Monday, August 27, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Monday, August 27, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, the puppet goes into extreme paranoid mode, the number of internal refugees in Iraq increases, Allawi tries to stage a comeback, the US government funds those fighting against the US in Iraq, and more.
Starting with war resisters.  In most PBS markets, the latest episode of  NOW with David Branccachio began airing Friday and the first segment was an examination of how
Agustin Aguayo and James Burmeister became war resisters.  Both served in Iraq and checked out from the military in Germany.
Aguayo, who holds both US and Mexican citizenship checked out to demonstrate how serious he was about being recognized as a CO (as a medic serving in Iraq, he'd refused to load his weapon). He left Germany and returned to the US via Mexico.  Aguayo has fought for over three years to be recognizaed as a CO, through both the military channels and civilian courts.  The second check out lasted less than thirty days before Aguayo turned himself in; however, the US military elected to court-martial him as a deserter.  Throughout the pre-trial imprisonment and the court-martial Helga Aguayo, Agustin's wife, refused to be silenced and repeatedly raised attention to what was happening to her husband.  She explained to Gillian Russom (CounterPunch) that what changed her opinion of the war "was seeing what it does to military families.  I'm a mother [of twin daughtters], and seeing how it affects the children and the people really got to me.  That made me ask questions and do research.  And this war is just completely unnecessary."  March 6th Agustin Aguayo was convicted in his court-martial and then sentenced.  Amnesty International issued this statement: "It is evident from the statements made by Agustin Augyo, and members of his family that he is a legitimate conscintious objector whose opposition to war developed over the course of time and evolved further in response to his experiences in Iraq.  Amnesty International believes that he took reasonable steps to secure relase from the army through applying for conscientious objector status. Amnesty International is of the view that the right to refuse to perform military service for reasons of conscience is protected under international human rights law.  As such we consider Agustin Aguayo to be a prisoner of conscience and call for his immediate and unconditional release."  Aguayo was credit for the time he was imprisoned before his court-martial (the end of September through the start of March) and was released after seven months.  Earlier this month, Aguayo spoke in NYC (August 15th) at the Brecht Forum where he noted how medics in Iraq were told to treat the wounded US service members who might be able to recover to fight first.  He is a member of
James Burmeister was a new face for American TV (he's been profiled by Canada's CBC before).  Burmeister was in Germany following wounds received in Iraq after he experienced his third bombing. He had joined up when the talk was 'reconstruction' and 'rebuilding' and he believed the hype that humanitarian work was going to be done and the recruiter who told him he'd be doing just that.  Instead, he found himself setting up traps for Iraqis -- leaving US property out in the open so that when Iraqis touched them that had 'violated US soveriegnty' and could be attacked.  Burmeister, his wife and their young daughter set their sights on Canada where they now live in Ottawa and he attempts to be granted asylum by the Canadian government -- one that has refused to grant asylum to any war resisters (though they did during Vietnam).  Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey are expected to hear in the next few weeks whether or not Canada's Supreme Court will hear their cases for refugee status.  Hinzman and Hugey were the first to go public about going to Canada and they have worked their way through the 'system' (such as it is).  The Supreme Court refusing to hear their cases would mean that the lower court's verdict stands and no refugee status will be granted; however, that does not mean deportation from Canada and, should they be deported from Canada, there is no law that says they must be sent back to the US.
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.
Though Ronald R. Roach Jr. has not declared he's a war resister, his story does go to the way the US military attempts to track those who self-check out while denying to the press that they do.  On Saturday, Mark Boshnack (The Daily Star) reported on Ronald R. Roach Jr. Friday morning arrest in New York and it contained an element common to many of the arrest stories (for those paying attention, "State police were looking for Roach for two days after receiving a request from the Army to locate him, [BCI Inv. Kevin] More said. . . . .More said he received assistance from troopers and Otsego deputies in searching the house, finding Roach hiding on a shelf near the ceiling. Roach's wife was home at the time, but she has not been charged, More said.  Army spokeswoman Gini Sinclair said that Roach was with the 2nd Battalion, 8th Calvary, out of Fort Hood, Texas. He went AWOL on July 25, she said."  The US military continues to pursue those who check out despite the lies that continue to tell the press and despite the fact that the press continues to repeat these lies.
Turning to Iraq, today Hannah Allem (McClatchy Newspapers) breaks the news that the US government is funding what they alternately call 'terrorists' and 'insurgents' in Al Anbar Province -- huge sums of reconstruction money have been handed over to those the US has labeled as enemies by Iraqi contractors in what amounts to little more than a security shakedown -- one that US and Iraqi officials have been aware of for some time.  This has been going on since 2003 yet, surprisingly?, the US hasn't included that detail in their hype of the "Al Anbar model."  Nor did Rear Adm. Mark Fox include it as he attempted to spin 'success' in yesterday's laughable press briefing (which avoided all mentions of deaths, FYI).  The capital of the province is Ramadi and the city most well known to Westerners may be Falluja. So far this month, the US military has announced at least 10 deaths in Al Anbar Province, at least 17 last month.  Allem notes: "Iraq's deadly insurgent groups have financed their war against U.S. troops in part with hundreds of thousands of dollars in U.S. rebuilding funds that they've extorted from Iraqi contractors in Anbar province."
If Fox was laughable on Sunday, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch was bizarre in his Friday press briefing via video-link from Iraq.  Lynch insisted that he's 'out and about' which would make him the only high ranking officer that is.  He used "we" a lot when speaking of what he passes off as his interaction with Iraqi locals in Baghdad and said that they are asking him "How can we help?"  If true, they would be the only ones doing so judging by polls which find a majority of Iraqis want US forces out of Iraq and a majority 'supports' attacks on US forces.  So the question becomes what sort of drugs are they giving the generals?
They're giving them pretty much everything else.  Sunday, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Damien Cave (New York Times) reported that Gen. David Petraeus serves US Congressional members in the Green Zone on a junket asparagus soup and lobster tortellini.  Who knew Patterson's Restaurant in London catered to the Green Zone?
While Patraeus and visiting members of the US Congress live it high on the hog, the US service members exist on MRIs or really bad fast food while that malnutrition rate among Iraqi children continues to rise.  Maybe Patreause will send them a doggy bag?  Stolberg and Cave describe the trips as good p.r. for Congress members who can stand up in the US Congress and declare "When I was in Iraq . . ." and the equivalent of "how I spent my sumer vacation".
Malnutrition isn't the only thing rising in Iraq.  Noting an AP study, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) explained that "the death for Iraqi civilians is double what it was a year ago.  Estimates show Iraq is suffering an average sixty-two deaths per day, up from thirty-three last year.  Meanwhile the Iraqi Red Crescent reports the number of internally displaced Iraqis has also doubled over the course of the so-called U.S. troop surge.  More than 1.1 million Iraqis are now internally-displaced, up from under four-hundred fifty thousand earlier this year."  This is contrary what Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch spun to the press via video-link on Friday where he also declared no one serving under him could leave by Christmas (a question he was asked several times).
As things get worse in Iraq, the US installed puppet, Nouri al-Maliki, loses it.  Yesterday, he held a press conference where he attacked . . . well everyone but his parents.  He was, as Waleed Ibrahim and Wisam Mohammed (Reuters) note, supposed to be talking up the fact that he had pushed his government's plan (written by foreign oil companies) for the theft of Iraqi oil onto the legislature (Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi has already stated that it's not a sure thing and more talk is required) but instead he had yet another paranoid public episode where he attacked US Senators Carl Levin and Hillary Clinton by name.  Chris Collins (McClatchy Newspapers) reminds that al-Maliki has lashed out others in the past, including the administration and former US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad; however, he added a new target for his rage: the US military which he declared was making "big mistakes."  This took place, Carol J. Williams (Los Angeles Times) informs, at "a hastily called news conference" where al-Maliki also attacked France's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.  Kouchner visited Iraq last week in attempt to create some form of diplomatic relations between the two countries.  Petter Allen (Telegraph of London) cites a Newsweek interview with Kouchner, which had just gone online, in which Kouchner explains he was on the phone with US Secretary of State and Anger Condi Rice and told her, "Listen, he's got to be replaced" and that Kouchner believes this should happen but "Bush is attached to Mr Maliki. But the government is not functioning."

CNN reports the puppet issued a host of demands including that Levin and Clinton must come to their senses.  He wasn't done, however.  James Glanz (New York Times) observes
it's "a new level of stridency" for al-Maliki who had "previously reacted with anger to President Bush's criticism of the Iraqi government's lack of political process"  al-Maliki also lashed out at the US military but not for the deaths of civilians outside Baghdad due to the ongoing airwar.  Megan Greenwell (Washington Post) explains the puppet "denounced U.S. military raids in Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad". Defending al-Sadr until his final days in office, no doubt.  Greenwell also notes a second point that was supposed to be underscored by the press conference (before al-Maliki's outbursts dominated everything else) that a meeting on Sunday determined that the Iraqi government should "release an estimated 1,700 prisoners who are being detained without specific charges."  On the issue of prisoners, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted today, "The number of prisoners in U.S.-run jails in Iraq has also increased by fifty-percent under the so-called surge. The U.S. military is now holding some twenty-four thousand, five-hundred prisoners --- up from sixteen thousand earlier this year. Less than three hundred are from countries other than Iraq. Military spokesperson Captain John Fleming says the primary motivator for imprisoned insurgents is economic because they don't have jobs."  For those late to the party, in October of 2006, IRIN estimated the unemployment rate in Iraq had risen to 60% and that's a result of the illegal war's continued chaos and violence.  With the unemployment has come inflation and Reuters studied a 12 month period (June 2005 to July 2006) and found "a 70% rate of inflation."
Steven R. Hurst (AP) reported on the AP study over the weekend and noted, "Baghdad, however, still accounts for slightly more than half of all war-related killings -- the same percentage as a year ago, according to figures compiled by The Associated Press. The tallies and trends offer a sobering snapshot after an additional 30,000 U.S. troops began campaigns in February to regain control of the Baghdad area. It also highlights one of the major themes expected in next month's Iraq progress report to Congress: some military headway, but extremist factions are far from broken. In street-level terms, it means life for average Iraqis appears to be even more perilous and unpredictable." This is underscored by Leila Fadel (Baghdad Observer, McClatchy Newspapers) reporting last week on a new word in the Iraqi vocabulary "Enaalso": "Two days ago an entire Sunni family was killed. The next day the Mahdi Army came back to kill a Shiite witness, he said. His family was spared, they live outside Iraq.  'Enaalso,' he said in Iraqi slang. It's a new Iraqi word, a phrase used to explain being turned in by an informant to a militia and then being killed. Literally it means he was 'chewed up.' It's what Iraqis now repeatedly say to explain the killings of families by militias that control their neighborhoods with fear and weapons; a word to explain the corpses that show up in the streets."

The US supported puppet is most likely on his final legs.  At some point, the question may be asked why the US stood behind him so long?  They believed he would push through the theft of Iraqi oil but maybe their first clue to what he could really accomplish occurred in May of 2006 when he missed the Iraq Constitional deadline to form a cabinet and gave himself an extra-constitutional extension . . . only to miss that deadline as well.  CIA asset Iyad Allawi is auditioning heavily for the role of "strong man" in this illegal war production.  Already three of his ministers have walked out of al-Maliki's cabinet (last Friday) and, as  Democracy Now! noted Thursday, 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.  Walter Pincus (Washington Post) reports Allawi boasted on CNN yesterday of the hiring of the firm and that $300,000 was being spent on the effort (whose putting up the money, Allawyi refused to say).  Pincus also notes that Robert D. Blackwill, who had been the Bully Boy's special envoy to Iraq, was reported to have been behind Allawi's appointment as interim prime minister and that, following the appointment, "Blackwill left the government to join Barbour Griffith" which also has Philip D. Zelikow (former "counserlor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice") as "[a] senior adviser". Along with reportedly having executed unarmed prisoners at a Baghdad police station in 2004,  Allawi also used his tenure as interim prime minister to endorse death squads.  In January 2005, when the US administration was publicly floating the idea of sending death squads into Iraq and surrounding countries to kill at will (and illegally), Roland Watson (Times of London) reported
Allawi to be among "the most vigorous supporters of the plan".
Staying on violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing resulted in 1 death (three wounded).  Reuters notes a man blew himself up in a Falluja mosque and wounded eleven people.
Reuters reported on Sunday that US forces dropped bombs on a home and the result were the deaths of 5 children and 2 women; and that a female sheepherder was killed by a bombing in Kirkuk. Also on Sunday, Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reported: "The spokesman of Kurdistan's forces guards and the deputy of the Peshmerga minister, Jabbar Yaour, said that 'two American helicopters and two plane fighters bombed early Sunday morning two locations of emergency police of Kurdistan region of about 500 meters of Qara Taba village (70 kilometers north of Baquba, which is the capital of Diyala province) killing four policemen and injuring eight others . Also two police cars were destroyed. Also, Yaour said that 'Kurdish police are in north Diyala to keep peace and fight terrorism in the area with the knowledge and approval of the collation troops and central government and the bombing was by mistake'."
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the Iraqi army shot thirteen Iraqis making a pilgrimage as they traveled to Karbala. Reuters notes that 3 were killed in the shooting, and that "Reuters photographer said he saw one pilgrim shot dead outside his hotel".  CBS and AP report: "A sniper killed a Shiite pilgrim on a Baghdad bridge Monday".
On Sunday, Reuters reported  that pilgrims, one woman and six people (three children included in the wounded), were shot dead in Baghdad while another woman ("female shepherd") was killed in Kirkuk by a roadside bombing. Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reported "an American patrol opened fire (a machine gun)" in Baghdad and at least one person died while six more were wounded".
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 12 corpses discovered in Baghdad.
Today, the US military announced: "A Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West died Aug. 25 and in a separate incident, another Marine died Aug. 26, while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province."  And they announced: "Two Task Force Lightning Soldiers were killed by enemy gunfire in Salah ad Din Province, Sunday."  The deaths bring the ICCC total number of US service members killed in Iraq so far this month to 74 and the total number killed in the illegal war to 3732.
On Saturday, Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reported on the mood in one mess hall in Iraq, "In the dining hall of a U.S. Army post south of Baghdad, President Bush was on the wide-screen TV, giving a speech about the war in Iraq.  The soldiers didn't look up from their chicken and mashed potatoes. As military and political leaders prepare to deliver a progress report on the conflict to Congress next month, many soldiers are increasingly disdainful of the happy talk that they say commanders on the ground and White House officials are using in their discussions about the war."  On a similar note, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) shared today, "In Puerto Rico, a call for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq earned a standing ovation Saturday at a conference of more than four thousand National Guard. Speaking at the opening of the National Guard Association general conference, Puerto Rico Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila said the war in Iraq is needlessly risking the lives of U.S. troops and damaging the U.S. abroad. He said: ''The daily death toll of Americans and their allies has caused irreparable anguish here in Puerto Rico, and throughout the country. The same could be said for the people of Iraq'."
Yesterday, 2008 Democratic presidential nominee hopeful John Edwards appeared on CBS' Face The Nation where he declared of the US Congress, "I think they should not submit a single funding bill to the president for the war that doesn't have a timetable for withdrawal.  And I think they should use whatever legislative tool is available to them, including filibuster."
This is similar to what 2008 Democratic presidential nominee Mike Gravel has advocated.  On August 8th, he explained it on the first hour (the only guest) on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show as follows: "The Constitution's very clear: the Congress makes the laws, the Executive has to enforce and obey the laws. But you now have to set it up so that he'll veto and how do you get this passed, this law passed? Real simple. You see, they do a cloture vote. Oh one cloture vote, two, can't do it. Stop. Or an override veto. Can't do it? Stop. That's ridiculous. The rules permit to have a vote on cloture every single day, seven days a week, and all the way through this August recess which they're all taking -- and then when the bill comes back vetoed they can repeat it every single day and, I promise you, Diane, that in twenty, forty days we will have a law on the books to withdraw the troops from Iraq. Now time is fleeting. This could have been done by Labor Day and all, I mean all the troops, would come home by Christmas."  Both Gravel and Edwards are former US Senators.  Whether the current Congress will take the advice or not remains to be seen.
Addressing Congress' refusal to lead, Ron Jacobs (CounterPunch) observes that Congress has served to tap down on the outrage over the illegal war by becoming partners with the White House in the continuation of the illegal war just as they did when they "provided Bush and Cheney with the legitmacy for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent occupation of that country" and that the fiery speeches (which never have action behind them) serve to "provide the prowar forces with the cover of democratic legitmacy because all of the bills even mentioning a withdrawal of forces have either been defeate or water down" which may indicate "Democratic leadership wanted all along -- a pretend antiwar opposition to the war in Congress that would take the wind out of the movement in the streets of the United States and insure the continuation of the war in the streets of Baghdad."  No doubt fearing (rightly) a repeat of 2004, Jacobs cautions against the peace movement allowing themselves to become a Democratic electoral movement and notes how candidates against the illegal war are being marginalized likely to leave only pro-war Dem candidates standing:
"For those of us with a sense of history, this scenario played itself out in 1968 and left many antiwar Democrats with the choice of voting for the prowar Humphrey or not voting at all.  So what is to be done?  Plain and simple, the antiwar movement must be wrested back from those who would sell it to the Democratic Party.  This means, plain and simple, that antiwar actions must not champion presidential candidates at the expense of the stated goal of immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all US forces from Iraq."  Jacobs also notes some coming events including the the Stpember 15th rallies in DC, Los Angeles (and elsewhere), the "encampment and march the week of September 22 - 29" in DC "and a number of regional protests around the date of October 27th . . . being called by a number of national organizations, including UFPJ, Troops Out Now, and ANSWER."
Events took place over the weekend.  Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes at least 4,000 turned out in Kennebunkport, Maine for the "march to the Bush family estate" and that Cindy Sheehan and Dennis Kucinich were among those participating.  Sheehan is running for the US Congress in California's eighth district and Kucinich is running for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008.  Kucinich declared, "The democratic leaders can end this war now.  They can go to president Bush and say Mr. Bush, we appropriated 97 billion dollars at the beginning of the summer for the war.  That money can be used to bring the troops home and to set in motion the international security and peacekeeping force to stabilize Iraq.  It does not take another vote.  I want you to know that.  The Democratic leaders have the responsiblity to end the war now."  Goodman also noted "more than a thousand people marched in Newark this weekend in one of the largest demonstrations there in decades.  The demonstrators were protesting the war in Iraq and violence at home."

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