Friday, August 24, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Friday, August 24, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military reports another death, a US helicopter attack leaves many Iraqis dead, war resistance gets covered on PBS, activist, author, feminist, peace advocate Grace Paley passed away Wednesday, and more.
Starting with war resistance.  This week's NOW with David Brancaccio (PBS, begins airing in most markets Friday nights) takes a look at war resistance:

Choosing to go to war is both a government's decision and one made by individual enlistees. But changing your mind once you're in the army is a risky decision with serious consequences. On Friday, August 24 (checkyour local listings), we talk to two soldiers who went AWOL and eventually left the Army, but who took very different paths. NOW captures the moment when one man turns himself in, and when another applies for refugee status in Canada, becoming one of the 20,000 soldiers who have deserted the army since the War in Iraq began. Each describes what drove him to follow his conscience over his call to duty, and what penalties and criticism were endured as a result. "I see things differently having lived through the experience," former army medic Agustin Aguayo tells NOW. "When I returned from Iraq, after much reflection I knew deep within me I could never go back."The NOW website at will offer more insight into the case made by conscientious objectors, as well as more stories of desertion in the ranks.

In addition to the broadcast, a preview of the show is posted at YouTube.  And the show will be available in various forms (audio, video, text -- though maybe not in full) at the NOW with David Brancaccio site.
Camilo Mejia is the new chair of Iraq Veterans Against the War. The decision of the new board members of IVAW were made last weekend.  Tony Pecinovsky (People's Weekly World) reports on the Veterans for Peace conference and quotes Mejia explaining, "There is no greater argument against war than the experience of war itself. In the military you're not free to decide for yourself what is right and wrong. The fog of war is very real. Your main concern is staying alive" and explaining his decision to self-checkout, "I couldn't return knowing that we are committing war crimes. This war is criminal. But I'm no longer a prisoner of fear. I have hope that we can end this war."  IVAW is gearing up for their big Truth in Recruting  campaign.  Adam Kokesh, who is co-chair of IVAW, is currently doing workshops (tonight at St. Bede's at the corner of St. Francis and San Mateo 7-9 pm PST). And Camilo Mejia tells his story in his own story of resistance in his new book Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia
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 jibber-jabber.  The NIE was released yesterday.  It is a much kinder and less explicit version of Peter W. Galbraith's "Iraq: The Way to Go" (The New York Review of Books, August 16, 2007).  In the essay, Galbraith writes, "The Iraq war is lost.  Of course, neither the President nor the war's intellectual architects are prepared to admit this.  Nonetheless, the specter of defeat shapes their thinking in telling ways.  The case for the war is no longer defined by the benefits of winning -- a stable Iraq, democracy on the march in the Middle East, the collapse of the evil Iranian and Syrian regimes -- but by the consequences of defeat."  If that stance is still not clear, Alex Spillius (Telegraph of London) reports: "Frontline generals in Iraq spoke openly yesterday of the need to have a government that could function and guarantee security above all else, including democratic legitimacy.  Brig Gen John Bednarek, who commands forces in Diyala province, told CNN that 'democratic institutions are not necessarily the way ahead in the long-term future'."  As all the lies are dropped, the reality of the crimes being committed may be grasped.  Maybe not.
Michael Ware and Thomas Evans (CNN) report that "officials now say they are willing to settle for a government that functions and can bring security."  Yesterday, White House flack Gordon Johndroe declared (in Crawford, TX) that "we know that there are significant challenges ahead, especially in the political area. I would say that the strategy laid out by the President on January 10th was a strategy that provided for security first, so that there would be space for political reconciliation. The surge did not get fully operational until mid-summer. It is not surprising -- it is frustrating, but it's not surprising that the political reconciliation is lagging behind the security improvements. I think that is the way the strategy was laid out."  The 'improved' security is a lie.  Repeating, 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: "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." But clearly the generals, the officials and the White House are all on the same page regarding the 'problems' with democracy -- pure chance, of course. 
Greg Miller (Los Angeles Times) summarizes the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE): "Despite some military progress, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki is unable to govern his country effecitvely and the political situation is likely to become even more precarious in the next six to 12 months, the nation's intelligence agencies concluded in a new assessment released  Thursday.  The document, an update of a National Intelligence Estimate delivered in January, represents the view of all 16 U.S. spy agencies."
'Democracy' on hold or out the window . . . what to do, what to do?  Bring in a 'strong man' dictator?  Reuters reports that 3 "secularist ministers . . . will formally quit" the cabinet of Nour al-Maliki today and that three are from Iyad Allawi's party. Yesterday Democracy Now! noted  Allawyi is working with "Republican lobbying firm Barbour, Griffith, and Rogers" in an effort to become the new prime minister of Iraq (Allawi was previously interim prime minister). CIA asset Allawi was still working with the CIA in 2003, as Jim Lobe (Foreign Policy in Focus) noted, in attempted "Iraqification" which was a popular thing in late 2003 as the White House and hand maidens of the press attempted to treat "Iraqification" as a process which would put Iraqis in control.  The policy was at odds with much of the White House's aims and never got off the ground.  Had it, it still wouldn't have allowed for Iraqi control.  Allawi was interim Prime Minister following the start of the illegal war and, during that time, he made his 'mark' early on.  Paul McGeough (Sydney Morning Herald via Common Dreams, July 2004) reported in July 2004:  "Iyad Allawi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, pulled a pistol and executed as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station, just days before Washington handed control of the country to his interim government, according to two people who allege they witnessed the killings. They say the prisoners - handcuffed and blindfolded - were lined up against a wall in a courtyard adjacent to the maximum-security cell block in which they were held at the Al-Amariyah security center, in the city's south-western suburbs."
Never having been handed democracy, Iraqis now face the very likely prospect that the puppet (al-Maliki) will be replaced with a dictator/strong man.  It's not about what the Iraqis want or desire on the US government's end, it's just more of the same.  A point driven home by the announcement that Abdel-Salam Aref has died in Jordan.  In 2004, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) explained, "The US-installed regime in Iraq said last night it would pay a monthly pension to a former president overthrown more than 35 years ago in a coup that brought Saddam Hussein's Baath party to power. The Iraqi Governing Council says it will pay Abdel-Rahman Aref $1,000 a month and allocate $5,000 to cover his medical bills in Jordan. Aref rose to prominence in 1963 when he was appointed army chief of staff by his elder brother, then President Abdel-Salam Aref. He was overthrown in July of 1968 in a coup that was aided by the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA also gave the Baath Party the names of some 5,000 Iraqi Communists who were then hunted down and killed or imprisoned. Following the coup, Baath party leader Ahmed Hasan al-Bakr became president, with Saddam as his right hand man."
As Peter W. Galbraith explains, there was no democracy following the start of the illegal war, not in what was imposed by the US (and the US shut out the UN).  What exists is a system where the Shi'ites and Sunnis are two major groups (Sunnis the smaller of the two) and the system imposed has left one group shut out (elections would change that only to a small degree -- but they aren't happening) and the third most populous segment, the Kurds, are ready for their own country (Kurdistan).  The system imposed on Iraq by the US was fatally flawed from the beginning so, it can be argued, ignorance wasn't the issue.  Considering past history, a failed system that could be tossed aside quickly.  Warren P. Strobel (McClatchy Newspapers) observes the the NIE's "best-case scenario" would be "Iraq's security will improve modestly over the next six to 12 months, but violence across the country will remain high. The U.S.-backed central government will grow more fragile and remain unable to govern. Shiite and Sunni Muslims will continue their bitter feuding. All sides will position themselves for an eventual American departure. In Iraq, best-case scenarios have rarely, if ever, come to pass."
Andrew Stephen (New Statesman) wonders if the Bully Boy is imploding and notes, "The conundrum, of course, is that it was precisely that dark art which got Bush into the White House in the first place. The poisonous divisiveness that gradually festered around him as a result now allows the state department, to take just one example reported in the Washington Post, to think nothing of simply ignoring an order from the president. Yet I suspect that the extent to which the Bush administration has become so shambolic will not come home to many Americans until the country returns to work on 4 September. Bush is now a truly rudderless president, with no realistic agenda left for the next 513 or so days, other than to tread water and hope for the best."
Is Bully Boy imploding?  His laughable attempting to rewrite history this week indicates something strange.  Robert Parry (Consortium News) evaluates the latest lunacy, "It is often said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. But a much worse fate may await countries whose leaders distort and falsify history. Such countries are doomed to experience even bloodier miscalculations.  That was the case with Germany after World War I when Adolf Hitler's Nazis built a political movement based in part on the myth that weak politicians in Berlin had stabbed brave German troops in the back when they were on the verge of victory.  And it appears to be the case again today as President George W. Bush presents the history of the Vietnam War as a Rambo movie with the heroic narrative that if only the U.S. military had stuck it out, the war would have been won.  Or, more likely, the black wall of the Vietnam War Veterans Memorial would stretch most of the way to the U.S. Capitol."  And Rosa Brooks (Los Angeles Times), who has gotten nothing but hisses in these snapshots, tackles the Bully Boy's nonsense, "Some might quibble with Bush's understanding of historical causation. Yes, many innocent civilians suffered in the aftermath of the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam -- but it's more accurate to attribute their suffering to the prolongation of the war itself, rather than to the U.S. withdrawal as such.  It's hard to be precise (as is the case in Iraq today, no one kept careful count of Vietnamese civilian casualties, and all sides in the conflict had an incentive to fudge the true figures), but somewhere between 1 million and 4 million civilians died as the war needlessly dragged on, many killed by U.S. weapons. Millions more were displaced. But those are details.
Bush went on to assert that 'another price to our withdrawal from Vietnam' was the rise of 'the enemy we face in today's struggle, those who came to our soil and killed thousands of citizens' on 9/11. Yup -- it's so obvious! The U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam caused the rise of Al Qaeda -- and, by extension, 'our withdrawal from Vietnam' ultimately turned Iraq into 'the central front' in 'the war on terror'."  At a time when many left voices played dumb, stayed silent, Rosa Brooks addressed Bully Boy's nonsense, challenged it and put into perspective.
More willing to do that would go along way towards ending the illegal war.
The NIE is not the only report making the news.  Another report, this time from an aid agency, also gives a grim picture.  James Glanz and Stephen Farrell (New York Times) report that the Bully Boy's escalation has led to an escalation in the amount of Iraqi refugees. Citing figures by the Iraqi Red Crescent, the reporters declare "the total number of internally displaced Iraqis has more than doubled, to 1.1 million from 499,000, since the buildup [of troops -- the escalation] started in February."
Turning to some of today's violence, Carol J. Williams (Los Angeles Times) reports a US helicopter attack on Iraqis in western Baghdad that resulted in the deaths of "at least 18" Iraqis, that the US is claiming the helicopter attack was prompted by an attack from 'insurgents' but eye witnesses note it's the same thing as usual -- due to the heat some people sleep on their roofs and that's what was going on during the "predawn" attack by the US -- and that between 2 and 4 women were killed in the attack.  Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "The U.S. military said in a press release that after ground troops came under attack helicopters were brought and 18 'enemy combatants were killed'. The military later amended the release putting the death toll at only 8. The military said armed men on rooftops were spotted. A military spokesman said no civilians were killed."
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing that claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier (two more injured).
Reuters reports "two construction workers" were shot dead in Diwaniya, a barber was shot dead in in Hawija and 1 police officer was shot dead in Numaniya.  CBS and AP report, "Sixty suspected al Qaeda in Iraq fighters hit national police facilities in a coordinated attack in Samarra, sparking two hours of fighting that saw three people killed and more than a dozen insurgents captured, Iraqi police said Friday. One policeman, a woman and an 11-year-old girl were killed in the fighting in the city 60 miles north of Baghdad, and nine others were injured. There were no details on insurgent casualties, but police arrested 14 suspects, the spokesman said on condition of anonymity."
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports  9 corpses discovered in Baghdad and 1 corpse discovered in Hawija.  Reuters notes a corpse discovered in Diwaniya..
Today the US military announced: "One Task Force Lightning Soldier died Aug. 24 as a result of injuries sustained from an explosion earlier in the day while conducting operations in Salah ad Din Province. Four Soldiers were also wounded and transported to a Coalition medical facility for treatment." The current numbers at ICCC are 3725 US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war with 67 for the month thus far.  Reuters' count is also 3725 and they note "Britain 168 [and] Other nations 129".
Finally, author and activist Grace Paley died Wednesday.  In Sisterhood is Forever: The Women's Anthology for a New Millennium (ed. Robin Morgan, 2003), Paley contributed "Why Peace is (More Than Ever) A Feminist Issue":
Today's wars are about oil.  But alternate energies exist now -- solar, wind -- for every important energy-using activity in our lives.  The only human work that cannot be done without oil is war.   
So men lead us to war for enough oil to continue to go to war for oil.
I'm now sure that these men can't stop themselves anymore -- even those who say they want to.  There are too many interesting weapons.  Besides, theirs is a habit of centuries, eons.  They will not break that habit themselves. 
For ourselves, for our girl and boy children, women will have to organize as we have done before -- and also as we have never done before -- to break that habit for them, once and for all.
Peace is a feminist issue, still and always, even if one women's group chose to walk away from that reality in order to justify an endorsement of Hillary Clinton.  As Juan Gonzales (Democracy Now!) noted today, "Since the 1960s, Paley was very active in the antiwar, feminist, and anti-nuclear movements.  She helped found the Greenwich Village Peace Center in 1961.  Eight years later she went on a peace mission to Hanoi.  In 1974, she attended the World Peace Conference in Moscow.  In 1980, she helped organize the Women's Pentagon Action.  And in 1985, Paley visited Nicaragua and El Salvador, after having campaigned against the US government's policies towards those countries.  She was also one of the 'White House Eleven,' who were arrested in 1978 for unfurling an anti-nuclear banner on the White House lawn."  Feminist Wire Daily writes that "Paley was known as much for her political activism on behalf of peace and women's rights as her literary accomplishments.  Paley was jailed several times for her opposition to the Vietnam War, and traveled to Hanoi on a peace mission to negotiate for the release of American prisoners in 1969.  She helped found the Women's Pentagon Action and the Greenwich Village Peace Center. . . .  Most recently, she actively opposed the war in Iraq."  When Paley went to NYC for the "Women on War" event in April 2003, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) interviewed her and the program aired some of that interview today:
AMY GOODMAN: Well, you were recently named the poet laureate of Vermont. It's very interesting. You're named by the governor, who is a Republican governor. Can you talk about how you relate to him in your meeting with him?
GRACE PALEY: Well, first of all, he really -- he didn't -- well, he had to sign the paper, but I was chosen by a group of other poets, a couple of whom had been laureates, like Galway Kinnell and Ellen Voigt, and a couple of other people who had to make a choice. I don't even think I was the best one, but that's beside the point. Still, there -- you know, there's time for others. And then I had to meet with him. He wanted to meet with me and talk to me, but before he really signed on. And I -- he knew a lot about me, and I said, well, I wasn't going to change very much, you know? I'd probably be the same person I was, no matter what. And we talked awhile about this fact. And he really -- and then he signed it. That's all.
AMY GOODMAN: Governor James Douglas?
GRACE PALEY: Yes. He's a Republican. He has a very mild manner, and I don't know whether that's the part of the Republicans of Vermont or what, but he's a Republican. I mean, there's no question about it.
AMY GOODMAN: But in terms of your poetry, more significantly, here he is naming you poet laureate, whether he chose you or not --
AMY GOODMAN: -- he is for the war, and you're opposed.
GRACE PALEY: Yeah, right. Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: And you have been using your poetry a lot in the last few months to express that view.
GRACE PALEY: Well, I would do that, no matter what. I mean, this is what I'm about, and this is how I live my life. It's -- I don't even -- I wouldn't understand how to do otherwise.
Interviewed by Phyllis Exkhaus and Judith Mahoney Pasternak (War Resister League) at the start of this century, Paley reflected on what the peace movement accomplished: "Well, I think it did two things.  It acted as an education in resistance and nonviolence.  And probably the education in nonviolent direct action couldn't have been learned without a war.  It had to take a war for people to learn that things could be defied and resisted.  I think that was an important legacy of the peace movement."
Elaine Woo (Los Angeles Times) reports on Paley's work on the issue of draft resistance and notes "she also was an inveterate street-corner leafleteer and protest marcher who supported or helped found the Greenwich Village Peace Center, the War Resisters League, Women's Pentagon Action and the Feminist Press." The Feminist Press published Here And Somewhere Else (Two By Two) in March of this year which paired Paley's work with Robert Nichols (her second and surviving husband).
In the December 1998 issue of The Progressive, Anne-Marie Cusac noted a passage by Paely that stood out: "One of the things that art is about, for me, is justice.  Now, that isn't a matter of opinion, really.  That isn't to say, 'I'm going to show these people right or wrong' or whatever.  But what art is about -- and this is what justice is about, although you'll have your own interpretations -- is the illumination of what isn't known, the lighting  up of what is under a rock, of what has been hidden."
In 2002, she was among those signing "Not In Our Name: A Statement Of Conscience Against War And Repression."  Meredith Tax remembers Paley at Women's WORLD:  "Grace and I became close during the PEN Congress of 1986, during which we organized a meeting to protest the inadequate number of women speakers, which took over the ballroom of the Essex House Hotel and led to the formation of a Women's Committee in PEN American Center.  Grace and I were co chairs of that committee until she moved to Vermont, and she became founding Chair of Women's World in 1994. Grace was the kindest and most generous person I have ever known.  This is unusual in a writer, especially one of her quality, because writers tend to husband their inner resources for their work, but Grace had so many inner resources that she could afford to be generous.  She gave unstining love to her family and friends, took speaking engagements at any whistlestop, often without pay, organized antiwar and antinuclear and women's demonstrations, worked endlessly against nuclear armaments, did draft counseling, protested on behalf of the environment, free expression, and a just peace betwen Israel and Palestine."
In addition, Matthew Rothschild interviewed Paley for Progressive Radio and Neda Ulaby (NPR) provides an audio overview of Paley's life and work.  In terms of writing, "My Father Addresses Me On The Facts Of Old Age" (June 17, 2002) is available online at The New Yorker.

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