Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, August 14, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, a US helicopter crashes, mass fatalities from bombings in northern Iraq, and more.

Starting with war resistance, Mary Wiltenburg (Christian Science Monitor) continues her coverage of Agustin Aguayo today addressing his court-martial, how Agustin's wife Helga cried (Helga: "It was the ugly crying, with snot and everything. I wanted them to see how much they were hurting us."), how Augustin's squad leader, Sgt. David Garcia, testifited ("I told him what he needed to do was stick by his gun, if that was how he felt.") and how, following the conviction, Capt. Jennifer Neuhauser talked about what really was going on (sending a message to others serving). (Click here for part one of Wiltenburg's coverage.) Aguayo's case for CO status is currently awaiting his decision as to whether or not he's going to continue to fight in civilian courts. In his court filed statement (August 10, 2006), Aguayo wrote, "As time progresses (it has been more than two and a half years since I became a CO) my beliefs have only become more firm and intense. I believe that participating in this (or any) deployment would be fundamentally wrong, and therefore I cannot and will not participate. I believe that to do so, I would be taking part in organized killing and condoning war missions and operations, even though I object, on the basis of my religious training and belief, to participating in any war. I have to take stand for my principles, values, and morals and I must let my conscience by my guide. After all, I and no one else has to bear the consequences of my decisions or burden of neglecting my conscience." He also addresses the fact that although he was supposed to be a non-combatant, per The Department of the Army, his "unit will not respect that arrangement."

Aguayo was punished by the military to send a message. As noted on October 20, 2006, "That is their biggest fear. That this will spread. Unfortunately for the military, it is already spreading. That's why it's important to get the word out. Each person who takes a brave stand against the war deserves support. They'll only get that if people are aware of their stand. And with increased awareness it's not just an issue of raising awareness on one person, it's an issue of raising awareness on an entire movement."

Kyle Snyder is another war resister and he self-checked out (April 2005) and moved to Canada. On October 31st, Snyder returned to the US and turned himself in at Fort Knox. Snyder turned himself in and quickly checked back out when the US military refused to honor the agreement they had come to and instead attempted to send him to Fort Leonard. Snyder then began speaking out in the United States, he did some volunteer construction work in New Orleans around Thanksgiving of last year and continued to speaking out (one of the places he spoke out at was Fort Benning). Despite the lie repeated by the media, the US military does attempt to track those who self-checkout. We certainly saw it last month in Denver, CO when a parent's home was searched. We saw with it Snyder who, in the midst of his West Coast speaking tour, suddenly had to worry about the police showing up at stops because the military investigation unit of Kentucky kept calling the California police and instructing them. Snyder returned to Canada after his speaking tour was over and was set to marry Maleah Frisen when Canadian police showed up at his door, drug him off in handcuffs (and in his boxers). Snyder was told the orders for the arrest came from the US military and that charge came, not from Snyder, but from Canada's Border Service Agency.

It was a last ditch attempt to screw with Snyder because, married to Frisen, he's out of the US military's reach. (He no longer needs to be granted asylum by the Canadian government.) Rochelle Baker (The Abbotsford News) reported last week that at last an investigation is taking place. The Nelson City Police -- and specifically Chief Dan Maluta, have repeatedly changed their public versions of events. At one point, Maulta was claiming the Border Service Agency ordered the arrest (the Border Service Agency consistently maintained that they did not, that they did not contact the Nelson City Police Dept., and that, after Snyder was arrested, the Nelson City Police Dept. contacted them). How much of an investigation it will be is unclear since Maluta has strong ties to the Abbotsford Police who will be conducting the investigation.

What happened to Snyder is not a one-time incident. Joshua Key is also a war resister who went to Canada (Key tells his story in The Deserter's Tale). Following the February orders to arrest Snyder, 2 members of the US military (still unidentified) went into Canada, paired up with a Canadian police officer and began inquiring as to where Key was. They showed up at peace activist Winnie Ng's door. The three men identified themselves as Canadian police and began questioning her -- very upsetting. Ng came forward with what happened and that she believed two of the men were US military. "Never happened!" cried the police. They hadn't gone to Ng's door. They hadn't been accompanied by the US military. Those were lies and slowly the police had to admit that, yes, a Canadian police officer did travel with two US military service members to assist their efforts to find Joshua Key. That is a violation of Canadian sovereignty. It is a big deal in Canada.

Back in May, Gregory Levey (Salon) became the first at a US news outlet
to explore this story. It was an explosive story but if you thought it got traction after Levey covered it, think again. No one in big or small media has picked up on the story (several other outlets ran Levey's groundbreaking story). Only surprising if you haven't noticed how very little attention is given war resistance period.

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.

Yesterday Sean McCormack, US State Dept. flack, declared the US government was working with al-Maliki and "not only with Prime Minister Maliki, but also with important political party leaders, some of whom are in the government or have representatives in the government, some of whom are not in the government." (Click here for text, click here for a/v.) "Some of whom are not in the government"? Needless to say, there was no follow up asking exactly what that meant. Nouri al-Maliki, puppet of the occupation, has a cabinet that is falling down. Megan Greenwell (Washington Post) reported this morning that, apparently refreshed from his trips last week to Turkey and Iran, al-Maliki now says he wants to work with others and that he has big hopes that he can rebuild the cabinet. This after he he trashed those that walked out and entertained the kind of conspiracy theories that usually has the MSM using their index finger to make a circular motion while saying, "Koo, koo, koo, koo." Possibly due to the trashing, not all who were boycotting in the cabinet were forgiving. Reuters reports only three who had been boycotting showed up for a cabinet session today.

In other bad news, though northern Iraq keeps promoting itself as "The Other Iraq" (honestly, they should stop the check on the p.r. agency that dusted off the "other white meat" slogan and sold it to them) reality slaps back. Just last week, the push was on again for "The Other Iraq." C.J. Chivers (New York Times) reports that: "A European civil aviation authority said yesterday that it was reviewing security conditions at airports in northern Iraq after two pilots reported that their passenger airliner had been attacked by ground fire last week while taking off from Sulaimaniya." And Louise Nordstrom (AP) reports that Sweden has now suspended all their "commercial flights to and from Iraq". Chivers also notes the Brookings Institute's figure of "at least 34 helicopters" -- US -- shot down during the illegal war thus far.

Helicopter crashes? Megan Greenwell (Washington Post) is reporting that a US helicopter crashed today in Anbar resulting in the deaths of 5 US soldiers. (This is web, not print. By Wednesday am, the link may or may not go to the story.) CBS and AP note the "emergency response crews had sealed off the site" and that it "is about 45 miles west of Baghdad in restive Anbar province". And for those fretting, it's okay to use "crash" -- even the US military is using it in their press release noting the five deaths ("Helicopter crashes in Al Anbar Province").

Turning to other violence today . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing targeting Thira'a Dijla bridge claimed 10 lives and left six wounded. Reuters reports "three civilian cars" were sent into the Tigris. Carol J. Williams (Los Angeles Times) notes that that the "bomber detonated a truckload of explosives on a key bridge north of the Iraqi capital today, plunging the concrete span and at least three vans packed with passengers into the murky waters of a wide canal linking the Tigris and Euphrates rivers." Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) also notes a Baghdad bombing that left two people wounded, a Baghdad mortar attack left three people wounded, 3 Kirkuk bombings left eight police officers and five civilians wounded, and, dropping back to yesterday, 2 people lost their lives (a third was wounded) in a Basra rocket attack on a residence. CBS and AP note an attack in "northwester Iraq" where Yazidi members were targeted by a bombing that claimed 9 lives (fourteen wounded). But Reueters has an update: "At least 175 people were killed when three suicide bombers driving fuel tankers attacked residential compounds home to the ancienty minority Yazidi sect".


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two people were wounded while the Iraqi army and unknown assailants had a shoot out "in Shorja market neighborhood downtown Baghdad" and a civilian was shot dead in the capital (four more wounded).


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Abdul Jabbar Al Wagga'a and 2 of his body guards "and 4 general directors" were kidnapped by unknown men who "were wearing a military uniform" when they invaded the marketing building of the Baghdad Oil Ministry (five people were wounded during the kidnapping).


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 15 corpses were discovered in Baghdad.

In addition to the five dead from the helicopter crash, today the US military announced: "Three Task Force Lightning Soldiers died as a result of injuriessustained from an explosion near their vehicle while conducting operations in Ninewah Province, Monday." And they announced: "One Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier was killed and three others wounded during combat operations in a western section of the Iraqi capital Aug. 14." ICCC's total for the month thus far is 41 with 3699 US service members being the total killed in the illegal war since it started. The 3700 mark looms closer. It will be passed, as will other marks, before this illegal war is ended.
[CBS and AP report the 3700 mark has been passed: "The deaths raised to at least 3,700 members of the U.S. military who have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count." Before the 5 deaths from the helicopter crash, Reuters reported: "United States 3,694." Adding five to that, you have 3,699.]

Sticking with reality, Leila Fadel (Baghdad Observer, McClatchy Newspapers) addresses the charges and counter-charges being exchanged between Sunni and Shia leaders in Iraq and weighs in with this: "People are fighting to be the bigger victim. Shiite politicians don't openly condemn the situation, instead they ask 'who picked the fight?' and talk about the higher number of Shiites killed in Iraq. Shiite and Sunni groups compete for the anonymous bodies at the morgue. Each side wants to raise the body count of their population by burying them in their graveyards. A question was raised to me during interviews this week. There is an assumption that the Shiite-led government will try to solve the crisis. But no one official asked 'What if the intent is to continue the purge?' No American officials ever asks this question publicly. No one ever asks whether the true intentions of the current government may be to solidify power by ridding themselves of a restive minority. Are American officials banking on a government that was born under U.S. supervision but may not be the best thing for the future of Iraq?"

The chosen ones, by the US government, were the Shi'ites. They now toy with backing the Sunnis. Whether they will or not remains to be seen but it does, a government run counter-insurgency is supposed to, keep everyone off balance with the hopes of fostering a dependence upon the occupying power (US).

It was really 'cute' at the start of the month when the Iraqi Air Force Commander, Lt. General Kamal Araznji declared, "As everybody knows, the Iraqi air force is basically one of the oldest air force in the region and it was established since 1931. But now, we've started a new beginning since 2004 on a new basis with support and from the abilities and experience by the international air force, particularly by the western countries." He continues but search in that statement, bragging about Iraqi Air Force's long history for any indication that 1931 doesn't matter at all. That's because the US disbanded the military. That's because when it was built back up certain groups weren't allowed back in. This is part of the who got put in control story that Fadel's asking about. It's equally true that when someone tosses out "1931" and starts rambling about the history of the Iraqi Air Force, they're just gas bagging. The military was disbanded. There is no history to speak of. Of course, when asked if the Iraqi military was "working with people who are essentially war criminals?", Fox responded, "I wouldn't necessarily jump or characterize, you know, that we're embracing any particular segment or sect or group of people" but that is what happened and what has happened. So to return to the question Fadel notes American officials don't want to ask in public, "What if the intent" of those currently in charge "is to continue the purge?"

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