Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, August 7, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, Iraqis are rendered invisible in their own story, the US military announces more deaths, students get active and so do parents, FAIR gets a little loose with the words, and more.

Goldie Goes To Africa. FAIR has issued a "Media Advisory" and whatever they're hoping to accomplish falls apart in the opening paragraph, in the opening sentence in fact, when they bill the overly praised Nation magazine article as an "investigation into the U.S. occupation's impact on Iraqi civilians". As Rebecca noted last night, it is no such thing. Not only is it no such thing, FAIR really flirts with xenophobia when they make that hyperbolic assertion. The Nation's bad (really, really bad) article did not present a single Iraqi voice. Iraqis can speak for themselves. Not only can they speak for themselves it is shocking that a media watchdog would ever claim that OCCUPYING FORCES in a country CAN OR SHOULD TELL the story of the people in an invaded country. The Nation's article is a piece of crap (and a journalistic laugh) but FAIR can praise (or pass on) whatever it wants. However, it cannot make XENOPHOBIC statements that betray the very reason FAIR was created without being called out.

If it's unclear to anyone how offensive the opening statement (echoed throughout the piece) is, ask whether or not members of the Israeli army should be hailed as tellers of the Palestinians' story, or whether the slaughter and genocide of Native Americans should be told from the point of view of the US military?

That is what we're talking about. In Robert Altman's The Player, there's a pitch for a project set in a foreign country and a backforth of dialogue ensues: "Goldie Goes To Africa!" "She's found by this tribe --" "Of small people!" "She's found and they worship her." "It's like The Gods Must Be Crazy except the Coke bottle is an actress." That scene (script by Michael Tolkin) sends up the "fish out of water" concept -- travelogue movies can only hold an American audience if they have an American front and center. The story of the Iraqi people is not and will not be told by non-Iraqis.

The very bad Nation article may do many things; however, it does not and cannot tell the story of what life is like for Iraqis today. It can't because it speaks to no Iraqis. It is their story to be told, it cannot be told for them. FAIR hopefully rushed that advisory out quickly. But the reality is that the wording is offensive and it shouldn't take Rebecca or myself to point out that very obvious fact. "The Nation's investigation into the U.S. occupation's impact on Iraqi civilians" has never been published because it's never been researched. To suggest otherwise is insulting. The US didn't send the Red Cross into Iraq, it sent in a professional military (and a private one was sent also). Only Iraqis can tell their story, only they should and to suggest otherwise is a grave insult. (I'm referring to the insult to the Iraqis but it's also true that suggesting otherwise is also an insult to the fine work FAIR has consistently done for many years.)

Turning to war resistance. In April, we noted Terri Johnson who signed up and realized she couldn't support the illegal war so she droppsed out in basic training. Johnson explained, "All you got to do is leave. Throw the towel in. They cannot stop you. Stay gone for thirty-one days. Get your two-way ticket to Lousiville, Kentucky. The MPs will meet you there and pat you down. You will be there for four days and eat this horrible food. The only thing you cannot do is get a federal job. Okay, I wasn't that interested in working for the federal government anyway. The other thing you can't do is re-enlist in another branch of the military."

Terri Johson is a war resister. So is Carla Gomez. Gomez' story is told in Peter Laufer's Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq. Gomez was a 17-year-old high school student in Santa Cruz, Calif. when her new 'BFF' Sgt. Daniel Lopez entered her life. After forcing his way into the Gomez family, Lopez wants her to take a physical. Gomez was already having doubts. He takes her to San Jose for a physical but what happens is she's forced -- by one man after another -- to sign enlistment papers. A 17-year-old surrounded by adults, an hour from home, no way to get home, facing the equivalent of time-share sales people.
What saved Carla Gomez was knowledge that she didn't have to join. No matter what she signed. If you sign up on a delayed entry, you don't have to go. You can write a letter stating you've changed your mind. That should be all the contact you have with them. Gomez tells Laufer her letter stated, "My parents and I were coerced by Sergeant Lopez. The real reason why I ended up signing was because I was exhuasted. I thought the only way to go home was by signing. I feel I was not in my five senses at the time and I feel that I was pushed to sign the contract." [Gomez' story appears on pages 78-85 of Laufer's book.]

We're focusing on this aspect of war resistance today for a number of reasons including Tony Allen-Mills (Times of London) reporting Sunday that new things were being imposed by the Pentagon including that drill sgts. may no longer use the words "maggot" or "worm" as a result of what Allen-Mills describes as "a desperate bid to lower the fall-out rate among the dwindling numbers of young Americans ready to sign up". So the answer is to provide "calm authority" and not derision. Aimee Allison and David Solnit, in their book Army of None, detail the branding and marketing efforts to trick and deceive young people. They also note the success of counterrecruiting and how the military's response was to drop "Be All That You Can Be" (sounded like a lecture from a parent, polling groups determined) and go with "There's strong, and then there's Army Strong." (Which honestly sounds like one of those "Made for a man, but I like it too" advertisements.) The advretising budget for "Army Strong" is 1.35 billion over five years. (Ads began airing in Oct. 2006.) (Army of None, pages 45-66 which can be found at bookstores, online and via Courage to Resist).

Today, Prensa Latina reports: "Sectors from the Puerto Rican society will start a campaign next week against military recruitment in schools to enter the US Army, said activists from the Independentista Party of Puerto Rico (PIP) Monday." You can't vote in the presidential elections, the US won't allow you your independence but your children can die in an illegal war started by the US. And it's not just Puerto Rico and the US fighting military recruiters. Matthew Holehouse (New Statesman) reports on Students Against the War's protest in Camden at the Kids Connections' offices last week. What were they protesting Kids Connection was creating classroom modules (paid for by the UK Ministry of Defence) that propagandize about the illegal war. Matthew Holehouse notes that, in the United Kingdom, the failure to meet targets "was forcing the military recruiters to target children as young as 14". Returning to the US where, as Jorge Mariscal (Black Agenda Report) notes, "8,000 premanent resident aliens already enlist in the U.S. military every year". In the land where 'bi-partisanship' so frequently translates as "screwed twice over," US Senators Edward Kennedy and Arlen Specter can reach across the aisle and, as Mariscal points out, use the DREAM Act of 2007 to tie documented residency in the US with military service.

And as students return to classes in Phoeniz, Arizona, activists are there to inform. KVOA reports the citizens "are part of the Arizona Advocacy Network Foundation, the Arizona Counter Recruitment Coalition, Parents Against Violence in Education and the End the War Coalition" who fan out with postcards that the student and the parent can complete to opt out of the automatic data mining done by military recruiters (thanks to the "bi-partasian" nonsense that was the so-called No Child Left Behind). Andy Harvey (KPNX) gives the background on this and also a report on the protests (link contains text as well as streaming video). Adam Loveless, military recruiter, looks ridiculous in the new military uniform (everyone does) and attempts to liken targeting high schoolers with targeting college students. As Donna Winchester (St. Petersburg Times) points out, the opt-out forms must be filled out at the start of each school year. The Vallejo Times-Herald notes that high schoolers Aliesha Balde, Doris Le, Perla Pasayes and Shamar Theus are on the road through next Sunday working with the ACLU and other students "to scrutinize the military's recruitment campaign aimed at youth". The student activists have entitled their project "The Truth Behind the Camouflage: A Youth Investigation into the Myths & Truths of Military Recruitment & Military Service."

Those are only some of the stories of resistance with war. Carla Gomez is a war resister and 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.

On July 31, 2007, the snapshot included this:"In Baghdad a small number (tiny) remains. They are all elderly. The last study estimated that they numbered 19." There is an update and a chuckle via AP which reports that 9 Jews remain in Baghdad and cite the same War Hawk (Andrew White) posing as a do-gooder who back on July 19th claimed there were no Jews in Iraq. He testified "I know every single one of the Jews left." Which was a LIE and why we noted the last study showed 19 Jews remaining in Baghdad. Here's the chuckle, AP today tries to bill the War Hawk and Liar as someone "who watches over the tiny Jewish group". Well watch a little closer, War Hawk White. End of July you were testifying they were gone and now you want credit for the 8 that still remain? This is all the more important when you read White telling the AP that he gives the Jewish residents money. Uh, you really aren't supposed to brag about charity. We won't quote White -- a man of the cloth shouldn't lie so frequently in public. We will note AP cites Jewish Agency in Jerusalem's Michael Jankelowitz as stating the 8 remaining do not want to leave. This does sound reasonable because, long before the number dropped to 19, efforts were being made and the ones then choosing to stay felt Baghdad had been their whole lives. Jankelowitz also says 4 are over 80 while 4 "are of working age". The Hague's Israeli Embassy spokesperson echoes that and states they are "in weekly contact" with one of the eight remaining. AP notes: "The eight Jews, belonging to four families, are all that is left in Iraq from the world's oldest Jewish community, dating to the 6th century B.C. when the Babylonians conquered ancient Palestine and exiled its people as slaves. Over the centuries the Jews flourished, and Baghdad became a center of Jewish culture and learning."

Many are leaving. In fact, many are leaving Nouri al-Maliki's cabinet. Yesterday, 5 more decided to do just that. Alexandra Zavis and Molly Hennessy-Fiske (Los Angeles Times) report that Salim Abudllah Jabouri (of the Sadr bloc that walked out last week) said the puppet was now on his "last chance to show goodwill" and if that doesn't happen there will be a move "to bring a vote of of no confidence" against the puppet. But though they have walked out, Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) notes that they maintain they will "continue to run their ministries but not attend any cabinet meetings. They cited as reasons for their action a lack of progress on issues such as the status of Iraqi detainees, the repatriation of displaced Iraqis and the return of former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to government jobs." The BBC notes that their Baghdad correspondent, Andy Gallacher, feels "the latest events leave the administration of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki looking more fragile than ever."

While the puppet's cabinet crumbles, Nouri hot foots it over to Turkey. Turkish Daily News reported today that al-Maliki and Turkey's prime minister, Tayyip Erdogan, would sign an agreement; however, "Turkey will await implementation and wants to see concrete steps against the PKK". Selcuk Gokoluk (Reuters) reports that al-Maliki swore he would "crack down on Kurdish rebels" in northern Iraq; however, "Turkish officials said they knew Maliki had little clout in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq and that he had also been weakened both by Iraq's dire security situation and by fresh turmoil in his crumbling government in Baghdad." And in other not-waiting-for-Maliki news, CBS and AP announce, "Iraq's autonomous Kurdish government approved a regional oil law on Tuesday, officials said, paving the way for foreign investment in their northern oil and gas fields while U.S.-backed federal legislation remained stalled. The measure gives the regional government the right to administer its oil wealth in the three northern governates -- Irbil, Sulaimaniyah and Dahuk --- as well as what it called 'disputed territories,' referring to Kirkuk, one of Iraq's largest crude production hubs."


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports
2 Baghdad mortar attacks climed 7 lives (nine wounded), 1 Iraqi soldier died in a bombing outside Baquba.
Reuters notes a Samarra mortar attack that claimed the lives of 3 women and 2 children while a roadside bombing in Hilla left four police officers wounded.

Also, yesterday, on the Tal Afar bombing, this appeared: "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)." Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) informs, "The police chief of Tal Afar MG Wathiq Al Hamdani said that the final result of the explosion of Tal Afar town increased into 30 killed and 32 injured."


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a woman was wounded during a home invasion in Hawija. DPA reports a police officer "opened fire Tuesday on a crowd of civilians queuing outside an ice factory in Karbala, killing three people and wounding seven others in an apparently random shooting".


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 16 corpses discovered in Baghdad, 7 corpses were turned over to the Mosul morgue, 1 corpse was discovered outside Baquba, and 1 discovered in Kirkuk (cab driver).

Today, the UK Ministry of Defence announced: "It is with deep sorrow that the Ministry of Defense must confirm the death of a British soldier from 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh as a result of a small arms fire attack during an operation in Basra, southern Iraq, last night, Monday 6 August 2007." As Nico Hines (Times of London) notes, this was the 165th British soldier to die in the illegal war since it began.

Today, the US military announced: "Three Task Force Marne Soldiers were killed when an improvised explosive device struck their convoy August 4, south of Baghdad." For those not near a a calendar, those 3 died on Saturday. But no one's supposed to notice that. The US military also announced: "One Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldier was killed and another wounded when an explosively-formed penetrator detonated targeting their vehicle during combat operations in a western section of the Iraq capital Aug. 6." ICCC's total is 20 US service membres have died in Iraq for the month of August thus far; however, CBS and AP note, "The U.S. military tells CBSNews.com that 26 American service members have been killed in action in Iraq in the past week alone". That count apparently includes the last 3 days of July. A number that is firm is 162,000. AFP reports that's approximately how many US troops are currently on the ground in Iraq topping the previous high of January 2005 (about 161,000).

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