Friday, May 18, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Friday, May 18, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, day 7 passes with no news of the whereabouts of the 3 missing US soldiers, the US miliarty announces more deaths, America's ABC announces the death of two of their journalists in Iraq,
the US military announced that they were continuing the search "for three missing U.S. Soldiers who are believed to have been abducted . . . Saturday in Quarghuli Village".  The soldiers remain missing.  One identification that has been made is the fourth soldier killed on Saturday.  CNN reports that he has been identified as Anthony J. Schober of Reno, NV.
CNN lists the three missing soldiers as being: Byron W. Fouty, Alex R. Jimenez and Joseph J. Anzack Jr.  Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) notes: "The manhunt has involved an extraordinary array of resources, including helicopters, drones, manned aircraft, forensic experts, FBI interrogators and dogs that can sniff for bombs and bobieds."
Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports that, yesterday, "the wear was showing, not just on the soldiers obsessed with finding their comrades but also on the hamlets that dot the region southwest of Baghdad, which is blessed with groves of elegant date palms and riddled with pro-Al Qaeda insurgents.  Hundreds of local men have been detained for questioning, leaving women, children and legions of ferociosly barking dogs in charge of Iraqi towns such as Rushdi Mullah, a community of 86 households under a virtual siege by troops looking for their buddies." 
Yesterday's snapshot noted: ". . . protests take place in Baghdad, . . ." That was it (my apologies).  The protests were described yesterday by Thomas Wagner (AP): "In northern Baghdad, about 200 Iraqis marched down a street in the mostly Shiite neighbourhood of Shaab, shouting slogans and carrying banners demanding that the thousands of US soldiers conducting a security crackdown in the capital stop creating forward operating bases in neighbourhoods and searching homes for suspected insurgents and militiamen."  Thursday protest resulted from the tensions that Susman describes today.  Today was day seven of the 3 US troops being missing and, only on day seven, did the New York Times decide it was front page news (Damien Cave's "Hunt for 3 G.I.'s in Iraq Slowed by False Trails").  Also in the paper is Paul von Zielbauer's report on the just revealed story (AP broke this yesterday) about the army's investigation of the June 2006 attack and kidnappings (2 US soldiers) and later deaths revealed that the dead "had been left for up to 36 hours without supervision or enough firepower or support to repel even a small group of enemy fighters."  No one in the Times draws the obvious comparison from the June 2006 events and the attack last Saturday.  This despite the fact that the report on the 2006 attack noted the 25 minute arrival by the "quick reaction force."  Last Saturday's attack took one hour before other troops arrived.  Or one hour until Wednesday when the US military changed their story and began insisting that it took 30 minutes.  The report on the 2006 attack wasn't criticizing the responders -- it was noted that the distance plotted was too great -- a command issue, not an on the ground issue.  The same thing appears to have happened with last Saturday's attack.
As the war drags on, some work to end it.  Judith Scherr (The Berkeley Daily Planet) reports US war resister Agustin Aguayo took part in "a gathering Tuesday morning outside City Hall sponsored by the city's Peace and Justice Commission, Courage to Resist and the Ehren Watada support committee.  The event was to celebrate the city's first Conscientious Objectors and War Resisters Day, an event to be observed annually every May 15."  Monday, pre-trial motions begin for Ehren Watada -- the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq and the first officer to be court-martialed (in February, it ended in a mistrial and double jeopardy should prevent him from being court-martialed again).   Also on Monday, airs Questioning War-Organizing Resistance from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm PST and will address the issue of war resistance with guests including Pablo Paredes, Michael Wong, Jeff Paterson and Camilo Mejia.  More information can be found in Carol Brouillet's "Questioning War- Organizing Resistance- War Resisters Radio Show" (Indybay IMC).
Camilo Mejia's just released Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia (The New Press) traces his journey.  From pages 224-225:
Through media contacts from before I went underground, I had gotten the contact information for a man named Steve Robinson, a retired Special Forces veteran who led an organization called the National Gulf War Resource Center, which provides support to veterans of the 1991 Gulf War.  Steve in turn put me in touch with Tod Ensign, the director of the soldiers' rights organization called Citizen Soldier
Thus a couple of weeks after the end of my leave I found myself on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue outside the address that Tod had given me over the phone.  Looking at the building from the street, I thought at first I had arrived at the fancy headquarters of a well-funded organization.  Once inside, however, I found that the Citizen Soldier offices were quite modest.  Furthermore, far from the uptight, heartless image I'd always had of attorneys, Tod turned out to be a down-to-earth kind of guy, with a big smile and a physical resemblance to Christopher Walken -- a similarity only enhanced by his heavy New York City accent.  As a young attorney in the sixties and seventies, Tod had been involved in the Vietnam GI resistance movement, and had helped underground soldiers living abroad with safe passage back to the United States, a legal defense, and the means to get their stories out to the media.
As soon as I spoke with Tod the door to a new world opend up before my eyes.  I went from feeling powerless and alone to realizing that there was a whole network of people and groups, from women's rights organizations and antiwar veterans to military families and religious groups, who all felt as I did about the war.
Tod and I discussed how I was going to handle my absence from the military.  We agreed that I should do everything I could to avoid getting arrested and then give myself up voluntarily while insisting in court on my right to be legally discharged from the service.  This strategy of surrendering myself would defeat the charge of desertion, which is roughtly defined as unauthorized absence from the military with the intent to remain permanently away.
Mejia has been taking part in a speaking tour that wraps up today:

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.
Tod Ensign, who Camilo Mejia wrote of, also started up the Different Drummer Cafe where a group of Iraq Veterans Against the War spoke in March.  Eric Ruder (ISR) provides a transcript and we'll note Matt Hrutkay today:
About a week and a half ago I was browsing through the VA Web site.  They have a section in there devoted to PTSD.  It has a guide for VA medical providers, doctors, psychologists, etc. that are dealing with people coming back from Iraq having these issues.  And they have in there an encouragment to physicians to diagnose people with "adjustment disorder," "anxiety disorder," and "personality disorder."  The reason they're doing that is so they can claim that there was a pre-existing condition before I joined the army and my issues have nothing to do with being blown up twenty-one times.
According to statistics, 18 percent of soldiers coming back from Iraq suffer some form, mild or severe, of PTSD.  That's 18 percent according to an army physician at the VA.  Of those, add to that people like me who have multiple symptoms of this but still get diagnosed as it being "my own problem."  Add to that, people who are scared to go to mental health clinics because of their chain of command, because they're scared they won't get promoted.  Because they're scared their buddies will make fun of them.  I think you can then see how much prevalent that issue is and what the numbers are probably more likely to be.  I'm not going to say what percentage really have PTSD coming back because it would be a guess.  But I think it's clear from my own experience that this issue is probably the most prevalent issue facing returning soldiers and it's being compltely ignored.
CODEPINK is in DC for the summer of activism and Rae Abileah shares, "Today when I was at Congress for a meeting I stopped by the underground subway between the House buildings and the Capitol as many Congressmembers were walking through to vote on something.  Though I didn't have a specific bill to ask them about, I did shake many of their hands, and to every one I asked the question, 'Have you done something today to staop the war in Iraq?' 'Help us bring our troops home!' Because it is possible to walk these halls of Congress and feel very distant from the mere idea of war, it felt very effective be a constant voice about the conflict outside the passageway to the Capitol.  Imagine if every time there was any vote in Congress, every member going from their office to the Capitol was confronted with the message that it is time to bring our troops home and get out of Iraq.
Our Congresspeople are for the most part behind the times in terms of public opinion about the war. Not only do we have to 'push' them to do the right thing, support key legislation, stop the war... we have to 'pull' them, by leading them towards the right direction. I envision hundreds of people here on a daily basis helping to pull Congress away from the Bush Agenda and towards peace. To increase our numbers from a dozen to a hundred... we need YOU! Click on the links to the right to find out how to join us in DC! Or raise a ruckus at your Congressperson's nearest office!"  The links she was referencing are:

They, Cindy Sheehan and a number of other individuals and organizations are working to make this summer one of activism and volume so that Congress not only grasps that the people have turned on the illegal war but that it is time to end it.
Peace activists are surging on Washington DC -- to bear witness as Congress again takes up Iraq War funding and the Pentagon budget, and continues to hold hearings on civil liberties, torture, and more. Click here for the latest legislative information.
UFPJ hopes you will get the word out: There is plenty to do in Washington, and a steady flow of people into the nation's capital will have a tremendous impact in the coming months. UFPJ endorses these efforts, and encourages other creative actions and projects, both in DC and around the country. (If you are organizing an action, please post it on our events calendar.)
Turning to Iraq, two journalists who worked for the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) were killed in Iraq yesterday: Alaa Uldeen Aziz and Saif Laith Yousuf.  AFP reports they were "ambushed and killed as they returned hom from work at their Baghdad office" and notes: "At least 170 journalists and media professionals have been killed in the fighting that has gripped Iraq since the March 2003 US-led invasion, according to the watchdog Reporters without Borders."  AP quotes Terry McCarthy (ABC correspondent in Baghdad) stating: "They are really our eyes and ears in Iraq.  Many places in Baghdad are just too dangerous for foreigners to go now, so we have Iraqi camera crews who very bravely go out. . . . .  Without them, we are blind, we cannot see what's going on."  ABC notes:
Aziz is survived by his wife, his two daughters and his mother.  Yousuf leaves behind his fiancee, his mother and brothers and sisters.  Mike Tuggle, an ABC News producer who worked with Aziz, remembers a game of pool they played on his first trip to Baghdad.
"I had some down time and got into a game of pool with Alaa.  He beat me badly.  Just before he hit the last ball in he looked up at me and said, 'My name is Alaa Uldeen, but you can call me Aladdin, because I have his magic on the pool table," Tuggle wrote in an e-mail message.
"The balls they just disappear," Tuggle continued, "And his face lit up with that big smile of his."
In Iraq today . . .
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a mortar attack at Abu Dhaba killing one ("5 were injured including children"). Reuters reports: "A suicide bomber blew up his vehicle at an Iraqi police checkpoint in the town of Mussayab, south of Baghdad, killing three people and wounding four police said."
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Baghdad, a police officer was shot dead in Baghdad, that following an explosion in Baghdad's Al Hurriyah, two people were killed (6 wounded), two police officers were shot dead in Al Wajihiya (2 more wounded) and Bku Shukr Saber ("Kurdish Iraqi army officer") was shot dead in Kirkuk.
Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reports five corpses discovered in the Babil province.  Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 25 corpses were discovered in Baghdad and 15 corpses in Baquba.
Today the US military announced: "While conducting operations two MND-B Soldiers were killed and nine others were wounded in separate attacks in the southern section of the Iraqi capital May 17.  Three soldiers have been returned to duty."  And they announced: "Three Task Force Lightning Soldiers were killed in Diyala Province, Friday when an explosion occurred near their vehicle."
Finally, IRIN reports on the educational crisis in Iraq and quotes Baghdad University's Professor Fua'ad Abdel-Razak, "Violence and lack of resources have undermined the education sector in Iraq.  No student will graduate this year with sufficient competence to perform his or her job, and pupils will end the year with less than 60 percent of the knowledge that was supposed to have been imparted to them." 

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