Thursday, August 09, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, August 9, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, Bully Boy says Iran is the cause of the destruction of Iraq, talk of installing a new dictator surfaces, impeachment remains 'off the table,' and more.

Starting with war resisters.  Camilo Mejia is the first known Iraq War veteran to become a war resister.  At the end of last month, Maria Hinojosa of NOW with David Brancaccio interviewed Mejia (transcript, audio, excerpt) about his time in Iraq, his determining that the war was illegal and his book  Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia (The New Press) which was published in May.  "When you join the military," Mejia declared, "you think that you're going to do it to protect freedom to fight for democracy.  And finding yourself in a war that's not legitimate by international law standards, where you're abusing prisoners in a war that's being fought in the streets, and you see that the bulk of the human loss, it's civilian, it's very difficult to conciliate your participation in that war and what you're doing in that war with the reasons that led you to -- to sign a military contract."  And in Mejia's case (and many others), a contract  that  is worthless for the signee because the US military isn't bound by it.  (Mejia, a non US citizen, had reached the end of the 8 year contract but was the victim of 'stop loss' despite the fact that, as a non citizen, this was not allowed under prior or existing policies.)  Noting that Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience (following his was court-martialed and sentencing), Hinojosa asks him where he see his "place now in the year 2007 in these United States?"  Mejia responds, "I see myself as part of a movment.  And the number of people -- deserting the military when I returned from Iraq was 22.  And I believe the number is up to nine -- 9,000 or more soldiers who have deserted or gone AWOL since the beginning of the Iraq war.  And I see a l-long way ahead of us.  I see a long struggle.  And I see myself as part of that struggle."  

Amnesty International also supported Abdullah Webster who was court-martialed in June 2004 after he refused to serve in Iraq citing religious reasons (Webster is Muslim) for refusing to serve in the illegal war.  Webster joined the US military in 1985 and was set to retire in 2005.  The came the illegal war.  Webster had served in the first Gulf War but had converted to Islam (1994).  Webster first attempted (September 2003) to be granted CO status and then followed that with a request for assignment to non-combat services.  Instead, the US military said he would deploy to Iraq (Feb. 2004).  His wife Sue spoke of the June 3, 2004 court-martial and his being sentenced to 14 months noting, "An abiding memory I have is of him being led off back to his cell as I watched distraught, in tears, holding our 22-month-old daughter in my arms."  In April of 2005, Webster was released from military prison.     

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, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee,  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, Dale Bartell,  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.

To stay on PBS' NOW with David Brancaccio for a moment before moving on, this week's show will feature David Cay Johnston (New York Times) and Beth Shuman discussing with Brancaccio "the state of our country's vast income divide and how it's hurting those just trying to make ends meet."  The program begins airing Friday on most PBS stations, check your local listings.

Moving to the New York Times, has the new, smaller size resulted in less need for facts?  Damien Cave semi-reports on the US bombing a resedential section of Baghdad but forgets to list the number of civilians local authorities say died.  This is the same Damien Cave who couldn't tear himself away from any detail in February 2005 (including the very serious crime -- we're sure -- of manure being flung in Ohio) to push the "ATTACKS ON US MILITARY WITHIN THE US" alarmist nonsense that (we're sure) he wishes everyone could forget.  Ladies and gentlemen, the Divine Damien, Dung Will Be Flung Tonight.  When it comes to vandalism (being passed off as terrorism), Cave doesn't miss a detail.  When it comes to human lives, he apparently misses 17.  That is the number of civilians Megan Greenwell (Washington Post) reports killed in the US air strike on Sadr Ctiy citing "military and Iraqi police".  Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted that "U.S. troops and warplanes have waged a major attack on the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City in Baghdad. . . . The Washington Post described the raid as one of the largest in a series of U.S. attacks against Shiite militias. The raid on Sadr City came shortly after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki left Baghdad for Tehran where he met with several Iranian leaders. Hundreds of Baghdad residents held protests last night against the U.S. for attacking Sadr City less than 24 hours before the start of a major Shiite holiday. Meanwhile Iraqi officials have imposed a strict curfew and banned all vehicular traffic in Baghdad until Saturday in an attempt to prevent car bombings during the holiday."  Also in today's Washington Post, Ann Scott Tyson reported on the lastest switcheroo by the US which is now backing the Sunni leading to worries and concerns within the puppet government and, presumably, within the US military.  Col. Steve Townsend seems rather blase as he tells the Post, "I assume they . . . have killed some of us [US troops].  We have killed a lot of them.  If they are willing to move foward with us, I'm willing to keep an open mind."  Of course, "Col" Townsend won't be the one doing any training, that will fall to lower leveled service members.  While any meaningful peace plan would have to pull him the resistance (which the US has been in talks with for over a year now), there is a difference between that and what's being done here.  It's equally true that the real point is to keep everyone off balance -- or at least Sunni and Shia (the US has operated the illegal war as if no one else was present in Iraq).  You can apply the "learned helplessness" technique Jane Mayer discussed with Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) yesterday.  Keep 'em off balance, keep 'em guessing.  Pit Sunni against Shia, Shia against Sunni, let chaos and violence run free and maybe the US won't be seen as the illegal invader it is but instead as the great savior. 

On the topic of Iraqi deaths, Patrick McElwee appeared on KPFK's Uprising today where he spoke with host Sonali Kolhatkar about the 'benchmark' the US administration probably won't flaunt.  Next week, Iraqi fatalities since the start of the illegal war are expected to reach the one million mark.  Where is the coverage?  McElwee noted that Fox "News" recently had Britty Hume embed in Iraq where he was on US aircraft while it dropped around 25 bombs and though there was time for rah-rah, there was not one report about where the bombs landed and what happened to the people present.  McElwee declared that's "what's needed now is some organized pressure on our leaders to end this war."  McElwee is with Just Foreign Policy and you can learn more by visiting this page of their site.

As the deaths pile up, so do the insults.  Kim Gamel (AP) reports that Saad Eskander, director of the Iraqi National Library, has repeatedly attempted to get US and Iraqi troops to leave the facilities but has been ignored while windows have been broken and US forces have repeatedly "entered the building without permission".
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Basra mortar attack that wounded a police officer "and other civilians."  Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing that claimed 3 lives and a Baghdad mortar attack that killed 1 person and left 2 more injured and that "two small bridges in Salahudding province" were blown up.  AP reports a bombing "near the house of a Shiite family" which claimed the lives of a wife and husband and left their child injured.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 Iraqi soldiers wounded by gunfire.  Reuters notes a man shot dead in Najaf.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 9 corpses discovered in Baghdad.
Yesterday, the UK Ministry of Defence announced the death of one British soldier in Basra.  Today, they identified him, 20-year-old Martin Beard. And they announced two more deaths: "It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the deaths of two British soldiers from 1st Battalion The Irish Guards in Basra, southern Iraq in the early hours of this morning, Thursday 9 August 2007.  The soldiers were killed, and another two seriously injured, when an Improvised Explosive Device detonated next to their patrol just after midnight local time."  This announcement brought the total number of British soldiers killed in the illegal war to 168.  David Byers (Times of London) notes, "Britain has now lost four soldiers in Basra in one week, as the Shia Mahdi Army increases its attacks in the southern city."

Today, the US military announced: "A Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West died Aug. 7 in a non-combat related incident in Al Anbar Province." And they announced: "A Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West died Aug. 7 in a non-combat related incident in Al Anbar Province." And they announced: "A Multi-National Division - Baghdad soldier died from a non-combat related cause Aug. 8."  ICCC's total for US service members killed in the illegal war thus far this month is 25 and is 3684 since the start of the illegal war.

In the Joke for the Day news, Matt Spetalnick (Reuters) reports the Bully Boy of the United States has stated "Iran is a destabilizing force in Iraq".  Not since Bully Boy joked about WMD in public has he made a bigger fool of himself.  As  The Toledo Blade editorialized yesterday, "the United States has essentially destroyed Iraq as a country".
Meanwhile Damien McElroy (Telgraph of London) reports that NYU's Michael Oppenheimer is arguing that the answer for Iraq is a dictator.  Oppenheimer is an associate professor has been arguing that since at least mid-July when he declared following a workshop, "The best idea we were able to generate -- a National Unity Dictatorship -- is the only plausible route to stability in both Iraq and the region, and one we can make more likely if we choose to.  This would, of course, represent the failure of democratization in Iraq, at least in the short term."  McElroy notes that Oppenheimer believes the US could 'create' "a viable dictatorship in Iraq."  So now the US is going to explore imposing a dictatorship? 
In activism news, members of Military Families Speak Out were among those arrested at the Garden Grove office of US House Rep. Loretta Sanchez yesterday, Jennifer Delson (Los Angeles Times) reports, after Sanchez refused to agree not to vote for the $145 billion funding bill for the Iraq war noting that "$2.1 billion for C-17 production" -- pork she steered her own way via her spot on the House Armed Services committee -- was too important to her, more important than any deaths in Iraq.  "Funding the war is killing the troops!" cry Iraq Veterans Against the War and Tina Richards and Military Families Speak Out while Sanchez plays Gimmie! Gimmie! Gimmie!  How proud she must be and how untroubled her sleep.
In news of other cowardice, St. John Conyers, burned at the stake of his own words, is the Congress member who could start impeachment.  He refuses to.  He refuses a great deal.  Ken Silverstein (Harper's magazine) reports that he was supposed to interview Conyers back in May and, as requested, he did it via e-mailed questions.  Despite following up repeatedly, Conyers still hasn't replied.  Possibly questions about whether "leading the country into the war in Iraq" constitutes high crimes and misdemeanors and why impeachment isn't "on the table" are questions St. Conyers prefers to avoid?  The topic of impeachment wasn't avoided on PBS where Bill Moyers examined it seriously last month.  That one hour look (including guests such as John Nichols) at impeachment on Bill Moyers Journal  is repeating and can also be viewed, listened to or read online currently.

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