Friday, February 16, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Friday, February 16, 2006.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq (despite the capital crackdown), the House acts 'symoblically,' Ralph Nader explains the importance of making demands, and The Russians Are Snickering!
Starting with news of war resisters.  In June 0f 2006, Ehren Watada became the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq.  Last week, he faced a court-martial at Fort Lewis in Washington.  
Recap: On Monday, the court-martial of Ehren Watada began with jury selection for the military panel (seven officers were selected) who would, as Hal Bernton (Seattle Times) pointed out, "determine whether Watada spends up to four years in prison in one of the most high-profile cases to be tried at Fort Lewis."  Watada was facing up to four years in prison and Lt. Col. John Head (aka Judge Toilet) refused to allow him to argue the reasons why he refused to deploy.  This is why Norman Solomon (CounterPunch) called the proceedings "a kangaroo court-martial."  .  On Tuesday, the prosectution presented their case.  Aaron Glantz discussed the day's events with Sandra Lupien on The KPFA Evening News noting: "The prosecution had 3 witnesses.  It did not go as well as the prosecution would have liked.  Lt. Col Bruce Antonia, who was the prosecution's star witness, as Lt. Watada's commander, said that nothing tangibly bad happened from Lt. Watada's refusal to go to" Iraq and "[a]nother thing that did not go well for the prosecution today was that their own witnesses clearly showed that Lt. Watada tried other methods of expressing . . . [his opposition] to the Iraq war, internally within the military, before coming forward to speak to the public."  Also noting the prosecution's poor performance on Tuesday (when they rested their case), was civil rights attorney Bill Simpich who told Geoffrey Millard (Truthout): "The prosecution asked too many questions.  By the time it was over, the prosecution witness had become a defense witness because the field was open.  The defense was able to ask nuanced questions, it told the story clearly to the jury."  On Wednesday, Judge Toilet began talking mistrial and, due to the lousy performance by the prosecution, it was seen as an attempt at a "do over" even before he called the mistrial
That was last week and, since then, many legal experts have weighed in to offer that, as Watada's civilian attorney Eric Seitz has stated, Watada can't be retried without double-jeopardy entering into the picture.  John Catalinotto (Socialist Worker) observes: "Watada's military defense lawyer -- appointed by the Army -- Capt. Mark Kim, said that he agreed with Seitz's interpretation of military law."  Geov Parrish (Eat The State) offers that Watada may have won not just the round but the battle: "How did this happen?  It happened because one young officer stuck to his principles, even under enormous pressure, and the Army didn't know how to react.  Its handling of the case has allowed Ehren Watada -- young, photogenic, articulate, and deeply moral -- to become a folk hero within the antiwar movement, so much so that even his (supportive) parents have become minor celebrities in their own rights.  US House Rep and 2008 presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich issued a statement last week:  "The court improperly denied Lt. Watada's right to a dfense by blocking him from explaining why he believes the war in Iraq is illegal.  Procedural decisions by the court have effectively denied Lt. Watada the right to engage in a protected activity -- freedom of speech.  This [the declaration of a mistrial] is a significant ruling which empowers people to speak out against this unjust war."
Jim Cohen (Pepperdine University's The Graphic) ties recent news on the US administration's lies into the Watada story: "A recent report from the Pentagon has concluded that the former policy chief from the Pentagon, Douglas J. Feith, took 'inappropriate' actions by advancing unsubstantiated evidence to bolster the Bush administration's case for war in Iraq.  Watada's justification of abstention to fight in Iraq has, in fact, been substantiated.  This new information will hopefully give Watada the peace of mind by knowing he was right for following his former commander's advice to study everything, our government's arguments for going to war in Iraq as well as the purpose of the mission.  By failing to do this kind of hard work, the commander in chief has left the troops without a mission caught in the middle of a civil sectarian war."
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, Tim Richard 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.
Dave Ward (The Gazette) profiles Tim Richard, a war resister from Iowa who now attends the University of Western Ontario, who tells Ward: "I joined the army with the idea that I would be defending America.  But Iraq has nothing to do with defending America. . . . I did have to pay some personal prices.  My marriage broke up over it.  Not to mention [I lost] what I had identified myself as, which was a U.S. soldier, a very patriotic American.  At the same time, I did what I felt was the right thing to do -- which was not to participate in something I knew to be wrong.  So I don't regret doing that."
Meanwhile Lance Hering's parents have been interviewed by Jodi Brooks for Boulder's CBS affiliate (CBS4).  Hering, a marine who served in Iraq, was on leave and back in the United States when he disappeared on an August 29th hike.  Hering, whose rank is Lance Cpl., has no made press statements but the friend he was hiking with has maintained they staged/arranged Hering's disappearance so that he would not have to return to Iraq.  That is what his friend, Steve Powers, has told the press.  Hering has not spoken to the press.  He may or may not be a war resister.  His parents, Lloyd and Ellyne Hering, tell Brooks that Lance's disappearance has led them to begin "talking about the war.  Lloyd said he and Ellyne realized that supporting the troops meant stopping the war.  Lloyd and Ellyne have traveled to Washington, D.C. twice to urge Congress to stop funding the war.  Ellyne writes postcards as part of a nationwide campaign to stop special appropriations for Iraq."  Lloyd Hering tells Brooks: "We're here to help him whenever he decides to come back.  He'll get legal help, financial help, counseling help, and all the love that we can provide anytime he comes back."
Also in the United States, the House of Representatives passed their nonbinding resolution opposing Bully Boy's planned escalation of US troops in Iraq.  As noted by Kris Welch in the middle of KPFA's Living Room, the vote was 246 in favor of the resolution and 182 against.  Nicholas Johnston (Bloomberg News) puts it this way: "The House of Representatives renounced President George W. Bush's latest strategy to resolve the four-year war in Iraq, passing a nonbinding resolution that disapproves of his decision to send about 21,000 more U.S. troops to the conflict.  The vote may be the strongest rebuke of a president during wartime since Congress in 1970 rescinded the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that authorized military action in Southeast Asia."  Susan Cornwell (Reuters) notes the measure was "symoblic but politically potent".  M.E. Sprengelmeyer (Rocky Mountain News) offers excerpts (text) of statements made during the days of deliberation by Colorado Representatives and KPFA has exceprts (audio) of Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner, John Conyers, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Thompson, Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee, Mike Honda, Ellen Tauscher.  As CNN notes, the Senate now prepares to vote on the resolution tomorrow (yes, that is Saturday, yes they will be in session).
Yesterday US Rep Dennis Kucinch noted that the measure "is a nonbinding resolution.  The war, however, is binding.  The real -- and Constitutional -- power of Congress, as a co-equal branch of government, is to cut off fund for an immoral and illegal war.  Money is there right now to bring our troops home, and bringing our brave troops home is part of a plan that involves enlisting the support of the United Nations to mobilize international peacekeepers so our men and women can come home.  I have a 12-point plan which I have circulated among Members of Congress as to how we can get out of Iraq.  The American people will not tolerate nonbinding resolutions as being an excuse for strong and substantive action to end the war as quickly as possible."  Meanwhile Reps Lynn Woolsey, Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters issued their statement on the measure yesterday as well (Roll Call via Truthout): "Contrary to Republican claims that Democrats have no alternative plan for Iraq, there are in fact several on the table.  Our own comprehensive bill, the Bring Our Troops Home and Sovereignty of Iraq Resotration Act, would complete a fully funded military withdrawal from Iraq within six months while ensuring that our troops and contractors leave safely and accelerate the training of Iraqi security forces.  In addition, our bill would remove the specter of an endless occupation by preventing the establishment of permanent military bases and reiterate our commitment, at the invitation of the Iraqi government, to working with the international community to assist Iraq in its reconstruction and reconciliation efforts.  We also would stand ready, if asked by the Iraqis, to participate in an international stabilization force."
US Rep Maxine Waters is BuzzFlash's Wings of Justice honoree for the week and among the examples cited is this statement Waters made on the House floor: "The citizens of this country are sick and tired of this war.  It is not enough to talk the talk.  You have got to walk the walk.  They know the difference between nuancing and posturing, and they want action.
. . .  They will know whether or not we mean business if we are prepared to stop funding this war." 
Meanwhile, Matthew Schofield (McClatchy Newspapers) surveys Soviet veterans of the Afghanistan war and learns "many soldiers who fought there believe they're seeing history repeat itself.  The United States -- then the force behind the Afghan resistance -- now appears trapped in a similar downward spiral in Iraq, besieged by a collection of forces not unlike those it trained and equipped to crippled the Soviets two decades ago."  This as AP notes that Philip H. Bloom "whose companies made more than $8 million in Iraq reconstruction money through a gifts-for contracts scheme was sentenced Friday to nearly four years in prison."  And as the AP reports that "three top auditors overseeing work in Iraq told a House committee their review of $57 billion in Iraq contracts found that Defense and State department officials condoned or allowed repeated work delays, bloated expenses and payments for shoddy work or work never done. . .  Of the $10 billion in overpriced contracts or undocumented costs, more than $2,7 billion were charged by Halliburton Co., the oil-field services company once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney."
Would you rather have health insurance
you can actually aford, or bomb Iraq?
Would you rather have enough inspectors
to keep your kids from getting poisoned
by bad hamburgers, or bomb Iraq?
Would you rather breate clean air
and drink water free from pesticides
and upriver sh*t, or bomb Iraq?
-- "Choices," by Marge Piercy, Poets Against The War, p. 179
Stephany Kerns (Military Families Speak Out, mother of Nickolas Schiavoni who was killed November 15, 2005 in Iraq) writes: "Every time I hear George Bush talk about his determination to make those tax cuts of his permanent it makes me so upset.  In reality, he is setting up this scenario: military families grandchildren will be part of the population that pays for this war.  If these tax cuts are made permanent, it won't be George Bush or Dick Cheney's grandchildren that pay for it.  It will be your grandchildren and my grandchildren who pay. Yes, my grandchildren, who lost their father in this war, will pay for the war that killed their Dad."  Grandparents are in other binds as well.  Donna St. George (Washington Post) reports on children being raised by grandparents when their parent dies in Iraq and finds that it's not at all uncommon for the $100,000 benefit to either be held (until the child turns 18) or to go elsewhere (such as the husband of Hannah McKinney who got her $400,000 life insurance but is not taking care of her son -- her parents Barbie and Matt Heavrin are.)  The stories are all too common and the lack of foresight and compassion on the part of the US administration (can't have it all when you're rushing into an illegal war) is echoed in the (mis)treatment of veterans.  Aaron Glantz (IPS) reports on the lack of a support system, the lack of money and the lack of oversight in the supposed 'care' for returning veterans.
In Iraq?  It's Friday.  There's never a great deal of reporting coming out of Iraq about Iraqis.  Officials?  Maybe on a day where they issue non-stop statements. 
Reuters notes a roadside bomb in Kirkuk that killed one person and left three more wounded.  Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an IED killed one Iraqi soldier and left another wounded in Baghdad.
Reuters notes the discovery of eleven corpses in Baghdad and four in Mosul.
Kim Gamel (AP) reports that Iraqi Brig. Gen. Qassim Moussawi claims the "only 10 bodies" (eleven) demonstrates "a big reduction in terror and killing operations in Baghdad" because the average is 40 or 50 corpses and that his remarks were echoed by US Major General Joseph Fil.  Really?  I suppose some will buy it, some idiots. 
But the reality is the figures come from Iraqi officials and US officials.  Which may be why many have ignored noting the deaths in the past few days.  So citing a decrease in figures you largely control the release of really proves nothing.   That also explains why the shooting deaths the press is reporting today are from Thursday.  (As AFP notes, they previously tried to pitch five corpses as success.)  It'll be interesting to see if "___ died February 16th" announcements are released tomorrow, Saturday or Sunday by the US military.
Ned Parker and Michael Evans (Times of London) paint a more accurate picture of the latest 'extreme crackdown' in Baghdad noting that both it "and Basra ground to a halt yesterday" which is why the crackdown -- ongoing since June in Baghdad -- has never been a 'strategy' or a 'plan.'  It's a holding move and every few weeks, the US administration and the puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki, increase it even more.
Tom Hayden (Huffington Post) offers four points to end the illegal war and occupation and we'll focus on the first: "Stop funding a sectarian Baghdad regime based on lethal militias. . . . . The coalition is carrying out ethnic cleansing in the name of security.  Baghdad, once a mixed city of five million people, is dominated by a huge Shi'a majority."  [Hayden recommends the creation of a transitional regime.] 
Nader spoke with Kris Welch today on KPFA's Living Room and noted of the two party system that encourages cowardice, "We've got to really ask ourselves, 'What's our breaking point?'  . . . [when you make no demands]  You just say, 'You've got my vote, take it and run with it.'  If you don't make demands . . . the corporate interests are pulling in the other directions 24 hours a day.  which is why both parties get worse when you engage in least worst voting without putting demands on the least worst candidate."  He also noted that, "The Democrats have become very good in the last 20 years at electing very bad Republicans."
Finally, as Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted today: "College and high school students across the nation walked out class Thursday in a national student strike against the Iraq war. In California, an estimated 1,000 students at UC Santa Barbara blocked traffic on a freeway. Up to 3,000 students turned out for an anti-war rally at UC Berkeley. And at least four hundred rallied at Columbia University here in New York. More than a dozen other schools took part around the country."

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