Thursday, March 29, 2007

Other Items (Robert Knight's commentary)

In today's Knight report and war summary, a new massacre in Iraq as the Senate deliberates and Democrats contemplate a war ending strategy of ready, aim, compromise. I'm Robert Knight in New York.
The sectarian violence between the Sunni and Shia Arab majority in Iraq assumed even greater dimensions today when as many as 120 Sunnis were dragged from their homes and executed by Shia death squads from the Mahdi army and Badr brigades supported by members of the US trained police in the city of Tal Afar -- 250 miles north of Baghdad where a Sunni driven truck bomb killed 80 Shias yesterday.
Today's revenge massacre in the mixed city lasted through the night with assassins roaming through Sunni neighborhoods and dragging residents into the street where they were summarily shot point blank. Current reports indicate 70 known dead with an additional 50 or more missing and presumed dead. Sunni groups blame Shia infiltrated security forces for the killings along with at least 18 police arrested after they were identified by survivors.
The US installed office of Shia backed prime minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered an investigation but the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars said the murders were " evidence of "the clear plot and coordination between the militias and the government of interior and defense."
Yesterday, a presumed Sunni insurgent detonated a truck purporting to deliver bakery goods to a Shia neighborhood killing 85 and wounding a 100. But Sunni parliamentarian Dhafer al-Ani said that, "If yesterday's attacks were carried out by unidentified terrorists, today's events were conducted by well known criminal police and they must be punished."
Amid the latest breakdown of civil order, despite the current US military escalation, Pentagon publicist and Rear Admiral Mark Fox declared today that "We are seeing preliminary signs of progress but there will be rough days ahead."
Fox went on to compare the US security plan to "backing a rat into an corner and increasing pressure on the extremists."
The crisis generated ripples in the Arab world earlier today when Saudi King Abdullah condemned "the illegitimate foreign occupation of Iraq" during an opening statement to the Arab League Summit in Riyadh.
Abdullah said, "In beloved Iraq blood is being shed among brothers in the shadow of illegitimate foreign occupation and ugly sectarianism. threatens civil war."
Meanwhile in Washington, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid condemned the US escalation saying, "The idea that the 'surge' is working and that it needs more time is a fantasy. What we see today in Iraq is more the same. The same violence, the same chaos, the same loss of life we've seen in Iraq over the past four years. "
As he spoke, Democrat and Republican senators continued quibbling over a 125 billion dollar appropriations bill that would guarantee a continued military presence in Iraq well into the year 2008 if not beyond. The Senate measure ,which awaits a final vote and resolution with a similar non-specifically binding House bill is expected to be voted on later this week even though it faces a presidential veto. Meanwhile Democratic leadership is already announcing that it's willing to negotiate with president Bush to water down the provisions during markup in order to avoid that veto.
But the White House defiantly announced today, "If Congress fails to pass a bill to fund our troops on the frontlines, the American people will know who to hold responsible."
However polls now consistently indicate the American people also know who to hold responsible for the lie-based invasion and Congressional acquiescence that unleashed the sectarian violence in Iraq.
A new USA Today/Gallup poll has found that nearly two-thirds say the current US occupation and escalation "has not made much difference or has actually made the situation in Iraq worse." And that's some of the news of this Wednesday, March 28, 2007. From exile in New York, I'm Robert Knight for Flashpoints.

The above is from Wednesday's "The Knight Report" commentary by Robert Knight on Flashpoints. The hourly program airs, Monday through Friday, live online via Flashpoints, KPFA and KFCF (also over the airwaves in the Bay Area on the last two), from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm. Archived broadcasts can be found at Flashpoints and in the KPFA archives. "The Knight Report" airs Monday through Thursday. Sabrina asked if we could note "'The Knight Report' one more day?" We can note it today and we'll note in the future but don't expect it Friday morning (due to the "And the war drags on" on Thursday nights). For those who have been unable to listen to Flashpoints , the first segment (Monday through Thursday) is "The Knigh Report." After that hosts Dennis Bernstein and Nora Barrows-Friedman will do various reports and interviews. Barrows-Friedman reports frequently from the occupied territories. The program also frequently features speak outs on various topics. Some regular guests include Robert Parry, Greg Palast, Dr. Mona El-Farra, Dahr Jamail, and Ann Wright. (Some -- that's not "all." Other voices popular with the community, such as Michael Ratner, are also on the program frequently.) Let's note this from "2006: The Year of Living Dumbly (Year in Review):"

Take Ivan Brobeck who returned from Canada and turned himself in on election day. Who noted that? It's called The Full Brobeck. November 6th, on KPFA's Flashpoints, Nora Barrows-Friedman interviewed him and . . . no one else did or bothered to report on him. The web site Common Dreams did run a press release put out by Courage to Resist which was apparently supposed to pass for coverage that Brobeck was returning from his self-check out and returning with an open letter to the Bully Boy.
Rolling Stone and Left Turn managed to run print articles on Watada. Left Turn is a monthly, Rolling Stone is a weekly that focuses more on entertainment. How they managed to cover it when the weekly, political magazine The Nation couldn't is a question people should be asking?
Sign a petition, vote, and call it a "Sweet Victory," apparently.
The Nation, in 2006, was about as political as the Big Brothers and Big Sisters programs across the country.
[. . .]
Flashpoints deserves special credit for their outstanding coverage. Iraq is not their focus but they picked up the slack and then some by interviewing more war resisters than anyone else, by regularly airing reports from Dahr Jamail and others and by, honestly, paying attention to what was going on. In doing that, they didn't lose focus on the occupied territories.

Hilda wondered about the last "not their focus" comment (she hasn't heard the show and is one of our members who will not -- short of medical advances)? The program's main focus is the occupied territories. Not its sole focus. But that's what it has really made its name on in the last few years. And it's suffered fall out for that with people who would prefer that the topic not to be explored. It does cover Iraq and many other topics. Palast, Jamail and others have always been welcome on the program. "The Knight Report" covers a number of issues (including in depth looks at events in New York). Though she's been too busy to do so this week, Rebecca generally covers Flashpoints at her site and she is emphasizing the reports on the occupied territories. So, to Hilda's question, it covers many topics but it picks up the slack from the rest of the media in covering the occupied territories and that's what stands out to a large number who listen to the program. In addition, Flashpoints frequently features poetry during the week and, on Friday's usually includes live music. Also on Fridays, the last 15 minutes is "Flashpoints in Espanol." If you are able to enjoy audio programs online, you can listen to the program or any other Pacifica program via the archived broadcasts.

Now, remember the Saudi King covered in Robert Knight's report?

Well you know the New York Times can't wait to get a piece of that. Not to explore it or analyze it, just to assure that it's no big deal and the Saudi King wasn't all that to begin with. From
"U.S. Iraq Role Is Called Illegal by Saudi King:"

The king's speech, at the opening of the Arab League meeting here, underscored growing differences between Saudi Arabia and the Bush administration as the Saudis take on a greater leadership role in the Middle East, partly at American urging.
The Saudis seem to be emphasizing that they will not be beholden to the policies of their longtime ally.
They brokered a deal between the two main Palestinian factions last month, but one that Israel and the United States found deeply problematic because it added to the power of the radical group Hamas rather than the more moderate Fatah. On Wednesday King Abdullah called for an end to the international boycott of the new Palestinian government. The United States and Israel want the boycott continued.
In addition, Abdullah invited President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran to Riyadh earlier this month, while the Americans want him shunned. And in trying to settle the tensions in Lebanon, the Saudis have been willing to negotiate with Iran and Hezbollah.
Last week the Saudi king canceled his appearance next month at a White House dinner in his honor, The Washington Post reported Wednesday. The official reason given was a scheduling conflict, the paper said.

Now the article's by Hassan M. Fattah so the chances of an error (or two or three) being contained in the article are extremely likely. Most infamously, Fattah attempted to pen the "I Know Who The Hooded Guy In the Abu Ghraib Photo Is!" article. When it exploded in his face, the paper attempted to 'share' the blame by pointing out Vanity Fair had printed an article that mentioned the guy claimed to be the one in the photo. Now that article ran months and months before the Times' article did. And when they were selling Fattah's 'exclusive,' they saw no reason to mention Van Fair. But when it was time spread the blame, suddenly they were all over Vanity Fair. And forgetting to tell their readers that Vanity Fair did not present the man as the one in the photo, the magazine noted that the man claimed to be the one in the photo and that the claim could not be verified. So, for the record, we've noted that he's rushing to indicate to everyone that the administration wants the king shunned and the orders are now that he was never important to the US to begin with. And, for the record, we're not standing behind anything in the Times' article. If and when they run a correction, we won't note it here because we don't trust his reporting. (Getting something wrong is one thing -- and this wasn't Fattah's first time -- stating that Vanity Fair made the same mistake -- when they didn't -- is another thing altogether.)

US war resisters Kyle Snyder and Joshua Key are both residing in Canada and attempting to be recognized and granted asylum. During the Vietnam era, the Canadian government was welcoming of war resisters. Since the start of the current illegal war, the Canadian government has been much more reluctant. No war resister has been granted refugee status thus far. Jeremy Hinzman, Ryan Johnson, Patrick Hart, Dean Walcott and Corey Glass are some of the others US war resisters who've gone public as they fight for legal recognition in Canada.

Darrell Anderson and Ivan Brobeck are two US war resisters who went to Canada and returned in 2006. Anderson was discharged (as he has noted, the military wasn't looking forward to a court-martial with a decorated combat veteran who would share the realities of what he saw in Iraq). Brobeck was court-martialed and sentenced. Kyle Snyder returned to the US and, in an arrangement with the military, attempted to turn himself in on October 31, 2006; however, the military that had burned him throughout his service, lied to him again. As soon as his attorney left, the agreement fell immediately apart. Snyder checked himself out again (traveled the US speaking out against the war, assisted with reconstruction in New Orleans, etc.). Snyder then returned to Canada.

At the end of February, Kyle Snyder was harassed and arrested when the Canadian police decided to take orders from the US military. More recently, the US military has been "looking for" Joshua Key and three non-Canadian police officers have been going through Canada posing as Canadian police officers. The above brings us to Vic's highlight, from CBC News' "NDP calls for Ottawa to probe U.S. deserter's arrest:"

The NDP are asking the federal government to look into the arrest of an American military deserter in Nelson, B.C.
Alex Atamanenko, who represents the riding of British Columbia Southern Interior, told CBC News Wednesday he suspects the Nelson police were responding to a request from the U.S. army in February when they put Kyle Snyder in jail.
Wearing only his boxer shorts, Snyder was held in a cell for several hours before he was released after agreeing to a future meeting with immigration officials.
Snyder was not charged and police won't say what prompted his arrest.
Snyder, 23, who says he is applying for permanent residence in Canada, is wanted by the U.S. army because he deserted in 2005 after fighting in Iraq.
Atamanenko said Snyder should not have been arrested because being absent without leave from a foreign military is not an extraditable offence and Snyder has no criminal record.

In fairness, we should note that the US military loves, loves, loves Joshua Key's book The Deserter's Tale. So, as "The Stateside Army Book Club" (The Third Estate Sunday Review) postulates, maybe they're just huge fans and don't mean to be stalkers?

Lloyd notes Karin Brulliard and Robin Wright's "Strikes on Baghdad's Green Zone on the Rise" (Washington Post):

Iraqi insurgents are increasingly hitting Baghdad's fortresslike Green Zone with rockets and mortar shells, officials said Wednesday.
Insurgents have struck inside the Green Zone, which includes the U.S. Embassy, on six of the past seven days, once with deadly consequences. A U.S. soldier and a U.S. government contractor were killed Tuesday night by a rocket attack that also seriously wounded a civilian, military and embassy officials said. One soldier and at least three other civilians received minor injuries, U.S. Embassy spokesman Lou Fintor said.

And Martha notes this from Ann Scott Tyson's "Increase May Mean Longer Army Tours" (Washington Post):

Sustaining the U.S. troop increase in Iraq beyond this summer will not be possible without keeping some Army combat brigades in the war zone for up to 16 months -- much longer than the standard year-long tour, a top U.S. general in charge of the military's rotation plans said yesterday.
Air Force Gen. Lance Smith, head of U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, also said that if the increase of more than 28,000 combat and support troops continues until February, there is a "high probability" that some Army units would have less than a year at home between combat rotations, further compressing the limited time to train and reconnect with families.

Also, David Cay Johnston's "Income Gap Is Widening, Data Shows" (New York Times, C1) reports on the increasing split between many Americans and "the top 1 percent of Americans -- those with incomes that year of more than $348,000 -- receiving their largest share of national income since 1928". Put that in with Edmund L. Andrews' "Ex--Auditor Says He Was Told to Be Lax on Oil Fees" (C3) which is about former Interior Department auditor Bobby Maxwell who has "accused senior officials . . . of prohibiting him and other investigators from recovering hundres of millions of dollars in underpayments from oil and gas companies that drill on federal land and in federal water." Andrews reports that in testimony yesterday to the House Natural Resources Committee, Maxwell stated he was told "Don't bother the oil companies."

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