Thursday, June 21, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, June 21, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the US military annouces the deaths of more service members, IPA presents a report on Iraq, and more.

Starting with war resistance. In June 2006, Ehren Watada became the first US officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq. He explained his reasons for that publicly (illegal war, violation of treaties, setting those serving under him up for charges of war crimes); however, in Judge Toilet's court (John Head) all that got flushed for the February 2007 court-martial as Watada was prevented why explaining his reasons for refusing deployment. Despite this, Watada was coming out ahead and the prosecution's own witnesses were very effective . . . for the defense. Sensing this, Judge Toilet immediately called a mistrial on the third day, before Watada could take the stand and testify, and did so over the objection of the defense (and, initially, over the objection of the prosecution which took a bit to grasp the gift of 'do over' Judge Toilet was attempting to hand them). Due to the fact that there was no reason for a mistrial (Judge Toilet did a song and dance about a signing statement that he had reviewed prior, that he had instructed the jury on and now, on the third day, wanted to play dumb about) and that it was called over the objection of the defense, the double-jeopardy clause of the Constitution should prevent Watada from being retried. As Marjorie Cohn (president of the National Lawyers Guild) has pointed out, the judge in a trial -- any trial -- cannot just call a mistrial because s/he doesn't like the anticipated verdict. Next month, Ehren Watada's court-martial is scheduled for July 23rd; however, as his website points out, "legal proceedings are occuring on two fronts:

* a second trial in Ft Lewis, Washington, based on the original charges against Lt. Watada for failing to deploy and speaking agains the war, and

* a Defense motion before the Army Court of Criminal Appeals in Arlington, Virginia to dismiss all charges on the basis of Double Jeopardy.

In their "MISTRIAL SYNOPSIS," Judge Toilet's mistakes are noted and they include immediately scheduling a new trial (for March 19th) which was a case where the judge "exceed his authority, because a trial date cannot be set until the charges against Lt. Watada are again referred for court martial by the Ft. Lewis base commander and convening authority, Lt. General James Dubik."

Earlier this week Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Anna Quindlen (Newsweek) examined war resistance and noted Watada's statement, "My participation would make me party to war crimes." Watada made that statement at a June 7, 2006 Tacoma, Washington press conference. August 12, 2006, he would speak at the Veterans for Peace conference in Seattle, Washington where he noted (PDF format warning), "I have broken no law but the code of silence and unquestioning loyalty. If I am guilty of any crime, it is that I learned too much and cared too deeply for the meaningless loss of my fellow soldiers and my fellow human beings. If I am to be punished it should be for following the rule of law over the immoral orders of one man. If I am to be punished it should be for not acting sooner. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, 'History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period . . . was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people'."

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 Veterans Against the War's Liam Madden who, along with Cloy Richards and
Adam Kokesh, has been targeted by the US military for actions and free speech in an attempt to silence voices speaking out against the illegal war. Ron Jacobs (here for OpEd News, here for CounterPunch) interviews Madden about the US military's efforts to strip him of his honorable discharge and instead discharge him from the IRR with an other-than-honorable discharge for the 'crimes' of "Wearing a partial USMC camoflage uniform at a political protest" and "Making Disloyal Statements at a speech in New York City. I said that 'The war in Iraq is, by Nuremberg standards, a war crime and a war of agression' and 'the president has betrayed U.S. service members by committimg them to a war crime." Madden tells Jacobs that, "Normally people aren't discharged from the IRR. It is simply a list of names the military can call upon in times of national crisis. When they don't want someone on the list they typically just cross them off. However it is not unusal that the government cracks down on those who are questioning the motives of their actions. For example, COINTELPRO, the imprisonmnet of Eugene Debs, and harassment of Martin Luther King, Jr." The IRR is a list of service members who have been discharged from the military. Should a president declare a national emergency, some names on the IRR list can be called up but only 30,000 -- in a declared national emergency -- can be called from the IRR list. If they are called up, UCMJ then applies to them (and nearly 15,000 have been called up since the start of the illegal war) (as explained by a friend in the US Marine Corps Judge Advocate Division). Clicking on Liam Madden's name takes you to a petition you can sign to show your support for Madden, democracy and free speech.

From Madden to Iraq Veterans Against the War's Adam Kokesh who appeared Monday on Mark Levine's Inside Scoop discussing multiple topics for the hour. We've noted the interview all week (and the link was left out of yesterday's snapshot when it first went up, my apologies) and we'll note it again today and here he is speaking of his return to the US after serving in Iraq:

Adam Kokesh: It was already like a bad dream. Like you wake up and it already feels like it happened to someone else. But I had to stay on active duty for two more weeks and go through all these debriefing classes and all this administrative b.s. And I was actually more stressed out from these classes teaching me about post-traumatic stress disorder because I was missing class [college], I wanted to be in school, I was already late.

Mark Levine: So you weren't having post-traumatic stress disorder?

Adam Kokesh: No, but what I experienced then was more what I learned in those classes, at least the one bit of useful information is that typical combat stress symptoms last twelve to sixteen weeks. And for me, it took me about three months to really feel comfortable being a student again.

Today, Nigel Yin (The Daily Egyptian) observes, "People these days throw the word 'hero' around without a second thought. Devin Hester opens the Super Bowl with a kickoff-return TD -- He's a hero! Bob Barker retires after 35 years of hosting the Price is Right -- What a hero! Kobayashi eats a whole lot of hot dogs -- Hero! Hero! Hero! But I'd like to pay respect to a hero whose contributions go unsung: Sgt. Adam Kokesh, a Marine who strives to protect veterans' right of dissent. . . . So while certain political figures may openly mock a mother of a deceased soldier, they now cower behind the uniform code of military justice to quell the seeds of dissent of a decorated Iraqi war veteran to avoid a PR backlash." And while Kokesh and others demonstrate heroism, Congress does nothing and Bully Boy thinks adding more fuel to the fire will put it out. Or possibly, he just thinks that when everything's burned away, no objections will exist?

But reality is that today the US military announced: "Four Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldiers were killed when their convoy was struck by a roadside bomb in a western Baghdad neighborhood June 20. One other Soldier was wounded in the attack." And they announced: "Five Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldiers, three Iraqi civilians and one Iraqi interpreter were killed when a roadside bomb detonated near a Coalition vehicle during combat operations in a northeastern section of Baghdad June 21." And they announced: "Two Marines assigned to Multi National Force-West were killed June 20 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province." Now those 11 deaths may not be as fun to write about as American Idol or your daughter's sweet sixteen (you don't think it's your sweet sixteen, do you?) but it happened and it continues to happen. 3545 is the current total for the number of US service members killed in Iraq with 68 being this month's total thus far.

Marie Cocco (Truthdig) attempts to address other realities. She notes that Iraq can now be considered a "failed state" and that "[t]o bring Iraq to the brink, we have invested half a trillion dollars in military alone and staffed the largest U.S. embassy anywhere and now have 150,000 U.S. troops on the ground." She notes that the food crisis results in 60% of children and pregnant women in the capital being anemic, thyphoid fever being common in Basra, etc. She also correctly notes: "The Bush White House and, for their part, the Republican presidential candidates, continue to push a military solution that alread has been shown to be no solution. The Democrats, including the party's presidential candidates, want to withdraw troops but promote the notion that the factionalized and corrupt Iraqi government can somehow pick up the slack." The last statment doesn't apply to Democratic candidates for the 2008 presidential nomination Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel and Bill Richardson. (It can be argued that it doesn't apply to John Edwards as well.) But Cocco, possibly exhausted by the killings, the never ending illegal war, notes the James Baker Circle Jerk's proposal of partioning Iraq ("along sectarian lines" -- so the 8 Christian college students kidnapped yesterday -- if they turn up alive -- would live where?) and wonders if that would work. And then Cocco quickly winds down. The US (or the US and England) dividing up Iraq is not an "answer" and it's not "self-determination." The US government has provided non-stop promises of democracy never delivered (like the Iraq constitution which has never been addressed or modified even though the push through on that promised it would be) and US solutions are not the answer to Iraq. Iraq is a nation-state filled with adults. It is not a nation of children that needs another government to impose its will. Iraq needs to be allowed to decide what's best for Iraq and that will not happen while a US installed puppet government is in place and it will not happen by the US decreeing that Iraq is now three different "partitions." The US has no business being in Iraq (never did) and it certainly has no right to determine what another country (an inhabited country, please remember) will be like. That's not democracy, that's not self-rule, that's not self-determination. US Senator and 2008 Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden also favors partitioning Iraq.)

This week the Institute for Public Accuracy released their "Independent Report on Iraq" co-authored by James Paul and Celine Nahory with Paul noting of the report: "While most people focus on the sectarian bloodshed, our report highlights the enormous violence of the occupation forces. There is an increasing air war that results in heavy casualties as well as the daily killing of civilians at checkpoints, during house searches, by snipers, and by ground bombardment. Nearly a million Iraqis have died due to the effects of the occupation and 4 million have fled their homes. . . . Under the control or influence of U.S. authorities, public funds in Iraq have been drained by massive corruption and stolen oil, leaving the country unable to provide basic services and incapable of rebuilding. The U.S. government has repeatedly violated many international laws, but top officials reject any accountability."

The [PDF format warning] 117 paged "Independent Report on Iraq" can be accessed in full or by section:

Executive Summary [Read] [French]
Map of Major Coalition Attacks, Bases and Prisons [See map]
Political Map of Iraq [See map]
1. Introduction [Read]
2. Destruction of Cultural Heritage [Read]
3. Indiscriminate and Especially Injurious Weapons [Read]
4. Unlawful Detention [Read]
5. Abuse and Torture of Prisoners [Read]
6. Attacks on Cities [Read]
7. Killing Civilians, Murder and Atrocities [Read]
8. Displacement and Mortality [Read]
9. Corruption, Fraud and Gross Malfeasance [Read]
10. Long-Term Bases and the New Embassy Compound [Read]
11. Other Issues [Read]
- Iraqi Public Opinion and the Occupation
- Cost of the War and Occupation
12. Conclusion and Recommendations [Read]

Focusing on Chapter 6 ("Attack on Cities") because Norman Solomon has been sounding the alarm about the air war for some time now (Solomon is a member of IPA), we learn of the collective punishments on cities which are judged or just guessed to be 'insurgent strongholds.' (Being against the occupation is often enough to get you judged 'insurgent.') Once that judgement/guess has been made the process usually begins with razor wire, sanbags, and various barricades being utilized to 'wall off' the city in question while US troops gather around it and "seize control of all movement into and out . . . including goods and supplies, water, food, medicines and emergency assistance of all kinds. This 'sealing off' strategy seeks to isloate insurgents and show ordinary civilians the heavy cost of not cooperating." Citizens are then encouraged to leave (and we've seen that with the reporting of the current actions in the Diyala province). Those who can (and that generally does not include all males of the city) do and as they become refugees, their city becomes a free-fire zone. As the US military cuts off water, power and anything else, they also cut off access to journalists not in bed (to steal Amy Goodman's term) with the military. And then comes the bombings:

Coalition forces have inflicted prolonged and intesne air and ground bombardment on these cities, destroying thousands of homes, shops, mosques, clinics and schools, and inevitably -- killing and injuring many civilians. The strategy of indiscriminate and massive bombardment, in advance of ground offensives, has reduced the number of Coalition casualties, at a heavy cost in life and injury to the remaining Iraqi city residents.
The Washington Post reported that in Falluja, an "official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described 12 hours of overnight strikes by American helicopters, fighter-bombers, field artillery and tanks as 'shaping operations.' Military commanders use the term as shorthand for battlefield preparation, combat operations specifically intended to remove enemy strong points in advance of an assault. In the second assault on Falluja, the air strikes began on October 15, the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and continued for three weeks prior to the assault of November 7. In Najaf, US Marines bombarded the cementery near the famous Imam Ali Shrine as well as much of the city center, in a massive attack backed by aircraft and tanks. In Ramadi, US forces carried out intensive bombardment, targeting the city's power stations, water treatment facilities, and water pipes, leaving many destroyed houses and no civilian services functioning.
US military bombardment has destroyed large areas of the cities. Reports have confirmed that whole neighborhoods have been leveled and elsewhere just hulks of buildings stand. "Those who have witnessed US aircraft firing missiles into packed tenements in Sadr City, and have seen the resulting carnage, treat claims of 'precision strikes' . . . with deep skepticism" commented the London-based Independent newspaper.
Air strikes and artillery bombardment are typically indiscriminate. According to an Iraq Body Count study on different types of weapons, aircraft attacks have been responsible for the largest proportion of children killed. In addition to massive bombardment with high explosives, there is clear evidence of the use of indiscriminate and especially injurious weapons, particularly incendiaries, in these ferociously violent campaigns.

In the New York Times today, War Pornographer Michael Gordon and Alissa J. Rubin contributed "Heavy Fighting as U.S. Troops Squeeze Insurgents in Iraq City." Just as sure Gordo will go soft in the head and sticky in his y-fronts, he will usually use "precision strike" and similar terms (as he did on his own yesterday) but today -- either due to a co-writer or a 'discovery' -- he forgets the term. The 'discovery.' A medical center. And it's an "insurgent!" one. How is that "known"? "The hsopital, uncovered by troops from the Fifth Battalion, 20th Infantry, was equpped with oxygen tanks, defibrillators, generators and surgical equipment, as well as pieces of insurgent propaganda." It's that latter group, the pamphlets, that tell Gordo all he needs to 'know.' The same pamphlets can be found throughout Iraq, including in the capital. Also noted is an airstrike in Nasiriya (no mention of wounded or dead) -- again no 'precision strike' -- he must have felt so awkward, wanting to pull his War-On out with Rubin standing there. Meanwhile, Reuters notes: "A U.S. air strike on a booby-trapped house in Baquba north of Baghdad on Wednesday missed its target and hit a nearby structure, wounding 11 people".

On the topic of peace, in 2005, Veterans for Peace staged their conference in Irving, Texas and Cindy Sheehan went right from there to Crawford, Texas where she started Camp Casey. In 2006, Veterans for Peace staged their conference in Seattle, Washington and Ehren Watada was among the speakers. This year, Veterans for Peace will be holding their conference in St. Louis, Missouri and the dates for that are August 15 through 19th -- click here for more information. What will happen? Chances are it will set the stage for much to follow. Sheehan kick started the peace movement. Watada kicked off a summer and fall of war resisters speaking out and coming forward. What 2007 will be a springboard for is anyone's guess, but it is scheduled for St. Louis, Missouri in August.

In Iraq today . . .


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a mortar attack on the heavily fortified Green Zone, the bombing of "a primary school in Qara Taba village," and a truck bombing in Sleiman Bek village that killed 15 (70 wounded). Reuters notes a Madaen truck bombing that killed two police officers (12 more wounded) and a Baghdad mortar attack that claimed one life.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports "a corporal of the Iraqi army" was shot dead "between Kirkuk and Biji".


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports three corpses discovered in Khalis. Reuters notes 20 corpses discovered in Baghdad.

In a reality check on 'progress' in Iraq, Jamie Tarabay (NPR's Morning Edition) reported yesterday on musicians who've performed the "Baghdadi Square" for years in the capital -- on the streets, at functions, etc. "Baghdad was safe," says Mouwafak al-Tayar. "We could go out and perform as we liked. Everybody would come out from their homes and take part. Kids would follow us. They liked this kind of music because it's very lively." Today they have to travel "incongnito about Baghdad. They leave their traditional costumes, white robes and turbans, at home. Fearing Islamist extremists who condemn music of any kind, they also conceal their music when they travel."

Finally, in the United States, Yaderlin Hiraldo may no longer need to worry about deportation. Hiradlo's husband is Alex Jimenez who is serving in Iraq and went missing on May 12th and is assumed captured. US Senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry have spoken out strongly about the treatment. Jose Martinez and Richard Sisk (New York Daily News) report that that Homeland Security stated Yaderlin "no longer faces deportation."

[C.I. correction: Bill "Richardson," not "Richards." Thanks to Lynda and Cedric who both caught that.]

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