Friday, June 22, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Friday, June 22, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, CounterSpin covers a report the mainstream media (domestic) has shown no interest in, Falluja is addressed (and on going), watch out for that tidal wave of Operation Happy Talk!,  and more.
Starting with news of war resistance.  Joshua Key's The Deserter's Tale continues to garner good reviews.  Anita Joshua (India's The Hindu) reviews the book and concludes, "For over a year, he lived in the U.S. in constant fear of being caught before he fled with his family to Canada in search of asylum.  But, he makes no attempt to exaggerate his travails to sell his story, and it is this honesty that reflects through all the detail."  Key served in Iraq and, while back in the US, made the decision to self-check out instead of returning to an illegal war.  He, his wife Brandi Key and their children then lived underground in the US before crossing the border into Canada where he is attempting to win refugee status.  From page 171 of his book (written with Lawrence Hill):
One morning in Ramadi, while I was sitting on top of my armored personnel carrier outside a little house controlled by men from another platoon in the 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment, I saw soldiers open the door and push a naked prisoner outside.  The prisoner looked like he was about forty years old.  One soldier kicked him as he stumbled out the door and into the light, and another soldier kicked him as he passed through the gate.  The detainee was sent to stand in the middle of the street, and for an instant I wondered why he had been brought out like that.  And then, in full view of passerby, the naked man defecated in the street.  I turned my head guiltily, but not before I had witnessed his humiliation.  He stood up and was kicked on his way back inside the building.  I never saw him again, and I don't know what happened to him.
It would not be until much later, after I deserted the army, that I heard of Abu Ghraib prison, west of Baghdad, or about the abuses of Iraqi prisoners at the hands of Americans, or about human rights violations at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
Also noting Key is Kim Peterson (Dissident Voice) in his exploration of genocide which puts the illegal war into that context and quotes Key and Jimmy Massey.  Massy is quoted stating, "As far as I'm concerned, the real war did not begin until they saw us murdering innocent civilians.  I mean, they were witnessing their loved ones being murdered by US Marines.  It's kind of hard to tell someone that they are being liberated when they just saw their child shot or lost thei husband or grandmother."
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.
Speaking out to end the war is a duty Iraq Veterans Against the War takes very seriously.  Monday IVAW's Adam Kokesh  appeared on Mark Levine's Inside Scoop  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 close out the week by noting it again:
Mark Levine: Tell me about combat stress?
Adam Kokesh: As you said, it's hard to get care.  It's one of those things we're fighting for with  Iraq Veterans Against the War, full funding of the Department of Veteran Affairs.  But for me, when I came home, I didn't even allow myself to get into PTSD because I didn't want to think about my experiences in a way that would have that kind of emotional reaction.
Mark Levine: Denial.  Just forget.  Denial. [crosstalk]
Adam Kokesh:  . . . and for me, when I came back, I had combat stress which is distinctly different because it's much more superficial and about habitual things. But the worst of it for me, was I had, I had a few anxiety attacks. You know, you just lose control of your brain for a few minutes and it's a little disturbing but it was something we were warned about.  And for me, it was kind of a good thing.  [cross talk] . . . No, no, no.  You lose control of your brain and you just shut down. It's more of a --
Mark Levine: You just shut down.
Adam Kokesh: It's more of an internal thing than an external thing.
Mark Levine: So people don't even realize it's going on maybe.
Adam Kokesh: Yeah, sometimes.  Sometimes I would cry.  Sometimes I would shake.  But it was internal.  But it's mainly because of being overwhelmed by the environment and being in such a beautiful enivornment as my college campus was.  To go from Falluja one week to campus the next week. . . . That caused the anxiety for me.  The other things were I would wake up early well before my alarm and feel this strange sense of urgency, like I had to be somewhere, and not be able to go back to sleep.
Adam Kokesh's service in Iraq was not ingored by the US military.  It was 'rewarded' with a witch hunt and Liam Madden and Cloy Richards are also targeted.  The US military feels harrassment is a form of a 'thank you'.  That's the reality of the US administration and the US military brass when it comes to veterans.
And if how little the lives and wounds (on all sides) from the illegal war matter isn't coming through, check out Robert Gates and Peter Pace.  Josh White (Washington Post) reports Gates and Pace have launched a new wave of Operation Happy Talk -- the number of US service members who have died and are dying in Iraq is not an issue, that's the "wrong metric".  That is the wrong thing to focus on, say Gates and Pace, as CBS and AP note that at least 16 US service members have been announced dead "over the past three days."
Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) notes that the Operation Happy Talkers also said success "should be measured not by whether violence is reduced, but by whether Iraqis feel better about their nation's future."  Gates and Pace, after splashing one another with waves of Operation Happy Talk, ran down to the beach to enter a wet t-shirt contest before expounding further on the notion of deluded levels of self-esteem being the true measure of success while living in a combat zone.  No word on whether the rumors are true that both will dress up in silk nighties and have a pillow fight late tonight.
Realities on Iraq were addressed today on CounterSpin where co-host Janine Jackson interviewed Celine Nahory, co-author of [PDF format warning] "Independent Report on Iraq" which examines the causes of violence in Iraq.  A sample of the discussion.
Janine Jackson: Well, I want to draw you out on another issue in the report -- there are many of them, of course -- but you talked about attacks on cities and I think many people, of course, as we've mentioned may believe that the 'coalition' is in the position of mainly defending or protecting but I think they still could tell you that the US-led 'coalition' did fiercely attack  the city of Falluja.  I think most people remember that but that would be a very incomplete picture, wouldn't it? 
Celine Nahory:  Well, at the very moment the US is actually imposing another siege on Falluja.  There were two in 2004 and there is one going on right now -- for about a month now.  But Falluja is absolutely not the only city on which there have been assaults.  Part of the "anti-insurgency operation" that the US  is pursuing  in Iraq.  A dozen other cities have suffered:  Najaf,  Tal Afar,  Samarra, al Qaim, Haditha, Ramadi, Baquba, many others.  And this is not something that happened here and there.  It's really ongoing operations. And usually those operations follow the same pattern where the city is sealed off, a very harsh curfew is imposed, residents are encouraged to leave resulting in massive displacement of people. After awhile they assume that those who stay inside are only 'insurgents'  and they cut water, food, electricity, medical supplies and carry massive bombardments on urban households and this destructs a very large part of the city.  Reports say that more than 75% of the city of Falluja lies in ruins today.  And many of those occasions, the US military has taken over medical facitilies such as hospitals.  In those cities, very often hospitals are the tallest building in those cities. So the US takes them over and puts snipers on top and you have once again control over the city or neighborhoods.
Jackson observed that outside of AFP, she hasn't seen any press coverage of the report.  The report is in PDF format and you can read it by sections:

Executive Summary [Read] [French]
Map of Major Coalition Attacks, Bases and Prisons [
See map]
Political Map of Iraq [
See map]
1. Introduction [
2. Destruction of Cultural Heritage [
3. Indiscriminate and Especially Injurious Weapons [
4. Unlawful Detention [
5. Abuse and Torture of Prisoners [
6. Attacks on Cities [
7. Killing Civilians, Murder and Atrocities [
8. Displacement and Mortality [
9. Corruption, Fraud and Gross Malfeasance [
10. Long-Term Bases and the New Embassy Compound [
11. Other Issues [
- Iraqi Public Opinion and the Occupation- Cost of the War and Occupation
12. Conclusion and Recommendations [
On the subject of Falluja, let's turn to a speech from last weekend's conference in Chicago, given by Dahlia Wasfi and focus on the Falluja section of her talk, "Falluja -- God help us for what we have done to the people of Falluja.  On March 31, 2004, four American civilians lost their lives in Falluja.  They were civilians with military backgrounds, in the same that a paramilitary death squad in El Salvador responsible for the brutal rape, torture and murder of four American nuns was comprised of civilians. Though they had GPS systems from Blackwater, those systems were not working that day, and they became disoriented.  But they should have known long before, when they were boarding a plane for Baghdad, that they were going the wrong way.  Perhaps they only signed a contract with Blackwater to achieve financial security for their loved ones.  But there is a word in the English language to describe an individual who sells his body, his principles and his soul for monetary reward.  That's a congressman.  In the same way that Nazi soldiers fell victim to their system during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, these hired killers from Blackwater got justice served to them on a silver platter.  Then, revenge was carried out on a people who can truly be identified as civilians.  In April 2004, U.S. Marines closed the bridge to the city and a hospital road -- a war crime.  The U.S. military and its vehicles stood at the hospital entrance -- a war crime.  And snipers were positioned on rooftops, targeting ambulances and the clinic doors.  Between 600 and 800 civilians were killed in that siege, but that wasn't enough.  In November 2004, the second major siege of Falluja began.  The Nazzal Emergency Hospital, protected by the Geneva Conventions, was leveled to the ground, and Falluja General Hospital, was seized by the U.S. military.  Doctors described being tied and beaten, despite being unarmed and having only medical instruments.  Burhan Fasa'a, a cameraman with the Lebanese broadcasting company, reported that there were American snipers on top of the hospital, shooting everyone in sight.  In addition, the U.S. military blocked the Iraqi Red Crescent from entering the city for seven days.  The result was a death toll of between 6,000 and 8,000 civilians.  This means that the Iraqi death toll in November 2004 alone surpassed the invaders' death toll for all of Operation Enduring Freedom thus far."
Many of those people driven from their homes can't go back. In chapter eight of [PDF format warning]  "Independent Report on Iraq," the issues involved in Iraq exploding refugee crisis are explored (over 4 million if you combine internally displaced and externally displaced).  It is noted that, on the Iraqi death toll, "Washington insists that the lowest numbers are most accurate, while refusing to publish its own official statistics."  As Nancy A. Youssef noted almost exactly one year ago, the US is keeping figures, the US military in Iraq is provided with those figures, and yet the American people are kept in the dark.  The section concludes with the following:
Iraq faces a growing humanitarian emergency, with unprecedented death and displacement.  As of April 2007, the United Nations estimated that up to 8 million people were vulnerable and in need of immediate assistance.  Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been forced to flee from their homes and hundreds of thousands more are casualties of the violence through death and injury.  Education has broken down.  Unemployment has reached about 60% and the annual inflation rate peaked at about 70% in July 2006.  An estimated 54% of the Iraqi population lives on less than a dollar day, among capacity.  Electricity is in short supply.  Only 32% of Iraqis have access to clean drinking water.  The Public Distribution System food ration has stopped functioning in certain areas of the country, leaving 4 million Iraqis acutely vulnerable due to food insecurity.  Severe malnutrition doubled between 2003 and 2005.  Iraq's humanitarian emergency has reached a crisis level that compares with some of the world's most urgent calamities.
And as the crisis grows even worse, some of the violence in Iraq today includes . . .
Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad mortar attack that wounded four people, a Baghdad roadside bombing that wounded 2 police officers, US missiles launched from US helicopters that killed 17 Iraqis whom the US says were suspected 'gunmen' or suspected 'al Qaeda' or both depending upon the report but 17 are dead and they are dead on nothing more than, at best, suspicion, a Qara Taba roadside bombing that wounded three Iraqi soldiers, and an al Hawija roadside bombing that wounded one peson.  Reuters reports that a Falluja bombing killed two civilians and left four wounded.
Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a person shot dead in a Bahgdad market today and a person shot dead in Dali Abbas village.
Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 11 corpses were discovered in Baghdad today.
Also today, the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier was killed during combat operations in a southwestern section of the Iraqi capital June 21.
Finally, in political news, US Senator Hillary Clinton would like to be the Democratic nominee in 2008 for president.  Turkish Daily News reports that she announced Tuesday she was happy to keep US forces in Iraq to defend "close U.S. allies" Iraqi Kurds. Due to the pronounced and ongoing tensions between Turkey and northern Iraq, they would highlight that because it goes to their own security but . . . what's the excuse for that photo of Hillary?  Seriously.  Ouch.
In other political news, Robin Wright (Washington Post) reports that the US House of Representatives -- in a 355 pro and 69 against vote -- decided to get James Baker to round up his friends in the James Baker Circle Jerk to listen to the September reports from the US administration and the US military about 'progress' in Iraq, decipher and figure out what to do.  Translation, the US House would like to outsource their own jobs, duties and responsiblities to a center-right group which can provide cover.  If the duties are too much for any US House Rep, I do believe they have all been informed of the resignation process and possibly some should considering putting that process in motion?  James Baker and Lee Hamilton were not voted into Congress in 2006.  The Democratic upset resulted from voters wanting change and believing Democrats could deliver.  So far Americans join Diana Ross in singing, "And I'm still waiting . . . Ooooh-oooh-oh . . . Still waiting . . ."

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