Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, August 21, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, Camilo Mejia chairs a board, the puppet of the occupation isn't feeling the love, Matthew Rothschild explains the need for impeachment, and more.

Starting with war resisters.  Camilo Mejia served in Iraq, served in Iraq well after his contract ran out and, as a non-US citizen, the military couldn't extend his contract but they chose to pretend like they could.  They also denied him CO status.  He tells his story Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia in which was released in May.  One story not in the book, because it just happened, is that he's just been elected the chair of  Iraq Veterans Against the War board of directors.

Aaron Glantz (One World) reports that IVAW held their elections during the St. Louis  Veterans for Peace conference and elected Mejia with Garrett Reppenhagen explaining that IVAW "decided to make support of war resisters a major part of what we do." Glantz  reports on IVAW's big success in Fort Drum where the local chapter is up and running and now claims 20 members and, of course, has the first GI coffeehouse in the nation (for this illegal war) with Different Drummer as well as that September 17th IVAW will kick off Truth in Recruiting.

Mejia will be at Different Drummer  this Thursday for a reading (starts at 6:30 pm)
from Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia and the GI Coffee House is located in Watertown, NY (12 Paddock Arcade, 1 Public Square, 13601).

Mejia tells Glanz, "There's a sort of revolution taking place in the streets.  It's not being reported by the mainstream media, but we in the antiwar movement know what's going on.  There is a rebellion going on in the ranks of the military that is not being reported."

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Timothy Richard, 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.

John Stauber (CounterPunch) notes: "IVAW was founded in 2004 and today it is a rapidly growing grassroots, independent anti-war group with members active in 43 states and deployed on bases in Iraq.  These rank and file soldiers are not partisans; they are Americans who have seen first hand the greatest political betrayal of our lifetime, the US attack on Iraq and the long occupation.  Iraq Veterans Against the War are not the concoction of a liberal think tank or PR firm; they have very little funding; they are not avoiding criticism of Democrats; and they are not playing political games trying to bank-shot Democratic candidates into the White House and Congress in 2008.  They are in open non-violent revolt against US foreign policy, criticizing politicians of all stripes who would exploit the war for political gain."  If only the media -- big and small -- could do the same.

Yesterday, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted the Project for Excellence in Journalism "study shows corporate news coverage of the Iraq war has dropped sharply in the last four months.  According to the Project for Excellence in Journalism, the Iraq war accounted for just fifteen percent of news coverage, down from twenty-two percent earlier this year. Network evening news coverage of the war went from forty-percent to nineteen percent. The Democratic and Republican presidential campaign emerged as the most-covered issue over the same period."
The report, entitled "Campaign For President Takes Center Stage In Coverage," notes that during "the period from April through June of 2007 was that press coverage of the war in Iraq declined markedly.  Together the three major storylines of the war -- the policy debate, events on the ground, and the impact on the U.S. homefront -- filled 15% of the total newshole in the quarter, a drop of roughly a third from the first three months of the year, when it filled 22%."  And the report zooms in one period: "Attention to the Iraq war fell across all five media sectors in the second quarter.  The bulk of the decline occurred after May 24, when Congress approved funding without including troop withdrawal timetables, a move widely viewed as a White House victory."  So when the Democrats in Congress caved, the media followed the lead?

The report doesn't cover independent or public broadcast media (and focuses on TV) but to focus on that period (April through June), a few broadcasts deserve noting.  Bill Moyers Journal (PBS) utilized the May 25th hour to examine Maxine Hong-Kingston and veterans efforts to explore war and peace (click here to watch/listen, here to read) and on May 11th, Moyers spent the third segment with Marilyn D. Young, editor with Lloyd C. Gardner of Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam (audio/video and transcript) with Young addressing the lies that the illegal war was built upon.  May 28th, Free Speech Radio News presented a
a special Memorial Day look at the some of the costs of the war in US  anchored by Aaron Glantz where he spoke with veterans and their families (and drew on the knowledge and experience he has as a result of devoting so much time to covering all aspects of the illegal war).   June 11th  WBAI's Law and Disorder (Dalia Hashad, Michael Ratner, Michael Smith and Heidi Boghosian -- though I don't believe Boghosian was part of that discussion) explored the topic of resistance within the US military with Tod EnsignDemocracy Now! featured many segments during that period but we'll note three: June 6th Goodman discussed the efforts to steal/privatize Iraqi oil, the 'benchmarks' and the Democratically controlled Congress with Antonia Juhasz; the May 14 discussion with Yanar Mohammed about the realities of life for women in the 'liberated' Iraq;
and the June 12 interview of  Iraq Veterans Against the War Adam Kokesh   discussing how the US military had targeted him for speaking out against the illegal war.
A few of the print media stories during this time worth noting would include
Bay Fang's "The Talibanization of Iraq" (Ms. magazine, spring 2007 issue)
and certainly CounterPunch and Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) have seriously and repeatedly covered the illegal war during this period.  And The NationThey spent the first six months of this year offering more feature articles on the election than on the illegal war.  They also were first out of the gate with the non-stop horse race gas bagging on the 2008 elections.  In fact, their first article on the 2008 election appeard online November 3rd ("The Off-Year Primary" -- ran in the November 20th print edition) -- four days before the 2006 elections had taken place.  Do we want to talk about the American Idol column that got disappeared?  No?  Didn't think so.  (Though officially 'disappeared,' you can see
Mike's "The Third Estate Sunday Review " and then Elaine's "Monday" and then Rebecca's "cynthia mckinney"  -- each excerpted a section of the column after it had been 'disappeared' but before it was also gone from Google cache.)

At Truthdig (audio and transcript) James Harris and Josh Scheer speak with Matthew Rothschild about his new book You Have No Rights and Harris brings up the executive order the Bully Boy issued last month noting "it said, basically, that if you protest or threaten what he calls 'stabilization efforts in Iraq,' your property can be seized and you can be detained.  Were you are aware of that?"  Rothschild: "I have the order in my hand.  I was just writing something on the computer to update our website with something on that.  Yeah.  If you are -- in the mind of the secretary of the Treasury -- posing a significant risk of committing an act of violence -- you don't have to have committed an act of violence.  If he thinks you are at risk of committing an act of violence in order to protest the policies of the Iraqi government or the Bush administration's policies to promote what it calls 'economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq,' then the secretary of the Treasury can put a freeze on all your assets.  This is unbelievable.  What Bush is trying to achieve her, by executive order, are things that he can't achieve legislatively.  Someone's got to put a stop to this.  Congress has got to put a stop to it because he is seizing all sorts of authoritarian powers right now by executive decree."

Harris: But Matthew, let's be real for a second.  Here we are, year four of this war.  Given what you've seen so far from Congress, can they really make a change in this war?  Can they really change the mind of George Bush?

Rothschild: They're going to have to step up to the plate sometime, or we can kiss our Constitution goodbye, because Bush is trampling all over it.  Cheney's trampling all over it.  What we need to happen, in my mind, is impeachment proceedings of the House Judiciary Committee against Bush and against Cheney, to make them know that they are going to be held accountable or at least there's going to be a process to try to hold them accountable, that they can't get away scot-free with all this stuff, and to tell the next president or the one after that that they can't get away with this stuff.

They will keep getting away with it as long as the media refuses to inform the public. Perfect example . . .

On August 17th when Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno spoke with reporters via a video-link, he did not simply state that there would be likely be a decrease in the number of US troops in Iraq next year (as many MSM outlets reported).  He sold this as a testing 'strategy': "By conducting a deliberate reduction of our forces is what's necessary in the future whenever we determine to do that.  By conducting a deliberate reduction, phased with the increase in the capabilities of Iraqi security forces, I think it significantly reduces the risk of us then losing the areas that we've been able to secure so far.  That's why a deliberate plan over time I think will be most successful. "  He then went on to avoid "specifics on numbers, because I think I need to leave that to General Petraues" but made clear that the escalation will most likely be ending next year.  His 'strategy' is to use that as a 'test'.  Which would mean the numbers could just as easily go right back up. Was he spinning?  Most likely.  But that is what he stated in the press briefing, that it was a means of testing (and also gave the impression that he'd always understood that the escalation would end in April of 2008).

And of course he pushed the myth (still no evidence provided, just charges) that Iran is doing this, that and everything but helping the sun rise each morning.  So the news, reported by KUNA today, that a Syrian, not an Iranian, was arrested in Mosul must have led to some sobbing at Centcom.

As the British prepare to withdraw from southern Iraq, the BBC interviewed Mike Colbourne ("UK's chief police adviser") who stated of the Basra police, "The corruption that we are talking about does range from financial corruption through to serious offences such as murder, kidnap.  There are a number of Iraqi police service officers who are clearly aligned to militias.  I think it is fair to say that there is sectarian violence that is being committed by both police officers and other Iraqi security forces officers.  That is just the truth of the situation as it is at the moment."

Staying on the topic of departures, AFP reports that US Senators Carl Levin and John Warner have released a joint statment calling for Nouri al-Maliki's government to be given one last chance: "We believe that the recent high-level meetings among Iraqi political leaders could be the last chance for this government to solve the Iraqi political crisis. And should it fail, we believe, the Iraqi Council of Representatives and the Iraqi people need to judge the government of Iraq's record and determine what actions should be taken - consistent with the Iraqi constitution - to form a true unity government to meet those responsibilities."  Jonathan Weisman (Washington Post) quotes Levin declaring, "I hope the parliament will vote the Maliki government out of office and will have the wisdom to replace it with a less sectarian and more unifying prime minister and government."  Megan Greenwell (Washington Post) notes that prior to leaving for Syria, al-Maliki had another 'alliance' meeting but the Iraqi Parliament doesn't return from their vacation until September 4th (the same day the US Congress returns from their vacation) and, "That timeline leaves a narrow window for the politicians to solve major issues before the Sept. 15 report.

The report . . . Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker has termed Iraq's 'progress' with regards to national reconciliation "extremely disappointing" (a more truthful term would be "non-existent") and that he repeated the lie about civilian deaths being down (apparently the Los Angeles Times doesn't read McClatchy Newspapers because that comment goes unchecked).  Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus are supposed to report to the US Congress Sept. 15th on the 'progress' in Iraq (in what many assume will be words written for them by the White House).  AP notes Crocker's stated "Washington's blueprint for reconciliation was insufficient to win back control of the country" but then he attempted to explain "Congressional benchmarks do not tell the whole story".  First, they are White House 'benchmarks' -- pushed by the White House, adopted by Congress.  Second, "insufficient to win back control of the country" pretty much says it all.

In some of today's violence . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad explosion that "targeted a US convoy" claimed the lives of 2 Iraqis and left four wounded.  Reuters notes that the number wounded rose to fourteen and that a bomber in vest killed themselves and left eight people wounded in Falluja


Reuters notes 7 family members were shot dead in a Latifiya home invasion ("included three women and a baby girl").


Reuters notes 12 corpses were discovered in Baghdad today.

Though the bombings in northern Iraq were only last week (last Tuesday in fact), many in the media have lost interest.  Lelia Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that the confirmed death toll now stands at 354 with "80 more are known to be missing" and the wounded toll is 600 while "[t]he pungent smell of the dead hangs low in this village, and not even the colorful headdresses the men have wrapped across their faces can keep it out."

The violence has created refugees -- externally and internally -- and today Jen Utz (Democracy Now!) filed a report from Damascus on refugees in Syria where she spoke with one Iraqi family and noted that "Iraqi refugees are forbidden from working in Syria, and the family's savings are running out.  Plus, they tell me that life in exile is emotionally criplling, and they have no hope they'll go home anytime soon" while Omar explains to her the problem: "What's happening in Iraq is because of your president.  He's the main reason.  Most of the Iraqis have been forced to leave their homes and their families.  They have had family members kidnapped or killed.  There is no house in Iraq that doesn't have a problem like this.  There must be a solution for the Iraqi people.  Why don't they find a solution?"

Okay, we're doing a transition here -- external refugees are immigrants.  Labor reporter David Bacon regularly covers the stories that usually don't get covered which includes immigration and he also addresses child labor such as children from the ages of 11-years-old to 17-years-old working the banana groves in the Philippines.

Boardwalk for $500? In 2007? Ha!
Play Monopoly Here and Now (it's updated for today's economy) at Yahoo! Games.