Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, June 6, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, "Jim Wallis, stop. I believe you dropped your 'inclusion.'," Our Miss Brooks tells us that contractors are just big ol', altruistic teddy bears, the US military announces more deaths, and more.

Starting with Adam Kokesh who has made a decision regarding the 'finding' of a military panel Monday. Kokesh, along with other members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, has been taking part in street theater (Operation First Casualty) and, on Monday, the US military attempted to punish him for that. Nicole Colson (Socialist Worker) rightly points out that the participants/players wear fatigues and conduct "a mock patrol that he and other veterans participated in to show their opposition to the website." Colson also notes that Kokesh, Liam Madden and Cloy Richards are in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) where you "aren't paid, don't participate in military exercises or drills, have no chain of command, and are almost never recalled to active duty." Elaine Brower (OpEdNews) observes that, with only "2 weeks left in the Individual REady Reserves (IRR)," the US marine corps decides that a "military discplinary panel" is just the thing for Kokesh. Appearing last week on CNN's Paula Zahn Now, Kokesh noted of arguments that he's restricted from wearing a uniform at certain types of gatherings (theater isn't listed and couldn't be, we'll get back to that) and Kokesh replied, "Well, actually, it's specifically stated in the -- in the UCMJ that -- the Uniform Code of Military Justice -- that it does not apply to members of the Individual Ready Reserve. And, so -- that was my understanding." That was also the military panel's understanding on Monday, they noted IRR wasn't covered by UCMJ. So what are we talking about?

We're talking about street theater and whether or not anyone wears military drag, clown garb, or nothing, isn't something the US military has a say in. The Supreme Court made that decision in 1970 (see Schacht v. United States -- we covered it Tuesday, we covered it Monday, and it was covered Sunday at The Third Estate Sunday Review). If you're late too the party, cake's all gone but the Court was quite clear that the US military had no say over theater (stage, street, what have you) and whether or not their uniforms (in part or total) were worn -- nor did it matter whether the production was pro or anti-military. None of it mattered, the Court was very clear that the US military had no authority over productions.

With the panel agreeing that UCMJ didn't cover Kokesh (or anyone in IRR) the only ruling is the Supreme Court verdict and any reading of it supports Kokesh. Despite this, the panel wanted to issue Kokesh a "general discharge." Dave Helling (Kansas City Star) reports that Michael Lebowitz, one of Kokesh's two attorneys, filed papers to move for a new hearing because the panel/board contained a member/judge who "wasn't a commissioned officer" and "Marine rules require all such board members to be commissioned officers." Imagine that, the same group that thought they could ignore the Supreme Court also hoped they could get away with ignoring the marines' own rules regarding these panels.

Meanwhile, Randy Furst (Minneapolis Star Tribune) report (noted here yesterday, Monday and Sunday) on Luke, Leo and Leif Kamunen -- the three brothers who decided to self-check out of the US military during Christmas break -- has resulted in the paper running three letters. Paul Rozycki writes in to express agreement with the brothers ("I guess they wanted to serve their country, and then changed their minds when they found they were really to be serving as hostages to the president") while David Kaercher wants to relive his own boot camp days and Laurie Franklin can't understand why anyone would break "a contract." Laurie's baffled, she's confused. Why, why, why? "A contract," she whines. Suprisingly, she's not troubled that the Bully Boy lied a nation into an illegal war -- crimes of the administration don't concern her, but a contract . . . now that's serious! So serious that she's offended by the paper putting the article on the front page. But understand, she's "not a hawk" and she thinks Bully Boy is "inept" but she's apparently so tired from all her work to end the war -- judging by the letter that's the effort it took to "display several antiwar bumper stickers" -- because honking always ends the war! -- that her big beef is with three young people who said no to an illegal war.

Honking a horn doesn't end the war. Affixing a bumper sticker doesn't end the war. And, as we've seen, Dems in Congress aren't going to end the war. So it's up to the people and the Kamunen brothers did their part which took a lot more energy and drive than slapping on a bumper sticker. Those resisting within the military who go public can always count on cranks like Laurie and David. But they still demonstrate the Courage to Resist and that will help end the illegal war.

The movement of resistance within the US military grows and includes Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, 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, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Care 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, Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.

While the war drags on, Tania Branigan and Rosie Lavan (Guardian of London via Common Dreams) report that Christopher Meyer, former British ambassador to the US, declared to the Iraq Commission in London, "I personally believe that the presence of American and British and coalition forces is making things worse, not only inside Iraq but the wider region around Iraq." This as Kirk Semple (New York Times) speaks with Hasan Nassar who tries to run an art gallery in Iraq but now "says he is ready to gather all of his art history archives -- articles, books, reviews, photographs, slides and paintings -- and burn them" because "I feel now that all humanity is against Iraq and against the Iraqi people and against Iraqi history and against Iraqi culture. We entered an endless dark tunnel."

Today, in the daily bloodbath . . .


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two Baghdad car bombings left 3 dead and twenty-five wounded, and at least 14 people injured in three Baghdad roadside bombings. Reuters notes a roadside Kirkuk bombing that left 2 police officers dead and three more injured and raises the two car bombing toll to 7 dead (still 25 wounded).


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a cease fire in Khalis following a lengthy battle that left 6 police officers killed, 10 resistance fighters dead and at least 8 wounded. Reuters reports two police officers shot dead in Balad and a police officer shot dead in Mosul.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 34 corpses were discovered in Baghdad and one in al-Latif.

Also today, the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier was killed when a roadside bomb detonated during combat operations in an eastern section of the Iraqi capital June 6." And they announced: "one 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Soldier was killed by an improvised explosive device at approximately 5 p.m. June 6 while executing a combat logistics patrol in the vicinity of Bayji, Iraq." And they announced: "A Multinational Division-North Soldier died of wounds sustained from enemy gunfire in Diyala Province, Tuesday." The deaths bring the total number of US service members killed in the Iraq war since it began to 3503 and the total number killed in the illegal war so far this month to 26.

You might think the ongoing deaths (May was a record high this year for Iraqis and for US service members killed) would lead to a discussion on the illegal war in the Democratic Party. Instead, this week it was time to discuss 'faith.'

Jim Wallis, the man who would be Jerry Fallwell in clown drag, held a 'debate' on Monday that was by invitation only. Jesus may have sat with the sinners, prostitutes, tax collectors, etc., but Wallis only breaks bread with the really big names. That's the only explanation on how a supposed 'forum on faith, values and politics' sponsored by our Right-On-Bro Jimmy managed to include 2008 Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama but, SOMEHOW, managed to exclude Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, Mike Gravel, Bill Richardson and Mike Gravel.

Heaven may be open to all but Wallis has a bit of the bully bouncer in his carriage. After Obams, Hills and Johns joined Right-On-Bro Jimmy to ask, "Are You There God, It's Me Front Runner?", CNN's Paula Zahn Now presented Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich, Bill Richardson and Joe Biden. Strangely, all four are Catholic. Strangely? Catholics in Alliance For The Common Good sponsored the Jimmy Wallis group -- the one that . . . excluded four Catholics. Exactly how does Catholics in Alliance intended to meet their stated goal ("promoting the fullness of the Catholic Social Tradition in the public square") while denying Catholics invites?

On Paula Zahn Now, Joe Biden found his heart (in all seriousness, he's the best served by those type of forums and any who've never seen the less verbose side of Biden and is curious, should check that out); Dodd spoke of the need not to wear your faith on your sleeve; and Richards made clear that he will never, ever, ever have an abortion but he will mix in one Spanish word for every ten minutes onscreen. Dennis Kucinich used the forum to address Iraq. (Dodd was able to use it to address the rights of all.)

Kucinich: We have -- we're in Iraq based on lies. And, you know, the Bible has a line that says that which is crooked cannot be made straight. Nothing will ever be made straight about our presence in Iraq. We must leave Iraq. We must bring our troops home. And we must work to achieve a kind of reconciliation with the people of Iraq, with the people of the world and within our own country for -- in order to establish truth once again and make the truth the single principle upon which our country is based.

Draft Robert Scheer to run for office. In a new column (at Truthdig), Scheer refutes Bully Boy's Korea nonsense and notes: "At a time when the United States has more troops, official and private, proportionate to the host population than it did at the height of the Vietnam War, and when once again it is clear that a military 'surge' is not the answer, it is bizarre that this administration gets away with staying the course. To his credit, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois was the only presidential candidate at the Democrats' debate to criticize the Korea analogy, warning: 'Keep in mind we've been there six decades in the Korean peninsula, and the best way for us to support the troops is that we are not continuing to try to impose a military solution on what is essentially a political problem in Iraq'."

Turning to the issue of contractors in Iraq -- still related, Robert Scheer is shoved aside at the Los Angeles Times while the likes of Brooksie gets imported in from NYC. This week Brooksie peddled it up and down the street, hoping at least one car would pull over. None did. "Remembering Iraq contractors as important as honoring trooops" Brooksie maintained in a column that must have had her money grubbing friends at the Council on Foreign (Business) Relations counting the zeroes. But the reality is contractors aren't the loveable "Wooster" (Wagon Train) and Brooksie isn't much of a writer. Making that argument -- and quite a few are -- is an insult to everyone. Brooksie felt "something" was absent from the Memorial Day parade and it finally hit her (hopefully the realization packed a punch): "no float memorializing the hundreds of civilian contractors killed in Iraq." Apparently Brooksie needs some schooling on Memorial Day. Brooksie wants you to know some of these mercenaries "operate dining halls" -- yes, they do and and anyone serving in Iraq (serving, not contracted) can tell you about the risks the private contractors (eager to churn out that buck) have put everyone dining at as they refused to operate a 24-hour mess hall and instead packed as many in as possible in limited hours (making US service members targets). Brooksie notes, "You could call it greed". Yes, you could and many do. Many also don't churn out what reads like p.r. copy attempting to sell one of the most frightening developments under the Bully Boy.

Christopher Hedges (Philadelphia Inquirer) observed at the start of the week, "The privatization of war hands an incentive to American corporations, many with tremendous political clout, to keep us mired down in Iraq. But even more disturbing is the steady rise of this modern Praetorian Guard. The Praetorian Guard in ancient Rome was a paramilitary force that defied legal constraints, made violence part of the political discourse, and eventually plunged the Roman Republic into tyranny and despotism. Despotic movements need paramilitary forces that operate outside the law, forces that sow fear among potential opponents, and are capable of physically silencing those branded by their leaders as traitors. And in the wrong hands, a Blackwater could well become that force. American taxpayers have so far handed a staggering $4 billion to 'armed security' companies in Iraq such as Blackwater, according to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chariman Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.). Tens of billions more have been paid to companies that provide logistical support. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D., Ill.) of the House Intelligence Committee estimates that 40 cents of every dollar spent on the occupation has gone to war contractors. It is unlikely that any of these corporations will push for an early withdrawal. The profits are too lucrative." Brooksie's not worried about that either.

Deborah Haynes (Times of London) also attempts to put a compassionate face on empire but is defeated in the comments to her article: "As a Western contractor who has worked in Iraq for the last 18 months i would say that for the most part we are here first and formost for the cash. However when i first came over here the money was an issue, but not the main one, it really did feel like i was helping in a small way to shape history and put this country back on its feet. Of course since that time its now just a question of how long this cash gravy train is gonna run." On Saturday, Alec Klein and Steve Fainaru (Washington Post) reported on army veteran Brian X. Scott who temporarily stopped the the US military "from awarding the largest securit contract in Iraq" as he protested "against the government practice of hiring what he calls mercenaries" by suing in the US Court of Federal Claims and arguing "that the military's use of private security contractors is 'against America's core values' and violates an 1893 law that prohibits the government from hiring quasi-military forces."

Meanwhile Andrew Johnson, Marie Woolf and Raymond Whitaker (Belfast Telegraph) report on United Kingdom tax payers' monies going to line the pockets of corporations and note: "Former SAS members, as well as British ex-soldiers and policemen, are in demand, the companies say, because they are less trigger-happy and trained to work to far tighter rules of engagement than their US counterparts. But given that the torrent of reconstruction money poured into Iraq was mainly American, US companies come into the business. 'The Americans never had a private security industry previously, but they do now, thanks to Iraq,' said one British executive." The reporters go on to list key British companies in Iraq including Aegis featuring "Tim Spicer operated in Sierra Leone in 1997" and Control Risks Group which has contracts with the US Office of Reconstruction.

As the Palm Beach Post noted Friday: "Private security can provoke the violence it is supposed to quell. Last week, armed personnel working for Blackwater USA were involved in two gun battles in Baghdad and killed an Iraqi driver near the Interior Ministry. They said that he drove too close to the convoy and ignored warnings. That death resulted in a standoff with Iraqi forces that had to be mediated by US troops and anger toward American workers in the ministry." Here's the reality and someone get a small pan because Brooksie's mind might start melting and flowing out of her ears (get a really small pan), US troops will be pulled. There's not a question of that happening. The only question is when that will happen. And putting a smiley sticker over the blood will allow the US to continue to wage an illegal war with contractors long after the US military has left. Here's some more reality, the illegal war would be over if money grubbers in the West would stop going over to Iraq to make a quick buck. Pressure should be put on these companies and these employees and, if it were, the illegal war would be a lot closer to ending. But that requires more thought than Our Miss Brooksie can muster.

Today, on Democracy Now!, Antonia Juhasz discussed 'benchmarks,' Congress, and other topics. Below is the exchange on the theft of Iraqi oil -- the privatization scheme.

AMY GOODMAN: And what is this US-backed proposal?
ANTONIA JUHASZ: It's a Bush administration, US corporate, very simple attempt to figure out: if you're going to wage a war for oil, how do you get the oil. Does Exxon come in on a tank with a flag and stick it in the ground, or do you have a more careful process? The careful process is very simply: write a law, get a new Iraqi government in place, have the Iraqis pass the law, and then turn the oil over to US oil corporations.
The Bush administration designed the law. Last January, President Bush announced that it was a benchmark for passage by the Iraqi government. It was the same day that he announced the surge. And in the language of the administration, the surge was meant to provide the political space so that the Iraqis could discuss the oil law and other benchmarks. The Democrats then adopted this language of the benchmarks and said in the supplemental war spending bill, again, that the Iraqis have to pass this benchmark. And it very simply turns Iraq from a nationalized oil system, essentially closed to US oil corporations, to a privatized system in which potentially two-thirds of all of Iraq's oil could be owned by foreign oil companies, and they can control the production with as long as thirty-year contracts.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, what about the news coming out of Iraq that Raed Jarrar has reported on, talking about the significance of the vote for the US to get out of Iraq by the parliament?
ANTONIA JUHASZ: It's very significant. The United Nations mandate for the US occupation of Iraq gives ultimate authority to the Iraqi parliament and the Iraqi cabinet to determine if the occupation can continue. So, theoretically, if the Iraqi parliament, joined by the cabinet -- and that's critical -- say that the occupation cannot continue, theoretically it would have to end. That stands in vast opposition to the plans of the Bush administration and now, apparently, the plans of the Democratic leadership, as well.

In media news, as independent media continues to be under attack, News Dissector Danny Schechter's "Special Blog: Can Our Media Channel Survive?" announces the potential fate of which may shut down: "If we can get 1500 of our readers (that means you) to give $25, we can keep going for another quarter. [PLEASE CLICK HERE TO MAKE A TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATION ONLINE]"
Finally, independent journalist John Pilger is on a speaking tour with his new book Freedom Next Time and his documentary Breaking the Silence: Truth and Lies in the War on Terror (which looks at DC, Afghanistan and Iraq). June 7th, he will discuss his book with Amy Goodman at The New School, Tishman Auditorium, 66 West 12th Street, beginning at 7:00 pm (doors open at 6:15). Admission is $5 per person and students (with ID) can attend for free. Pilger will sign copies of his book afterwards and Amy Goodman will sign copies of her latest book (written with her brother David Goodman) Static. "For ticket information, contact (212) 229-5488 or For media inquiries, contact (212) 209-5407 or For more information, click here or e-mail" He will also be interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! Thursday June 7th.

June 11th, Pilger will be in Los Angeles at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (244 S. San Pedro St.) and will discuss his book and show his documentary beginning at 7:00 pm (doors open at 6:00 pm). The price of admission to the even is five dollars. "Directions, maps, and parking info at:
Presented by The Center for Economic Research and Social Change, and The Nation Institute, with support from the Wallace Global Fund. For ticket information, call or visit the JACCC. Box office: 213-680-3700 (Box Office Hours: Monday - Saturday: Noon - 5 pm)
For media inquiries, contact (212) 209-5407 or For more information, email"

June 13th finds him in San Francisco showing his film and discussing his book at Yerba Beuna Center for Arts (beginning at 7:00 pm, doors open at 6:00 pm) and the price of admission is $15 general and $5 for students. "Presented by The Center for Economic Research and Social Change, The Nation Institute, and KPFA, with support from the Wallace Global Fund. For ticket information, call 415-978-2787 or order online at In person tickets at YBCA Box office located inside the Galleries and Forum Building, 701 Mission Street at Third. (Hours: Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat & Sun: noon - 5 pm; Thu: noon - 8 pm.) For media inquiries, contact (212) 209-5407 or For more information, email"

From San Francisco, he moves on to Chicago for the 2007 Socialism conference. At 11:30 am Saturday June 16th, he and Anthony Arnove will participate in a conversation, audience dialogue and book signing (Arnove is the author most recently of IRAQ: The Logic of Withdrawal) and that evening (still June 16th) at 7:30 Pilger will be at Chicago Crowne Plaza O'Hare (5440 North River Road, Rosemont, IL 60018) as part of a panel of international activists. To attend the conference, the fee is $85. For Saturday and Sunday only, the price is $70. To attend only one session, the cost is ten dollars. "Presented by The Center for Economic Research and Social Change, The Nation Institute, with support from the Wallace Global Fund. Co-sponsors: Obrera Socialista, Socialist Worker, International Socialist Review, and Haymarket Books. For ticket information, call 773-583-8665 or e-mail For media inquiries, contact (212) 209-5407 or For more information, email"

The Socialism 2007 conference will take place in Chicago from June 14-17. Along with Pilger and Arnove, others participating will include Dahr Jamail, Laura Flanders, Kelly Dougherty, Joshua Frank, Amy Goodman, Sharon Smith, Dave Zirin, Camilo Mejia, Jeremy Scahill, Jeffrey St. Clair and many others.

antonia juhasz

Don't pick lemons.
See all the new 2007 cars at Yahoo! Autos.