Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, April 4, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, the court battle US war resister Robert Zabala won gets more attention, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates plays Psychic -- or Belated Psychic, and forty years ago today MLK gave his historic "Beyond Vietnam" speech. 

Starting with war resisters, yesterday Free Speech Radio News filed report on Robert Zabala by Aaron Glantz:
Aura Bogado: A federal judge in nothern California has over-ruled the military justice system, and ordered the Marine Corps discharge a soldier who says he wouldn't be able to kill.  In his ruling, US District Court Judge James Ware of San Jose ruled reservists Robert Zabala whould be discharged from the military as a conscientious objector.  It's extremely rare for civilian courts to over-rule military courts, but Zabala's attorney says it's at least the second time it's happened during the Iraq war.  FSRN's Aaron Glatnz reports.
Aaron Glantz: University of California Santa Cruz student Robert Zabala received money for school because he joined the military.  He entered the Marine Corps thinking it would be a place where he could find security after the death of his grandmother in 2003.  But when he came to boot camp that June, Zabala said he had an ethical awakening that would not allow him to kill other people.  Zabala was particularly appalled by boot camps' attempts to desensitize the recruits to violence.
Zabala: The response that all the recruits are supposed to say is "kill."  So in unison you have, maybe 400 recruits, you know, "Kill!  Kill!  Kill! Kill!"  And after awhile that word almost becomes nothing to you.  What does it mean?  You say it so often that you don't really think of the consequences of what it means to say kill over and over as you're performing this, you know, deadly technique, a knife to the throat."
Glantz: In his ruling, Judge Ware noted Zabala's experiences with his first commander, Capt. Sanchez  during basic training, Sanchez repeatedly gave speeches about blowing BLEEP up or kicking some BLEEP.  In 2003 when a fellow recruit committed suicide on the shooting range Sanchez commented in front of the recruits BLEEP him, BLEEP his parents for raising him,  and BLEEP the girl who dumped him.  Another boot camp instructor showed recruits a motivational clip video showing Iraqi corpses, explosions and gun fights and rockets set to heavy metal songs that included the lyrics "Let the bodies hit the floor."  Zabala he abhored the blood lust his commanders seemed to posses.  Aaron Hughes served six years in the Illionis Guard, including one tour as a military truck driver in occupied Iraq.  He says Robert Zabala's experiences are typical  of basic training.
Hughes: It's a lot of competition and a lot of learning how to not see yourself as a person or others as human beings.  It's just, you're a piece of property and that's the way it functions and that's your job is to function like an object under command.  I mean, it's a really simple life though when you're under complete complete orders.
Glantz: Hughes says at the time he believed basic training helped capture manhood
he felt he lacked being raised by his mother but after being sent to Iraq, he changed his mind. 
Hughes: I think it's wrong now looking back at it.  How can you not be see it as a step away from your humanity?  I mean basically you get in there and they --  you go -- you -- automatically start isolating you and they tell you how your girlfriend's not going to be there and she doesn't matter when you get home or your husband.  Like don't trust anyone but the military.  They really start fostering that as . . . your sole relationship in life.
Glantz: When Robert Zabala realized he couldn't kill another human being he submitted a written application to the reserves.   He saw two chaplains and a clinical psychologist who all agreed his moral objections were legitimate and that he should be discharged from the Marine Corps.  But his platoon commander . . . called Zabala insincere and recommended his petition be denied.  So Zabala went to federal court.  Geoff  Millard is the Washington DC representative  for Iraq Veterans Against the War.  He says Judge Ware's decision to force the military to discharge Zabala will make an impact.
Geoffrey Millard: Someone who's sitting back and thinking about c.o. and they really are very sincere, but they're not sure if their claim will make it, then this may give that person hope and will not have them violating their conscience.  That's the reason why we have a c.o. process in military relgulations is so that you make sure that you don't ask people to violate their conscience.
Glantz: The Marine Corps has yet to say whether they will appeal Judge Ware's decision.  For Free Speech Radio News, I'm Aaron Glantz.
Todd Guild (Santa Cruz Sentinel) quotes Stephen Collier, Zabala's attorney, "This ruling is important because it lets other potential conscientious objectors know that there is hope."  L.A. Chung (San Jose Mercury News) reports, "Steve Collier, Zabala's attorney, hopes the ruling will make it easier to obtain conscientious objector status.  And it is a victory for those who do not cite religious beliefs as the reason for appying for conscientious objector status.  Judge Ware, who teaches federal jurisdiction at Golden Gate University, took the unusual step of holding the hearing here, so that students could attend.  'The judge thought it was an interesting case,' Collier said."
Zabala is a part of a movement of resistance within the military that also includes Ehren Watada, Darrell Anderson,  Kyle Snyder , Joshua Key, Corey Glass, Ricky Clousing, Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo, Camilo Mejia, Dean Walcott, 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.
CBS and AP report on Bully Boy's White House nonsense yesterday where he called the Democrats "irresponsible."  Apparently, the man who convinced himself that WMDs were found has now convinced himself that someone else occupied the White House in 2003 when he illegally went to war on Iraq.  Staying on topics of the unhinged, Robert Gates, US Secretary of Defense has issued a predicition.  Reuters reports that Gates announced today that "one real possibility" of the US withdrawing from Iraq is that it could cause "ethnic cleansing."  After sharing that vision, Gates predicted the Indianapolis Colts to win the February 4, 2007 Superbowl and that the Democrats would gain Congressional seats in the November 2006 elections.  Going into a deep fugue state, Gates advised that JFK would be shot in Dallas and that Time Warner would merge with AOL "sometime around January 2000" and would live to regret the merger but "I see a rebounding for the long maligned victrola." 
In the real world, Tom Hayden (The Huffington Post) observes: "The time has come to understand the new de facto US policy in Iraq: to support, fund, arm and train a sectarian Shi'a-Kurdish state, one engaged in ethnic cleansing, mass detention and murder of Sunni Arabs.  If this description seems harsh, it is only because our minds are crowded with false or outdates paradigms.  First was the dream of Baghdad as an sexemplary democratic domino.  Then the kumbaya notion of a unitary neo-liberal state with proportional representation and revenue-sharing among Shi'a, Kurds and Sunnis.  All along, the US has described itself as a neutral arbiter among warring factions, a promoter of the rule of law and human rights in the Iraqi jungle.  Even as former US ambassador Khalilzad left Baghdad, he was struggling to clinch deals over oil revenue-sharing, reversal of de-Baathification laws, and inclusion of Sunni interests in constitutional reform and local governance.  The Shi'a, muttering that Khalilzad was a Sunni apologist, seemed uninterested in anything but window-dressing reforms.  Whether by accident or design, the reality since 2006 is that the Shi'a, with Kurdish approval, are carrying out a sectarian war against the Sunni population with American dollars and trainers."  Who are US tax dollars supporting?
Why is that lost in a fog of war?  That's a very straightforward question that should, after four years and counting of an illegal war, be easily answered. 
Also in the real world, today is the 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's "Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break Silence" speech.  Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon (CounterPunch) note that the "TV ritual" of noting MLK's death doesn't include this speech given April 4, 1967 and observe "You haven't heard the 'Beyond Vietnam' speech on network news retrospectives, but national media heard it loud and clear back in 1967 -- and loudly denounced it.  Time magazine called it 'demogogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi.'  The Washington Post patronized that 'King has diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people'."  The historic speech can be read at Black Agenda Report, at CounterPunch and an excerpt can be read, or listened to -- video of archival footage can also be watched as you listen to the speech -- at Democracy Now!  Excerpt:
If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy and deadly game we have decided to play. The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war and set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva Agreement.
The speech big media would like to forget.  The lessons hidden away.  In Iraq today . . .
Reuters notes a bombing in Mosul that "killed a police major and wounded a civilian" and another one that wounded two bodyguards of Major General Wathiq al-Hamadani.  Bushra Juhi (AP) reports, "A suicide car bomber and a mortar attack also hit a police station being manned by U.S. and Iraqi forces in the Shiite Sadr City enclave in Baghdad, wounding two policemen and two civilians, police said," a mortar attack in Khalis killed a woman, left 2 more "and a 4-year-old boy" wounded, while a mortar attack in Baghdad left five wounded.
CNN reports, "Gunmen killed 11 electricity plant workers in northern Iraq on Wednesday after stopping their vehicle and machine gunning them as they sat inside, Iraqi police and army said." Kim Gamel (AP) reports that it's six dead (with 34 reported deaths in Iraq today) and also notes 22 shepherds were kidnapped today.  Most reports have the kidnapping taking place on Tuesday. (Reuters asserts 11 shot dead near Hawija and that 18 goat-herders ere kidnapped Tuesday.) Laura King (Los Angeles Times) also reports 11 were shot dead and that "Power plant workers said they would strike in protest of poor security in the area."   Bushra Juhi (AP) reports four police officers were shot dead near Baquba and that six of the assailants were killed by police officers, a man traveling in his car through western Baghdad was shot dead, a man driving his car through Falluja was shot dead, and an attack "in the mainly Shiite Kobat area near Baquba" claimed one life and left 7 others injured ("most children").
Bushra Juhi (AP) reports a woman's corpse was discovered "west of Hillah" and two corpses (headless) were discovered not far from Suwayrah.

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