Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, July 11, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, a brother 'chops' his sister's head off in Iraq, the US Congress continues to do nothing, Bully-flop is in the air, a hostage is released, the US military announces another death bringing July's death toll for US troops to 31 thus far, and more.
Starting with war resistance.  "The army takes the position, of course, I mean they wouldn't say this directly, but they need to make an example of somebody like Lt. Watada because if Lt. Watada was able to walk away from this it would send, for the army's perspective, a very bad signal to the other soldiers," Kenneth Kagan explained to Margaret Prescod on KPFK's Sojourner Truth Tuesday. Kagan and James Lobsenz are Ehren Watada's civilian attorneys.  Ehren Watada?  The first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq (June 2006) who was in the midst of a court-martial (February 2006) when Judge Toilet (aka John Head) declared a mistrial over the objections of defense (and over the realities of the law). Speaking with Prescod about Judge Toilet's ruling last Friday (Judge Toilet would not recuse himself and said there was no double-jeopardy at play), Kagan explained that the Court of Appeals decided June 29th to allow Head to rule before they did.  Kagan called Judge Toilet's ruling "a necessary step" to allow the case to be reviewed by a higher court.  Army Court of Criminal Appeals would be the next court on the chain with the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (which covers all branches of the military "and those judges are civilians.  They have 15 year terms and they are not part of the military").  Kagan stated,
"I think that the law is solidly on our side it is just that this is a highly politicized and very closely watched case" and that he was optimistic about their case.  Margret Prescod asked about the timeline and Kagan revealed that there is a good chance, due to the appeals process, that should a court-martial go through, it could be as late as next year before it starts. 
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.
So every now and then the lie makes it into print that the US military doesn't care a thing about self-checkouts.  This despite the fact that they (from the base in Kentucky) were the ones calling the police and instructing them of where Kyle Snyder was supposed to speak next on his West Coast speaking tour in 2006.  This despite the fact that they instructed Canadian police to arrest Snyder in February 2007.  This despite that two were sent into Canada and posed as Canadian police when showing up on the doorstep of Winnie Ng . . .
And round and round the lies wrap around the spire but no one's ever supposed to notice.  Notice.
Lance Herring may or may not be a war resister.  He apparently self-checked out and staged a mountain disappearance last year.  KMGH Denver reports that his parents' home was searched yesterday.  Why?  On "a tip from the military that Hering might be at his parents' home".  Vanessa Miller (Boulder Daily Camera) reports that the police searched the home for over an hour ("acting on a tip from the military") and notes that his friend Powers has stated "Hering staged his disappearance because his life was in danger because of something he knew about his fellow Marines.  Hering is a lance corporal in the Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment based in California -- the same unit that had eight soldiers charged with conspiracy, kidnapping and murder of an Iraqi civilian in Hamdania, Iraq."  Lance Hering's family has created several sites -- here and here -- the latter's top post by his father states: "Lance, where ever your might be, we are on your side.  We wish we couldl make contant and send what you may need."
So the lie that the US military isn't interested?  Well if your name was Michael Shepard, Sarah Jenkins and Bill Lee and you served on the Yakima Herald-Republic and wrote today's editorial "Military has more pressing business than tracing deserters" then you would be a DUMB ASS.  That's DUMB ASS Michael Shepard, DUMB ASS Sarah Jenkins and DUMB ASS Bill Lee.  No wonder The Seattle Times Company alternately talks of selling off the loser paper or of doing a clean sweep of the paper.  Michael Shepard, Sarah Jenkins and Bill Lee are DUMB ASSES in other ways as well but we just went over this topic yesterday.  All the points noted apply to Shepard, Jenkins and Lee.
And on the topic of dumbnes, moving from village idiots to global ones, Bully Boy underwhelmed in Cleveland, Ohio yeterday as he spoke on the topic of the illegal war doing his usual song and dance.  Carolyn Lochhead (San Francisco Chronicle) reports that Bully Boy says the escalation "is only beginning" and reminds everyone that, in December 2006, Bully Boy bragged to the press that the issue of withdrawal is "not going to face this government. . . .  We've mad that part clear.  It'll face future governments."  Jeff Zeleny and Sheryl Gay Stoblerg (New York Times) note that Bully Boy is saying that there must be patience (his mantra whenever he screws up) until the September report to Congress. Michael Abramowitz (Washington Post) notes Bully Boy spoke to "a friendly audience" and quotes Bully saying, "I believe that it's in the nation's interests to give the commander a chance to fully implement his operations.  And I believe Congress ought to wait for General Petraus to come back and give us an assessment of the strategy that he's putting in place before they make any decisions."  AFP notes that the Bully-flop took place "days before an interim assessment is due on the operation to surge 30,000 more troops into Iraq, amid reports that the Iraqi government has met none of its required political and military targets."
These 'targets' or 'benchmarks' are the imposed ones set by the US that have nothing to do with improving the lives of Iraqi but do include things such as the theft of Iraqi oil via a hydrocarbon law.  On that proposed legislation, CBS and AP note, "Kurdish leaders on Wednesday spoke out against a key oil law, raising further doubts over efforts to pass one of the political benchmarks sought by the U.S. at a time when the Bush administration is trying to fend off critics of its Iraq policy."  As Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London via CounterPunch) observes, "The benchmarks the Iraqi government is meant to achieve in exchange for US support were never realistic and have more to do with American than Iraqi politics."
Howard La Franchi (Christian Science Monitor) reveals that the White House was "caught off guard" and "scrambling" to get control of an issue that they apparently didn't know they had lost.  Attempting to gain control included, as Susan Milligan and Michael Krandish (Boston Globe) report, involved sending Dick Cheney to Congress in an attempt to charm members of Congress.  At risk, as Anna Mulrine (US News and World Report) noted yesterday, was the $649 billion for the Defense Authorization Bill which would continue to fund the illegal and expensive war.  Anne Flaherty (AP) noted today that private conversations between Bully Boy and Republican members of Congress were on the need to 'change course' (which is not the same "End the war").  Therefore, it was no surprise the way the vote  for the Webb Amendment went today.  Noam N. Levey (Los Angeles Times) explains, "Democrats fell four short of the 60-vote super-majority demanded by Republican leaders for an amendment to the defense authorization bill now being debated in the Senate."  It should be noted Republicans aren't the only ones posing.  The much touted Webb amendment would only pull US 'combat troops' out of Iraq -- those doing training, police work or fighting terrorism would remain.  If it seems familiar, yes this was the nonsense of the Pelosi-Reid measures.
From one scandal to another.  Robert Kubey (FAIR's Extra!, May/June 2007, pp. 14-15) reports on the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act of 2007 (passed October 16, 2007) which gave the Bully Boy amazing powers and shredded the Constitution, "giving Bush -- and all future U.S. presidents -- new and sweeping powers to use the U.S. military anywhere in the United States, virtually as he sees fit -- for disaster relief, crowd control, suppression of public disorder, or any 'other condition' that might arise."  With guest Frank Morales, Bonnie Faulkner explored this issue today on her program Guns and Butter -- how it could be used, when it could be implemented and those KRB/Halliburton emergency pens we're all supposed to forget about (we've covered that already, as have Robert Parry, Margaret Kimberley, Bonnie Faulkner and others). [Note the archived broadcast of Guns and Butter usually goes up at the show's website on Thursdays.]  Kubey notes that the law is opposed by the Adjutants General Association, the National Governors Association, the National Guard Association and others. The Extra! link is text the Guns and Butter is audio.
In other scandal news, Richard Lardner and Anne Flaherty (AP) report that a review conducted by the inspector general for the Pentagon has fond that the DoD put many US troops at risk especially via a contract awarded to Simula Aerospace and Defense Group which did not qualify as a "responsible prospective contractor" so it was no surprise that they were unable to deliver "the kits, which were needed to make Humvees, less vulnerable to roadside bombs."  In other scandals and violence, Debra McNutt (CounterPunch) reports, "Within the Green Zone, a few brothels have been opened (disguised as a women's shelter, hairdresser, or Chinese restaurant) but are usually closed by authorities after reports about their existence reach the media.  The U.S. military claims that it officially forbids its troops to be involved in prostitution.  But prviate contractors brag on sex websites that they have sometimes been able to find Iraqi or foreign women in Baghda or around U.S. military bases.  These highly paid security contractors have much more disposable income, and are not held accountable to anyone but their companies. One contractor employee living in the Green Zone reported in February 2007 that 'it took me 4 months to get my connections.  We have a PSD [Personal Security Detail] contact who brings us these Iraqi cuties.'  Western contractors' e-mails also suggest that some Chinese, Filipina, Iranian and Eastern Europe women may also be prostituted to Americans and other Westerners within Iraq."
And among today's violence . . .
Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Karradah car bombing that damaged a military vehicle.  Reuters notes a home bombing in Garma where the residents were locked inside the house and "at least 11 people" are dead.  Molly Hennesy-Fiske (Los Angeles Times) notes the Karada bombing left two wounded and 1 dead.
Reuters notes that, in Samarra, the mayor was shot dead.
Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a beheading in Salaheddin where Fakhri Badri Nida "chopped" the head of his sister off (the sister's name is not given)
Reuters notes 30 corpses discovered in Baghdad.
The US military announced today: "A Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldier died from a non-battle related cause July 11."  This brings the total number of US service members killed in the Iraq war since it began to 3610  -- with 31 for the month thus far.
Meanwhile, Hannelore Krause has been freed (Tuesday).  The 61-year-old German woman has been held hostage since February 6th.  Her five month ordeal has not ended.  Claudia Rach and Andreas Cremer (Bloomberg News) report that her son, twenty-year-old Sian Krause, remains a hostage and notes that 3 "other Germans are known to have been kidnapped in Iraq in the past 21 months.  Susanne Osthoff, an archeologist married to an Iraqi, was abducted for three weeks before being freed in December 2005.  Rene Braeulich and Thomas Nitzschke were kidnapped early last year, a day after arriving in Iraq to carry out contract work.  They were released after 99 days."  BBC speculates that Hannelore Krause is "married to an Iraqi doctor" and their son Siam, "who holds dual German and Iraqi citizenship, is reported to have worked at the Iraqi foreign ministry."  AFP dispenses with speculative terms and declares that the woman is married to an Iraqi doctor and her son was working at the Foreign Ministry in Iraq.  DPA states that she was held (and her son still is) by a group entitled Arrows of Righteousness and that Germany's Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, states the focus will not be on freeing Siam Krause.  Russia's Pravada notes that Hannelore Krause was held for 155 days and that she delivered, to Al-Arabiya TV, a request for Germany to leave Afghanistan (Germany has no troops in Iraq).  China's Xinhua explains Hannelore Krause was released Tuesday and is currently "at  the German Embassy in Baghdad" citing Foreign Minister Steinmeier.
And in media news, Matthew Felling (CBS' Public Eye) weighs in on the editorial coverage of the illegal war noting, "What began with a drip with the Los Angeles Times two months ago is developing into a trickle. And while the New York Times editorial from this past weekend may or may not wind up being a seminal moment in the domestic debate over Iraq, the more noteworthy objections come from some smaller outlets, like last week's Olympian editorial (from Olympia, Washington) and this past Sunday's Tuscaloosa News."  Anthony DiMaggio (CounterPunch) also weighs in on the issue of the editorials and points out, "Despite the increasing calls for withdrawal, detractors and supporters of the war in the mainstream press still agree on the veracity of the Bush administration's objectives in Iraq.  The New York Times speaks with romanticism and contradiction about the goal of making 'progress toward a stable, democratic Iraq' and 'stop[ping] the chaos from spreading," while concurrently striking deals with Iraqi Kurds to keep U.S. military bases in northeastern Iraq indefinitely. . . . The assumption common to all of these editorials is that the US is somehow working as an honest broker in Iraq, trying to prevent civil war, rather than incite it.  The reality is quite the opposite.  The United States is the primary force responsible for the destabilization of Iraq; it disbanded the Iraqi army, dismantled the government, and set the stage for the power vacuum that resulted in the political and military battle between various Iraqi militias who are still vying for power to this day."
In US election news, John V. Walsh (CounterPunch) has issued a call for Ralph Nader to launch a presidential campaign and to do so now.  Walsh notes the momentum Nader built in the 2000 election: "In 2000 when Nader's influence was felt, Gore clearly won the popular vote, both nationwide and in Florida.  Unfortunately Gore's lack of backbone and the Dems' failure to use a filibuster to prevent the packing of the Supreme Court with right wing theocrats resulted in the theft of Gore's victory.  Then in 2004, when the Democrats and their lapdogs like Katrina Vanden Heuvel at The Nation managed to marginalize the antiwar Nader while endorsing the prowar Kerry, Bush actually won the popular vote!"  On Monday's Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman spoke with Ralph Nader on a number of topics.  We'll close with covering elections, dirty-dealings and healthcare:
AMY GOODMAN: The Independent unannounced: Ralph Nader.
RALPH NADER: Too early to say. It's too early to say. If I was going to run -- and I have not decided at all -- the biggest problem is getting on the ballot. The Democrats filed twenty-one phony suits against us. We won most of them, but it was very draining. In Pennsylvania, they got a Democratic judge, using a Republican law firm, Reed Smith, to assess me and Peter Camejo $81,000 in transcription costs and handwriting expert fees for defending our right to be on the ballot, which they got us off through all kinds of shenanigans. First people in American legal history who had to pay court costs for defending their right to be on the ballot. So ballot access obstructions is the political bigotry of American politics. It's very hard to get liberals who love civil rights and civil liberties and who are Democrats to be at all excited about the systemic obstruction of fifty state laws at one level or another that can be used by either Democrat or Republicans against third-party candidates.
And historically, Amy, that's where all the great ideas came from. In the nineteenth century it was the anti-slavery party, the women's suffrage party, the farmer party, all the things we read about briefly in our history books that pushed these social justice movements before one or both of the two parties picked up on them. So they're -- you know what I like to say? What would happen to nature if it prohibited seeds from sprouting? What would happen if big business could totally extinguish small business? That's what the big two-party elected dictatorship is doing to a whole array of local, state and national candidates who would like to give the American people more voices and choices.
AMY GOODMAN: How do you think mass movements should organize themselves and hold politicians accountable, make them more accountable to citizen, civilian, non-citizen movements than corporations?
RALPH NADER: Well, let's start with the easy things, like half of democracy is showing up. So why don't workers who have lost their jobs or their pensions to industries that have gone to communist China with US Department of Commerce subsidy and encouragement, why don't they mass and rally? I mean, who's keeping them from rallying and massing? American Idol? Is that what's doing it? I mean, let's stop making excuses for ourselves. Let's take the farmers, the dwindling number of farmers. They have great important causes that mesh with environmental causes at times, and the whole issue of genetic engineering and the dispossession of the small family farm by the big suppliers corporations and the big buying corporations. Why don't they come to Washington, the way they did twenty years ago with their tractors? Show up!
Why, for example, can't a coalition of existing groups -- the Urban Coalition, the NAACP, the trade unions, the consumer, the environmental groups, the neighborhood groups -- in each city sponsor auditorium sessions for the major candidates or whatever candidates they want to invite that are going through New York or Boston or Houston or Denver or Los Angeles or St. Louis or Miami? They couldn't turn them down. And they could say, "We want you to be here at the auditorium to respond to our agenda. We're the ones who are going to say no. We're the ones who are going to say yes."
AMY GOODMAN: I want to end with healthcare, I think one of the critical issues of the day that is so rarely explained. If there was a healthcare system in this country that you designed, what would it look like?  
RALPH NADER: Well, it would look like full Medicare for everybody, whereby the government is the payer. The government now pays over 50% of the healthcare bill. Huge amount of waste in fraud inflicted by these corporations on Medicare and Medicaid, for example, drug companies getting all kinds of corporate subsidies. So the government is already over 50% -- federal, state and local government. So it's full government -- it's called a single payer, which means it can almost eliminate $200 billion of computerized billing fraud and abuse, which has been documented by the General Accounting Office and by the leading expert on this, who should be on your program, Malcolm Sparrow, a lecturer at Harvard University. And when I said, "$200 billion, Mr. Sparrow? Every year?" he said, "That's the lowest estimate." That's just computerized billing fraud and abuse in the healthcare industry.

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