Thursday, April 26, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, April 26, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, two high profile terrorists stalk the continental United States, US war resisters launch a tour, students REMAIN active (they always have been -- no matter what the old cranks say), and more.
Starting with news of war resisters.  Courage to Resist reports that war resisters Camilo Mejia, Pablo Paredes, Agustin Aguayo and Robert Zabala will be speking out from May 9th through 17th in the San Francisco Bay Area.  This will be Aguayo's first publicly speaking appearances since being released from the brig earlier this month (April 18th).  The announced dates include:
Wednesday May 9 - Marin           
7pm at College of Marin, Student Services Center, 835 College Ave, Kentfield. Featuring Agustin Aguayo, Pablo Paredes and David Solnit. Sponsored by Courage to Resist and Students for Social Responsibility. More info: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Thursday May 10 - Sacramento        
Details TBA

Friday May 11 - Stockton    
6pm at the Mexican Community Center, 609 S Lincoln St, Stockton. Featuring Agustin Aguayo.

Saturday May 12 - Monterey      
7pm at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 490 Aguajito Rd, Carmel. Featuring Agustin Aguayo and Camilo Mejia. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace Chp. 69, Hartnell Students for Peace, Salinas Action League, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and Courage to Resist. More info: Kurt Brux 831-424-6447

Sunday May 13 - San Francisco 
7pm at the Veterans War Memorial Bldg. (Room 223) , 401 Van Ness St, San Francisco. Featuring Agustin Aguayo, Camilo Mejia and Pablo Paredes. Sponsored by Courage to Resist, Veteran's for Peace Chp. 69 and SF Codepink. More info: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Monday May 14 - Watsonville           
7pm at the United Presbyterian Church, 112 E. Beach, Watsonville. Featuring Agustin Aguayo, Camilo Mejia, Pablo Paredes and Robert Zabala. Sponsored by the GI Rights Hotline & Draft Alternatives program of the Resource Center for Nonviolence (RCNV), Santa Cruz Peace Coalition, Watsonville Women's International League for Peace & Freedom (WILPF), Watsonville Brown Berets, Courage to Resist and Santa Cruz Veterans for Peace Chp. 11. More info: Bob Fitch 831-722-3311

Tuesday May 15 - Palo Alto          
7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church (Fellowship Hall), 1140 Cowper, Palo Alto. Featuring Camilo Mejia. Sponsored by Pennisula Peace and Justice Center. More info: Paul George 650-326-8837

Wednesday May 16 - Eureka  
7pm at the Eureka Labor Temple, 840 E St. (@9th), Eureka. Featuring Camilo Mejia. More info: Becky Luening 707-826-9197

Thursday May 17 - Oakland    
4pm youth event and 7pm program at the Humanist Hall, 411 28th St, Oakland. Featuring Camilo Mejia, Pablo Paredes and the Alternatives to War through Education (A.W.E.) Youth Action Team. Sponsored by Veteran's for Peace Chp. 69, Courage to Resist, Central Committee for Conscientious Objector's (CCCO) and AWE Youth Action Team.
Camilo Mejia's book Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia will be published by The New Press on May 1st. He  is part of a movement of war resistance within the military that also includes  Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Dean Walcott, Camilo Mejia, Linjamin Mull, Joshua Key, Augstin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Camilo Mejia, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, 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 addition, the documentary Sir! No Sir! traces the war resistance within the military during Vietnam and it will air at 9:00 pm (EST) on The Sundance Channel followed at 10:30 p.m. by The Ground Truth, a documentary that features
Turning to news of terrorism, two high profile terrorists have been issuing threats against Americans, America and the democratic process that is supposed to be the bedrock the United States exists upon.  US joke and 2008 GOP presidential candidate Rudy Giuliana, speaking in New Hampshire on Tuesday, declared that Democrats will not remain on the offensive with terrorism and will wave a white flag as he attempted to subvert democracy in his desperate bid to win the GOP nomination.  Not to be outdone, Crazy John McCain, also competing for the GOP 2008 presidential nomination, took The John McCain Showboat Express to South Carolina where he declared, "If we leave Iraq there will be chaos, there will be genocide, and they will follow us home." 
Reality check for Senator Crazy: Iraq already has chaos, already has genocide.  When the US leaves (and the US will leave at some point) there will be violence in Iraq.  That's what can happen to puppet governments, when they have to stand on their own, the people may erupt in violence (mitigated somewhat when appointed puppets get the hell out of the country -- see Marcos and the Phillipines).  To state that "they will follow us home" suggests that Senator Crazy may need to undergo a psych exam before continuing in the Senate.  After the first Gulf War, the US left (much quicker) and violence did take place.  It did not "follow us home."  Senator Crazy is attempting to terrorize a nation to drum up some support -- a cheap and should-be illegal stunt.  Rudy G?  He continues to demonstrate that municipal politics and the national stage do not go hand in hand.  The oft dubbed "America's Mayor" should probably focus on pot holes and leave the big subjects to those qualified to weigh in unless he's intent on joining the VOTE INSANE! VOTE JOHN MCCAIN! ticket.  In the United States, anyone can run for president -- even nut cases.
Other than missing their morning meds, what could have the two so upset?  McCain was responding to the votes today and yesterday, Rudy G was anticipating them.  AP reports that today the Senate followed the House's vote (House voted last night) to pass a reconciliation of the measures that earlier passed both houses.  The non-binding, toothless measure is now headed to the White House where it awaits a signature from the Bully Boy (in which case it becomes law) or a veto.  If Bully Boy vetoes, it goes back to Congress where a two-thirds majority vote of each house is necessary to override the veto.  (Bully Boy can also refuse to veto it, do nothing, and after 10 days it would become a law without his signature and without requiring another Congressional vote.)  Bully Boy has stated he will veto the bill.  AP quotes US Senator Robert Byrd declaring, "The president has failed in his mission to bring peace and stability to the people of Iraq.  It's time to bring our troops home from Iraq."  Such statements may confuse some people and lead them to believe the measure that has now passed both houses does that; however, it does not "bring our troops home from Iraq."  It may allow some US service members to return to the US (or be deployed to Afghanistan); however, there are so many built in escape clauses for the Bully Boy that it's silly to promote the bill as "troops home now" or, for that matter, "troops home" in 2008.  AFP observes, "The bill provides more cash than Bush sought to bankroll operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but says US troops are to start withdrawing from Iraq on October 1, with a non-binding target of completing the pullout by March 31, 2008." 
Before the Senate vote today, Andrea Lewis spoke with Leigh Ann Caldwell (Free Speech Radio News) and Chris Toensing (Middle East Report) on KPFA's The Morning Show about Congress and Iraq.
Chris Toensing: Well, I have never been able to shake the suspicion all along that the Democrats are engaged in an elaborate show of political theater -- that they do not really intend, in the end, to pass, to insist, that Bush sign legislation which would contain a binding timetable of any sorts. And that they are willing to water down those provisions even further to the point where it's entirely at the president's discretion -- it already almost is.  But they're willing, I think, to water it down even further in order to chip away some Republicans who will vote for something like that and then they can claim to the public that they're trying to tie Bush's hands and they're trying to assert their Constitutional oversight role in helping to end this disasterous war and yet not really have their finger prints on Iraq policy.  And I've never been able to shake this suspicion that that's really the Democrats game and I'm not speaking about the Progressive Caucus or the Out of Iraq Caucus who have a much clearer goal in mind and a much sounder political strategy in mind but I'm talking about the big national Democrats, the Emanuels and Pelosis in the House, the Schumers and Levins and so on in the Senate.  And I think the goal of this is - is to make sure that the war is solely Bush's albatross and solely the Republicans albatross rather than to bring the war to a speedy conclusion.   
Did, Andrea Lewis wonder, Toensing think that US service members would be returning to the US in the fall of 2008?
Toensing: I think it's possible, and actually probably likely, that some troops will be withdrawn, some combat brigades -- as they say.  What's not going to happen is an end to the US deployment writ large.  There are still going to be, I think, combat brigades there. I think there are also going to be large "enduring bases" various kind of advisors and trainers and support personnel who will be working with the new Iraqi army.  I think that the underlying strategic goals of the US are just simply not served by leaving Iraq in its current state.  The only conditions under which I can see either a Republican or a Democratic administration withdrawing completely from Iraq would be either if Iraqis themselves unified across all kinds of sectarian and ethinic lines and faught a kind of Pan-Iraqi Infintada against the US that would be unmanageable so that would be one circumstance.  The other would be if  they were able to find some kind of Iraqi strongman who would be able to ensure that the government would be stable and pliable--  according to Washington's interests -- after the US withdrew all the troops.  That's the, that's all along been the underlying strategic goal and I haven't seen too many national Democrats, the ones with presidential ambitions, speak to the heart of US policy in the Persian Gulf and as long as that's not changing I think the US is going to be in Iraq for a long time.
Lewis noted, "Except maybe Dennis Kucinich" which Toensling agree with Leiws on.  Dennis Kucinich is a US House Rep and candidate for the 2008 Democratic nomination for president.
In Iraq, AFP reports, the non-binding "timetable for military withdrawal from Iraq brought mixed reviews from Iraqi members of parliament, some of whom doubted the government's ability to meet US demands for faster political reconciliation."  The BBC notes Iraq's foreign minister and all around redundant loud mouth Hoshayr Zebari who is yet again screaming that the US cannot leave.  If the tired, old song seems familiar, he's been singing it for years.
But when exiles and Kurds are made leaders, put in positions of power (put in by the US -- and Zebari is one of Bully Boy's favorites), it's not really surprising that they don't have the support of the average Iraqi and need a military force to protect them.
In Iraq today, many went without protection.  Some of the violence.
Reuters notes a Khalis bombing that killed 10 Iraqi soldiers (15 wounded), a bombing in Jbela that killed a student and left six more wounded, Baghdad mortar attacks that killed 4 (wounded 11), a Baghdad car bombing that killed six (15 wounded) "near Baghdad University," Mosul bombings that killed 3 people (59 wounded), car bombings in southwestern Baghdad that killed 1 (three wounded), a roadside bomb in centeral Baghdad that killed 2 (10 wounded) and a mortar attack in Mahmudiya that "killed a woman and wounded three others". 
Reuters reports a woman and her niece shot dead in Tikrit.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 26 corpses were discovered in Baghdad.
Reuters notes one corpse discovered in Mahmudiya and three corpses were discovered in Kirkuk.
In student activism news, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) spoke with the University of Maryland's Sergio Espana about the five-day fast, Hungry For Peace, that kicks off Monday.  Espana stated, "So we're having students and faculty having a fast and a sit-out for five days, protesting the illegal US occupation in Iraq.  Every day of the fast will represent roughtly 100,000 of the more than 500,00 Iraqi civilians that have died as a direct consequence of this illegal occupation.  We'll also have a lecture series.  Now, across the nation, thanks in large part to the Student Peace Action Network, we've had universities from California to Vermont who will also be contributing.  So these fasts are nationwide.  For example, in Minnesota -- apart from the fast, there will also be rallies going into their Congressional representatives, turning in petitions, letting them know that the American public wants them to do the job that they were actually elected to do -- which is to, you know, support the American public, support the troops and to end this immoral and atrocious war."  UMBC Solidarity Coaliton is asking more campuses to sign up -- this include merely wearing black arm bands next week, protesting, fasting, etc. 
AMY GOODMAN: Well, the founder of CODEPINK, Medea Benjamin, joins us now from Washington, D.C. She's a longtime peace activist and also co-founder of Global Exchange. Welcome, Medea, to Democracy Now! You are changing the face, in a sense, of lobbying in Washington. Explain what you're doing.
MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, these hearings that are going on every day, Amy, they used to be very staid gatherings, where you'd have the K Street lobbyists and you'd have the staff aides and a maybe a sprinkling of tourists. Now, you have CODEPINK lining up early in the morning to get into each of the hearings and turning them into really public affairs. We try to participate in them. We certainly participate with our messages on our bodies. When we can get away with it, we participate with signs. And we often get carried away when we hear them saying things we don't like and get up and say something, sometimes get kicked out, sometimes get arrested, sometimes get tolerated. But we've really turned them into public gatherings, which I think they should be.
Yesterday, when General Petraeus tried -- well, he actually did a hearing behind closed doors, we were outside there yelling, "Let the public in! The public wants to hear!" And so, I think we're really changing the face of the way the proceedings are going on in Congress and demanding a lot more transparency.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Medea, given the number of times you've been ejected in recent months from Congress, you must be probably the best-known security question for the security guards there. Are they watching you and following you constantly?
MEDEA BENJAMIN: They've actually become our friends. We're on a first name basis. When we enter the Capitol buildings, they usually get on their walkie-talkie and say "OK, CODEPINK is here." They follow us around. They go to have lunch with us. They're really quite nice to us and quite sympathetic to our cause, as are a lot of the people that we find in these hearings. Things are really changing in Washington, and they're changing because groups like ours are keeping the pressure on.
And one thing I really want to say to your listening audience is that we need more of you here. We have rented a house, a CODEPINK house, with five bedrooms. We're encouraging people to come from all over the country, stay with us for a week or two weeks. There are people who have left their jobs and are really determined to be on the Hill during all of these discussions about supplemental money. So we need more people to come to Washington, get up in the morning with us, go out to these hearings, let them see that the people are determined to end the war in Iraq and not start another one in Iran.
Turning to media news, Rolling Stone magazine celebrates 40 years in their May 3-17, 2007 double issue.  Online, it's not worth checking out.  In print, Jane Fonda and Patti Smith are interviewed -- the only two women.  There are no people of color.  So on a diversity scale, it fails.  They do find time for the token neo-con -- the aging (badly aging) boy wonder of the right wing, Tom Wolfe who apparently showed up for the interview after a drunken party at the Buckleys.  Strong interviews can be found with Fonda, Smith, Michael Moore, Neil Young, Jackson Browne, Bill Moyers, Norman Mailer and Martin Scorsese.  The strong interviews find the subjects reflecting on the last forty years and the changes they see in the country.  We'll note Jane Fonda's response to "What indicates to you that young people are hopeful?"
Jane Fonda: Anger.  Resistance.  They're pissed off, as well they should be.  Natalie Maines [of the Dixie Chicks] embodies that.  It's that, "F--k it, man -- this not what I want this country to be."  There's a lot of young people who feel that way.  The young people I work with and who come to my events, they're beginning to feel their power in a very different way than in the Sixties and Seventies.
One young person, Mike (Mikey Likes It!) covered the case of Jake Kovco on Tuesday and I should have linked to it already.
Finally, Wednesday, May 2nd at 6:30 pm in The Great Hall, Cooper Union (NYC), Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove will be presenting readings from their  Voices of a People's History of the United States featuring music performed by Allison Moorer and Steve Earle and readings and vocal performances by Ally Sheedy, Brian Jones, Danny Glover, Deepa Fernandes, Erin Cherry, Harris Yulin, Kathleen Chalfant, Kerry Washington, Opal Alladin, Staceyann Chin and Stanley Tucci.  Zinn and Arnove will provide both the introduction and the narration.

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