Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, June 12, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, a new Gabor sprouts in the Green Zone, Iraqi children seek employment, and more.
Starting with Iraq Veterans Against the War Adam Kokesh who was interviewed by Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) today and explained some issues that the press has misreported:
That is a very good question because a lot of the coverage has grossly simplified the issue and said that I wore my uniform to a protest, which isn't really accurate at all. What we were doing was conducting something called Operation First Casualty. And it's called that because it has long been said that the first casualty of war is the truth. So what we did was conduct a mock combat patrol through the streets of Washington, DC, in order to bring a small part of the truth of the occupation home to the American people and give them a small sense of what it's like to have squads of men in uniform, with rifles, although we were simulating them of course, running around the streets of their city. And we also had civilians playing affected peoples. They weren't playing Iraqis or pretending to speak Arabic or anything like that, but we treated them as we would treat Iraqi civilians on a daily basis. So it was more street theater than general protest, and I do not need to show up to a protest in a uniform to represent myself as a veteran. But for this particular demonstration we were simulating a combat patrol, and so that is what we did, that's why it was appropriate in that setting. Now, normally, as I did -- or as I am doing today, I should say, I wear this Marine Corps boonie cover, and that is how I choose to represent myself as a veteran.
Kokesh, along with Liam Madden and Cloy Richards, is being targeted by the US military for speaking out.  Last week, a (kangaroo) hearing was held regarding his discharge from the Interactive Ready Reserves.  Kokesh addressed the status there noting "you may recieve multiple discharges throughout your military career.  But it's your last one that is revelant in terms of your benefits" which is why the US military is now attempting to override the honorable discharge he received from the marine corps in November with an other-than-honorable discharge.    He also addressed how this issue effects more than just himself, Richards and Madden and the reception he's receiving:
Adam Kokesh: Well, actually it's been quite surprising to see a lot of people from my old unit contacting me and supporting me in my efforts in trying to get, to ensure that the Uniform Code of Military Justice is not applied beyond it's jurisdiction into the inactive reserve. They appreciate that, and I think a lot of people in the military appreciate what I am doing and why am trying to fight this case so hard. Even though the board recommended me for a general discharge last week, which wouldn't affect my benefits if it's approved, it does not do anything to establish a precedent and the next guy facing the same charges might receive an OTH or something worse potentially. And everyone in active duty is going to be in the IRR at some point, if they're not past their eight-year contract when they get out of the military, most are on four-year contracts, and they spend -- they stand to spend about four years in the inactive reserve. And, if it's not safe for these combat vets coming home to speak their minds, then it's not safe for anyone.
Evan Knappenberger also appeared on today's Democracy Now! and discussed his actions last Thursday in Washington state, "I decided a couple of weeks ago that I needed to do something to affect a positive change in all these kind of negative things going on.  I figured the best way to do that would be to draw some attention to these policies that the military is using to fight this war without actually -- you know, a war without conscription, basically.  So in the middle of the night I had this great idea, just as a symbol of something kind of similar to what Operation First Casualty is, you know, to bring the war to the American people, because there is a big disconnect between the civilian population and those of us who were in Iraq.  We can see -- as veterans of Iraq -- we understand kind of the way that these policies get perpetrated, and the American people need to be made aware of that.  So I had this great idea to bring that home and ended up on a tower for eight days."
Amy Goodman: Ended up what?
Evan Knappenberger: I ended up sitting up on this tower for eight days, wearing my uniform, kind of like I did in Iraq, when I was guarding these fields in Iraq.
Knappenberger also spoke of the study he did while serving in Iraq which "concluded that there were close to 3/4 of a million civilian deaths over the course of the Iraq war.  Now I would guess it is probably upwards of a million."
Amy Goodman: Well that actually coincides with the two studies done most recent, a million, and before that The Lancet, the British medical journal published that study from Johns Hopkins University, saying around 655,000 soldiers -- rather, civilians, had died in Iraq.
Evan Knappenberger also spoke of suicide and noted he questions the official US military figure of 122 suicides by service members while serving in Iraq noting that his unit "had 45 combat casualties and 15 suicides" and explaining that these are suicides taking place in Iraq and that suicides of vets taking place in the US "are not counted . . .  The army does not want to admit to taking any more losses than they possibly can."  Yesterday, CNN reported on a study for the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health led by Dr. Mark S. Kaplan which found "The risk of suicide among male U.S. veterans is double that of the general population."  This study did not include any veterans who have served in Afghanistan or the current illegal war in Iraq and, presumably, no women.   Meanwhile, the Kavkaz Center noted a recent US army survey which "showed that 20% of soldiers and 15% of marines suffered from acute depression, anxiety or stress." 
Meanwhile, Joel Bleifuss (In These Times) writes about the topic of war resistance, noting the brothers Kamunen -- Leo, Leif and Luke -- who self-checked out January 2nd of this year.  Bliefuss is the editor of In These Times.  For those needing a scorecard, two of the big three independent print magazines are weighing in -- The Progressive and now In These Times -- which leaves Katrina vanden Heuvel (editor and publisher of The Nation) as the only 'voice' of a magazine that elects to be silent on the issue of war resistance.  Katrina vanden Heuvel, now more than ever, The Peace Resister.  (And before anyone writes in on those Ehren Watada articles -- the 2006 ones were all "online exclusives" and Editor's Cut, her blog, can't be bothered with war resistance -- though there was time for American Idol.)  Speaking of Ehren Watada, he remains the first US officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq.  In February he faced a kangaroo court in which Judge Toilet (John Head) declared a mistrial over the objections of the defense.  Mike Barber (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) reports that Charles H. Jacoby Jr. (Lt. Gen.) is now in charge of Fort Lewis and this means, "He inherits the court-martial of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who refused last year to go to Iraq with a Stryker Brigade, saying the war is illegal.  Earlier this year, Watada's first trial ended in a mistrial.  The start of the second trial July 23 was stayed by the Army Court of Appeals; pretrial motions are to be heard July 6."
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, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Care, Kyle Huwer, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed 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.
Turning to Iraq.  Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspaper) noted of Monday's bombing over the Tigris River (Diyala province) that this was "at least the seventh attack on Iraqi bridges in the past two months," beginning "with the destruction of the Sarafiya bridge in Baghdad," that the May 11th bombing in Taji involved three car bombings focused on two bridges, that the June 2nd bombings "severely damaged a bridge that links a highway from Baghdad with the northern city of Kirkuk, forcing traffic headed to Baghdad to pass through Diyala province."  To repeat, Diyala province is where yesterday's bombing took place.  First, traffic is forced through Diyala and then the bridge in Diyala is attacked -- but the US military wants to pretend there's no pattern or planning going on here.  CBS and AP note that, as a result of that bombing, "vehicles were being forced to detour to a road running through al Qaeda-controlled territory to reach important nearby cities."  Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) observed, "The bridge linked towns on the eastern side of the bridge, which are Shiite, with those on the western side of to the bridge, which are Sunni Arab. . . .  Bridges are crucial in central Iraq, where the broad Tigris and Euphrates rivers and their tributaries wind through the countryside.  Each attack has hampered commerce and made daily life more difficult for Iraqis."  But Lt. Col. Chris Garver declares, "Willie, my love, a new Gabor sister is in town."
Garver tells Rubin that "knocking down the bridge may or may not have significance, because we have other resources" blah blah blah.  Translation, Zza Zza just joined big sister Ava to make for two Gabor sisters living it up in the Green Zone.
In the real world, CBS and AP report today: "Suspected Sunni insurgents bombed and badly damaged a span over the main north-south highway leading from Baghdad on Tuesday -- the third bridge attack in as many days in an apparent campaign against key transportation arteries. . . .  About 60 percent of the bridge was damaged, and cars could still pass over it via one lane, police said."
As the infrastructure continues to crumble, the violence continues.  Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports on a typical April day in Baghdad when "a bomb ripped a jagged hole in the road near Abu Mohammed's small grocery store.  Gunfire crackled along the street as U.S. soldiers responded to the attack.  Someone pounded frantically on the grocer's locked door, pleading for help.  Mohammed recognized the frightened voice as that of a local teenager and let him inside.  The 17-year-old had been struck by a bullet in the chaos that followed the explosion and was bleeding heavily.  Within two hours, the boy was dead.  Witnesses charge he was killed by U.S. troops firing randomly."  Yesterday, Norman Solomon (CounterPunch) noted that "the Iraqis killed by Americans don't become much of an issue in the realms of U.S. media and politics.  News coverage provides the latest tallies of Iraqis who die from 'sectarian violence' and 'terrorist attacks,' but the reportage rarely discusses how the U.S. occupation has been an ascending catalyst for that carnage."  (Solomon's writing of the uncovered/undercovered air war going on in Iraq and also suggesting that those attempting to end the war focus on all the fatalities because, historically, as elections approach, US presidents sometimes try for some sort of drop in on the ground figures in an effort to make it seem the war may ending when the air war is actually being increased.  More on the topic of this technique used in the past, Vietnam, can be found in War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning us to Death -- a documentary adaptation of Solomon's book of the same title, narrated by Sean Penn, which will be shown in DC on the 20th of this month and which you can already order on DVD.) 
In other news, IRIN reports that "thousands" of Iraqi children now live in the streets and 11% under the age of 14 are working due to the extreme poverty.  IRIN takes a look at twelve-year-old Abdel-Salim who is the only male in his family after the illegal war counted his father as 'collatoral damage'.  So the twelve-year-old boy works each day (12 hour days) "in the streets selling chocolates and pencils.  I eat just one meal a day to save money, and when I return I just want to sleep."  For the record, Baghdad's high today was 109 degrees fahrenheit with all week expected to be over 100 degrees.
IRIN's report comes as  Colum Lynch and Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) note a new United Nations report issued yesterday which found that "the recent U.S. military buildup in Baghdad" has not ended the violence and, quoting from the UN report, "civilian casualties continue to mount".
In news of some of today's civilian casualties.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing in the Al Waleed neighborhood that wounded 3 people, a Baghdad explosion in the downtown square that claimed the lives of 2 (2 more injured), a Baghdad mortar attack that killed 1 Iraqi (2 more injured), a Baghdad explosion that killed 1 Iraqi soldier (2 more wounded), a bombing outside of Baghdad that wounded two en route to the capital, a Baghdad bombing ("in Bab Al Muathim neighborhood downtown") that claimed 2 lives (6 more injured), two corpses in Baghdad exploded as police attempted to move them and 5 police officers injured in a Kirkuk bombing. Reuters notes a bombing near Ramadi that claimed the lives of 3 police officers (15 more wounded).  CBS and AP report "gunmen stormed the house of the Sunni mayor of Muqdadiyah, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, forcing the family members outside, then blowing up the house, the police officials said."
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an Iraqi police officer wounded in a Baghdad shooting, "Gunmen exploded two houses of displaced families in Al Khalis town early morning today," a Khalis attack on a minu bus that left 2 Iraqis dead (2 more wounded), a Khalis shooting that left 2 Iraqis dead, a Bob Al Muathim attack where 3 police officers were shot dead and a Kirkuk attack in which a police officer was shot dead -- dropping back to yesterday, Laith Hammoudi also notes that an Iraqi civilian was killed by "British forces [who] opened fire targeting a taxi" in Baghdad.  Reuters notes that today a police officer was shot dead in Hawija.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 26 corpses discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes that a corpse was discovered in Tikrit.
In the US, Peter Speigel (Los Angeles Times) reports, the US army missed their target for recruitment last month "marking the first time in almost two years the service has fallen short and renewing questions about whether the war in Iraq is having a long-term effect on the well being of the Army."  This announcement comes as the US Department of Defense "expressed hope today [Monday] that a provision in the stalled immigration bill that would have allowed some undocumented aliens to join the military won't fall off the radar screen."
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
Mediachannel.org 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 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 http://www.ybca.org/. 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 ruth@nationbooks.org For more information, email pilgersf@gmail.com."

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 info@socialismconference.org For media inquiries, contact (212) 209-5407 or ruth@nationbooks.org. For more information, email info@socialismconference.org."

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.

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