Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, March 13, 2007. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, two new polls have bad results for Bully Boy, Nouri al-Maliki begins a whisper campaign to smear a woman, and Dems cave again.

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). 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, section four, "Violence Against Women Within Families" was noted Monday. Part five is "Gender War, Civil War," part six is "Gender-Based Violence Against Men," and part seven "Violence Against Women in Detention." We're grabbing all three sections today because five and seven fit with something in today's news. Due to that, we'll start with section six.

US tax dollars pay for what in Iraq? Homophobia. (Peter Pace must be so proud.) Recently, the US military expressed concern over the effects TV's cess pool 24 was having on US troops. But what about inside Iraq? As the report outlines one of Iraq's most popular TV shows is Terrorists in the Hands of Justice which -- mini-American Idol -- "airs six nights a week on the Iraqiya television network, which was created by the US Pentagon." The show ("financed with US tax dollars") features an interrogation of real prisoners who have the wounds to prove they've been tortured into confessing -- confessing to whatever the bullies want them to say. (Bullies, again, paid with US tax dollars.) So they confess to many things include "gay orgies" -- Sunnis make up the prisoners, interrogators are Shia. Think the program (US backed) doesn't create further tensions (while also marketing and condoning tension)?

The report notes that target groups for "torture and killing are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, and intersex". Those who attempt to receive help or protection realize there is none to be had: "US authorities have responded to Iraqis seeking protection or justice in the wake of homophobic attacks with derision and outright mockery. The US-backed Iraqi police stand accused of rape and extortion by gay men." (Again, Peter Pace must be so proud.)

Now we're going to combine sections five ("Gender War, Civil War") and six ("Violence Against Women In Detention"). Here the report addresses the realities of the gender war which is intertwined with the civil war even if the media and others refuse to acknowledge it. The report notes Haifa Zangana's research which found that the first question asked of any female taken prisoner in Iraq is "Are you Sunni or Shia?" The second? "Are you a virgin?" The report notes the photos of US troops raping women in Abu Ghraib which the US Congress refused to release. The photos are noted in the Taguba report but not as rape, as "sex." That results from the 2006 US Military Commissions Act.

For those of who've forgotten, the Showboat Express (John McCain) had this to say about the 2006 US Military Commissions Act: "Simply put, this legislation ensures that we respect our obligations under Geneva, recognizes the President's constitutional authority to interpret treaties, and brings accountability and transparency to the process of interpretation by ensuring that the executive's interpretation is made public. The legislation would also guarantee that Congress and the judicial branch will retain their traditional roles of oversight and review with respect to the President's interpretation of non-grave breaches of Common Article 3."

Far from the Showboat Express, US Senator Patrick Leahy opposed the bill in strong language and concluded: "I am sorry that the Republican leadership squandered the chance to consider and pass bipartisan legislation that will make us safer and help our fight against terrorism. There was an opportunity today for the Senate to provide the tools we need to fight terrorism while showing the world the values we cherish and defend . . . I will not participate in a legislative retreat out of weakness and fear that undercuts everything this nations stand for and that makes us more vulnerable and less secure. Consistent with my oath of office, my conscience, my committment to the people of Vermont and the nation, I cannot and will not support this bill."

US Senator John McCain is also attempting to win the Republican 2008 presidential nomination. Would be voters might want to ask him why he pushed an act that effectively removed rape? Prior to the US Military Commissions Act of 2006, rape was on the list of acts of torture. Thanks to McCain and his ilk, it was watered down to the point that it's meaningless. Guards having sex with prisoners? Maybe it was boredom? Not rape, never rape.

Before Abu Ghraib became the scandal that shocked the world, in December 2003, a letter was smuggled out of the prison, penned by "Noor." She wrote of "women . . . being systematically rped by US soldiers . . . and that some detainees were pregnant as a result of these rapes." Noor's claims were backed up after the fact. But no US troop was punished. Along with rape, female prisoners were urinated on, beaten and much more. Women and girls were often imprisoned not for any act they had committed but because US forces wanted their male relatives so women and girls became bargaining chips -- in violation of international law. Once imprisoned, the dangers didn't stop. Women (and their husbands) would be threatened with women not only being raped but being raped in front of their husbands who would be forced to watch.

Many examples of abuse are given but we'll focus on the case of Kahdija Mohammed Mhawish who was held in several jails for over two years and tortured the whole time: "She reported being flogged with cables, having her fingernails pulled out, and being forced to stand naked before prisoners who were urged to rape her. Khadija, who was sexually assaulted in front of her son (also a prisoner), identified the following men as her rapists: Fifth Branch officers Major Raid, Captain Nabeel, First Lieutenant Saad, and non-commissioned officers Abdilamir and Raad."

Into that climate comes news of Sabrine Janabi. She was the woman who publicly stated she had been raped on television -- by Iraqi security forces. As noted in the first snapshot she was mentioned in last month: " . . . an Iraqi woman (whose real name has not been given in press reports) has stated she was raped by Shia military forces in Baghdad on Sunday." Thug-puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki promised an investigation and of course changed his mind. As Riverbend (Baghdad Burning) noted, "It was less than 14 hours between Sabrine's claims and Maliki's rewarding the people she accused. In 14 hours, Maliki not only established their innocence, but turned them into his own personal heroes. I wonder if Maliki would entrust the safety of his own wife and duaghter to these men. This is meant to discourage other prisoners, especially women from coming forward and making claims against Iraqi and American forces." Well al-Maliki can't stop smearing the woman.

Ned Parker (Times of London) reports on the whisper campaign against the woman whom, they claim, has been under arrest for some time and had made a confession they videotaped. To show it on US-backed Iraqi television? They're probably not going to show the tape, they've decided, and instead push the whisperer campaign. They tell Parker the woman is actually Shia (if true, that appeared in the press the same week she went on TV), that she worked as a prostitute, that she was paid by Sunnis to make these charges and that Sabrine is not her real name! Not her real name! Oh, we should issue a correction right now . . . except that anyone paying attention when the story broke knew "Sabrine" wasn't the name of the woman. Of course, the campaign wants you to believe that when not turning tricks, Sabrine also has time to play the medical nurse to the "insurgency" and don't forget she has also been alleged to have been the chief chef of the "insurgency."

In the real world, Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reports not just on the whisper campaign ("leaked information to discredit her" and adds that they're also accusing Sabrine of bigamy) but also notes the Iraqi Islamic Party's denial of hiring and and, most important, reminds that despite the puppet's minions saying the woman is liar, "U.S. rape experts told McClatchy Newspapers that the report, filled out after the woman was taken to a U.S. military hospital by the American patrol who picked her up from the Iraqi police station, showed that she had extensive injuries consistent with sexual assault, including bruises on her thigh."

That's in reference to a report that ran in February -- noted in Feb. 22nd's snapshot:

What he [al-Maliki] did do was release something -- a second page of a three page report on someone -- that he said was proof that the woman wasn't raped. It wasn't proof of anything. And it doesn't even prove that whatever woman the report is on wasn't raped. Richard Mauer (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that rape experts who have looked at the page say it "didn't disprove the woman's allegations, . . . and it indicated that the woman suffered extensive injuries, including at least eight bruises on the front of her thighs consistent with a sexual assualt."

Only McClatchy Newspapers had the brains to take the released page to rape experts, everyone else allowed the puppet government to spin the single page they had released. Sadly, only McClatchy Newspapers has noted this fact -- that the single medical page doesn't disprove Sabrine's statements but, in fact, backs them up.

On the topic of crimes in Iraq, Paul von Zielbauer (New York Times) examined criminal convictions of US troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and found "240 of the 665 cases" ended in conviction and that alcohol "is involved in a growing number of rimes committed by troops deployed to those countries." In the case of Abeer Qasim Hamza (not mentioned by name in the article -- this is the Times which has gone out of its way to avoid giving the victim a name), based on the confessions of James P. Baker and Paul Cortez, alcohol was involved prior to after the gang rape of the 14-year-old Abeer by US forces, the murder of her and the murders of her parents and five-year-old sister. So was chicken, they grilled chicken afterwards -- so alcohol's link (or "link") may or may not be a major mitigating factor.

Turning to news of war resistance, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted today that Helga Aguayo, the wife of Agustin Aguayo, has stated they will "continue to fight for her husband's release from a military prison" and quotes Helga Aguayo stating: "What I do want now is my husband to be released which will happen in 40-45 days. We pursue it legally and that he is found to be a conscientious objector, one, that his conviction of desertion is overturned, two, and that he is given an honorable discharge. That's all I hope for." Agustin Aguayo was court-martialed March 6th in Germany and was sentenced to 8 months in prison but given credit for the 161 days he had already served while awaiting his court-martial.

Another US war resister, Ehren Watada was the subject of a short film noted by Jeff Yang (San Francisco Chronicle) today:

CAAM's evolutionary throughline might be visible in its production of Curtis Choy's "Watada, Resister," an 18-minute mini-film documenting the historic conversation between Lt. Ehren Watada, the Japanese American soldier who is facing court martial as the first U.S. commissioned officer to refuse deployment to the Iraq War, and Frank Emi and Yosh Kuromiya, Nisei resisters of a generation before, who rejected service in the U.S. military as a protest against the internment of their friends and family.
By connecting Watada with these moral forebears, the work connects yesterday to today, bringing the legacy of history to the dynamic, shifting playing field of the present. The medium is as much a message as the content: "Watada, Resister" was released directly to the Internet as a streaming and downloadable video.
"Curtis came to us saying, 'We have to tell this story, but I don't want to wait two years to do this for PBS, and I don't want to raise a lot of money,'" says [Stephen] Gong. "We pulled together a few thousand dollars to cover the costs of a crew up in Seattle and in L.A., and Curtis did his own editing, while our staff pulled together the contextual narrative to give people a way to understand the material. And literally, that was it. This was a story that needed to be told now, and this gave us a way to tell it."

Agustin Aguayo, Ehren Watada are part of a movement of resistance within the military that includes Kyle Snyder, Joshua Key, 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.


CBS and AP report that a roadside bomb in Baghdad left two Industry Ministry workers dead and six more injured. Lauren Frayer (AP) reports a mortar attack in Mosul that claimed one life and left four wounded. Reuters notes a rocket attack in central Baghdad that killed 2 people and left two more wounded (although one source told Reuters 4 died and 4 were wounded).


CBS and AP report that an interpreter working for occupation forces was shot dead in Kut. Reuters notes that a judge (Omar Abdul Nabi) and two people with him were shot dead in Baghdad while another person was wounded, an attack on a police car that killed 3 police officers and left 2 wounded, that Hatam Mushin ("general director of mechanical industries company") was shot dead in Iskandariya, and, in Kirkuk, one police officer was shot dead and three more wounded.

AFP reports four people were shot dead in Baghdad and Lauren Frayer (AP) notes that they were shot dead in "a Sunni mosque in the southwest of the city".


Reuters reports 17 corpses were discovered in Baghdad, 2 near Kut, 1 in Diwaniya and 4 in Mosul. Lauren Frayer (AP) notes that the number of corpses in Kut rose from two to eight and, in Mosul, from 4 to 5.

Turning to US politics. As Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted, "Democratic leaders have announced they're now abandoning an effort to put limits on President Bush's authority to take military action against Iran. Democrats had included a provision in the new military spending bill that would have required Congressional approval for any military confrontation with Iran.But the requirement was dropped after several Democrats argued it would take away the use of force as a bargaining tool over Iran's nuclear program." Peter Grier (Christian Science Monitor) observes what this may means in terms of leadership issues:
"The provision's removal shows how difficult it may be for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) of California and Senate majority leader [Harry] Reid to keep Democrats together in the coming debates over further Iraq restrictions. It may also show how hard it is for Congress to strike a consensus over difficult questions of war and peace." If it is a leadership issue, it's one for Congress to fret over, not one for peace activists to wring their hands over. Norman Solomon (CounterPunch) makes this point very well: "Pelosi and Reid have a job to do. The antiwar movement has a job to do. The jobas are not the same. This should be obvious -- but, judging from public and private debates now fiercely underway among progressive activists and organizations, there's a lot of confusion in the air. No amount of savvy Capitol-speak can change the fact that 'benchmarks' are euphemisms for more war. And when activists pretend otherwise, they play into the hands of those who want the war to go on . . . and on . . . and on." Kevin Zeese (Democracy Rising) also offers reality, "The headline that the Democratic leadership would like voters to hear" from last week's nonsense measure, " is 'troops out of Iraq by August 2008.' But the headline is more a wolf in sheep's clothing than a reality. After hearing details of the bill from Obey's appropriations staff person the loopholes may define the law more than the headline. From most in the peace movement an August 2008 deadline for withdrawl is already way too slow. . . . But, that is not the worst of it.As Rep. Maxine Waters, the Chair of the Out of Iraq Caucus point out, a few weeks ago the Congress passed a non-binding resolution against the so-called 'surge' but this appropriation will actually pay for the surge -- which has grown since their vote by more than 8,200 troops.Indeed, the Democrats are poised to give Bush up to $20 billion more than he asked for!" Mike addressed the Obey nonsense last week. Others offered cover for Obey (for comments on Sirota's cover, see this roundtable). As Solomon points out: "Pelosi and Reid have a job to do. The antiwar movement has a job to do. The jobs are not the same."

Meanwhile, two news polls continue to demonstrate Americans want US forces out of Iraq. CNN has a new poll which has found: "Nearly six in ten Americans want to see U.S. troops leave Iraq either immediately or within a year, and more would rather have Congress running U.S. policy int he conflict than President Bush". The same poll finds that American want US troops out of Iraq -- 21% immediately and 37% advocating "within a year". CBS and the New York Times poll finds that 59% oppose Bully Boy's escalation plan of sending more troops to Iraq (36% approve -- so sign up to fight!) while 76% of those polled said that the administration had not "done enough for Iraq war vets."

Nor for their families. Speaking with Amy Goodman (Democracy Now) Carlos Arrendo explained how the military told him his son Alex had died serving in Iraq (they told him of the death then stayed out on the street in a van, refusing to leave -- with his ex-wife, Marines sat down with her and brought a chaplain) Arrendo is currently taking part in the Endless War Memorial in NYC (Times Square) which is multi-day reading of the known names of those who have died in Iraq.

Finally, the puppet left the Green Zone and went to Ramadi where he exclaimed, "I haven't been to Ramadi since 1976!" reports al Jazeera. How could he? He fled Iraq in 1980 to escape criminal charges, ran to Iran then Syria, and lived there until after the start of the current illegal war. Now Nouri al-Maliki has to face that life can be confining in the cage that is the Green Zone. At least he has his whisper campaigns.

agustin aguayo

[C.I. note: Link to Norman Solomon was missed in my rush. It's been added.]