Monday, April 02, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Mondy, April 2, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq; Crazy John can't stop fluffing; while the House and Senate bills have yet to be reconciled, a new Senate bill is announced and appears to be more of the same (continuing the war),
Starting with war resistance.  Randy Richmond (London Free Press) reports on the United in Song, United in Peace event in Canada yesterday where US war resister Tim Richard sang (Richard self-checked out in 2005) and US war resister Dean Walcott spoke about his "two tours of Iraq" and his decision to self-check out in Decemeber.  Walcott has applied for refugee status. Friday, US war resister Corey Glass appeared before the Canadian Immigration and Refugee board to plead his case.  Unlike during the Vietnam era, no war resister has yet been granted refugee status.  Today, 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. PST, Chris Cook's Gorilla Radio will feature War Resisters Support Campaign's Lee Zaslofsky discussing "treatment of a more sinister nature" such as the US military's harassment of Kyle Snyder via a supposedly Canadian police force.
Glass, Key, Snyder and Johnson are part of a movement of resistance within the military that also includes Ehren Watada, Darrell Anderson, Joshua Key, Ryan Johnson, Ricky Clousing, Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo, Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, 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.
Resistance takes place outside the military and the Grandmothers Against the War were interviewed by Janet Coleman today on WBAI's CAT RADIO CAFE  about peace, the war and their arrest October 17, 2005 at Times Square Recruiting Center in NYC.  They group described this activism in a 2005 statement as: "We are grandmothers heartbroken over the huge loss of life and limb in Iraq.  We feel it is our patriotic duty to enlist in the United States military today in orders to replace our grandchildren who have been deployed there far too long and are anxious to come home now while they are still alive and whole.  By this action, we are not supporting the use of military force in Iraq -- in fact, we are totally against it.  But inasmuch as it exits, our goal in joining up is only to protect young people from further death and maiming."  Call, call, call, was one point, and tell your legislatures to vote for peace by stopping funding of the illegal war.  (AP's Mike Glover reports that Senator Barack Obama says if Bully Boy vetoes the proposed Congressional bill, "quickly" -- like whipped puppies -- Congress "will provide the money without the withdrawal timeline".  Obama would stand if he wasn't on all fours.)  The Congressional switchboard is (202) 224-3121. 
Meanwhile, US Senator Russ Feingold announces he's teamed up with the Majority Leader Harry Reid for a piece of legislation that, as described, is honestly disappointing coming from Feingold.  The way it will be reported -- by KPFA and others -- is "The bill ends funding for the war"!  The reality is the same escape clauses built into the House and Senate measures (House measure passed two weeks ago, Senate measure passed last week) that still need to be reconciled.  As with those measures, the bill, as described, says, "War is over . . . except for" and these are the exceptions:
(d) Exception for Limited Purposes -- The prohibition under subsection (c) shall not apply to the obligation or expenditure of funds for the limited purposes as follows:
(1) To conduct targeted operations, limited in duration and scope, against members of al Qaeda and other international terrorist organizations.
(2) To provide security for United States infrastructure and personnel.
(3) To train and equip Iraqi securit services.
If it all seems familiar, we're back to the age-old issue, "Are you a soldier or are you an adviser?"  As Robert Knight noted last Monday on Flashpoints, "This would leave an equal or greater number of US troops in Iraq under the vague but permanent classifications of counter-insurgency, security and training for what New York Senator Hillary Clinton calls 'remaining vital national security interests in the heart of the oil region.'  The rhetorical flourish of referring only to the withdrawal of combat troops recalls the tactic by which earlier administrations once referred to US soldiers in Vietnam as advisers rather than troops." (Those unable to utilize or benefit from the archived broadcast can click here for a text version -- with typos I'm sure.)  Lisa Goddard (CNN) asserts this proposed bill, if passed, "would end the majority of Iraq war funding after March 31, 2008".
Staying with politics and Iraq, US House Rep and 2008 presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich spoke to over 200 people in Olympia, Oregon.  Brad Shannon (The Olympian) reports that Kucinich stated, "We have to remember that Democrats are expected to stand for peace, to balance the power of this administration, to stand for the truth, to stand for social justice, and to stand for a domestic agenda instead of a military build-up. . . .  Congress should be using its power now to pull the plug on the war and to stop this war and to stop the bloodshed and take a new direction.  And Congress has the power to do it."
Max Elbaum (LeftTurn) explores a history Congress would do well to remember:
The heartbreaking truth is that officials at the top level of the U.S. government KNEW they could not win in Vietnam (and WHY they couldn't win) even before the first bombing runs and deployments of U.S. ground troops.  And they were right.  Ten years later the Vietnam War ended exactly the way it would have in 1965 if Washington not massively intervened: U.S. troops fled the country under enemy fire, and Vietnam was reunified under the leadership of the communist revolutionaries who had been anchoring the fight for Vietnamese Independence for 50-plus years. 
The cost between 1965 and 1975 was more than two million Vietnamese and 50,000 U.S. dead; uncounted wounded and innumerable lives ravaged on all sides, much of Vietnam poisoned by Agent Orange for two generations.
All this carnage because of U.S. leaders' calculations about the damage to empire if Washington was forced out of Vietnam, as well as fear of being politically destroyed at home by the charge of "losing Vietnam."  It took a decade, but in the end the combination of Vietnamese tenacity, international isolation and protest, and antiwar resistance at home forced the guardians of empire to confront the fact that they would pay a bigger political price for staying than leaving.  At a huge cost in lives and anguish, the U.S. was finally forced to withdraw.
In other US Congressional news, Crazy John McCain took  The John McCain Showboat Express to Baghdad yesterday where he again made like McCartney asserting Iraq was getting better all the time, a little better all the time, getting so much better . . .  Kirk Semple (New York Times) reports things got "testy" in the Green Zone when Senator McCain took questions from reporters following a "stroll" in Baghdad accompanied by "a convoy of armored military vehicles and was accompanied by a large contingent of heavily armed soldiers.  The politicians wore body armor while they shopped." [ Note, Friday's snapshot mentioned a report by Semple but left out the link -- it's "More Than 100 Are Killed in Iraq as a Wave of Sectarian Attacks Shows No Sign of Letting Up."]
 Sudarsan Raghavan and Saad al-Izzi  (Washington Post) note Senator Crazy's claim from last week that it was safe to walk some of the streets of Baghdad -- an assertion Crazy now though he was demonstrating as he and others "rode in armored Humvees protected by dozens of U.S. soldiers and wore bulletproof vets.  Those without a military patrol/brigade escorting them, feel differently.  Mussab Al-Khairalla (Reuters) reports that merchants from the Shorja market McCain briefly visited yesterday disagree with his assessment and notes Abu Ammar stating, "Who said there was security? I told him there were snipers who were really harming us.  I told him the plan had improved security but Shorja still wasn't safe."  Crazy John probably heard Ammar's voice but he hears so many voices these days.
Norman Solomon (CounterPunch) notes McCain's "media hype," but notes the increased airwar going on in Iraq (and the lack of coverage of it) reminding: "American news outlets will be inclined to depict the Iraq war as winding down when fewer Americans are dying in it.  That happened during the last several years of the Vietnam War, while massive U.S. bombing -- and Vietnamese deaths -- continued unabated."   Which is a good lead in for today's violence in Iraq . . .
AFP reports "eight Iraqi schoolgirls and a toddler" as well as 3 adults were killed in a Kirkuk bombing.  BBC reports that 192 were wounded from the bombing which was on "a truck laden with explosives".  Yahya Barzanji (AP) reports: "Video by an Associated Press cameraman showed at least four wounded U.S. soldiers and one badly damaged American Humvee.  The soldiers were being treated by Army medics, with one seated while having guaze bandages wound around his bloodied head.  Another soldier, whose nose was bleeding, was standing and waving directions to others.  A third soldier was carried away on a stretcher and the fourth was being treated on the ground."  AFP observes, "Many of the wounded were pupils at the nearby school and local residents, after the suicide bomber blew up the truck outside the criminal investigations department in the Kurdish district of Rahimawa" and they quote fifth grader Naz Omar who states, "We were at the last lesson and we heard the explosion.  I saw two of my class mates sitting near the window.  They fell on the floor drenched in blood. . . .  They could not speak.  I was terrified.  I said God is Great.  I need my mother.  I need my father."  Louisa McLennan (Times of London) quotes 13-year-old Sarah Samad stating, "The gate fell on my leg and broke it."
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that a bomb contained in a freezer killed 3 women in al-Khalis and left 23 people (6 were women) wounded.  Reuters notes two bombings in Baghdad that killed a total of 4 people and left 14 wounded (one in the Doura neighborhood, one in Bayaa neighborhood). CBS and AP note a car bombing in western Baghdad that killed 3 people. CNN, which identifies the location of the bombing as "southeastern Baghdad," notes 3 dead and 10 wounded.

Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Baghad (al-Ghadeer neighborhood), : "Before sunset, A motorists was killed by American check point which was near Um Al-Tibool mosque in Yarmouk neighborhood" and that the man was an off duty Iraqi soldier.
Al Jazeera notes that 19 corpses were discovered.  These are the men who were kidnapped on Sunday.  AFP reports that, "Medics say the Shiites' handcuffed and blindfolded bodies were found near a water treatment plant in Moraiyah village in Diyala after daybreak."
The UK Ministry of Defence announced that Danny John Wilson is the British soldier who died in Iraq Sunday "as a result of injuries sustained during a patrol in Basra City on 1 April 2007."  They also announced "the death of a British soldier from 2nd Battalion The Rifles in Iraq earlier today, Monday 2 April 2007."  The BBC notes that both men were "wounded on patrol in the same area" and that the two deaths bring the total number of British soldiers who have died in the illegal war to 136.
Turning to the cheap laugh of today, Bob Herbert (New York Times) half-writes a column and some on the left rush forward to say, "Yea, Gary Sinise!"  Gary Sinise is a supporter of the Bully Boy, a defender of the abuses in Abu Ghraib, part of a front group.  He is not a left hero, he's not even a good actor.  For whatever reasons (intended or just not knowing what he was writing about), Herbert files a valentine to Sinise and some on the left rush forward to embrace the never-was-a-star.
Reality check.  On CBS' The Early Show November 8, 2005, Sinise tried to build a wave of Operation Happy Talk, "It's always about a bomb or a suicide bomber or somebody getting killed.  And, of course, that's dramatic and all of that.  But on a day-to-day basis, there's a lot of improvement.  There's a lot of hope."  That's the same sort of fluff (lies) that Laura Bush was slammed for giving out over CNN or John McCainn today.  In Feburary of 2006, the Abu Ghraib defending Sinise argued, in a News Max interview, "But on the other hand, I would say -- where's the other side?"  Yes, where is the other side to torture -- and, gosh darn it, why can't that be covered?  Donald Rumsfeld may have introduced Sinise as a "superstar"  when Sinise did his concert for the Pentagon in May of 2006, but he's barely a second-rung TV star (and never made it as a movie star).  Bill O'Reilly may hail him as "a true patriot" (which he did at the start of last month) but the left doesn't usually rush to embrace O'Reilly's designated chosen . Sinise is a spokesperson for America Supports You.  From SourceWatch:
America Supports You is a government-funded public relations program to generate support for the Bush Administration's [global war on terror] by organizing publicity and support for soldiers.  Susan Davis International (SDI) is a Washington D.C.- based PR company funded to work on American Supports You.
In December 2004, O'Dwyers PR Daily reported that SDI "is handling the Pentagon's 'America Supports You' campaign to drum up support for the nearly 150,000 U.S. forces that may be occupying Iraq during the next four years." "America Supports You," a Defense Department campaign, was originally planned to run through May 2005 but as of July 2006 is ongoing.
On December 3, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld presented an "America Supports You" dog tag to Bill O'Reilly on his Fox News show, calling O'Reilly "a terrific supporter of our troops."  President Bush also plugged the "America Supports You" campaign during an address to Marines and their families at Camp Pendleton, California.
That's the reality of the idiot who's getting praised: Gary Sinise, the Little Miss Connie Francis of this decade.
Finally, in a speech broadcast today on Democracy Now!, Naomi Klein address the various layers involved in the continued war on and occupation of Iraq:
What's so extraordinary about what has happened in Iraq -- and Amy mentioned the "Baghdad Year Zero" article -- is that you really have all of these layers of colonialism and neocolonialism, this quest for privatization, forming a kind of a perfect storm in that country. On the one hand, you have sort of old-school colonial pillage, which is, let's go for the oil. And as many of you know, Iraq has a new oil law. It's passed through cabinet, hasn't yet passed through parliament. But, really, it legalizes pillage. It legalizes pillage. It legalizes the extraction of 100% of the profits from Iraq's oil industry, which is precisely the conditions that created the wave of Arab nationalism and the reclaiming of the resources in the 1950s through the '70s. So it's an undoing of that process and a straight-up resource grab, old-school colonialism.
Layered on top of that, you have sort of colonialism 2.1, which is what I was researching when I was in Iraq, which is the looting of the Iraqi state, what was built up under the banner of Arab nationalism, the industry, the factories. The kind of rapid-fire, shock therapy-style strip-mining privatization that we saw in the former Soviet Union in the '90s, that was the idea, that was Plan A for Iraq, that the US would just go in there with Blackwater guarding Paul Bremer and would sell off all of Iraq's industries. So you had the old-school colonial, then you had the new school.
And then you had the post-modern privatization, which was the idea that the US military was actually going to war, the US Army was going to war, to loot itself, which is a post-modern kind of innovation, right? If we remember, Thomas Friedman told us less than a decade ago that no two countries with a McDonald's have ever gone to war. Now, we go to war with McDonald's, Taco Bell, Burger King, in tow. And so, the process of waging war is a form of self-pillage. Not only is Iraq being pillaged, but the United States coffers of this government are being pillaged. So we have these three elements, all converging this perfect storm over this country.
And one of the things that I think is most important for progressives to challenge is the discourse that everything in Iraq is a disaster. I think we need to start asking and insisting, disaster for who, because not everybody is losing. It's certainly a disaster for the Iraqi people. It's certainly a disaster for US taxpayers. But what we have seen -- and it's extremely clear if we track the numbers -- is that the worse things get in Iraq, the more privatized this war becomes, the more profitable this war becomes for companies like Lockheed Martin, Bechtel, and certainly Blackwater. There is a steady mission creep in Iraq, where the more countries pull out, the more contractors move in, which Jeremy has documented so well and will talk more about.
The danger. These are the stakes that I think we need to understand. And I really do want to keep this brief, so that we have a fruitful discussion afterwards. What are the stakes here? The stakes could not be higher. What we are losing is the incentive, the economic incentive, for peace, the economic incentive for stability. When you can create such a booming economy around war and disaster, around destruction and reconstruction, over and over and over again, what is your peace incentive?
There was a phrase that came out of the Davos conference this year. Every year, there's always a big idea to emerge from the World Economic Summit in Davos. This year, the big idea was the Davos dilemma. Now, what is the Davos dilemma? The Davos dilemma is this: for decades, it's been conventional wisdom that generalized mayhem was a drain on the global economy, that you could have an individual shock or a crisis or a war that could be exploited for privatization, but on the whole -- and this was the Thomas Friedman thesis -- there needed to be stability in order to have steady economic growth; the Davos dilemma is that it's no longer true. You can have generalized mayhem, you can have wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, threats of nuclear war with Iran, a worsening of the Israeli occupation, a deepening of violence against Palestinians, you can have a terror in the face of global warming, you could have increased blowback from resource wars, you can have soaring oil prices, but, lo and behold, the stock market just goes up and up and up.
In fact, there's an index called the Guns-to-Caviar index, which for seventeen years has been measuring an inverse relationship between the sale of fighter jets and executive luxury jets. And for seventeen years, this index, the Guns-to-Caviar index -- the guns are the fighter jets, the caviar are the executive jets -- has found that when fighter jets go up, executive jets go down. When executive jets go up, fighter jets go down. But all of a sudden, they're both going up, which means that there's a lot of guns being sold, enough guns to buy a hell of a lot of caviar. And Blackwater is, of course, at the center of this economy.
The only way to combat an economy that has eliminated the peace incentive, of course, is to take away their opportunities for growth. And their opportunities for growth are ongoing climate instability and ongoing geopolitical instability. Their threats -- the only thing that can challenge their economy is relative geopolitical and climatic peace and stability, so I suppose we have our work cut out for us to fight the war profiteers.

The fish are biting.
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