Thursday, February 15, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, February 15, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq -- despite the never ending 'crackdown' and it's latest phase, the Iraqi refugee crisis continues to be largely ignored though Bully Boy wants applause for doing practically nothing, the US military announces the death of more troops and reality slaps against the latest Operation Happy Talk.
Starting with news of war resistance.  Today, City on a Hill Press editorialized in favor of Ehren Watada, the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq and the subject of a recent court-martial that ended in a mistrial.  City on a Hill Press notes: "As the house of cards that was constructed to lead us into Iraq continues to fall down, City on a Hill Press salutes US Army First Lieutenant Ehren Watada, who is courageously standing atop the most solid of foundations--the United States Constitution.  The first active-duty soldier to refuse deployment in Iraq and publicly speak out against the war, Lt. Watada has joined the growing group of brave dissenters whose voices and rights are being repressed after questioning the unjust decisions of the Bush Administration. With the war in Iraq escalating toward more violence and chaos each day, and Bush's preparations to attack Iran, this country desperately needs the likes of Lt. Watada to fulfill duties as soldiers, as Americans, and as humans."
Meanwhile The Santa Barbara Independent reports on the January 20-21st Citizens' Hearing on the Legality of U.S.Actions in Iraq and we'll note this conclusion from the hearing: "Institute mandatory training of all members to recognize their responsibility not to follow illegal orders that violate international law, and to cease training that may condition soldiers to view civilians as the enemy".  Ben Hamamoto (Nichi Bei Times) reports that Judge Toilet has scheduled the next court-martial of Watada for March 19th but notes Eric Seitz (Watada's civilian attorney): "It's my belief that there are going to be serious problems re-instating this case" due to the issue of double-jeopardy and quotes attorney Robert Rusky explaining, "The problem appears to be that the Army wanted to argue that Ehren had implicity stipulated he had a duty to deploy to Iraq once he received his orders.  . . . How can the Army be allowed to argue Ehren had a duty to comply with the deployment order, which necessarily assumes it was a lawful order, while denying Ehren the right to contest that it was a lawful order?  (The ruling) inherently and clearly frames the issue.  I think we need to emphasize: the legality of the Iraq invasion that the deployment order was part of."
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, Mark Wilkerson, 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.
And Courage to Resist  noted the following yesterday:
Demand Army drop charges and accept Lt. Watada's resignation now!
Next step following mistrial victory: Demand that the Army respect the constitutional prohibition on double jeopardy by not attempting to court martial him again. Also:
"How Lt. Watada and GI resistance movement beat the Army"We (heart) "Augie"
U.S. Army Spc. Agustin Aguayo is a Iraq War vet facing court martial in Germany on March 6 for refusing to return to Iraq. Send him a Valentine's Day support greeting!
Mark Wilkerson refused to redeploy, sentencing Feb. 22
"There comes a time in a person's life when they must do the right moral decision for themselves, doubtless of how popular," he told the media in Crawford, Texas last August. (link only)
Ivan Brobeck, Iraq vet and war resister, released from brig!
Marine L/Cpl Ivan Brobeck was released from the Marine Corps brig at Quantico, Virginia on Feb. 5, three months after returning to the United States from Canada with a letter to President Bush asking him to "Bring the Troops Home Now!" (link only)
On January 27th in DC, following the massive rally and march, people gathered at Busboys and Poets later in the evening to hear Kelly Dougherty and Anthony Arnove speak.  The Socialist Worker provides the text of Kelly Dougherty (co-founder and executive director of Iraq Veterans Against the War) speech and we'll focus on this section:
People ask me: If the war is wrong, and soldiers know it, why don't they just not go?  I think that leads to the bigger issue of war resisters.  We were joking in the Iraq Veterans Against the War office that February and March are the two court-martial months, because Lt. Ehren Watada is being court-martialed at Fort Lewis on February 5, Spc. Mark Wilkerson at Fort Hood on February 22, and Specialist Agustin Aguayo in Germany on March 6.  There are all these public war resisters, taking the lead, following those who came before them, and standing up and saying no -- and putting themselves and their families at a big risk, because people are getting sentenced to prison.  Lt. Watada faces six years in prison, and the judge said that he couldn't use his defense, which is that the war is illegal.  So basically, he has no defense.  He's facing six years for refusing to go.  Other men and women have spent up to a year in prison.  When people say that they support the war resisters, I think they really need to do more than just say, "Oh, that's great."  Because these are men and women who are poised to lose everything.  They can lose the people they care about, because a lot of their friends and family may not agree with their stance.  And there's a huge financial drain as well, because attorneys are hugely expensive.  So I think this is really one of the crucial things -- to encourage GI resistance.  We need for us all to put our money where our mouth is, so to speak -- and really show that we're in solidarity with war resisters.  We're going to be there."
And Iraq Veterans Against the War was there, leading the demonstrations, at Fort Lewis and doing an amazing job.  Anthony Arnove spoke after and The Socialist Worker also provides his speech in text form -- we'll highlight the following:
We're almost four years into the occupation of Iraq, and you have to laugh because the media says, "Oh, you're talking about a hasty withdrawal from Iraq."  First of all, as Kelly pointed out, we've been there for a lot longer than four years.  The United States was bombing Iraq.  Their presence in the Middle East goes back a long time.  It's not just this occupation, but the occupation of Palestine goes back more than 40 years.  So this isn't a hasty withdrawal that we're talking about.  The United States had no right to invade in the first place, and it should get out immediately now.  But all of the reasons that they put forward for why we should stay in Iraq are as bogus as the reasons for why they said we had to go in.  Let's spend a moment on democracy.  First of all, right now, we're in Washington, D.C.  Would anyone like to speak to the level of democracy here in Washington, D.C.?  We just had an election in November where the majority of people in this country said they want the troops to come hom and they reject the policies of this administration.  And we have a president who says he doesn't give a damn, and a Congress that doesn't seem to have heard us either.  Is that democracy?  We have an opposition party whose form of criticizing the occupation of Iraq is to pass a nonbinding resolution criticizing the escalation of an additional 21,500 troops -- but not questioning the fundamental presence of the United States as an occupying power in Iraq.  It's not about the 21,500 additional troops alone.  It's a whole package.  You cannot fund the war, you cannot support 132,000 troops in Iraq, as Hillary Clinton is doing, and say you're against the war.  You're not -- you're for the war.
Anthony Arnove is the author, most recently of, IRAQ: The Logic for Withdrawal.
Meanwhile, Bully Boy is expecting applause, Hail Marys and apparently a Nobel Peace Prize for allowing 5,000 to 7,000 Iraqi refugees to resettle in the United States.  5,000 is a laughable figure when the United Nations has estimated that over two million Iraqi refugees have left the country while almost two million refugees (1.8 million) are internally displaced within Iraq.  Rachel L. Swarns (New York Times) reports that the proposed "legislation being considered" wouldn't be based upon need but would give extra points to those "who have worked for the United States government in various capacities or have associated with American officials".  Some are calling the proposed plan "Snitch Relief"  others point out that it's in keeping with a White House that has always, domestically, put who you know ahead of the needs of the people.  On Monday, the UN noted that there were over "5,000 Iraqis, fearful of being deported under Syrian immigration regulations, queued up outside the United Nations refugee agency office in Damascus today to register."  "Snitch Relief" won't address that.  Snitch Relief won't address the nearly 4 million Iraqi refugees.  The BBC notes that since the start of the illegal war, the US has only taken in 463 Iraqi refugees and that it has only recently pledged the laughably low $18 million "to the UNHCR to help the millions of people who have fled Iraq since the war began." 
The Financial Times of London editorializes: "Nobody in the world with access to a televsion can be in any doubt that the US-led invasion of Iraq four years ago has been a disaster.  What they, and we, are much less aware of is that it has already produced the worst refugee crisis in the Middle East since the mass exodus of Palestinians that was part of the violent birth of the state of Israel in 1948.  And what we should all be scandalised by is how little the two countries most responsible for the Iraq misadventure -- the US and the UK -- are doing to alleviate this crisis."  While Mark Turner (Financial Times of London) notes that the laughable 5,000 to 7,000 'news' "came after Ms [Condi] Rice met Antonio Guterres, the head of the UNHCR, who has recently returned from a tour of the Middle East where he had complained that the burden of the refugee crisis meant that 'a very limited number of countries is paying a very heavy price'."  Meanwhile, IRIN reports that the latest version of the ongoing crackdown in Baghdad is resulting in concerns that it "would create more problems than it would solve" and quoted Mizzal Jassim Wasfi ("Baghdad-based independent political analysis") stating, "It is impossible to achieve this goal -- at least for the time being.  You can't solve a problem by creating more problems.  The government has to find places for those who are occupying such houses or ensure security in the neighbourhoods they have been displaced from to go back to their homes."  The analyst is referring to a pattern of homes being claimed by someone other than their occupants.  Yesterday, Said Rifai (Los Angeles Times) reported on how his parents home, after they sought refuge in Jordan, was taken over ("house-jacked") by "armed gunmen" and there was really little to do -- the US military "wouldn't do anything," the Iraqi police had done nothing during a home invasion prior so "it's unlikely they would do anything now" and attempts to seek help through Sunni politicians resulted in no help or assistance.  So the crackdown, juiced up yet again, ongoing since June, having destroyed any prospect of life in the capital, now sees more hours added to the curfews, more checkpoints, the closing of libraries, searches (home and body) and other 'fun' things.  Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Damien Cave (New York Times) quote positive Iraqis on the crackdown.  In the real world, a report aired on Al Jazeera today (2:17 pm EST) by Al Jazeera correspondent Hoda Abdel-Hamid presented alternate views from Iraqis -- one tired man stated, "We hope it's the last one.  Everyday people are getting killed" and another man who points out that the crackdown hasn't stopped the violence at all: "There was a traffic jam near a checkpoint.  A man left his car and it immediately exploded."
CNN reports 5 children dead ("ranging in age from 4 to 8") from a roadside bomb in Tikrit.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports  four dead and twenty wounded from "two parked car bombs . . . near one of the main vegetable markets in the southern section of Baghdad", 3 dead and 25 wounded from "a parked car bomb . . . near Al Hay Market in Sadr City eastern Baghdad"  and two British soldiers wounded "by Katyusha rockets and small arms fire in Al Hussein neighborhood . . . west of Basra".  Reuters notes three car bombs in Hawija that killed three people and one police officer dead from a roadside bomb in Mosul.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a woman was shot dead and two more were wounded in an attack on a minibus en route to Balad, an Iraqi soldier in Baghdad was shot dead, a police officer was shot dead in west Baghdad, while gunfire and mortar attacks in the Diyala province claimed 8 lives and left 14 wounded, and a police officer was shot dead in Khalis.  Reuters notes a police officer shot dead in Mosul.  AFP notes an attack on the bodyguards of Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari "in Iraqi Kurdistan" that resulted in three of them being shot dead and two more wounded.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 20 corpses discovered in Baghdad.
The US military announced today: "Task Force Lightning Soliders were attacked while conducting combat operations in Diyala Province Feb. 14.  Three Task Force Lightning Soldiers were killed as a result of injuries sustained following explosions near their vehicles.  A fourth Soldier later died of wounds at a Coalition medical facility."  And they announced: "A Marine assigned to Multi-National Force-West was killed Wednesday while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province."

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