Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, May 2, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue,  the US military announces more deaths, Big Oil drools over the oil grab, much time is wasted with people pretending to be shocked (and worse), today is World Press Freedom Day, and more.
Starting with the garbage that's stinking up and taking up too much 'coverage' of Iraq.  Bully Boy gave the toothless, non-binding, weak ass measure the Democratically controlled Congress passed a veto.  To no one's surprise.  Andrew Ward (Financial Times of London) reminds, "Mr Bush had threatened for weeks to reject any legislation including withdrawal dates".  The non-binding and toothless 'benchmarks' (always with get-out-of-the-benchmark-free cards).  When the Democratic leadership caved and sold out the American people there was no call for "TAKE TO THE STREETS!"; however, because Bully Boy didn't sign the bill, WalkOn's calling for the closest thing to activism they can manage. 
Bully Boy should have signed the bill.  Not to end the illegal war.  The bill didn't end the war, didn't guarantee anything (reclassification would have allowed Bully Boy to keep the exact same number of US service members on the ground in Iraq).  But it would have been a PR victory for him.  And then he could have said, "Well the bill didn't anticipate ___ so I've had to ___."  He could have done whatever he wanted.  The bill neither constrained nor contained the Bully Boy.  He could have grabbed a few headlines, probably surprised enough people to leap all the way to 35% approval rating.  His not signing a weak ass bill that gave him everything he asked for and put no binding condidtions on him was a sign (yet again) of the press' tendency to create 'boy geniuses' where there are none. 
At the end of April, Gareth Porter (IPS) observed, "The language on a timetable for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq voted out of the House-Senate conference committee this week contains large loopholes that would apparently allow U.S. troops to continue carrying out military operations in Iraq's Sunni heartland indefinitely."  Now WalkOn and Party Hacks who pretend to care about something other than elections (but don't) have reason to drum up phoney outrage -- they sold the weak ass action by the Democrats as if it were the second coming of FDR's Public Works Administration.  Others telling people to drop everything in the middle of the week -- a day after many have participated in actual events for real issues -- and rush out to express your . . .  well, not shock.  Everyone knew Bully Boy would veto.  But whatever it is, express it!  Drop everything because the weak ass Democratic leadership just got a wedgie and, we all know, Dem leadership can't defend themselves. As one "key Democratic strategist" bragged to Elizabeth Drew (The New York Review of Books) about the bill, "We don't want to own this war.  It's Bush's war, and we want him to keep owning it."
While it appears that you tried to do something?  And they can't get away with that lie without an army of enablers which, fortunately, is one thing the Beltway has in surplus.  But people are catching on to the con game Democratic leadership tried to play on the voters.
Which is why Charles Babington (AP) can report -- with little shock from readers -- that with Bully Boy having refused to budge and Dems already caved/collapsed, the 'compromise' is expected to come from the Compromised Party (Democratic Party) and chief among the compromised, House Majority Leader Steny Good Times Follow Me Around Hoyer who "told reporters Wednesday that he hopes to have a new bill passed in the House in two weeks, with a final bill sent to the president before the Memorial Day recess.  'We're not going to leave our troops in harm's way . . . without the resources they need,' said Hoyer, D-Md."
That quote is telling in two ways.  First of all, Hoyer's now pushing the very thing used to tar and feather Dems with for the last few weeks (the abused often repeat the language of their abusers).  Second, note the pause in the statement.  "We're not going to leave our troops in harm's way . . . without the resources they need."  As though Hoyer grasped that leaving US troops in harm's way is just what the Democrats -- same as the Republicans -- are doing.  But, good news, they'll have "the resources they need."  Babington also reports that Hoyer "said the bill should fund combat through Sept. 30 as Bush has requested, casting doubt that Democratic leaders would adopt a proposal by Rep. John Murtha [. . .] to fund the war two or three months at a time." [Note Babington wrongly identifies Murtha as a Republilcan -- ". . .  by Rep. John Murtha, R-Pa., to fund . . ."] US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is quoted as saying, "The president wants a blank check.  The Congress is not going to give it to him."  No, they are not.  They are not going to put it in his hand.  They're going to leave it on top of the bureau as they tip-toe out the bedroom door with a big smile on their faces. 
The BBC goes with their DC correspondent James Westhead's call "The Democrats acknolwedge they will eventually have to soften their bill as they cannot risk being accused of undercutting the troops during wartime".  For those needing to see the con game from the other end, Noam N. Levey, Maura Reynolds and Joel Havemann (Los Angeles Times) produce the best piece of (unintentional) comedic writing of the year as they enter Bully Boy's head to report what he felt, what he hoped, what he thought, throughout the morning.  It's an embarrassment of . . . embarrassments and did no think to wonder if this wasn't heavy on feature writing porn and light on what anyone expected from actual reporting?  Let's hope all three wore gloves to protect themselves from bodily fluids.
Turning to Iraqi legislation news, the US allowed Big Oil to draft the Iraqi hydrocarbon law that would -- no surprise -- benefit Big Oil while stealing from the Iraqi people.  This morning Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) reported that the law had been "sent to parliament" even though "Parliamentary officials . . . said they were unaware the bill had been submitted to the legislature."  Why should it be any other way?  Iraqis weren't the ones drafting this law -- not even the parliament which is tasked with drafting Iraq's laws.  Raed Jarrar earlier revealed that, in February, when the law was agreed upon, the Iraqi parliament had no idea.  Jarrar most recently explained (Raed in the Middle) the three primary reasons the law will harm Iraqis: the law breaks up the nation-state into economic regions and threatens national unity; the sovereignty of Iraq is harmed since the Iraqi government has no say in production limits, the Iraqi judiciary cannot resolve disputes and Big Oil gets seats on the council approving their own contracts; and "Iraq will lose hundreds of billions of dollars to foreign oil companies during the next 35 years because the law doesn't give any preferences to local companies and due to the unconventional type of contracting this law legalizes called the Production sharing agreements (PSA) or the exploration and production agreements."
"Under the proposed law, Iraq's immense oil reserves would not simply be opened to foreign oil exploration, as many had expected.  Amazingly, executives from those companies would actually be given seats on a new Federal Oil and Gas Council that would control all of Iraq's reserves" is how Juan Gonzalez (New York Daily News via Common Dreams) explained it in February, opening with: "Throughout nearly four years of the daily mayhem and carnage in Iraq, President Bush and his aides in the White House have scoffed at even the slightest suggestion that the U.S. military occupation has anything to do with oil.  The President presumably would have us all believe that if Iraq had the world's second-largest supply of bananas, instead of petroleum, American troops would still be there."  Ewa Jasiewicz (Democracy Rising) observes, "If passed by parliament, the law will mark a milestone in Iraqi history -- a shift of Iraq's massive reserves from public to private hands.  It could see private companies develop and profit from Iraq's oil for 15-30 year periods with virtually no possibility for the Iraqi state to renegotiate contractual terms and conditions."
On February 23, Antonia Juhasz, speaking with Kris Welch on KPFA's Living Room, explained:
This law is being sold as the mechanism for helping the Iraqis determine how they will distribute their oil revenue.  That is not what this law is about.  That is the bottom end of an enormous hammer that is this oil law.  This oil law is about foreign access to Iraq's oil and the terms by which that access will be determined.  It is also about the  distribution of decision making power between the central government and the region as to who has ultimate decision making power and the types of contracts that will be signed.  There are powers that be within Iraq that would very much like to see that power divvied up into the regions, between the Kurds and the Shia in particular, and then there are powers that would like to see Iraq retained as a central authority.  The Bush administration would like the central government of Iraq to have ultimate control over contracting decisions because it believes it has more allies in the central government than it would if it was split up into regions.  The Bush administration is most concerned with getting an oil law passed now and passed quickly to take advantage of the weakness of the Iraqi government.  The Iraqi government couldn't be in a weaker negotiating position and the law locks the government in to twenty to thirty-five year committments to granting the most extreme versions of exploration and production contracts to US companies or foreign companies.  Meaning that foreign companies would have access to the vast majorities of Iraq's oil fields and they would own the oil under the ground -- they would control the production and they would in contracts yet to be determined get a percentage of that profit but they'd be negotiating essentially when Iraq is at its weakest when Iraq is hardly a country.  And that's what this oil law is all about. 
When Juhasz spoke in February, the Democratic leadership had yet to devise, let alone unleash, their hideous proposals; however, it bears noting that the passing of this law was a "benchmark" on the offensive law.  Dems bought the war this year as a time-share with the Bully Boy.
Turning to the the topic of courage.  Eric Ruder (Socialist Worker) reports on war resister Agustin Aguayo who "was released from confinement at a U.S. military base in Mannheim, Germany, on April 18, but he's still far from free. [. . .]  Helga and his twin daughters thought he would be headed home, but now the Army says that it plans to keep Agustin on active duty for one to two years more.  And he remains under the authority of members of his old unit -- the same 'people that tried to take him by force, i.e., shackle, handcuff and carry him onto the plane' for his second Iraq deployment, explained Helga."  Heather Wokush (OpEdNews) interviewed Agustin Aguayo for a piece published last Saturday and he stated, "I was determined that I would not hurt/injure others in any way, no matter what the consequences.  I actually belileve that this action of not loading my weapon kept me sane.  It brought me great sadness to know some soldiers I knew had shot at people and some soldiers I knew were hurt by the actions of others.  It was so absurd."  On his first tour of duty in Iraq, Aguayo refused to load his weapon.  He went to Iraq as a medic and, while there, the realities he saw were in conflict with his own spiritual beliefs.  As a result, he attempted to apply for c.o. status.  As Helga Aguayo has noted, everyone who interviewed her husband during the process felt he was a c.o. objector but superiors (who never spoke with Aguayo) overruled that.  Aguayo has attempted to address the matter via the civilian courts.  Robert Zabala is another example of someone who had to go to the civilian courts to be awarded c.o. status (which he was awarded last month).  The inequalities (and the fact that some people "in charge" don't even grasp the military guidelines as written) is why 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". 
As Courage to Resist reported, Agustin Aguayo is supposed to join with war resisters Pablo Paredes, Camilo Mejia and Robert Zabala for a speaking tour from May 9th through 17th in the San Francisco Bay Area. 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.

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.

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.
If the military is thinking they'll clamp down on war resistance by holding Aguayo, they obviously aren't factoring the passion this tour will create and the questions of, "Wheere's Augie?"  All are part of a growing movement of war resistance within the military: Camilo Mejia, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Dean Walcott, Camilo Mejia, Linjamin Mull, Joshua Key, Augstin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, 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 which examines the Iraq war and features Jimmy Massey and Iraq Veterans Against the War's Kelly Dougherty among others.
From that worthy topic, we again have to dig through the trash.  CNN reports no one can confirm that Abu Ayyub was killed in Iraq on Tuesday.  Had Kirk Semple (New York Times) focused on something more productive, he might have gotten the violence numbers correct in this morning's paper.
The violence continued today and maybe tomorrow the New York Times will cover it?  Or maybe they'll continue their undercount when summarizing reported violence?
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 8 dead in Baghdad, 4 wounded from a Baghdad minibus bombing ("IED carried in a plastic bag, left aboard"), 3 Baghdad mortar attack that killed a total of 5 and wounded 29, 4 Baghdad roadside bombs that killed a total of 3 people and wounded 4, a Baghdad car bombing that killed 4 people and left 25 wounded, a Basra bombing that killed one person and a Basra "katiosha missile" attack that wounded a child.  Reuters reports 10 dead and 35 wounded in a Baghdad car bombing attack in the Sadr City section of the capital.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two injured people from a Basra "confrontation between gunmen and a British patrol, two gunmen were seriously injured."  Reuters reports the Mosul shooting death of Nidhal al-Asadi who had been "a university professor".
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 30 corpses were discovered in Baghdad and, in Kirkuk, the corpse of Nejim Mohammed Hussein was found (he had been a blacksmith).
In addition, today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Corps Soldier was severely wounded after an improvised explosives device exploded under her vehicle at approximately 1:55 pm Wednesday in western Baghdad.  The Soldier later died of wounds at 3:25 pm while at the 28th CSH in Baghdad."  And they noted: "Two MND-B Soldiers were killed and two others were wounded when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device in a southern section of the Iraqi capital May 2."
In other news of how bad things continue to get in Iraq, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom issued their press release stating:
This year the Commission has added Iraq to its Watch List, due to the alarming and deteriorating situation for freedom of religion and belief. Despite ongoing efforts to stabilize the country, successive Iraqi governments have not adequately curbed the growing scope and severity of human rights abuses. Although non-state actors, particularly the Sunni-dominated insurgency, are responsible for a substantial proportion of the sectarian violence and associated human rights violations, the Iraqi government also bears responsibility. That responsibility takes two forms. First, the Iraqi government has engaged in human rights violations through its state security forces, including arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention without due process, extrajudicial executions, and torture. These violations affect suspected Sunni insurgents, but also ordinary Sunnis who are targeted on the basis of their religious identity. Second, the Iraqi government tolerates religiously based attacks and other religious freedom abuses carried out by armed Shi'a factions including the Jaysh al-Mehdi (Mahdi Army) and the Badr Organization. These abuses include abductions, beatings, extrajudicial executions, torture and rape. Relationships between these para-state militias and leading Shi'a factions within Iraq's ministries and governing coalition indicate that these groups operate with impunity and often, governmental complicity. Although many of these militia-related violations reveal the challenges evident in Iraq's fragmented political system, they nonetheless reflect the Iraqi government's tolerance--and in some instances commission--of egregious violations of religious freedom. Finally, the Commission also notes the grave conditions for non-Muslims in Iraq, including ChaldoAssyrian Christians, Yazidis, and Sabean Mandaeans, who continue to suffer pervasive and severe violence and discrimination at the hands of both government and non-government actors. The Commission has added Iraq to its Watch List with the understanding that it may designate Iraq as a CPC next year if improvements are not made by the Iraqi government.
Also under attack are attorneys.  IRIN reports that, "Threats to judges and lawyers have escalated over the past 14 months in Iraq, in line with a general escalation in sectarian violence after the bombing of a Shia shrine in February 2006.  Hundreds of legal workers have left the country because of threats and persecution.  This is delaying judicial processes and denying thousands of people their legal rights."  The right to the pursuit of happiness (a US right enshrined in the Constitution) never got established post-invasion.  Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) reports: "From the boys selling black-market gasoline from donkey carts, to the abandoned movie theaters, restaurants and liquor stores, from the overflowing sewage to the dwindling food rations, Baghdad has lost its place as a pinnacle of Middle East modernity.  Existence has become more rudimentary."  Partlow speaks with Um Mohammed (nickname, not real name) who notes that she is now using a "tanoor, a waist-high clay bourd for baking bread over smoldering palm-tree coals" -- a device she's never used before in her life but with her family's cost for monthly bread hitting $70, she's  using it now.  She tells Partlow, "We are living in Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, of prosperity.  Where is the prosperity?"  Let's repeat "she tells" because the New York Times apparently has the shyest correspondents in the world -- or the most sexist -- since they seem to consider a real chore to speak with Iraqi women.
Just walking along, shopping for food
Stepping out of the line of fire when people are rude
Cheap stuff made in China, someone calls it a sale
Somebody's mama, somebody's daughter
Somebody's jail
Beat down in the market, stoned to death in the plaza
Raped on the hillside under the gun from LA to Gaza
A house made of cardobard living close to the rail
Somebody's mama, somebody's daughter
Somebody's jail
-- "Somebody's Jail," written by Holly Near, off her new CD Show Up
On World Press Freedom Day, we'll note Edmund Sanders (Los Angeles Times) report from Monday about Amal Mudarris ("One of Iraq's most beloved broadcasters") who made the 'mistake' or committed the 'crime' of being "outside her Baghdad home Sunday morning" and was shot repeatedly.  Sanders notes: "Police said her attackers had waited in parked cars near her home in the Sunni Muslim neighborhood of Khadra.  Mudarris, a Shiite originally from soutehrn Iraq, is a host of a daily call-in show on a station of the state-owned Iraiq Media Network."  Reporters Without Borders states she "is reported in a coma" and notes that she is among 167 journalists who have died in the Iraqi war.  But will anyone count the women's deaths?  This week, two female college students were killed as they attempted to drive from college to their home.  If the genders noted, does it seem like it registers?  One group who is following and leading on this issue is MADRE which published the report  "Promising Democracy, Imposing Theocracy: Gender-Based Violence and the US War on Iraq" (which can be read in full in PDF format or, by sections, in HTML) in March.  In addition,  the spring 2007 issue of Ms.features Bay Fang's "The Talibanization of Iraq."  We noted the article on April 19th but it is now up at the Ms. website (click here).  The attacks on Iraqi women are very real -- regardless of how much the bulk of the mainstream press attempts to ignore what's happening.
And I feel the witch in my veings
I feel the mother in my shoe
I feel the scream in my sould
The blood as I sing the ancient blue
They burned in the millions
I still smell the fire in my grandma's hair
The war against women rages on
Beware of the fairy tale
-- "Somebody's Jail," written by Holly Near, off her CD Show Up.
Finally, today, 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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