Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, February 21, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, Mr. Tony soaks up headlines with his non-statements, Abeer was gang raped but the same press that couldn't mention her name appears too delicate to use the word "gang rape" (one wire report even uses "assault" to avoid the term "rape" -- such shy maidens), the Black Hawk was shot down and it takes the US military the better part of a daily news cycle to come forward with that information, and rape may be the thing that finally gets the puppet pulled from Baghdad as he continues to botch things up.
Starting with Mr. Tony.  Tony Blair, Bully Boy's lapdog and personal poodle, was hailed during a mini-news cycle for his talk of bringing British troops home.  Now the bloom is off the rose as reality sets in.  AFP and Reuters report that 5,500 British troops will remain in Iraq, as Mr. Tony puts it, "for as long as we are needed."  Mr. Tony had hoped to use the slight withdrawal as the staging for a series of victory laps as he prepares to step down as prime minister but, as with his earlier plans of how to get slavish praise from the press, it didn't turn out quite the way he wanted.  Mark Rice-Oxley and Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) note that it's only a 25% withdrawal of British forces from Iraq.
Interviewed by Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) today, Tony Benn cut through Mr. Tony's nonsense noting that "there wasn't really any change.  But Blair is due to retire in a matter of weeks.  And I'm afraid, I suspect, that this is a gimmick at this stage, so that he can claim that the mission is being accomplished and, therefore, the troops can be withdrawn.  And on the question of Iran, he repeated ominous warnings.  So I don't think too much will be read into this."  Amy Goodman noted: "Here you have Tony Blair just moments ago making this announcement in the House of Commons.  Then you have Cheney speaking on an aircraft carrier near Tokyo, saying the American people will not support a policy of retreat."
Goodman was referring to Cheney's attempt to shore up the support of the Japanese government in a little trip that Brendan Murray (Bloomberg News) reports didn't turn into a love-fest what with the embassy 'greeting' of "Yankee Go Home" blared over a speaker as he arrived and the lies and fear he has to resort to in order to get even a sliver of copy.  Pulling from his bag of tricks, Dick -- who avoided Vietnam -- is using the same if-we-leave-they-will-come-after-us.  Now that didn't frighten Dickie enough to enlist during Vietnam but he obviously thinks the American people are stupider than he is (prolonged exposure to the Bully Boy will make one feel smarter).  As for the retreat, perhaps it's time polls started asking "Should Cheney and Bully Boy announce a retreat from their war" because that is how many Americans see this illegal war.  Murray notes 63% of Americans now favor US forces pulling out of Iraq.
Though Cheney attempts to scare up support for the war and put the blame for inept leadership on the backs of the American people, Sharon Smith (CounterPunch) voices the reality that more Americans are coming around to: "The Iraq war marks the first major war in the last century fought in the interests of America's ruling elite without even the pretense of 'shared sacrifice.'  During the First World War, the tax rate for top income earners stood at 77 percent; during the Second World War, at 94 percent.  Even during Vietnam, the wealthiest taxpayers faced a rate of 70 percent on personal income.  Yet, as the bloodletting in Iraq has been proven a war for nothing more than U.S. control over Middle Eastern oil, the corporate class continues to enjoy an income tax rate that has been capped at only 35 percent since 2003 -- the year the U.S. invaded Iraq.  Bush's plan to permanently extend these tax cuts, which are set to expire in 2010 would cost an estimated $211 billion in 2012 and $1.6 trillion over the next decade.  Added to their profit windfalls and soaring executive salaries, the corporate class has every reason to celebrate.  Bush's budget makes clear that the growing numbers of economically disadvantaged Americans -- already supplying the cannon fodder to kill and die in Iraq and Afghanistan -- must also continue to shoulder the suffocating financial burden for U.S. imperialism's twenty-first centruy follies.Bush's budget proposal brazenly takes aim at veterans themselves, nearly doubling their out-of-pocket fees from $8 to $15 for prescription medications when they return home from a war zone battered and traumatized, and often looking for work.  In this war, only the working class is expected to sacrifice."
Smith's statements are echoed in the AP data  Kimberly Hefling (AP) reported on yesterday which found that those Americans paying the costs with their own lives tend to come from small, rural communities "where the per capita income was below the national average. More than half came from towns where the percentage of people living in poverty topped the national average."
Meanwhile, speaking with Jason Farbman and Darrin Hoop (Socialist Worker), US war resister Darrell Anderson explains why he decided to return to the US and turn himself in, 
"I felt that I had to go to jail and stand with these other resisters.  There's nothing more powerful than soldiers who have been to Iraq saying that it's wrong, and we're not going to do it again.  That's where I believe the heart of the movement is -- in these 20 or 30 or 40 of us who resisted now. . . .  When I turned myself in, they gave me a piece of paper that asked why I'd gone AWOL.  I said because I'm a combat veteran, I have post-traumatic stress, and the war is wrong.  Basically, I said that I dare you to put my uniform on me, put my Purple Heart on me and send me to prison so people can see that we're going to jail."  On the topic of Ehren Watada and court-martials, Anderson declares: "These court-martials are the front line of where we're fighting the war.  This needs to be the focus for the antiwar movement -- Watada and all the war resisters.  We need more soldiers like Watada, and more soldiers who come back from Iraq and say, 'I'm a veteran, I watched my buddies die in Iraq, and now I'm going to jail because I won't do it anymore."
Agustin Aguayo is set for a March 6th court-martial in Germany.  Eric Ruder (Socialist Worker) speaks to Helga Aguayo, Agustin's wife, who tells him: "One of the care packages sent to the soldiers was a book on the history of Iraq.  He said that it really changed what he believed, I mean he was a conscientious objector, he believed that killing was wrong, but after reading that book he realized that the war in Iraq has essentially been created for the personal gain of a few people.  What he told me was that for a few corporations, it's in their best interests to keep the chaos going in Iraq.  And he just came to believe that killing is wrong, but this war is wrong, too, because it's all motivated by money."
Anderson, Aguayo and Watada are a part of a movement of resistance with the military that includes others such as Kyle Snyder, Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Mark Wilkerson, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Joshua Key, Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Corey Glass, 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.
Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the following bombings in Baghdad, a roadside bomb on Al Jadiria Bridge that killed one police officer and left three more wounded, a parked car bomb that killed two civilians left seven wounded and 25 poisoned from bottles of Chlroine gas that were in the car, a parked car bomb in Sadr city that took 3 lives and left five more wounded, a mortar attack that wounded 2 police officers near a bus station, a mortar attack the killed three people and left ten wounded.  Reuters notes a mortar attack that "wounded four children in Adil district in western Baghdad."  Outside of Baghdad, Reuters notes 11 people dead 38 wounded in Najaf from a car bomb.  Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports: "Diyala - Mortar shelling targeted Al Abara town north of Baqouba. The shelling claimed the life of one resident and injured other three. - A security source in Baladrouz city (45 Km east of Baqouba) said that men in Iraqi military uniforms raided the houses of Al Shah town (6 km from Baladrouz) and executed 17 men."  And AFP reports: "In the flashpoint northern city of Kirkuk, a hub of Iraq's oil industry that is disputed by Kurds and Arabs, a car bomb and two booby-traps exploded in Kurdish areas, wounding 19 people, police Captain Imad Jassim told AFP
Reuters reports seven corpses discovered in western Baghdad today and, on Tuesday, 25 discovered in Baghdad, 8 in Mosul.
Today, the US military announced: " A Marine assigned to Multi-National Force-West was killed Feb. 20 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province."  And they announced: "On Feb. 20, an MND-B unit was conducting a clearing operation in order to search a residential area and reduce the levels of violence in a northern urban district of the Iraqi capital when they received small arms fire, killing one Soldier."
In other US military news do the paid flacks enjoy spinning?  Do they ever get tired of egg on their face?  The day began with news of a Black Hawk having a "hard landing" north of Baghdad.  It's a crash.  It's not a "hard landing."  Later in the day, the US military released this statement: "A U.S. Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter went down today north of Baghdad while conducting operations."  Still later, CBS and AP reported: "A U.S. helicopter that crashed Wednesday north of Baghdad was shot down, the military said, reversing its initial statement that the chopper made a 'hard landing.' Military spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver said all the occupants were safely evacuated by a second helicopter."  Nine people on board and the military didn't know from the start what happened? 
Turning to the topic of rape, we'll start with Abeer Qassim Hamza al-JanabiAndrea Hopkins (Reuters) reports on Paul Cortez confession ("broke down in tears as he described how he and others planned the rape of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, murdered along with her family") that those paying attention in November already knew of when James P. Barker confessed -- gang rape of Abeer, she's then shot dead, kerosene is poured on her body as they try to burn her body and hide the evidence of their crimes, etc.  Hopkins "While we were playing cards Barker and Green started talking about having sex with an Iraq female" -- only rape isn't "sex," is it? -- "Barker and Green had already known" where Abeer, 14-years-old, lived "what house they wanted to go to . . . knew only one male was in the house, and knew it would be an easy target."
Now let's remember that Carolyn Marshall and Robert F. Worth of the New York Times worked overtime to cover up what happened -- the paper even refused to print Abeer's name or a photo of her, USA Today was able to locate photos of her and her family -- but the Times was far from alone.  Those brave voices sat the summer out.  Scolds online tried to intimidate people into even discussing the case with b.s. about "Don't you dare call them baby killers!"  We never called the gang rapists of Abeer 'baby killers' -- apparently someone had slapped their bumper stickers across their brains.  What they did do was murder two parents, a 14-year-old and a 5-year-old.  Cortez, confronted with evidence and the confession of Barker wants to blubber in court  -- he should and it doesn't change the fact that they stalked Abeer, they planned to rape her and he can kid that it was "sex" all he wants but it was gang rape.
Let's repeat that because the press seems to have a really hard time doing so: GANG RAPE.  Three men taking turns raping a female is GANG RAPE.  It's not just rape -- as bad as rape is -- it's GANG RAPE.  Abeer was gang raped and while she was being gang raped she could hear the gun going off as her parents and her sister were shot dead.  Barker and Cortez both say that Steven D. Green killed the three, then he joined them in the living room where he raped Abeer and then shot her dead.  Green will get to offer his version in a civilian court.
But a 14-year-old girl was gang raped and murdered, while she was being gang raped she heard her own parents and her five-year-old sister being murdered.  And all the little enablers from May to now, the ones who helped shut this story down, need to step into the real world and own up to the fact that despite their denials and their silences, Abeer was gang raped and murdered by US soldiers. In retaliation, US soldiers who had nothing to do with the gang rapes were killed. But for some of the big babies (and this includes the Big Babies of the left) it was more important to live in denial than to acknowledge what happened to Abeer.
Cortez states of his part in the gang rape, "She kept squirming and trying to keep her legs closed and saying stuff in Arabic.  During the time me and Barker were raping Abeer, I heard five or six gunshots that came from the bedroom.  After Barker was done, Green came out of the bedroom and said that he had killed them all, that all of them were dead.  Green then placed himself between Abeer's legs to rape her".  Somehow the report leaves out the drinking before and after, the changing of clothes after, the grilling of chicken breasts and the party atmosphere that followed these crimes.  Hopkins tells you he was tearful.  So was Abeer back when she could still cry.
As CNN reported during the August Article 32 hearing,  Captain Alex Pickands' closing remarks included: "They gathered over cards and booze to come up with a plan to rape and murder that little girl. She was young and attractive. They knew where she was because they had seen her on a previous patrol. She was close. She was vulnerable."  It's really amazing that these war crimes received a stronger rebuke from the military than they did from much of the so-called left press.

Meanwhile the Iraqi government is much more involved in the allegations of another rape.  As noted yesterday, a 20-year-old woman told Al Jazeera that she was detained by a Shia militia and gang raped.  Recapping, Nouri al-Maliki voiced some of the same strong statements he made when Abeer was in the news last year.  However, he backed off even quicker.  After promising a full investigation, he then issued a statement calling the woman a liar, saying she would be charged criminally, and denying that anything had happened.  The US press still can't report what the European press reported yesterday -- that Omar Jaburi maintains an "initial hospital report confirmed what she has said."  However, Marc Santora (New York Times) reports: "A nurse who said she treated the woman after the attack said that she saw signs of sexual and physical assault. The woman, according to the nurse, could identify one of her attackers because he was not wearing a mask, as were the others, and could identify a second attacker by a mark on his genitals."
This as Hamza Hendawi (AP) reports that Nouri al-Mailiki has fired the head of the Sunni Endowments, Abdul-Ghafour al-Samaraie, for calling "for an international investigation into the rape allegations leveled by a Sunni Arab woman against three members of the Shiite- dominated security forces."  CBS and AP report that Willie Caldwell, Giddiest Gabor in the Green Zone, has confirmed that the US military took the woman to a hospital but says that patient privacy prevents him from adding much more.  They also note a 'report' al-Maliki faxed to the media which is one page of a three page report that has no name on it and appears to prove nothing. al-Maliki has been teetering for months with many of his US handlers eager to dump him.  The way he's botched this incident makes that very easy to do so now.

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