Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, August 15, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, over 200 Iraqis dead from yesterday's bombing with the death toll climbing, Cindy Sheehan highlights the Iraqi refugee situation, PR Watch shines a spotlight so it's the Peace Resister to the rescue, and more.

Starting with war resistance. Jeremy Hinzman is the first war resister to self-check, go to Canada and do so publicly. Hinzman, his wife Nga Nguyen and their son Liam went to Canada in January 2004. He hoped to be granted asylum in Canada and began the process to be granted refugee status. In December of 2004, his case was heard. December 13, 2005, he spoke with Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) and explained, "Well, before the hearing even commenced, we had our hands tied a bit. As you have stated, the solicitor general of the Canadian government intervened in our case, and that's only done in about 5% of cases. Anyway, they raised the issue that they felt that the legality of the war in Iraq was irrelevant to our refugee claims. So, we were unable to argue that in any way. . . . Well, basically, they said whether war is legal or whether it's illegal, it's irrelevant to what you are trying to do here. Which, I mean, I would argue is pretty ludicrous, because that was almost my entire rationale for coming here in the first place." Although the hearing was technically held by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada the reality is the 'board' for each case is one person.

Before self-checking out, Hinzman had attempted to be granted CO status but, like many, he was turned down. In March 2005, Hinzman's claim for refugee status was rejected by the 'board' (Brian Goodman, in this case). Amnesty International declared (May 2005): "Amnesty International considers Mr. Jeremy Hinzman to have a genuine conscientious objection to serving as a combatant in the US forces in Iraq. Amnesty International further considers that the took reasonable steps to register his conscientious objection through seeking non-combatant status in 2002, an application which was rejected. Accordingly, should he be imprisoned upon his return to the United States, Amnesty International would consider him to be a prisoner of conscience."

"I object to the Iraqi war because it is an act of agression with no defensive basis. It has been supported by pretenses that cannot withstand even elementary scrutiny. First, before the U.S. dropped the first bomb, it was quite evident that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Second, the Bush administration had the gall to exploit the American public's fear of terrorists by making the absurd assertion that a secular Baathist government was working with a fundamentalist terrorist group. There was never any intelligence to substantiate this. Third, the notion that the U.S. wants to export democracy to Iraq is laughable. Democracy is by the people, not an appointed puppet theater," Peter Laufer's Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq quotes Hinzman explaining.

Gerry Condon (ZNet) explained of Hinzman, "He had converted to Catholicism in high school. While in Army training, he was reading about the Buddhist philosophy of living. On Sundays Hinzman and his wife attended the Quaker meetings in Fayetteville, North Carolina, next to Fort Bragg, the 'Home of the Airborne.' They enjoyed the weekly group mediations and were inspired by the Quakers' pacifist message. Hinzman came to realize that he could not in good conscience carry a weapon or kill another human being." Condon, a war resister during Vietnam, has been one of the ones giving back to today's war resisters as has attorney Jeffry House and they have been there for every step of the appeals process for Hinzman and war resister Brandon Hughey. In April of 2006, the Federal Court ruled against Hinzman and Hughey so they carried their cases on up the chain.

May 5, 2007, Jack Lakey (Toronto Star) reported the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that Hinzman and Hughey "are not entitled to refugee status" and that "The latest ruling noted neither made full use of steps open to them in the U.S. to win conscientious objector status, before fleeing here." The next move is Canada's Supreme Court and, as Cindy Chan (Epoch Times) noted earlier this month, that body will announce "late September or early October" whether or not they will hear the cases of Hinzman and Hughey. If the body refuses to hear the appeal, that is not the end of the story.

As Gerry Condon noted in 2004, "If Hinzman and Hughey are ultimately denied refugee status in Canada, they will not have exhausted their legal bids to remain in Canada. They may still petition the government to remain in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. By this time they may be well established in Canada, one of the criteria for granting this residency. Or they could ask for permission to apply from within Canada for immigrant status, due to special circumstances (if they were to apply from the U.S., they could be arrested and imprisoned for desertion)."

Whatever happens, one thing is known. Hinzman, Hughey and others have based their applications on the illegality of the war and their refusal to participate in it. This has been refuted repeatedly by Canadian bodies even when war resisters like Jimmy Massey testify before them as a witness. In the November 2006, Democrats in the US were swept into power and they campaigned on ending the illegal war. While US Speaker of the House may or may not be able to 'table' impeachment, the fact remains that the American people were promised serious Congressional probes of the illegal war. Those probes have not taken place. It's been no better than when the Republicans controlled Congress because no one was surprised that they would stall and bury reports on the intell that was embarrassing to the White House. Where are the Congressional hearings? As Congress has done very little, it has had effects, in this country and around the world.

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 in northern Iraq, bombings resulted in mass deaths. Kim Gamel (AP) reports the death toll has risen to 200 this morning and it is still rising. AFP notes "growing fears last night that more dead were trapped under the rubble." Megan Greenwell and Dlovan Brwari (Washington Post) quote survivor Khidr Farhan declaring, "I found myself flying through the air, and my face was burning. I felt my leg hurting, and I knew my head was bleeding. Then I couldn't feel anything. When I woke up, I was in the hospital" and Haji Sido declaring, "I ran past people screaming on the ground. I didn't care, because I had to get to my family. When I got home, my wife said: 'Calm down and thank God. We are safe'." Carol J. Williams (Los Angeles Times) quotes survivor Aydan Shikh declaring, "There is no justification for this. What crime have the Yazidis committed to deserve this?" and Subhee Abdullah declaring, "I saw people drowning in their own blood. More people are sure to die."

Paul Tait (Reuters) notes that digging through the rubble continues with many people "dazed and crying" as they attempt to locate missing family members and friends. In addition, Tait notes 330 people are classified as wounded. Sam Knight and Deborah Haynes (Times of London) list the number of dead at 250 (wounded at 350) and quote Dakhil Qassim ("mayor of the nearby town of Sinjar") declaring, "We are expecting to reach the final death toll tomorrow or day after tomorrow as we are getting only pieces of bodies." BBC, citing a Tal Afar official, notes the death toll is 257 (350 wounded) and that the attacks precede the upcoming vote on the fate of the area (it's own independent area -- "Correspondents say the planned referendum makes northern Iraq's Kurds a target for politically-motivated attacks." Tim Butcher and Sally Peck (Telegraph of London) note that the attacks have overwhelmed health care facilities resulting in survivors being "ferried to hospitals across northern Iraq" and they remind that US Gen. George Casy Jr.had recently declared "Our guys are seeing progress on the security front." Casey made those remarks to the National Press Club in DC only yesterday, August 14, 2007 where he made one baseless claim after another (and yes, he falsely linked it all to 9-11). He also stated that "The successes" remain unreported.

While Casey got caught by surprise, the US military appears unsure of what it's doing today at any given minutes. First Gen. David Petraues and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker issue a joint-statment decrying "the barbaric attacks on innocent Iraqi men, women and children in Ninawah Province yesterday." Then the US military insists to CBS News that the death toll was only 30. They also maintain it is the work of al Qaeda . . . no doubt too startled yet to try and create a link to Iran.

In some of the other violence reported today . . .

Today Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) reported, "The violence comes as U.S. forces have launched new crackdowns across Iraq. More than sixteen thousand U.S. and Iraqi troops are taking part in Operation Lightning Hammer around the Diyala River. In Baghdad, at least two people were killed in a U.S.-led raid on the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City. The victims were reported to be a father and his three-year old daughter, asleep in the summer heat on the roof of their home. Nine others were arrested, including the three sons of local resident Umm Falah" and Falah was quoted explaining, "I used to bake breads and sell it to feed them and when they grew they started to work to help me. We though that we would be relieved when Saddam fell, we did not expect that he was replaced with the worst. Only God can beat them (the Americans)."


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two Mosul car bombings that claimed 10 lives. Reuters reports 5 lives ended by a Hilla bombing in an attack on "a judge's house".


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 4 people shot dead in Baghdad (one from "random fire by an American convoy") and three police officers were shot dead in Baghdad. Reuters reports one person shot dead in Madaen, "a member of a joint Iraqi and U.S. security coordination" was shot dead in Najaf, 3 "police commandos" shot dead in Doura and one person shot dead in Buhriz.


Kim Gamel (AP) reports that 24 corpses were discovered today "bullet-riddled bodies of apparent victimes of sectarian death squads usually run by Shiite militias."

In other violence, there are the displaced. Over four million Iraqis have been displaced (internally and externally) due to the illegal war. Cindy Sheehan (Common Dreams) notes that the bulk of the externally displaced have gone to Jordan and Syria: "The refugee catastrophe is going a long way to destabilize the countries to which the Iraqis . . . emergency CPR needs to flow to Jordan and Syria immediately to help the Iraqi people and the two mentioned countries. Significantly, both countries also have vast populations of Palestinian refugees that has now become a generational problem. Solving the problems in Israel will help the Palestinian refugees who want the right of return to their homes as well as help solving our own 'terrorism' problem at home. This is also an issue that needs to be pressed and exposed back in the states." This as IRIN notes the effects on Iraqi children being raised within Iraq "in a climate of fear and violence" And pregnant women in labor try to avoid going to hospitals after nightfall due to the violence. IRIN reports that in 1989, 117 Iraqi women "died during pregnancy or childbirth" but today the "figures has now gone up by 65 per cent." These results didn't happen by chance, they are the direct effects of an illegal war.

Turning to the political situations. At Inside Iraq (a blog run by McClatchy Newspapers Iraqi staff), a correspondent captures the endless repetition: "Did anyone hear about the meetings our great politician would start soon? OMG Here we are again, again and again and again, we are standing on the first square. new meetings but do these meetings have any solutions to the daily massacre that we live in? I'm sure the demands of the political blocs would be the same, each party and bloc will ask for sure for more power to control, more money to steal and more weapons to kill the people of the other sect. and guess what? Again the US Godfather will sponsor the great meetings. its the same old game, keep them busy, let them kill each other on the name of democracy."

Meanwhile the Center for Media and Democracy's PR notes that the partisan groups Vets for Freedom and VoteVets have been hailed by the AP as "valuable public relations tools" . . . for elected and those seeking elections and notes VoteVets (with a board of advisers that includes War Hawk Bob Kerrey) " is part of Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, the [WalkOn] and SEIU coalition that pressures pro-war Republicans but not Democrats." Too much reality for some and apparently that includes the Peace Resister who felt the need to team with a failed screenwriter (how did Rooster work out? Oh, that's right) to offer the usual sop that the Peace Resister is now known for. Does anyone else wonder why she only teams up with male co-writers or are we never supposed to notice that? That inability to work with women as co-writers may go a long way towards explaining why the magazine published nearly 4 men for every 1 woman in the first six months of this year. So Useless and Failed Screenwriter team up to offer that 'things are changing' (sadly, not at the magazine) and it's a turned corner for the movement thanks to the useless people of and others and provide plenty of 'love' to Americans Against Escalation and a hell of a lot of cover.

The Nation wasn't always worthless and a few at the magazine (or distributed by it) still try to make a difference. Today, Democracy Now! featured 25 minutes of a recent speech Naomi Klein entitled "Another World Is Possible." From that speech:

We who say we believe in this other world need to know that we are not losers. We did not lose the battle of ideas. We were not outsmarted, and we were not out-argued. We lost because we were crushed. Sometimes we were crushed by army tanks, and sometimes we were crushed by think tanks. And by think tanks, I mean the people who are paid to think by the makers of tanks. Now, most effective we have seen is when the army tanks and the think tanks team up. The quest to impose a single world market has casualties now in the millions, from Chile then to Iraq today. These blueprints for another world were crushed and disappeared because they are popular and because, when tried, they work. They're popular because they have the power to give millions of people lives with dignity, with the basics guaranteed. They are dangerous because they put real limits on the rich, who respond accordingly. Understanding this history, understanding that we never lost the battle of ideas, that we only lost a series of dirty wars, is key to building the confidence that we lack, to igniting the passionate intensity that we need.

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