Friday, July 06, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Friday, July 6, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces the death of another US soldier, the US military flacks turn out to say "no" to withdrawal, Ehren Watada's pre-trial motions hearing is set to begin, Iraqi refugees face restrictions from one formerly open Western nation, US outlets play "Brendan Nelson who?", and more.
Starting with news of war resistance.  Today, at Fort Lewis, pretrial motions were supposed to be heard in the court-martial of Ehren Watada.  If the judge allows the court-martial to begin, it will start July 23.  Yesterday, in San Francisco, a rally was held by supporters for the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq whose February court-martial ended in a mistrial call over the objection of the defense.  Tim Ryan (KCBS) noted Ying Lee's statements on why a retrial should not be taking place, "As the first military officer in the US military to refuse to be sent to Iraq, he said the war is unconstitutional, it's illegal, it violates the Nurember principles and it violates the rule of law."
In other news of war resister, don't say this too loudly, we don't want to shock The Nation, but there's another war resister who's gone to Canada.  Now The Nation, the AP and a whole lot of media want to pretend that war resisters just don't exist.  So let's all speak in whispers because, otherwise, we might give them all heart attacks (or at least dirty drawers).  Ross Spears, 19 years-old, in Canada from his Virginia military base.  Michael Bhardwaj (Canada's CBC) reports on Spears decision and notes Ross Spears' attorney, Kourosh Farrokhzhad "is hoping Canada will fulfill its obligation to protect people who are wrongfully persecuted for their beliefs or their actions."  Spears has settled in Ottawa as has US war resister James Burmeister who was noted in Monday's Iraq snapshot.
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Ross Spears, Jared Hood and James Burmeister, 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-one 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.
Joel Bleifuss deserves much credit for already having covered the issue of Iraq Veterans Against the War but he's also written "The New Children's Crusade" (note, that link is being given by a friend with In These Times and it's not working currently -- hopefully, it will work shortly) which opens with a look at Vincent J. Emanuele returning home to Chesterton, Indiana.  I don't have time to hear the article read over the phone.  We'll note it in Monday's snapshot.
Regardless, Iraq Veterans Against the War are completing their summer base tour. Showtime is filming the tour for a documentary. The last dates are:  the Naval Sub Marine Base in Groton, CT on July 6th at 7:00 pm; and Fort Drum in NY on July 8th at 4:00 pm. They have really given their all and if you are in those areas, you should show your support by attending and you can hear about the efforts to surpress and silence them -- none of the efforts have worked.  Last Friday, Adam Kokesh, Nate Lewis, Mike Blake, Sholom Keller and Steve Mortillo were harrassed at Fort Jackson for the crime of t-shirting with an alleged intent to be fully dressed.  Saturday went smoothly, but Sunday was another story Kokesh, Lewis and Liam MaddenWriting at his site, Adam Kokesh discusses the July 1st arrest at Fort Benning which "is an open post, anyone with proper ID is allowed on base" but Nate Lewis and Liam Madden were arrested for approaching the gate on foot (not entering the base) and:
We raced to the gate and got there just in time to see Nate and Liam getting loaded into cruisers.  One of the cops came out to where we were standing and explained "they had been arrested for protesting," and told us that if anyone crosses the line "in protest," they will be arrested.  We have this on tape.  Then the press showed up and wanted a statement, so I waited until they were set up and put a mic on me, and gave a statement to them and for the record to the documentarians who were with us, and our own camera for safety.  I changed by shirt so it would be clear I was not protesting and went across to ensure that Liam and Nate were, "afforded the full protection of the law."  You can see a video of that here
Fortunately, Michael Blake stepped up and dealt with all of the press that came and really did a great job presenting our side of the story as opposed to the Army spokeswoman's story, which only identified me as a "third unidentified protestor."  We've really seen some stupid coverage over this.  (But that all pales in comparison to the lie the Marine Corps told about Liam Madden's response to the plea bargain that, "they were dropping the case because they had 'received sufficient indication' from Madden that he would no longer wear his uniform when engaged in political activities.  They also determined that his statements did not warrant futher action.)
Further action? As a second Republican (Pete Domenici) has joined Richard Luger in calling for an end to the illegal war , Rick Lynch, who not all that long ago while being billed as "Maj. Gen." was also billed as "spokesperson," issues his own statement.  CBS and AP report Rick Lynch says that there can be no withdrawal of US forces because that would leave "a mess" in Iraq which begs the question what term does Lynch think currently describes Iraq?  The Getty Images photo with the story reports that the newly designed camo (2004) is really intended for both a younger person and a much thinner person.  Study the photo and wonder if Lync's camo is the footy-pajamas version.  If you doubted the overgrown boys who let others do the fighting weren't being sent out 'on point,' click here for the nonsense Maj. Gen Benjamin Mixon repeated on CNN. 
Less attention, in the US, has been given to the remarks of Australia's Defence Minister Brendan Nelson.  On Day Two, Kathy Marks (Independent of London) reports, "The Australian Defence Minister, Brendan Nelson has admitted that oil was a major factor in the government's decision to keep troops in Iraq, a unexpectedly frank confession that sent political commentators into a tizzy." Marks also notes that only 1000 Australian troops are in Iraq (Green Zone), the other 600 are "in the region."  Rod McGuirk (The Scotsman) cites Hugh White ("Australian defence analyst") who judges the remarks as, "In the kind of washing machine of different arguments that they've been tossing around, the oil one has come to the surface, so to speak, accidentally."  As to the clampdown in this country, it has nothing to do with the press refusing to allow some of those against the war early on to cry, "We were right!"  No, the silence has everything to do with the fact that such a remark by a sitting member on the government of a coalition government should immediately trigger an international investigation because a war of choice on another country to take control of their resources is a war crime.
As the US government strong arms the puppet, Nouri al-Maliki, to push through the theft of Iraqi oil in the form of oil legislation that would turn over as much as 70% of the profit from Iraqi oil to foreign corporations, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) interviewed Hashmeya Muhsin Hussein (first woman to be president of a national union in Iraq, president of Electrical Utility Workers Union) and Faleh Abood Umara (of Federation of Oil Unions).  From the interview:
AMY GOODMAN: Explain the law.
FALEH ABOOD UMARA: [translated] According to Article 111 of the Iraqi Constitution, which states that the oil and gas of Iraq are owned by the Iraqi people and they have the right to control it. But when you look into the details of the law, many of the articles of the law actually conflict with this preamble of the law, the most important point of which is the issue of the production-sharing agreements, which allows the international oil companies, especially the American ones, to exploit the oil fields without our knowledge of what they are actually doing with it. And they take about 50% of the production as their share, which we think it's an obvious robbery of the Iraqi oil.
We also object to the procedure by which these companies are given the contracts for exploiting the oil, because it allows the granting of the contracts with the aid of foreign advisers. We demanded that it's actually the Iraqi experts that need to be consulted with regards to the granting of the contracts.
In brief, there is hardly an article in the law that actually benefits the Iraqi people. But they all serve American interests in Iraq. And we know well that the law was actually written here in the United States, with the help of James Baker and Ms. Rice and the experts from the IMF. And it serves the interests of the American government and not the Iraqi people.
We're still negotiating with the Iraqi parliament and the Iraqi government, and we succeeded in halting the discussion of the law in the parliament until next October. And we hope that we will manage to modify some of the articles of the law. As regards to the strike, we actually declared victory last week.
HASHMEYA MUHSIN HUSSEIN: [translated] It's more stable than other places in -- like in Baghdad, because they handed the security over to Iraqi forces security and the British forces were redeployed to the outskirts of the city. But the situation in Iraq, in general, and Basra, just like any other part of Iraq, suffers from the situation. It's not very good, especially economically. We have about 65% unemployment rate, and nine million Iraqis live in poverty. The services are really bad, especially electricity. So for every hour of electrical current, we have six hours of black out, and sometimes they skip the actual hour of electrical current. And this is really an adverse situation, because it's really hot and humid in the south.
AMY GOODMAN: And how did that compare under Saddam Hussein?
HASHMEYA MUHSIN HUSSEIN: [translated] The electrical situation was better under Saddam. At least during the night you would have a constant electrical current. And this situation is such, because of the sabotage and exploding the power stations in the center of Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: How has life changed for women in Iraq, in Basra, where you are?
HASHMEYA MUHSIN HUSSEIN: [translated] As a part of the Iraqi society, they suffer like everybody else, but also there were laws that were issued under the occupation that specifically targeted women, especially Law No. 137, which canceled the old civil law and delegated all issues that have to do with civil law to the local communities and religious communities, religious authorities. We took this very seriously and went out in demonstrations until the new law was canceled, but it was reintroduced through the new constitution, and we now demand the cancellation of this article.
As far as women's rights are concerned, women are not completely suppressed. As you can see, I am right here in front of you. And we have 25% of the parliament members who are women, and we seek, we hope that it will soon become 40%. And this is a result of our struggle and determination that women in Iraq will have their rightful place.
Goodman also interviewed Iraq poet and novelist Sinan Antoon and we'll note that next week.  Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that American planes destroyed three houses in "Al-Medea'ain area (south of Baghdad)," a Kirkuk roadside bombing that wounded two police officers and "two unknown missiles were launched upon Tisaeen Al-Jadeeda in downtwon Kirkuk and one of them hit one of the houses damaging it and injuring one resident in the area."  Reuters notes 7 people (from the same family) from a mortar attack in Baghdad, 1 dead from a Baghdad roadside bombing, 1 Iraqi police officer killed by a hand grenade in Mosul (another wounded), and a Samawa roadside bombing that claimed 4 lives.

Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 7 people were shot dead in Baghdad, an Iraqi soldier shot dead in Hawija and, in Mosul, a husband and wife were shot dead as they attempted to run from unidentified assailiants.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 corpses were discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes 2 corpses discovered in Mahmudiya.
And today the US military announced: "One MNC-I Soldier died of wounds received during combat operations in western Baghdad on Thursday." 3592 is now the total number of US service members to die in the illegal war since it began.
On PBS' NOW with David Brancaccio, which begins airing this week's new episode tonight in many markets (check local listings), they provide an update on Nour al Khal, an Iraqi translator, who has been attempting to receive asylum in the US.  There are an estimated 4 million Iraqi refugees, internal and external.  Karl Ritter (AP) reports that Sweden, one of the few Western countries that has been welcoming in the past, is now "tightening its asylum rules and will forcibly deport Iraqis who are denied refuge" after having received an estimated 18,000 "since 2006."

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