Thursday, July 12, 2007

Congress and Iraq

Miller: Is it fair to compare a Muslim in today's military who might not want to go to war against Muslims, with the conflicts faced by Japanese Americans during World War II?
Mura: Such comparisons can be made. Whether they are fair or not depends upon the spirit in which they are made.
During World War II, there were a small number of Japanese Americans who refused to enter the armed services. Some of these, most often kibei who had been educated in Japan, did not want to fight against Japan. But many of these, called No-No Boys for their answers on a loyalty oath given by the U.S. government, saw their answers as an act of civil resistance. They were protesting the government’s actions toward the Japanese American community. (The protagonist of my forthcoming novel, Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire, is the son of one of these men.)
On the other hand, those Japanese Americans who agreed to serve in the armed forces, wanted to demonstrate their loyalty to America. Indeed, the division of Japanese American soldiers, the 442nd, was the most decorated in Europe, and American generals even fought over making this division part of their forces. Japanese American translators were instrumental to the success of the U.S. armed forces in the Pacific theater and the occupation of Japan after the war.
Personally, I feel that the current case of Lt. Ehren K. Watada, who refused to go to Iraq because he believes it is an illegal and unjust war, ought to be seen against the backdrop of this history. His position as a soldier and his actions of civil protest, reflect the legacy both of the 442nd and of the No-No Boys.

The above is from E. Ethelbert Miller's "Interview with David Mura" (Foreign Policy In Focus) which covers a wide-rang of topics including the lack of awareness of the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. Mura is a poet, playwright, critic, writer, performance artist and more. Ehren Watada is, of course, the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. Since going public in June 2006, he has faced a court-martial (February 2007) that ended in mistrial (over the objections of the defense). Tuesday, Kenneth Kagan, one of Watada's two civilian attorneys, explained to Margaret Prescod on KPFK's Sojourner Truth why he didn't expect to see any court-martial start this year.

In this morning's New York Times, Alissa J. Rubin's "$282 Million Stolen in Heist at Private Bank in Baghdad" not only covers the Baghdad robbery thought to be an inside job (guards for the bank are the main suspects), it also notes the following violence from yesterday:

In a village just north of Falluja, however, extremists in two vehicles, possibly in an act of revenge, forced the residents of a house inside, locked the doors and blew up the building. Eleven people died, according to a report by United States marines who operate in the area. The house is owned by a member of the local provincial security forces, which are fighting Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a homegrown Sunni Arab insurgent group that includes some foreigners.
In Mosul, an American helicopter returned fire after being shot at, but hit civilians, according to Brig. Gen. Abd al-Kareem Khalaf Juboori of the Mosul police. Two people were killed and 14 wounded, including two children.
The killing continued in Diyala Province, where American operations are under way to try to reduce the influence of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Three bodies were found with signs of torture near the town of Khalis; an army checkpoint was attacked with mortars; a local police station was attacked; and a roadside bomb killed an Iraqi Army soldier and wounded four others in Khan Beni Sa’ad, about 50 miles from Baghdad.

And from yesterday to news of what will be going on today, Martha notes Karen DeYoung and Peter Baker's "White House Gives Iraq Mixed Marks in Report" (Washington Post) about the report Congress will be receiving today and the reason for the last minute press by Stephen Hadley and others yesterday:

A widely anticipated White House report on Iraq, set for release today, argues that the Baghdad government has made "satisfactory" progress toward nearly half of the political and military goals sought by Congress, while acknowledging that an equal number remain "not satisfactory," an administration official said yesterday.
The report, ordered by lawmakers as an interim assessment of President Bush's troop-increase strategy, identifies some positive movement in eight of the 18 congressional benchmarks, most of them related to military issues; finds insufficient improvement in eight others, mainly related to political reconciliation; and judges mixed results in the final two, the official said.

The administration's assessment comes the day after U.S. intelligence experts offered an overwhelmingly negative view of military and political conditions in Iraq, saying that Iraqi forces will remain incapable of taking charge of security for years to come and that deepening sectarian political divides remain the largest impediment to progress.

This will be a big topic today, even among those who can't normally be bothered with talking or writing about Iraq. (Translation, the bulk of our commentators in the US.) On some of what Congress did (or did not do) yesterday, this is from Jeff Zeleny and David M. Herszenhorn's "Senate Narrowly Backs Bush in Rejecting Debate on Increasing Time Between Deployments" (New York Times):

A solid majority of the Senate's Republicans stood by President Bush's Iraq policy on Wednesday and blocked consideration of a plan to give American troops more time between combat tours. But Democrats drew fresh Republican support for other proposals as they vigorously pushed to change the administration’s war strategy.
As the White House lobbied Republicans on Capitol Hill for a second straight day, asking for patience, seven of the party's senators -- six of them facing re-election next year -- broke ranks on a measure that would have effectively limited the number of troops deemed ready for deployment by guaranteeing them time off between deployments.

They debated it and . . . they did nothing. The Congress that only recently returned from their latest break (Fourth of July) demonstrated that they aren't overly concerned with the welfare of the rest of US troops.

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