Thursday, August 16, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, August 16, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths as the toll since the start of the illegal war passes the 3700 mark, the puppet engineers a "Sunni-free" alliance while whispers of his fall continue, the US mandated 'benchmarks' for Iraq see two fly in the trash ('benchmarks' two and sixteen), well over half of Americans in a new CNN poll don't trust Gen. David Petreaus will tell the truth to Congress, the death toll from Tuesday's bombings in northern Iraq continue to climb, and more.

Starting with war resistance, war resister Aidan Delgado, who was designated a CO, tells his story in The Sutras Of Abu Ghraib: Notes From A Conscientious Objector In Iraq and, as noted in a book discussion at The Third Estate Sunday Review, other than the act of freedom in telling the truth, there was nothing easy about the CO process. Delgado's superiors leaked the news so everyone knew Delgado was attempting CO status, he was questioned about his Buddist beliefs by a superior who clearly didn't understand the religion and told that if he read The Lord of the Rings and the Dune series then he couldn't be against the illegal war, they also (as they do with many) attempted to use the self-defense argument (nothing in the CO status the US military has written says or infers that a CO is someone who would not defend themselves in self-defense), they attempt to play like father figures and treat Delgado like an errant child, they encouraged the use of "peer counseling" where attempts are made to shame and isolate you, etc. Point being, it's not just filling out an application and waiting for the results. Dewey Hammond (San Francisco Chronicle) reviewed the book at the start of the month and noted, "He peels away the layers of warfare and Army life, letting readers draw their own conclusions. He offers candid opinions without riding the high horse. The war is his antithesis, but many of its soldiers are his friends. He describes a particularly difficult two-week personal leave that he spent in Florida: He missed the familiarity of Iraq and felt sickened that the only place that felt like home was the place he wanted more than anything to leave." Jessica Klipa (Bradenton Herald) noted the book Monday and an upcoming event: "He also is scheduled to have a book signing at New College of Florida, 5800 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, on Sept. 4."

Delgado is the third war resister to tell their story in book form this year. In May, Camilo Mejia shared his story in Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia while in February Joshua Key told his story in The Deserter's Tale.

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.

Turning to Iraq, Nermeen Al-Mufti (Al-Ahram Weekly) offers a run down of many of the troubles facing puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki including the endorsement from Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, al-Maliki's visit to Iran's capital (Tehran) on a day that is seen as many Iraqi's as a day of victory in the earlier eight-year war, displeasure on the part of the Kurds over al-Maliki's statements that he will "expel the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) from the Kurdish region (as Turkey wants), continued charges that Shia militias are death squads targeting Sunnis, increased violence in southern Iraq, and the refugee plight which has left over 4 millions Iraqis displaced. Meanwhile, AP reports that al-Maliki has announced he's got a new alliance . . . with Kurds and Shi'ites. The Sunnis have been left out. AFP lists the alliance members as "Maliki's Dawa Party, Vice President Adel Abdel Mehdi's Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Massud Barzani's Kurdish Democratic Party (PDK)." CBS and AP offer, "The announcement after three days of intense political negotiations in the capital was disappointing because it did not include Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi and his moderate Iraqi Islamic Party." Also weighing was the BBC noting that their "Middle East analyst Roger Hardy says, on the face of it, the new alliance is a puzzling move." Despite claims a "senior US official" makes to Andrew England (Financial Times of London) that it is "too early to assess," it can be assessed beyond 'confusing' or some other weak term. The Sunni shut out is not just about al-Maliki's latest dance card, it also goes to the issue of the 'benchmarks' the White House touted and the US Congress adopted. In July, Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) evaluated the status and we'll note the second of the eighteen mandated 'benchmarks' (US imposed upon Iraq) which is "Enacting and implementing legislation on de-Baathification" of which Youssef explained, "In March, the Iraqi parliament considered a de-Baathification law, but Shiite legislators objected and the law died." So under the second of the eighteen 'benchmarks,' the shutting out of Sunni leaders can be read as "FAILURE." Since the Sunnis are a minority in Iraq, the sixteenth 'benchmark' ("Ensuring that the rights of minority political parties in the Iraqi legislature are protected.") can also be read as "FAILURE."

The Yazidi sect is also a minority in Iraq and they are thought to be the targets in Tuesdays bombings in northern Iraq where the death toll has continued to climb as more corpses have been found. Tuesday's attack is the deadliest non-US attack in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. Tim Butcher (Telegraph of London) observes, "The blast surpassed the previous deadliest attack when 215 people were killed by mortar fire and five car bombs in Baghdad's Shia Muslim enclave of Sadr City on 23 November 2006. Lebanon's The Daily Star puts the death toll at 400 while CBS and AP put it at "at least 400". Citing medics, The Telegraph of London says the death toll could be as high as 500. Richard Sisk (New York Daily News) reports that "up to 500 people" dead from Tuesday's bombings.

Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) explains: "At least five hundred people are now feared dead from Tuesday's massive suicide bombing in northern Iraq. The initial toll of two-hundred fifty had already made it the deadliest attack of the Iraq war. Rescue workers continue to pull bodies from the rubble of more than thirty destroyed buildings, including several homes." The death toll is so great that the same US military who told CBS News yesterday that the number killed in the attacks was probably only 30 today tells AFX that the death toll is "between 175 and 200 killed with another 300 wounded" -- obviously continuing a long (if ignoble) US military history of undercounting the dead -- and, as Carol J. Williams (Los Angeles Times) notes, "Iraqi and U.S. officials immediately blamed Al Qaeda- affiliated insurgents for the devastation Tuesday".

Williams quotes survivor Murad Samku declaring, "The roofs fell on our heads. . . . What I saw last night in the darkness was a horrible image of my beloved village. The land is deserted now. There's nothing left." James Glanz (New York Times) quotes survivor Hasson Dalahi, "I saw a flash in the sky; I never saw anything like this before. . . . The house was completely flattened to the ground. I was looking for any survivor from my family in the rubble. I found only my 12-year-old nephew" (Glanz notes the discovered "nephew had broken ribs and legs and severe wounds to his head"). The Telegraph of London describes one scene today, "Bodies covered by blankets could be seen laid in the street and outside a municipal building. Rescuers are still digging through the rubble of the bomb-flattened clay-built homes in scenes reminiscent of an earthquake zone.

When the news bleak and you have to deliver a report on September 15th that the US administration and Republicans in Congress have stalled for in order to prolong the illegal war, what do you do? Make noises of troop reductions. Which, as Richard Sisk (New York Daily News) reports, is just what Gen. David Petreaus is doing right now, indicating that approximately 30,000 US troops could be pulled from Iraq "about a year or so from now". A year or so from now. And the AP reports that, as summer winds down, the number of US troops stationed in Iraq could reach 171,000. That would mean "about a year or so from now," the number could drop to 141,000 which is about the level of the number of troops on the ground prior to the escalation. "About a year or so from now" also means around the time of the 2008 elections in the US (November 2008) which might lead some Republicans to stay silent over the coming months thinking (wrongly) that a 'bounce' will benefit the GOP as a result of the number of US troops dropping to approxminately 141,000.

Petreaus has other problems to worry about such as his September 15th report to Congress.
Jonathan Weisman and Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) report that the White House is attempting to set new conditions including that members of Bully Boy's cabinet will deliver parts of the report to Congress and that Petreaus would only testify to Congress in a closed-door session. The latter would, of course, defeat the whole point of informing the people while the former would allow for even more spinning. Richard Sisk (New York Daily News) quotes White House flack Dana Perino declaring that the Congress was asking "for these reports from the President" apparently falsely believing that the US Congress was expecting a PowerPoint presentation from the Bully Boy. The public is less gullible/stupid according to a new CNN poll which finds that 53% of respondents "said they suspect that the military assessment of the situation will try to make it sound better than it actually is" (only 33% of respondents "said they support the war").

And as Petreaus peppers the US with thoughts that "about a year or so from now" a measly 30,000 US troops might be allowed to leave Iraq, Peter Graff (Reuters) reports that, "U.S. forces launched an airborne assault on a desert compound south of Baghdad on Thursday, the first air strike in a major new offensive." As Norman Solomon has long pointed out, this tactic (reduce ground troops, increase the air assault) was used during Vietnam in an attempt to weaken the public cry for withdrawal.

Norman Solomon (at CounterPunch) tackles the realities of the selling of the illegal war today, "The man who ran CNN's news operation during the invasion of Iraq is now doing damage control in response to a new documentary's evidence that he kowtowed to the Pentagon on behalf of the cable network. His current denial says a lot about how 'liberal media' outlets remain deeply embedded in th mindsets of pro-military conformity. Days ago, the former CNN executive publicly defended himself against a portion of the War Made Easy film (based on my book of the same name) that has drawn much comment from viewers since the documentary's release earlier this summer. As Inter Press Service reported, the movie shows 'a news clip of Eason Jordan, a CNN News chief executive who, in an interview with CNN, boasts of the network's cadre of professional military experts.' In fact, CNN's retired military generals turned war analysts were so good, Eason said, that they had all been vetted and approved by the U.S. government'. Inter Press called the vetting-and-approval process 'shocking' -- and added that 'in a country revered for its freedom of speech and unfettered press, Eason's comments would inuriate any veteran reporter who upholds the most basic and important tenet of the journalistic profession: independence." An excerpt of the film War Made Easy was aired on Democracy Now! this year (watch, listen, read). Audio only, Eason Jordan appeared on Democracy Now! in March of 2000 (Alexander Cockburn is also a guest for the segment, just FYI). What was he discussing with Amy Goodman? Goodman and her brother David Goodman explain it in their bestselling The Exception.To The Rulers, and it does apply here, CNN and NPR were allowing the US military to station members of the US Army's Fourth Psychological Operation in their news (or 'news') organizations and, in the audio link only, Eason Jordan maintained that "no goverment or military propaganda expert has ever worked on the news at CNN" but the US military, specifically Army psyops commander Christopher St. John, bragged publicly about the program and stated "he hoped to see more of" it while Army Information Service's Major Thomas Collins also bragged about the program on the record. So allowing the government to vet the generals, while disgusting and against basic rules of journalism, is far from the first public collaboration between CNN and the US military. For more on the psyops program, see the Goodman's book, pages 274 - 275. And note that even when the program was exposed (after it had run its course -- as far as anyone knows at least), Eason Jordan went on Democracy Now! and attempted to deny its existance. It can be argued that both the research done earlier and the vetting of generals later resulted in the hugely successful propaganda campaing the US administration and the US media conducted to sell the illegal war in the lead up.

And thanks to that, we have the daily violence. Including . . .


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad car bombing that claimed 4 lives (six wounded), 2 Baghdad roadside bombings that wounded eight people, a bombing that claimed the life of a "Ministry of Interior commando" (with one more injured" while they were on patrol in Baghdad and three police officers wounded in a Falluja mortar attack.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports al-Noor Newspaper's journalist Ahmed Qassim Mohammed is injured from an attack in Baghdad,


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports: "Zaineb Ali Siwan, a policewoman, was kidnapped from Zayuna, east Baghdad, by gunmen around 04:45 this afternoon."


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 19 corpses discovered in Baghdad.

Today the US military announced: "Two Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldiers were killed during combat operations in an area north of the Iraqi capital Aug. 15. Six other Soldiers were wounded in the attack." And they announced: "An MNC-I Soldier died of non-battle related causes August 16 in Baghdad." ICCC's current totals are 44 US service members killed so far this month with 3702 US service members killed since the start of the illegal war. The 3700 mark has been passed. For a point of reference, the 3,000 mark was passed December 31, 2006. The means 702 US service members have died in Iraq in 2007 so far.

In more news of US military deaths, CNN reports that suicide rates are up in the US Army
by 15% among active duty members and notes, "In 2006, the overall suicide rate for the United States was 13.4 per 100,000 people. It was 21.1 per 100,000 people for all men aged 17 to 45, compared to a rate of 17.8 for men in the Army. And it was 5.46 per 100,000 for all women, compared to an Army rate of 11.3 women soldiers per 100,000." AP reports this is a 26 year high for active duty members of the Army and that: "One out of four soldiers who committed suicide did so while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to a report scheduled to be released Thursday. Iraq was the most common deployment location for U.S. soldiers who either attempted suicide or committed suicide" while the Los Angeles Times notes, "About twice as many women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan committed suicide as did women not sent to war, the report said." These are active duty. These are not discharged. The US military claims to keep no record of US service members who commit suicide after being discharged. So, for instance, Jeffrey Lucey is not counted in those statsistics (link goes to an interview Amy Goodman did with his parents Joyce and Kevin Lucey, July 31, 2007, on why they're suing over his suicide).

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