Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, March 6, 2007. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, the US military announced the death of 9 service member, a US war resister is court-martialed and sentenced to 8 months, Bully Boy invents a committe to distract the press from the Walter Reed scandal,
tears in the White House as one of their own is found guilty in a court of law, and, despite the 'crackdown,' over 100 are dead in Iraq today.

Starting with war resistance, today, in Germany Agustin Aguayo's court-martial began.
Ashraf Khalil (Los Angeles Times) reports that Courage to Resist's Jeff Paterson expects "Aguayo will get up to a year in jail followed by a less than honorable or bad conduct discharge." Agustin Aguayo faces charges of missing movement and desertion. And Paterson made a strong guess. Catherine Hornby (Reuters) reports that Aguayo was convicted of the charges: "Aguayo, 35, pleaded guilty to going absent without leave and missing his deployment, but denied charges of full desertion. But Colonel Peter Masterton, the judge at the court-martial in southern Germany, said the court had found Aguayo guilty as charged and sentenced him to eight months in prison." AP notes that with the 161 days already served, Aguayo "could be free within a few weeks" and quotes Aguayo: "I respect everyone's views and your decision. I understand that people don't undestand me. I tried my best, but I couldn't bear weapons and I could never point weapons at someone. . . . The words of Martin Luther come to mind, 'Here I stand, I can do more'."

Agustin Aguayo did enough. He stood up and he was counted. The father of two eleven-year-old girls, husband of Helga, used his voice and refused to take part in an illegal war. As his two daughters wrote in a letter to him, which Helga spoke about in a video posted at Courage to Resist, that said "We are strong. We will get through this. Never forget that." Aguayo reasons may not be understood by all (and some pretend not to understand them) but he made his point and he stood up. That's a lot more than many do.

Yesterday on KPFA's Flashpoints, Dennis Bernstein and Nora Barrows-Friedman hosted a speak out on the war. Of course some speak out and some whimper. The whimpers came first. Yes, it's the e-activists, the WalkOn kids, doing nothing but eating up air time. Listen, if you dare, to hear statments glorifying following orders (even when you think the war is illegal and/or immoral), statements of "I do the job I was hired for," statements of wimpering little children who take swipes at Ehren Watada more and more. As though their bended knee plea to a Congress shows any strength or has made a damn bit of difference.

Jonathan Hutto "But at the same time we have to make it clear that we're not" a long list of nots -- things they are not. And they're not smart and they're not accomplishing anything and they need to find a better use for the time. Hutto on Watada: "I personally don't believe that individual acts of refusal or desertion is what's going to change the actual culture of our country, the actual mission of the military."

"Is"? I guess the revision/recast of Hutto is so out of control that now he isn't even a college graduate who grasps subject-verb agreement? It is honestly hilarious to watch Hutto come off less and less educated with each interview. And you have to wonder what anyone thinks that will accomplish? (Or if they believe that past interviews aren't archived for those who want to seek them out?)

The e-activists aren't accomplishing anything. How many, Dennis Bernstein asked, Congress members had signed up to their plea? There was a long list of ones who had handed out 'atta boys, but in terms of actual support? Ten? Beg on your bended knees, boys and girls, but don't kid yourself that you're accomplishing anything with your anonymous activism (which applies not just to the signature but the marketing as well). You've been ignored by Congress, you've been brushed off. A few patted you on the head and that's it. Aguayo stood out, as have others, they wait on bended knee.

The e-activists were supposed to produce a petition and supposed to deliver it to Congress on MLK day but someone in the brain trust was too stupid to grasp that MLK Day is a holiday and Congress would be out of session. So they delivered it on the 16th of January. Why are they still boring everyone with their petition?

Is it 200 more signatures to a useless petition since then? "Patriotic!" they keep insisting! "Wouldn't want to do anything that wasn't okay with the military!" they brag. Is that really something to brag about, 200 more? Almost two months later? Does the toothless, symbolic petition have a point because most points have an ending but this is never ending -- or maybe the egos are just too mighty to nah-nah-nah-good-bye already. "I support continuing to do the mission," an e-activst with Appeal to Whimper told Dennis Bernstein. That would be the illegal war. It's past time that the peace movement and the anti-war movement stopped promoting those people who can't call the war out. Patrick Buchanan showed more bravery than these supposed anti-war activists. Dennis Bernstein attempted to bring up the issue of the principles outlined in the Nuremberg Trials. And the response?

"I chose to wear this uniform and I'm going to continue to do what I'm paid to do. But at the same time, I don't think there's anything wrong with petitioning Congress in this appeal for redress to say 'Hey, we could use a little help over here.' So that's my thing, I think that we should be able to appeal for redresses and at the same time getting on with the business of what we volunteered and are paid to do and that's uh go where we're told and do what we're told" at which point Jonathan Hutto tries to rescue his pro-war buddy. It's too late for a rescue. And it's past time that the left leave the nonsense e-activism to the 'left'.

Segment one plays out like a joke. Segment two is worth hearing (featuring Iraq War Veterans Against the War) as Garrett Reppenhagen, Prentice Reid and Jason Lemieux speak strongly (no whimpers in this segment). (This is the section Elaine chose to start with when she wrote about the broadcast last night.) Reid spoke of participating in a protest in support of Mark Wilkerson because he feels the war is wrong. He feels the war is wrong. It's not that difficult to say -- unless, like the Hutto crowd, you've attempted to pass yourself off as something you're not and surrounded yourself with War Hawks just to get a electronic signature on your petition. (What might you do for a wet signature!) Reid's not been polished and doesn't have a crew of advisors, but he can speak proudly and strongly. Garrett spoke of his service and how Iraq was different from the way it was sold,
"I think that the administration bascially abused our sense of patriotism our sense of courage and our sense of values to motivate this nation to back the war.
And I wasn't happy about it. So the people I killed in Iraq and the missions I went on I don't feel supported American security, I don't think that it was very moral and just what we did,
and it went against what I was actually being trained for, as far as army values,
and as far as the characteristics of what a soldier represents and the values of the country."

Segment three features a heartbreaking story told by Tina Richards about the struggles her son Cloy had after returning from Iraq: "When he got back from Falluja he was completely broken, he suffered severe PTSD. He often called me where he was doing his MP duty at Camp Pendleton to tell me he had a gun in his mouth, he had to pull the trigger, he could no longer live with all of the innocent women and children he killed over in Iraq and that he didn't deserve to have a mother and a sister. And that is . . . It just, as a mother, tears you apart.
and you don't know what to do. And when he was deployed I was torn apart because I felt so helpless. And when I was trying to get him help through the VA system which, first the military and then the VA system which completely failed him I finally started getting involved with varioius activist groups such as Veterans for Peace , Military Families Speak Out."

Then a speech by Cloy Richards was played where he discussed being told that they were shooting advancing insurgents and, looking at the bodies later, it was "women and children, elderly," about how his brother served in Iraq and has been torn apart by it (and is now headed to Afghanistan).

Jeff Paterson pointed out that Courage to Resist is a resource for everyone -- it provides information, it raises money, it provides support. Most of all, Jeff Paterson pointed out,
"We heard a soldier earlier speak saying individual resistance doesn't matter. It doesn't
matter unless there's a community, a movement, backing them up. That they're part of something, that they're part of stopping a war. And that's what Courage to Resist is dedicated to." Ramon Leal (Iraq Veterans Against the War) spoke of how the war was illegal and how "now that we know it's illegal, what to do about it?"

Amnesty International had an observer in the court room where Agustin Aguayo's court-martial took place today and they have issued a statement:

Agustin Aguayo is a legitimate conscientious objector who should not be imprisoned for his beliefs, Amnesty International said today after Aguayo, a U.S. Army medic, was sentenced by U.S. court martial to eight months in prison for his refusal to participate in the war in Iraq. The organization considers Aguayo to be a "prisoner of conscince" and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.
"Refusing military service for reasons of conscience isn't a luxury -- it's a right protected under international human rights law," said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA. "Agustin Aguayo wasn't just complaining about his assignment -- he clearly made the case that he objects to war itself. He should be released."
It is evident from the statements made by Aguayo and members of his family that he is a legitimate conscientious objector whose opposition to war developed over the course of time and evolved further in response to his experiences in Iraq. Amnesty International believes that he took reasonable steps to secure release from the army through applying for conscientious objector status.

Aguayo stood strong and stood up today. He didn't whimper. He didn't say, "Give me my orders." He didn't, as an e-mail activist told Bernstein, say of course the war is illegal but he's happy to serve in it. Aguayo is part of a movement of resistance with the military that includes others such as Ehren Watada, Kyle Snyder, Mark Wilkerson, Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, Joshua Key, Ivan Brobeck, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, 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, Michael Blake 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.

Speaking of history, in these past months, while the world watched, the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq was broadcast on live TV. Like Osama bin Laden and the Taliban in Afghanistan, the regime of Saddam Hussein simply disappeared. This was followed by what analysts called a "power vacuum." Cities that had been under seige, without food, water, and electricity for days, cities that had been bombed relentlessly, people who had been starved and systematically impoverished by the U.N. sanctions regime for more than a decade, were suddenly left with no semblance of urban administration. A seven-thousand-year-old civilization slid into anarchy. On live TV.
Vandals plundered shops, offices, hotels, and hospitals. American and British soldiers stood by and watched. They said they had no orders to act. In effect, they had orders to kill people, but not to protect them. Their priorities were clear. The safety and security of Iraqi people was not their business. The security of whatever little remained of Iraq's infrastructure was not their business. But the security and safety of Iraq's oil fields were. Of course they were. The oil fields were "secured" almost before the invasion began.
On CNN and the BBC the scenes of the rampage were played and replayed. TV commentators, army and government spokespersons portrayed it as a "liberated people" venting their rage at a despotic regime. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said:
"[I]t's untidy. . . . [F]reedom's untidy. And free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things." Did anybody know that Donald Rumsfeld was an anarchist?
-- Arundahti Roy, An Ordinary Person's Guide To Empire, "Instant-Mix Imperial Democracy (Buy One, Get One Free) pp. 46-49. The essay is from the a speech "first delivered May 13, 2003, at the Riverside Church, New York City, and broadcast live on Pacifica Radio. The lecture, sponsored by the Lannan Foundation and the Center for Economic and Social Rights, was delivered as an acceptance speech for the 2002 Lanna Prize for Cultural Freedom."

Rumsfeld, as Roy notes further in, refers to footage and basically claims that Iraq had just one vase in the entire country. That's not all that different from, in the face of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal, claiming that the press is offering "one-sided" coverage which, as Zachary Coile's (San Francisco Chronicle) points out, is just what Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley (army's surgeon general) did early on as the scandal was breaking. Yesterday, a House subcommittee asked questions and heard testimony, today, it was the Senate's turn with US Senator Carl Levin. Anne Flaherty (AP) reports that Levin stated the purpose early on, "Today's hearing is about another example of the lack of planning for a war that was premised on the assumption that combat operations would be swift, casualties would be minimal, and that we would be welcomed as liberators, instead of being attacked by the people we 'liberated'." AP also notes US Senator John McCain's comments: "I am dismayed this ever occurred. It was a failure in the most basic tenets of command responsibility to take care of our troops."

If you don't hear a great deal about the Senate committee's hearings, there's a reason for that. Bully Boy attempted to shift the topic and the press went along with it. He's created another one of his non-impressive commissions, this time chaired by former Britney Spears drooler and Viagra spokesperson Robert Dole and Donna Shalala who served as the Health and Human Services Secretary in former president Bill Clinton's administration. CBS and AP report the commission is to be called The Wounded Warrior Commission.

Bully Boy, announcing the laughable commission, said something akin to, "Listen I am, I am as concerned as you are. My decision that put our kids in hard way." On Democracy Now! today, Amy Goodman noted of the scandal: "Meanwhile Vermont Congressman Peter Welch said a major factor in the conditions at Walter Reed might be the result of the privatization of services. Welch cited a five-year $120 million contract given to a company called IAP Worldwide Services, which is operated by a former Halliburton executive. The Corporate Research Project is reporting IAP has close ties to the Republican Party. Ownership of the company is controlled by the giant hedge fund Cerberus, whose chair is former Bush Administration Treasury Secretary John Snow. The IAP board of directors includes former Vice President Dan Quayle and retired Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee."

When you're up to you neck in the scandal because it happened on your watch, because complaints were made and ignored, because cronies filled positions and because you turned over government's business to inept campaign contributors, start a faux commission quickly and hope the press stamps a happy face on it.

Bully Boy addressed the American legion today and, looking drunk or as though his face got run over, CBS and AP report that he said he sees "encouraging signs" in the so-called crackdown. Well, as noted, he did look possibly drunk.

This on the day when the US military announces the deaths of 9 US service members in Iraq -- announced: "Task Force Lightning Soldiers were attacked while conducting combat operations in Salah ad Din province Monday. Six Task Force Lightning Soldiers died as a result of injuries sustained following an explosion near their vehicles. Three other Soldiers were wounded and taken to a Coalition medical facility for treatment."; and announced: "Task Force Lightning Soldiers were attacked while conducting combat operations in Diyala Province Monday. Three Task Force Lightning Soldiers died as a result of injuries sustained following an explosion near their vehicles. One other Soldier was wounded and taken to a Coalition medical facility for treatment." Both announcements came well before his laughable speech.

In addition, the ridiculous statement came on a day when there were over 100 reported deaths in Iraq. CNN reports that, in Hillah and elsewhere in Iraq, a series of attacks ("bombings and small arms attacks") "left over 120 dead and more than 200 wounded." This Bully Boy reads as "encouraging"? CBS and AP note: "Hours after the attack, boys used long-handled squeegees to push pools of blood off the road. The shoes and sandals of the victims were gathered in haphazard piles." Habib al-Zubaidi (Reuters) reports that the number of Shi'ite pilgrims killed is now at 149.

In addition to the mass attacks on Shi'ite pilgrims . . .


Reuters reports, in Mosul, five Iraqis were killed and 18 wounded by a "car bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol," an attack on Iraqi soldiers in Baghdad killed four as well as "two civilians and wounded 11 others." Daliah Hassan (McClatchy Newspapers) reports (in addition to the four Iraqi soldiers killed) a car bomb targeting a check point killed 1 Iraq soldier and left 3 wounded, while a mortar attack in Basra injured a child and an adult and killed one person


Dalia Hassan (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "The head of relations and media department in touriscm committee Ahmed Gati'a was killed when gun men shot him in Al-Iskandariya district (South of Baghdad)" and two police officers "were injured in an armed attack" in al-Abara.


Dalia Hassan (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 24 corpses were discovered in Baghdad.

The topic of the care for veterans was the subject on today's KPFA's The Morning Show, and among the guests were Peter Laufer, author of Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq, and Michael T. McPhearson of Veterans for Peace.

McPhearson noted that Walter Reed is "considered the jewel" so if the scandal's happening there, imagine what it's like elsewhere. Laufer noted a "Daniel" profiled in his book who was scheduled for his third tour of duty in Iraq and wanted out so he took cocaine, knowing he had a drug test coming up, to be "mustered out." After he was out, he attempted to get help in San Jose but "they refused him attention because he had been mustered out for failing one drug test." Philip Maldari (who co-hosts with Andrea Lewis) and McPhearson discussed the issue of how medical discharges can be held up if your unit doesn't have enough people with McPhearson adding, "You have pressure on you to meet an expectation. It's similar to the recruiters and then they end up maybe going across the line ethically." The comparisons to the care scandals during the Vietnam era and today were brought up and Laufer noted that the scandal was unfolding "at Walter Reed, right in the shadow of the White House, right in the shadow of the Pentagon". On this topic, Danny Schechter (News Dissector, MediaChannel.org) notes: "250,000 -- Roughly, the number of American servicemen and women struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), 60,000 -- Almost the number of military marriages that have been broken by this war".

On the heels of one report that sounded the alarms re: life for women in Iraq, another report is released. Last week, Minority Rights Group International's (PDF format) report "Assimilation, Exodus, Eradication: Iraq's minority communities since 2003" focused on religious and ethnice minorities as well as women (click here for a summary on the section on women). Now MADRE has released their report. Interviewed today by Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) with Houzan Mahmoud (Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq), MADRE's Yifat Susskind explained, "There's been, since the US invasion, a virtual epidemic of all forms of gender-based violence in Iraq, a sharp rise in violence against women in the public sphere, women being harassed, beaten, assassinated, raped. Much of it is directed by Islamist militias on both sides of the sectarian divide. But what is really remarkable is that much of the violence -- in fact, the most widespread violence -- in many instances is being carried out by these militias who are essentially the armed wings of the political parties that the US has boosted to power in Iraq. So these are sort of shock troops of political parties that are closely allied with the United States. At a certain point, the US was providing military training and arms and money to these militias, in the hopes that they would sort of step up where the official Iraqi army had not and were to combat the anti-US insurgency. You know, there's a lot of pieces that, you know, we've seen in the press sort of in bits and pieces. But what we haven't seen is kind of the story of the Iraq war told from the perspective of Iraqi women, and that's what we aim to do in the report."

From the Executive Summary of "Promising Democracy, Imposing Theocracy: Gender-Based Violence and the US War on Iraq:"

Amidst the chaos and violence of US-occupied Iraq, the significance of widespread gender-based violence has been largely overlooked. Yet, Iraqi women are enduring unprecedented levels of assault in the public sphere, "honor killings," torture in detention, and other forms of gender-based violence. Women are not only being targeted because they are members of the civilian population. Women--in particular those who are perceived to pose a challenge to the political project of their attackers--have increasingly been targeted because they are women. This report documents the use of gender-based violence by Iraqi Islamists, brought to power by the US overthrow of Iraq's secular Ba'ath regime, and highlights the role of the United States in fomenting the human rights crisis confronting Iraqi women today.
drives that home.

And finally, the jury is no longer out on Scooter Libby. As noted October 31, 2005 on Democracy Now!:

Libby Resigns After Five Count Indictment in CIA Leak Case
For the first time in 130 years, a White House staff member has been indicted for crimes committed in the office. On Friday, Lewis "Scooter" Libby was indicted on five counts of obstruction of justice, perjury to a grand jury and making false statements to FBI agents during the CIA leak investigation. If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines. Until Friday Libby was a central figure in the Bush White House holding three top positions: chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, national security adviser to the vice president and assistant to the president. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald announced the indictment on Friday. President Bush's chief advisor Karl Rove has so far escaped indictment for his role in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame, the wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson. But Rove remains under investigation. On Sunday Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid called on Bush to apologize and for Rove to resign. Bush and Cheney have both praised Libby for his service. The top candidate to replace Libby is David Addington who currently works as the vice president's legal counsel. Three years ago he wrote a memo that asserted the war on terrorism renders obsolete the Geneva Convention's limitations of questioning detainees. Ambassador Wilson accused Libby and the White House of outing his wife, Valerie Plame. He said, "Senior administration officials used the power of the White House to make our lives hell for the last 27 months. But more important, they did it as part of a clear effort to cover up the lies and disinformation used to justify the invasion of Iraq. That is the ultimate crime."

That was 2005. Today? He'll need a new nickname in prison, but the jury has decided and found him guilty of all but one charge. CNN reports that the jurors "were certain of the former vice presidential aide's guilt, but they also harbored sympathy for him as a 'fall guy'." David Corn (The Nation) notes, "The ruling: Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff lied to federal investigators." Rory O'Connor (Media Is Plural, MediaChannel.org) notes that the jurors wondered where Karl Rove was and observes "Libby, of course, is the only person ever indicted after a multi-year investigation which ultimately reached deep inside the White House. The central issue in that investigation revolved around allegations that someone within the White House illegally disclosed classified information during the late spring and early summer of 2003, when it was revealed that Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had criticized the Iraq policy, was married to an undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame."

agustin aguayo

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