Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, March 28, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq,  The John McCain Showboat Express continues chug-chugging into Crazy Town, the National Organization for Women endorses Hillary Clinton as the dove on their website vanishes and the US Senate pretends to take action.
Starting with war resistance.  US war resister Mark Wilkerson speaking about the military's record keeping,  "When I was AWOL I called this Army deserter's hot line about once every two weeks to see if my name would ever show up on the list.  I deserted in January 2005 and I started calling this list in February.  What I found was that I would call and give them my Social Security number and they would come back and say, 'No you are not on the list yet.  You are present for duty'."  Mark Wilkerson quoted by Cox News Service in their story on how: "The Army, which has been stressed by repeated deployments in Iraq, is no longer classifying some soldiers as deserters even though they have run away, according to those who counsel deserters and deserters themselves.  It is unclear how widespread the practice is but counselors say they believe the Army has failed to classify hundreds of soldiers as deserters even though they have been gone for more than six months."  The article also quotes Brian C. Hilferty (Army spokesperson, lt. colonel) stating that "the military no longer tries to hunt down deserters.  Instead, it assumes that deserters will eventually run afoul of police who check the NCIC computer."  Of course, that's not true either AEB by the military's attempts to bring in the California police while war resister Kyle Snyder was speaking there at the end of last year, by the military's ordering the Canadian police to arrest Kyle Snyder in Canada and by the still unexplained issue of three US military members posing as Canadian police officers and attempting to locate US war resister Joshua Key.  Speaking with US House Rep and 2008 presidential contender Dennis Kucinich, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted that "the men and women who have gone AWOL, there have been thousands of them, some are bing count-martialed, like Lieutenant Ehren Watada, will be court-martialed again -- it was a mistrial in his first trial -- first officer to say 'no' to war, to deployment to Iraq.  What do you think should happen to these men?  Agustin Aguayo, an Army medic who applied for CO status, didn't get it, and is now in prison in Germany.  Do you support their saying 'no'? Do you support their refusing to go to Iraq or redeploy to Iraq?"  Dennis Kucinich's response: "I support the troops who serve and also those who don't feel it's right to serve.  I think we have to ask our troops to be able to reserve the right of their conscience, and if they feel it's the right thing, we should support that, too.  I think we're in a point in the history of this country where many people have looked at the war and realized that it's wrong.  Some of those people are soldiers.  Soldiers are put in an impossible situation, not only those who are committed to serving in Iraq, but also those who know that the war is wrong and who question the war.  I think we have to love our troops, whatever situation they find themselves in.  And the way to support them is to bring them home. . . . . You know, I don't think that anyone who's taken a principle and conscientious position should be subject to a court-martial.  They should be permitted to leave the service if they so desire, but not be forced through that kind of a process.  I think, you know, there has to be an underlying truth here, and the underlying truth is the war was wrong, period.  The war is based on lies.  We should support our troops by bringing them home, and we should support those who have challenged the war by giving them a chance to leave honorably."
Wilkerson, Watada, Aguayo, Snyder and Key are Clousing and Wilkerson are a part of movement of resistance within the military that also includes Darrell Anderson,  Dean Walcott, Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Ricky Clousing, 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-nine US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.  As the Cox News Service report indicates, the number of those self-checking out is far greater than the US military admits to.

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 the US, the Senate passed (50 to 48) an ammendment yesterday on Iraq.  As Andrew Ward (Financial Times of London) observes that "both houses of Congress must first reconcile their differing bills in conference" and Republican senators dropped their "attempts to remove the nonbinding timeline from a $121.6 bn war-funding bill".  Non-binding once again being the key point.  Robert Knight (Flashpoints) yesterday observed that the "Senate bill . . . is even weaker than the House bill since it only expresses the uneforceable goal, but not requirement, that most troops leave Iraq by March 31, 2008.  As with the House's war preservation bill, the Senate version would enable an unknown number of US troops to remain in Iraq beyond April 2008 for counter-insurgency training and security operations. . . .  The final legislation will almost certainly be met with a veto from President Bush." [Note:
 Flashpoints can be heard over the airwaves and online at KPFA  and KFCF.   Archived broadcasts can be found at Flashpoints and in the KPFA archives. Yesterday's snapshot included links to Flashpoints that were wrong.  My apologies for my mistake.  Thanks to Kyle for pointing that out.]  Larry Everest (CounterPunch) reminds, "In November, millions voted for the Democrats to protest Bush and the war, and in hopes they would end it.  Today, many -- including people who worked energetically to elect Democrats and who've been lobbying them to cut off war funding -- feel bitter, betrayed, and outraged.  They should be outraged.  The lesson is not that the Democrats 'sold out' or are 'spinless.'  The lesson is that the Democrats are a ruling class party (and this is deeply institutionalized, regardless of the desires or intentions of its supporters or even some elected Democrats), acting to advance the interests of a capitalist-imperialist system they're part of and represent."
The attempts to trick the people could backfire on the Democrats who see this non-binding, toothless nonsense as a sure vote-getter for 2008.  As Rebecca (Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude) argued, this can be a sold as 'victory' for the GOP come 2008: "bully boy should sign it into law.  i'm not in the mind to help bully boy but, seriously, he should do it.  and if the dems don't offer anything stronger between now and august 2008, when they start finger pointing, he should say, 'look, i lived up to your bill.'  it won't be hard to do.  he's the 1 who gets to judge if the benchmarks have been met.  he can override things by declaring 'national security'. the dems, if they offer nothing else, have set their own trap."
In one of the more interesting developments, as Mike (Mikey Likes It!) notes, as more and more people catch on to the realities of the Democrats' measures, one of the biggest cheerleaders of the House action, someone who lectured and hectored people about how they weren't as realistic or as smart as he was, is now attempting to play populist of the people: "How stupid does Stupid Ass [David] Sirota think we all are?  Does he think we've all forgotten his attacks on everyone who had the strength to point out that the Pelosi measure did nothing?  Does he htink we've forgotten his pompous lectures?  Today he wants to play 'one of you'."  And some by it.  Though Mike didn't link to "Democracy Haters" (nor will we) some are happy to link the nonsense as the political hack now attempts to recast himself yet again.
So-called independent media made a big deal, rightly, about the mainstream media repeating Bully Boy's claims as facts.  That criticism looks far less strong when so many supposedly "independent" outlets rush to provide the Democrats spin while presenting themselves as factual outlets.  Meanwhile big media has failed repeatedly on the discussion in another regard.  Like US Senator and 2008 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, they all rush to affirm Bully Boy's right to chart the illegal war.  A president's commander-in-chief role applies to the battle field -- a recognized and defined one -- and the people of the United States are the check on that.  Congress, representing them, can set dealines and should set them considering the 2006 election results.  Parroting Hillary, many media outlets rush to state that timelines could interfere with Bully Boy's ability to wage war.  The people have decided.  In the 2006 elections, in the polls consistently.  The one interfering is the Bully Boy who wants to continue his illegal war.  (And Congress is certainly aiding him in that.)  Bully Boy is not King of America.  There is no king in the United States.  
Staying on the subject of politics for a moment, Hillary Clinton has been endorsed in her 2008 presidential bid by NOW -- the National Organization For Women.  As to whether or not the endorsement required that they remove "Peace is a feminist issue" -- a slogan displayed on their site for years -- is a question someone should ask NOW.  Where the dove and slogan used to be, visitors are now told "Love Your Body" and apparently that somehow factored into the decision process by which War Hawk Hillary Clinton won an endorsement from what was an organization strongly dedicated to ending the war.  Again, NOW has removed the dove and slogan "Peace is a feminist issue" from their website and they have endorsed War Hawk Hillary Clinton for 2008.
Today on Democracy Now!, Dennis Kucinich addressed the realities of what was being promised and reality:
Dennis Kucinich: Well, we were given false choices. We were told that we either buy into president Bush's plan, which is keep the war going indefinitely, or accept the Democratic version of the war in Iraq, which would keep the war going for another year or two. I say those choices weren't sufficient.  The Democrats could have refused to send a bill forward. We didn't have to fund this war. We're not under any obligation to keep the war going. And yet our leaders took another path. Furthermore, Amy, you may be interested to know that the 2008 budget, which is before Congress today and will be voted on tomorrow, contains another $145 billion for the war, and on top of that, they're putting another $50 billion for the war in fiscal year 2009.  So this talk about ending the war by March or by September belies the fact that the budget has money in it to keep the war going into 2009. And I think that's wrong. I think the American people will reject that type of thinking.  And I'm standing strong to say "Get out now."  I put forth a plan embodied in HR 1234 to accomplish just that.
Amy Goodman: But what do you say to those make the argument that, if president Bush has on his desk a bill that gives money, gives a fortune in continuing the war, and he has to veto it because he doesn't like the timetable, that this puts him in a very difficult position?
Kucinich: Our decisions have to be way above politics. We have the lives of our troops at stake here. There's no military victory in Iraq. We're there illegally. The occupation is fueling the insurgency. Democrats can still, after president Bush vetoes the bill --  which he will -- Democrats can still take the right position, which is refuse to fund the war, use money in the pipeline to bring the troops home.
Kucinich addressed how Bully Boy's not ending the war and how the current legislation isn't addressing it.  He noted he "crafted my plan with the help of the people at the UN, and I will tell you that they say that it would take about two months, three months to mobilize a sufficient force that would replace US troops leaving.  So I say two, to three months, we could have troops home and have an international force that would help stabilize Iraq.  But the international community will not become involved as long as the United States intends to occupy Iraq and keep bases open.  So we need to take a new direction.  My plan would be as follows: to put in place the provisions of HR 1234, which ends the occupation, closes the bases, sets in motion a plan to bring the troops home, bring in international peace keepers, and stop the privatization of Iraqi oil.  One of the things in the bill that passed the House was a demand that the Iraq government pass a hydrocarbon act which sets the stage for broad privatization of trillions of dollars of Iraqi oil interests. Now think about it.  If Democrats had told the American people last October that, 'If you vote Democrat in November, we'll not only give you enough money to keep the war going through the end of President Bush's term, but we'll also privatize the oil of Iraq and then help the US oil companies' -- with the prize that I think the war was all about from the very beginning -- I don't think the people would have voted Democrat.  So Democrats have to keep faith with the American people."
Interviewed by Bonnie Faulkner (KPFA's Guns and Butter) today, professor Francis Boyle discussed how a 2003 exploration of impeachment by the Democrats was cut short when John Podesta announced that there would be no introduction of bills of impeachment because it would harm Democrats chances in the  2004 election.  Speaking of the measures being applauded by much in the media, big and small, Boyle declared, "It's all baloney.  All they had to do was just do nothing and Bush would have run out of money. . . .  The DNC fully supports the war, that was made clear to Ramsey [Clark] and me on 13 March 2003 and nothing's changed."  John Podesta, former Clintonista, is with the Democratic talking point mill (that attempts to pass itself as a think tank) Center for American Progress -- with an emphasis on "Center" and not "Progress." 
Meanwhile The John McCain Showboat Express chugged back into DC in time for US Senator and presidential wanna-be to issue a statement (much more important than his vote).  David Esp (AP) quotes McCain's laughable claim that "we are starting to turn things around" which may strike some as McCain trying out a new campaign slogan: "Vote Insane, Vote John McCain." 
In Iraq today . . .
Reuters notes truck bombings involving chlorine Falluja, outside a government building, wounding "15 Iraqi and U.S. security forces," a car bomb in Mahaweel killed five and left 25 wounded, a car bombing in Baghdad killed 2 and left 10 injured, a rocket attack in the fortress that is the Green Zone killed one "U.S. government contractor" and a car bombing near Ramadi "killed one civilian and wounded seven others".
Following yesterday's bombings in Tal Afar, more violence took place.  AFP reports that 75 are dead from the Tuesday's bombings and that at least 45 people were "massacred" today and the town is now under "a strict curfew".  Kim Gamel (AP) reports that the violence was launched by "Shiite militants and police" in response to the Tuesday bombings, that 40 people are believed to be kidnapped and that 18 police officers have been arrested "accused in the shooting rampage after they were identified by Sunni families."

Reuters reports five corpses were discovered in Suwayra.
Finally, AP reports that Gale Polluck ("Maj. Gen.") who is the acting surgeon gneral for the Army told the US House Armed Service Committee, "When the original plans were made, we did not take into consideration we could be in a long war" and therefore at question is if "the military lacks money to hire enough nurses and mental health specialists to treat thousands of troops coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan."  If the sudden concern strikes you as familiar, it's because Elaine's long made this point (most recently yesterday), Monica Benderman covered it this week in "On Ending War" (CounterPunch).

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