Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, May 8, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, including a reported attack by US forces on a primary school that left children dead, Save the Children issues a report decrying the death toll for children in Iraq, the Los Angeles Times calls for troop withdrawal, and more.
Starting with war resister news.  Leslie Ferenc (Toronto Star) reports that US war resisters Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey are appealing the decision of Canada's Federal Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada: "The deadline to file for a leave to appeal to the Supreme Court is June 30.  Unless they're successful, Hinzman and Hughey will be forced to return to the U.S. where they will be court-martialled and could face up to two years in jail for desertion."  Up to two years?  Ference is incorrect.  (Ask Agustin Aguayo.)  As in many countries, Canada's Supreme Court is the court of last appeals and only hears approximately 80 appeals each year (during its three sessions).  9 judges sit on the Court (which was created in 1875) with one designated in charge -- in the current Court that is Madam Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.  Of the nine Justices, four are women which is three more than the US Supreme Court has.  Hinzman and Hughey have been seeking refugee status from the Canadian government.  The Federal Court of Appeal, in their ruling last week, decided that neither did enough to pursue c.o. status.  Or that's the excuse the Court of Appeal gave for turning down the requests for refugee status.
In other war resister news, last week Camilo Meija's Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia was published and, as Courage to Resist reports, this week, he joins with 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 media news, on Sunday, the Los Angeles Times called for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq joining -- a small number of daily newspapers around the United States have already done so but the Los Angeles Times has the largest circulation of any paper to make the call thus far.  Entitled "Bring them home" the editorial concludes: "Having invested so much in Iraq, Americans are likely to find disengagement almost as painful as war.  But the longer we delay planning for the inveitable, the worse the outcome is likely to be.  The time has come to leave."  Editor & Publisher calls it "the strongest stand yet" of "major papers" and notes other papers that have also called for withdrawal: the Roanoke Times, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Baltimore Sun, and the Portland Press Herald.  The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called for withdrawal on September 15th of last year in ""Editorial: The Iraq mess / Harsh reality underscores the need to leave" which concluded: "A serious president would, instead, step up to the plate and take steps to get America out of Iraq." (Truthout has reposted the LA Times' editorial here.)
The LA Times call comes as the number of US troops in Iraq increase and as some pin their hopes that Congress is running out of patience.  On the first, China's Xinhua reports that the Bryan Whitman, US Pentagon spokesperson, has announced that "10 more combat brigades with 35,000 troops" will be deployed to Iraq this year.  On the former, Jonathan Weisman and Thomas E. Ricks (Washington Post) report that, for the US Congress, September will now be the day of reckoning -- or so say Congress members such as US Senator Gordon Smith who declares, "Many of my Republican colleagues have been promised they will get a straight story on the surge by September.  I won't be the only Republican, or one of two Republicans, demanding a change in our disposition of troops in Iraq at that point.  That is very clear to me."  Is it?  Let's hope so; however, we've heard this song and dance before.  For example, Paul Reynolds (BBC) reported last October on US Senator John Warner's bluster: "In two or three months if this thing hasn't come to fruition and if this level of violence is not under control and this government able to function, I think it's a responsibility of our government internally to determine is there a change of course we should take.  I wouldn't take off the table any option at this time."  Again, those statements were made in October. 
Cullen Couch (UVA Lawyer) interviews Warner for the Spring 2007 issue and Warner said that the illegal war "permeates everything on Capitol Hill today. It's all-consuming.  I've seen World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, and have served 29 years in the Armed Services Committee.  Iraq is clearly the most complicated I have ever seen.  And unfortunately, there's a very strong division n the Senate about what to do."   Of Congress and the executive branch Warner states, "We're co-equal.  I think checks and balances moves a little bit with the different presidencies and the different issues.  But Congress
still has that power of the purse.  And that's an awesome power."  But will Congress use
it?  And having boasted in October that no option is off the table, what has been
Warner's excuse for not already calling for Congress to stop funding the illegal war?
In other media news, Juston Jones (New York Times) observed yesterday that the big O has made a national endorsement.  Media mogul Oprah Winfrey has endorsed US Senator Barack Obama in the Democratic presidential primary. Jones either wrongly or kindly refers to this as "Winfrey's entry to the political waters" which, sadly for the big O, isn't true.  The big O's first foray into "political waters" on the national level (on state level, she threw her weight behind the Governator) was in selling the illegal war.  She should own it because it belongs to her.  From the debut of Bill Moyers Journal which devoted two hours to the selling of the illegal war:
BILL MOYERS: Even Oprah got in on the act, featuring in October 2002 NEW YORK
TIMES reporter Judith Miller.
JUDITH MILLER: (OPRAH 10/9/02) The US intelligence community believes that
Saddam Hussein has deadly stocks of anthrax, of botulinium toxin, which is one of the
most virulent poisons known to man.
BILL MOYERS: Liberal hawk Kenneth Pollak.
KENNETH POLLAK: And what we know for a fact from a number of defectors who've
come out of Iraq over the years is that Saddam Hussein is absolutely determined to
acquire nuclear weapons and is building them as fast as he can.
BILL MOYERS: And the right hand man to Ahmed Chalabi.
OPRAH: And so do the Iraqi people want the American people to liberate them?
QUANBAR: Absolutely. In 1991 the Iraqi people were ...
WOMAN: I hope it doesn't offend you ...
BILL MOYERS: When one guest dared to express doubt Oprah would have none of it
WOMAN: I just don't know what to believe with the media and..
OPRAH: Oh, we're not trying to propaganda --show you propaganda. .... We're just
showing you what is.
WOMAN: I understand that, I understand that.
OPRAH: OK, but Ok. You have a right to your opinion.
And with that the Big O was done with the woman (very Big Babs Bush).  What Oprah
aired was propaganda.  Oprah sold the illegal war.  Maybe she couldn't understand the
really bad lyrics to her 90s show theme (many couldn't) and thought what was being sung was "War on, war on, I believe I'll war on, See what the end will be, I believe I'll war on
. . ."  Moyers could have also shown when the Big O invited Bill O'Reilly on.  As Fedwa Wazwaz (St. Paul Pioneer Press via Common Dreams) observed in 2002, "TV personality Oprah Winfrey used her program to market the war.  Winfrey ran video clips in a sound-bite manner by 'experts' as a 'moral' obligation to rid the world of Saddam Hussein.
To recap, Oprah has endorsed Obama.  Her only previous national political endorsement was when she endorsed the illegal war by allowing her show to become a platform for propaganda.  "We're just showing you what it is," said the Big O.  Only it wasn't what it is or what it was -- it was propaganda, it was lies, it was embarrassing and it was shameful.  Ironically, while chit-chatting with Bully Boy on her program in 2000, the issue of Iraq and bombing was raised by an audience member and brushed aside.  (See "George W. Heckled on Oprah," Democracy Now!, September 20, 2000.)  In 2003, Leah C. Wells (Waging Peace) described what happened: "Halfway through the show, impatient for the canned question period from the audience, Mr. [Danny] Mueller stood up and asked Bush, 'Mr. Bush, would you continue the Democrats' policy of boming and sanctions that kill 5,000 children a month in Iraq?"  The show immediately cut to commercial.  Mr. [Andrew] Mandell then stood and asked what the children of Iraq could expect.  Bush started directly at him.  Both Muller and Mandell were escorted out of the audience for their acts of conscience.  More than two years later, the children of Iraq know what to expect."
The children of Iraq?  Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted today, "Iraq's infant mortality rate has soared by 150 percent since 1990 according to a new report by the charity Save the Children.  One in eight Iraqi children now die of disease or violence before the age of five.  In 2005 alone, 122,000 Iraqi children died before reaching their fifth birthday.  Save the Children said Iraq's child-survival ranking is now the lowest in the world."  Andrew Buncombe (Independent of London) quotes Denis Halliday, former UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, stating "We are in the process of destroying an entire society.  It is as simple and terrifying as that.  It is illegal and immoral."; and Voice of the Wilderness' Kathy Kelly stating, "The punishment of children through the economic and military war against Iraq has been the greatest scandal."  Along with disease and violence, Iraqis face the issue of malnutrition.  In March Cartias Internationalis reported that "[o]ver 11 percent of newborn babies are born underweight in Iraq today," that one third of Iraqi children now suffer from malnutrition, and quoted President of Caritas Middle East North Africa Claudette Habesch stating, "Iraq has the second largest oil supplies in the world, but it has levels of poverty, hunger and underdevelopment comparble to sub-Saharan Africa.  The last four years, but in particular 2006, we have seen life get worser rather than better for the ordinary Iraqi." 
Save the Children's (PDF format) "State of the World's Mothers" notes: "Safe water is essential to good health.  Families need an adequate supply for drinking as well as cooking and washing."  That as IRIN reports on the state of Iraq's Tigris river "since the US-led invasion in 2003, this amazing watercourse has turned into a graveyard of bodies.  In addition, the water level is decreasing as pollution increases, say environmentalists.  Pollution in the river is caused by oil derivatives and industrial waste as well as Iraqi and US military waste, they say.  The river was one of the main sources of water, food, transport and recreation for the local population but after four years of war and pollution, it has been transformed into a stagnant sewer, according to environmentalists."  In 2004, Dahr Jamail reported for The New Standard on the pollution of the Tigris, "With reconstruction of a highly inadequate water treatment and distribution system at a near standstill throughout much of Central Iraq, some residents of Baghdad are left with little choice but to drink highly polluted water from the Tigris River.  Aside from a newly formed Iraqi non-governmental organization that is focusing on the cleanup of one section of the river, not much is being done to improve Baghdad resisdents' acces to potable water, and US contractors appear unable or unwilling to help."  Bechtel had the contracts for both the water and the electricity, as Public Citizen noted before reminding: "The question of water in Iraq, a desert country with temperatures sometimes reaching to 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54 degrees Celsius), is buffeted by highly-charged hyrdo-geopolitics, the integral part that water plays in the oil industry, and the generally low quality of existing resources. . . . The issue of water is also very important to American and corporate-Halliburton efforts to develop the oil industry.  It takes one barrel of water to produce one barrel of Iraqi oil."
On the issue of oil, Michael Schwartz (TomDispatch.com via Common Dreams) notes the historical power grab for Iraqi oil and takes a look at the scheme to privatize Iraq's oil to line the pockets of Big Oil at the expense of the Iraqis: "The draft petrochemical law, if enacted and implemented, could ensure that Iraq would remain in a state of neoliberal poverty in perpetuity, even if order did return to the country.  The petrochemical law is hardly assured of successful passage, and -- even if passed -- is in no way assured successful implementation.  Resistance to it, spread as it is throughout Iraqi society, has already shown itself to be a formidable oppontent to the dwindling power of the American occupation."  The resistance is widespread, including labor and members of Parliament, and, as Schwartz notes, the Iraqis very clearly see the illegal occupation as having to do with their oil.  Which is why attacks takes place on the pipelines such as the one reported by the Turkish Daily News where four were arrested on Tuesday after they had planted "a load of explisves . . . under an oil pipeline in northern Iraq that carries crude oil to Turkey".
Can the will of the Iraqi people be overridden?  With a puppet government, anything is possible.  Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London via Common Dreams) reminds of the new wall in Baghdad, "One casualty of the new plan is the authority of the Iraqi government.  The Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, announced in Egypt that the construction of a wall around the Sunni district of al-Adhamiyah would stop, but without effect.  An Iraqi army spokesman simply said that the Prime Minister had been misled.  The Iraqi Defence Ministry is largely under American control -- one senior Iraqi army official who obeyed a direct order from Mr al-Maliki late last year found himself jailed by US forces." al-Maliki, as nominal prime minister, is supposed to be the commander of the Iraqi military.  The wall has revealed to the world that he is a mere puppet and even those who are supposed to take orders from him do not.  Zaid al-Ali (OpenDemocracy) examines the puppet government and notes: "Iraqis were outraged when they heard that a wall was being built in their capital to separate one people from another.  Demonstrations broke out everywhere -- with both Sunnis and Shi'a joining in -- to protest the plan.  Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, whose influence over the US military is just about nil, laughably 'ordered' that construction be halted.  It is uncertain if al-Maliki was being genuine or not, but in any event, the Americans have continued to proceed apace, and have even claimed that the Iraqi government continues to support its plans.  Iraqi politicans who reject sectarianism know where this is leading and fear the worst. 'Al-Adhimiya today, Sadr city tomorrow.  We are being cantonised,' they say."  Today, while surveying the wall, Reuters reports, Col. Billy Don Farris "was shot by a sniper . . . evacuated from the area and is in stable condition."
In other violence in Iraq . . .
Garrett Therolf and Saad Fakhrildeen (Los Angeles Times) report: "A suicide car bomber attacked a croweded market in this holy Shiite city [Kufa] today, killing at least 16 people, injuring more than 70 and further stoking rising tensions between rival Shiite militias."
Reuters notes an Iskandariya mortar attack that killed 2 and left 10 others wounded.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad mortar attack that killed 1 person at a leather factory and left 3 more wounded, a Jalwla bombing attack on a police station that left 2 police officers dead and 20 more wounded.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports: "Around 10:30 am, an American helicopter opened fire on a primary school at Al-Nida (9 km north west of Mendli) killing 7 pupils and injuring 3 other pupils with huge damage to the school building.  Eyewitnesses confirmed this report while the American side said that they opened fire on the building after being fired from it."  To repeat, seven primary school children dead, three more wounded, when a US helicopter fired on an elementary school in the Diyala Province. Kadhim also notes Major Ibrahim A. Al-Nabi was shot dead on his way to work in Baghdad, and two police officers injured by gun fire in Salahuddin.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 25 corpses discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes that 7 corpses were discovered in Baghdad.
In activism news, returning to the roundtable where Ron Jacobs (Z-Net) speaks with student activists who occupied US Senator Herbert Kohl's office in Madison last month, we'll note the views of two more featured in the roundtable.  Zach Heise explains, "I originally joined the antiwar effort due to what I view as a horrendous economic waste.  Besides being illegal and founded on what have been proven to be Western expanision reasons as opposed to 'democracy' this war is costing over $3000 dollars every second -- every second, that much money is spent on this war.  There's a great site, www.costofwar.com that allows you to see how much your exact area has estimated spending on the war.  Well, Wisconsin's spending on the war could have purchased 12,000 full-ride scholarships to UW-Madison.  Simply ridiculous.  Maybe if this was a just and well-reasoned war, that could be justified.  But as it is now, I find it simply appalling."  Josh Brielmaier observes, "I think if we're serious about bringing an end to this war then its obvious traditional protest alone is going to be insufficient.  It serves a purpose, but puts no real pressure on our elected representatives to do their job.  As a newcomer to the antiwar movement I felt inspired by the energy and momentum of my comrades and the general sense that we were doing something differnt.  We're no longer politely asking those in power to put an end to the war in Iraq; we're demanding it."  Two of the voices of students.  Students aren't apathetic.  They are out there working to end the war, working on immigrant rights, et al.  They just don't get covered by most in big or small media.
MICHAEL PARENTI: The war has destroyed Iraq, and the war has already created a bloodbath. Bush said we can't leave because there will be a bloodbath. The bloodbath is now. It's going on now. I heard the same thing for ten years about Vietnam. "We can't leave. There's going to be a bloodbath." Well, in fact, when we left Vietnam, the bombings stopped, the Agent Orange spraying stopped, the napalming and killing people stopped, the Phoenix CIA assassination program stopped, the bloodletting stopped. And I think the same thing would happen in Iraq. That's my assessment.
AMY GOODMAN: What ended the Vietnam War?
MICHAEL PARENTI: US withdrawal and -- you mean, why they withdrew? It just became so untenable and unpopular in the US. It seemed endless. There seemed no out. And I think that's the same thing that's happening here. You've seen within the last six or seven months in Congress, it's amazing, and in the country, where before they were hesitant to say, "Oh, I'm not sure we want to get out." They're all now saying it, and they realize most of the American public wants to get out. Bush no longer uses the term "stay the course." They discovered that "stay the course," the American public was rejecting it, because it had kind of an endless quality. There was no exit to it, you know, this "stay the course." So they've dropped it. They never use it anymore. They know they, themselves, are in a dead end here.

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