Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Iraq snapshot

February 13, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq; will it expand into Iran?; a new poll finds most Americans aren't please with Bully Boy but Congress shouldn't breathe easy, and a war resister prepares for a court-martial next week.
Starting with news of war resistance, on August 31st of last year, at  Camp Casey III, Mark Wilkerson turned himself in.   Wilkerson had served in Iraq, applied for conscientious objector status, had the status denied and told that he could not appeal the decision until after he  had served his second deployment in Iraq.  While on leave before his second deployment, Wilkerson decided to self-check out of the military.  He was gone for approximately a year and a half and then, on August 31st, held a press conference with Cindy Sheehan and others standing with him to announce he was turning himself in.  Ryan (Indybay IMC) reports that Wilkerson will be court-martialed at Fort Hood (Texas) on February 22nd.  Dick Foster (Rocky Mountain News) reports: "As part of his plea agreement with the Army, Wilkerson will serve not more than 10 months in prison.  But he also faces a possible dishonorable or bad conduct discharge and a felony conviction on his record."  Reflecting on his time serving in Iraq, Wilkerson wrote (last October): "Before I deployed to Iraq during OIF1, I was full of optimism for what we could do to help the people of Iraq.  One of our missions, after all, was to 'win the hearts and the minds of the Iraqi people.'  And in this reagard, we have failed miserably.  In the year I was in Iraq, I saw kids waving American flags in the first month.  Then they threw rocks.  Then they planeted IEDs.  Then they blew themselves and others up in city squares full of people.  The only conclusion I can come up with as to why this has happened is the way the American troops have treated the Iraqi people as a whole.  From random raids of whole city blocks, to checkpoints that interrupted the daily lives of the Iraqis, to incidents of torture and even massacres, a majority of Iraqis now feel as that the American soliders, once hailed as heroes and saviors, are now seen as conquerors.  Civil was has erupted in the streets, and Americans are caught in the crossfire."
Turning to the topic of Ehren Watada whose court-martial at Fort Lewis last week ended with a mistrial, Ann Wright (retired col., retired State Dept., writing at Truthout) notes: "The US Army prosecution called only three witnesses to meet its burden of providing evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Lieutenant Watada had failed to deploy to Iraq and had committed conduct 'unbecoming an officer' for public statements about the war on Iraq he made in June and August 2006. Ironically, in my opinion, the testimony of the prosecution witnesses underscored Lieutenant Watada's professionalism, dedication to duty and respect for the chain of command as he attempted to resolve his ethical and moral concerns about the war. In effect, prosecution witnesses undercut the prosecution's own case against Watada before the jury panel of seven US Army officers."  The prosecution bungled their case.  Instead of allowing it to continue and risk the military losing, Judge Toilet (Lt. Col. John Head) declared a mistrial.  Wright concludes: "As an old soldier with nearly three decades of service, I suggest that the 'good order and discipline' of the Army has not been negatively affected by Lieutenant Watada's actions.  Until his unit deployed to Iraq on June 22, Watada had not disobeyed an order from his command.  He did not go AWOL.  After he was charged, he worked professionally and diligently everyday while awaiting his court-martial.  I urge the Army to let the lieutenant, who has acted in good faith, with courtesy and respect for the military and responsibility for his oath to the military and to the country, resign."   The Journal News reports that Vietnam war resister David Mitchell (Rockland Coalition for Peace and Justice) will speak Tuesday night at 7:00 pm about what he observed while attending Watada's court-martial last week.  The location for the speech is the Fellowship of Reconciliation at 521 North Broadway in Upper Nyack.
Watada and Wilkerson are 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, 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, Jimmy Massey 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.
CBS and AP report: "A suicide truck bomber blew himself up near a college and a ration office in a mainly Shiite area of the capital Tuesday, killing at least 15 people, officials said, a day after car bombs devastated a Baghdad marketplace."  Reuters reports the count of those dead rose to 18 and that 40 are wounded.  CNN reports a car bombinb ("outside a bakery in southereatern Baghdad") that left four dead. 
Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reports that 28 corpses were discovered in Baghdad.  Reuters notes that three corpses were found in Mahmudiya.
And today, the US military announced: "A soldier assigned to Multi-National Force-West was killed Sunday while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province."
Meanwhile the crackdown gets a curfew -- another curfew.  David Chazan, reporting for BBC News,  noted the latest curfew announcement from Iraqi Lt. Gen Abboud Gambar: "A curfew on people and vehicles will be imposed at a day to be announced soon around Baghdad security zone. This curfew will be effective from 20:00 to 06:00 local time."  Chazan: "The curfews have been tried before and they haven't freed the capital from sectarian violence. This time the borders with Iran and Syria will be closed for at least three days."
Turning to the subject of Iran, Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) reported that "Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said yesterday that he has no information indicating Iran's government is directly the supply of lethat weapons to Shiite insurgent groups in Iraq" -- Pace: "We know that the explosively formed projecticles are manufactured in Iran.  What I would not say is that the Iranian government, per se, knows abou this.  It is clear that Iranians are involved, and it's clear that materials from Iran are involved but I would not say by what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit." 
Various people in the administration and war pornographer Michael R. Gordon of the New York Times are pushing a link that has not been established as existing.  Dennis Bernstein discussed this with Robert Parry and Larry Everest on  KPFA's Flashpoints yesterday.  Parry: "One has to remember some of the ludicrous stories that Judy Miller of the New York Times published -- including some on the front page of the New York Times which were, in retrospect, laughable.  But they're not laughable because they led to the death of so many people."  Parry also noted some of the phoney claims used to market the illegal war on Iraq such as: "remember he was going to spray us, he was supposed to have these model planes that were going to fly over the United States spraying us with poisonous gasses."  Everest and Parry discussed the likelihood that Bully Boy will attempt to strike Iran, possibly in April, possibly by forcing them to make the first move or possibly after Israel initiates an attack.
John R. MacArthur (Harper's magazine) spoke with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! today noting the 'repoting' on Iran: "And the most damning ommission in the story, if you want to talk about overall perspective, is complete lack of perspective on who's fighting whom, who's shooting at whom in Iraq?  Does the Iranian government really have an interest in destabilizing what's now a Shi'ite dominated government?  Doesn't make any sense -- if it does make sense to the administration, that the Iranians want to destabilize a Shi'ite-dominated government, when they're a Shi'ite rule nation, then they should explain it.  But there's no logic to it, and there's just this massive ommission."
Finally, Susan Page (USA Today) reports on the latest USA Today/Gallup Poll which found "six in 10 oppose President Bush's plan to use more troops" in Iraq and that "Seven of 10 say their representative's vote on the war will affect their vote in the next congressional election; more than four in 10 call it a major factor."  Where is the New York Times poll on this topic?  While other outlets have been providing their polling results for over two months now, the paper of record has been strangely silent.

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