illegal) war Bully Boy is selling. More US troops on the ground mean more dead civilians. More dead civilians mean more Iraqis joining the resistance. This is the never ending cycle and those not addicted to revisionary tactics recognize the echoes from Vietnam.

In the United States, Senator John Warner and other Republicans are pushing for support of the non-binding resolution. CBS and AP report that Warner and six other Republican senators are attempting to buck their party's shut down on the non-binding resolution. In their letter (PDF format), Warner, Susan Collins, Norm Coleman, Chuck Hagel, Olympia Snowe, Gordon Smith and George Voinovich write: "The war in Iraq is the most pressing issue of our time. It urgently deserves the attention of the full Senate and a full debate on the Senate floor without delay" . . . before concluding: "We strongly believe the Senate should be allowed to work its will on our resolution as well as the concept brought forward by other Senators. Monday's procedural vote should not be interpreted as any lessening of our resolve to go forward advocating the concepts of S. Con. Res. 7. We will explore all of our options under the Senate procedures and practices to ensure a full and open debate on the Senate floor. The current stalemate is unnacceptable to us and to the people of this country." The non-binding, toothless resolution is purely symoblic and you can be sure the signers of the letter know that and also know that "The war in Iraq is the most pressing issue of our time" will be picked up everywhere and give them the cover of appearing to have actually addressed ending the illegal war and bringing US troops home -- the message voters sent in the November elections.

They are also, no doubt aware, that next week the other half of Congress, the House of Representatives is set to address the war quite a bit more seriously than anything the Senate has done all month. Jeff Zeleny (New York Times) reports that, next week, the House is expected to devote at least "three days of debate" to the Iraq war; that "[s]eventy-one Democratic representatives signed a statement urging Congress to take a strong stance against the war, including setting a six-month timetable for withdrawing American forces from Iraq" and he quotes Rep Dennis Kucinich (also 2008 presidential candidate) stating of the Senate's measure: "The nonbinding resolution is like putting your foot on the brake for a moment and a few weeks later, putting your foot on the accelator. . . . Congress has a chance to do something real on the war. A nonbinding resolution just doesn't cut it."

As Anthony Arnove (ISR) observes: "All of the reasons being offered for why the United States cannot withdraw troops from Iraq are false. The reality is, the troops are staying in Iraq for much different reasons than the ones being touted by political elites and a still subservient establishment press. They are staying to save face for a U.S. political elite that cares nothing for the lives of Iraqis or U.S. soldiers; to pursue the futile goal of turning Iraq into a reliable client state strategically located near the major energy resources and shipping routes of the Middle East, home to two-thirds of world oil reserves, and Western and Central Asia; to serve as a base for the projection of U.S. military power in the region, particularly in the growing conflict between the United States and Iran; and to maintain the legitimacy of U.S. imperialism, which needs the pretext of a global war on terror to justify further military intervention, expanded military budgets, concentration of executive power, and restrictions on civil liberties. The U.S. military did not invade and occupy Iraq to spread democracy, check the spread of weapons of mass destruction, rebuild the country, or stop civil war. In fact, the troops remain in Iraq today to deny self-determination and genuine democracy to the Iraqi people, who have made it abundantly clear, whether they are Shiite or Sunni, that they want U.S. troops to leave Iraq immediately; feel less safe as a result of the occupation; think the occupation is spurring not suppressing sectarian strife; and support armed attacks on occupying troops and Iraqi security forces, who are seen not as independent but as collaborating with the occupation.