Monday, April 09, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Monday, April 9, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraqis march in Najaf, Democratic leadership caves again, and Winnie Ng told the truth.
Yesterday, Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called followers to take to the streets and protest the occupation of Iraq by foreign fighters.  Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted this morning, "Hundreds of thousands of Shiites are staging a massive anti-U.S. demonstration in the holy city of Najaf to call for the withdrawal of US troops.  Shiites from around Iraq have traveled to Najaf to take part in the protest to mark the fouth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad.  The Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr urged Iraqis to stop cooperating with U.S. forces."  CBS and AP report that the Najaf rally lasted three hours, chants included "Get out, get out occupier!" and "Yes, Yes to Moqtada! Occupiers should leave Iraq!", that Iraqi soldiers -- wearing their uniforms -- "joined the crowd," and that US military flack and apparently fact challenged Steven Boylan pointed to the demonstrations against the United States and sighed that it couldn't have happened "four years ago" -- apparently alleging that Saddam Hussein would not have tolerated anti-US demonstrations.  Boylan wasn't the only having trouble with the truth.  Khaled Farhan (Reuters) reports that White House National Security Council spokesperson Gordon Johndroe also hailed the protest against the US forces as a sign of freedom and anticipates "much more progress".  Saad Fakhrildeen and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) report that US and Israeli flags were burned in the protests.  File it under "Spin that."  As AFP notes of the difference in the demonstrations four years later, "Gone are the euphoric April 9 cheers of 'Good, Good, Bush' praising US President George W Bush for ousting the regime. Angry chants of 'Down with Bush' are a frequent background to brutal Shiite and Sunni sectarian strife."
Turning to the topic of war resistance, Dave Zirin discussed with Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) today one of the more famous war resisters, Muhammad Ali: "And, you know, going back to that Kinshasa fight, I think it's a great example of the redemptive power of Muhammad Ali, because by that time he was somebody who, you know, had returned to the world of boxing, had fought off through the Supreme Court a five-year prison sentence given down to him by the federal courts, an outrageously high sentence for a draft resister at the time, and by the end, after that fight, he was named 'Sportsman of the Year' by Sports Illustrated. So he makes this amazing journey from being the most vilified, hated athlete in the history of the United States -- and I don't think there's any contention about that -- to becoming a figure of reconciliation, who was invited by Gerald Ford to the White House to shake hands. And that's the thing about Ali, is that he was always bound up in the rhythms of the social movements of the day."  Denying the social movement today in the New York Times, Paul von Zielbauer writes that self-check outs result soley from PTSD and the military lowering the standards of who is recruited -- no one, to read von Zielbauer's clampdown of an article, ever self-checks out because they are opposed to the war and he gets that point across, in article noting the increase in court-martials, by refusing to speak to any one who has been court-martialed or to any one who self-checked out and went to Canada.  Someone who does suffer from PTSD and did self-check out because he turned against the illegal war after serving in Iraq is Joshua Key. 
Last month, three men claiming to be Canadian police visited the home of Winne Ng who provided housing for Joshua, Brandi and their children early on when they went to Canada.  Winnie Ng maintained that they identified as Canadian police but she suspected they were the US military.  The three men were looking for Joshua Key and asking questions about him.  Jeffry House, Key's attorney, immediately contacted the military which has not yet -- one month later -- bothered to return his calls.  That certainly gives the impression that the US military was not interested in speaking to Key.  But what of Winnie Ng who one 'helper' suggested might be lying?  The Candian police swore none of their police officers had visited her home.  It was suggested, by 'helpful' that Ng might have made it up or be lying.
Winnie Ng was not lying.  At the end of last week, The Toronto Globe and Mail reported that Canadian police were now admitting one of their police officers visited Ng's home.  In addition, who accompanied them?  Two US military members.  The Canadian police maintains that the two men were never presented as police officers.  That claim is as believable as their earlier claim that they knew nothing about, that no police officer visited Ng's home, go down the list.  Ng told the truth.  It's the Canadian police which continues to change their stories.  In one of the few moments of truth in his article, von Zielbauer notes that the military is upping their quest for those who self-check out.  Until futher information is furnished, the possibility that the US military was there no to speak with Joshua Key but to attempt to take him back to the US remains a strong one.
Joshua Key is part of a movement of resistance within the military that also includes
Ehren Watada, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson,  Kyle Snyder , 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.
In US Congressional news, how does one cave after Democratic leadership in both houses pass non-binding, toothless legislation, that does not enforce ALL US troops leaving Iraq and that funds all of Bully Boy's requests and then some?  Count on the Democratic leadership to find a way.  As Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) observed today, "Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, a key Democratic leader has given new indications Democrats are prepared to back down on their call to cut off war funding if President Bush vetoes a bill calling for a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. Speaking on ABC Sunday, Armed Services Committee chair Senator Carl Levin said: 'We're not going to vote to cut funding, period.' Levin said a veto would lead Democrats to consider removing language calling for the withdrawal of troops."  Guest Laura Flanders, host of RadioNation with Laura Flanders and author most recently of Blue Grit, noted that the Democratic leadership "had to be dragged kicking and screaming" to the topic of the illegal war and spoke at length of how the right-wing fuels the Republican Party while the Democratic Party is more inclined to run from their own base.  (This is one of the themes of her new book Blue Grit, another theme is the power driving change is on the ground in local areas, not in DC.)  More on Democratic leadership caving can found at BayouBuzz which also notes US Senator Charles Schumer's caving remarks.  While Democratic leadership caves in the face of a threatened veto (one they knew of all along), Evelyn Pringle (CounterPunch) observes that "what is clear, is that Bush plans to leave our troops dying in a war without end indefinitely, and therefore, its up to American citizens to rescue these young men and women in the only way possible, by insisting that Congress cut off funding for Iraq to force Bush to get them out of that hellhole."
And in Iraq today?

CBS and AP report a Baghdad mortar attack that left one person dead and two more wounded.  Reuters notes: "A roadside bomb wounded four civilians when it exploded near a U.S. military vehicle in the southern city of Diwaniya."

Reuters notes two people (thought to be on their way to take part in the Najaf protest) were shot dead after they left Iskandariya, that Jalal al-Daini ("tribal leader") was shot dead in Khalis and that two suspect "al Qaeda militants" were shot dead by the police in Hit.  CBS and AP note a civilian and a police officer were shot dead in Baghdad while clashes in Burnitz left at least 30 injured.
Reuters reports 17 corpses discovered in Baghdad, 1 near Kirkuk and 1 in Mahaweel.  Note that frequent embed Lauren Frayer (AP) reports 25 corpses discovered in Iraq.  That would make the total count 35.  What?  Frayer gives 7 for the corpses discovered in Baghdad and trumpets that the 7 (a wrong number) is "only the second time the number of sectarian assassination and torture victims had dipped that low in the course of the Baghdad security operation".  Lay back in your stupidity Frayer, luxuriate in it, and ignore the snickers.
This past weekend, as Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted, the US military announced
the deaths of 10 US service members.
And on the troops who will be sent to Iraq shortly, Peter Spiegel (Los Angeles Times) reports that the four Army National Guard brigades being sent to Iraq ("entire Guard units") are "alerts to brigades in Arkansas, Indiana, Ohio and Oklahoma involves about 13,000 soldiers, who will begin their return to combat in December. The staggered deployments will extend into early next year. All four brigades had served in Iraq or Afghanistan in 2004 and 2005."  On Camp Pendleton the news is being closely watched since recent returnees (last month) were informed they were now stateside and that, for the next six months, the US military would be pulling from east coast. 
Meanwhile, the long praised (and softballed) Kurish region may soon receive more critical reporting.  AFP reports: "The United States criticized Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani Monday for threatening to fuel Kurdish separatist fervor in Turkey amid a spike in tensions between the neighbors."
Finally, at Micah's request, we're reposting something from Friday's snapshot.  While listening to Talk Back with Hugh Hamilton on WBAI today, Micah heard a caller bring up last week's disclosures but was unsure of them.  Micah reports a follow up caller (Micah wasn't able to get on air) mentioned that the topic was discussed on Hardball; however, he (both callers were male) was unaware of print coverage and one caller seemed to think a report was being released this week. (Host Hugh Hamilton knew nothing of the government report and repeatedly asked if it even covered anything new -- yes, it did cover something new.)  The report was released last Thursday.  The Washington Post did a lengthy piece on it and others covered it as well.  From Friday's snapshot:
Turning to other lies of war, R. Jeffrey Smith (Washington Post) reports today that a US Defense Department report (declassifired yesterday and written by Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble) states the obvious -- in 2002 the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency both knew the claims that Saddam Hussein had a links to al Qaeda were incorrect.  Smith notes the report was released yesterday, "on the same day that Vice President Cheney, appearing on Rush Limbaugh's radio program, repeated his allegation that al-Qaeda was operating inside Iraq 'before we ever launched' the war".  Dick Cheney's remarks are not merely 'incorrect,' they are lies. Peter Speigel (Los Angeles Times) reports that "The Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA each 'published reports that disavowed any "mature, symbiotic" cooperation between Iraq and Al Qaeda,' the inspector general's report found."  AP notes that US Senator Carl Levin "requested that the Pentagon declassify the report prepared by acting Defense Department Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble.  In a statement Thursday, Levin said the declassified document showed why a Defense Department investigation had concluded that some Pentagon prewar intelligence work was inappropriate." 

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