Thursday, April 19, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, April 19, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraq may have even more oil than originally thought, just in time more pressure to privatize Iraq's oil, Ricky Clousing reflects on war resistance, Ms. magazine addresses the realities for Iraqi women, Norman Solomon calls out media coverage, and the war resistance movement adds another name.
Yesterday in Iraq, AP notes, "233 people killed or found dead across Iraq.  At least 183 of those are killed when four large bombs explode in mainly Shiite locations of Baghdad."  Kirk Semple (New York Times) bills it as "the deadliest day in the capital since the American-led security plan for the city took effect two months ago."  It is also the deadliest day in the capital or Iraq this yearAFP observes that the violence "raised questions about the US-backed security plan for the capital."  Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London via CounterPunch) opens with, "Yesterday will go down as a day of infamy for Iraqis who are repeatedly told by the US that their security is improving."  CNN reports: "It was the worst bombing in the Iraqi capital since the 4-year-old war began, topping the February toll of 130 dead in a bombing in the same marketplace."
Salam Faraj (AFP) reports that today: "Devastated Iraqis hunted for dead relatives in the city mortuaries on Thursday" and quotes one man sobbing, "Oh God, why all that!" as he stared at "frozen corpses stacked up in the giant morgue at the Imam Ali hospital in Sadr City after a night-time curfew was lifted and daybreak made it safe enough to leave home."  Kirk Semple notes Salar Karmal Zari who had been visiting the capital, declaring, "The blast threw me to the ground and shattered a window over my body. . . .  I saw a human head in front of the store and many cars burning and smoke everywhere. . . . I will never stay in Baghdad anymore."
Roger Hardy (BBC News) notes of yesterday, "This was supposed to be a day when the Iraqi government could show it was making tangible progress towards the eventual withdrawal of foreign forces."  Hardy's referring to the handoff of the Maysan province to Iraqi control.  As noted yesterday, the transfer was supposed to be a brilliant photo-op, puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki had a speech all prepared but ended up being a no-show when the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk splashed and crashed against reality.  Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, Iraq's National Security Adviser, ended up reading al-Maliki's speech.  The empty words are all the more empty because, quoting Patrick Cockburn, "the transfer of political or security control by the US and Britain to Iraqi authorities has always been deceptive.  Iraqis believe, with some reason, that real control remains in the hands of the occuyping forces.  Earlier in the year, British forces blew up a police headquarters in Basra and US helicopter-borne troops tried to kidnap two senior Iranian officials visiting Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi president."
If you use the links or read any of the coverage, you may note something missing -- what tends to always go missing: Iraqi women's voices.  Though many reports mention that women (and children) were among the victims, Iraqi women's voices are abesent from the reporting. Did you know that on one day in November, a Baghdad morgue housed 150 female corpses?  (They had gathered over a ten day period with no one claiming them.)  Ms. readers will know that.  In the spring 2007 issue of Ms. (in stores on April 24th), Bay Fang contributes "The Talibanization of Iraq" (pages 46 through 51) which takes a look at women's lives in Iraq since the start of the illegal war, noting the destruction of basic rights and much more.  Yanar Mohammed (Organization for Women's Freedom in Iraq) tells Fang of being able to "meet with groups of 200 or 300 women at factories or the railway station" in the early years of the illegal war; "But this year is completely different.  A woman can't even walk two to three blocks safely, much less [come to] a meeting."  Bay Fang addresses the MADRE report (which may make Ms. one of the first national periodicals to do so -- on MADRE's report click here to read in full in PDF format or in HTML), addresses the issue of "OH THERE ARE WOMEN IN THE PARLIAMENT!" by noting "During the January 2005 elections for the National Assembly, political parties were required to field electoral slates on which every third candidate was a woman, and as a result women captured 31 percent of the seats.  But nearly half of the elected women parliamentarians ran on the list of the Shiite alliance, and they have had to toe the conservative line of their party.  Some of the women parliamentarians could be forces for moderation and progress -- such as Mayson al-Damluji, a former undersecretary of culture who has urged the prime minister to honor his pledge to improve women's rights -- but the dangerous political environment of targeted assassinations has prevented them from being very outspoken."  Again, the latest issue of Ms. magazine (Spring 2007) goes on sale April 24th.  And though Fang's article isn't available currently online, Martha Mendoza's "Between a Woman and her Doctor" went up yesterday.
Now if the news above is news to you, that's because the media (big and small) have been in a feeding frenzy over twin (dueling?) soap operas and reality has fallen even more out of favor.  Addressing this with a hard hitting column, Norman Solomon (CounterPunch) observes: "Several days after the mass killings at Virginia Tech, grisly stories about the tragedy still dominate front pages and cable television.  News of carnage on a vastly larger scale -- the war in Iraq -- ebbs and flows.  The overall coverage of lethal violence, at home and far away, reflects the chronic evasions of the American media establishments."  Solomon goes on to explore the reasons for the different approaches in coverage.
Turning to the issue of war resisters, yesterday in Germany Agustin Aguayo was released.from the military prison he was sent to after his March court-martial.   
David Rising (AP) notes that Aguayo, credited for the time he was held following his turning himself in September, served "less than six weeks behind bars" on an eight month sentence.  Mark St. Clair (Stars and Stripes) reports that Aguayo received "a bad conduct discharge, which he has since appealed" and that the appeal means, according to Lt. Col. Elizabeth Hibner, that he is "on active-duty status, with the same standards as all the other soldiers in the unit."  Aguayo attempted (repeatedly) to receive CO status and the Center on Conscience & War has declared May 14th the day to lobby Congress to pass a law that would "protect the rights of conscientious objectors". 
Meanwhile, Sarah Olson (Truthout) reports on Marc Train who self-checked out the US Army last month, following the March 16th DC demonstration. Olson reports that Train signed up "under the delayed-entry program".  That's a nice little trick that the US military likes to play whereby someone under the age of consent when it comes to signing a legal contract is allowed to do so.  (Note: If you sign up under the delayed-entry program, you can say "NO."  You do not have to go in.  There are a number of legal reasons for that including contract law.  But anyone who has signed up to enter after high school graduation or after they turn 18 is not required to follow through.  Don't go to a base, don't go down to speak to anyone.  You can send a letter saying that you have changed your mind.)  Garrett Reppenhagen (Iraq Veterans Against the War) tells Olson, "Everyone's situation is different, and you have to weigh your obligations to your country and your oath against your moral compass and your higher conscience.  There is never a right or wrong answer when matching such powerful forces." 
Yesterday on Flashpoints, Olson interviewed US war resister Ricky Clousing who spoke of how learning of Camilo Mejia and Kevin Benderman "and others" were examples.   Clousing self-checked out and, after turning himself in, was court-martialed October 12th and served three months.
Ricky Clousing: I definitely don't regret my decision, I really feel like I responded the way that I needed to.  You know, there's this quote that says, you know, if you bow to the universe the universe bows back.
Sarah Olson: So today, though, war is increasingly unpopular, more American soldiers are denouncing it, the Iraqi resistance is growing, people on both sides continue to die.  Where do you, from your pespective as someone who's served in Iraq, where do you believe we need to be headed?
Ricky Clousing: A lot of people want to ask me, a lot of people want to know, 'Well who should we vote for,' you know, or 'What do you think's going to happen in the next election' and this, and this, and this.  And I think people are, they're living in a fantasy land if they think that by electing a Democrat in 2008 is going to fix all our problems, you know.  And like, "Oh there's this amazing spokesperson, they're speaking out against the war."  Sure, it's great that it's becoming more popular and more mainstream that people are questioning stuff but this is a radical movement.  It doesn't stop with the Iraq war, at that, you know.  It's much larger and demanding that our government not only be accountable but provide the type of government that we're supposed to be living in which isn't happening, you know?  I mean, we're not, we're not a people, the government is not by the people and for the people cause the people have a completely different priority list and a completely different agenda than the people that are in power and are benefitting you know  from corporate America that's tied into war and conflict and so many other aspects of society that are getting neglected because of it.  I mean the war machine in general is not just just about Iraq, it's not just about Afghanistan, you know, all the weapons that are being made and sent across the world and the role that we play economically across the world.  There are so many huge issues, you know.  So I think that it's so big and I don't mean to sound like a downer about stuff, I'm just saying I think that . . . I don't know the answer to like where things should be I just know that change doesn't happen without awareness, you know.  To start there, all of us need to be becoming more self informed and also spreading that awareness in whatever avenue we have.
Train, Clousing and Aguayo are part of a movement of war resistance within the military that also includes  Ehren Watada, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Justin Colby, Camilo Mejia, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson,  Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, 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.
Information on oil?  Ed Crooks (Financial Times of London) reported yesterday that a new "comprehensive independent study" of Iraq's oil resrouces has determined that "Iraq could hold almost twice as much oil in its reserves as had been thought" which "would raise Iraqi from the world's third largest source of oil reserves with 116bn barrels to second place, behind Saudi Arabia and overtaking Iran."    How lucky (for corporations) that the steal-Iraqi-bill continues to be pressed.  CBS and AP report that the law, approved by al-Maliki's cabinet, is headed "to parliament next week" and note: "Passage of the law, thought to have been written with heavy U.S. involvement, is one of four benchmarks the Bush administration has set for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's struggling government."
Since Iraq has so much oil, possibly US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates can pump some, refine it and then use that to save the US tax payers the expense of his little stop in Baghdad today?  CBS and AP report that he arrived there today "to tell Iraqi leaders that the U.S. commitment for a military buildup in the country is not open-ended."  Believe that message (laughable though it is) has been made repeatedly already.
Government?  Remember Clousing's remarks to Olson?  In the US, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other members of Congress went to the White House yesterday to meet with the Bully Boy. Noam N. Levey (Los Angeles Times) reports that the result was no "progress toward ending an impasse over an emergency spending bill."  Peter Baker and Jonathan Weisman (Washington Post) report that "Congressional Democratic leaders are moving to make their proposed timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq 'advisory' as they seek to reconcile two versions of war spending legislation into a single bill that they plan to pass next week, according to several House members."  So the toothless, non-binding measures that would have never brought all the troops home (despite the hype) are now targeted for removal?  As Kevin Zeese (Democracy Rising) points out: "The supplemental passed by both Houses had been opposed by the vast majority of peace groups, now it looks like the supplemental developed by the conference committee will become even weaker.  Whether this weakening will be enough to avoid a veto remains to be seen.  But it sounds like the Democrats are making the already unacceptable more unacceptable to Americans who believe it is time to end the war.  And this rapid compromise before a veto is not a good sign for how much the Democrats will bend to the president if he follows through on his threat to veto the bill."
AFP reports: "A suicide car bomber killed 12 people in Baghdad on Thursday . . . in the central Jadriyah district -- a majority Shiite inhabited area . . . wounding 28 and also setting ablaze a nearby truck loaded with gas cylinders, a security official said."  Reuters reports a Diwaniya mortar attack that left three people wounded, a Baghdad mortar attack that killed 1 and left three wounded,
CBS and AP report a woman and a police officer were gunned down in Baquba (five additional police officers were injured) while seven people were injured in a Kirkuk drive-by.  Reuters reports a woman was shot by a sniper in Baghdad.
Reuters reports 4 burned corpses discovered in Shirqat.
Today, the US military announced: "A Task Force Marne Soldier died in Baghdad Tuesday of non-battle injuries."  And they announced: "Two MND-B Soldiers died and one other was wounded when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device north of Baghdad April 18.  The unit was returning from a combat patrol in the area when the attack occurred."
And they announced: "An MND-B Soldier died when a combat security patrol was attacked with small armss fire in southwestern section of Baghdad April 18."
Meanwhile, the UK Ministry of Defence announced: "It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the deaths of two soldiers from the Queen's Royal Lancers in south-east Iraq at approximately 1120 hours local time on Thursday 19 April 2007.  Both were killed by an improvised explosive device in Maysaan Province."  That, for those dozing, would be the Maysan Province -- yesterday's photo-op turn over because things were so much calmer there. 
Reuters reports 144 is the total number of British soldiers killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war and 144 is also ICCC's count.    3315 US service members have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war by ICCC's count and  3315 by Reuters.
Finally, in news of activism, Erica Pelzek (The Daily Cardinal) reports on a student protest: "Afer walking out of their classes at 1 p.m. Wendesday in protest of the war in iraq and rallying students down State Street, more than 40 members of US-Madisons's Campus Anti-War Network staged an all-night sit-in at U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl's, D-Wis., Madison office.  The protesters insisted the senator return to Wisconsin to meet with the group and hear its demands regarding the war in Iraq."  Offering support to the students via phone were Howard Zinn and Dave Zirin.

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