Thursday, March 08, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, March 8, 2007, International Women's Day. Chaos and violence continue, the US Congress takes some action, David Petraeus says war is not the answer to Iraq, over 2,000 more US service members will be heading to Iraq, and Maxine Waters cuts through the nonsense.

Starting with news of war resistance. War Resisters Support Campaign's Lee Zaslofsky writes to the (Canadian) Embassy news weekly regarding the issue of passports: "The fact that the United States requires everyone entering the U.S. to show a passport does not cause problems for AWOL soldiers seeking to enter Canada. Canada does not now have any such requirement. . . . . [I]t seems unlikely that Canada would itself impose a passport requirement on American visitors. For one thing, it would seriously damage tourism to Canada, a major industry that is already in difficulty because of American security concerns. Absent a Canadian passport requirement, Canada will continue to admit Americans on the basis of other forms of ID, as is done now. That means that U.S. soldiers will continue to be able to come to Canada, as do thousands of other Americans, without much difficulty, regardless of whether they are AWOL or not."

The War Resisters Support Campaign is an organization in Canada that assists US service members who self-check out the military. This evening, they are holding a benefit feauturing US war resister Joshua Key, Ann-Marie Macdonald and Lawrence Hill. With Hill, Joshua Key wrote The Deserter's Tale and Canada's Macleans offers an excert of it here covering the first house raid Key went on. No quote because there will be a lengthy excerpt from the book shortly.

Joshua Key is part of a movement of resistance with the military that includes others such as Ehren Watada, Kyle Snyder, Agustin Aguayo, 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.

Today is International Women's Day and we'll focus on women for the next sections. Iraqi women, US women serving in Iraq and young girls whose deaths go unnoted.

Starting with MADRE's "Promising Democracy, Imposing Theocracy: Gender-Based Violence and the US War on Iraq" (which can be read in full in PDF format or, by sections, in HTML). Yesterday, section one ("Towards Gender Apartheid in Iraq") was noted and and today, section II, "Iraq's Other War: Impsoing Theocracy Through Gender-Based." This section notes how the violence arrived with the start of the illegal war and, originally, it was hoped that the targeting of women was due to the initial upheavel with normalcy to return shortly. Those hopes vanished quickly: "It is estimated that more than 400 Iraqi women were abducted and raped within the first four months of U.S. occupation."

The violence as a means to control is explored and, along with planting flags (a serious issue in the Kurd areas currently), one visual that says "I control this area" is veiled women. Yanar Mohammed explains, "When a political party gains control of an area, it puts its flag everywhere. The flag is a message to your opponents that this is your area and they should not dare to step into it. The veil on women is lifke a flag now."

There was a two-pronged attack here by Iraqis on Iarqi women. The first involved the militias (which the US allowed to flourish): "By summer 2003, Islamist 'misery gangs' were patrolling the streets in many areas, beating and harassing women who were not 'properly' dressed or behaved. The gangs swept through areas and imposed veils, banned women from wearing makeup or pants, and imposed their reign of terror that prevented women from taking part in daily life. When this happened, the hope is, "This will pass." The hope is the American military will do something or the Iraqi government or someone. No one does a damn thing to stop the situation.

But the Iraqi government did all they could to turn this terrorism into legal behaviors: "The US-backed Iraqi government has largely reinforced the Islamist call to restrict women's rights and bar women from the public sphere." This happened repeatedly (maybe Paul Bremer was napping?). Among the examples given is the decision/order given by the Secretary General of the Iraqi Ministers' Council (Khdeir Abbas) issued an order that all female employees would "wear headscarves or be fired." This was followed a year later with an order (from the Interior Ministry) that women should "not leave their homes alone and echoing the directives of religious leaders who urge men to prevent women family members from holding jobs." So the women who hoped the restoration of even a puppet government might bring some "safety" to Iraq quickly learned that the militias and the puppet government were all in it together to terrorize and demonize women. Returning to the women's street protests against Resolution 137 mentioned in section one (which would have stripped women of rights immediately), the report notes that such a protest would not even possible today due to the dangers that were imposed by the militias and then, later, condoned by the US installed government: "Iraqis' US-allied political and religious leaders clearly benefit from the reign of terror imposed by their followers, for as long as women are preoocupied with merely surviving, they are unable to demand accountability from the government for the broad range of economic, social, and political rights that they are denied."

Noting that this pattern/model can be found in Iran and Algeria as well as Afghanistan (which the US more recently swore would provide would provide 'democracy' and 'liberation,' and the US government's long history of backing brutal regimes in order to have access to the area's natural resources, this section concludes: "This economic interest has trumped ideological concerns about 'freedom' or 'democracy' (though US actions are always presented in these lofty terms at home). On the ground, the US cultivated Islamists as an alternative to the rule of socialists or Arab nationalists (like Saddam Hussein), who were less amenable to US control over their countries' reserves of oil and natural gas. Despite the myth of a 'clash of civilizations' between Islam and 'the West,' the US has been very comfortable with reactionary, theocratic leaders in the Middle East."

Mithre J. Sandrasagra (IPS) covers the findings of the report and the presentation of it on Tuesday: "Unfortunately, neither the mainstream press, the alternative media, nor the anti-war movement has identified the connections between the attack on Iraqi women and the spiraling violence that has culminated in civil war, according to MADRE. But, violence against women is not incidental to Iraq's mountin civilian death toll and civil war -- it is key to understanding the wider crisis. Indeed the twin crises plauging Iraqi civilians -- gender based violence and civil war -- are deeply intertwined, the report said."

That describes much of the coverage but seems especially important with regards to Allison Stevens (Women's eNews) who writes: "Preoccupied with the Sunni-led insurgency, the U.S. military has not been able to stem the rising tide of gender-based violence, according to the report." According to the report? Try reading the report. There's no basis for that bit of nonsense. The report clearly conveys warnings were made before the illegal war started, the US government elected to ignore the warning. On the ground in Iraq, the US military and US provisional government chose to look the other way. Where Stevens is getting that the U.S. military would be doing something about this continued targeting and terrorizing of women were it not for a Sunni-led insurgency is a mystery, but it's not to be found in the report. (In fact, section three, which we'll go over tomorrow, refutes that claim but the claim has been refuted in every section.) The results in Iraq today are not accidental and they are not incidental -- they are the result of a clear, historical policy. That point is made in the conclusion, it is made throughout the report. Reporting yesterday for Free Speech Radio News, Rebecca Myles conveyed that point -- how the theocracy has come into being not in spite of the US but via financing, arms and training from the US.

Yifat Susskind, the author of the report, writing at Common Dreams, does write "But the US military, preoccupied with battling the Iraqi insurgency, simply ignored the reign of terror that Islamist militias were imposing on women" which is followed immediately by "In fact, the US enabled these attacks: in 2005, the Pentagon began providing the Shiite Badr Brigade and Mahdi Army with weapons, money, and military training in the hopes that these groups would help combat the Sunni-based insurgency."

That is how life became deadly for Iraqis and, specifically, Iraqi women. But what about when their attackers are not Iraqi but American? The case of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi demonstrates that, in the US domestic media, outrage and sympathy are in short supply. The New York Times could and did write of her while repeatedly referring to her as a "14-year-old girl," apparently a nameless girl. Carolyn Marshall and Robert Worth were more than willing to leave Abeer faceless and nameless because it's all the easier to sell an illegal war if you render the victims invisible. They could, and somehow did, make the defense's case for them (in supposed reporting -- not opinion writing) despite the fact that the defense hadn't presented their case and despite the fact that it wasn't a known defense. But psychic reporters that they were, they couldn't name Abeer. Nor was the Times interested in telling their readers when James P. Barker confessed to his role in the gang-rape of Abeer. Nor was the Times interested in telling readers when Paul Cortez confessed to his role in the gang-rape. Both men confessed to raping and to holding her down while the other took their turn. Though Steven D. Green denies any involvement, Barker and Cortez have both testified that he shot Abeer's parents and five-year-old sister (while Barker and Cortez were raping Abeer) and that Green then joined them for the gang rape and that Green then shot Abeer dead. Green's involvement will be determined in a civilian court shortly (he had been discharged before the war crimes were common knowledge so he will face a civilian court) but Barker and Cortez confessed to gang raping Abeer. As Captain Alex Pickands noted in the Article 32 hearing: "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."

The world heard about this act of violence (despite the New York Times). There are many more that are never heard of. In his book, The Deserter's Tale, Joshua Key recounts the murder of a young Iraqi girl (pp. 118-124):

One such distraction that I learned to anticipate and enjoy came in the form of daily visits from a young Iraqi girl who lived with her family in a house across the street from the hospital.
I wish I knew the girl's name, but she spoke almost no English and I knew no Arabic. She was about seven years old. She had dark eyes, shoulder-length brown hair, and -- even for a young child -- seemed impossibly skinny. She usually wore her school uniform -- a white shirt with a blue skirt and a pair of sandals. Every time I was stationed outside the hospital, the girl would run up to the fence that ran between us and call out the only English words, she knew: "Mister, food." Over and over she would say that, and I can still recall her high-pitched, breathless enthusiasm. She seemed fearless, full of energy, and not the least bit frightened by my M-249. She acted as if she didn't even know that she lived in a war zone, and she ran to the fence the same way my own children might have approached a sandbox, piping out, "Mister, food."
[. . . .]
The first time she ran up to me I tried to ignore her. We were under orders not to speak to Iraqi civilians at all, unless authorized to do so by one of our officers. I knew that it would be better for me to have nothing to do with her, and it didn't seem like a good thing for a seven-year-old child to be anywhere near American soldiers standing with assault rifles locked and ready at all times.
"Mister! Food!"
"Go away," I said.
"Mister, food."
I waved my hand to tell her to go away because she cleary wasnt' getting my words.
She kept at me, and I started mumbling at her, "Come on, little sister, you've really got to get out of here."
She stood motionless, kept smiling, and would not leave. Finally, I reached over the four-foot-high, chain-link fence and handed her my MRE.
[. . .]
The girl always ran home with them. She never walked. It seemed like running was the only speed she knew. It didn't matter if it was 125 degrees in the afternoon sun. When the girl moved, she ran. It made me happy to see her flying across the street on those light brown legs.
I wondered what sort of life she would have when the war ended. Would she continue in school? Would she end up becoming a doctor or a teacher?
Her visits were the best part of my days at the hospital, and she was the only person in Iraq -- officer, civilian, or fellow soldier -- whose smile I enjoyed. From my earliest childhood, I have distrusted the smiles of adults because I always wonder they know that I don't. The smile of this child in Ramadi brought me to thoughts of my own wife and children. I wished that Brandi could see this girl and discover what I was coming to know: it was not true that all Muslims were terrorists, children included. The truth was that this little girl was the same as any child growing up in Oklahoma, Colorado, or any other part of the world: all she needed was a little food, a little schoolings, a clean supply of water, and some loving adults to take care of her. She was no terrorist. She was nothing but a child, and everything about her -- waving arms, uncombed hair, and torn sandals -- reminded me that she and her family had the same needs as I did. All they wanted was food, water, shelter, safety, school, and work -- who didn't?
[. . .]
The next week, I was back at my post in front of the hospital. I saw the girl run out of her house, across the street, and toward the fence that stood between us. I reached for an MRE, looked up to see her about ten feet away, heard the sound of semiautomatic gunfire, and saw her head blow up like a mushroom.
Her death was so abrupt and such a shock that I couldn't believe what I had seen. I looked around immediately after she was killed. There were no armed Iraqis within sight, and I had not heard any of the steady drilling sound made by the Iraqi AK-47s. The only thing I had heard was the distinctive sound of an M-16, which doesn't give off a loud, sustained burst of gunfire. It sounds much weaker than the AK-47 and shoots just a few bullets at a time. Pop pop pop. Break. Pop pop pop. Break.
I looked in every direction. The only armed people in the area were my squad mates, posted at various points around and on top of the hospital. My own people were the only ones with guns in the area, and it was the sound of my own people's guns that I had heard blazing before the little sister was stopped in her tracks.
I saw her mother fly out the door and run across the street. She and someone else in the family bent over the body. I could feel them all staring at me, and I could say nothing to them and do nothing other than hang my head in shame while the family took the child away.
Even today I can't help thinking that it was one of my own guys who did it. And I can't help feeling that I was responsible for her death. If I hadn't been feeding her, and allowing her to believe that it was safe to come by daily to say "Mister, food" and to scoop up the MREs that I'd give her, little sister might be alive today. She would be about ten years old now, around the same age as my eldest son, Zackary.

Turning now to the issue of the treatment of US female service members serving in Iraq. Today on Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman hosted a discussion with Eli Painted Crow (22 years in the Army, served in Iraq in 2004), Mickiela Montoya (deployed to Iraq in 2005) and Helen Benedict (Columbia University professor). Eli Painted Crow discussed how when another woman reported a rape, it wasn't kept confidential, it was base gossip and everyone knew. Benedict raised the issue of the bathroom buddies. This is the nonsense that's supposed to pass as a response by the military to the assualts on women by the males serving with them [see "Women and the military," The Third Estate Sunday Review). Benedict notes the long shifts served in Iraq (daily shifts) and notes that you can be forced to wake someone to go to the latrine with you. Montoya addressed how some women would use water bottles to urinate in at night in order to avoid going to the latrines and how she carried a knife for protection from males serving with her, not from Iraqis, "That's why I would carry the knife. I remember it was really late and, over there, they don't have electricity. So we run off generators. And, if you scream or if you were to yell for help or anything like that, nobody could hear you" over the generators. Eli Painted Crow noted, "And we're in a hostile environment. So, to imagine, that when you teach a soldier to hate and to be violent, that you can control that on any level is very difficult. You have to remember that we're going over there to kill. We lose a lot of value -- when you're out there -- and so you become this predator, this aggressor, this whole thing that just don't work out, what you consider the enemy. It just become who you are."

Helen Benedict has written (at Salon) on this topic this week: "At the moment, the most shocking case of military sexual assualt is that of Army Spc. Suzanne Swift, 21, who served in Iraq in 2004. Swift was coerced into sex by one commanding officer, which is legally defined as rape by the military, and harassed by two others before she finally broke rank and told. As a result, the other soldiers treated her like a traitor for months. Unable to face returning to the assailant, she went AWOL during a leave at home, and was arrested and put in jail for desertion. At first the Army offered her a deal: It would reduce her punishment if Swift would sign a statement saying that she had never been raped. She refused, saying she wouldn't let the Army force her to lie. The Army court-martialed Swift, and stripped her of her rank. She spent December in prison and was then sent to Fort Irwin in the Mojave Desert, far away from her family. She must stay in the Army for two more years, and may face redeployment. The men who assualted her received nothing but reprimanding letters." As noted before, justice would be an immediate, honorable discharge for Suzanne Swift. But 'military justice' is a dirty joke which is why someone who attempted to rape a woman serving under him in Iraq, Daniel Edwards Franklin, was "punished" last month by losing his rank -- not one day of jail time. That is 'military justice.'

And in Iraq?


AFP reports five Iraqi soldiers dead from a roadside bombing in Tuz Khurmatu and two police officers from a car bombing in Mosul. Reuters notes that seven people were wounded in the Mosul bombing (in addition to the two deaths).


Reuters notes two police officers were shot dead in Shirqat, two Iraqi soldiers were shot dead in Balad (three more wounded) and two Iraqi soldiers shot dead in Hawija.

And? Nobody's working, nobody's doing anything on Iraq. Not a damn thing. They're all drooling over Petraeus. Dan Murphy and Gordon Lubold (The Christian Science Monitor) get giddy over his obvious statement that "there is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq." How do you solve a mystery named Maria? Not by filing press releases but Demetri Sevastopulo and Steve Negus (Financial Times of London) don't want to be left out so they treat it like news, news, news!

As Mark Tran (Guardian of London) notes the cracked-up 'crackdown' hasn't prevented the Pentagon from deciding to throw 2,200 more US service members into Iraq. Trans, who filed earlier than most, gets credit for noting that Petraues also spoke of 'encouraging sings' (that was Bully Boy's talking point -- word for word -- earlier this week for those who've forgotten -- and for those wondering why the talking point now comes out of Petraues' mouth in Iraq, buy a clue) but reality on the ground didn't bear that out. The latter point is skipped by the fluffers.

Meanwhile, Democrats in the US House of Representatives have agreed on what to propose with regards to Iraq. CNN reports that the proposal includes a withdrawal date of August 2008 and that there are "benchmarks." Richard Cowan (Reuters) reports that US Senator Harry Reid elected to unveil the Senate's plan "begin withdrawing soldiers from Iraq within four months and pull all combat troops out by March 31, 2008." Nicholas Johnston (Bloomberg News) writes: "House Democrats said they will seek to force the withdrawal next year of U.S. combat troops from Iraq, a proposal that President George W. Bush's aides immediately said he would veto. The Democrat's withdrawal requirement will be attached to a war-spending measure and is intended to refocus military attention on the U.S. fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan, Democrats said."

But the details? William S. Lind (CounterPunch), writing before the plans were officially announced, noted: "That's not pushing a plan, it is pushing on a rope, and the House Democratic leadership knows it. You can almost hear their giggles as they offer the anti-war voters who gave them their majority one of Washington's oldest dodges, 'requirement' the Executive Branch can waive if it wants to." CNN quotes US House Rep Maxine Waters on the proposed House legislation: "This plan would require us to believe whatever the president would tell us about progress that was being made. This is the same president that led us into a war with false information, no weapons of mass destruction, said we would be [welcomed] with open arms, said that the mission had been accomplished. Now we expect him to give us a progress report in their plan by July?"

joshua key

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