Thursday, March 01, 2007

Iraq snapshot

March 1, 2007.  Chaos and violence continues in Iraq, Sara Rich continues fighting for her daughter, the US military is obsessed with Kyle Snyder, and Walter Reed Medical Center was such a disaster that Joyce Rumsfeld was raising flags (wife of Donald Rumsfeld).
On NPR's Morning Edition today, it was noted that month of February started as ended -- with bombings of Iraqi markets.  AFP notes the (undercount) by the Iraqi ministries of February deaths -- 1,646 -- and notes that the hard-sell is "down eight percent" from January but the reality is "[t]he figure is still vastly higher, however, than the 548 people killed in February 2006".  The month was also marked by rapes.  Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) examine the reaction (or Nouri al-Maliki's non-reaction) to the gang rape of Sabrine al-Janabi, the 20 year-old woman who came forward last week, as well as the 50-year-old woman that followed her -- both women were gang-raped by Iraqi security forces and Ahmed Mukhtar tells IPS, "The Iraqi police are following the examples of those who trained them.  American soldiers did it more than a thousand times and got away with it.  They sentenced that soldier who killed Abeer after rpaing her with a hundred years imprisonment, but we Iraqis are not fools, and we know he will be on parole sooner than he hopes."  Dahr spoke with Nora Barrows-Friedman about this topic on  KPFA's Flashpoints Tuesday and noted that the rapes are receiving more media attention in the Arab world than in the US media.  If the goal is to uninform the American public, corporate media take your bow. 
Turning to the topic of war resisters, Jessica Hegdahl (UCD Advocate) references MLK ("War is a poor chisel for carving out a peaceful future.") and sees the continuation of peace in Ehren Watada: "There's a radical solution to the problem of Iraq.  It lies in the simple observation that 'to stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers can choose to stop fighting it.'  These words were spoken by Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to resist deployment to Iraq, facing up to four years in jail.  Every soldier, commissioned or enlisted, who opposes the war in Iraq must eventually decide between his conscience and his orders.  When your country is ordering you to complete an illegal and immoral act, are you not obliged to refuse?  It would be far better for the members of our military to refuse to deploy, face imprisonment or other punishment, than to obey their contracts with the United States military, which allow for the killing of innocent Iraqis."
Ehren Watada, in June of last year, became the first officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq.  A three-day court-martial took place at the start of this month but Judge Toilet called a mistrial over the objections of the defense and, last Friday, the military refiled charges against him.  Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) reports that the pretrial motions are currently set for May 20th with the court-martial scheduled "for July 16-20."  Justin Ward (Austin Chronicle) weighs in on war resister Mark Wilkerson who was court-martialed and sentenced last Thursday (to seven months in prison) and notes that Ann Wright ("a former Army colonel and State Department official who resigned in protest of the Iraq war") spoke to a gathering of Wilkerson supporters the Wednesday before his court-martial: "They are the ones that are willing to put their bodies on the line -- not on the line for murdering or criminal activity but on the line for conscience and morality and to hold accountable an administration that is putting our nation at risk."
Watada and Wilkerson are part of a movement of resistance with the military that includes others such as Kyle Snyder, Agustin Aguayo (who will be court-martialed in Germany, Tuesday, March 6th), Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Joshua Key, 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, Hart Viges, 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.
Today, reports that "U.S. war resister Kyle Snyder was arrested in British Columbia for unspecified immigration violations.  Police in Nelson, BC barged into Snyder's home, handcuffed him, and hauled him off to jail.  The police had no warrant.  Snyder, who was wearing only a robe and boxer shorts at the time, was not allowed to put on clothes or shoes.  He was not read his rights or allowed to call his lawyer.  Nelson police told him he would be deported to the U.S., where he is wanted for unahtorized absence from the U.S. Army."  Snyder is sharing a house with US war resister Ryan Johnson and his wife Jenna who immediately began making calls.  The article notes: "Joci Peri, an Immigration official in Vancouver, later told Snyder he had been arrested at the request of the U.S. Army.  Being AWOL from another country's military is not an extraditable offense in Canada, nor does it have any bearing on immigration to Canada, according to Vancouver lawyer Daniel McLeod, who is representing Snyder.  'And the U.S. Army is not the boss of the Canadian police,' says Gerry Condon of Project Safe Haven."
Now let's be really clear, the US military has thought from day one they could screw with Snyder.  They thought that when returned to the US in October of last year and turned himself in only to find the military throw out the agreement the second his previous lawyer left the base.  When Snyder was still in the US and traveling around speaking out against the war, the military began alerting the police to his appearances in the hopes that they would arrest him.  (Which really isn't the way it works in the US.  When a service member self-checks out, he or she is more likely to be arrested while being stopped on a traffic violation than via some 'manhunt.')  Kyle finished his speaking tour and he returned to Candada.  Now the US military is targeting him still.  As shameful as it is that the police of British Columbia were willing to break the law and follow orders from another nation's military, it's just as shameful that the US military appeared to think they could illegally extract someone from a country. 
Turning to activism in the US, today Kris Welch, on KPFA's Living Room, noted the Democrats inaction on the illegal war still and asked, "You are the bloody party in power now, what are you going to do?" Welch's guests included Robin Schirmer of  CODEPINK's Chicago branch and they discussed US Senator Dick Durbin's way of avoiding constituents
who are against the war -- he's set up a new policy where you can only visit his offices if you have an appointment and, snarkier yet, the office then severely limits the number of appointments each day.  Durbin is among the Senators with the "honor" of being able to brag that his offices have arrested constituents this month -- Senators Barack Obama and John McCain can also grab "bragging rights" to that.
Kathy Kelly also spoke with Welch about the Occupation Project which was launched on February 5th to get elected members of Congress to pledge not to vote for futher funding for the illegal war.  Kelly noted that there was no need for an ammendment to the supplemental Bully Boy wants, just don't vote for the supplemental.  She also suggested people begin asking their Congress members, "How many constituents are calling you asking you to prolong the war?"  Exactly. And it comes as CBS and AP report: "Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives are developing an anti-war proposal that would not cut off money for U.S. troops in Iraq but would require President George Bush to acknowledge problems with an overburdened military. The plan could draw bipartisan support but is expected to be a tough sell to members who say they do not think it goes far enough to assuage voters angered by the four-year conflict."  Or, for that matter, do a damn thing.
In Iraq today.
Alexandra Zavis (Los Angels Times) reports on the helicopter crash (following the military's lead, everyone's calling it a "hard landing") and notes: "At least eight other helicopters have crashed or been forced down by ground fire this year, raising concern that insurgents are targeting U.S. aircraft in a new front to undermine stepped-up security efforts.  The U.S. military has increasingly relied on helicopters to ferry troops and supplies to avoid the deadly roadside bombs that have been the major killer of its troops."
Dalia Hassan (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a bomb in Baghdad injured two police officers, another bomb in Baghdad killed "[o]ne employee of Baghdad's provincial council was killed and 4 others were injured," while, in Diyala, a child was injured in a mortar attack.
Reuters reports a car bombing in Falljua that killed five people (en route to a wedding) and left 10 more wounded, a roadside bomb in Mahaweel that wounded 9 people and killed 1 person, a roadside bomb in Mosul killed a security guard. AFP notes a bombing "in a cemetery in Iskandariyah" that killed three people.
Dalia Hassan (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 15 corpses were discovered in Baghdad.  Reuters notes, for yesterday, that 10 corpses were found in Baghdad and 6 in Mosul.
Today, the US military announces: "A Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West was killedFeb. 28 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province."  Aaron Glantz noted on KPFA's The Morning Show today that this brought the AP count to 79 US service members killed while serving in Iraq in the month of February and 3,163 US service members killed while serving in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.  BuzzFlash recently noted the death toll on US service members include women as well as people older than usually pictured when thinking of a "soldier," parents who leave behind children: "Such figures are not officially tracked, but we were able to identify that nearly 900 children had lost a parent in Iraq by December 2004 and 1,508 by March 2005. Extrapolated to the current casualty total, the figure today is probably somewhere around 2,200 children. That's already more than a tenth of the 20,000 who lost their fathers in Vietnam, and the number of children left behind per death is more than twice as high."
As Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted today, "the Washington Post reports today top officials at Walter Reed have heard patient complaints about poor treatment for more than three years.  The officials include Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, the former head of Walter Reed and the current army surgeon general.  The Senate Armed Services Committee is set to hold hearings on the conditions at Walter Reed next week."   Dana Priest and Anne Hull (Washington Post) note Steve Robinson ("director of veterans affairs at Veterans for America) who reveals that he complained to Kiley that only were patients not getting treatment, in some case, "the hospital didn't even know they were there" in the hospital.  The reporters also note that Kiley, who has maintained shock and surprise at the revelations about Building 18, "lives across the street from Building 18."  The reporters also reveal that a friend brought Joyce Rumsfeld to Walter Reed last fall and her response was to wonder if her husband, Donald Rumsfeld, was being matched with soldiers who wer "handpicked to paint a rosy picture of their time there" and Walter Reed's response to Joyce Rumsfeld's visit was to ban the friend -- a long term volunteer at Walter Reed -- from the hospital.
Dropping back to yesterday's snapshot:
As noted by Aaron Glants today on KPFA's The Morning Show, Kelly Kennedy (Army Times) is reporting that Walter Reed Army Medical Center's Medical Hold Unit patients are being "told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media" in what is widely seen as a punishment for the recent Washington Post expose on the deplorable conditions at what is supposed to be the United States top facility for military medical care.
There are three things listed by Kennedy above.  "Not speak to the media" is one aspect of the retaliation but will outlets address the fact that wounded service members are being made to report for daily inspections? As Elaine pointed out, the big story isn't the media -- the story is that wounded service members, hospitalized to receive care, are having to report for daily inspection -- sometimes the media gets so obsessed with their own role and responsibilities that they lose sight of other factors and, to be clear, the daily inspections are effecting wounded service members right now. (Priest and Hull note it this way: "This week, in a move that some soldiers viewed as reprisal for speaking to the media, the wounded troops were told that early-morning room inspections would be held and that further contact with reporters is prohibited."  Most are completely ignoring the inspections aspects and focusing only on the press ban.)  Reuters notes that Major General George Weightman ("head of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center") has been "removed from his post" as of today.
Military Families Speak Out's Stacy Bannerman writes (at The Progressive) about her husband's return from Iraq: "Finally, the phone rang with the news that my husband was coming home, after nearly a year in Iraq.  They didn't tell me he'd bring the war with him.  He'd been back for almost two months, but he was still checking to see where his weapon was every time he got in a vehicle.  He drove aggressively, talked aggressively, and sometimes I could swear that he was breathing aggressively.  This was not the man I married, this hard-eyed, hyper-vigilant stranger who spent nights watching the dozens of DVDs that he got from soldiers he served with in Iraq.  He couldn't sleep, and missed the adrenaline surge of constant, imminent danger.  The amateur videos of combat eased the ache of withdrawal from war, but did nothing to heal my soldier's heart.  At a conference on post-deployment care and services for soldiers and their families, a Marine Corps chaplain asked, 'How do you know if you're an SOB?  Your wife will tell you!' Har-de-har-har-har.  The remark got the predictable round of applause from the capacity crowd, which, with one exception, wasn't living with anyone who had recently returned from Iraq.  I was that exception, and it infuriated me that this was a joke.  The Pentagon's solution for the constant stress endured by those of us who felt bewildered and betrayed was: 'Learn how to laugh.'  With help from the Pentagon's chief laugh instructor, families of National Guard members were learning to walk like a penguin, laugh like a lion, and blurt 'ha, ha, hee, hee, and ho, ho'."  And eight months after his return from Iraq, her husband is told he has PTSD based on . . . a medical exam from eight months prior (when he returned to the US) and that the military's medical arm did nothing to follow up on or provide medical care for.
Staying on the topic of PTSD, on KPFA's Flashpoints  yesterday, Emily Howard asked Sara Rich about her daughter  Suzanne Swift's PTSD.  Rich: "Well she isn't recovery and she won't be in recovery until she's free from the military because they're the ones that allowed this abuse to happen her.  Suzanne has post-traumatic stress in many different ways and areas of her life and it's very different in the way it manifests in every individual that I know has PTSD.  The mood swings, high, low, screaming at cars one minute and laughing hysterically the next.  Lots of different things are different in Suzanne  from when she went to Iraq. . . .  I know she is not going to be able to relax and heal any of this until she is out of the military."
Suzanne Swift. was sexually assaulted while serving in Iraq.  She attempted to go through channels, she attempted to handle it the way the military wants things handled.  This didn't stop it, this didn't end it.  So, like any sane person who's being assaulted, she got the hell out of that situation by self-checking out in January 2006.  When the military arrested her last year, there were big (empty) promises about a full investigation which was a whopping two days of investigating.  They did have time to court-martial her, send her to prison for 30 days and refuse to discharge her (just as they refused to conduct a real investigation).
Howard: What is it like for her to be on a military base, away from her family. and having to deal with this?
Rich: Oh, it's horrible.  It's horrible.  I know that taking her away from her whole support system has been, has been just horrible for us and horrible for her.  She's cried a couple of times when she's come home.   We, of course, miss her terribly.  And so . . I always, you know what I always say?  'Thank God she's not back in Iraq.'  You know we've handled Iraq, we've handled prison, we can handle this. 
Rich, Ann Wright and Iraq Veterans Against the War are calling for Congressional hearings on military sexual violence.  Rich: "The sad thing is Suzanne is a very strong person and I really thought these guys were going to take care of her and I thought she'd be okay and able to fend off this stuff when I heard these statistics.  You know 5 out of 6 women in the military are sexually harassed or abused and I thought, 'No, my kid'll be okay.' "  [Rebecca addressed Howard's interview with Rich here and click here for the day prior when I noted Rebecca had covered Darh's report but failed to include the link.]

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