Monday, June 25, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Monday, June 25, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, an attack in the Green Zone gathers attention (of course), US commanders grumble about the status of Iraqi forces, and more.

Starting with war resisters. Chris Capps (Courage to Resist via Democracy Rising) shares his story which begins in "the Army Reserves in 2004 looking to earn money for college and basically to become independent," continues to Iraq (2005) where the "chow" at Camp Victory is among the surprises:

There were Philly cheese steaks, a good salad bar, a juice bar, Baskin Robbins Ice Cream, and food better then anything I had ever seen before. There was a Pizza Hut, a giant PX store, a Subway, an Arby's, a Greens Beans, and a Popeye's Chicken too.
When you're expecting a combat zone and you walk into something like this you have to wonder "What the hell is going on here?" It was surreal sitting there eating a Subway sandwich, listening to evelator music, and hearing explosions sou loud they could knock your drink right off the table, and gunfire in the distance.
KRB ran everything on Camp Victory. I eventually figured out the deal. I saw the Filipino and Pakistani contractors laboring hard while the American KBR employees drove around in brand new cars just to get from one end of the post to another. Everyone talked about the corruption. I learned about how much it cost the American taxpayer so that I could walk into that nice DFAC, sit down, and have a bite to eat.

In September 2006, he was stationed in Germany and, having seen what Kyle Huwer was going through attempting to get conscientious objector status, Capps decided to self-check out: "I remained AWOL for 60 days. At that point my unit classified me as more then AWOL -- I was now in a 'deserter status.' On May 8 I turned myself in at Fort Still, Oklahoma. Kyle had suggested Fort Sill because it, along with Fort Knox, had a designated out processing center for AWOL soldiers who turn themselves in. But if you're not yet in a 'deserter status,' chances are you will just be returned to the unit you left. It doesn't always work out so smoothly, but on May 11 I was discharged from the Army with an 'other than honorable' discharge."

Chris Capps resides in Germany now, is assisting other soldiers and attempting to start up "a chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War" there. He concludes: "I don't believe in this war. I would like to see more people choosing not to deploy. I think this is the only direct and effective resistance that is going to make this war impossible to go on forever. If the politicians refuse to listen to the people, then the people need to take action. If we had resistance throughout the military then we could finally end this war here and now."

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.

Sunday, Kirsten Scharnberg (Chicago Tribune) examined the efforts of the US military brass to silence dissent [Scharnberg's article is also carried by The Baltimore Sun which requires no registration] and zoomed in on the attempts to punish Iraq Veterans Against the War's
Liam Madden, Cloy Richards and Adam Kokesh for speaking out against the illegal war with Scharnberg noting: "Many of the protests involving vets in uniform are all-out street theater, like on in Washington last spring at which protesters staged a mock patrol, manhandling people at stimulated gunpoint to illustrate how they say Iraqis are treated by American troops. The intended subtext of the uniformed protests is apparent. Protesters have additional credibility because they are denouncing a war they have witnessed firstand, that the very uniforms now being used in protest have walked the real battlefield." Madden explains, "Guys like us -- veterans who served but then came believe the war is not only wrong but illegal -- are not who the military wants speaking on a national stage." Which is what it comes down -- fatiques are not dress uniforms. Those discharged (as Kokesh, Madden and Richards were) are not generally discharged from the IRR. But the brass is working overtime in an attempt to clamp down and will resort to anything, no matter how shameful.

KBR, mentioned by Chris Capps, was Kellogg Brown and Root which came together when Brown and Root merged with Halliburton's M.W. Kellogg. Jackie Northam (NPR) reported on the issue of the 120,000 contractors in Iraq for today's Morning Edition noting a hearing that "exposed many other problems in the contracting industry . . . in fact, at that hearing, a spokesperson for the army couldn't even say how many contracting companies were working in Iraq. These issues have led to calls for more transperancy in the contracting industry . . . There's no central data base, no single organization to keep track of facts and figures and so that the most basic questions regarding civilian contractors cannot easily be answered. What roles do the contractors play? What nationalities? How much is it costing the American taxpayer and how many contractors have been killed? One of the most vexing questions is what legal framework do the contractors fall under?"

Heading into last weekend, the US military fatality count in Iraq stood at 3546 on Friday. Today it stands at 3560. The US military began announcing the 14 deaths on Saturday and Sunday and reaching 14 with this morning's announcement: "A Task Force Marne Soldier died in a small arms fire attack today" in Baghdad. The 14 dead come days after Peter Pace and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates were attempting to push the notion that progress in Iraq had nothing to do with violence or deaths. Today Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) reports that "some American commanders expressed doubts about the ability of Iraqi troops to hold gains made in areas north of the capital last week . . . The American commander in Baquba, Brig. Gen. Mick Bednarek, and his counterpart south of Baghdad, Maj. Gen Rick Lynch, pointed to a variety of problems with the Iraqi forces, including a shortage of trained troops and a lack of basic supplies like ammunition, radios and trucks." BBC notes: "The BBC's Andrew North, in Baghdad, says US commanders blame a lack of committed and properly organised Iraqi troops for the failure of past efforts to secure the Baghdad region" and those problems do not appear to have vanished as the same-old-same-old spreads into the north. Though doing the same thing with larger numbers in northern Iraq (don't call it strategy) resulted in as many as 10,000 US service members in the Diyala province, Baghdad has been the locale for deaths in the last few days -- US and Iraqis.

This includes the incident getting the most attention today, the bombing of the al-Mansour Melia hotel in Baghdad -- which housed many journalists as well as the Chinese embassy. ITV reports that "Sunni Arab tribal leaders from western Anbar province had gathered there for a meeting." Ammar Karim (The Australian and AFP) reports the meeting was confirmed and that a bomber entered "the crowded lobby," detonated the bomb, killing himself and many others. AFP describes "charred bodies of the victims and many of the wounded were lying near the reception desk in the rubble-strewn lobby, and that the ceiling had collapsed, leaving clusters of white tiles hanging from wires. The blast damaged the stairway, the elevators, and the ceiling of the first floor of the hotel, which lies on the west bank of the Tigris river and houses diplomats and some foreign media organisations. Patches of blood stained the marble floor and scraps of human flesh were left stuck to the concrete pillars."
Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reports that "sheiks and political figures, Sunni Arab Muslims as well as Shiite Muslims, were gathered in the lobby of the Mansour Melia hotel drinking tea and chatting when the explosion gutted a large section of the lobby and shattered windows on the high-rise's first and second levels, hotel workers said." Mike Drummond (McClatchy Newspapers) explains that, despite "tight security," the bomber apparently walked into the hotel from the street without raising any suspicion among the "armed guards" or at the car checkpoints -- both of which were on alert as the hotel was "sealed off" . . . after the bombing. CNN notes that among the at least a dozen people dead is Rahim al-Maliki who was an anchor "with Iraqiya state television". AP notes that al-Maliki (no relation to the puppet) was also a poet. CBS and AP raise the dozen dead to 13 (and remember that toll may rise as some who are wounded do not pull through and as some corpses may still be undiscovered) and note that CBS News' Lara Logan was at the hotel during the blast and reports "that al-Guooud was meeting in the lobby with other members of the Anbar Salvation Council when the blast occured". Fassal al-Guood had been the "former Anbar governor" and is among the dead. Ned Parker notes that Sheik Abdul-Aziz Fahdawi, Sheik Tariq Saleh Dulaimi and Aziz al-Yasiri were among the dead. [Video] CBS News spoke with al-Yasiri last week when he shared his belief that the puppet, Nouri al-Maliki, had established "multi-party dictatorship."

In other violence . . .


Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Bahgdad mortar attack that wounded 3 Iraqis and 25 more wounded and a roadside bombing outside al Dujail claimed the life of one police officer and left 3 more wounded. Reuters notes a truck bombing in Baiji that has killed at least 27 people and left 62 injured. In addition, Reuters notes a car bombing in Mosul that left 3 dead and 40 more wounded. DPA reports: "Also Monday, a US helicopter-backed force killed two Iraqi civilians Monday in Sadr city ina raid on several houses east of Baghdad, independent Voices of Iraq news agency reported citing local residents of the city. The attack occured during the early hours of Monday in the main street of Abu Zhar Al Ghafari, where the US helicopters pounded two house, killing two civilians and wounding a woman".


Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the Baghdad shooting death of "local council member Auda Mutalq".


Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 16 corpses discovered in Baghdad and, in Basra, the corpse of "the assistant of the intelligence head of the 10th Iraqi army division in Basra". DPA identifies the man as Faris Mohammed.

Finally, Aaron Glantz (IPS) reports on Iraq veteran Jeff Kay whose story as a gay man serving in the military is told in the film Semper Fi: One Marine's Journey which begins airing on Showtime tonight. Kay was drummed out of the military after announcing on CNN live (March 31, 2004) that he was gay. The Denver Post notes:

Using scenes from his one-man stage play, along with video shot in Iraq and at his boyhood home in Alabama, Jeff Key recounts how he volunteered for the Marines at age 34, completed boot camp with men young enough to be his sons, became a lance corporal and served in Iraq, and then returned home heartbroken on many levels.
What he endured in Iraq, the politics of the conflict, his realization concerning what he describes as the real causes of the war, is compounded by the way he was treated by his branch of the service once he revealed his sexual orientation.

More information on Semper Fi can be found here (Showtime website) and in this press release. Jeff Key is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Fussy? Opinionated? Impossible to please? Perfect.