Monday, April 16, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Monday, April 16, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, Moqtada al-Sadr's walks out on the Iraqi parliament, a spoiled brat gets a public spanking, the US military announces the deaths of two more service members in Iraq, and Norman Solomon, Howard Zinn, and Noam Chomsky talk realities of war with Andrea Lewis and Amy Goodman.
Starting with news of war resistance.  The sound you here is a long WHIIIIINE as a spoiled brat gets a public spanking.  Clancy Sigal (at The Daily Trojan) walks spoiled brat through some basic realities in his response column to the realities of broken contracts:
We've been here before during Vietnam, when the desertion rate skyrocketed as soldiers, sailors and marines began to realize what a bogus, pointless war it was.  War-resistance inside the military, including going AWOL, finally broke the Army and forced the Nixon administration to the bargaining table.  Once again we're faced with a dilemma: Who violated the 'contrat' -- the government or the runaway soldiers?  Pope Benedict XVI deserted the Nazi Wehrmacht.  Muhammad Ali refused to serve in the Vietnam War, which he believed was racist and warranted.  And so it goes.  Does the U.S. government, and its military and Veterans Administration, honor or dishonor its 'contract' by forcing combat-weary GIs back into battle through its notorious 'stop loss' policy of refusing to discharge soldiers on due ldate and extending their deployments in a horrendous civil war?  Does the Pentagon honor its obligation when it sends medically unfit soldiers back to the meat-grinder - and, again notoriously, without the proper equipment or weapons?
Again, the sound you hear is a pampered, spolied brat getting a public spanking via Clancy Sigal.  In other news of war resisters, Bully Boy's escalation has had many effects -- more Iraqis killed, more US service members killed and Linjamin Mull, Patrick Maloney (Canoe News) reports, reached the decision to self-check out of the US military and move to Canada following Bully Boy's announcement.  Linjamin Mull was a NYC social worker who signed up as a result of "a crushing student debt" and achieved the rank of specialist in the army.  Meanwhile, Jenny Deam (Denver Post) reports on Justin Colby who served as a medic in Iraq and made the decision to self-check out on July 4th of last year and moved to Canada.  Deam notes, "Army figures released last week show 1,710 soldiers have deserted in the past six months.  The numbers are rising as the war goes on: 3,101 walked away between October 2005 and October 2006; 2,659 walked away during the 12 months before." 
Yes, it is a movement, a growing movement, an ever growing movement.  Mull and Colby are part of a movement of war resistance within the military that also includes Dean Walcott,
Ehren Watada (whose next court-martial is scheduled for July 16th), 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.
In Iraq today the six cabinets filled by Moqtada al-Sadr's block are now vacant.  Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) explains: "A key Shiite Muslim bloc in Iraq's governmental pledged Sunday to quit over Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's refusal to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, a move that would further weaken the country's leadership at a time of soaring sectarian violence."  Edward Wong and Graham Bowley (New York Times) listed "protest at the refusal of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to set a timetable for American troops to withdraw from Iraq."  (No link.  Currently the New York Times has 'withdrawn' the story.  You can find it quoted here.)  AFP quotes a statement issued by the puppet of the occupation: "Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki welcomed the announcement of his eminence Muqtada al-Sadr."  The puppet was the only putting up a brave front, the Turkish Press quotes White House flack Dana Perino who steps away from her stand up schtick on the beleaguered US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales long enough to declare, "Doalitions in those types of parliamenty demoncracies can come and go."  That funny Perino!  "Democracies"!  She cracks herself up.  Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted: "The Sadr movement controls six cabinet posts and a quarter of seats in Iraq's parliament.  The pullout follows one of Iraq's bloodiest weekends in months. McClatchy newspapers is reporting nearly 300 people were killed in violenace around Iraq Saturday." [CBS and AP's count on Sunday for the Karbala bombing Saturday was 47.]  Jim Muir (BBC News) offers analysis, "Nobody expects Mr Sadr's move to bring the government down.  Nor did observers believe that was his intention.  Rather than leave the cabinet seats empty, he himself suggested that the six abandoned portfolios be given to non-partisan independents, and some of his aides urged that competent technocrats be appointed. . . .  The Sadr bloc has 32 of the 275 seats in the current parliament, and intends to continue its activities there and in the Shia coalition, despite withdrawing from government.  Another member of the Shia coalition, the Fadhila party, announced early last month that it was pulling out of that alliance because of the government's poor performance and sectarian quota composition.  But only if other major factions such as the main Sunni bloc and Iyad Allawi's secular Iraqi List were also to walk out of the government, would it be at risk of collapse."  Ross Colvin and Yara Bayoumy (Reuters)  note "concerns about whether Sadr's Mehdi Army, which Washington calls the biggest threat to Iraq's security, will maintain the low profile it has so far duing a U.S.-backed security crackdown in Baghdad." 
Democracy installed into Iraq and controlled by the US, Perino's so funny.  The reality of Iraq is noted by Dahr Jamail (Al Jazeera) who reports that attorney Badie Arief Izzat  wasn't in Iraq today "for the trial of former Iraqi officials charged with participating in attacks against the Kurdish minority in the 1980s" due to being spirited out of the country and to Damascus by the US military who, when he was due to be arrested (for statements that Iran was responsible for the gassing, not Iraq) by Iraqi security forces, "surrounded him".  Izzat tells Jamail, "I was taken to an American safe house in the Green Zone and guarded by US forces who refused to hand me over to the Iraqi court."  US forces spiriting lawyers out of a country to protect them, from so-called 'insurgents,' but the Iraq legal system?  Spin it, Perino, spin it.
And when she does, expect her remarks to be carefully jotted down and reported with a straight -- and non-questioning -- face.  Today on  KPFA's The Morning Show, Andrea Lewis spoke with Norman Solomon on a number of topics including any lesson learned by the media after they knowingly and eagerly enlisted as telemarketers in order to sell the illegal war:
Lewis:  So, you think the media gets that now?  That the war wasn't such a great idea and that maybe they need to have some distance?  I should say the major media.
Solomon:  Well, you know, it's like what Mark Twain said about smoking is easy to quit, I've done that hundreds of times.  And so, after every war, especially it turns sour, there's this kind of high profile on the sleeves soul searching and then its back to square one.  So I do think if you ever have another situation where there's a country called "Iraq" and a dictator called "Saddam Hussein"  and a lot of talk about "weapons of mass destruction" there will be some exempliary skepticism from the US media but, that aside,  I mean change "Iraq" to "Iran" and just a somewhat different configuration, we're on the same boat -- the same sort of madness -- if it's up to the mass media, that again is where independent media such as the one we're on, many other efforts around the country, web TV, radio, print is really essential to kind of counter and try to oppose and overcome the sort of, I won't say natural, but in place spin cycle that comes through.  I know we'll mention this a little later but let me be sure and plug here there is an independent media guide out in Marin and North Bay and we're having a benefit sponsored by the Marin Peace & Justice coalition and Students for Social Responsibility.  Everybody's invited to come see a pretty far along rough cut of this film.  It's this Saturday night, the 21st of April, at 7:30 pm at the College of Marin in Kentfield in what they call Oleney Hall.
Tickets to the showing are $8 and the event is wheel chair accessible. The film bears the same title as Norman Solomon's most recent book, War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us To Death.  Though the themes are similar this isn't a Solomon reading his book in front of a camera -- it's an actual documentary film.  Sean Penn narrates the film.  For a review of the book click here.  The war was also addressed on Democracy Now! today as Amy Goodman interviewed Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn for the hour:
AMY GOODMAN: Vice president Cheney is saying this war can be won.
NOAM CHOMSKY: There's an interesting study being done right now by a former Russian soldier in Afghanistan in the late 1980's, he's now a student in Toronto who's comparing the Russian press and the Russian political figures and military leaders, what they were saying about Afghanistan, comparing it with what Cheney, others and the press are saying about Iraq and not to your great surprise, change a few names and it comes out about the same.  
They were also saying the war in Afghanistan could be won and they were right. If they had increased the level of violence sufficiently, they could have won the war in Ira--in Afghanistan. They're also pointing out -- of course they describe correctly the heroism of the Russian troops, the efforts to bring assistance to the poor people of Afghanistan, to protect them from U.S.-run Islamic fundamentalist terrorist forces, the dedication, the rights they have won for the people in Afghanistan, and the warning that if they pull out it will be total disaster, mayhem, they must stay and win.  
Unfortunately they were right about that too, when they did pull out, it was a total disaster. The U.S.-backed forces tore the place to shreds, so terrible that the people even welcomed the Taliban when they came in. So yes, those arguments can always be given. The Germans could have argued if they had the force that they didn't, that they could have won the Second World War. I mean the question is not can you win. The question is should you be there. 
HOWARD ZINN: And of course it was an educational experience for us. Noam was talking about in response to your question about victory and winning. And the question is, of course, why should we win if winning means destroying a country? And there's still people who say, oh, we could have won the Vietnam war, as if the question was, you know, can we win or can we lose, instead of what are we doing to these people.    
And, yes, Noam said, yes, we could win in Iraq by destroying all of Iraq. The Russians could have won Afghanistan by destroying all of Afghanistan. We could have won in Vietnam by dropping nuclear bombs instead of killing two million people in Vietnam, killing 10 million people in Vietnam. And that would be considered victory, who would take satisfaction in that?   
What we saw in Vietnam is, I think what people are seeing in Iraq. And that is huge numbers of people dying for no reason at all. What we saw in Vietnam was the American army being sent halfway around the world to a country, which was not threatening us and we were destroying the people in the country. And here in Iraq, we're going the other way, we're also going halfway around the world to do the same thing to them. And our experience in Iraq contradicted as I think the experiences of people who are on the ground in Iraq contradicted again and again the statements of American officials.         
The statements of the high military, statements like, oh, we're only bombing military targets, oh, these are accidents when so many civilians are killed. And, yes, as Cheney said, victory is around the corner. What we saw in Vietnam was horrifying. And it was obviously horrifying even to G.I.'s in Vietnam because they began to come back from Vietnam and oppose the war and formed Vietnam Veterans against the war.        
We saw villages as far away from any military target as you can imagine, absolutely destroyed. And children killed and their graves still fresh by American jet planes coming over in the middle of the night. When I hear them talk about John McCain as a hero, I say to myself, oh, yeah, he was a prisoner and prisoners are maltreated and everywhere and this is terrible. But John McCain, like the other American fliers, what were they doing? They were bombing defenseless people. And so, yes Vietnam is something that by the way, is still not taught very well in American schools. I spoke to a group of people in an advanced history class not long ago, 100 kids, asked them how many people here have heard of the My Lai Massacre? No hand was raised. We are not teaching -- if we were teaching the history of Vietnam as it should be taught, then the American people from the start would have opposed the war instead of waiting three or four years for a majority of the American people to declare their opposition to the war. 
Turning to England, the so-called 'war on terror' lost some milage today when one of the popularizers of the phrase decided to drop it.  Al Jazeera reports that "war on terror" is as out of date as gaucho pants according the Britain's international development secretary Hilary Benn who states: "We do not use the phrase 'war on terror' because we can't win by military means alone".  However, that is the least of the problems for Bully Boy that are crossing the Atlantic.  The Times of London reports that an inquest into the March 21, 2003 British helicopter crash opened with the cornorer Andrew Walker charging that the US military provided no assistance -- "inexcusable" was the word used to describe the non-action, that the US witnesses were no where to be found, that the inquest was provied only with the Jamgan Report and "not allowed to see an engineering report that could reveal problems with the helicopter" and that "Americans have also declined to let him see a recording by an air mission command aircraft, which is thought to reveal what the helicopter pilots see before the crash."  And, still in England, Mark Oliver (Guardian of London) covers the release of photos from the postmortem on Iraqi Baha Mousa who died in British custody and whose death will be addressed by the upper house of parliament (House of Lords) tomorrow.
Turning to Iraq, Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) reports: "Over the past five months, enemy tactics have turned squarely against U.S. and Iraqi troops.  As sectarian killings and kidnappings have fallen by about 70 percent in Diyala, attacks on U.S. and Iraqi troops have increased by a corresponding amount, according to Col. David W. Sutherland, the top U.S. commander in the province."  Richard A. Oppel Jr. (New York Times) notes the tactics of the resistance, "They meaneuver in squads, like the American infantrymen they try to kill.  One squad fires furiously so another can attack from a better position.  They operate in bad weather, knowing American helicopters and surveillance drones are grounded.  Some carry G.P.S. receivers so mortar teams can calculate the coordinates of American armored vehicles.  They kidnap and massacre police officers."  Oppel also notes that in Diyala and Baquba, you're dealing with two populations -- Shia and Sunnie and that "Shiite-dominated security forces in the city inflamed tensions by persecuting Sunnis".  The US government backs the attacks by training the attackers, by funding them.  The US government created the split after invading the country.  Sahar (McClatchy News' Inside Iraq) makes that point very clear by noting a friend named Um Noor: "She was happily married for twenty years, when Iraq was occupied.  After a while strange, little used words start flying around.  Sunni . . . Shiite . . .  Sunni . . .  Shite . . .  Then fighting started breaking out because of this long submerged difference.  In her neighborhood, as in the greater majority of Baghdad's neighborhoods, no one is really sure who on their bloc is Sunni, or Shiite; and nobody really cares.  Soon after, the IEDs and car bombs started taking their toll from people still bewildered as to: Why is this happeng?  BOOM! She loses her husbad, on his way to work, a Shiite.  Being a Sunni herself, she is urged -- very strongly -- to move away; their part of Amil is Shiite controled.  Having nowhere to go, she stays.  A car stops in front of their home.  BANG, BANG, BANG!  She loses her son (20), her brother, and her nephew.  She takes her remaining children and flees, finding no haven -- except in Abu Ghraib,  (Sunni controlled) where she lives in perpetural fear lest her dark secret be uncovered: that her kids are -- of course -- Shiite.  Her two remaining sons (16 and 10) live imprisoned in their hut; she has buried all their IDs and tells everyone that they got lost . . . . . . . .  and as a result they cannot receive rations.  They are starving to death.  How, and why, has it suddenly become important, this Sunni-Shiite business; and since when did Iraqis care?"
In today's violence . . .
CNN reports 8 dead from a Baghdad bombing in the Karrada district (23 wounded).  Reuters notes a bombing in Ishaqi that killed 9 (10 wounded), a mortar attack in Mahmudiya that killed 3 (18 wounded),
CBS and AP report a mass shooting in Mosul which left 13 Iraqi soldiers dead and 4 more wounded.  Ed Johnson (Bloomberg News) reports on the shooting deaths of three Iraqi soldiers in Ramadi who were shot by US soldiers in what the US military says was a "mistake."  Reuters reports that the US military shot a man in Baghdad who was "armed" and that "local Iraqis" stated "the dead man was an airport highway security guard"; Mohammed Abdullah al-Zubaidi was shot dead in Mosul, Talal al-Jalil was shot dead in Mosul (he had been "the Dean of the Political Science College"), a tribal leader shot dead in Baiji and an imam in Hawija.

Reuters notes 7 corpses discovered in Falluja, 3 in Hawija, and 6 in Mosul.
Today, the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier died when a combat security patrol was attacked with small arms fire in a southwestern section of the Iraqi capital April 16.  One other Soldier was wounded during the attack."  And they announced: "A Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldier died and one other was wounded when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device in a southern section of Baghdad April 16.  The unit was conducting a security patrol in the area when the attack occured."  ICCC reports the total number of US service members who have died in the illegal war is 3308.  (Sunday the 3,000 mark was passed.)

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