Friday, April 13, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Friday, April 13, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war will reach 3300 shortly (3299 currently), tensions flare between northern Iraq and Turkey and the refugee crisis continues so the US Senate offers help to "up to 500" of the estimated 3 million Iraqis internally and externally displaced.
In war resister news, we'll focus on KPFA and Brian Edwards-Tiekert.  Responding to a commentary by Marc Sapir in The Berkeley Daily Planet last week, Edwards-Tiekert wanted to address the issue of war resisters.  Edwards-Tiekert is an important part of KPFA's news staff and does strong work, but appears to think much more is being covered than actually is.   Sapir, sharing his feelings and fears regarding KPFA, wrote (this was not the thrust of his commentary), "How could KPFA be a useful tool for the GI resisters' movement, the immigrants' rights and sanctuary movements, the prison reform and opposition movements, the new sds [SDS] (already at 160 chapters), . . . if such an edict is upheld?"  Sapir is referring to the fact that KPFA can promote events; however, they can not say "Be there" (as Sasha Lilley explained on the Listeners' Report earlier this month).  Edwards-Tiekert grabs the subsection of that sentence and responds (this was not the thrust of his response), "Clearly, he [Marc Sapir] wasn't listening the week Aaron Glantz traveled to Fort Lewis, Washington, to produce up-to-the minute rports on the failed court martial of First Lieutenant Ehren Watada."  Was Edwards-Tiekert?  Aaron Glantz' reports were largely filed for Free Speech Radio News and re-aired duing the KPFA Evening News and during Aileen Alfandary's newsbreaks during The Morning Show.  Sandra Lupien and Alfandary each spoke with Glantz once during the court-martial on programs other than the Free Speech Radio News.  But, as Edwards-Tiekert well knows, Free Speech Radio News is an independent program, it is not a KPFA program.
Aaron Glantz did a wonderful job reporting on the court-martial for Free Speech Radio News, for IPS, for  His voice gave out and, possibly, had that not happened he would have done more reporting on it for KPFA.  But in terms of reporting (not interviews days after the mistrial was called), Edwards-Tiekert appears to believe that Glantz was reporting on KPFA programs more than he was.  This could result from the fact that it was usually announced (by the news staff) that he would be reporting but, in the morning or evening, what instead aired was a rebroadcast (sometimes edited down) of a report Glantz had done for Free Speech Radio News.
Ehren Watada's court-martial is important.  His upcoming court-martial () will also be important and, hopefully, KPFA will do a better job covering it than they did with the February one.  For that coverage, Aaron Glantz deserves praise.  KPFA?  Not so much. That was February.  Since Watada's court-martial, Agustin Aguayo and Mark Wilkerson have been court-martialed.  Aguayo was court-martialed in Germany, possibly that's why it wasn't covered (reading wires doesn't really replace first person reporting)?  Wilkerson was in Texas.  Texas is much closer to California than DC (Edwards-Tiekert notes KPFA's DC coverage in his response) but it might as well be across the Atlantic.  What of Robert Zabala's historic court case?  Where was KPFA?  Again, reading wire reports (or local press) on air doesn't really replace on the spot reporting.
Edwards-Tiekert muses, "Perhaps Sapir doesn't listen much to the radio station he maligns."  As Ruth pointed out regarded Sasha Lilley's declarations in the Listeners' Report, Lilley doesn't seem to listen a great deal.  In the listners' report she maintained that KPFA news staff promoted, on air, the KPFA webpage of local events when, in fact, that wasn't the case.  KPFA is an important radio station and a historic one.  Edwards-Tiekert is a strong member of the news staff.  His commentary (and recent call in on air to Larry Bensky) only fans simmering flames for many.  I'm not interested in that.  (Ruth may be.  She can write whatever she wants in her space.)  I am interested in war resisters. 
Edwards-Tiekert may feel Watada was covered by the KPFA news.  He really wasn't.  (Off topic, but needs noting again, Philip Maldari, not part of the news staff, did a wonderful job last summer interviewing Bob Watada.)  That false impression may come from on air announcements such as, "Tomorrow morning in the first half-hour of The Morning Show, Aileen Alfandary will speak with Aaron Glantz . . ." -- announcements that were made of coverage that never took place.  (That's not a slam at Alfandary.  Glantz' voice was giving out early on.)  But announcements of intended coverage are not actual coverage.  And re-airing reports done for a non-KPFA produced program (Free Speech Radio News) on KPFA news and news breaks does not indicate that KPFA itself provided coverage.
In February, Kyle Snyder was hauled away in handcuffs (and in his boxers) by Canadian police.  Joci Perri (Citizenship and Immigration) stated the arrest was requested by the US military and that deportation was supposed to follow.  Did KPFA listeners hear about that on the news?  Joshua Key is being 'shadowed.'  Winnie Ng reported the incident that happened at her home.  She was visited by three men, she was told they were Canadian police.  They were looking for Key (Joshua, Brandi and their children stayed with Ng early on after moving to Canada).  Ng's character was called into question (including by some 'friends' in Canada) and the police said it never happened.  Turns out, it did happen.  The Canadian police, WOOPS, did send out one officer . . . with two members of the US military.  Has the KPFA news informed listeners about those developments?  Dean Walcott self-checked out of the US military and went to Canada in December of 2006.  How often has his name came up during news breaks or newscasts?
Here's where the real fault is, the real problem.  Four years into the illegal war and KPFA still has not created a program to focus on Iraq.  Flashpoints started to cover the first Gulf War.  KPFA can't spare one half-hour or hour a week for a program that focuses on Iraq?  Of course they can.  The fact that they haven't is more embarrassing than any of the back and forths or the old history (covered in both Edwards-Tiekert and Sapir's commentaries).  Is KPFA frozen or paralyzed when it comes to new programming?  No.  In fact it did an election series for the 2006 elections.  One would think that an illegal war was at least as important as a mid-term election.
Dean Walcott, the latest to go public, part of the growing movement of war resistance within the military that also includes Ehren Watada, Camilo Mejia, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson,  Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Joshua Key, 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.
Yesterday in Iraq, the Green Zone was the target of an attack.  AFP notes today that the US military is now saying that the bombing in the parliament's cafeteria killed only one person (but "an Iraqi security officer" maintains "three people died").  Though Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) prefers to call it the "International Zone," as William M. Arkin (Washington Post) notes of the Green Zone, "The Zone is officially known as the international zone, a less inflammatory label that suggests non-U.S. control, but everyone knows the truth." Bushra Juhi (AP) reports that al Qaeda is claiming responsibility for the bombing and that it was a suicide bombing and that the Iraqi parliament met today ("about 90 minutes") but turnout was low due to the traffic ban and to the fact that many were visiting the wounded from yesterday's bombing.  While AP repeats that the culprit is thought to be a bodyguard to a Sunni lawmaker, The Australian reports that three cafeteria workers are being questioned as well as "some parliamentary guards".  CNN notes that this is due to the suspicion that the bombing was an 'inside job'.  Robert Burns (AP) reveals: "The U.S. military will not take over security of the Iraqi parliament building in the wake of the deadly suicide bombing in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, a top commander said Friday.  Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq, said "it is clear we still have a long way to go to provide stability and security to Iraq."  Michael Howard (The Guardian of London) informs, "US officials admitted last night that the bombing of the Iraqi parliament shows that not even the heavily fortified Green Zone is safe any more, despite the security crackdown launched earlier this year in the Iraqi capital."  Despite that reality, Robin Wright and Karin Brulliard (Washington Post) report that John McCain, "who this week spoke of 'the first glimmers' of progress in the new U.S. effort, said the attack on the parliament building does not change the 'larger picture'."
Or, as William M. Arkin (Washington Post) observes, "For the past few weeks, we have been told by the administration and the military that the Baghdad Security Plan and the surge are working.  Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had his Snoopy in the tank moment walking through a marketplace in a well-oiled photo op, accompanied of course by American Humvees and soldiers and roof-top snipers.  The Senator and his delegation then repaired to the 'relative safety' of the Green Zone, speaking of their safe drive to and from the airport to downtown, a trip by dignitaries that is usually made by helicopter.  The boast itself spoke volumes about the truth of the Green Zone, and of Baghdad."
Security and refugess was a topic today on KPFA's The Morning Show, where Andrea Lewis and Aaron Glantz spoke with guests including Dahr Jamail and Sarah Holewinski (Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict).  (20 minutes in, Dahr speaks for the first time other than the normal greetings.) 
Dahr: Well without a doubt, I think offering someone $2,500 when they've had a loved one killed by occupation forces is - is quite an insult especially now with the rate of inflation and the conditions in Iraq.  I think the primary thing that I'd absolutely agree with her with  is that the Iraqi people who are sufffering right now as we speak and all those who have lost loved ones certainly deserve and justifiably have earned compensation levels that are very, very  fair and, in my opinion, I think that they should be compensation levels like we see in the United States when someone dies in a plane crash and there's a lawsuit or when someone dies in a car crash, typically millions of dollars are awarded to someone.  How would people in the United States react if they lost a loved one and the government offered them $2,500? 
[. . .]
I would start by  amending the numbers that Nabil just said.  I have updated numbers from meeting with Sybella Wilkes yesterday who is the UNHCR regional public information officer.  And according to UNHCR,  there are, there's 1.2 million is the minimum estimate they have in Syria alone.  The governement of Syria, who UNHCR admitted probably has more accurate figures than they do, estimates there's between 1.4 and 1.5 million Iraqi refugees here [Syria], hundreds of thousands of those are Shia as well.  I think people in the US are led to believe that it's only the Sunni population that's leaving and, while they are the majority, it's important to note that there's a giant number and growing number of Shia up here in Syria as well.  But really the situation is really -- even just those numbers, as if they're not staggering enough by themselves -- the situation here is UNHCR has only actually registered approximately 70,000 of these people.  So that means these are only the 70,000 that literally have so little of anything that they have to literally go there for food and in some way to find some housing.  So the crisis is certainly going to grow  exponentially as these other Iraqis here, and I have met with many of them, are living on their savings right now.  What are they going to do when their savings run out?   Syria right now has  approximately a 20 to 25% unemployment rate.  Add in another between 1.2 to 1.5 million Iraqis, so already that figure is too low.  And as time persists, of course, the situation will worsen.  And we have between 30 and 50,000 more Iraqis coming into Syria alone every single month. 
Andrea Lewis: And Dahr what are some of the refugees telling you, other than concerns about their finances which obviously are important, what other things are you hearing from the people you're talking to?
Dahr: Well I'm actually sitting here right now with two friends who just came out yesterday from Baquba and they're telling me things like the US military has absolutely zero control of that city.  There's only one street where one kilometer of that street is controlled by the US military and that's because that's primarily where their base is.  The banks in Baquba have zero money whatsoever.  It's a ghost town in the middle of the day.  There's no marekts open.  Of course, no one is working.  And, as they described it, al Qaeda is in total control of  that entire city and they state that the US military there is doing little to nothing to stop them. 
Aaron Glantz:  Well that's where Zarchawy was killed and we all remember Abu Musab al-Zarchawy.  He was a big enemy and now he's dead and he was killed in Baquba.
Dahr: Right and clearly the situation has done nothing but degrade.  As they said, it's like something out of a scene of a movie  where literally it's a ghost town, nobody leaves their homes, nobody goes out.  Even traveling from there to Baghdad, which is just barely 20 miles away, people just don't even make that trip. For them to even come up to Syria, they had to go, completely bypass Baghdad,  and go to the north in order to come up here.  Of course it was very far out of their way.  But that just gives you an idea of how horrible the security situation is.  There's literally no security and no regular life there to be found.
Turning to news from the US Senate, Reuters reports that legislation passed allowing for the admission of a whopping (yes, that is sarcasm) "500 Iraqi and Afghan translators into the United States a year because their lives are in danger for helping U.S. forces during the wars."
Last month, Tom Hayden (Huffington Post) noted that it was past time for US citizens to ask exactly who their tax dollars supported in Iraq.  This month (at The Huffington Post), Hayden notes: "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."  Hayden argues that the training of police fails to acknowledge who is being trained and for what -- as with El Salvador the 'blind eye' is a pretense upon the part of the US government.  Tom Hayden proposes a series of recommendations including "peace advocates and critics must focus on the new reality that American blood and taxes are being spent on propping up a sectarian government that wants to carry out an ethnic cleansing of the Sunni population."
Keeping the above in mind and turning to the northern section of Iraq, yesterday Umit Enginsoy (Turkish Daily News) reported on the conference in DC regarding the the upcoming, proposed referendum that would etermine the fate of Kirkuk (an Iraqi citiy that "sits on nearly 40 percent of Iraq's oil") which Iraqi president Jalal Talabani is pushing (Talabani fell ill as the latest wave of the crackdown began earlier this year, he was represented at the conference by his son Qubad Talabani who is also "the representative for the Kurdistan regional government").  The issues revolve around the oil, obviously, and also around the demographic makeup of Kirkuk and who gets a vote with Turcomen and Arabs concerned over what "hundreds of thousands of Kurds [who] have flocked into Kirkuk in recent years while the number of Kurds expelled under Saddam's regime could be measured by tens of thousands." 
Laith al-Saud (CounterPunch) explores the issue of the resettling, "Since the 2003 invasion of the country myth has taken precedence over history and Kurdish politicians have adopted the methods of that other myth-based nation-state in the region-Israel, to establish claims . . .  During the invasion, Kurdish peshmerga (militias) entered Kirkuk and established de facto control of the city.  Since then, as has been reported by the Center for Research on Globalization, Kurdish militias have forcibly evicted people from their homes, engaged in Murder, assassination and a slow ethcnice cleansing.  The first victims in this regard have been the Arabs.  Since the Arabs there are largely associated with Baa'th policy they have seen little support from the regime in Baghdad.  Less publicized has been the targeting of Assyrians and other smaller minorities in the region.  But the largest group in the city -- and the one that promises to be the most resistant to Kurdish aggression -- is the Turcomen. Ethnically Turks, the Turcomen have lived in the area for over eight-hundred years and have strong ties to Turkey."
Patrick Cockburn (CounterPunch) notes of the referendum: "The Kurds expect that large areas of eastern, northern and western Ninevah province will join theKRG, not not Mosul city itself because it has an Arab majority.  The Kurds are absolutely determined to get what they consider their rights after years or persecution, expulsion and genocide.  They rightly think that they now have an historic opportuniy to create a powerful near independent state within Iraq: They are America's only effective allies in Iraq; they are powerful in Baghdad; The non-Kurdish parts of the Iraqi government are weak."
At the conference, the US appeared to waffle (we'll get back to the point).  Michael Kuser and Guy Dinmore (Financial Times of London) note that Turkey's concern is that "an independent Kurdish state" will be created.  This stems from Turkey's own issues in the southern part of its country where a historical and ongoing battle by Kurdish inhabitants of the area to gain self-autonamy has been rejected.If Iraq is partitioned off into regions and/or Kirkuk and other northern areas become their own independent body, Turkey's concerns include how such a breaking up could effect their own country.  Chris Toensing (Foreign Policy In Focus) summed up the recent conflict within Turkey: "Since the invasion [of Iraq], the Turkish military and security services -- known to Turks as the 'deep state' -- have reasserted themselves, to the detriment of Turkish democracy.  They are resisting even the Justice and Development Party's modest efforts to reach out to the country's Kurdish population, and inveighing against any ceasfire with the renewed Kurdish insurgency in the southeast.  Far-right social elements associated with the 'deep state' are rallying in favor of chauvinistic versions of Turkish nationalism; in January, one such militan murdered an Armenian-Turkish journalist who sought to reconcile Turks' and Armenians' understanding of the 1915 Aremian genocide."
 Another concern on the part of Turkey pointed out by Kuser and Dinmore is that their border is not respected by "combat rebels from the Kurdish Wokers party (PKK)".  Lebanon's The Daily Star reports that Turkish General Yasar Buyukanit has "asked the government" of Turkey "for approval to launch a cross-border incursion into northern Iraq, signaling growing frustration over a lack of action by Iraqi and US forces against Kurdish guerrillas. This follows, as Umit Enginsoy notes, that the head of Iraq's Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani, stated last week if Turkey did not stop interfering in Iraq's northern region, Iraq would "retaliate by intervening in Turkey's Kurdish-related matters.  The rising tensions come as Turkey's president, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, prepares to step down (the parliament electes a new president in May).  The Turkish Daily News presents a sample of Buyukanit's press conference where he touched on a number of issues, including political ones.
As the tensions rise and some commentators wonder what the US is doing -- signaling both ways is the answer.  Fortunately, the issue is in questionable hands: Hoover Institute's Barbara Stephenson is now a 'diplomat' ("deputy senior advisor and coordinator to the secretary of state").  In 1998, she was a "homemaker" and apparently $519,200 in donations is all it takes to buy a job at the State Department under US Secretary of State and Anger Condi Rice.  (It's also a good little circle jerk since, Rice was "the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institute").  Stephenson's main claim to fame/infamy may be her declaration of Iraqis, "They need to want this more than we do."  Spoken by the person who some would argue bought her way into an administration.
From the north to the south, Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) reports on the protests that took place Monday calling for foreign troops (all non-Iraqi troops) to leave the country. Historian Mahmood al-Lamy tells al-Fadhily, "Basra is the biggest southern city and the only Iraqi city that has a port near the Gulf.  It is now controlled by various militias who fight each other from time to time over an oil smuggling business that is flourishing under the occupation."
Simon Assaf (Great Britain's Socialist Worker)  reminds that the protest on Monday (in Najaf) "was the biggest in Iraq since the massive unity demonstrations in the early days of the occupation" and that uniformed Iraqi soldiers joined in the protest.
Hussein Kadhmim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports one civilian dead from a roadside bombing in Baghdad, a Baghdad mortar attack that killed one person and left 15 wounded,
"a primary school was exploded in Instar village of Bani Saad," "a public clinic at (Tibtib) village" was bombed, and "LC Falih Hassan of the Iraqi national police was killed today after a road side bomb targeted his vehicle today after noon.  Three of his body guards were killed."  CBS and AP note a Baghdad roadside bomb claimed the life of a police officer and left four other officers injured as well as one citizen injured.  Reuters reports a second Baghdad mortar attack killed two people and left 8 more wounded, a Hilla bombing killed a police officer and left three others wounded, and a mortar attack in Iskandariya wounded 10 people.
Hussein Kadhmim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a woman wounded during an attack on a police patrol.  Reuters reports that Mohammed Abd al-Hameed ("Mosque imam in the northern city of Mosul . . . well known figure in the Sunni Muslim Scholars' Association") was shot dead in Mosul, three guards of the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party offices were wounded in an attack in Hilla, and an attack on a barber shop left two people "seriously wounded."
Hussein Kadhmim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports five corpses discovered in Baghdad,
Reporters Without Borders notes that two corpses were discovered in Mosul yesterday: Iman Yussef Abdallah ("journalist for a radio station operated by a group of Mosul trade unions") and her husband.  She "was the second journalist to be murdered in Mosul this year and the 13th in Iraq."
Today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldier died April 12 due to a non-battle related cause." And they announced: "An MND-B Soldier died when a patrol was attacked with small arms fire north of the Iraqi capital. The unit was conducting a security patrol when the attack occurred." [Both were noted last night.  They were announced Friday Iraq time.]  And they announced: "An MND-B Soldier died and one other was wounded when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device south of Baghdad April 12.  The unit was conducting a security patrol in the area when the attack occurred."  And they announced: "Two MND-B Soldiers were killed and seven others were wounded when their patrol base came under attack by anti-Iraqi forces south of Baghdad April 12.  Two Iraqi interpreters were also killed in the attack."  ICCC's total for the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war is 3299 and 52 is the total for the month thus far.
Finally, the Austin American-Stateman weighs in with an editorial commenting on the decision by the White House to extend tours of duty to 15 months while, at the same time, searching for someone ( a war 'czar' -- "The first and most obvious is that a war szar already exists: the president of the United States is the commander in chief.  The novelty of the idea doesn't make it viable.") to run the illegal war in Iraq and concludes, "It is especially troubling when you consider that the Bush administration is asking more and more from military personnel who can't appoint someone else to do their jobs for them."

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