Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Other Items

I am working to fix the new proposal drafted by several Senate Democrats, which at this point basically reads like a new authorization. I will not vote for anything that the President could read as an authorization for continuing with a large military campaign in Iraq. Deauthorizing the President's failed Iraq policy may be an appropriate next step if done right, but the ultimate goal needs to be using our Constitutionally-granted power of the purse to bring this catastrophe to an end.

The above is "Statement of U.S. Senator Russ FeingoldOn the Current Democratic Proposal to Repeal the Iraq War Authorization." Something to keep in mind as we wait and await (and wait and await some more) Congressional action on the illegal war. On that topic, Melanie notes Anne Flaherty's "Democratic Leaders to Finalize Iraq Plan" (AP via Truthout):

House Democratic leaders are developing an anti-war proposal that wouldn't cut off money for U.S. troops in Iraq while requiring President Bush to acknowledge problems with an overburdened military.
The plan could draw broad bipartisan support but was expected to be a tough sell to members who said they don't think it goes far enough to assuage voters angered by the four-year war.
Bush "hasn't to date done anything we've asked him to do, so why we would think he would do anything in the future is beyond me," said Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., one of a group of liberal Democrats pushing for an immediate end to the war.
Democratic protests to the war grew louder in January after they took control of Congress and Bush announced that he planned to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq. Earlier this month, House Democrats pushed through a nonbinding resolution opposing the troop buildup.
Since then, Democrats have been trying to decide what to do next. Some worried that a plan by Rep. John Murtha to restrict funding for the war would go too far. Murtha, D-Pa., is extending his support to the revised proposal.
The tactic is more likely to embarrass Bush politically than force his hand on the war. He would have to sign repeated waivers for units and report to Congress those units with equipment shortfalls and other problems.
In the Senate, a group of senior Democrats want to repeal the 2002 measure authorizing the war and write a new resolution restricting the mission and ordering troop withdrawals to begin by this summer. But Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Iraq will have to wait until the Senate finishes work to improve homeland security.
"That would mean we would hold off the Iraq legislation for a matter of days, not weeks," he said.

Days, not weeks, says the annoyingly patient Harry Reid. Some have less patience. For good reason. Meanwhile the UK Military of Defence announced today:

It is with deep regret that the MOD must confirm the death of a British soldier in Iraq as a result of an incident on the morning of 27 February 2007.
The soldier was serving with the 2nd Battalion The Rifles (formerly 1st Battalion Royal Green Jackets). He was on a routine patrol in the Al Maqil district of Basra which was attacked by small arms fire.
The soldier sustained very serious injuries and despite receiving the best possible medical care at a field hospital in theatre, he later died from his wounds.

The BBC notes that the above death bringts the total number of UK troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 133. The BBC also notes a car bomb this morning in Baghdad that has killed at least 10 people.

Bombs, deaths, and what of the rapes?

"This set off a firestorm across Iraq," Dahr Jamail reported to Nora Barrows-Friedman on KPFA's Flashpoints yesterday regarding the two reported rapes last week. "It's really just underscored the impotence and futility of this Iraqi government, that they don't have the concerns of the average Iraqi in mind and that's what's really brought people up in protest against this."

But would you know that from the coverage which all seems to be playing Walk On, Meanwhile, Reuters issues this statement: "A report of a bomb killing 18 people, mostly children, on Tuesday in Ramadi was wrong and stemmed from confusion over a similar attack the day before, police officials and residents said. There was no such attack on Tuesday."

That's the soccer field attack that's still bathed in fog and confusion. On that topic, here's
Tina Susman's "Iraq bombers target ice cream shop, restaurants" (Los Angeles Times):

Two weeks after a U.S.-Iraqi security crackdown was launched here, bombers struck popular gathering spots including an ice cream parlor and a kebab shop Tuesday, killing at least eight people.
Police in the capital also reported discovering the bodies of 31 men who had been shot, apparent victims of Shiite death squads. The U.S. military reported the deaths of five more American troops.
Rage and frustration in Baghdad over the continuing bloodshed was accompanied by a sense of confusion over reports of an afternoon incident in Ramadi, where officials said a bomb explosion at a soccer field killed 18 children ranging in age from about 6 to 12.
The reports, which could not be independently verified, led to angry statements by officials including Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, who denounced the "crime against children in their innocent playgrounds" and blamed "criminal gangs."
Other reports, however, raised questions over whether anyone was killed in the Sunni-dominated city in Al Anbar province.
The U.S. military said it set off a controlled explosion in Ramadi in the afternoon that went awry, sending shrapnel and glass flying and injuring 31 people, including several children.
None of the injuries was life-threatening, said Lt. Col. Josslyn Aberle, a military spokeswoman.
"I know there are reports children were killed out there. Those are incorrect," Aberle said, adding that the military had no reports of any other blasts in Ramadi.
Whatever the case in Ramadi, attacks continue relentlessly across Iraq despite the launching Feb. 13 of the new security plan. The deadliest have struck civilian targets and bore the hallmark of Sunni insurgents.

What's going on? As it stands now, two explosions -- the soccer field on Monday, the US demolition on Tuesday.

And the demolition of Iraqi oil continues even if few bother to note it. Markus steers us to
Emad Mekay's "New Oil Law Seen as Cover for Privatisation" (IPS):

The U.S.-backed Iraqi cabinet approved a new oil law Monday that is set to give foreign companies the long-term contracts and safe legal framework they have been waiting for, but which has rattled labour unions and international campaigners who say oil production should remain in the hands of Iraqis.
Independent analysts and labour groups have also criticised the process of drafting the law and warned that that the bill is so skewed in favour of foreign firms that it could end up heightening political tensions in the Arab nation and spreading instability.
For example, it specifies that up to two-thirds of Iraq's known reserves would be developed by multinationals, under contracts lasting for 15 to 20 years.
This policy would represent a u-turn for Iraq's oil industry, which has been in the public sector for more than three decades, and would break from normal practice in the Middle East.
According to local labour leaders, transferring ownership to the foreign companies would give a further pretext to continue the U.S. occupation on the grounds that those companies will need protection.
Union leaders have complained that they, along with other civil society groups, were left out of the drafting process despite U.S. claims it has created a functioning democracy in Iraq.
Under the production-sharing agreements provided for in the draft law, companies will not come under the jurisdiction of Iraqi courts in the event of a dispute, nor to the general auditor.
The ownership of the oil reserves under this draft law will remain with the state in form, but not in substance, critics say.

Kyle found a highlight already this morning via Marcia's highlight earlier this morning. Conor Reed and Steve Leigh's "We support war resisters" (Socialist Worker):

War resister Spc. Mark Wilkerson pleaded guilty to desertion on February 22 in a military court, with antiwar protesters showing their support.
Wilkerson went AWOL in 2005 after the Army rejected the conscientious objector status he requested after being called up for a second deployment to Iraq. On Thursday, he was sentenced to military prison for seven months.
For Wilkerson, who enlisted into the Army by age 17 and took part in the 2003 invasion in Iraq, going back in 2005 was not an option.
In a statement titled "
My Conscience is Clear," posted a day after his imprisonment, Wilkerson writes, "I could not deploy to a foreign land with a weapon in my hand, representing my government. I am not willing to kill, or be killed for my government. When I enlisted in the Army, I thought I would be able to, but after Iraq, my beliefs became such that I could no longer participate."
The day after Wilkerson's trial, the Army hit back at Lt. Ehren Watada --the first U.S. officer to refuse orders to serve in Iraq whose first court-martial resulted in a mistrial last month--refiling charges against him in Ft. Lewis, Wash.

In the months before Watada's mistrial, protest played a key role in drawing attention to his case. Antiwar activists rallied all over the country in support of Watada, with 1,000 people turning out to support him near the gates of Ft. Lewis during his trial.

And Carl notes "TV coverage shows broadening GI protest" (Workers World):

On the other front inside the military, the cases of three soldiers who refused to fight in Iraq are in the news.
Agustin Aguayo, an Army medic who has filed for conscientious-objector status, faces a court-martial on March 6 in Manheim, Germany. Aguayo is charged with desertion and missing movement because of his refusal to go to Iraq. If convicted of all charges, he faces a maximum of seven years in prison. For an entire year while in Iraq Aguayo refused to load his weapon.
Army Specialist Mark Wilkerson, who pled guilty to the charges against him, was sentenced on Feb. 22 to seven months in prison for refusing to return to Iraq. He had written about his experience there: "In the year I was in Iraq, I saw kids waving American flags in the first months. Then they threw rocks. Then they planted IEDs. Then they blew themselves up in city squares full of people. ... Hundreds of billions of American dollars, thousands of American lives, and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives have all been wasted in this war. I feel as though many more soldiers want to say things like this, but are afraid of retribution, and who’s really listening anyway."
Wilkerson has been active in antiwar demonstrations and participated in the Camp Casey gathering in Texas in the summer of 2005, and later turned himself in at Camp Casey.
The first court-martial of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, perhaps the best known of the war resisters, ended on Feb. 7 in a mistrial. His attorney, Eric Seitz, argued at the time that by calling a mistrial the military had forfeited the trial, since to charge him again would be "double jeopardy," a constitutional provision that prevents the government from trying someone twice for the same charge.

And the last word goes to Mark Wilkerson who was sentenced to seven months imprisonment last Thursday. "My Conscience Is Clear:"

I am now a twenty three year old man. When I made the decision to join the Army, I was a boy. When I made the decision to go AWOL I was still in many ways a boy.
I realize in retrospect that going AWOL may not have been the right decision for me to make, but given the circumstances I found myself in at that time, I felt it was the only logical decision for me. I felt as though I wasn't being taken seriously by my chain-of-command. I was crushed when my conscientious objector application was denied. I had failed somehow in conveying in words just what I felt in my head and heart, and that was that I could not, in good conscience, serve as a soldier in the United States Army. I could not deploy to a foreign land with a weapon in my hand, representing my government. I am not willing to kill, or be killed for my government. When I enlisted in the Army, I thought I would be able to, but after Iraq, my beliefs became such that I could no longer participate.
This was what I told my chain-of-command. I felt they didn't care what I said or believed. So I fled. I quit my job. No other occupation in the United States punishes you as badly as what the military does for quitting your job. But that's ok. I'm willing to face whatever punishment the government deems appropriate.
In my Battalion's Retention Office, there is a quote by Retired Army General Bernard Rogers, and it states "This is a volunteer force. Soldiers volunteer to meet our standards. If they don't meet them, we should thank them for trying and send them home." Well, I enlisted into the Army with the best intentions. I had other options. But I wanted to serve my country. And when I felt my country was doing the very thing we pretend to condone, I took a stand. And to me that is the core of democracy. If the Army feels as though I didn't meet the standards, they should thank me for trying and send me home. There's no lesson prison can teach me. Prison is established for criminals who committed crimes that the majority of our society can say in morally wrong. And with this crime, I don’t know if that can be said. Even though I committed a crime, I'm no criminal. And even if I do go to prison, I'm no longer a prisoner. My conscience is clear. I'm no menace to society. I have stayed true to myself and my moral code throughout my life, and that will never change. Just let me live my life, and I know I will live it well.

Wilkerson is expected to remain imprisoned until September. The judge could release him early.

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