Monday, May 07, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Monday, May 7, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, 12 US service members announced dead in Iraq on Sunday, the US military says to expect worse in the coming days, a peace plan emerges -- outside of the US and a Canadian court makes a decision by disregarding the evidence.
Starting with the issue of war resisters.  A decision was made public over the weekend regarding two US war resisters in Canada.  To set that news up, we'll start by noting this passage from Joshua Key's The Deserter's Tale (pp. 226-227):
Although some Canadians have disagreed with me, and one man in British Columbia even threatened to put me in a boat and drag me to the American border, most of the people I've met in this country have treated me well.  Yet it remains to be seen whether I will be allowed to stay in Canada.  Just as this book was going to press, the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board rejected my application for refugee status.  However, I am appealing that decision in court and will not give up my fight until I have explored every avenue to make Canada a permanent home for my wife, our children and myself. I also believe that the other men and women who have deserted the American armed forces because they do not wish to serve in Iraq should be allowed to stay in Canada.  I believe that it would be wrong for Canada to force me to return to a country that ordered me repeatedly to abuse Iraqi civilians and that was later found to be torturing and humiliating inmates at Abu Ghraib prison.  I don't think it's right that I should be sent back to do more of the same in Iraq, or that I should serve jail time in the United States for refusing to fight in an immoral war.
During Vietnam, Canada embraced war resisters.  Today, the government refuses to do so.  One person makes a decision and they hide behind "Immigration and Refugee Board" -- implying that a case is presented before a board, heard by several.  That's not reality.  It's one person.  And no war resister has been granted asylum.  But we're supposed to repeat the lie that the "board" is an independent body with the ability to make independent decisions.  Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey were the first war resisters to go to Canada and be public about their move and their decision.  They were the first to file for refugee status.  Jack Lakey (Toronto Star) reports that the Federal Court of Appeal ruled (Saturday) that the two young men "are not entitled to refugee status" and that "The latest ruling noted neither made full use of steps open to them in the U.S. to win conscientious objector status, before fleeing here."
That may well be what the Federal Court of Appeal said, it is not, however, true.  Hughey and Hinzman's strories underscore the realities that the court elected to ignore.  Hinzman, from Rapid  City, South Dakota, signed up in 2001 and taking part in the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)as did his wife Nga Nguyen.  It was in those meetings that Hinzman's beliefs were expanded/formed.  He told Peter Laufer (p. 57 of Laufer's  Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq) "No matter how much I wanted to, I could not convince myself that killing someone was right."  Hinzman applied for C.O. status.  He served in a non-combat role in Afghanistan.  His application was denied.  Let's repeat that in all caps: HIS C.O. APPLICATION was denied.  Back in the US and soon to be deployed to Iraq, Hinzman self-checked out and he, his wife and their child Liam moved to Canada in January 2004.
Let's move to Brandon Hughey and come back for the court's recent decision.  Brandon Hughey, from San Angelo, TX, signed up at 17-years-old.  Peter Laufer includes a speech that David Hughey, Brandon's father, gave at the Veterans for Peace conference (that would be the 2005 attended by many including Dahr Jamail and Cindy Sheehan who left the conference, went down to Crawford and started Camp Casey): "I'm the father of Private Brandon Hughey who is at this time in Canada.  I'm basically a card-carrying Republican.  Used to be.  My story basically began when my young son called me from Canada and told me that he didn't want to risk his life for Bush and Cheney's son.  That caused me a great deal of concern.  As a matter of fact, it caused great conflict.  Our first several conversations over the telephone were basically fights.  But I started reading.  I did a lot of research, an incredible amount of research.  And I actually found myself not being able to believe what I was seeing happen to this country.  So I sent my son basically a manifesto that said I support him.  It took a lot out of me.  As I guess you can tell, I'm not much of a speaker.  So it's brought me to this point, basically, to make a long story short.  You know, I've read the Constitution of the United States of America.  I've read a lot of books written by a man named James Madison, a lot of things by Thomas Jefferson.  When I did that, it helped me figure out that all of this is totally wrong.  I had some really good quotes, but I can't recall 'em off the top of my head.  I just thought I'd come up and introduce myself.  I do support my son."  Every war resister has a story, everyone around them has a story -- it's just independent (print) media that doesn't give a damn and isn't interested in telling those stories.  Informing readers, in the case of The Nation, is far less of a concern than reproducing Democratic campaign literature and calling it "independent".
18-year-old Brandon Hughey completed his training and was sent to Ford Hood.  Hughey: "I had asked my superiors at Ft. Hood on more than one occasion to grant me a discharge from the mimlitary, but they refused saying it was not my choice.  I was never informed on any route I coud take to leave the military such as applying for conscientious objector status.  I had promised myself that under no circumstances would I allo myself to become complicit in the illegal occupation of Iraq.  No contract or enlistment oath can be used an excuse to participate in acts of aggression or crimes against humanity."
So, the Canadian Federal Court of Appeals has dismissed both Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey's appeal and had the NERVE to state that "neither made full use of steps open to them in the U.S. to win conscientious objector status, before fleeing here."  Hughey, like many enlisted, had no idea c.o. status even existed.  Hinzman applied for it and was denied.  But the Court wants to embarrass itself (and the memory of Pierre Trudea) by claiming that "neither made full use of steps open to them in the U.S. to win conscientious objector status".  The Court doesn't know what it's talking about.
For the record, the US military is NOT following the guidelines outlined for granting C.O. status.  This has included their refusing to grant the status to those who have found religion while serving, to those who have increased their religious beliefs, etc.  Repeatedly, individuals have been turned down.  Including those who spoke of a moral awakening but cited no religious beliefs.  In the case of the last group, they've been told that they have to be religious.  (No, they don't.  The guidelines specifically state that is not true.)  The US military turns down C.O. applications regularly (very few are granted) and the one constant is that each group makes up their own minds about what rules to follow and which ones to ignore.  There is no consistency and there is certainly no recognition of the guidelines that have been set down in writing.
That's very obvious in the case of Agustín Aguayo  who was refused C.O. status (by people who never even spoke to him).  It's one of the reasons the Center on Conscience & War has declared May 14th (next Monday) the day to lobby Congress for COs because "it is important to support servicemembers who become conscientious objectors, to lobby for a place for conscience in an inherently violent organization suffering from a dire lack of it."  They also note: 
Come and lobby in Washington, DC or lobby your member of Congress at their local office near your home.
Click here to sign up for lobby day.
On May 15th, International CO Day, CCW is participating in 2 events:
Congressional Briefing: 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
An Aspect of Religious Freedom: Conscience in the Military,
sponsored by FCNL, Peace Tax Fund, and John Lewis

Advisory Council, 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm @ Church of the Brethren (tentatively)
Church of the Brethren
337 North Carolina Ave. SE
Washington, DC 20003
Now in a blanket decision, the Canadian court has ruled that Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey didn't do enough to pursue C.O. status.  How Hughey's supposed to pursue something he's never been informed of is a question the court sidesteps.  They flat out ignore the fact that Hinzman did go through the process and was denied.  So Brandon Hughey, the court wants to say, didn't do enough and they want to say them about Hinzman.  There was no effort made to examine the issues -- the court appears to not even grasp the issues.  They do appear (still) eager to avoid to avoid the entire issue.  How proud they must be.
How this will effect other US war resisters in Canada who have applied for asylum isn't clear.  (Despite what The Toronto Star says.)  Others have different issues.  Some, like Joshua Key and Patrick Hart have additional issues (such as serving in Iraq) and Kyle Snyder also has the fact that he's married to a Canadian citizen.
While the Canadian court system shows the maturity of a three-year-old, in the adult world, people are speaking out.  Last week Camilo Meija's Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia was published and, as Courage to Resist reports, he will be joining Agustin Aguayo Pablo Paredes, 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.
Aguayo wants to take part in that but may not be released in time. 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, "Where's Augie?"  All are part of a growing movement of war resistance within the military: Camilo Mejia, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Joshua Key, Augstin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, 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. (Filling in for Rebecca, Betty  wrote about Sir! No Sir! last night.)   To repeat,  Sir! No Sir! airs tonight at 9:00 pm (EST) on The Sundance Channel followed at 10:30 p.m. by The Ground Truth (check local listings for other times, PST will be 9:00 pm as well).
In Iraq, Sunday saw even worse news from a region that rarely has genuine good news (though the Operation Happy Talkers do try, they really try).  Reuters reports 11 announced deaths of US service members (8 of the deaths happened on Sunday, 2 on Saturday and one on Friday -- all were announced Sunday). Sudarsan Raghavan and Karin Brulliard (Washington Post) note it was actually 12 deaths, the death of 12 US service members, that were announced by the US military on Sunday.  Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted today, "In Iraq, at least 150 people have died over the past three days."  Counting corpses discovered, Reuters reported at least 77  Iraqis dead on Sunday alone.  CBS and AP peg the number at 95: "at least 95 Iraqis were killed or found dead nationwide Sunday, police reported."  In addition, the UK Defence Ministry announced on Sunday: "It is with deep sadness that the Ministry of Defence must announce the death of a soldier, who died today, 6 May 2007, as a result of injuries that were sustained in Iraq last week."  And CNN reports that, on Sunday, US Col. Billy Don Farris was "shot in the leg" in Iraq and "was evacuated to receive treatment" but given "a Purple Heart before he was evacuated".  Meanwhile, Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports that, still on Sunday, Major General Rick Lynch ("commander of the 3rd Infantry Division) basically sings "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet."   Susman reports Lynch says "American casualties would rise in the coming months" -- this after April which, Susman notes, was "only the fourth time since the beginning of 2005 that U.S. deaths have exceeded 100 in a single month."  Raghavan and Brulliard (Washington Post) quote Lynch stating, "All of us believe that in the next 90 days, you'll probably see an increase in American casualties because we are taking the fight to the enemy."  Lynch would do well to work on identifying "the enemy" since no one serving above him or anyone in the White House can.
Today . . .
AFP reports twin car bombings today in Ramadi that left 20 dead and quotes Iraqi Colonel Tareq al-Dulaimi saying, "Ten were killed in each explosion and both were from suicide car bombs."  AFP also notes that Al-Anbar Province was hailed by David Petraeus as "breathtaking" in its progress last monthReuters reports that the death toll has climbed to 25 and also notes a mortar attack in Iskandariya that killed 2 (10 more injured), that "eight to 10" people (suspected insurgents) were shot dead by  "U.S. army Apache helicopters". Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 Baghdad mortar attacks killed 10 today (7 wounded), 8 police officers dead from a Baghdad car bombing (12 more injured), a Bani Saad roadside bombing that wounded three ("father and two of his sons), a Kirkuk roadside bombing that wounded one person, woman wounded in a Basra explosion and a Basra rocket attack that killed one person.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad assualt that left 1 person dead (2 wounded), a Mandhili attack on a bus with 4 people shot dead (2 wounded), a police officer shot dead in New Baquba, an attack on a Khalis woodcarver that killed the man and "three of his sons who were helping in his job" and "Before noon, terrorism group pushed into a school at Khuailis (north of Baquba) executing two teachers (husband and wife) in front of pupils and teachers."
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 30 corpses discovered in Baghdad today, the corpse of "a police commissioner which was lain on the road of Hawija," and, in Al-Wajihiya, the corpse "of a man which was identified later as the chairman of Al-Wajihiya town municipality who was kidnapped yesterday".  Reuters notes two corpses discovered near Hilla.
Today, Reuters reports the US military announced a soldier died from "small arms fire while on patrol in western Baghdad". ICCC's current count is 3377 for the total number of US service members who have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.
In US political news, Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) reports US Senator John Boehner declared on television Sunday (Fox "News") that "Over the course of the next three months or four months, we'll have some idea how well the plan is working."  Boehner's referring to David Petraeus ("top commander in Iraq") scheduled report on the 'progress' in September -- 'progress' of the escalation which began in February.  Boehner isn't the first Republican to float August or September as a date of (semi)reckoning. And, as MediaMatters has pointed out, John McCain makes such statements every few months (and apparently forgets he's made them -- Senator Crazy -- or maybe just assumes no one's paying attention).
Meanwhile US presidential candidate John Edwards appeared on ABC's This Week and stated, "My opinion is the American people spoke very clearly in the last election, said they wanted a different course in Iraq. . . .  The way for Congress to stand firm is to resubmit another bill funding the troops but with a timetable for withdrawals."  Sadly, by "another bill," Edwards means the same measure -- the same toothless, nonbinding measure.  He was asked his why he was disdainful of US Senator and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's joint-measure with US Senator Robert Byrd that's being billed as "Deauthorize the War."
Edwards responded that "the president has already exceeded the authority . . .  America is now policing a civil war.  The president was never given permission to police a civil war and the power that the Congress has to stop this war is the use of its funding authority.  And that's what they should do.  That's the place that the Congress is the most powerful, their Constitutional authority to use that to stop the war."
George Steph demonstrated that he left his common sense along with his heart when he stormed out of the Clinton White House by asking about a "genocide" that "a lot of people say" would happen if US troops left Iraq, Shi'ites would kill Sunnis!  Keeping up with news from Iraq isn't required for the Sunday chat & chews but it should be.  What George Steph is so concerned about?  It's been ongoing since the start of the illegal war, since the US government decided to fund and fuel one side.  (I'm told video is available online and that George Steph has on so much makeup he looks like George Hamilton -- who 'served' in the LBJ administration.) Edwards' response" ". .. Honestly it's a serious risk and something that the president of the United States needs to be thinking about and planning for and my position is that what I   what I would do as president is as we withdrew our combat troops out of Iraq, I would not leave the region. I think we would need a troop presence in Kuwait, in the Persian Gulf . . ."  Basically everywhere.  Karen Button (Common Dreams) reports on a realistic plan for withdrawal which, no surprise, doesn't come from the US Congress but from "Sunni and Shi'a Muslims, Assyrian Christians, Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and other minorities, the majjority of which are still in Iraq."  Planning Iraq's Future is the 250-page plan for peace and Dr. Abdul Karim Hani tells Button, "This plan proposes a direction for the future of Iraq.  We've been asked many times what is the political program of the resistance.  Well, this is it."  Button identifies the central points:
  • All foreign troop withdrawal, including military bases and security forces;
  • That fulfilled, Iraqi National Resistance declares ceasefire; -- Annulment of the current political process;
  • Installation of 2-year interim Prime Minister, nominated by consensus, under UN auspices;
  • Installation of temporary peace-keeping forces from Arab nations that did not cooperate with invasion, with UN consultation;
  • Elections held within two years;
  • Army and security forces not allowed in political process;
  • Interim government members not allowed in elections;
  • Reformation of Iraqi Army
US presidential candidate and US House Rep Dennis Kucinich commented on the Clinton-Byrd plan stating, "Now that Senator Clinton supports deauthorization, will she support defunding the war?  When someone votes to fund the war 100 percent of the time and then says she support deauthorization, it looks like a gimmick.  Last week she voted to fund the war again.  Every time she votes to fund the war she reauthorizes it.  The true test of her commitment to ending the war is whether she'll vote to stop funding it.  Congress will soon be faced with yet another decision on whether or not to fund the war.  Let's see how Senator Clinton votes, to see if she is to be believed."  Alexander Cockburn (CounterPunch) concludes: "So the Democrats are edgy too, though not quite so much as McCain, whose only option is to turn on a dime and come out against the war at the end of the summer.  What the Democrats fear is that a very significant number of voters are in a testy mood, ready to punish anyone -- Democrat as well as Republican -- who doesn't have a clear, simple plan to bring the troops back home.  So now they are openly conceding they misunderstood the public mood. . . . they are caught between the public mood and the imperial imperative and the latter will prevail in their calculations and thus -- absent a prodigious orgy of doublespeak -- alienate their political base."  (Cockburn is not referring to Kucinich or US presidential candidate Mike Gravel in the excerpt.)
In other, Bob Abernethy interviewed British War Cheerleader Andrew White ("Canon . . . of the Anglican Church in Baghdad" -- when he's present which isn't all that often -- his home is in England and he is a British citizen) for Religion & Ethics and the spirit faded for the cheerleader during the following exchange (as noted Sunday by The Third Estate Sunday Review) about Iraq's current puppet government:

ABERNETHY: And do you expect it to last?
Canon WHITE: No.
ABERNETHY: It will fall when? And what will replace it?
Canon WHITE: The reality is that there's a very high chance that the present government will cease its existence in the coming months.
As Tom Hayden has noted, it's past time for the issue of what is the US government paying for, what are they supporting was addressed (supporting with debt that US tax payers will have to pay off).  War Cheerleader White (whose church moved inside the heavily fortified Green Zone) admits/speaks what everyone already knows, puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki has a very tenuous hold on the title of prime minister.
Finally, in news of activism, Ron Jacobs (Z-Net) speaks with Josh Brielmaier, Todd Dennis, Zach Heise, Bernadette Watts and Chris Dols (two students who took part in last month's occupation of US Senator Herbert Kohl's office in Madison), students . . . who aren't apathetic.  Shocking only to those desk jockeys who never get out in the real world.  Bernadette Watts tells Jacobs, "In Kohl's patronizing response email, he let us know that he was happy we came to show our discontent and he agrees with us but that he couldn't really do anything about the war in Iraq, as it lies in George W's hands.  We occupied his office to make a statement.  A statement telling Kohl that we refuse to be continually misrepresented in Washington, as he says he's against the war, yet continues to support funding for the war." Chris Dols declares, "Our goal is to build a movement that can stop the war.  We haven't done that yet, obviously.  But we have expanded the core of organizers sufficiently.  (Four months ago our CAN meetings were attended by 4 of us.  Today it's over 20 regularly.)  Further, activists are learning from experience.  The struggle itself is our greatest class room.  The classes are getting bigger and the discussion are ahead, politically, of where they were several years ago.  For example, racism against Arabs and Muslims is discussed as regularly as 'What would happen if the US left Iraq today?' and the America's broader goals in the Middle East, etc.  These discussions are not only welcomed in the movement, but necessary for our growth.  Our goal -- and we've begun to achieve this -- is to make antiwar activism more educational and fulfilling than school.  Given the misery of schoolwork and the terrible job market for graduates, we're operating on fertile ground."  At the end, Jacobs is thanked for taking the time to speak to students (thanked by the students) because, let's be honest, the press talks about students, they don't talk to them.  (That's why from The Nation to the New York Times, they can all repeat the lie -- with a straight face -- that students are apathetic.)  We've noted two of the students today and we'll include a sample of all of their voices (hopefully, the others will be quoted in tomorrow's snapshot).  This doesn't count for Todd Dennis, I just want to note two events he's mentioning -- he notes that he will be taking part in Iraq Veterans Against the War's "Operation First Casualty action in NYC, going to France and then attending the Veterans for Peace national conference.  We noted the conference earlier.  2005 spawned Camp Casey, 2006 presented Ehren Watada.  2007? What's known so far is it will last from August 15 through 19 and be held in St. Louis, Missouri (811 North 9th Street, at the Holiday Inn).

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