Monday, July 02, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Monday, July 2, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, Australia reportedly has a secret plan re: Iraq, DC eyes London in fear as Gordon Brown selects his cabinet, Iraq Veterans Against the War keep speaking out even with trumped up charges and arrests, and more.
Starting with war resistance.  Remember, hardly anyone within the US military resists.  It's not a movement.  What other clampdown lie am I forgetting?  Regardless, it is a movement, it is a growing movement.  Last weekend, Canada's CBC reported on James Burmeister, a 22-year-old member of the army from Oregon who self-checked out after serving in Iraq.  Brumeister, his wife and their 2-year-old daughter headed to Canada where he is now attempting to be granted refugee status.  He told the CBS that, in Iraq, one of his jobs was to "set up traps for Iraqis using an object such as a fake camera as a lure. 'If the Iraqis would go and touch it the [the soldiers] could shoot 'em because if anyone messes with the U.S. government property, they're allowed to fire at 'em'."  Burmeister was only war resister going public last weekend.  Yesterday, Diane Carman (Denver Post) reported on a scheduled street theater event to be held in Denver July 4th,  Iraq Veterans Against the War's Operation First Casualty, and spoke with "Army National Guard Spec. 4 Jared Hood" who explained to her that he his own transformation which included filing for c.o. status and refusing to report June 9th for his annual training resulting in the declaration of AWOL. 
Jared Hood and James Burmeister are only the most recent to go public in a growing movement of resistance within the US military which also includes Eli Israel, 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.
Now focusing on  Iraq Veterans Against the War, Diane Carmen (Denver Post) covered IVAW's upcoming street theater in Denver ("Operation First Casualty is scheduled from 11:00 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday between Civic Center and Market Street station") and they are currently finishing up a bus tour.  But they're also getting arrested on trumped up charges -- a sure sign that someone's getting nervous.  Friday, 5 IVAW members were arrested -- Nate Lewis, Mike Black, Sholom Keller, Steve Mortillo and Adam Kokesh -- for the crime of . . . wearing a t-shirt. As noted at The Third Estate Sunday Review: "This was actually the second time the US military played Fashion Police and went gunning for Kokesh."  The t-shirts the five men were wearing?  No profanity, no calls for violence.  "IRAQ VETERANS AGAINST THE WAR."  The five were at Fort Jackson to meet up with a friend stationed there but got arrested instead.  The US military is obsessed with what Kokesh wears.  Apparently the Marines are 'jazzing up' the Army's motto: "Be the Best Dressed You Can Be."  Like Liam Madden and Cloy Richards, Kokesh is an obsession because he refuses to silence his own voice.  They've threatened him, they've tried to bully him, they staged a laughable 'hearing' but he's not backing down.  At this rate, the next trumped up arrest may be over the pressing Boxers/Briefs debate.  American tax dollars at work.
Liam Madden got arrested Sunday.  We'll get to it.  But to drop back to Friday's snapshot which noted the military was telling the press (and had issued a press release on this topic) that they would not be staging another kangaroo court hearing but were, instead, dropping charges against Madden.  Later Friday, Madden issued a press release noting his position on the now dropped charges which included 'disloyal statements' being made by Madden:
I planned to argue that my comments were accurate and therefore not disloyal.  In fact, it is the duty of veterans and active duty members of the military to stand up and tell their leaders when war crimes are being committed.  Now that the military has chickened out and dropped these charges I hope others will join me in speaking out against this illegal war.
[. . .]
The dropping of charges in my case should be a signal to all vets that they can speak out.  The Marine Corps fear of holding a disciplinary hearing is an admission that my comments were accurate.  If the Marines had moved forward to discipline me I would have brought forward leading legal scholars, military law experts and historians to demonstrate conclusively that the United States is now engaged in an illegal war of aggression under international law and therefore all acts being taken are war crimes.
That was Friday.  Madden, Kokesh and other IVAW members are taking part in a summer base tour.  Sunday three members were arrested by Fort Benning.  Lily Gordon (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer) reports that Madden and Nate Lewis were two of the ones arrested (the third, not identified in the article, was Kokesh) and that the 'crime' here was "stepping onto federal property".  IVAW's Michael Blake explains to Gordon that Madden and Lewis ("both veterans with valid Veterans Affairs cards and should be allowed onto the post") approcahed "were going to step up to the guard and ask him if they could come onto base" but when they crossed non-marked line, 2 military police officers came up and handcuffed them.
Kokesh, aware of how much the US military cares about his wardrobe these days, replaced his IVAW shirt with a plain one, stepped toward the gates and got busted again.  Last month,  The Manny Named Brian (Public Eye, CBS) offered that Kokesh was "photogenic" and "sure seems like the kind of thing that could gather momentum as the summer heats up." Possibly the US military agrees and the issue was never actually that he wore fatigues in DC while taking part in Operation First Casualty (with all of his own markings removed) or that he wore an Iraq Veterans Against the War t-shirt at Fort Jackson Friday, or that he wore a plain shirt at Forty Benning Sunday?  Maybe the US military brass just wants to see Kokesh flash a little skin? 
Regardless, Iraq Veterans Against the War's summer base tour continues -- and though small media went AWOL on the topic, big media covered it and a documentary is being made for Showtime --  and their next stop is a fundraiser in Philadelphia on July 3rd at 6:00 pm; a fundraiser in NYC on July 5th at 7:00 pm; the Naval Sub Marine Base in Groton, CT on July 6th at 7:00 pm; and concluding at Fort Drum in NY on July 8th at 4:00 pm.  They continue speaking their truth and they're not going to be silenced or make themselves useless.
Useless?  Turning to US Congressional Democrats.  Yesterday, Edward Epstien (San Francisco Chronicle) reported that US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is making statements that this month, when Congress resumes session after their holiday break, there will be a vote "on legislation to withdraw almost all American troops from Iraq by April" and that US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had declared that Iraq will be the topic of "votes" (plural) this month.  What could make our 'symoblic' leaders decide to once again declare action's-a-coming?  Friday, CBS News reported on their latest poll which found a eleven percent increase from April in the amount of Americans (surveyed) who stated the illegal war was "going badly" -- an increase from 66% to 77% -- and an increase in the number of respondents saying all US troops should be pulled out of Iraq -- from 33% to 40%. On the delusional side, 22% say the illegal war is going just fine and 11% favor the number of troops in Iraq being increased.  Consider it the writing on the wall along with the huge drop in approval ratings for Congress that showed up in polling last month.  Americans, it turns out, didn't vote Democrats into power of both Congressional houses hoping they'd do nothing but pass non-binding, toothless, 'symoblic' measures. 
In a different form of number counting, Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) reports today on the June tallies being handed out by the Iraq goverment which include 730 people killed in Baghdad last month -- but Rubin cautions "death counts in Iraq are highly inaccurate.  Some bombing victims bodies are never recovered, families often collect their dead before they can be counted by officials, and dead bodies found around Baghdad, while generally taken to the city morgue, are sometimes taken to hospitals where they may not be counted."  Molly Hennessy-Fiske (Los Angeles Times) notes that the figures are coming from the health, defense and interior ministries and place the toll at "1,227 Iraqi civilians killed in June" with an increase in Iraqi security forces being killed last month as well (from 174 to 221). ICCC places the total number of Iraqi deaths reported in June at 1343.   Mike Drummond (McClatchy Newspapers) observed that while Iraqi deaths may be down (may), there has been a rise in the death toll for US service members.  And on that, let's turn to some of today's reported violence.

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 Baghdad mortar attacks that claimed 1 life and left three wounded, a Baghdad car bombing that claimed 4 lives (25 wounded), a Mandill bombing that left 2 border patrol workers dead (one more wounded) and a Baquba mortar attack that claimed 1 life (twelve more were wounded). Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing that claimed 1 life and left four more wounded (two wounded and the dead were police officers).
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a police officer was shot dead in Baghdad,
1 student dead (8 more wounded) after Iraqi forces fired "randomly near Al Rafedain secondary school" and "A civilian was killed by US troops in Al Rasheed wholesale market south Baghdad around 2:00 pm, police said" -- while yesterday Sheikh Najdat Solaiman Mohammed was shot dead in Kirkuk.  Reuters notes a man was shot dead in a home invasion in Najaf.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 17 corpses discovered in the capital.
Multiple deaths of US service members were announced today.  Today, the US military announced: " A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier was killed in a small arms fire attack that followed an improvised explosive device strike targeting a joint combat patrol in a western section of the Iraqi capital July 1. Two Iraqi National Police officers were also wounded in the attack." And they announced: "One Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldier was killed when a combat patrol was targeted with small arms fire in a southern section of the Iraqi capital July 1." And they announced: "Two Soldiers and one Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West were killed July 1 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province."  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 Salah ad Din Province, Monday."  Six deaths in all -- five soldiers, one marine -- announced today.  ICCC's current total is 3583 US service members killed in the illegal war since it began and 6 killed in July thus far (reminder, this is only the second day of the month).
In other news of violence, Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) reports, "A dump truck laden with explosives detonated on a bridge over the Eurphrates River on Sunday, the latest in a series of attacks targeting Iraq's bridge network. . . .  Since April, when bombers destroyed a large portion of Baghdad's historic Sarafiya bridge over the Tigris River, attackers have systematically taken out bridges in and around the capital, clogging traffic and isolating neighborhoods.  In early June, insurgents damaged the Sarha bridge, about 100 miles from Baghdad on a main route to northern Iraq."
Meanwhile, Stephen Farrell (New York Times) noted Sunday a 'raid' by US forces in the Sadr City section of the capital on Saturday which locals say killed innocent civilians and that two US soldiers were being charged in the deaths of three Iraqis.  Starting with the latter first.  Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) noted that Michael A. Hensley and Jorge G. Sandoval Jr. are charged with "crimes [which] allegedly took place between April and June around Iskandariya": "Hensley faces three counts of premeditated murder, obstructing justice and planting weapons, the military said in a statement. Sandoval faces one count of premeditated murder and one count of planting a weapon."  The Army Times reports today that a third soldier, Evan Vela, has now been "charged with one count of premediated murder, one count of wrongfully placing a weapon with the remains of a deceased Iraqi, one count of making a false official staement, and one count of obstruction of justice."  On the former, the deaths in the Sadr City of Baghdad, Raheem Salman and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reported that puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki, is outraged by the raid which took place without permission of the puppet government and without notification to it which leaves the puppet in a difficult place with Moqtada al-Sadr and residents of Sadr City expecting al-Maliki to stand up (to those who pull his strings) while (my thoughts, not the reporters) the American government (the string pullers) who already feeling less 'invested' in him.  CBS and AP note that Sard City eye witnesses "said eight civilians were killed in their homes, angirly accusing American troops of firing wildly during the pre-dawn assault."
This increased attention follows last week's work by Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers), Molly Hennesy-Fiske (Los Angeles Times), the BBC and John Ward Anderson (Washington Post) going beyond just official press releases.
In other news of assaults, CBS and AP report: "The U.S. military also announced Saturday that a command sergeant major, Edward Ramsdell, was convicted in a court martial, demoted and sentenced to four months in prison for engagin in an inappropriate relationship with a female soldier in his unit, maltreating a soldier and possessing a 'large quantity' of alcohol and pornography."  That may be a minimizing of what Ramsdell did.  (It may not.)  The case of Suzanne Swift (and the military's refusal to address those who abused her) is much more common.  For more examples of that click here and visit Suzanne Swift's website.
To distract from all the above it probably helps to toss out a new rumor which is what the US military has done and count on War Pornographer Michael Gordon to write about it in tomorrow's New York Times if he doesn't pull his War-On off from excitement.  AFP reports that the US military gave a press presentation in Baghdad today where they blamed the Iranian government for assorted violence including te January 20th attack on the mosque in Karbala.  Last week, it was left to Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers), and I believe only her, to note that the US military's push to connect the June mosque bombings to al Qaeda contained no hard proof and Youssef quoted US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on the matter saying there was no "Hard evidence."
Turning to Australia where US media should be focusing but they're all too busy gas bagging and recovering from all the work they've put in covering Blond News last month.  Lincoln Wright (Australia's The Sunday Telegraph) reported yesterday on "a secret plan" that John Howard, prime minister, would be utilizing in attempt to cut down on Kevin Rudd's perceived lead  going into the election: start withdrawing the approximately 1500 troops Australia has sent to Iraq, start withdrawing them in February. Howard is dumb (he doesn't have to play at it) which is why AAP reports he attempted a one-liner, "The plan is so secret I don't know anything about it."  Wasn't that Sgt. Schultz' defense on Hogan's Heroes>
And finally, Tom Baldwin (Times of London) reports that DC is very nervous about the ministers new prime minister Gordon Brown is and may select, that this "has triggered unease in Washington after the departure of its close ally, Tony Blair."

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