Monday, February 12, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Monday, February 12, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq; the US military has a show & tell; Kelly Dougherty shares what she saw during the court-martial of Ehren Watada last week; in Baghdad, nearly 100 are reported dead and nearly 200 are reported wounded in an attack utilizing multiple bombs;
Starting with Ehren Watada.  In June 2006, Watada became the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq.  Last week, Watada faced a court-martial that lasted from Monday through Friday.  Kelly Dougherty (Iraq Veteranst Against the War) reports what she observed noting that the prosecutions witnesses' testimony backed up Watada:
What actually happened, though, was that Lt. Watada's two commanders each testified that Lt. Watada's unit was not negatively impacted by his public statements and that Lt Watada's unit was not negatively impacted by his public statements and that Lt Watada was never ordered not to go public with his opposition to the war.  Furthermore, all three men testified that if an officer is given an order he believes to be illegal, in this case participating in the occupation of Iraq, he is obligated to refuse it.  Even if the order is found to be legal, all men agreed that they would not expect an officer to act in a manner that violates his conscience.
On Judge Toilet (aka Lt. Col. John Head) and his "Winken, Blinken, and Nod" to the prosecution as Toilet began floating the idea of a mistrail, Dougherty recalls:
It appeared to me, though, that Judge Head really wanted the prosecution to agree with him that the stipulation Lt. Watada signed was indeed a guilty confession and therefore he did not need to testify at all.  When the prosecution agreed with the defense, the judge gave them a 15 minute recess to think things over.  Afterwards, when the prosecution still agreed that Lt Watada had not made a confession and should take the stand, the judge gave them another recess.  He said he'd give them 40 minutes, but if they needed more time to just let him know.  Judge Head also made it clear that if the prosecution did not return with the answer he wanted, he would declare a mistrial.  From a layperson's point of view, it seemed like the judge waas to prosecute the government's case himself.  After the repeated recesses, the judge did declare a mistrial, Lt Watada never testified, and the case was rescheduled for March 19, or the fourth anniversary of the war.  That was a surprise ending that none of us attending the court martial expected.
Yesterday, Ruth's Report and The Third Estate Sunday Review's "Editorial: The court-martial is over" addressed the mistrial and what it means for Ehren Watada.
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.
Currently facing a court-martial (March 6th) is Agustin Aguayo who self-checked out of the military in September of last year and returned less than thirty days later  (September 2nd through September 26th) but is being charged with desertion.  Stars and Stripes reported last week that Aguayo's is prepared "to plead guilty to being absent without leave, but not to a more serious charge of desertion" and notes that "Desertion charges are typically not filed unless a servicemember has been AWOL for more than 30 days, though there are provisions for the more serious charge during times of war, officials have said."  As the military moves to court-martial him (in Germany) a civilian court still hasn't weighed in.  On November 21, 2006, the US Court of Appeals in Washington, DC heard Aguayo's appeal and they have yet to issue a ruling on the validity of his being denied c.o. status.  Aaron Glantz noted (November 20, 2006 broadcast of The KPFA Evening News) that Aguayo's case is the first of it's kind hear in "a federal court since 1971".  If the prosecution sticks with the desertion charge and if Aguayo is found guilty, he could face as many as seven years behind bars.
Helga Aguayo, Agustin's wife, has not only spoken out for her husband but for other war resisters as well.  Most recently, Jason Farbman and Sam Bernstein (Socialist Worker) reported on Helga Aguayo addressing Watada supporters in Tacoma the day before Watada's court-martial began: "All war resisters should be supported.  They will ultimately bring an end to the war."  Jeff Paterson reported that she was there with their two children and her mother-in-law.  Someone who knows something about marriage to a war resister was honored at the Grammys yesterday with a lifetime achievement award, Joan Baez.  From 1968 to 1973, Baez was married to David Harris who was convicted of draft refusal and impisoned from 1969 to 1971.  During that time, along with speaking out and activism, Baez wrote "A Song for David" (One Day at a Time):
And the stars in your sky   
Are the stars in mine     
And both prisoners        
Of this life are we.  
Through the same troubled waters        
We carry our time,        
You and the convicts and me.        
That's a good thing to know         
On the outside or in,       
To answer not where          
But just who I am.  
Because the stars in your sky   
Are the stars in mine   
And both prisoners  
Of this life are we. 
Another woman who knows about marriage to a war resister is Brandi Key, the wife of Joshua Key.  Joshua Key's book The Deserter's Tale documents his time serving in Iraq, what he witnessed and why he decided to self-check out.  Nathan Whitlock (Toronto Star) reviews the book: "In 2003, Key spent seven months in Iraq, raiding the houses of Iraqi families, driving in heavily armed motorcades through hostile neighbourhoods, fighting an enemy that could attack and disappear at will, and watching with growing despair as his fellow soldiers, his army and, by extension, his country, abandoned all moral legitimacy.  At the end of that seven months, Key walked away, going AWOL and going underground with his young family before eventually crossing the border into Canada in search of a new life. . . . The turning point for Key comes when he arrives at the scene of a supposed firefight, only to discover a group of U.S. soldiers kicking around the heads of Iraqi men like soccer balls. [Joshua Key:] 'We had become a force for evil, and I could not escape the fact that I was part of the machine'."
And the machine grinds on.
In Iraq?  Well just Sunday the US military flacks and leadership were yet again bragging -- they'd begun their sweep, this version of the crackdown was going to do the trick.  They spun and they spun and Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Damien Cave (New York Times) showed up in print with talk of "large-scale sweeps expected in eastern Baghdad".  Someone forgot to tell central Baghdad.  Devika Bhat (Times of London) reports that "two busy market areas in central Baghdad" wre the target of a bombing attack today.  Ibon Villelabeitia (Reuters) reports mulitple explosions.  Al Jazeera notes: "A column of smoke hundreds of feet wide billowed into the air above the market near the east bank of the Tigris river and near the central bank building."  AFP reports: "The blasts were timed to mark the end of a national 15-minute silence called by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on the first anniversary of the demolition of a Shiite shrine by Sunni bombers that unleased a wave of sectarian attacks."
CNN says it was "[f]ive explosions".  Bushra Juih (AP) notes three car bombs and a bombing detonaed by a man wearing it ("explosives-filled vest) which, combined, resulted in massive destruction, "[s]hops and stalls were obliterated," "debris and clothing mannequins were scattered in pools of blood on the floor of the warehouse-type building while men piled up plastic chairs".  CBS and AP note Lara Logan, CBS News, "reports the parking structure was still ablaze nearly three hours after the initial explosion, and she says the death toll is likely to continue rising."  CBS and AP also note "conflicting accounts about whether one or two car bombs were involved" and "a bomb hidden in a bag". BBC puts the number at three (two car bombs and a parcel bomb).  Ibon Villelabeitia (Reuters) quotes  eye witness Wathiq Ibrahim: "I saw three bodies shredded apart.  Paramedics were picking up body pieces and human flesh from the pools of blood on the ground and placing them in small plastic bags.  The smoke turned the place dark."  CNN puts the toll thus far at 90 dead and 190 wounded.
Other bombings?
Reuters notes a bombing in nothern Baghdad that left two dead and five wounded. CNN notes four dead as a result of a car bomb in Mandali.
Reuters reports that the body guard of "an Interior Ministry employee" was shot dead in Baghdad and another was wounded and that "a primary school guard in Central Kut" was shot dead.  CNN notes a person shot dead and two more wounded when their car was attacked in Muqdadiya.
Reuters reports 32 discovered in "scattered" in Baghdad, the corpse of a police officer ("bearing signs of torture") discovered in Falahiya, three corpses discovered in Mosul.
The above comes as the Red Cross Federation has issued an appeal: "In order to bring emergency relief goods to 50,00 socially vunlerable families (some 300,000 people), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched an appeal for 10.3 million Swiss francs (USD 8.3 million/6.4 million pounds).  These funds are also meant to cover the health needs of 150,000 people for 12 months.  'This appeal is also meant to help the Iraqi Red Crescent continue to provide vital assistance in emergency relief and health care to the most vulnerable groups of the population throughout the country,' underlines Ahmed Gizo, Head of the Middle East/ North African Department at the Federation Secretariat in Genevea. 'They are the only ones who can still do this and it is essential they pursue this mission.'    Electricity shortages, insufficient clean water, a deteriorating health service and soaring inflation (more than 76% in August 2006) have worsened already difficult living conditions.  According to the UN, more than 630,000 people have been displaced since February 2006.  In this context of violence and insecurity, the need for non-food items has become almost as important as food.  This appeal will finance the delivery of items including clothing and cloth, blankets, kitchen utensils, stoves, jerricans, mattresses and tends to families considered socially vulnerable, because they do not have an income provider, or shelter or have very little income.  Appeal funds will also be used to train more than 2,000 IRCS staff and volunteers as well as 46,000 school children in first aid, and will support four rounds of national polio immunization campaigns for 100,00 children under five years old."
As Anthony Arnove (author of IRAQ: The Logic of Withdrawal) noted to Kevin Zeese (CounterPunch), "Iraqis are far more likely to die violently in Iraq today than they were under the dictatorship" and, keep in the mind the appeal of the Red Cross Federation and what that money would be going for (money the US government should be providing), "In terms of how things will be once the U.S. withdraws, each day longer the United States stays, the possibilities of a livable outcome diminish.  Which is why, in addition to pushing for immediate withdrawal, we also need to call on the United States and its allies to pay reparations to the Iraqi people (not just for the destruction caused by the most recent illegal invasion and occupation but before that the devastating sanctions, the toxic legacy and destruction of the 1991 Gulf War, and all the years that the U.S. armed and supported Saddam Huessein as he carried out his worst crimes).  They can do a far better job rebuilding their country than the corporate looters and thugs of Halliburton, Bechtel, and Blackwater can."  The Red Cross and Red Crescent are attempting to provide aid, the question is why the United States isn't?
Zeese noted Antonia Juhasz's work on the economic war on Iraq and Arnove replied: "The economic take-over of Iraq absolutely should be reversed.  Antonia Juhasz is right, as Naomi Klein, who has also written very powerfully on this topic.  Klein writes: 'The United States, having broken Iraq, is not in the process of fixing it.  It is merely continuing to break the country and its people by other means, using not only F-16s and Bradleys, but now the less flashy weaponry' of economic strangulation.  We need to call for an end to military and ecnomic occupation, as well as the removal of U.S. military bases."
Meanwhile, today, the US military announced: "A Soldier assigned to Multi-National Corps-Iraq, died February 11, 2007 in a non-combat related incident" and they announced: "A Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldier died when insurgentstargeted a security patrol in a western segment of the Iraqi capital Feb. 11. While conducting a cordon and search operation, the patrol came under enemysmall arms fire. One Soldier was killed and another was wounded in the attack."
The question of the day: Have you enlisted in the whisper campaign?  Serial war whisperer and pathetic war pornographer Michael Gordon is back -- and apparently he's stolen his former co-writer Judith Miller's wardrobe.  As noted Saturday: "Looking at today's New York Times, Michael R. Gordon shows up in drag. It's a wig with pixie bangs and you keep waiting for him to (falsely) snarl, 'I was proved f**king right.' The propaganda is entitled "Deadliest Bomb In Iraq Is Made By Iran, U.S. Says." He's jetted over to DC, the byline tells you. And he barely stumbled across the runway in high heels before anonymice descended upon him with breathy whispers. They offer him "details" and we're all supposed to buy in.
That requires forgetting previous 'scoops' like September 8, 2002's 'U.S. Says Hussein Intensifies Quest for A-Bomb Parts.' He co-wrote that planted story with the help of Judith Miller. How freeing it must be (like ditching a girdle?) to get the byline all to himself. The war pornography of Michael Gordon tells us one thing today -- the blood letting in Iraq is no longer enough to get his war-on up (what ever is?) and now he's signed on to sell the American people a war with Iran."
Where stenography and pornography mix, there is Michael Gordon -- and where there is Michael Gordon there is a (false) story the administration wants told.  Saturday, on RadioNation with Laura Flanders jokingly wondered if Michael R. Gordon and Judith Miller could be the same person?
As the disbelief and ridicule piled on and realizing that Gordo's leaky war-on might not be the best way to frighten the public (can you be frightened while laughing?), the US military held a super-secret, fudge brownie meeting with reporters on Sunday.  The reporters were not allowed to identify anyone -- though all the unnamed are on the government payroll and supposedly working for the US tax payer.  They skipped the coldcuts and instead made the spread all about E.F.P.s (explosively formed penetrators") and insisted that the devices were from Iran. 
Tina Susman and Borzou Daragahi (Los Angeles Times) note there were "two tables laden with what they said were uniquely Iranian military hardware and weapons fragments."  James Glanz (New York Times) reports: "The officials were repeatedly pressed on why they insisted on anonymity in such an important matter affecting the security of American and Iraqi troops."  Best non-answer?  One of those participating couldn't have if it was required that reporters identify government employees making claims that could lead to a war.  Glanz noted the "evidence" was known of "as early as 2004"  Susman and Daragahi report: "The officials said each piece of the displayed hardware could be traced to Iran, though to the untrained eye, there were no obvious Iranian markings other than that on dynamite.  Some of the munitions bore Western lettering."  Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) notes the response from the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad: "We deny such charges.  We ask those who are claiming such evidence: Show the documents in public.  We cannot compensate for the American failure and fiasco in Iraq.  It is not our policy to be involved in any hostile operations against coalition forces here" and that Labeed M. Abbawi (deputy foreign minister in Iraq) echoed that: "If they have anything really conclusive, then they should come out and say it openly, then we will pick it up from there and use diplomatic channels". 
In the US Congress, the House of Representatives have begun a non-binding resolution.  The first half is the generic statement.  The gums (no teeth) is in the second part: "Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 10, 2007 to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq."  Of the resolution, Susan Cornwell (Reuters) reports that "the House is expected to vote on [it] Friday".
Finally, at yesterday's Grammys, the Dixie Chicks received five awards.  Next month would be the four year anniversary of the attack on the Chicks that began when Natalie Maines spoke a little truth Bully Boy and his bully posse couldn't handle.  Radio programmers pulled the group's songs, hate mail and death threats in, the right-wing phone banked to create an impression that the Dixie Chicks stood alone.  As Geoff Boucher (Los Angeles Times) notes, their performance of "Not Ready To Make Nice" was introduced by Joan Baez who hailed them as "three brave women."  They won for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Country Album, Album of the Year and Country Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal.  Natalie Maines, Emily Robison and Martie Maguire were supposed to be "dead" career wise after the bullies came running.  Just one more plan the right-wing couldn't pull off.

Don't pick lemons.
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