Thursday, August 23, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, August 23, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, women and children taken in a mass kidnapping in Iraq, the US military announces another death, Bully Boy lies (again) and largely gets a pass (again), Bill Richardson speaks frankly, and more.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk first about this decision of Iraq Veterans Against the War, a group of, what, more than 500 people to actively encourage war resistance?   
CAMILO MEJIA: Last count was 525 members, with new members joining every day, Amy. And the decision was made to, as an organization, support war resistance within the military as a way to undermine the war effort.         
JUAN GONZALEZ: And in terms of the growth of that resistance movement over the last couple of years -- obviously since you were one of the first -- how do you see that developing?
CAMILO MEJIA: I think we've come a long way from the time when I resisted the war. Like Amy said, I was the first public combat veteran to refuse to redeploy to Iraq. Back then, when I went public with my refusal to go back to the war, we had approximately twenty-two cases of desertion in the military. And then, by the time I got out of jail, that number was 5,500. Today, it's over 10,000 people within the military who are refusing to go to the war in Iraq since the war started. And just to put it in perspective, that's almost like saying like the 101st Airborne Division was wiped out by desertion or AWOL, basically people not wanting to fight the war.
AMY GOODMAN: How many?
CAMILO MEJIA: Over 10,000 people. So that's the equivalent to an Army division.
Over the weekend, Iraq Veterans Against the War held their board elections and Mejia was elected as the new chair.  On the issue of those who self-check out, Mejia noted that despite claims that the military isn't going after them, it is happening and cited Suzanne Swift as one specific example noting she is among the "cases of people who have not yet gone public and yet have been seized in their home" and that Swift was "apprehended by police without even a search warrant at her mother's house, and she had not gone public at that time.  And she had refused to go back to the war, because she had been subject to military sexual assault and command rape from her leadership and being forced to go back to the war with the same unit and with the same people who had attacked her."  Swift received no justice.  A military white wash investigation did find 'some' validity in her recount of the ordeal she endured but instead of doing the right thing and immediately discharge with full benefits and a honorable discharge, instead of stating publicly, "This never should have happened and we apologize to Suzanne Swift and promise we are addressing this systemic issue," they refused to discharge her, they punished her and there's been no Congressional oversight despite the fact that Swift's case is not an isolated one.  In September 2006, US House Rep Peter DeFazio declared that Congress would investigate the case and that he would be the one leading that.  Of course, September 2006 was before the 2006 elections and the Democratically controlled Congress hasn't shown much spine since they were swept into office claiming they would end the illegal war.  As Sara Rich, Swift's mother, explained of DeFazio to Jennifer Zahn Spieler (Women's eNews) in December 2006, "His office gave us a lot of red tape.  And he basically laughed at our petition.  I walked away feeling rather humiliated by him."
AMY GOODMAN: Now you have become chair of Iraq Veterans Against the War, and you are launching the organization Truth in Recruiting campaign in September. Can you explain what that is?
CAMILO MEJIA: Sure. Well, we are launching a number of actions that we had, and Truth in Recruiting is one of them. What we're basically going to do is we are going to continue doing what we have been doing, but we're going to up the tempo. We are going to increase the number of members who are going to go into high schools to inform young people about the reality of the military and about the reality of war. Far from telling them not to join the military, we are going to tell them, "You want to join the military, this is what could happen to you. This is what's happened to our members. This is what the contract means. This is what stop-loss is. This is what conscientious objection is," so to basically inform them and thus empower them to make an informed decision.
We are going to go into recruiters' offices, and we're going to talk to the recruiters. And this, in time, is going to -- in turn, is going to take up their time, so they're not, you know, out there basically lying to young people about, you know, the many wonderful benefits of the military, without talking about the realities of war.
And we're going to continue doing, you know, what we're doing. We're going to continue going out into recruiting events. And we just had one action, actually, at the St. Louis conference. Across the street, there was a convention, an African American expo, where they had the America's Army game, and they were basically targeting like, you know, kids as young as twelve years of age, you know, teaching them that the military is cool and the military is good for you. And, you know, about ninety of us went in there, and, you know, we had this very military-style formation. And, you know, we all sounded off, saying, you know, "War is not a game. War is not a game. War is not a game." And then we leafleted the families and the youth with our fliers, you know, that talk about the reality of being in the military, which talk about our position as veterans against the war. And this is basically what's behind this campaign and this effort, you know, to basically inform young people about the realities of the military.
In Aimme Allison and David Solnit's new book Army of None -- from Seven Stories press, available at book stores, online, and via Courage to Resist  --  one of the stories they recount is a high school counselor who was happy to invite the US military on campus and thrilled to steer students to them (especially to the Coast Guard) until he was given some information that included the military contract service members sign:
Reading the language of the military enlistment contract changed Brian's mind about promoting the military option to his students.  Section 9b reads, "Laws and regulations that govern military personnel may change without notice to me.  Such changes may change my status, pay, allowances, benefits, and responsibilities as a member of the Armed Forces REGARDLESS of the provisions of this enlistment/reenlistment document."  section 10d2 reads, "I may be ordered to active duty for 24 months, and my enlistment may be extended."  In other words, the military enlistment contract isn't a real contract.  The military does not legally have to honor its promises to the enlistee.  That was enough to change this counselor's opinion of the service" (pages 10 - 12). 
It should be noted that Camilo Mejia's contract was 'extended' -- he was one of the many whom the military decided to 'stop loss' aka backdoor draft.  The US military couldn't do that and US Senator Bill Nelson and elements within the military knew that (Mejia was a non-citizen, non-citizen's cannot be extended).  Mejia tells his story in  Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia  but we should note again that he had completed his service and should have been sent home.  Those who attempt to argue "You signed a contract!" have no concerns over the fact that it's a one-sided document.  In Allison and Solnit's book they explore the contracts and how to convey the actual realities. 
Truth in Recruting is an attempt to get those and other realities out.  Adam Kokesh (Sgt. Kokesh Goes to Washington) reports on last week's Truth in Recruitng workshop in Berkeley "a sort of trial run for the format that I have created. . . .  The next one for me is this Friday in Santa Fe.  The Santa Fe Chapter of Veterans For Peace (especially Ken Murray) has been a great help in setting this up and promoting it."  Kokesh also notes the new board members of IVAW including Mejia as chair, Kokesh as co-chiar, Phil Aliff as secretary and Margaret Stevens as treasurer and encourages everyone to check out Meeting Resistance an "incredibly powerful" documentary.
Aimee Allison and David Solnit remind, in Army Of None, that if you're handing out information about the realities of recruitment, it's a good idea to have the information in more than one language based on the diversity of the community.  Juan Gonzales addressed with Mejia (on Democracy Now! today) the fact that enrollment for African-Americans in the military is declining while Latinos are now being heavily targeted.  Meija noted, "Some people may have heard about the DREAM Act, through which the military hopes to recruit undocumented youth who are graduating from high school.  The proposal is to serve two years in the military or go to college for two years and then get your green card, which 65,000 people who are undocumented and graduate from high school and are not eligible for financial aid from the federal government are not going to be able to go to college for two years.  So, you know, this is one of the ways in which, you know, the military is targeting young immigratns, mostly Latinos, to join the military."
Tonight, Camilo Mejia had a reading from his book  Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia at Different Drummer  at 6:30 pm.  Friday he has events in Syracuse (click here and check out the sidebar).
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.
Turning to the Bully Boy.  Yesterday he made ridiculous claims regarding Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and did so in an attempt to resell his tired but ongoing illegal war. As Jane Fonda notes in the incredible documentary Sir! No Sir!,  "You know, people say, 'Well you keep going back, why are you going back to Vietnam?' We keep going back to Vietnam because I'll tell you what, the other side does. They're always going back. And they have to go back -- the Hawks, you know, the patriarchs. They have to go back because, and they have to revise the going back, because they can't allow us to know what the back there really was."  Jim Rutenberg, Sheryl Gay Stolber, Mark Mazzetti, Damien Cave and Erich Schmitt (New York Times) observe: "With his comments Mr. Bush was doing something few major politicians of either party have done in a generation: rearguing a conflict that ended more than three decades ago but has remained an emotional touch point."  As Ron Jacobs (CounterPunch) observes, "Beware, this is only the beginning of a new effort to sell these wars.  The next salvo will take place on September 11, 2007, when General Petraeus, the latest general to run the war in Iraq, presents his commercial for an extended surge and an increased commitment to the ongoing occupation of that country.  Of course, the date has 'absolutely nothing' to do with the anniversary of the attacks in New York and Virginia six years ago."
Bully Boy made ridiculous comments about how US withdrawl from Vietnam led to a host of things when the realities are that the illegal war itself led to that.  Bully Boy felt the need to speak of new vocabulary the withdrawal created (it didn't create it) and while it's nice to know he is attempting to increase his Word Power, let's explore some of the actual vocabulary that illegal war did create.  "Double veteran" was someone who killed a woman after he'd had sex with her.  "Expactants" was a 'cute' term for those who were 'expected' to die.  "Glad bags" were body bags and "litters" were what the dead and wounded were carried on. "Willie Peter" which was white phosphorus added to napalm to prevent water from stopping the burning of skin. "Fragging" which was when those serving under an officer elected to kill him often with a grenade.  "Dust offs" were when service members were medicially evacuated by helicopter.  Those are only some of the words that illegal war added to the vocabularly. 
Historian Douglas Brinkley tells Michael Tackett (Chicago Tribune),  "If we get into a Vietnam argument, the country is divided, but if you are going to try to sell this concept that the blood is on the American people's hands because we left and were weak-kneed in Asia, that is a very tenuous and inane historical argument."  Political analyst Bruce Cain tells Carolyn Tyler (KGO News) that what Bully Boy is "trying to do is use a conservative argument to rally the conservative base because what he fears is not that Nancy Pelosi and the democrats are going to vote for withdrawal. What he fears is members of his own party are going to join in."  On the rollout attempt to resell the illegal war, Massimo Calabresi (Time magazine) explains, "The speech marks the start of a weeks-long campaign in the run-up to the politically charged September report card to be delivered to Congress by General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker.  Bush will give a second speech next week at the American Legion in Reno, Nevada, and another a week later on a trip to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit taking place this year in Sydney, Australia.  The speeches will coincide with the launch of a $15 million ad campaign by a group called 'Freedom's Watch' -- which counts former Bush press secretary Air Fleischer as one of its founders -- aimed at bolstering flagging support for the war."
This is an atttempt massive rollout and that's why it needs to be called out in real time.  Not a week later, not a few weeks later.  Today, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) spoke with Inter Press Service (IPS) journalist and historian Garth Porter who said of Bully Boy's ridiculous speech:
Well, you know, it reminds me very much of the way in which, of course, Richard Nixon used the threat of a bloodbath in Vietnam as the primary argument for continuing that war for four more years after he came to power in 1969. And really, it seems to me, the lesson of the Vietnam War that should be now debated and discussed is really the way in which Nixon could have ended that war when he came to power, negotiated a settlement and avoided the extension of that war into Cambodia, which happened because Nixon did not do that.   
Had Nixon listened to the antiwar movement and the American people by 1969 and ended that war, there would not have been the overthrow of Norodom Sihanouk in 1970. There would not have been the extension of the war into Cambodia. There would not have been the rise of the Khmer Rouge. When Sihanouk was overthrown, we tend to forget that the Khmer Rouge was really an insignificant movement. They were about 2,500 or 3,000 very poorly armed soldiers or guerillas. And it was really the extension of the Vietnam War into Cambodia which made the Khmer Rouge the powerful movement that they were.         
So really, you know, the lesson of Vietnam that we should be hearing, which we should have heard for the last three decades, but we haven't, is that government officials in the White House simply do not pay attention to the real consequences of the wars that they wage. They seem to be totally unable to take account of the destabilizing ways that the wars that they wage affect not only the country in which the war is being waged, but then the neighboring countries, as well.
Meanwhile, CBS and AP report the Bully Boy "touched a nerve among Vietnamese when he invoked the Vietnam War in a speech . . . People in Vietnam, where opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq is strong, said Thursday that Mr. Bush drew the wrong conclusions from the long, bloody Southeast Asian conflict.  'Doesn't he realize that if the U.S. had stayed in Vietnam longer, they would have killed more people?' said Vu Huy Trieu of Hanoi, a veteran of the communist forces that fought American troops in Vietnam. 'Nobody regreats that the Vietnam War wasn't prolonged except Bush. . . Does he think the U.S. could have won if they had stayed longer?  No way'."
Anne Zook (Peevish . . . I'm Just Saying) notes Bully Boy was "saying that we can't leave Iraq because then it would be like Vietnam.  It's not like Vietnam now, you understand.  We didn't charge in there uninvited and start slaughtering people right and left with no clear idea of what we were dealing with and no rational plan for how wholesale killing was going to make things better."  Rebecca addressed the topic of Vietnam in "robert parry, vietnam," Mike in "Ron Fullwood, William S. Lind," Elaine in "Matthew Rothschild, John Nichols, Katha Pollitt," and Kat in "Glen Ford, Iraq, Vietnam" yesterday.  Today Ira Chernus (Common Dreams) notes that the Dems are caving on Iraq and buying the myth of 'progress' so he suggests, "The alternative is to refuse to take the administration's new bait.  The antiwar movement could refuse to use Iraq as a backdrop and Iraqis as extras in a drama about the trials and tribulations of America.  Instead, we could insist that the issue is not about how well our soldiers are doing or what is happening here at home.  It's about what is happening in Iraq, where ordinary people like us have been dying and suffering in horrifying numbers ever since we occupied their country.  We have no magic button that we can push to end the tragedy now.  But we can do our best to refocus the debate on the real terror: the terror endured by the Iraqi people who live under military occupation every day."
Turning to the violence in Iraq, yesterday Damien Cave and James Glanz (New York Times) noted that the death toll from last week's bombings in northern Iraq (Tuesday) had passed 500 with over 1,500 injured.  On yesterday's US helicopter crash in Iraq, Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) notes that US military flack Michael Donnelly maintains, "The helicopter was not shot down".  Remember that if and when the investigation concludes differently. The Honolulu Advertiser notes: "Ten Hawai'i soldiers were among those killed when a Army Black Hawk helicopter crashed today in northern Iraq".  Heather L. VanDyke (Muskegon Chronicle) notes 30-year-old Matthew Tallman was among the dead and AP notes that some of the dead "were based in Hawaii; others in Washington state" and that the 14's home states included California, Texas, Washington, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Missouri and Ohio.
Today in Iraq . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life (five wounded). Reuters notes a Baghdad mortar attack that claimed 2 lives (four injured), a mortar attack in Kut that claimed 2 lives (six wounded)
Reuters notes one person dead in Mosul from a drive-by shooting and "At least 25 people were killed in a battle between Sunni Arab militants and al Qaeda in villages near Baquba" in a battle involving mortars and gun fire.
Mariam Karouny (Reuters) reports that "15 women and children" were kidnapped following the battle outside Baquba.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 12 corpses discovered in Baghdad.  Reuters notes 2 corpses discovered in Mosul.
Today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier was killed and four others wounded during combat operations in an area west of the Iraqi capital Aug. 22."  Currently ICCC shows 3723 as the number of US service members killed in the illegal war since it started with 65 for the month thus far.
In political news, Reuters reports US Senator John Warner has stated Bully Boy needs to use September 15th to make an announcements that he will begin withdrawing troops from Iraq. On Warner's request for a phased withdrawal to begin, AP quotes him stating, "We simply cannot as a nation stand and continue to put our troops at continuous risk of loss of life and limb without beginning to take some decisive action."  Warner's statements come as the spin flies around the supposed 'progress' that's not happening.  We'll again note Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reporting earlier this month that the US military claims of 'progress' were based on numbers they would not release and that McClatchy Newspapers' figures do not track with the findings the US military has trumpeted (and many, most recently the Los Angeles Times have swallowed and spat back at readers): "U.S. officials say the number of civilian casualties in the Iraqi capital is down 50 percent.  But U.S. officials declined to provide specific numbers, and statistics gathered by McClatchy Newspapers don't support the claim."
Staying on the topic of politics and the lack of progress, US Democratic presidental hopeful
Bill Richardson released a statement noting the absurdity of Bully Boy's speech ("The correct conclusion to draw from our experience in Vietnam is that dragging out the process of withdrawal will be tragically worse in the terms of U.S. lives lost and worse for the Iraqi's themselves in terms of the ultimate instability we will create by staying longer") and addressed Hillary Clinton's some days 'up' attitude on the escalation, sometimes 'down':
I am pleased that Senator Clinton, today, recognizes that the surge has produced no progress of any long term significance to the Iraq debacle. That is different from what she said yesterday to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. But, it is that audience, who has sacrificed more than any of us, who deserves to hear a clear statement that our sons and daughters and mothers and fathers are not going to be sacrificed because of an irrational commitment to a failed strategy.
The President is asking the country to wait for next month's progress report from General Petraeus. The chances are that report will be just another White House spin job and attempt to justify this war. This has been the bloodiest summer yet -- our troops have done an admirable job at trying to make a bad idea work, but the surge has failed, the war has failed, Bush has failed. It is time to end this war and bring all of our troops home as soon as possible. I'm glad Hillary Clinton has retracted her comments yesterday and has declared the surge a failure today -- but I still haven't gotten an answer to my question -- a peace in Iraq will fail as long as we leave troops behind -- how many would you leave behind? Every other major candidate would leave thousands of US troops in Iraq for an indefinite. I will leave no U.S. forces there. Zero.
The only way out of the Iraq mess is to remove all U.S. troops, and to use that leverage to get the warring parties to resolve their differences, and surrounding Muslim nations to help stabilize the country. Any residual U.S. force reduces the chances for success, and exposes our troops as targets. Our brave troops, and the American people, deserve better.
John Walcott (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that that US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) finds that "to date, Iraq's political leaders remain unable to govern effectively."  The NIE was released today [PDF format of the report can be read here].  CBS and AP quote from the report: "The strains of the security situation and absence of key leaders have stalled internal political debates, slowed national decision-making, and increased Maliki's vulnerability to alternative coalitions" and "CBS News correspondent Tara Mergener reports tension is growing between President Bush and the prime minister after Mr. Bush appeared to back away from al-Maliki earlier this week when he said: 'Clearly, the Iraqi government's got to do more'."
Finally, Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) reports on the victims of those 'prescision' US airstrikes bringing 'liberation' to Iraqis and quotes Kassim Hussein, "This is not the first time that we have heard nice words about military operations that they say aim for our security and prosperity.  Yet every time it was more killing, sieges and poverty.  It is a war that we did not have to fight, but we are the biggest losers every time it is ignited by the Americans."

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