Monday, July 16, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Monday, July 16, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, bombings in Kirkuk results in mass fatalities, US military searches for war resisters, the US military announces another death, Iraqi children continue to suffer and more.
Starting with war resistance.  James Burmeister is a war resister who went to Canada after serving in Iraq.  He, his wife, Angelique, and their son, Cornell, now live in Ottawa.  Mark Larabee (The Oregonian) reports on Burmeister and notes the "traps" were an issue -- setting out the fake carmera or other equipment so that someone would go for it and then shooting them for touching US property -- with James Burmeister declaring, "As soon as anyone would mess with it, you were supposed to lay waste to them.  I completely disagreed with that tactic.  I can't see how that's helping anyone whatsoever"; and on Iraq, "I though people needed to be free there.  But when I went there it was all about captures and kills and it felt like we messed things up over there."  For some reason, J.E. McNeil is quoted in the story and really doesn't know the first thing about the topic.  I'll call out McNeil the same way I would a right winger.  McNeil's area of expertise and area of interest is C.O.s and that's the topic McNeil should stick to.  I find McNeil's remarks (and ingorance) damaging.  It takes only a few seconds to say, "C.O.s is my focus.  Have you considered calling the War Resisters Support Campaign?"  A voice who does know something on the subject, Helen Burmeister, mother of James, whom Larabee reports is proud of her son and declares, "I don't support the war.  I don't know anybody who supports what's going on in Iraq.  . . . It took guts for him to do what he did."
Michelle Robidoux also knows about war resisters in Canada, she's with  War Resisters Support Campaign and Ian Urbina (New York Times) spoke with her to get a sense of who was going to Canada and who was expressing interest in doing so.  Robidoux "said in recent months the group has received calls that included two Army sergeants and a Navy chief petty officer."  James Burmeister and his family have moved to Ottawa -- as did Ross Spears -- due to the fact that so many are already in Toronto.  Laramee reports that the US military has "twice called her [Helen Burmeister] at work to tell her that her son was making a mistake and should turn himself in."
Last week, we noted the search of Lance Hering's parents' home.  Hering may or may not be a war resister.  What was known is that the US military called the police and maintained Herring (who has not been seen publicly since disappearing last year) was in his parents home.  Christine Reid (Boulder Daily Camera) has reported more, "A Marine investigator said deserter Lance Hering posted on his MySpace page that he was staying at his parent's house in Boulder, sparking a search of the home earlier this week. . . . according to a police report released Thursday, a Marine investigator called Boulder authorities Tuesday to say he had come across what he thought was Hering's MySpace page, in which Hering indicated he had been staying with his parents.  The investigator asked Boulder police to check out the Endicott Drive home after speaking with Elynne Hering and not being 'satisified by her response to his questions,' the report said."
Clearly Elynne Hering is under no obligation to answer questions from the US military, never having enlisted to begin with.  But note clearly what happened.  An investigator has spent time attempting to track Hering down.  And then?  Convinced he knows Hering is at his parents' home, he cross examines the mother on the phone and, not pleased with her responses, calls the police and requests the search.   But we're all supposed to play dumb and pretend that the military doesn't actively seek out self-checkouts.  Remember the popular lie?  It's that the military has better things to do.  Just like week, three idiots with the Yakima Herald-Republic not only put foward that lie again, they also said it was a good thing because the military has better things to do.  To do that, you have to be stupid or willing to lie at this late date.   Kyle Snyder returned from Canada in October in order to turn himself in only to be screwed over again and to self-checkout again.  He then volunteered to help with reconstruction efforts in areas damaged by Hurricane Katrina before embarking on a West Coast speaking tour.  With dates and appearances announced, a funny thing started happening -- the police started showing up at each stop after having been called by the US military about each stop.  Snyder began "appearing" via phone and returned to Canada.  The US doesn't actively seek out those who check out?  In February, Snyder was preparing to get married when he was hauled out of his home, dragged away in handcuffs and in his boxers.  He was released because it's not a crime in Canada to self-checkout of the US military.  But who gave the orders?  The US military.  Or how about Winnie Ng who came forward approximately one month later to say that three men had just visited her home.  The three men said they were Canadian police.  They were looking for war resister Joshua Key.  Winnie Ng shared that at least two of them were US and, she suspected, US military.  Some made a point to step away from Ng or call her observations into question.
And certainly the Canadian's police denial that anyone had visited Ng's home helped cast doubts on her story.  But Winne Ng told the truth.  The Canadian police would finally have to admit that, yes, a police officer did go to Ng's home with two members of the US military (at the request of the US military).  Winnie Ng was, as she stated from the start, visited by 3 men, one of whom was Canadian police, two of whom were US military.  With the Canadian police having let the cat out of the bag, the US military quickly put forward the lie that the visit resulted from reading Key's book,  The Deserter's Tale, and wanting to speak to him about some of the abuses he records in the book.  That was a lie.  The fact that they showed up at Ng's home demonstrates they didn't read the book.  (Key's very clear in the book about where he lives now.)   These incidents are big news in Canada.  As they would be in the US if these actions were undertaken by another country.  However, in the US only
 Gregory Levey's "Northern exposure: American soldiers are fleeing the Iraq war for Canada -- and U.S. officials may be on their trail. North of the border is no longer the safe haven it was during the Vietnam era" (Salon) has addressed these actions.  The Nation?  Stop, you're making me laugh!  The fact that some professional journalists may not know what has reported is no excuse for repeating the lie that the US military does not pursue self-checkouts, that they instead just enter names in a criminal data base and wash their hands of the matter.  That is a lie.  [For more reality, see The Third Estate Sunday Review's
Just as the search for them does happen, war resisters do exist.  They are part of a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Steve Yoczik, 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  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.
Turning to Iraq, the puppet of the occupation made headlines and waves Saturday suggesting that it made no whatever to Nouri al-Maliki whether US troops remained in his country or not.  Consider it The Fiddle-De-Dee Moment heard round the world.  Bushra Juhi (AP) quoted the puppet saying: "We say in full confidence that we are able, God willing, to take the responsibility completely in running the security file if the international forces withdraw at any time they want."  Much attention and a pushback have greeted al-Maliki's statements (made publicly at a press conference).  Less attention has been given to those of his "close adviser" Hassan al-Suneid whom, Juhi reports, "sharply criticized the U.S. military saying it was committing human rights violations and embarrassing the Iraqi government through such tactics as building a wall around Baghdad's Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah and launching repeated raids on suspected Shiite militiamen in the capital's slum of Sadr City."  Thomas Frank (USA Today) observes the pushback on al-Maliki's statements which includes, in the US, White House officials attempting to play the old game of, "I know what he said but what he really meant . . ."  Of more interest may be Frank's report that Brig. Gen. Qassim Atta is also publicy attempting "to soften comments by al-Maliki".  Atta's alleged boss?  Nouri al-Maliki.  For those who have forgotten, the walls Hassan al-Suneid was dencouning to the AP?  al-Maliki announced that construction of the walls would cease and his announcement was not only ignored by the US military, it was mocked and ignored by the Iraqi army -- the same army he allegedly commands.
While al-Maliki has no power of the army, despite the Iraqi Constitution, AP reports that Peter Pace says the Joint Chiefs of Staff is considering "an even bigger troop buildup in Iraq" and quotes Pace declaring, "We're (doing) the kind of thinking that we need to do and be prepared for whatever it's going to look like wo months from now.  That way, if we need to plus up or dome down" they are ready.  It's amazing what they are ready for while at the same time claiming that withdrawal talk must wait until September.  When September rolls around, they will no doubt offer additional 'reasons' why talk of withdrawal must be delayed.
As Simon Assaf (Great Britain's Socialist Worker) reported last week, David Petraues -- the general whose report in September everyone awaits -- has been stating publicly that the illegal war "will last over ten years". 
That news won't go over well in the United States.  On Sunday Ian Urbina (New York Times) took a look at US military families and the results probably didn't cheer the White House.  April Ponce De Leon will soon deploy to Iraq where her husband is already stationed and she told Urbina, "He started telling me that he doesn't want me to go and do the things he has been doing. . . . He said that 'we have all decided that it's time for us to go home.'  I said, 'You mean go home and rest?'  And he said, 'I mean go home and not go back.'  This is from someone who has been training for the past nine years to go to combat and who has spent his whole life wanting to be a marine.  That's when I realized I couldn't support the war anymore, even though I will follow my orders."
With approximately 70% of Americans favoring withdrawal and turned against the illegal war, where is Congress?  Massimo Calabresi (Time magazine) weighed in last week on the topic noting, "Americans would be forgiven for thinking there's a major debate underway in Washington over whether or not the U.S. should leave Iraq. . . .  The impression being created by the debate in Washington is more about politics than anything else.  For starters, Democrats are playing to their base: Though most Senate Democrats support a redeployment along the lines that Bush is describing"  -- the military police and terrorist fighters options for US troops in Iraq -- "they are keen to give voters the impression that they are all for getting the U.S. out of Iraq.  And they are, but not yet. . . . As for Republicans, they too are playing to core supporters."  The Republicans?  Randall Mikkelsen (Reuters) reported yesterday that Senator Richard Lugar (who's gotten a lot of press attention and praise for supposedly turning against the illegal war) is on board with Senator John Warner with a "plan for a troop drawdown or redeployment that could begin after Dec. 31.  It does not mandate action but says the plan should be ready by Oct. 16" and that the US national security adviser (Stephen Hadley) made a point of pointing out "that Warner and Lugar did not call for a withdrawal deadline or schdule -- unlike some  Democratic plans -- and they envisioned a U.S. involvement in Iraq for a 'considerable period of time . . .   All they're simply saying is we need to think about now how we can transition to a new phase in Iraq when U.S. forces may have a different role."
Translation, the breakway Republic(an)s of Bully Boy War Hawk Land aren't calling for an end to the illegal war, they're just worried about the 2008 elections.  In a blistery (and accurate) essay in the July 2007 issue of  The Progressive ("Democratic Betrayal," pp. 8-10), Matthew Rothschild writes of "The May surrender by the Democrats" referring to the sell out or, better worded, the purchase of co-ownership of the illegal war by passing the supplemental and thereby guaranteeing the continuation of the illegal war:
The depressingly lopsided vote, 2801-142 in the House, and 80-14 in the Senate, showed the Democrats at their most cynical and spineless. 
Spineless because they wouldn't face down the inevitable attack ads to come -- the spurious claim that Democrats who want to bring the troops home alive are somehow not supporting the troops. 
Cynical because, when Bush came to shover, they let him get what he wanted.  Democratic calculators like House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Representative Rahm Emanuel probably figure that if the war keeps going on, it will drag Republicans down to defeat in 2008.  Hence, the war is good for Democrats -- even if it's killing 100 U.S. soldiers a month and wounding 700 or 800 more. 
You cannot get lower than that.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was all too willing to give in to Bush.
"I'm a legislator, and I believe legislating is the art of compromise," he said a few weeks before the vote.
There may be issues to compromise on.  A reckless war is not one of them.  And there is no art in dissembling.
Rothschild's  You Have No Rights: Stories of America In An Age of Repression (The New Press, $16.99) came out this month and Cindy Sheehan's pullquote states the book "is urgently needed to stem the tide of rising oppression in our once free country."  Rothschild will be taking part in a West Coast book tour which begins today at 7:30 pm, Elliot Bay Books, 101 South Main Street, Seattle, Washington, 98104.  Other dates include, July 17th, 7:30 pm Modern Times Bookstore, 888 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110; July 18th, Wednesday, 7:00 pm, Black Oak Books, 1491 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley; CA 94709, July 19th 7:30 pm, Annie Bloomis Books, 7834 SW Capitol Highway, Portland, OR 87219; August 14th 7:00 pm, San Luis Obispo Public Library, 995 Palm St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401; August 15th 7:00 pm, Borders Books, 900 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101 and August 16th 7:00 pm, Book Soup, 8818 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
This week on Progressive Radio, Rothschild interviews Iraqi-American Sami Rasouli who has recently returned from Iraq where he was working setting up Muslim Peacemaker Teams which Rasouli has started up and currently has over 30 full time employees in Iraq.
Rasouli: What we see, the occupation divided the people of Iraq and is still working hard to divide the people and have the civil war a reality in Iraq to happen.  But the leaders, whether they are leaders of tribe, tribal leaders, political leaders or religious leaders or ethnic leaders that I keep meeting with them as part of our work in Iraq.  I see them with a big result to prevent the, something called civil war to take place.
Rothschild: And yet there's all this killing that we read about -- Shi'ites killing Sunnis with Sunnis killing Shi'ites.
Rasouli: That's not true, absolutely. It's provocative actions made by a third party and who is the third party?  It's underground.  There are many groups that incite the fight, violence in Iraq.  The main group is the United States of America and its allies.
Rothschild: And what is the interest of the United States to incite this sectarian violence?
Rasouli: Well, let me tell, exactly four years ago when President George Bush, in May 1st 2004, [Rasouli corrected to] 2003, announced that major military combat was over and a big banner was behind him telling us that the mission was accomplished.  Right after that announcement, actually the Iraqi military combat began by the Underground National Resistance Army who began attacking the US military forces . . . military bases and the highways or the choppers that keeps military overhead flying by 25 attacks a day.  Right now, we see 155 attacks a day in Iraq.  That means 7 attacks an hour, 1300 attacks a week. 5,500 attacks a month.  If 10% of those attacks are lethal, imagine how great the losses that the US is burying and also how many Iraqis who are get killed in this so you have the US forces as the major forces that are provoking the violence in Iraq because the resistance is responding to the occupation and the occupation is a form of war.  Now the third portion in Iraq that incites the violence in Iraq is the criminals -- home grown and the internationals -- that they looted the museums, stolen the artifacts, smuggled out of the country, go to the international Now the home grown ones who are doing their dirty work to steal for money like kidnapping for ransoms, attacking peaceful people for money.  So that was a response to the, to orders set first when Mr. Bremer., Paul Bremer, took his post early 2003, after the attack.  He called upon disbanding the army and also to call for the de-Baathification what were an open invitation for all criminals to appear in Iraq, take advantadge of the lawless country, broken country, borderless country.  And the US is responsible and failed morally to protect Iraq and the people of Iraq.
And turning to some of today's violence . . .
Starting with the bombings that led to the most deaths.  This morning  ITV News (out of England) reported on the bombings in Kirkuk which included a truck bombing and one or more car bombing and claimed numberous lives (80 was ITV's estimate then, the total has risen, for the dead and 136 for the inured).  Bushra Juhi (AP) reported that the violence "began around noon" with the truck bomb exploding near the Patrioc Union of Kurdistan headquarters (that political party is the one Jalal Talabani -- Iraq's president -- belongs to) with a car bombing following and apparently targeting a local market and destroying "five stalls and 10 cars".  AFP notes the truck bombing followed by two car bombings, notes it is thought the car bombings were intended to target those arriving on the scene to provide aid and investigate the crime scene and quotes the Kirkuk chief of police (Barhan Habib Tayyib) stating that women and children made up the majority of the wounded.  BBC reports, "More than 20 cars were destroyed, two buildings collapsed completely and a number of shops were also damaged.  Dozens of bodies are said to be buried in the rubble and the death toll is expected to rise."  CBS and AP offer that the bombings are "believed to be the deadliest attack in this northern city since the start of the war, police said" and that the truck bomb only created "a 30-foot-deep-crater".  Alister Bull (Reuters) provides quotes from the victims such as Mahiya Qadir, a seventy-year-old woman, whose son was in surgery following the loss of both eyes and a broken back due to the explosion ("Will I ever see my son alive again?") and Kawa Ibrahim ("I was sat in my office and all I saw were the walls and roof collapsing on me."  Molly Hennessy-Fiske (Los Angeles Times) quotes Cameran Mohammed who reveals, "I saw a large pillar of smoke and flames.  There were bodies flying all over the place.  It was apocalyptic."  Jenny Booth (Times of London) reports, "In the aftermath of the explosion police cars could be seen driving through emptied streets using loudspeakers to call on people to donate blood.  Residents thronged outside hospitals, asking about the fate of loved ones."  The current total is 85 dead and 180 wounded
Reuters notes a Baghdad car bombing killed 4 Iraqi police officers and 1 civilian (twenty more wounded), a bomb placed underneath a car killed 2 young women (sisters) who had left the car to go shopping, 5 Iraqi soldiers killed in a Baghdad roadside bombing, 1 dead from a Baghdad car bombing (three injured), 2 dead from a mortar attack in Baghdad (six more were injured) and a Kirkuk car bombing that claimed the life of 1 police officer (four more injured).
Reuters notes 2 Iraqi police officers were shot dead (a third wounded) in Falluja and a street cleaner was shot dead in Baghdad.
Reuters reports 3 corpses discovered in Yusufiya and 5 in Samarra. Today, the US military announced: "On July 15, a MNC-I Soldier died of a non-battle related cause in Diwaniyah."
The announcement brought the total number of US service members killed in the illegal war to 3616 (ICCC).
CBS and AP report, "The situation for Iraqi children is getting worse, and in some respects it was better before the war, a senior U.N. offiicial said Monday.  'Children today are much worse off than they were a year ago, and they certainly are worse off than they were three years ago,' said Dan Toole, director of emergency programs for the United Nations Children's Fund.  He said Iraqis no longer have safe access to a government-funded food basket, established under Saddam Hussein to deal with international sanctions."  In addition, IRIN reports "that the number of war orphans was rising because of the high civilian death toll.  UNICEF is increasingly concerned that the number of vulnerable children in Iraq has outstripped the country's capacity to care for them."  UNICEF has estimated that of the 4 million displaced Iraqis (internally and externally displaced) half are children.
Meanwhile Iraq's Parliament is on hold.  Mahmoud al-Mashhadani was forced out as Speaker and this remains an issue.  CBS and AP report that al-Mashhadani's party, Iraqi Accordance Party is boycotting which may end if al-Mashhadani is returned to his post long enough to retire while al-Sadr's bloc was deciding whether or not to end their boycott until the mosque in Samarra (damaged in Feb. 2006 as well as a few months back) was repaired.
In the end, none of the above mattered.  Parliament did not meet.  "Very bizarrely," Jaime Tarabay (NPR) explained today,  "they decided to cancel the session because there was no electricity in the assembly building" -- no lights, no air conditioning.
In other news, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted the air war in Iraq and the AP's figures that "the Air Force and Navy aircraft dropped five times as many bombs in the first six months of this year as it did the same period in 2006."  Goodman also notes the Los Angeles Times finding "that nearly half of all foreign militants targeting U.S. troops in Iraq have come from Saudi Arabia -- one of Washington's closest allies in the Middle East.  Of the 19,000 prisoners being held by the U.S. in Iraq only 135 are foreign-born fighters and half of them are Saudi."  Someone tell Michael Gordon.  (Expect tears.)
The Los Angeles Times' Tony Perry reported Sunday on the testimony of Cpl. Saul H. Lopezromo in the case of Cpl. Trent D. Thomas who is among eight accused of killing an elderly man in Hamandiya whom they drug from his house at night and planted a weapon on.  Lopezromo testified, "We were told to crank up the violence level" and explained, "We beat people, sir."

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