Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, June 20, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, a US service member in Iraq announces his resistance, the US threatens to deport the wife of a US service member, the British military announces the death of a service member, Amy Goodman wonders since when did Iraq become a banned topic in high schools, and more.

Starting with Iraq Veterans Against the War's Adam Kokesh who was selected for the Wings of Justice Award today -- BuzzFlash's weekly honor which concludes: "The Marine Corps treated Kokesh unfairly for expressing his viewpoints, a freedom he put his life on the line for in Fallujah. That is what Bush says we are fighting for there, doesn't he? Adam Kokesh, to us, you served honoroably and bravely. You truly merit this week's BuzzFlash Wings of Justice award."

Iraq Veterans Against the War's Adam Kokesh appeared Monday on Mark Levine's Inside Scoop discussing many topics for the hour:

Adam Kokesh: To call it a protest isn't exactly accurate. This was a demonstration conducted by Iraq Veterans Against the War called Operation First Casulty and it's called that because it has long been said that the first casulty of war is truth and the purpose of the demonstration was to bring a small part of the truth of the occupation home to the American people who have largely forgotten that there is a military force representing our people imposing martial law in another country on the other side of the world. And we did that by conducting a mock combat patrol through the streets of DC and we had civilian actors who were playing effected peoples -- they weren't playing Iraqis, they weren't pretending to speak Arabic or anything like that -- but as average Americans being subjected to the same thing that Iraqis are subjected to every day.

Mark Levine: So you were showing Americans what the Iraqi civilians have to go through?

Adam Kokesh: Well, yes, but not just that. But also giving them a taste of what it's like to come around a street corner and see a squad of armed men in uniform in a patrol. And these actors that we had were integrated into wherever they were standing in the city, we had them in lines full of tourists, we had them in parks and so on -- and we would randomly accost them, search them, zip cuff them and put sandbags over their heads.

And as Kokesh and other members of Iraq Veterans Against the War attempt to bring the war home via street theater and truth telling, a US service member takes resistance to Iraq.
Iraq Veterans Against the War posts the following:

Yesterday, June 19, 26 year old SPC Eli Israel put himself at great personal risk by making the courageous decision to refuse futher participation in the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Eli told his commanding officer and sergeants that he will no longer be a combatant in this illegal, unjustified war. Eli believes that the U.S. government used the attacks of September 11, 2001 as a pretense to invade Iraq and that "we are now violating the people of this country (Iraq) in ways that we would never accept on our own soil." Eli is stationed at Camp Victory in Baghdad with JBV Bravo Company, 1-149 Infantry of the Kentucky Army National Guard. This soldier's decision to refuse orders put him at great risk, especially because he's in Iraq, isolated from legal assistance and other support. The following is a message that Eli sent yesterday to a friend back home:
"I have told them that I will no longer play a 'combat role' in this confllict or 'protect corporate representatives,' and they have taken this as 'violating a direct order.' I may bein jail or worse in the next 24 hours. Please rally whoever you can, call whoever you can, bring as much attention to this as you can. I have no doubt that the military will bury me and hide the whole situation if they can. I'm in big trouble. I'm in the middle of Iraq, surrounded by people who are not on my side. Please help me. Please contact whoever you can, and tell them who I am, so I don't 'disappear'."
Eli is taking an incredible risk by refusing orders in Iraq and will most likely be court martialed. Please help him by contacting his Senator and requesting that he take any steps necessary to support and protect this soldier and ensure that the Army respects his rights and does not illegally retaliate against him.
Senator Mitch McConnell:
Washington Office
361-A Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-2541
Fax: (202) 224-2499

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.

And resistance is going on everywhere -- around the world. Turning to England, where the mother of a British soldier serving in Iraq has issued a public message to Gordon Brown (Tony Blair is expected to step down next Wednesday -- June 27th -- and Gordon Brown would then become prime minister of the UK). Lily Walker states (via Great Britain's Socialist Worker), "My message to Gordon Brown is that we must get the troops home now. My son is a serving soldier just back from Iraq. I am not a pacisfist, but I am against what is happening in Iraq -- the illegality and the lies. None of the troops enlisted to fight for a lie. I won't sit back and be quiet about what is happening in Iraq. I live in Tameside, just outside Manchester, and I have been calling on people to come to the demonstration on Sunday 24 June. Together we can make a difference. Tony Blair has let people down. It remains to be seen what Gordon Brown will do." Lily Walker is a member of Military Families Against the War and the demonstration this coming Sunday is "Gordon Brown's coronation as Tony Blair's successor" in Manchester (starting at noon at St. Peters Square, more information by clicking here).

Turning to the United States, June 13th, Amy Goodman (writing at Truthdig) reported on Voices in Conflit -- the Wilton High School production kicked off school property because the principal didn't want a play about Iraq; not only that, didn't want discussions about Iraq in any class; and quoted student Jimmy Presson stating, "We are not allowed to talk about the war while discussing current events." Today, Goodman (Democracy Now!) spoke with Presson, student Courtney Stack, Bonnie Dickinson (director of Voices in Conflict) and Iraq Veterans Against the War's Charlie Anderson about the experience and the NYC off-broadway performances of their play. Goodman questioned Presson about the ban on Iraq in his high school:

AMY GOODMAN: Jimmy, how often do you get to talk about war at school?
JIMMY PRESSON: We very rarely to never talk about the war through the curriculum. In classes in which we discuss current events, we are required to not bring in current events that relate to the war.
AMY GOODMAN: Wait, what do you mean? What about social studies or history?
JIMMY PRESSON: In history classes, the current events that we bring in are -- we've been instructed to have the articles be unrelated to the war.
AMY GOODMAN: You're not allowed to talk about war in your history class?
JIMMY PRESSON: We're not allowed to talk about the war.
JIMMY PRESSON: Because it's too controversial, I guess. Because they don't want kids arguing in class.
AMY GOODMAN: Is there any class that you can talk about it?
JIMMY PRESSON: We can talk about it a little bit in Middle Eastern studies, a little bit, but it's not even that much in that class.
BONNIE DICKINSON: That class is not offered.
JIMMY PRESSON: Every year. It's only offered every other year.
AMY GOODMAN: So this past year, it wasn't offered?
JIMMY PRESSON: It was not offered this past year.
AMY GOODMAN: So the only class to discuss this was in drama?

A war is ongoing, it passed the four year mark in March and a high school thinks it's a topic to be banned? Let's all pretend it's not going on and it won't be? Is that the 'plan'? It's certainly not education. Presson portrays Charlie Anderson in the play and Anderson gave the play and Presson high marks. Some attempted to silence the students -- they did not succeed.

"It's really simple," Dr. Dahlia Wasfi says, "You bring the troops home, they stop dying there." Wasfi speaks with James Harris and Robert Scheer (Truthdig -- transcript and audio at the link) and addresses the Salvadorian model utilized in Iraq to create divisions and a number of other topics including nothing that "first and foremost, there's no security now. People used to stay out to the late hours, having a social life, meeting at the tea cafes, coffee cafes. From the days of the invasion, 'Everybody inside by 6 o'clock!' Because it was out responsibility, American forces' responsibility, to establish law and order, and we faield miserably. In addition, the infrastructure continues to deteriorate. The services, as has been documented by the U.S. Government Accounting Office, even in 2004, the services had already deteriorated to be worse than under Saddam Hussein. So you have a population whose government, the puppet government in the Green Zone, is not providing security, is not providing electricity, is not providing potable water. What are they doing? They're working on oil laws that will privatize Iraq's oil and give up ownership to foreign companies. Unless you have a government in place that will serve the people, it will not last. If you need a military force to maintain a government in power, what does that tell you?"

Meanwhile, the US Congress is gearing up for it's summer break which will begin August 6th. Jeff Lays (CounterPunch) notes that is also the kick off of the Occupation Project, "a reinvigorated campaign of sustained noviolent civil disobedience/civil resistance to end Iraq war funding" and but before that takes place, there is an ongoing action lasting "[t]hrough the end of July, Grassroots America for Us is organizing the Swarm on Congress, intensive and extensive lobbying on Capitol Hill." Kevin Zeese (writing at Grassroots for America) notes, "The 'SWARM' will build on the successful efforts of activists in DC and around the country who have been occupying offices, protesting in the Halls of Congress and sending a consistent message. It will build on the Occupation Project, Voices for Creative Non-Violence, and the Declaration of Peace as well as the works of Code Pink and our Maryland peace coalition. Already, key anti-war groups are supporting this effort including United For Peace and Justice and Voters For Peace, among others."

As pressure is brought to bear on Congress, US Senator and Democratic presidential nominee hopeful Hillary Clinton's speech yesterday is getting attention. Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) observes that after winning over some of the crowd mid-speech "then she got into trouble by returning to the topic of the Iraq war. First, she tried to align herself with the crowd. 'We need to end the war in Iraq and finally bring our troops home,' she said. 'I voted against the supplemental.' She also said that the United States has no reason to be a part of the sectarian war there. But she blamed the Iraqis for the mess. 'The American military has succeeded,' she said. 'It is the Iraqi government that has failed to make the tough decisions.' This brought the boo birds out in force, with the Code Pink contingent holding up signs saying 'Lead Us Out of Iraq Now!'" David Swanson (AfterDowning Street) also reports "loud booing" and concludes with this: "Clinton never mentioned the point Ted Koppel reported last week and Bill Richardson raised here yesterday that she intends to have the occupation of Iraq still going at the end of her second term, should she be elected."
Susan J. Douglas (In These Times) explores the contradiction in Clinton's campaign and whom the core voters would be expected to be.

In Iraq, the death toll from yesterday's truck bombing in Baghdad continues to rise. 78 was the count yesterday. AP, Reuters, CNN and Al Jazeera report that the death toll has now climbed to 87 and CNN notes the tally for wounded stands at 214. Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) quotes Abu Muhammed ("one of the custodians of the bombed mosque") stating, "The Americans know everything, they can do everything, they can repair the space shuttle without touching it, why do they let these things happen here in Iraq? We think the Americans want these things to happen in Iraq, to keep things like this."

Meanwhile, the offensive in the Diyala province continues. The New York Times' imploded star, War Pornographer Michael Gordon, is allowed to soil the front page with his War-On drippings this morning in an alleged "military analysis" which fails to offer any analysis but does provide much rah-rah-rah Operation Happy Talk. Gordo fails to note what Damien McElroy (Telegraph of London) can: "The offensive has seen the revival of a tactic rarely used since the Vietnam war: air assaults by troops dropped into fighting zones by helicopter." Gordo gets all giddy over the detention of Iraqis noting that "the goal is to capture or kill" alleged 'insurgents' (an elastic term which can include any Iraqi opposed to the illegal military occupation of Iraq) and so much blood rushes to Gordo's nether regions he fails to wonder how many people are already imprisoned in Iraq? 20,000 is the figure for Iraqis currently imprisoned (not counting imprisoned at secret sites off the books) with 8,000 of those having been held for more than one year (via Socialist Worker compiling figures from UNHCR, UN, World Vision, Brookings Institution and Global Poverty Forum to present "Iraq in figures"). Gordo's also so busy with both hands digging in his pants (apparently in search of something very small) that he gets Falluja wrong (only women and boys thought to be under 12 years old were allowed to leave when that city was under attack), that he minimizes the death of a US service member when a Bradley is attacked ("What made the loss of the Bradley particularly worrisome is that the exposion occurred in a heavily trafficked area" -- actually, the family and friends of the dead service member would probably argue that the death itself was "particularly worrisome" and much more) and tries to slap some life into his libido with this, "American forces have already fired more than 20 satellite-guided rockets intwo western Baquba. . . . Warplanes have also dropped satellite-guided bombs on suspected roadside bombs and a wapons cache, which produced spectacular secondary expolsions after it was struck." And presumably an unspectacular one in the front of Gordo's pants which would explain why 20 satellite-guided rockets and multiple bombs being dropped in a civilian area does nothing to prevent from Gordo from getting off on the blood bath.

Gordo also fails to point out what Phil Ittner (CBS News) does, house to house searches are going on in Baquba -- read Gordo in vain for any mention of that. CBS and AP also report gun battles in the city.

In Iraq today . . .


The mosque bombings go on. CBS and AP report: "In a renewed blow to stability Wednesday, suspected Shiite militans blew up three Sunni mosques south of Baghdad, causing heavy damage but no casualties. The bombings were apparently revenge strikes for a suicide truck bombing a day before that badly damaged an important Shiite mosque in the heart of the capital." Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing that killed 1 person (3 wounded) and a Baghdad mortar attack that injured 3 people. Reuters reports a Ramadi car bombing that claimed the lives of 5 police officers (12 more injured) and a Baquba mortar attack that claimed the lives of 2 children and 3 women (8 people were injured).


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Ali Kadhim Jwad Allaw was shot dead in Baghdad -- he had been "the general director of the Iraq American contracts company" and 7 police officers were shot dead in Khalis. Reuters notes that "a police major" was shot dead in Aziziya.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 29 coprses discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes 2 corpses ("a young woman and a man") were discovered in Kut.

Today, the UK's Ministry of Defence announced: "It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death of a soldier from the 4th Battalion The Rifles in Basra City today, Wednesday 20 June 2007." This death brings to 152 the total number of UK soldiers killed while serving in the illegal war.

Late yesterday, the US military announced the deaths of three more US soldiers. They announced: "A Task Force Marne Soldier was killed and three were wounded when their patrol was struck by a roadside bomb south of Baghdad Monday." And they announced: " One Task Force Lightning Soldier died as a result of injuries sustained from an explosion near his vehicle while conducting operations in Diyala Province June 19." And they announced: "A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier was killed when a patrol was attacked with small arms fire during combat operations in an eastern section of the Iraqi capital June 18." These three deaths bring the ICCC count to 3531 US troops have died in the illegal war since it began with 54 of those deaths being in the month of June.

This as Martin Fletcher (Times of London) journeys to Fort Hood (Texas) to report on conditions there and is told by Major Ben Phillips that between "15 to 30 per cent of soldiers are returning from Iraq with psychological problems -- mostly posttraumatic stress disorder and a condition known as traumatic brain injury, a bruising of the brain caused by explosions. He says that a soldier's vulnerability to psychological disorders increases with each deployment, and he was now seeing soldiers who had served in Iraq four or five times. . . . Asked whether soldiers were returning to Iraq before they were fully recovered, he equivocates. 'Our goal is to ensure everybody is ready to go back.' As the Smith Middle School, on Fort Hood's Tank Destroyer Boulevard, 70 per cent of the 500 pupils have a parent serving in Iraq and five had one killed."

Yesterday on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, Rehm spoke with Anne Hull and Dana Priest of the Washington Post about their reporting on the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Anne Hull: When we started our reporting last fall, many of the soldiers we dealt with had physical wounds but many also had signs of post-traumatic-stress -- if not disorder then heavy symptoms of post-traumatic-stress -- and it just became the next natural step to explore. A lot of these soldiers weren't getting psychological help they needed. Our original reporting focused at Walter Reed and, even there, at the country's top hospital, we noticed they weren't getting enough help.

Hull noted that the official figures currently are 18% for marines and 20% for soldiers and 25% army and Priest commented that in the last five years the army has diagnosed 27,000 service members with PTSD the VA has "treated 45,000 people from Iraq and Afghanistan largely who believe they have PTSD." Priest and Hull's reporting (and Bob Woodruff's for ABC and others as well) has resulted in the departures of the follow: Major Generarl George W. Weightman, Lt. General Kevin C. Kiley and Francis J. Harvey who had been the Secretary of the Army. In other Iraq and Washington Post news, Ben Hoyle (Times of London) notes Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Imperial Life in the Emerald City -- an inside look at the Green Zone -- has been awarded the Samuel Johnson Prize. Michael, who had just returned from serving in Afghanistan weeks ago, called in to Rehm's show and spoke of needing help but most of all needing someone to talk to. 1-800-984-8523 is the toll free number the US military has set up in the wake of the Walter Reed scandals and it is a toll free number that is supposed to be staffed from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm EST, Monday through Friday. The military expert, Col. E. Cameron Ritchie, brought on the show failed to give that number out. She did speak of a toll free number where counseling could be provided and referred people to the Army Behavioral Health website which is a mess, a waste of time and refers you to crappy things you can print out such as "Two-page Tri-fold Brochure"s. If there is a counseling number for service members, let's be really damn clear here, the US military needs to have it displayed on the front page of the website. Otherwise it's a bunch of b.s. created to sound like the military's addressed the situation when, in reality, they have done nothing. It should also be noted, Ritchie appeared on Rehm's show yesterday and this 'wonderful' website was last updated? March 29, 2007. Ritchie needs to quit kidding that this website's offering anything other than sop and needs to get off her ass and get someone post to the counseling number at the top of the main page or else she needs to quit thinking she's fooling anyone.

And no one's being fooled that the US military 'cares' when the wife of a service member is threatened with expulsion from the United States. Since May 12th, following an attack, Byron W. Fouty and Alex R. Jimenez were missing assumed captured. They remain classified as missing. Dominican Today reports that Yaderlin Hiraldo, the wife of Alex Jimenez, is being threatened with deportation back to the Dominican Republic and "Hiraldo's green card processing was stopped by an immigration judge when her husband went missing, and the government has so far refused to grant a so-called hardship waiver that would allow her to stay in the country." Her attorney, Matthew Kolken, tells the AP: "I can't imagine a bigger injustice than that, to be deporting someone's wife who is fighting and possibly dying for our country." To repeat, the woman's husband is missing in Iraq and now, on top of that, the US government thinks "helpful" is informing that her citizenship might not go through and they may be returning her to the Dominican Republic. CBS and AP feature a photo of the couple and notes that US Senator John Kerry "has asked federal immigration officials not to deport Hiraldo" writing Michel Chertoff (head of 'Homeland Security'): "Under no condition should our country ever deport the spouse of a soldier who is currently serving in uniform abroad. I feel even more strongly in this case, given the terrible uncertainty surrounding Army Specialist Alex Jimenez."

Returning to the topic of PTSD, Robin Wright (Washington Post) reports that Steven Kashkett (American Foreign Service Association) testified to Congress Tuesday that appoximately "40 percent of State Department diplomats who have served in danger zones suffer some symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder". Following that testimony, it's now been made public that US Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker sent a memo to Condi Rice (US Secretary of State) where Crocker notes, "In essence, the issue is whether we are a Department and a service at war. If we are, we need to organize and prioritize in a way that reflects this, something we have not done thus far." Richard Beeston (Times of London) terms the memo "blunt" and feels it will "cause consternation" for those wanting "America to reduce, not expand, its presence in Iraq." Crocker's arguing for the diplomatic service to be intensified and out beyond the Green Zone.

amy goodman
democracy now

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