Monday, March 19, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Monday, March 19, 2007. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq.

Four years after the start of the illegal war, the illegal war continues. Raymond Whitaker (Independent of London) notes that the number of US troops is about to climb to 160,000 which is 10,000 more than was required to invade Iraq. John Simpson (BBC) observes, of Baghdad, "The most common sight, apart from police and army roadblocks, are the black banners on walls and fences announcing people's deaths. And the most common feeling you come across is a kind of slow-burning, gloom." Tariq Ali (New Left Review) notes that "the Occupation is still -- after three years and an outlay of over $200 billion -- unable to assure regular supplies of water and electricity to the people it has subjegated. Factories remain idle. Hospitals and schools barely function. Oil revenues have been looted wholesale by America's loyal minions, not to speak of a horde of US contractors on the take. Wretched as living conditions were for the majority of the population under UN sanctions, under the Americans they have deteriorated yet further, a sectarian killings multiply and minimal security disappears." And the continued violence means people are uprooted as Anthony Arnove (writing at TomGram) reminds, "Nowhere on Earth is there a worse refugee crisis than in Iraq today. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, some two million Iraqis have fled their country and are now scattered from Jordan, Syria, Turkey, and Iran to London and Paris. (Almost none have made it to the United States, which has done nothing to address the refugee crisis it created.) Another 1.9 million are estimated to be internally displaced persons, driven from their homes and neighborhoods by the U.S. occupation and the vicious civil war it has sparked. Add those figures up -- and they're getting worse by the day -- and you have close to 16% of the Iraqi population uprooted. Add the dead to the displaced, and that figure rises to nearly one in five Iraqis." Damein Cave (New York Times) reports today on the "endless loop of inquiry and disappointment" that is the search for family members who have disappeared and may or may not be dead -- Intisar Rashid searches for her husband who disappeared two months ago, searching computer databases of prisoners, searching the morgues, the hospitals in Baghdad . . . Is her husband alive or dead? Will she ever get an answer? Many of the Iraqi dead are never identified. Returning to Arnove's article, he also notes the (PDF format) Lancet's study published in October which found that over 655,000 Iraqis had died during the illegal war. Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted that Dr. Gideon Polya has just released a study which find that there have been "an estimate of one million post-invasion excess deaths in Iraq." Dr. Polya writes (at The Canadian National Newspaper) that: "The 1 million post-invasion Iraqi excess deaths constitutes an Iraqi Holocaust largely due to U.S.-led 'Coalition' violation of the Geneva Conventions that demand that Occupiers keep their conquered subjects ALIVE. Three quarters of the people are women and children. The Bush regime 'War on Terror' is in harsh reality, a 'War on innocent Women and Children,' and more specifically a 'War on Asian/Middle Eastern Women and Children'." A point underscored in 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) which charted the decline/destruction of women's rights and women's safety in Iraq as the US government elected to throw in its lot with those that they expected to be most likely to push the US administration's goals -- goals that did not include full participation in society for all. Women found themselves terrorized, professional women found themselves targeted, rapes, honor killings, and more ran rampant but the US military did nothing to maintain order or to offer protection -- quite the contrary, they actively looked the other way. In The Deserter's Tale, US war resister Joshua Key tells of a young Iraqi girl attempting to return to her country at the border, being the target of the Iraqi police (that the US military was training) who thought she was a "slut" and made it clear (through verbal language and body language) that they would be gang raping her while the US military looked the other way. MADRE's report makes clear that these weren't accidents or surprises (warnings were made before the illegal war began about what would happen to Iraqi women and girls) but the 'trade offs' the US administration was willing to tolerate to put a compliant government in order. And in their desire to create chaos, to take it to "zear zero" as Naomi Klein outlined in "Baghdad Year Zero" (Harper's magazine, 2004). The chaos was thought to throw everyone off guard and allow the US to control (and "shape") the region (hegemony, control of the resources), as professor Elaine C. Hagopian pointed out (noting neocon Michael Ledeen's control theories) in a discussion moderated by Philip Maldari on KPFA's The Morning Show today. Also participating in the discussion was professor Raul Mahajan and while that discussion featured one male guest and one female guest, the reality is that too often women are left out of the discussion and debate. You can see that with Rolling Stone's overly praised text version of a CNN panel on Iraq: "Here's an ex-general, here's a . . . but no women allowed." RadioNation with Laura Flanders' Laura Flanders (writing at The Huffington Post) opens with: "Call me crazy but it still gets my goat that the entire Iraq debate takes place without the input of the female majority." Flanders isn't crazy and if women's voices hadn't been shut out (in the majority of the US media) from the beginning, the nation might have turned against the illegal war much sooner. As Eleanor Smeal, president of Feminist Majority Foundation, noted on KPFA's The Morning Show (March 8, 2007), in the US, women have led on the war, they have been opposed to it in larger numbers and they have been, as she noted, "opinion makers" on this issue. Eleanor's points are backed in up poll after poll but you can check out Celinda Lake's "The Ms. Poll" (Ms. magazine, Summer 2006) and Eleanor's "Women Voted for Change" in the Winter 2007 issue (available only in print but there's an excerpt of it here). In other polling news, AFP notes the new media poll that found (among other things): "About 78 percent [of Iraqis] opposed the presence of foreign forces and 69 percent said their presence made the security situation worse." And thing will only continue to get worse. For instance, Andy Rowell (Oil Change International) notes that puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki, has been told that "continued White House support depended on positive action on the oil law by the close of this parliamentary session June 30." Rowell also notes a meeting in Amman, Jordan among "Iraqi oil industry officials, expert and lawmakers" with many participants expressing their dismay at the selling/stealing of Iraqi assets. AFP reports that Iraqi parliamentarian Ali Mashhadani stated: "Our oil wealth is black gold that must be kept underground until security conditions are appropriate to take advantage of it. It has been entrusted to our safekeeping by the people we represents . . . Iraq has sold 125 billion dollars worth of oil since the start of the US-led occupation" but Iraqis "are eating garbage" and that the 125 billion should have resulted in a subsidy bump for the average Iraqi. And mini-big picture, that's where things stand on the 4th anniversary of the start of the illegal war.

The new poll of Iraqis (which tracks with earlier polls) was comissioned by ARD, USA Today, BBC and ABC (America's ABC). Reuters notes that "86 per cent were concerned about someone in their household being a victim of violence. Iraqis were also disappointed by reconstruction efforts since the invasion, with 67 per cent saying efforts had not been effective." BBC notes that on the question of "how safe do you feel," the results were: "Three years ago, 40 per cent said very safe, now only 26 per cent say they feel that." Of the poll, Christian Berthelsen (Los Angeles Times) observes that "nearly two-thirds of the respondents want to see their nation remain as one, rather than being partitioned along regional and ethnic lines." One of the many concerns about the US-dictated Iraqi oil law is that it will lead to partitioning Iraq into three sections, a position supported by US Senator and 2008 presidential hopeful Joe Biden.

Meanwhile CBS News reports: "After four years of war, Americans are increasingly pessimistic about the prospects for success in Iraq and a majority wants U.S. troops to begin coming home, according to an analysis of data from CBS News and CBS News/New York Times polls. American did not expect the war to last this long, nor did they think it would coast as many lives as it has." Left unstated is where the American people would have gotten that mistaken impression -- from an administration that LIED and a news media that presented stenography as reporting, over and over and over, while shutting out voices with dissenting views. That, more than anything else, explains a March 2003 poll in which 66 % of respondents predicted that the number of US service members who will die in the illegal war would be "less than 1,000." (AP's curren count is 3217 and ICCC's is 3218
for the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.)

As Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted today, protests against the war took place "around the world including in Australia, Chile, Turkey, South Korea, Malyasia and Greece." Protests also took place around the US. Among the speeches from last weekend that were broadcast on today's Democracy Now! was former US House Rep Cynthia McKinney who declared: "Well, it seems that George Bush and the Democratic leaders were right: they confidentally told us that only the Democrats would fund the surge, but that the Democrats would not stop action in Iran, too. Now, we are not surprised when the unelected, illegitimate administration of George Bush ignores us. But we are shocked that the Democratic majority in Congress chose war over us, as we say, 'Bring our troops home now.' The answer is clear: our country has been hijacked." Black Agenda Report carries a speech by McKinney that she gave on KPFK at the start of this month: "How can you be against the war if you finance war? And how can you be against George Bush if you won't impeach him? The American people are being fed mandess as sanity. But, this is not Oz, Wonderland, the Twilight Zone, and it's not 1984! With every fiber in our being we must resist. Resist like Mario Savio told us to resist: with our entire bodies against the gears and the wheels and the levers of the machine. We must resist because we claim no partnership in war crimes, genocide, torture, or crimes against humanity. We claim no complicity in crimes against the American people. We will build a broad-based, rainbow movement from justice and peace. And we will win."
In Eugene, Oregon, protesters turned out in large numbers and among those turning out and speaking was Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq and the first to be court-martialed for it. Edward Russo (The Register-Guard) notes that Watada declared: "They may imprison or torture or take away our lives, but they can never take away our freedom to choose what is right and just." Watada is among those profiled by Christian Hill (The Olympian) today and Hill notes the transformation for Watada: "He wanted to learn more about Iraq and began reading. This research, he has said, convinced him that the Bush administration manipulated intelligence to sell the war to the American public, bringing suffering to U.S. troops, their families and Iraq citizens." Hill also notes veteran and activist Wally Cuddeford who says of his own transformation following his discharge from the navy, "I go to college and learned about history and how activists, labor activists, environmental activists, etc., had been doing so much work and making so many sacrifices throughout the globe for the cause of justice. And that reminded me there are heroes in this world who are willing to stand up and fight for justice. The moment I heard about that, I dove straight in."
In Canada, war resisters were taking part in actions. Kyle Snyder self-checked out the military and then, in October of 2006, attempted to turn himself in only to have the agreement his attorney and the US military tossed aside after he was in custody -- at which point he checked out again and returned to Canada. Cary Castagana (Edmonton Sun) reports that Kyle Snyder marched with "a couple of hundred protesters . . . along Whyte Avenue". Another US war resister in Canada is Dean Walcott. Jennifer Taplin (Halifax' The Daily News) notes that 25-year-old Walcott served two tours of duty in Iraq, and with "nowhere to turn, Walcott went AWOL and moved to Toronto a few months ago. He applied for refugee status and is now waiting for the paperwork to hopefully go through." Canada's CBC reports that Dean Walcott "spoke to the Halifax crowd" and stated: "I believe individual nations have the right to establish themselves as they see fit, and I believe they can do that without interference from the West. There's got to be a better way for nations to be free rather than us putting a gun in their face and demanding it of them."
Watada, Snyder, Key and Walcott are part of a movement of resistance within the military that also includes Darrell Anderson, Agustin Aguayo, Mark Wilkerson, Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, 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.

In Iraq today?


AFP reports that, in Kirkuk, a car bomb claimed 10 lives and left 8 wounded near two mosques while, in a market, a car bomb took 5 lives and left 26 wounded (4 of the five dead were police officers); while, in Hilla, 3 people were shot dead; and, in Baghdad, a bombing "at the entrance of the Shiite Hussain Abu Ruh mosque" claimed 5 lives and left 25 wounded. CNN notes that the mosque bombing in Baghdad's count rose to 6 dead and 32 wounded. Kim Gamel (AP) notes that the total number dead from bombings in Kirkuk today was 18 and that "more than 50 wounded". Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports five mortar attack in Baghdad which left 11 wounded while a mortar attack in the Diyala province killed 4 and wounded 5.


Reuters notes an attack on a police checkpoint in Samarra that left one police officer dead and three more wounded, a police officer shot dead in Iskandariya. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that, in Baiji, a "Facilities and Projects Security guard" was shot dead.


CNN reports that the corpse of Khalaf Ghargan, Dujaila's mayor, was discovered today after he'd been kidnapped hours earlier. Reuters notes the corpse of an Iraqi soldier was discovered in Tikrit and an unidentified corpse was discovered in Mahaweel. Kim Gamel (AP) notes that, in Baghdad, "29 bullet-riddled bodies" were discovered. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the number rose to 30 corpses discovered in Baghdad.

And finally, Matt Spetalnick (Reuters) reports that the Bully Boy spoke at the White House today and pleaded for "patience." If that sounds familiar, it's because the same-old, same-old in Iraq requires the same-old, same-old pitch and today's resembles the one he gave in June of last year.

joshua key

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