Monday, July 30, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Monday, July 30, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths . . . from four days ago, justice for Abeer remains the question as another court-martial begins, and more.

Starting with war resistance.  Over the weekend, Catherine Philp (Times of London) examined the issue of war resisters who go to Canada specifically looking at Phil McDoell, Chris Teske and Dean Walcott.  Teske's story is one of economics repeatedly including after he and Steph (Stephanie) married and he was told the military "would not move his bride for a spell of less than three years".  In Germany, Steph Teske began learning of war resisters who had gone to Canada and began e-mailing Jill Hart (wife of war resister Pat Hart) who told her, "Come to Canada.  I can't promise it will be easy, but it will be better than this."  So as Chris was facing deployment to Iraq, he and Steph returned to the US and then went to Canada.  As they make their life in Canada, their families in the US struggle with Chris' grandparents cutting off contact and with Steph's mother being informed by her hair stylist ("of 15 years") that she was no longer welcome at the beauty salon. 

Also over the weekend, Ian Bruce (Scotland's The Herald) looked at war resistance in the UK and noted that the British Army had seen 9000 cases of AWOL since 2004 and that while the Ministry of Defence says there is no connection between that and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they admit that 1300 have gone AWOL "in the first six months of this year  alone."

Also over the weekend came news of Zamesha Dominique of Sacramento, Calif. who self-checked out.  KTXL reported her explaining, "I could refuse to go, but I'd be facing jail time.  I'd rather face the jail time, than go to Iraq. . . . My biggest fear is being killed over there, or being blown up to where my mom can't identify me.  I don't feel like we should be over there.  It's not something I agree with so, I don't think I should go over there and fight for something I don't believe in."

In other war resistance news, on Saturday the San Francisco Chronicle noted the passing of attorney Marjorie H. Leonard at the age of 91.  Leonard, who died May 12th and will have a memorial August 11th, "in 1938 became one of only five women to graduate from Columbia University Law School."  She went on to work on labor issues, "became a labor law researcher for the National Lawyers Guild" and was the "manager of the Selective Service Lawyer Referral Panel during the Vietnam War, she helped find attorneys to represent draft resisters."  Today on WBAI's Law and Disorder Iraq Veterans Against the War's Adam Kokesh appeared as a guest as did his attorney Michael Lebowitz and war resister Camilo Mejia.  We'll note the broadcast later in the week.  Meanwhile Eye on the East Bay (Contra Costa Times) notes that the El Cerrito City Council passed a resolution in support of Iraq war resister Ehren Watada.  In June 2006, Watada became the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq.  A kangaroo court-martial took place in February with Judge Toliet (John Head) ruling a mistrial, over defense objection, when it became obvious the prosecution had bungled their job.  "Do overs" are prevented by the Constitution which bars double jeopardy.  Currently, another court-martial is scheduled for October; however, attorneys for Watada have stated that, due to various appeals, if a court-martial takes place -- if -- it might not be until next year.  Something that doesn't have to wait is the release of one war resister from a military prison.  Courage to Resist notes that war resister Mark Wilkerson has been released. Wilkerson was sentenced to seven months on Feb. 22nd when his sentencing immediately followed his Fort Hood court-martial.  His wife Sarah Wilkerson, his mother Rebecca Barker (his mother) and his brother were present at the court-martial and the sentencing to show their support.  After serving in Iraq, Wlikerson self-checked out but not until first attempting to be granted CO status.  As is too often the case, CO status wasn't granted.  Facing a redeployment to Iraq, Wilkerson left and remained underground for a year and a half before emerging at
Camp Casey III at the end of August 2006, standing beside Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan, and announcing he would be turning himself in. 

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, 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, Agustin 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. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters.

In Exactly What Is Going On News, Gordon Brown landed and strode down the stairs on Sunday, ducking his head, grinning and practically tripping over his own feet as he scurried over to the Bully Boy.  Looking like a grotesque Albert Finney on a truly bad day, Brown chatted away (gushed) a mile a minute while Bully Boy did the shifty eyed thing.  Hopping into a golf cart, Bully Boy attempted to impress Brown with a few moves because surely all the eXtreme sports today revolve around traveling at the speed of a HoverRound.  Then Bully Boy whisked Gordon Brown away to Camp David.  The CBC reports that at breakfast this morning, Brown popped a question and Bully Boy responded "I do" while also quoting the Center for Strategic & International Studies' Simon Serfaty declaring, "This is not about a marriage.  It's a date."  Sounding like an old married couple that had long ago stopped having sex, Bully Boy declared of Brown,  "You know, he -- he probably wasn't sure what to expect from me, and I -- I kind of had a sense that -- of the kind person I'd be dealing with."  Sounding like any number of young-ish actresses trying to grab Julia Roberts title of America's sweetheart, Brown responded that it was "a great honor for me to come within a few weeks of becoming Prime Minister of the United Kingdom here to Camp David, to have been invited by you to have the discussions that we've just concluded".  Brown apparently attempted to giggle at that point but it was more English Swine than Pretty Woman.  Back in the UK, like nervous parents, the press pleaaded that Brown not appear too eager and not "play a  poodle."  Possibly, they should have worried more about him playing the fool?  Both want war, war and more illegal war with Bully Boy again stressing that nothing could happen until David Petraues makes his report to Congress.

That would be the same David Petraeus who is the top general in Iraq and on Nouri al-Maliki's sh* list.  Damien McElroy (Telegraph of London) reported over the weekend that the puppet of the occupation has been telling the Bully Boy that he just cannot work with Davey Petraeus and that he insisted if Bully Boy did not replace Petraeus he "would arm Shia militias" and BullyBoy "told Maliki to calm down."

Today Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) offers a devastating  look at the Iraqi government, "The very language that Americans use to describe government -- ministries, departments, agencies -- belies the reality here of militias that kill under cover of police uniforms and remain above the law" and noting the violence that is housed inside the Interior Ministry building ("federation of oligarchs") where the second floor is occupied by Mahdi Gharrawi ("Last year, U.S. and Iraqi troops found 1,400 prisoners, mostly Sunnis, at a base he controlled in easter Baghdad.  Many showed signs of torture."), with this sixth floor "home to border enfocement and the major crimes unit, belongs to the Badr Organization militia.  Its leader, Deputy Minister Ahmed Khfaji, is lauded by some Western officials as an efficient adminstrator and suspected by others of running secret prisons," the sevent floor is where the Badr Organization fights a turf war with the Kurdish groups and the ninth floor houses "the department's inspector general and general counsel, religious Shiites" who "have been at the center of efforts to purge the department's remaining Sunni employees."

In more news that's won't go down so easy, Oxfam and NCII have released a new report entitled "Rising to the Humanitarian Challenge in Iraq"). Key findings include:

*Four million Iraqis - 15% - regularly cannot buy enough to eat.

*70% are without adequate water supplies, compared to 50% in 2003.

*28% of children are malnourished, compared to 19% before the 2003 invasion.

*92% of Iraqi children suffer learning problems, mostly due to the climate of fear.

*More than two million people - mostly women and children - have been displaced inside Iraq.

*A further two million Iraqis have become refugees, mainly in Syria and Jordan.

On the report, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes, "The report said 15 percent of Iraqis cannot regularly afford to eat.  70 percent are without adequate water supplies.  And over a quarter of all children are malnourished.  . . . Last week Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador to Iraq, admitted that Baghdad residents can now only count on an hour or two of electricity day.  That's the lowet level since the U.S. invasion.  Before the war, Baghdad residents received 16 to 24 average hours of electricity a day."  David Loyn (BBC) observes, "The survey recognises that armed violence is the greatest threat facing Iraqis, but finds a population 'increasingly threatened by disease and malnutrition'."  As this crisis has been ignored, BBC reminds, al-Maliki's puppet government, in 2006, has "only spent 22% of its budget on vital rebuilding projects, while spending 99% of the allocation for salaries" according to the Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction.  Calling the report "one of the most comprehensive pictures date," Damien Cave (New York Times) reports that the from 20 partners the UN High Commissioner for Refugees once had, they are now down to 11.  The refugee crisis has displace four million Iraqis -- some internally, some externally.  Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London via CounterPunch) puts the figures into simpler units, "Two thousand Iraqis are fleeing their homes every day.  It is the greatest mass exodus of people ever in the Middle East and dwarfs anything seen in Europe since the Second World War.  Four million people, one in seven Iraqis, have run away, because if they do not they will be killed.  Two million have left Iraq, mainly for Syria and Jordan, and the same number have fled within the country."   The Turkish Daily News notes the United Nation has condemended Turkey's forcing 135 refugees back into Iraq and that the US has agreed to take 1,700 Iraqi refugees from Turkey.

On the subject of Turkey, Gethin Chamberlain (Sunday Telegraph of London) reported that "Turkey's newly elected government is prepared to turn its back on its long-standing alliance with the United States to counter the threat of Kurdish terrorism, one of the closest allies of the prime minister has warned.  Egemen Bagis, foreign policy advisor to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Turkish forces were prepared to mount operations against Kurdish PKK fighters who had taken refuge in Iraq, because the US had failed to intervene."  Apparently that has captured the attention of the US administration.  AFP reports that Robret Novak -- who we know the administration tells everything including the names of undercover CIA agents, just ask Valerie Plame about that -- is reporting that the US military and the Turkish military will join forces for "a covert military operation to suppress Kurdish guerrillas based in northern Iraq".  Liz Sly (Chicago Tribune) presents the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) as "launching guerrilla attacks against Tukrey from the borderlands of the northern Iraqi region of Kurdistan for the last 16 years, in pursuit of their dream of an independent Marxist-Leninist state encompassing the Kurdish areas of Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria.  Now this forgotten frontier and the leftist revolutionaries living off its land risk becoming the flash point for a future conflict that could draw in players from across the region."  Hurriyet reports that on the 7th or 8th of next month (so sometime next week), Nouri al-Maliki will go to Turkey and become "the Turkish government's first foreign guest."

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that claimed the lives of 4 Iraqi soliders (three more wounded), three Baghdad mortar attacks that wounded 6, a Baghdad roadside bombing that left two police officers wounded and a Falluja mortar attack that killed a woman, left her 2 children and another child wounded as well as one man wounded.  Reuters notes a Baghdad car bombing that claimed 6 lives and left at least 31 wounded.


Reuters reports two police officers were shot dead in Diwaniya.

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports
25 corpses discovered in Baghdad today.

Today the US military announced: "Three Soldiers assigned to Multi National Force-West died July 26 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province." Those deaths, for anyone just waking up, took place on Thursday and are only now being announced on Monday.  Take note of that fact, the delays in announcing keep happening.

Abeer.  The 14-year-old girl who was killed by US soldiers following the gang-rape, following the killing of her parents and of her 5-year-old sister.
Paul Cortez and James P. Barker have already confessed to their part in the gang-rape of Abeer Qassim al-Janabi.  They also fingered Steven D. Green as the ringleader -- Green maintains he is innocent.  Ryan Lenz (AP) noted that Jesse Speilman, another of the accused, would face a court-martial today at Fort Campbell: "Spielman is not accused of raping and killing Abeer Qassim al-Janabi or slaying her family in March 2006 midway through a yearlong deployment for the Fort Campbell-based 101st Airborne Division.  Instead, prosecutors say he knew of the plan, did nothing to stop it once it began and touched the girl's nude body before the soldiers left, according to military charging documents released at the time of his arrest.  The documents also said Spielman was the only soldier wearing a military uniform when they entered the home. The others had changed into black nylon pants and shirts with cloth to cover their faces."  Today at Fort Campbell, Reuters notes that Spielman "pleaded guilty to wrongful touching of a corpse, arson, obstructing justice and violating rules against drinking alcohol in a war zone.  A military jury was being impaneled to decide whether to find Spielman guilty of four counts of murder, the rape, conspiracy to commit those crimes and breaking into the family's house in Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad, in March 2006."

In other legal news, Michael Gordon (New York Times) reported on 'justice' Baghdad style today (dateline says "July 26") noting that a new system puts judges in a compound, denies cross examination, creates overcrowded tent prisons and everyone's name is a secret.

In political news, CBS and AP report that Iraq's Parliament began their holiday today in Baghdad.  It is a month long holiday, not unlike the one the US Congress will take beginning this Friday.  Like the Iraqi Parliament, the US Congress, unless it changes its own schedule, will not return to holding sessions of Congress until September 4th.  If the vacation is controversial, it is controversial for both legislative bodies.

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