Sunday, April 29, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

Finally, in a nation with no safety net, the military is one of the few government-backed means of advancement for the poor. "I was living in a trailer with my grandmother," says Darrell Anderson, 25, who earned a purple heart in Iraq and later went awol. "I was broke and I needed education and healthcare, and if I had to go to war for them that was just what I had to do. Going to the military was my last chance. My last option." If all else fails, you can yomp and shoot your way to the American dream.

Gareth noted the above from Gary Younge's "The Iraq war is over. It is the moment for Democrats to show real leadership" (Guardian of London) and shared that he's not "impressed" with the column overall but wondered if The Nation would bother to run it (Younge, like Naomi Klein, writes for the Guardian/Observer and their columns appear in The Nation) since it mentions Darrell Anderson? Probably not because Darrell Anderson is a war resister. And that's among Gareth's problems with Younge's column that doesn't note Anderson self-checked out for a reason -- opposition to the illegal war. Anderson, of course, then went to Canada and returned last summer, turned himself in and was released because, as Anderson has stated many times, he told the military to go ahead and try to court-martial him, he'd show up in uniform, with his Purple Heart (which I believe is supposed to be spelled that way -- "Purple Heart" -- I could be wrong) and how was that going to look?

I'm pulling a paragraph because it will be developed next week for The Third Estate Sunday Review. We went with a theme (except for Ava and my TV thing) and there were two lighter pieces. One was done and went into the print edition, the other we didn't even make time for. The one that's run in the print edition will be redone for next week (that's the plan right now according to Jim and Dona) and we'll pick up the other light feature. (Again, that's the plan.) But if that happens, there's already concern that the edition may be too light so Dona's asked people to brainstorm. So for more on where the last paragraph was headed, wait for next Sunday.

For the record, the Guardian of London has mentioned war resisters. Not as much as other British outlets but every now and then. Anderson had a huge impact when he announced he was returning to the US and to reduce him to what Younge has is really pretty sad and disgusting. But the column itself is sad and disgusting.

Gareth included his comments and then copied and pasted the entire column in his e-mail. I was reading it, I thought, "Younge's going to make the point I'd planned to." Fortunately, he doesn't. Younge babbles on about the military and the US and the 'relationship' and blah-blah-blahbatty-blah.

It's interesting that a columnist published in England wants to give (bad) advice to the Democrats, isn't it? One would assume that Labour has no problems (or that Younge was based in DC and not in NYC) -- but of course that's not the case. And of course, the Guardian's not really keen on calling Labour out. (Which is why it was the Sunday Times of London, not the Guardian, that broke the story on the Downing Street Memos and followed it up.)

Younge thinks the Dems need to stand. He doesn't take that to the point that needs to be made.
They're not standing, they're still hiding and that was obvious in the radio address. It was time to respond to the Bully Boy, to put a Democratic stamp on issues, to put a Democratic voice out there. And what did they do?

They handed their time over to a member of the right-wing, no-thought tank Hudson Institute.
You keep hearing how unfair the media is to Democrats, how hard is to get Democrats on the air, how unbalanced the panels and discussions are because Democrats are present. So what does the Democratic Party do? Turns over their national address to a member of a right-wing think tank, someone who, as he notes in his address, is not a Democrat.

Whine about the inbalance all you want, when you abdicate your own forum and present the message that no Democrat can speak to these issues so you need to draft a non-Democrat, a member of the right-wing Hudson Institute, your problems go beyond media and any inbalances in the current system are at least partly your own making.

A national party, with control of both houses of Congress, with members of all ages, has to recruit a right-winger to speak for their issues? Wonder why some people see no difference in the two major parties? Look no further than the sort of nonsense that has Democrats hiding behind a right-winger to get "their" message out.

It's disgusting and it's shameful. It needs to be called out. The party loves to hide behind the military (General William Odum is who they picked to speak for them, for those who missed the address) and apparently needed to send the message that not only will they not stand for themselves, but there are no Democrats in the military. Now that's not true, but their decision, their pick, sends that message. It also sends a message of how unfocused they are that they have to turn to a right-winger to mount a response to the Bully Boy.

Oh, it's not fair! Oh Fox "News" is so mean! Oh Juan and Mara trash Dems but get presented as the alternative to Britty, Billy and Seanie! All true. But the Democratic Party does not control Fox "News." They do control whom they select to speak for them. No one silenced Democrats on Saturday but the party itself by electing to go with Odum for the "Democratic response" to Bully Boy's weekly radio address.

That the party still wants to hide behind the military (which really isn't the role of Congress), when Bully Boy's poll numbers have tanked and stayed in the toilet, when the people have turned against the war and a majority now wants a date to be scheduled for withdrawal not only speaks to the disarray in the Democratic Party, it also speaks to why the illegal war continues.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.

-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3323. Tonight? ICCC is down. At some point, early Sunday morning, we wrote "Sacrifice" (The Third Estate Sunday Review) and the ICCC count then was 3346 (it's noted in "Sacrifice," after the illustration). That includes the 9 deaths the US had announced by Saturday. So the number for Sunday was 3346. That's 23 more than it was the week prior.

In addition, it's Monday in Baghdad today and the US military has announced: "A Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers Soldier was killed when a combat patrol was attacked with small arms fire in an eastern section ofBaghdad April 28." (That would bring the count to 3347 -- as of Monday. I'm belaboring that point due to the fact that ICCC is down and I don't want there to be any confusion about the count.) And Monday's announcement includes more than just the one. Reuters reports:

Four American soldiers were killed in Baghdad over the past two days, the U.S. military said on Monday.
That takes to more than 100 the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq this month, making April one of the deadliest for American forces in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

So we're looking at Monday's announcements bringin the count to 3350 and a month total that is higher than March and February and (I believe) January.

In addition, today (Sunday) the British military announced: "It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm that a soldier from 2nd Battalion The Rifles (2 RIFLES) has been killed in a small arms fire attack whilst on a routine patrol in the Al Ashar district, east of central Basra at about 0930hrs this morning, Sunday 29 April 2007." Reuters says this death brings the total number of UK soldiers to die in Iraq to 146. Also rising was the number of dead from Saturday's Karbala bombing, which Thomas Wagner's "Death toll up to 68 after blast in Shia holy city" (Independent of London, noted by Polly) places at 68:

US forces fired an artillery barrage in southern Baghdad yesterday morning, rocking the capital with loud explosions. In the Shia holy city of Karbala, the death toll from a suicide car bomb attack rose to 68.
The blasts in Baghdad came a day after America announced the deaths of nine US troops, including four killed in separate roadside bombings south of Baghdad and five in fighting in Anbar province, a Sunni insurgent stronghold west of the capital.

In today's violence, Reuters reports a Baghad roadside bombing that took 3 lives (8 wounded),
Iraqi journalist Amal al-Mudarress was injured by "gunmen [who] shot her near her home in western Baghadad," an attack on trucks that led to the kidnapping of the drivers not far from Samara (there were 15 trucks, if all drivers were kidnapped and only one employee was in each truck, the mass kidnapping total is 15). Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) notes "three sweepers" killed in Baghdad, Abdul-Karim Al-Abudi was kidnapped in Baghdad "along with eight of his employees" (he is the national security head for the Ur neighborhood), Baghdad robberies included the "payroll for the fine arts directorate employees" (184 million dinars) and
"the teaching staff of a school" (10 million dinars), an Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Baghdad, 11 corpses was discovered in Baghdad and 1 in Biji, the Baghdad kidnapping of Muhammad abid Rashid, a shooting death in Balad, a Diyala bus attack that left one student dead, a woman was injured in a shooting (she was in a car) in Jirf Al-Milih, a human head was discovered, and a Basra car bombing that killed at least 10.

Brendan notes that the AP has a report on Sean J. Maxwell who was sented Saturday to 10 months and will receive a bad conduct discharage for returing "some two weeks late from a scheduled break" and for punching "his first sergeant in the face and head with a closed fist after returning to Kuwait on Feb. 7". That's really all that is known. Brendan wondered if Sean Maxwell was a war resister? He may be. He may not be. But for some reason, the US military elected to court-martial him (in Baghdad) for two weeks of missing movement. They'd sent him to Kuwait after he returned and there he got in the physical confrontation with the superior officer. The military is attempting to crackdown on people checking out. The Baghdad court-martial seems strange (though it does keep him out of the reach of most reporters). The court-martial may have just resulted from getting into a physical exchange with a superior officer but, at a time when the US is having trouble meeting recruitment, a discharge over that seems surprising.

What we can note is Iraq Veterans Against the War. Rone Tempest's "Veterans voice opposition to U.S. presence in Iraq" (Los Angeles Times) reports on Sean O'Neill, Ronn Cantu,
Jabbar Magruder and Mike Ergo's speaking out:

Although their number is still small compared with the draft-fueled Vietnam veterans' movement four decades ago, California's Iraq veterans are gaining a voice in opposition to America's continued military presence in Iraq. Recent antiwar demonstrations in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities have seen the first sizable contingents of veterans from the conflict.The protesters even include some soldiers -- like Cantu, of Los Angeles -- who are still on active duty. "I've taken a public antiwar stance," Cantu, 29, recently e-mailed from Baghdad, where he serves in intelligence with the 1st Cavalry, "but I didn't shirk my responsibilities."O'Neill, a 24-year-old Marine veteran from Fremont, said he likes to take the antiwar message to conservative areas of the state "to add legitimacy and to show that it is not just crazed leftists who are against the war."
[. . .]
The only significant court case related to antiwar activity, the court-martial of Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada at Ft. Lewis, Wash., ended in a mistrial in February. Watada was charged with "conduct unbecoming an officer" for antiwar statements he made before Veterans for Peace and other organizations and for refusing to deploy with his unit to Iraq. A new court-martial is set for July.
Cantu belongs to an organization called Iraq Veterans Against the War and is an active antiwar blogger. Except for a letter of admonishment he received for his largely antiwar website, he said, "the Army has respected my rights." After he registered his website and promised not to post pictures of himself in uniform, he was left alone."A lot of soldiers have the belief that freedom of speech doesn't apply to us, but that couldn't be further from the truth," Cantu said. "Since speaking out, I've been part of two Army briefings where we were explicitly told that freedom of speech applies to us."

Despite Tempest's claims, I'm not sure Ehren's is the only "significant" case. Certainly Agustin Aguayo, Mark Wilkerson, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck (to name only recent examples) and others were "significant."

On Aguayo, we'll note Heather Wokusch's "From Baghdad to the Brig; A Reluctant Hero for Our Times" (UN Observer):

Agustín Aguayo might not be a household name, but his struggle pierces the core of the US anti-war movement. Aguayo, a 35-year-old Mexican-American from Los Angeles, joined the Army in 2003 yet soon realized he couldn't take part in violence. He applied for conscientious objector (CO) status in February 2004 but was sent to Iraq anyway, where he refused to load his weapon even while on guard duty.
In an exclusive interview this week, Aguayo explained: "I was determined that I would not hurt/injure others in any way, no matter what the consequences." He added, "I actually believe that this action of not loading my weapon kept me sane. It brought me great sadness to know some soldiers I knew had shot at people, and some soldiers I knew were hurt by the actions of others. It was so absurd."

And Charlie notes Wokush's "From Baghdad to the Brig: A Reluctant Hero for Our Times" (OpEd News -- the full article is available at OpEd News):

Aguayo said he still carried guilt from his 2004-2005 deployment, where he was expected to "patch-up, treat and help countless soldiers for 'sick call' in order to facilitate their prompt return to combatant duties." He maintains, “I helped them get physically better and be able to go out and do the very thing I am against -- kill. This is something my conscience will not allow me to do."
The habeas corpus was denied in August 2006, and a week later, Aguayo was ordered back to Iraq.
Risking court martial and imprisonment, Aguayo went AWOL (absent without leave) on Sept. 1, 2006, surrendering to Military Police the next day. Rather than facing legal action, however, Aguayo was told he would be sent to Iraq even if it meant carrying him on the plane forcibly.
That's when Aguayo fled to California. But less than a month later, he once again turned himself in, stating, "I have come to believe that it is wrong to destroy life, that it is wrong to use war, that it is immoral, and I can no longer go down that path." Aguayo was promptly sent back to Germany and thrown in the brig.
The saga of Agustín Aguayo has critical and wide-reaching implications. His change of heart regarding military service is mirrored in a growing anti-war sentiment across the US. And his legal woes set a precedent for other troops facing similar conflicts about deployment.
As Aguayo's wife Helga observed after his court martial, "Fear is what motivates the Army. Fear was the prosecution's recurring theme. I know they fear others will follow."

It's a strong article but, to clarify, for those who don't read the full article, the point is made that the one day self-check out is not the time period that Aguayo was court-martialed for. The dates of his self-check out (followed the one day) are from September 2nd through September 26th. Again, it is noted in the article that he self-checks out again but in case anyone reads just the excerpt . . .


Mia asked that we note Isaiah's latest comic and put it with her highlight, from Missy Comley Beattie's "Quit Your Day Job, George" (CounterPunch):

I spent a week in Kentucky, helping after my father had surgery. Upon discharge from the hospital, he went to my sister's house, along with my mother, because he required so much attention. This was a family-participation endeavor. Bathing him, sitting in his room at night in case he needed something, we felt no encumbrance. Instead, it was an honor and a privilege to care for the father who has always been there for us. Now, back at home in the house where my parents have lived for over 50 years, he is recovering nicely.
My brother Mark, father of Marine Lance Cpl. Chase Comley who was killed in Iraq almost two years ago, drove me to the airport. We talked about the tragedy of war, the Iraqi people, and his belief that this occupation could last at least 20 years simply because of greed and profit. We discussed the Bush Administration's collision of deceptions, underreported by mainstream anchors who choose to focus more on celebrity scandals, car chases, and school shootings.
And we talked about Chase. Soon, my nephew's school, Sayre, will honor him by naming their new baseball field the Chase Comley Field. The dedication will take place on May 14. My brother is reluctant to attend because he says it will be like another funeral. Each memorial for his youngest child is painful. "When the school retired Chase's basketball jersey, I cried during the entire ceremony," he told me.
April has been cruel to military families and to Iraqis. More than 100 coalition troops have been killed in the last month. Ninety of these are our own. The Iraqi death count for 27 days is almost at 1,400.
Meanwhile, Laura Bush just appeared on The Today Show, interviewed by Ann Curry. Mrs. Bush was asked if she knew that the American people are suffering as they watch what's happening in Iraq. "No one suffers more than their president and I do when we watch this," said Laura Bush. Continuing, she said that the burden of war is on his (Bush's) shoulders every single day.

Pru gets the last highlight. Before we get to it, AP reported Friday that, in Spain, Judge Santiago Pedraz indicted US soldiers Shawn Gibson, Philip Wolford and Philip DeCamp for "homicide in the death of Jose Couso" calling it "a crime against the international community." Cuso, a journalist, died in the April 2003 US attack on the Palestinian Hotel. With that news, pair Pru's highlight, "Al Jazeera memo trial opens" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

The attempt to cover up George Bush's plan to bomb the Arabic television channel Al Jazeera has resulted in two men being put on trial for allegedly breaking the Official Secrets Act.
The Daily Mirror reported in 2004 that a memo of a meeting between George Bush and Tony Blair in April 2004 detailed Bush’s proposal to bomb Al Jazeera.
The Bush-Blair meeting took place when Whitehall officials, intelligence officers, and British military commanders were expressing concern over the effects of the US assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah.
Al Jazeera's coverage of the attack had infuriated US generals. David Keogh and Leo O'Connor are accused of violating secrecy laws. Both deny the charges.
Prosecutors allege Keogh passed the memo to O'Connor in May 2004. He placed it in a file he handed to his boss, Tony Clarke, then a Labour MP.
The story was dismissed as "outlandish" by the White House. Blair denied receiving details of any US proposal to bomb Al Jazeera.
However, at the time an unnamed Whitehall source let slip to the media the idea that Bush’s proposal had been a joke -- confirming that the conversation had taken place.
In his opening remarks, prosecutor David Perry did not mention the memo's contents, but said jurors would see the document during parts of the trial that would be closed to the public and the press.
He told civil servants who wanted to prevent the documents being seen that, "We live in a democratic society, not the Wild West. It is not for people to decide they are going to be the sheriff in town."
The trial continues -- most of it behind closed doors.
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