Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, May 15, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, 3 US soldiers remain missing, war resistance gets active (within the military and outside of it), and Bully Boy finds his soul mate (maybe Match.com hooked them up?).
Starting with war resistance. Today is International C.O. Day.  Susan Galleymore (Raising Sand, KZSU) interviewed two war resisters of the current illegal war, Camilo Mejia, Agustin Aguayo, as well as David Harris (Vietnam) and Aimee Allison (Gulf War). Both Mejia and Aguayo spoke of the promise of advancement outside the military -- of joining because of promised college benefits and the chance to advance for themselves and their family (Aguayo has two twin daughters, Camilo has one daughter).  Late yesterday, Paul McNulty, Deputy AG, stated he would be stepping down and cited "financial realities" resulting from "college-age children" -- well, gee, McNulty, get your kids to sign up.  No, that's not why McNulty stepped down but it's a good cover because college costs a lot of money (a great deal more since the Bully Boy began occupying the White House).  It's not only dishonest it's insulting at a time when we have a poverty draft (for more on that see Peter Laufer's  Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq).
In fact, we need to stop there and really absorb that.  At a time when the poor, working poor and economically struggling enlist to have a shot at college it is appalling that the comfortable McNulty wants to slink off, he uses that excuse. 
Mejia spoke with Galleymore about the difference in economic status that resulted from his moving from Latin American (Costa Rica) to the United States. Mejia tells his story in  Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia.   In the book, he covers his return to the United States (as a small child, his mother brought Camilo and his brother to the US before deciding to move to Costa Rica) (pp. 14 -15):
Furthermore, the staff did not understand that even though I was in eleventh grade in Costa Rica, I was a senior.  They insisted that I take two more years in order to graduate, and I ended up having to attend night school in an attempt to do two years in one.  A good portion of the students in the night classes were troublemakers who had been kicked out of day school for disciplinary reasons.
I also had to work for a living for the first time in my life.  My mother had rented out our apartment in Nicaragua, and my father was still sending some child support money, but even with this extra income my mother's salary as a supermarket cashier wasn't enough to pay the rent and put food on the table.  So I got a job at a fast-food restaurant, where I swept the parking lot, put the chairs down from the tables, and cleaned the bathrooms every single morning before moving to the kitchen to flip burgers for six hours.  After work I had a two-hour break before going to night school, so my days started at five-thirty in the morning and didn't end until I returned home from school at ten at night.
Graduation was also very different from what I'd imagined.  There was no prom night for me, nor did I have any friends with whom to celebrate.  I just walked into the school principal's office and he handed me my diploma.  I think he said "Congratulations and good luck, son."  I went to the local supermarket and sat outside on a bench, staring at m diploma and wondering if this was all that happened when you graduated.
The following year, after I attended a community college for two semesters, the government terminated my federal student financial aid, claiming I made enough money at my dead-end job to pay my own tuition.  I found myself without any real prospects for the future.  It seemed as though I was working my butt off for a life that offered nothing at all.
It was these circumstances that led me to join the U.S. Army in Miami at age 19.  The recruiter didn't really have to work hard to get me to sign the treacherous contract.  The army offered financial stability and tuition, the military held out the promise of helping me claim my place in the world.
Joshua Key, Ryan Johnson and many other war resisters can tell that story.  Many within the military today can tell that story.  It's why Casey Sheehan joined up.  So for McNulty to hide behind "college-age children" as he abandons the sinking ship isn't just laughable it's insulting.
Donna Jones (Santa Cruz Sentinel) notes that Mejia and Aguayo are on a speaking tour with war resisters Robert Zabala and Pablo Paredes and reports: "Paredes, a former Navy petty officer, disputed the Army's figures on resisters, saying the counseling hot line he staffs has received 40,000 calls.  Many apply for CO status, but get discouraged in the face of delays and intimidation, Paredes said, adding the military definition is very low."  Aguayo noted, on Raising Sand Radio, that his struggle to be granted CO status continues (the DC Court of Appeals turned down the motion on Feb. 16th).  Jones provides the Army's released figures relating to CO's (an undercount, to be sure): 2001 - 18 approved and 5 denied; 2002 - 17 approved and 6 denied; 2003 - 31 approved and 20 denied; 2004 - 30 approved and 30 denied; 2005 - 23 approved and 38 denied; 2006 (first 9 months only) - 33 approved and 9 denied.
Tonight and through Friday, the speaking out tour continues:

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.

Friday May 18 - Berkeley
7pm at St. Joseph the Worker featuring Camilo Mejia.

US war resisters 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.
And speaking out goes on around the country on campuses, on streets . . .  At the GI coffeehouse Different Drummer Cafe, Iraq Veterans Against the War's Adrienne Kinne, Matt Howard, Drew Cameron and Matt Hrutkay used their voices.  Eric Ruder (ISR) captures the discussion and we'll note Drew Cameron (and try to note each of the four this week): "The thing that is most important for us who have been there, for us who are affected by this, for us who know what's going on -- it's just like Matt was saying -- we've got to be honest, we've got to be truthful about what we did, what we're doing, and how we're being treated. . . . So when we get back and we have problems and we need educational opportunities and we need health care, what happens?  They are creating veterans every single day who are pissed off and think: I'm done with this.  I've got the VA, I can rely on that a little bit, that'll be alright.  But instead, we get a cold shoulder.  They say, we'll see you in three months or six months.  They are creating veterans every single day who come back from combat and there's no suport structure.  There's no reaching out.  A lot of people have to wait until it gets really bad.  When I got back from active duty I moved up to Vermont from Oklahoma and no one told me this is where the VA is, this is what you have to do, this is how you get your benefits, this is what you're eligible for.  Nobody told me any of that, I had to find out on my own.  I had to go to the clinics and ask do I get this or that.  Where's the outreach and support?  What happened to all the stuff we were promised?  All the stuff that we deserve, where is it?  They don't care.  That's the biggest realization that I've come to.  They do not care.  They.  Do.  Not.  Care."
And they don't.  If they did, if the administration did, if the Congress did, they'd be addressing the PTSD epidemic. Instead they ignore it.  Military Families Speak Out notes: "Servicemen and women suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder related to their combat experiences are routinely re-deployed to comabt, and/or kept in combat, according to Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), a nationwide organization of 3,500 military families who have been speaking out in opposition to the war in Iraq."  Aaron Glantz (IPS): "At the beginning of May, Corporal Cloy Richards tried to kill himself.  'He punched out all his windows and cut major arteries,' his mother Tina Richards told IPS.  'he had to go to the hopsital because he almost bled to death.'  Cloy Richards, who lives in rural Salem, Missouri, has served two deployments in the Marine Corps in Iraq.  The military lists him as 80-percent combat disabled.  His mother says he has knee and arm injuries, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder, and currently has a claim pending with the Army for a traumatic brain injury. 'It's something that affects us every single day,' Tina said, 'when he's 23 years old and he can't even climb the stairs.  He has bad nightmares where he thinks he's back in Iraq."  And that's why Tina Richards speaks out and calls for action.  US House Rep David Obey can scream his head off at her in his public tantrum (and have the usual Party Hacks defend him) but get a damn grip, his life, as 'tough' as it ever may be, is nothing compared to the Richards family live with every day and live with as a result of an illegal war that Congress shows no will to end.
Monday, as Kevin Zeese (Democracy Rising) reports, Tina Richards joined Cindy Sheehan and over 250 others to march "through Washington, DC to Capitol Hill.  When they reached the Cannon House Office Building they formed two circles blocking the street to traffice.  The demonstration was the 'Mother of a March spearheaded by Cindy Sheehan whose son died in Iraq.  The march kicked off a 'Summer of Action' where anti-war demonstrators will SWARM on Congress from today until June 31 advocating an end to the war."  CODEPINK notes that over 30 were arrested in the action including Cindy Sheehan and Tina Richards (link has several photos as well as text and click here for audio & video). Have you been to jail for justice?
Turning to Iraq, the 3 US soldiers who have been missing since a Saturday attack outside Mahmudiya (that left 4 US soldiers and 1 Iraqi translator dead) remain missing.  CNN notes that the attack took place at a "staionary observation post" and that there is confusion as to who is missing: "Four other soliders -- three missing and one of the dead -- remain listead as 'duty status whereabouts unkown.' The military can't yet sort out precisely who was kidnapped because one of the four bodies is so badly burned that it can't be immediately identified."  CBS' Mark Strassman "reports all the soldiers involved in the ambus were from Fort Drum, in upstate New York."  Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) notes of the ongoing search: "Helicopters had logged more than 255 hours and other US security agencies had deployed their assets in the race to locate the soldiers, whom the military still assumed were alive, [Lt. Col. Christopher] Garver said.  Other aircraft and jets zoomed overhead, and satellite technology had been tapped, as soldiers scoured the hostile area."
CBS and AP report: "At least one mortar or rocket slammed into the U.S.-controlled Green Zone on Tuesday, wounding five American Embassy contractors, a spokesman said."  Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing that left 5 dead and 15 wounded, aan Abu Saida bombing that left 12 dead and 22 wounded.  Baghdad mortar attack that left 4 dead and 4 wounded, and a mini-bus bombing that left 1 dead and 4 injured. Reuters reports 2 dead and 4 injured in a Mahmudiya roadside bombing and 1 dead, 4 Iraqi soldiers injured in Mosul from a bombing, and 2 wounded from a Hawija roadside bombing.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Colonel Raed Mohamed Shihab shot dead in front of his house and 2 people shot dead in Al Khalis. Reuters notes a Tikrit shooting that left two dead and one wounded. 
Mohmmaed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 15 corpses discovered in Baghdad. 
In Iraqi legislation news, Mariam Karouny (Reuters) reports 'progress' on Iraq's constitution plan which translates as the proposed changes (including the privatization of the oil) is being sent to the parliament for a vote. Sunday, Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reported on the troubles some aspects face if put to a floor vote. The laws aren't any closer to being passed.  Tom Hayden (Huffington Post) notes last week's stand by the Iraqi parliament "against the US occupation and for a rapid withdrawal of American troops.  This is the perfect opportunity for a face-saving and orderly US withdrawal based on the request of a soverign government.  To reject the offer would paint the US as a naked imperialist without a fig leaf of legitimacy." 

Get the free Yahoo! toolbar and rest assured with the added security of spyware protection.