Friday, June 15, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Friday, June 15, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces the deaths of more US service members, a US jet crashes in Iraq, gas shortages plauge Iraq and more.
Starting with US service members. Today, the US military has announced multiple deaths of US service members. They announced: "Three Task Force Lightning Soldiers were killed as a result of injuries sustained from an explosion near their vehicle while conducting operations in Kirkuk Province, Thursday." And they announced: "One Task Force Lightning Soldier was killed as a result of injuries sustained from small arms fire while conducting operations in Diyala Province, Thursday." And they announced [PDF format warning]: "A Task Force Lightning Soldier died Wednesday in a non-combat related incident, which is currently under investigation." That was five announced deaths which took the current ICCC total for the number of US service members killed in the illegal war since it began (March 2003) to 3519 with the total for the month of June thus far at 42.
That was before a F-16 crashed in Iraq today. CBS and AP report that the US Air Force is calling the crash "an accident" and not giving out any details which includes the status of the pilot.  CNN reports that plan "crashed in Iraq at 12:27 a.m." and that "Pentagon sources" have told them the pilot died in the crash.  Reuters notes the crash comes as 9 helicopters have already crashed in Iraq this year.  The Toledo Blade reports, "A fighter pilot from Toledo's 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard, is unaccounted for after a crash while flying an F-16 today during a mission in Iraq."
Turning to war resistance.  In June of 2006, Ehren Watada became the first US officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq and in February of 2007 his kangaroo court-martial ended in a mistrial over the objections of the defense when Judge Toilet sensed (rightly) things weren't going well for the prosecution.  As noted Tuesday, Mike Barber (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) reports the second court-martial is set to start July 23rd.  Barbara Kelly (Juneau Empire) covers the issue of war resistance in a recent column (June 12th) and notes "those who take such a stand are execrcising a certain kind of moral courage . . .  In speaking of Lt. Ehren Watada's refusal to deploy to Iraq, Maj. Gen. John Batiste who has been outspoken in his criticism of the president's Iraq policy, recentlyl stated that Watada followed his conscience.  Batiste says he respects Watada even though he does not agree with what the lieutenant did.  Batiste does not consider Watada a coward."  But he has become a cultural touchstone.  Zbignew Zingh (Dissident Voice) uses Watada as one of his examples of how we have now arrived at "Cola Crime."  Also today, Megan Kung (Asian Week) writing about an exhibit of Tezuka Osaumu's artwork notes: "With Guantanamo Bay, Karl Rove, Iraq and 9/11, it does seem like we're living an anime.  Too bad fighting those 'shadowy' forces in real life is not that easy -- remember Ehren Watada?"  A lot do.  His story has traveled far and wide and, if the military does attempt another court-martial, even more people will be paying attention than in February. 
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.
This week, Iraq Veterans Against the War Adam Kokesh learned that the kangaroo 'court' on him had rendered a verdict: the honorably discharged marine was informed he'd received a general discharge from the IRR.  Earlier, Geoffrey Millard (Truthout) reported on Kokesh and the compilation tells the story up through the news that came out Wednesday -- this is a video report.  Kokesh states at the end, "I think what they were hoping to achieve with this decision is that because it won't effect my benefits the way an other-than-honorable-discharge would that I would go away quietly but that's not but that's not the case and I don't think they understood or any of the things that I've written or bothered to read the e-mail responses to the plea bargain but I'm standing on principle and we're going to contest this on principle and it's not going to go away."
Liam Madden and Cloy Richards are also targeted for speaking out against the illegal war.
Cloy's mother, Tina Richards wrote (at Grassroots America) about their recent Memorial Day march, "He [Cloy] could have chosen to march with the Marines and received numerous cheers.  For him, it's not a choice.  He has a moral imperative to speak out to end this war, and for this he is booed.  It is not an easy route to take, but the one our family has chosen.  Our children are being killed and maimed as others celeberate and we will not let them forget it.  That Memorial Day was one of distress; I waited to see if my son was going to make it through another tough day.  Another memory of what Iraq wrough him.  Would I walk in and find him with a gun in his mouth, or even worse, I didn't come in time.  Every day I fear my son will not survive this war."  The US military has no such concerns.  They've been happy to launch a witch hunt and a campaign of intimidation and silence at Cloy Richards despite knowing full well that he suffers from PTSD.  That was the US military's own 'special thank you' to Cloy Richards.
In different ways, it's a thank you they hand out to many as Aaron Glantz (IPS) demonstrates as he explores the realities for today's returning Iraq veterans which already includes at least 400 homeless while Vietnam homeless veterans "did not usually become homelss until nine to 12 years after their discharge."  Today, the Pentagon announces more money is needed for veterans.  Kristin Roberts (Reuters) reports that the Pentagon announced today that America's "military's mental health system fails to meet the needs of troops and is too short of funds and staff to help service members sent to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan . . .   Repeated and extended deployments to those war zones over the past five years have driven the need for mental health services higher, but resources have not climbed in response, members of a Defense Department task force said."  Are you shocked and suprised?  Then you must work for the alleged which made a point of denying this issue in 2004.  Aaron Glantz notes, "A recent study by Harvard's Kennedy School of Government found that by the time the Iraq and Afghanistan wars end, there will be at least two and a half million vets.  Because of that, the Harvard study concluded, Congress will have to double the VA's budget simply to avoid cutting services."
In Iraq, John Ward Anderson and Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) report the escalation has reached its target and 28,500 additional US service members have been put on the ground and quote Giddy Gabor Sister II of the Green Zone, Chris Gaver, declaring the "we'll be able to execute the strategy as it was designed."  Such a Happy Talker.  In the real world, Andrew North (BBC) reports that fuel shortages in Baghdad are leading to massive lines (including one where the people went out at daybreak and over 900 were in line), notes that the Ministry of Oil has declared it "a crisis," and that the "attacks on bridges . . . have seriously disrupted fuel tanker traffic into the city."  What, what?  Didn't the US military, Garver in fact, at the start of the week assure the world that the bridge bombings were of little effect?  Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) reported Tuesday on Garver's reassurance that it was of no great consequence "because we have other resources, we have 20,000 troops on each side of the river" but did allow it may be "inconvenient for the people who live there".  You think?  (It's more than 'inconvenient' for the US military -- no matter how Garver spins it.)
This is the sort of thing Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) is addressing when he notes Iraq is "going to hell" while other things are focused on.  Rothschild goes on to recount Admirall Fallon and John Negroponte 'lobbying' al-Maliki on the oil law "which would turn over Iraqi's liquid treasure to foreign corporations like ExxonMobil.  This is the paramount concern of the Bush administration.  It is being sold to the American people as a way to equalize revenues to various segments of Iraqi society.  But the true reason for it is to line the pockets of U.S. oil executives."  Marilyn Bechtel (People's Weekly World) notes that, in the US, "We rarely hear that a powerful labor movement is defending workers' rights, campaigning for an end to the U.S.-led occupation and for better daily living conditions for ordinary people, and upholding the Iraqi people's right to keep control of their country's great oil resources.  This month, people across the U.S. are getting a glimpse of that other reality, as they hear from two Iraqi trade union leaders, Faleh Abood Umara, general secertary of the Oil Workers Union, and Hashmeya Muhsin Hussein, president of the Electrical Utility Workers Union and the first woman to head a national union in Iraq."  The tour continues through the 29th and information is available at US Labor Against the War.  Bechtel notes that during the tour thus far, they have met with AFL-CIO's John Sweeny as well as US Congress members Lynn Woolsey and Dennis Kucinich -- Kucinich is, of course, both a member of Congress and running for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.
From the criminal theft of Iraqi oil to violence . . . It's Friday.  Most are following the F-16 story or Robert Gates surprise visit. 
Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports a roadside bombing in Baghdad that left seven Iraqis injured.  the mosque attacks continue today with Reuters noting that one in "Basra was destroyed"  John Ward Anderson and Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) report "At least 13 Sunni mosques were attacked on Thursday" and today the mosque attacks continued with Reuters noting that one in "Basra was destroyed" today.  AP informs that the attacks on the mosque began on Thursday with some damage and then, on Friday, a new attack ("planting bombs inside the structure and exploding it completely"). Deborah Haynes (Times of London) reports: "Only the front gate of the Talha Ibn Abdellah mosque was left standing after the gang planted bombs around the compound, blowing up two domes and a minaret."
CBS and AP note, "The remains of a Brazilian engineer who was kidnapped in Iraq in 2005 have been found and positively identified, the Brazilian foreign ministry said Thursday. The remains of engineer Joao Jose Vasconcellos were identified by forensic experts in Kuwait with support from Brazilian embassy personnel, the ministry said in a statement. It did not say when or where the remains were found, which arrived Thursday in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo."  From CNN: "Baghdad authorities also reported finding 25 bodies."  [Reuters notes 5 corpses discovered in Baghdad yesterday.]
Robert Gates, US Secretary of Defense, made a surprise visit to Baghdad today.  This follows an incident yesterday.  Thomas E. Ricks (Washington Post) reports that US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stated David Petraues "isn't in touch with what's going on in Baghdad" after he saw Thursday's USA Today Q&A where David Petraues gushed over alleged "astonishing signs of normalcy" in Baghdad.  Senator John McCain, naturally, clutched his chest, wept and soldiered on as only Senator Crazy can do: with High Drama.  CBS and AP report that, in Baghdad, Gates attempted to find a middle between the general and Senate Majority Leader Reid declaring the results to be "a mixed bag."  No confirmation to rumors that Gates then hollered "Hit me! Papa's got a mixed bag!" while breaking it down old school with the Mashed Potato.
Meanwhile, one of McClatchy Newspapers' Iraqi correspondents has posted (at Insided Iraq) about Falluja noting, "The city is under seige.  You cann not go in only through certain checkpoints witha  badge issued by the marines.  The main soccer field in the city is now a cemetery.  The only amusement park in the city was looted and destroyed; its trees were used by the locals to bake their bread.  Now the former amusment park is intended to be the next cemetery.  Instead of being the city of mosques it will be the city of cemeteries and this will be another achieveement of the invasion that residents of Fallujah will remember through generations."  The correspondent goes on to note the need for burials, for cell phone service to be restored, electricity, water  and notes that the US military does not allow people to come and go freely: "In a prison you can enter but you can not leave.  In Fallujah you can not enter and you can not leave."
In media news, the latest episode of Bill Moyers Journal airs on PBS in many markets tonight (check your local listings) and in a commentary in the latest episode, he notes:
We have yet another remarkable revelation of the mindset of Washington's ruling clique of neoconservative elites--the people who took us to war from the safety of their Beltway bunkers.  Even as Iraq grows bloodier by the day, their passion of the week is to keep one of their own from going to jail. 
It is well known that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby--once Vice President Cheney's most trust adviser--has been sentenced to 30 months in jail for perjury.  Lying.  Not a white lie, mind you.  A killer lie. 
Scooter Libby deliberately poured poising into the drinking water of democracy by lying to federal investigators, for the purpose of obstructing justice.  Attempting to trash critics of the war, Libby and his pals in high places -- including his boss Dick Cheney-- outed a covert CIA agent.  Libby then lied to cover their tracks.  To throw investigators off the trail, he kicked sand in the eyes of truth.  "Libby lied about nearly everything that mattered," wrote the chief prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.
The jury agreed and found him guilty on four felony counts. 
You'll need to check out Bill Moyers Journal.  Remember, Hilda (Hilda's Mix) notes that, online, Bill Moyers Journal is welcoming to all -- it has text, audio and video. And that can't be stressed enough. 
In other 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). His next stop is 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 Laura Flanders, Kelly Dougherty, Joshua Frank, Amy Goodman, Sharon Smith, Dave Zirin, Camilo Mejia, Jeremy Scahill, Jeffrey St. Clair and many others.

Food fight? Enjoy some healthy debate
in the Yahoo! Answers Food & Drink Q&A.