Thursday, May 10, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, May 10, 2007.  Chaos and violence, Mr Tony gets ready for life off stage, Iraqi oil workers postpone their planned strike to Monday, war resistance continues to grow, and more.
Starting with news of war resistance.  Colleen Henry (WISN, Milwaukee) speaks with two war resisters who have gone to Canada -- Corey Glass and Dean Walcott.  Walcott self-checked out and went to Canada at the end of last year.  He served two tours in Iraq and was stationed in Germany at a hospital in between where he saw the wounded with missin glimbs, skin melted off, and more.  Corey Glass joined the National Guard expecting to help out in the United States during national disasters.  Instead he was shipped off to Iraq.  Glass self-checked out, went underground and then went to Canada.   As October started last year, Corey Glass, Justin Colby, Ryan Johnson and other war resisters in Canada were considering returning to US as a result of the way Darrell Anderson's discharge was resolved.  However, once the military attempted to screw over Kyle Snyder, that changed.  Glass told Brett Barrouqere (AP) at the start of November, "After what they did to him, I don't see anybody going back."  In September of last year, Glass stated, "I knew the war was wrong before I went, but I was going to fulfil my end of the bargain, right or wrong and eventually my conscience just caught up with me. . . I felt horrible for being a part of it.  If I could apologise to those people [Iraqis], every single on, I would."   Though Dean Walcott has not yet appeared before Canada's Immigration and Refugee "Board," Corey Glass appeared before it March 30th of this year.
Dean Walcott tells Colleen Henry that Germany was the turning point for him: "Basically our job there was to make sure the injured and dying Marines were made as comfortable as possible. . . .  People were coming in missing legs, missing arms.  They had to be put on feeding tubes, they weren't able to breathe without help of a machine.  At this time, I was dealing with a lot of emotional problems.  I was pretty messed up from dealing with work at the hospital.  It was a rewarding job, but it was very, very difficult.  So I'd asked to be put somewhere that was non-deployable, so I could get mental help, which the command graciously decided not to let me do. There was a lot of times that families would come to visit them in the hospital and see their dead or dying son or daughter, and (they) would yell at us and would hit us.  It was misdirected anger, but to my way of thinking, it was understandable."
Jeffry House, their attorney and also Joshua Key's attorney, among others, observes, "Obviously there's a kind of courage in going to Iraq, even when you think it's wrong, and killing people, even when you think it's wrong.  I think there's also courage in standing up and saying, 'No, I can't do that, and I'm willing to make some serious decisions."  And Corey Glass tells Henry, "Staying there is, you're fleeing what you believe in, right?  You're fleeing your belief in murder and all these other things, you're just doing it because you're scared of what they're going to do to you.  But coming here, you're losing everything.  You're fighting them because you're losing your family.  You're losing it all."
And still they stand up.  And still their numbers grow (sh, not too loudly, you might wake The Nation which has largely slept through the illegal war).  Kimberly Rivera arrived in Canada in February with her two children and husband Mario after self-checking out and becoming the first female US war resister to apply for refugee status. Arriving in the United States today is US war resister Agustin Aguayo.  Mark St. Clair (Stars and Stripes) reports that Aguayo would be returning to Los Angeles today following his April 18th discharge from military prison but not release from the military.  He may not be at  the Sacremento event tonight (though he and Helga Aguayo, his wife, may surprise) at 7:00pm, Newman Center, 5900 Newman Court, Sacramento. But he will now be able to take part in the speaking out tour with Camilo Mejia, Pablo Paredes, Robert Zabala and others.

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.
All are part of a growing movement of war resistance within the military: Camilo Mejia, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Kimberly Rivera, 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, forty 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 Iraq, Garrett Therolf (Los Angeles Times) reports that US and Iraqi troops (under US command) have cut off basics to the citizens of Samarra and notes "residents . . . complain that basic necessities such as drinking water have not reached the city for seven days."  Therolf seems either unaware or unable to call out this for what it is, a violation of Geneva.
(Therolf also pushes the propaganda that "Ambulances have become favorite vehicles for car bombs and insurgents in the country" and seems to think offering a 2003 and 2007 example proves a pattern.  The shooting of ambulances in Falluja probably provide a clearer pattern but they were shot up by US forces.  Therolf also seems unable to speak with enlisted.  If he had, he might be writing that the enthusiastic cheers that greeted Cheney's speech were ordered and that the more muted response to Cheney's talk of extending deployments resulted in several divisions being chewed out after the speech.)  Meanwhile, as Danny Schechter (News Dissector) notes, Iraq's oil workers' trade union were set to strike today over the Iraqi oil law that will strip the country of profits but line the pockets of Big Oil.  The strike has been moved to Monday, Steve Kretzmann (Oil Change) observes. UPI quotes US Labor Against the War's Michael Eisenscher explaining the postponement was "because they had a conversation with somebody at the Oil Ministry who said they wanted to respond to workers demands and needed time to prepare a response."  US Labor Against the War, American Friends Service Committee and United for Peace & Justice are sponsoring a Voices of Iraqi Workers Solidarity Tour from June 4th to 29th that will include stops in Atlanta, Berkeley, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, NYC, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Cruz, Washington DC. More details available at US Labor Against the War.
CBS and AP report: "A majority of Iraqi lawmakers have endorsed a bill calling for a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops and demanding a freeze on the number of foreign troops already in the country, lawmakers said Thursday.  The Iraqi bill, drafted by a parliament bloc loyal to anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was signed by 144 members of the 275 member house, according to Nassar al-Rubaie, the leader of the Sadrist bloc."  This as Shailagh Murray and Jonathan Weisman (Washington Post) report that: "House Republican moderates, in a remarkably blunt White House meeting, warned President Bush this week that his pursuit of the war in Iraq is risking the future of the Republican Party and that he cannot count on GOP support for many more months."  At last, a casualty of war he may care about.

Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two Baghad mortar attacks that claimed one life and left wounded, a Kirkuk roadside bombing that wounded three people, and "Around 3 am, American planes had raided Sadr City, killing 3 civilians and injuring 12 with huge damage to three houses and three cars." 

Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that "gunmen exploded Al-Falahi Building in Abu Ghraib," and a Basra gun battle between British forces and unidentified others that resulted in one bystander being killed and two more wounded.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 20 corpses discovered in Baghdad and a decapitated head found in Hawija.  Reuters notes five corpses discovered in Mosul and two in Mahaweel. 
In addition, the US military announced today: "A Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West was killed May 9, while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province."
In legal news, much to note.  Starting in the United States where, earlier this week, the Manitowaoc Herald Times Reporter noted the sentencing of Donny Rage to one year in jail and three years probation.  Rage was a US military recruiter and, by agreeing to a plea bargain, four of the second-degree sexual assault counts were dropped allowing him not to face the threat of six years in prison for using his official position to attempt to rape two women ("attempted to have sex with . . . carried into his bedroom and assualted" -- that's attempted rape).  You can pair that up with Cheryl Seelhoff (Off Our Backs, vol 35, no 2, p. 22) report on the conviction of Michael Syndey (July 2006) for "pandering, mistreating, subordinates, and obstruction of justice, among other things, for what amounts to his having pimped women under his command.  Syndey threatened to extend the tour of duty of female reservists called to active duty if they did not have sex with his superior officers." 
Also in the United States, an Article 32 hearing is ongoing at Camp Pendleton into the killing of Iraqis in Haditha.  Sanick Dela Cruz has testified in exchange for immunity.  Our modern day Betty Grable, Paul von Zielbauer, is (mis)covering the hearing for the New York Times (dropping a charge here, leaving something out there, scrub, scrub, scrub).  Dela Cruz testified yesterday that "he was asked four times to lie about what happened in Haditha" (Marty Graham, Sydney Morning Herald). Thomas Watkins (AP) notes Dela Cruz testified to seeing Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich fire "six to eight rounds at" five Iraqis "with their hands interlocked behind their heads."  At the heart of the Article 32 hearing is Randy Stone's actions.  Stone "is charged with violating an order and two counts of dereliction of duty in connection with the killings."  Was Stone covering up for the massacre in which US troops killed civilians?  The prosecution, Lt. Col. Sean Sullivan, cross-examined a witness on Monday asking, "Did he tell you that he had left two wounded children in that house?  Did he tell you that he had killed a child?  Did he tell you that there was a woman at the bottom of the stairs that they had killed? . . .  Did he say anything about the five children in the back bedroom being killed on the bed?CNN offers a photo of one of the 24 Iraqis killed, Rasheed Abudl Hamid Hassan Ali at his wedding.
In Iraq, Arwa Damon (CNN) reports on 25-year-old Samar Saed Abdullah who awaits execution for the killing of three relatives but maintains that her husband did the killings and that she only confessed "after being tortued in polic custody."  She states: "I am innocent.  The judge did not hear me out.  He refused to hear anything I have to say.  He just sentenced me."  Hana'a Abdul Hakim, her mother, says, "She didn't confess.  It was from the beating they gave her.  She was bleeding.  She finally said write what you want, just stop."
Turning to England, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes that "two men have been found guilty for leaking a memo detailing a conversation in which President Bush reportedly tells British Prime Minister Tony Blair he wants to bomb the Doha headquarters of the Arabic television network Al Jazeera.  David Keogh, a former civil servant, and Leo O'Connor, a former parliamentary researcher, were charged with violating the Official Secrets Act.  Most of the trial was held in secret with reporters banned from the proceedings.  Bush and Blair's meeting was recorded by Blair's adviser on foreign affairs.  The memo came with a note reading 'This must not be copied further and must only be seen by those with real need to know'."  Robert Verkaik (Belfast Telegraph) reports, "Tony Blair's ill-fated war with Iraq claimed two more victims yesterday when a civil servant and an MP's researcher were convicted of disclosing details of a secret conversation between the Prime Minister and President George Bush.  Last night, MPs, lawyers and civil rights groups described the prosecution as a 'farce' and accused the Government of misusing the Official Secrets Act to cover up political embarrassment over the war."  ITV notes that Keogh felt the memo -- with Bully Boy's talking of bombing Al Jazeera -- would reveal Bully Boy to the world as the "madman" he is and that Keogh had originally hoped to pass the memo to the 2004 presidential campaign of John Kerry.  Most avoid noting what was going on in April 2004 when the Bully Boy and Tony Blair spoke, when Bully Boy talked of bombing Al Jazeera.  James Sturcke (Guardian of London) manages to avoid most realities but does use the word: Falluja.  As Jeremy Scahill has noted before (see Tuesday's KPFA's Flashpoints Radio for those late to the party) the city of 350,000 was attacked because of the murders of four US mercanaries from Blackwater, the US military bombed the power plant (a civilian target, a violation of Geneva), the US maintained civilians weren't being targeted and they weren't air bombing but they were -- 37,000 air strikes -- and Al Jazeera was there broadcasting the reality which is why the US offered a cease fire only if Al Jazeera left.  That is the backdrop that's not being addressed.  Bully Boy wanted to bomb Al Jazeera.  Why in April?  Falluja.
Tony Blair, the empty suit triangulator who never met a promise he couldn't break, has announced he'll be stepping down as Britain's prime minister -- presumably to open a beauty shop francise entitled Mr. TonyMark Rice-Oxley (Christian Science Monitor) takes an (overly) balanced look at Mr Tony's legacy with regards to Iraq but does offer: "The problem with generalizing about the Blair era is that it invites immediate contradiction.  He banned fox hunting -- but it still goes on.  He introduced a Human Rights Act -- but made life harder for asylum seekers.  He increased police numbers -- and tied them down with bureaucratic form-filling.  He initiated reform of the House of Lords -- but became embroiled in a scandal amid allegations that people who had loaned money to the party had been promised seats.  He presided over low inflation and unemployment and strong frowth -- but passed on only a modest slice of that increased prosperity to the bottom third of society.  After 10 years of 'Blairism,' surveys show that child deprivation is as bad in Britain as anywhere in Europe."
Like the triangulator in the US, Bill Clinton, Blair destroyed his party.  The New York Times' repeated confusion over why Rupert Murdoch endorsed Blair was laughable but the only thing funnier may be the continued efforts of the Guardian of London to carry water for Blair and his new Labour -- most recently AEB Martin Kettle's love note.   Great Britain's Socialist Worker leaves the hand jobs to others and calls it straight out: "We are in the final days of Tony Blair.  And good riddance to bad rubbish."  In a lengthier article, they note that Mr Tony "was swept into office by the tidal wave that destroyed the Tory government of John Major.  Now he is slinking out of Donwing Street amid the electoral setback that New Labour suffered last week.  He is even more unpopular than Margaret Thatcher when she left office."  Quite an accomplishment for Mr Tony and, for those who've forgotten, Mr Tony was the p.r. created name that was going to sweep him through one soft publicity shot after another as he intended to use his final months to shore up his shakey image.  Didn't turn out that way.  Lindsey German (Socialist Worker) notes that "69 precent thought that Tony Blair would be remembered for the war in Iraq. . . Why has Iraq remained the defining issue in British politics?  Partly there is the unfinished business about how we were taken to war.  None of the whitewash inquiries into the war have been able to achieve closure.  It is commonly accepted that Blair lied over the threat of weapons of mass destruction and how much a danger Saddam Hussein was.  He continues to lie about Iraq today, claiming recently against all evidence that the main people responsible for violence there were Al Qaida. . . .  However, none of this would probably have been decisive without the disastrous consequences of the war itself.  The death toll of Iraqis almost certainly stands between half a million and one million."  Jon Smith (Independent of London) reports June 27 is the day Mr Tony plans to step down. The Independent of London's cartoonist Dave Brown explains: "I won't be sad to see the back of Blair.  I detest the man and what he's done."; while author John Morrison (Anthony Blair: Captain of School) declares, "I think the war in Iraq can be his only legacy.  This man has thousands of deaths on his conscience, in my view, and he can't get round that."; photographer and filmmaker Alison Jackson shares, "He has directed and destroyed politics.  We've always wondered if politicians were telling the truth and now there's no doubt that often they aren't.  There is no glory in Tony Blair's decade.  There he is trying to go down in the history books and hoping people will forget how disappointing he was.  But even in leaving he's managed to make a mess.  He was always there for famous moments: Diana moments, Queen Mother moments, war.  But there's this trail of horror behind him.  The film I'm making, Tony Blair, Rock Star, was based on research we did into his gap year.  When he did play his first rock concert, the drums fell apart and everything went wrong and everyone booed and walked out.  Then when he managed a band he hired the Albert Hall but no one had ever heard of them so nobody came.  He had all these fabulous ideas that came to nothing." 
With fabulous ideas that came to something,  Ron Jacobs (Z-Net) speaks with Josh Brielmaier, Todd Dennis, Zach Heise, Bernadette Watts and Chris Dols (students who took part in last month's occupation of US Senator Herbert Kohl's office in Madison), students . . . who aren't apathetic. Zach Heise and Josh Brielmaier were noted on Tuesday and Bernadette Wattas and Chris Dols on Monday. That leaves Todd Dennis and we'll note the following from him, "I have a couple reasons why I participated.  One, as a veteran who was on active duty in the US Navy when the disinformation war to start the occupation of Iraq began, I have been opposed to the occupation from the start.  While in the military, partly out of fear of retributions and partly because I was unaware of my GI rights to protest off-base and out of uniform, I didn't participate in the anti-war rallies and demonstrations prior to the start of the occupation.  I did however contact all of my representatives stating my displeasure with the proposed Iraq war vote.  Kohl like normal didn't respond to my emails.  This was very disrespectful to me and my brothers and sisters whose lives he is personally responsible [for].  Since I have become a peace and justice advocate with first, Veterans for Peace and now along with Iraq Veterans Against the War, I have been disappointed in the representatives of this country's response to the war and public sentiment to it.  While I can do nothing about my earlier inaction, I can when any opportunity arises, take action showing my displeasure with the continued occupation of Iraq where our military has virtually no mission but to stay alive.  Some in our group until we did this action felt that Kohl was an honest and sincere politician. I had lost faith in the Democrats long ago and felt that Kohl who claims to be against the war and yet keeps funding it was a good target to show everyone how he really doesn't stand with us in our demand that Iraqis get self-determination.  To show them and the rest of the country how our purported representatives respond to our simple requests I participated in the occupation of Herb Kohl's office."  All the students taking part in the roundtable participated in the occupation of Kohl's office (the snapshot on Monday has "two" -- it was all) and they aren't apathetic.  They deserve praise as does Ron Jacobs for taking the trouble to actually speak to students.
And finally, Jim Lobe (IPS) delves into yet another use of the media in the illegal war:
In the run-up to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon planned to create a 'Rapid Reaction Media Team' (RRMT) designed to ensure control over major Iraqi media while providing an Iraqi 'face' for its efforts, according to a 'White Paper' obtained by the independent National Security Archive (NSA) which released it Tuesday.
The partially redacted, three-page document was accompanied by a longer power point presentation that included a proposed six-month, 51 million-dollar budget for the RRMT operation, apparently the first phase in a one-to-two-year ''strategic information campaign''.
Among other items, the budget called for the hiring of two U.S. ''media consultants'' who were to be paid 140,000 dollars each for six months' work. A further 800,000 dollars were to be paid for six Iraqi ''media consultants over the same period.

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