Monday, March 12, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Monday, March 12, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, Cheney froths again, the scandal of medical care for veterans continues, and broken promises create more Iraqi refugees.
Starting with the latest news in the continued scandal that is Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Tony Capaccio and Ken Fireman (Bloomberg News) report that the U.S. Army's surgeon general, Kevin Kiley, is "the third official to lost his job after disclosures last month of substand care for injured soldiers at Walter Reed Medical Center" following in the footsteps of Secreatry of the Army Francis Harvey (March 2nd) and George Weightman (March 1st).  CNN reports that although the official explanation is the Kiley wanted to retire, he was, in fact, asked to resign.  Andrew Gray (Reuters) reports, "A senior U.S. defense official said surgeon general Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley had been asked to request retirement by acting Army Secretary Pete Geren."  Last month, reporting by Dana Priest and Anne Hull (Washington Post) and Bob Woodruff (ABC News) shined a spot light on the long ignored problem of the medical services for veterans.  At the Post, Josh White notes, "Kiley had faced intense scrutiny during hearings on Capitol Hill during the past two weeks, when numerous members of Congress asked him directly if he should resign either because he failed to notice horrid living conditions and a tangled bureaucracy at Walter Reed or because he failed to fix them. Kiley had said he wanted to stay on the job and lead the Army's medical community through systemic change, but he also acknowledged that he was in a tenuous position."  The position is no longer "tenuous," he has left after being asked to do so.
Across the Atlantic, similar problems with medical care are being noticed.  Mark Townsend and Ned Temko (The Observer) report that Selly Oak Hospital in Brimingham is providing questionable care and note that British soldier Jamie Cooper recently begged repeatedly (in front of his parents) for a nurse to empty his colostomy bag but, despite requests to three nurses, he had to continue begging before his very basic need could be met and notes that Cooper "may as well have begged for his dignity."  Kevin Sullivan (Washington Post) also examines the situation and speaks with Cooper's father, Phillip, who tells him that he and his wife have twice had to empty their hospitalized son's colostomy bag because nurses wouldn't,  "We didn't mind doing it -- he's our son -- but we shouldn't have had to."  The Royal British Legion's Sue Freeth calls the care "a national disgrace" and tells Sullivan, "They are not getting what they expect, nor are their family members getting what they expect."
Turning to news of war resistance, US war resister Joshua Key was interviewed on Australian TV last week.  Key, who remains in Canada, is the author of The Deserter's Tale.
TONY JONES: Now of the numerous raids and other incidents you participated in you've written, "It struck me that the American soldiers themselves were the terrorists." Now people back home, your own family, are going to be horrified to hear you say that.

JOSHUA KEY: I'm sure they will be, but the way I look at it, that was the truth. We had no justification after all them homes that I raided, there was no justification. I felt that we were more antagonising, causing in my picture to myself, we had become the terrorists. I wasn't getting terrorised. I was more doing the terrorising.

TONY JONES: In what regard? What do you mean by that?

JOSHUA KEY: Raiding the homes, taking their sons and their husbands. If they were over five foot tall they were sent off regardless of whether anything was found in that house or not. Through everyday night raids, of course, illumination rounds - used to do the rounds all night long, complete patrolling of the streets non-stop. It was more antagonising. We weren't -- we would go out on a patrol it's not -- we would be saying derogatory names even to the Iraqi women. We antagonised, we brought it -- we made it the way it was.

Key is a part of a movement of resistance within the military that includes  Agustin AguayoEhren Watada, Kyle Snyder, Agustin Aguayo, Mark Wilkerson, Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart,  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.
From courage to craven groveling, CNN reports Dick Cheney slammed Democrats in Congress which, in and of itself, is not surprising but he elected to do so while speaking to AIPAC today.  The lobby group for a foreign government (Israel) would not seem the setting to trash Americans after the fright-wing created a phony hailstorm over Natalie Maines comments (before the illegal war began) made in England.  It's also rather shocking that a sitting vice-president would seek to court the lobby group that Larry Franklin provided classified U.S. information to members of that was then passed on (illegally) to another government (Israel) -- for which Franklin was sentenced to 151 months in prison in January of 2006 -- a crime that led to the indictment's of the organization's former policy director (Steven Rosen) and Iran analyst (Keith Weissman).  Possibly Cheney felt he couldn't throw stones since last week his former right hand, Scooter Libby, was convicted in the controversy surrounding the government's outing of then undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame?  Cheney got off several howlers including that Democrats were "undermining the war on terror" -- this from the man involved in the outing of Valerie Plame?  Between open mouth kisses (Israel is the United States' "best friend"), Cheney also pushed the lie that morale was high among US troops stationed in Iraq. Nothing like redeployments, back door drafts and doing the same thing, over and over, for four years to boost morale.  Reality may better be reflected in a new survey.  AP reports that an anonymous survey of soldiers with the Maine Army National Guard who had served in Iraq "found that more than one-third of Iraq veterans reported 'hyperarousal' symptoms associated with post traumatic stress disorder, and about one-fourth reported significant symptoms of depression."
From the violent froth of Cheney to the violence of the war crimes against Abeer Qasim Hamza (gang raped and murdered) and her family (her parents and five-year-old sister were murdred), Brett Barrouquere (AP) reports that attempts by Steven D. Green's attorneys to get the charges against Green dismissed were overruled by U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell today.  Two US service members, James P. Barker and Paul Cortez, have confessed in military courts to their part in the war crimes.  Two other soldiers await court-martial.  Green, fingered by Cortez and Barker as the ringleader in their confessions (and the one who killed Abeer, her parents and her sister), had been discharged from the military before the March 2006 war crimes came to light.  For that reason, Green is being tried in a civilian court and not a military court.  
In other legal news, it's not a good time to be Mister Tony.  Blair's hoped for victory lap of soft press to accompany his departure as prime minister was already taking hits before the scandal of medical care was revealed and with Cheney designating Israel, and not England, as America's "best friend," Blair didn't need a new scandal but he's got one.  In an ongoing court case into the abuse of Iraqis by British soldiers, Judge Sutart McKinnon shocked some last month when he began dropping some charges.  Peter Graff (Reuters) reports that today, McKinnon revealed why those charges were dropped "because headquarters had approved some of the abuse."  Nothing that the abuses are "generally accepted to be contrary to the Geneva Conventions and the law of armed conflict," McKinnon stated, "It is now effectivly common ground that brigade did indeed sanction the use of hooding and stress positions."
Staying on the topic of violence, we'll return to 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). Wednesday, section one ("Towards Gender Apartheid in Iraq") was noted, Thursday, section II, "Iraq's Other War: Impsoing Theocracy Through Gender-Based." Section III is "The Rise of US-Backed Death Squads" was noted Friday and today the focus is section four, "Violence Against Women Within Families," focuses on the rise in honor killings (and notes that the practice is not rooted in Islam).  This section charts how the rise has been condoned and encouraged by the US military by failure to prevent or prosecute the practice and due to the fact that they "empowered Islamist political parties whose clerics promote 'honor killing' as a religious duty.  As Yanar Mohammed explained, 'Once the religious parties came to power, Iraqi men began hearing in the mosques that it was their duty to protect the honor of their families by any means.  It is understood that this entails killing women who break laws'."  'Breaking the law' can include, but is not limited to, being raped and, as of 2004, "Iraq's Ministry of Women's Affairs [had] revealed that more than half of the 400 reported rapes since the US invasion resulted in the murder of rape survivors by their families."  Women need not be raped to be targeted, they only need be detained by US or Iraqi forces.  "Extensive documentation of the sexualized torture of detainees by US forces in Iraq confirms the widely-held assumption that any woman who is arrested is also raped".  Women can be targeted for any number of reasons including that they "make automous decisions about issues such as marriage, divorce, and whether and with whom to have sex".  Along with targeting women, "the Badr milita began a program of surveillance of unmarried men over the age of 30, threatening the men with violence if they did not get married."  Women can also be targeted for working outside the home.  Honor killings are tied into the economics since the destruction of Iraq's economy has forced many Iraqis to depend upon the very political parties that the "US has empowered" and since the US decision to "fire all public sector workers" impacted women who had made up 40 percent of the public sector work force.  Along with destroying the Iraqi economy, the US destroyed the civil judicial system which only increased the power of "tribal authorities" whose religious sentences vary in the extreme to what, for instance, murders would have faced in a civil court.
Robert H. Reid (AP) reports that a Baghdad bombing aimed at "an Agriculture Ministry convoy" killed three security guards, two roadside bombs in western Baghdad that left at least two people wounded, and a mortar attack "at the headquarted of President Jalal Talabani's Kurdish party in Mosul" which left four guards injured.
Robert H. Reid (AP) notes that "the director of a government irrigation project" was shot dead in northern Iraq.
Robert H. Reid (AP) notes that nine corpses were discovered in Baghdad today while five corpses were discovered in Wasit province ("One of the bodies was a woman wearing a gold necklace and earrings who had been shot in the head").  Reuters notes a corpse was discovered in Mahaweel (and that 20 corpses were discovered in Baghdad on Sunday).
Today, the US military announced: "A Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West was killed Sunday while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province." And they announced: "Baghdad Soldier died March 11, due to a non-battle related cause." So in the last eight days, 22 US service members have been reported dead in Iraq.
Meanwhile AFP reports that the bodies of 12 of the  31 of the pilgrims killed in a car bombing in Baghdad yesterday were part of a funeral procession leaving Baghdad for the destination of Najaf and notes: "Coffins were draped in Iraqi flags and loaded on to pick-ups and minibuses, accompanied by women in black crying and screaming in horror at their loss and in fear of the trip ahead, which would take them back into danger." 
Turning to the topic of oil, CBS and AP note that the passage of the Iraqi oil law is a U.S. "want" and they also note that Nouri "al-Maliki's Cabinet endorsed" it but "the draft may have to be sent back to the Cabinet because al-Maliki's staff skipped some legal stpes in endorsing it the first time."  They're very careful to avoid saying that al-Maliki's staff wrote it because, in fact, they didn't.  Raed Jarrar (Raed in the Middle) described the proposed legislation: "This law legalizes PSAs (production sharing agreements) in Iraq. Iraq will be the only country in the middle east with such contracts privatising Iraqi oil and giving foreign companies crazy rates of profit that may reach to more than three fourth of the general revenue. Iraq and Iraqis need every Dinar that comes from oil sales. In addition to the financial aspects of this law, it can be considered the funding tool for splitting Iraq into three states. It undermines the central government and distributes oil revenues directly to the three regions, which sets the foundations for what Iraq's enemies are trying to achieve in terms of establishing three independent states."  (Click here for the English retranslation -- the law was written in English, translated into Arabic, then handed to to the puppet of the occupation.  Iraqis did not write the law.)

Antonia Juhasz (writing at The Huffington Post) has noted of the proposed law: "Contrary to the Bush administration's claims, Iraq does not need foreign oil corporations in order to reap the benefits of its oil.  Prior to the U.S. invasion, Iraq produced an average of 2.5 million barrles of oil a day.  Since the invasion, the Iraqis have averaged approximately 2.2. million barrels of oil a day.  This amount has dropped recently due to the surve in violence to about 1.7 million barrels a day.  Because Iraq's oil is the cheapest in the world to produce, only about sixty cents a barrel, and oil is selling today at $61 per barrel -- the return on any investment is enormous. . . . The administration has been selling the law as a way to bring increased equality and stability to Iraq.  It is correct on one point.  The law does introduce an equitable distribution of Iraq's oil revenues from the central government based on population.  However, the benefits of this new provision are dramatically redcued if the majority of Iraq's revenues are going overseas.  The law is likely to bring far more instability to Iraq.  In fact, many Iraqi oil experts are already referring to the draft law as the 'Split Iraq Fund,' arguing that it facilitates plans for splitting Iraq into three ethnic/religious regions.  The experts believe the law undermines the central government and shifts important decision-making and responsibilites to the regional entities.  This shift could serve as a foundation for establishing three new independent states, which is the goal of a number of separatist leaders."  Andy Rowell (Oil Change) informs that despite praise from the puppet, the proposed law has led "Iraqi parliamentarians and oil unions" to beging working to stop what they see "is a desperate attempt by al-Maliki's government to satisfy Western oil company demands" and quotes Saleh al-Mutlaq (National Dialogue Front) saying, "It divides the country and the wealth into groups -- Kurds, Sunnis, Shi'ites."  CBS and AP do note that provincial elections remain unaddressed despite the fact that the last deadline for that to be achieved was December 31, 2006.  So what you have is the puppet government under US control making decisions that will effect the people of Iraq who have no say in the process -- a clear violation of the responsiblities of the occupying power (the US in this case) under international law.
Yesterday, on CBS' 60 Minutes, Scott Pelley reported on a refugee situation in Iraq -- Iraqis who have aided the US military and are then left without any protection from Iraqis who see them as collaborating with the enemy.  "Rami" explained his situation, "I lost everything.  I lost my country, I can not stay there, anymore, and I lost all my friends.  I can't see them, I lost my family, and I feel like a prisoner."  U.S. service member Joe Seemiller shared guard duty with 'Rami' and he believes the US has an obligation to 'Rami': "He gave up his entire life for this country.  And now he's stuck.  And there's no one to help him.  And we owe him whatever service we can provide to make him safe. . . . Bring him here.  Bring him home.  He can stay at my apartment.  I got a spare bed for him."
If the story seems familiar, it's because it has happened repeatedly since the start of the illegal war, often with those assisting the US military receiving false promises.  One such instance is documented in Joshua Key's The Deserter's Tale  -- Sayeed, a young boy, began working for the US military as a translator and would do his duties and then return home.  Over time, he couldn't return home and would have to sleep on base.  He was paid the 'grand' amount of $20 a week for his duties and promised that he would be taken to the United States.  In the end, Sayeed quit.  On page 163 of Key's book, Sayeed quits and explains that, "Captain Bower told me that I can't go to America."  It's a nice little lie that Iraqis are repeatedly told and it's a real crime that some of the liars who tell them that they will be brought to the United States as a result of the help they are providing are not held accountable.  Instead, those helping quit when they finally are told the truth and then are left to fend for themselves.
Also in protest news, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) interviewed Wally Cuddeford about the protests going on in Tacoma which resulted in four arrests Sunday night.  Cuddeford explains the purpose behind the protests: "Our goal is to stop military shipments from Fort Lewis going to Iraq.  We were successful stopping the shipments through the Port of Olympia and now we're helping our friends in Tacoma stop the shipments there.  The shipments are Stryker vehicles, they are speedy combat trasnprots, armed transports.  They are the back bone of the occupation.
Half of all the Stryker vehicles to Iraq.  If we are able to cut off Stryker vehicles to Iraq we could easily end this occupation." 
Examining the above protest and others, Ron Jacobs (CounterPunch) notes: "The City of Tacoma has dropped the charges against the three individuals arrested Monday morning.  According to Berryhill, the original charge was for third degree felony assualt on a police officer.  The city attorney failed to even file a probable cause and 'quickly dismissed the charges'."  The arrested were Jeff Berryhill, Wally Cudderford (who spoke on Democracy Now!) and Caitlin Esworthy.  The fourth was arrested Tuesday and Jacobs notes he was arrested for the 'crime' of not turning off his video camera.
Finally, in US political news, US House Rep Dennis Kucinich, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, notes that the cancellations of two debates for Democratic presidential nominees (Nevada and New Hampshire) are providing cover for a number of candidates: "Whatever their excuses, some candidates are clearly trying to avoid any head-to-head public debate where they will have to answer tough questions -- questions about their votes in favor of the Iraq war, their votes in favor of trade policies that have wiped out millions of American jobs, their votes in favor of abridging Constitutional rights by approving the Patriot Act, and their collaboration with insurance companies and pharmaceutical corporations to deny Americans adequate health care protection."  The cancelled debates, one of which was to have been televised by Fox "News," have not been rescheduled and continues to demonstrate that the debates have been nothing but jokes since the parties took over the right to stage them.  (The answer would be to return the debates to the League of Women Voters and for parties to not attempt to dictate 'guidelines' to the League.)
Kucinich said "it's an insult to the voters, and the height of cynicism, for candidates to refuse to take the public stage and subject themselves to public scrutiny."

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