Monday, August 06, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Monday, August 6, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, at least 63 Iraqis are reported dead today, the US military announces the deaths of 5 more US service members, the puppet of the occupation's cabinet continues to shed members, who is arming so-called 'insurgents?, Marjorie Cohn discusses the illegal war with Amy Goodman, and more.

Starting with war resistance. "Justice is justified by what the elite want to justify." So said Bob Watada, father of Ehren Watada, yesterday. Ehren Watada is the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq (June 2006) and whose court-martial (February 2007) ended in a mistrial, over defense objection, when the defense was clearly leading. The next court-martial is scheduled for October. It may or may not take place. Issues involving the first court-martial are working their way through the appeals court. Bob Watada was speaking in Eugene, Oregon yesterday at Alton Baker Park. Andrea Damewood (The Register-Guard) reports approximately 150 gathered to "remember the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Jagasaki, Japan, . . . to remind that the weapons that unleashed such horror 62 years ago are more plentiful today. . . . With dusk approaching, peace activists moved to the duck pond where they lit tea candles and placed them in paper bags. The bags glowed orange as they caught the wind and set out as small beacons of hope, before slowly extinguish-ing. Koto zither music tinkled softly, and traditional Butoh dancers, painted entirely white, were silhouetted against the darkening sky."

On a similar horror scale, in the illegal Iraq War, torture has taken place repeatedly, most infamously at Abu Ghraibl In Aidan Delgado's The Sutras Of Abu Ghraib: Notes From A Conscientious Objector In Iraq, he recounts his own journey which does include a stint at Abu Ghraib (beginning in November of 2003) when a prison uprising took place. From pages 150 to 152 of Delgado's book:

"Did y'all hear about the riot?"
This is how I learn what happened on the other side of the camp during the prisoner demonstration. Sergeant McCullough tells the story with quiet enthusiasm, nodding and gesturing for emphasis. Just after one o'clock, the prisoners in the Ganci compounds -- the eight razor-wire enclosures outside the prison wall, where most of the detainees are held -- began to riot, or at least that's what the Army called it, though I learn later they were mostly just marching and chanting. In essence, the prisoners were upset about their living conditions: cold weather and the lack of blankets, jackets, and warm clothing. They were also complaining about the food, which they claimed was often served spoiled or infested with vermin, and was generally inadequate. On top of this, the representative protested the confiscation of the prisoners' tobacco and not being able to smoke. They had been marching and demonstrating for several days in a row. The demonstration got out of control and turned violent. The prisoners started throwing stones and pieces of wood from the tent floor. The MPs on duty responded with nonlethal rounds: rubber bullets, beanbags, and tear gas. In Sergeant McCullough's telling, one of the prisoners threw a rock and hit a soldier in our company, Specialist Pitts, in his face.
Sergeant McCullough expresses his anger at seeing one of his soldiers' faces bloodied. At some point during the demonstration, he can't say exactly when, they get the order to use lethal force. He tells us that he knelt down behind a barrier, loaded his weapon, said a prayer, then stood up and fired. He says he thinks he hit three prisoners and he knows he killed one. In total, twelve prisoners are shot and three of those die of their wounds. He says one of the prisoners was shot in the head and his face split open like in the movie Terminator 2. Another prisoner had been hit in the groin, and according to this account, the guards left him on the ground and he bled to death. He says they took pictures of the bodies after the shooting. They got copies in the TOC.
[. . .]
At first I don't know what to think or say. I only know that I am bothered. It takes a few minutes to process. Then I think, This is a little f**ked-up. He shot an unarmed prisoner on the other side of a barbed-wire fence for throwing a stone. Four people are dead for throwing stones in protest of their living conditions. Don't judge, I remind myself, you weren't there, you didn't see it. Maybe the action was necessary. They were probably afraid for their lives. Then I look to my left and right and see the young guys in my unit: laughing, smiling, talking about how much they wished they had "gotten one" too. I reconsider. This is f**ked up.

Speaking on Democracy Now! today, Marjorie Cohn, president of the National Lawyers Guild, answered Amy Goodman's question as to what "a body of lawyers" can do in terms of dealing with the illegal war: "We [National Lawyers Guild] have a new joint anti-war task force which is cooridinating our work, the Military Law Task Force which counsels thousands of GIs every month who are disenchanted, who don't want to go back to Iraq, who want to file for consientious objection status, some of them go to Canada. We have Mass, a huge Mass Defense Project where we do legal observing at anti-war demonstrations and we have an international committee that deals with these issues as well. We are putting out literature to try to convince members of Congress who don't think that high crimes and misdemeanors have been committed by the Bush administration that in the fact the war is illegal, it's not a mistake. And so we've been cooridinating all of our work and really focusing the major part of our work on ending the occupation." Among the literature NLG has released is (hot off the presses last week) Punishing Protest written by Heidi Boghosian (available online in PDF format for free and avaible in book format for $3 at the National Lawyers Guild website). The accounts from legal observers at demonstrations (on Iraq, on WTC and more) provide a strong *spine* to Boghosian's report.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Zamesha Dominique, Jared Hood, 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 Kjar, 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. IVAW and others will be joining Veterans For Peace's conference in St. Louis, Missouri August 15th to 19th.

Bob Watada wasn't the only one taking part in Sunday's Peace day. David Collins (The New Mexican) reports that IVAW's Adam Kokesh took part in the Sante Fe action and spoke of how he'd be willing to return to Iraq: "I'd like to organize some nonviolent resistance to the occupation. If the Iraqi people can get as many millions of protesters as they can when Sadr (Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr) says get in the streets, imagine what they could do if they just sat in around the bases there, prevented convoys from leaving the bases." Staying with IVAW, A.N.S.W.E.R. notes "Iraq War Veterans to Lead Mass 'Die-In' During September 15 Antiwar Demonstration to Coincide with Congressional War Debate" which will take place in DC; however, those with DC burnout, don't tune out yet, the mass "die-in" does demonstrate this will not be reheated left-overs. A.N.S.W.E.R. notes: "Those organizing for the September 15th demonstration include the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition; Ramsey Clark, United States Labor Against the War, Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation; Mounzer Sleiman, Vice Chair, National Council of Arab Americans; Cindy Sheehan, Cynthia McKinney; Veterans for Peace (National); Iraq Veterans Against the War; Tina Richards, CEO of Grassroots America; Rev. Lenox Yearwood, CEO of Hip Hop Caucus; Code Pink; Father Roy Bourgeois and Eric LeCompte, School of Americas Watch; Kevin Zeese, Democracy Rising; Navy Petty Officer Jonathan Hutto, co-founder Appeal for Redress; Liam Madden, Pres. Boston Chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War and co-founder of Appeal for Redress; Malik Rahim, founder of Common Ground Collective, New Orleans; Howard Zinn, Author and Historian; Carolos & Melida Arredondo, Gold Star Families for Peace. . . . To make arrangements for interviews with antiwar leaders, organizers, activists and military families, call Sarah Sloan at 202-904-7949." A.N.S.W.E.R. also notes CODEPINK will stage a September 17th "Peoples March Inside Congress." Saturday is the 15th, Monday is the 17th. There will be other actions in DC but the two may bring a new excitement to 2007 (and September 17th isn't that far away so CODEPINK will hopefully put some information up specifically about the "People March Inside Congress"). While we're noting actions (and being fully aware of what a downer DC is seen as on most campus currently -- hopefully the above actions will build some excitement) let's not that Congress is out of session until September 4th and United for Peace and Justice encourages you to think globaly by acting locally -- meet with your representatives and senators who should be in their home districts (reps) and in their home states (senators). Since they are home, today also is the re-launch for the Occupation Project -- where nonviolent menas are used to occupy congressional offices. SDS -- Students for a Democratic Society -- is one week away from their action camps to be held in Lancaster, Penn (August 13-16th). SDS just finished their National Convention in Detroit. James Neshewat (CounterPunch) reports the convention addressed the theory of oppression.

World Can't Wait has their Orange Summer where each Friday, they're asking people to wear the color orange to show that the time is past due to "Drive Out the Bush Regime!" Orange because "the color that has been assigned to those detained and tortured with no due process". [Scott Horton (Harper's magazine) addresses new realities with "The Boot is Descending" as does Robert Parry (Consortium News) in "Bush Gets a Spying Blank Check."]

And of course Iraq Veterans Against the War and Tina Richards and Military Families Speak Out continue to get the word out: "Funding the war is Killing Our Troops." It's a message boiled down to the basics. One that will help destroy the nonsense pushed by the administration and some members of Congress that funding the illegal war is offering 'protection' to anyone.

At Military Families Against the War (UK), Tracy Hughes writes of having a son is in the Royal Engineers and how the wars (Iraq and Afghanistan) "are using our brave children as political pawns. The people who are responsible for them being there, (Tony Blair and George Bush) have the blood of hundreds of troops on their hands, we can only pray that our new prime minister will see what a fiasco Iraq and Afghanistan are and get our troops out of there asap."

Turning to violence, Amitabh Pal (The Progressive) looks at the nonsense wave of Operation Happy Talk (the killing of US troops is down to 2006 levels! -- only it isn't) and observes, "There's something of a whiff of racism in claiming that the Iraq War is not going too badly because American casualties have been marginally lower last month. On purpose or otherwise, this analysis misses the larger purpose of why U.S. troops are meant to be in Iraq: to make life better for the troops." The deaths of Iraqi increased and are basically back to the level the United Nations were noting with (rightful) alarm. Pal notes the right-wing blogger Hugh Hewitt is on board with Operation Happy Talk. Hewitt doesn't just do a blog, he also has a radio show (and I'm sure other outlets as well) and that's where John F. Burns (alleged reporter and Baghdad chief for the New York Times) appeared last week to declare, "I think there's no doubt that those extra 30,000 American troops are making a difference" and that if the US leaves Iraq it will "lead to much higher, and indeed potentially cataclysmic levels of violence, beyond anything we've seen to date." That would be an alleged reporter for the New York Times, rushing to be a guest on a right-wing talk show, offering non-verifable predictions which is a big no-no by the paper's guidelines. For simply making observations Linda Greenwood got smacked down by the paper who felt she'd crossed a line (she hadn't) between reporting and opinion (and her remarks were made on a campus, not broadcast over the airwaves). Will John F. Burns be disciplined for his unprofessional remarks (by the Times' standards for reporters, those were unprofessional remarks)? Magic Eightball says "It is unlikely."

Burns' dubious predictions (no one knows what will happen when US troops withdraw and -- at some point -- they will withdraw) are based on the assumption that things are 'bad' but not 'as bad' as they could be. Of course, had the foreign forces left in 2006, or 2005, or 2004, things wouldn't be as 'bad' as they are today. And had the US government not decided to illegaly start a war . . . Burns can't address that. In fact, the paper's reporters will repeat the company line when asked that they can't comment on a hypothetical and what does it mater since there is a war? It's interesting that reporters for the paper aren't supposed to predict or opine but when they do it and it's favorable to the administration, they never get into trouble.

For realities on the illegal war, go to (Democracy Now!) Amy Goodman's conversation with Cohn today:

Amy Goodman: Marjorie Cohn, a lot of people talk about the war as being a terrible mistake. You don't. You go way further than that.

Marjorie Cohn: Yeah, the war was premeditated, deliberate violation of the law. The UN Charter, also a treaty, also part of US law, says the only two instances where a country can use force against another is in self-defense or when the Security Council agrees. And there was never any evidence that Saddam Hussein posed a threat to us or any other country. He hadn't invaded any country for 12 years, since Kuwaitt, and he had really been -- his military had been neutered by the Gulf War, by punishing sanctions, by the bombings in the No Fly Zones. And the Bush administration knew that. They knew that and yet they sold this war -- they sold this war -- they intended to invade Iraq way before 9/11 and now it's really clear why they did that and that is to install huge military permanent bases. The biggest in the world and the biggest US embassy in the world in Baghdad and to privatize Iraq's oil. They're trying to push through this Iraqi oil law that even Congress is touting as a 'benchmark' for Iraqi progress and it would give three-quar -- control of three quarters of Iraq oil to foreign oil companies. And yet we see the leading Democratic candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is saying she would -- she's not talking about taking the bases out, she's saying we'd leave a force there which means we would leave the bases there. So, and I don't hear anyone but Kucinich actually talking for -- talking about an end to the occupation which is what we should be talking about. But I
think it's very important not to say "The war was a mistake. The war is being fought incompetently." The war is illegal. It's also immoral. It's killing thousands of US soldiers, it's killing tens of thousands of Iraqis. And it's draining our national treasury. And the majority of the American people know this. But Congress has not caught on yet.

The war is illegal but War Hawks attempt to mask that reality under the guise of "help." Thomas M. DeFrank (New York Daily News) reports that US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, appearing on NBC's Meet the Press, claimes that "the military side of" things are going well but that the Iraqi government is failing "to get its political act together" (DeFrank) so it's doubtful there will be a reduction in the number of US troops in Iraq. Gates, to no surprise, shows no concern with the Iraqis (who are once again dying in huge numbers) but he is concerned with the 'benchmarks.' As Marjorie Cohn noted, that is the theft of the Iraqi oil. Heather Stewart (UK Observer) reported Sunday that Hussein Shahrastani, the country's Oil Minister, has banned "unions from participating in any official discussions about the new [oil] law" via a directive. On Friday, UPI reported that Ali al-Adeed "says a law governing oil reserves should be delayed until occupation forces leave the country." al-Added is a member of the Iraqi Parliament as well as a member of Nouri al-Maliki's political party. Steve Kretzmann (Oil Change) reports on a new poll ( 2,200 Iraqis surveyed -- New York Times polls typically feauture less than 1,000 respondents, often less than 9,000 by contrast) ) which has found 63% declaring Iraq's oil should "be developed and produced by Iraqi public sector companies rather than foreign companies" and a mere "4% of Iraqis feel they have been given 'totally adequate' information for them to feel informed about the oil law." Not surprising when many members of Iraq's parliament (that would be the branch tasked with legislation) have never seen the US drafted oil law. While Gates speaks of failed responsibilities and the illegal war is seven months away from the five year mark, exactly what responsibilities is the US administration going to cop to? AP reports Iraq's power grid is on "the brink of collapse." Last week was the news that the water was out. Other than some badly painted school buildings (that either have no or low attendence) what has the US done of the positive nature?

Well they've flooded the Iraqi blackmarket with weapons. Glenn Kessler (Washington Post) reports that 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols given to Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005" are now unaccounted for. On Saturday, Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) reported on the distrust within the US military serving in Iraq as "U.S. commanders are offering large sums to enlist, at breakneck pace, their former enemies, handing them broad security powers in a risky effort to tame this fractious area south of Baghdad." June 22, 2004, Patrick McCaffrey and Andre Tyson were killed in Balad. The families of both were told the killers were the catch-all 'insurgents'. That was not the case. The killers were known to McCaffrey and Tyson, they had been training them. For two years the US government lied to the families about how McCaffrey and Tyson had died. Marjorie Cohn (at CounterPunch) notes that the military refused "requests to see autopsy reports by the McCaffrey family" and that although the Army knew without a deoubt in September 30, 2005 (when they completed their investigation), they didn't notify the families until after US Senator Barbara Boxer wrote a letter (May 22, 2006) supporting the families and their right to know the details -- Cohn writes, "Nadia McCaffrey learned that after her son was shot, a US truck arrived. It picked up Lt. Tyson, who was dead, but did not take her son who was still alive. The truck returned later and took him to the base, where he bled to death." Democracy Now! has interviewed Patrick's mother Nadia McCaffrey many times. In a June 23, 2006 interview with Nadia McCaffrey, Amy Goodman quoted Senator Boxer stating her guess as to why there was the delay/cover-up, "I think it's pretty obvious that if the American people knew that the Iraqis we train would turn on our soldiers, support for the war would erode." In June of 2006, Hector Becerra and Scott Gold (Los Angeles Times) quoted Nadia McCaffry stating, "There have been so many lies, and so many things hidden. I have had enough. I have absolutely no doubt that the same thing that happened to Patrick -- being shot by people he was training -- has happened over and over and is still happening today. He was killed by the Iraqis that he was training. People in this country need to know that." And it will continue to happen as long as the US government thinks greed will trump all, thinks they can toss some paper bills around and suddenly former foes are now friends.

Yesterday, violence in Iraq claimed the lives of over 100 Iraqis. Today?


Tal Afar is again the setting for mass fatalities after a car bombing there today. Robin Stringer and Camilla Hall (Bloomberg News) report that 27 died in the bombing with twenty-eight more wounded. CNN notes the death toll rose to 28 with (citing AP) nineteen of the dead being children. CBS and AP note Brig. Gen Rahim al-Jibouri (Tal Afar police) states the death toll will most likely rise and that 9 are dead in a Baghdad roadside bombing (eight wounded). Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a rocket attack in Basra claimed 1 life.
Reuters notes an eastern Baghdad bombing that claimed 2 lives.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that Hama Ali Ahmed was kidnapped outside Kirkuk on Sunday and the 55-year-old truck driver's captors are asking for a ransom of the US equivalent of $100,000 for his release.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 17 corpses were discovered in Baghdad. CNN notes: "Iraqi security forces found the bodies of five Iraqi soldiers Monday in the town Sharqat, about 70 miles (113 kilometers) north of Tikrit, police said. The soldiers, dressed in civilian clothes, were on leave from a base in Mosul and were heading to Baghdad in a private car."

Today, the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier was killed and two Soldiers were wounded during combat operations in an eastern section of the Iraqi capital Aug. 5." And they announced: "Four Task Force Lightning Soldiers died as a result of injuries sustained from an explosion while conducting combat operations in Diyala province, Monday."

The violence continues with at least 63 reported deaths of Iraqis and the deaths of 5 US service member. The puppet? On Sunday, Molly Hennessy-Fiske (Los Angeles Times) reported on how al-Maliki 'protects' -- by looking the other way. His p.r. flack -- Ali Dabbagh -- maintains no one pays attention to the issue of gays in Iraq which must mean why no one noticed that they were being targeted and no one noticed that Ayatollah Ali Sistani "issued a fatwa" on them in October of 2005 that has still not been revoked. Also on Sunday, Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) reports that puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki, has refused to accept the resignations last week of the six cabinet ministers. Not surprising, al-Maliki refuses to accept reality. Accept it or not, al-Maliki has more walk outs. Peter Graff and Mariam Karouny (Reuters) reports that four more ministers have left the puppet's cabinets (bringing the total to 17 to those who've walked out or are protesting via boycott).

Over the weekend, Jesse Spielman (who had confessed to some war crimes in the gang-rape and murder of Abeer Qassim al-Janabi and the murders of her parents and her 5-year-old sister) was sentenced after he was found guilty of additional crimes. Paul von Zielbauer (New York Times) reported on the sentencing Sunday in a brief article that was the first article which ran in the Times by a reporter for the paper which mentioned 14-year-old Abeer by name.
Reuters reported Spielman was found to have "participated in the planning of the attack as the soldiers drunk whiskey and played cards, and acted as a lookout. He was found guilty of four counts of murder, of rape, conspiracy to commit rape, housebreaking with the intent to commit rape, and conspiracy to commit rape. At the start of the hearing, he pleaded guilty to wrongful touching of a corpse, arson, obstructing justice and violating rules against drinking alcohol in a war zone." James P. Barker and Paul Cortez have already been convicted for their actions (which included partipating in the gang rape). Steven D. Green, who maintains he is innocent, has been fingered as the ringleader. He will be tried in a federal court due to having already been discharged back when the War Crimes were blamed on 'insurgents.'

[C.I. correction: "*spine" -- not "spin."]