Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, August 28, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, mass deaths rock Karbala, US 'business people' can't account for weapons sent to Iraq, this weekend Texas sees a major rally against the illegal war, and more.

Starting with war resistance. The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) issued a statement in support of Iraq war resister Ehren Watada this month. Watada is the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq (June 2006). In February of this year he was court-martialed and when it was obvious he stood a good chance of winning support of the jury, Judge Toilet (aka John Head) called a mistrial over defense objection. As the National Lawyers Guild president Marjorie Cohn has noted, double-jeopardy had already attached the case. Judge Toilet immediately scheduled a new court-martial -- yet another power he actually did not have which is why that March court-martial never took place. Currently, Watada's court-martial is on the October docket; however, due to the appeals process and the issues of double-jeopardy and whether or not the incompetent Judge Toilet will again be allowed to preside, Watada's attorneys have stated their belief that it is unlikely the court-martial will take place in October and, of course, the double-jeopardy issue could toss the court-martial completely (the Constitution of the United States forbids double-jeopardy).

The JACL began in 1929 and, at that time, its focus was on "the civil rights of Americans of Japanese ancestry, [but] today we are committed to protecting the rights of all segments of the Asian Pacific American community." Ben Hamamoto (Nichi Bei Times) reports that August 18th was when the JACL's "National Board voted to pass a resolution in support of the civil rights of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, the Sansei U.S. Army lieutenant who refused deployment to Iraq on the grounds that he believes the war is illegal. The vote occurred at the organization's regular board meeting at its San Francisco headquarters." Hamamoto goes on to trace the long (and overly cautious) process the JACL took en route to that resolution (including watering down the resolution) which now includes "the National JACL Board believes that all American citizens have the right to a fair and impartial trial, which includes the right to have a trial presided over by an impartial judge and to be protected from double jeopardy." The watering down process stripped key portions from the statement. Hamamoto explains, "It does not, however, offer an explicit position on whether or not Head would be an impartial judge for a retrial, whether Watada's first hearing was fair, or whether trying him again would constitute double jeopardy." A number of people worked very hard to get even that passed and they deserve congratulations for what they accomplished.

Aimee Allison and David Solnit's Army Of None notes Watada's speech at last years Veterans for Peace conference in Seattle and excerpts this part, "I speak with you about a radical idea . . . The idea is this: that to stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers can choose to stop fighting it . . . Those wearing the uniform must know beyond any shadow of a doubt that by refusing immoral and illegal orders they will be supported by the people not with mere words but by action . . . To support the troops who resist, you must make your voices heard. If they see thousands supporting me, they will know. I have seen this support with my own eyes . . . For me it was a leap of faith. For other soldiers, they do not have that luxury. They must know it and you must show it to them. Convince them that no matter how long they site in prison, no matter how long this country takes to right itself, their families will have a roof over their heads, food in their stomachs, opportunities and education."

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, 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.

Back in June, Evan Knappenberger staged an eight day vigil on a tower in Washington state. He explained to Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!), ""I decided a couple of weeks ago that I needed to do something to affect a positive change in all these kind of negative things going on. I figured the best way to do that would be to draw some attention to these policies that the military is using to fight this war without actually -- you know, a war without conscription, basically. So in the middle of the night I had this great idea, just as a symbol of something kind of similar to what Operation First Casualty is, you know, to bring the war to the American people, because there is a big disconnect between the civilian population and those of us who were in Iraq. We can see -- as veterans of Iraq -- we understand kind of the way that these policies get perpetrated, and the American people need to be made aware of that. So I had this great idea to bring that home and ended up on a tower for eight days." Sunday, August 26th, began another vigil, this one in DC at the Mall on Washington where he has constructed a scaffold.

Knappenberger is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and IVAW's Adam Kokesh and Tassi McKee as well as Tina Richards and Washington Peace Center's Jay Marx are among the ones showing their support in DC. More information can be found at Tower Guard Vigil.

Kokesh will be in Fort Worth, Texas on September 1st for American People's Poll on Iraq Texas Townhall. Texans for Peace explains that "Presidential candidates, members of Congress and the world media will be in Fort Worth attending the Texas Republican Straw Poll" which makes it the perfect time for thos in the area to register their opposition to the illegal war. Along with Kokesh, also speaking will be Diane Wilson, Tina Richards, Ann Wright, and IVAW's Leonard Shetlon and CO (and Rev.) Hart Viges. A full list can be found here. Throughout the day (nine to five, this is a Saturday) there will be canvassing and straw polls, the pre-rally entertainment starts at one p.m. and the peace rally begins at 1:30 and lasts until 3:30. Fort Worth is a city in Texas, part of the Dallas and Fort Worth region known there as "DFW." Suburbs, towns and cities in the area include Denton, Plano, Arlington, Irvining, Bach Springs, Desoto, Duncanville, Lewisville, Addison, Grand Prairie and a host of others. There is a point. Texans for Peace notes that you can catch the Trinity Railway Express to Fort Worth and that at 12:30 pm volunteers will be helping transport people to the rally.

Community member Diana and her family took part in the April 2006 immigrants rally in downtown Dallas that had at least a half million participants making it the largest protest in Dallas' history. She noted the traffic issue when she shared her experiences from that rally. Today, she explained over the phone that the easiest thing for people to the north, east or south of Fort Worth wanting to attend Saturday's events but unsure of how to get there is to utilize the Trinity train. She suggests grabbing a Dart Express Train and taking it to Union Station (in downtown Dallas). You can pick up the TRE there. ("It's the big, brown -- same brown as UPS uses --train that runs right next to the two light rails," says Diana.) ADDED: Dallas and Billie both note that there is also a solid white train. Billie: "Brown or white, they are real trains that look like trains, not the light rail." Texans for Peace notes that the TRE (Trinity Railway Express) runs from eight in the morning until eleven at night on Saturdays.

The book noted earlier for the Watada quote was Army of None, published by Seven Stories Press, available at Courage to Resist and many other places, which is written by Aimee Allison and David Solnit. This Thursday there will be a release celebration for the event at Club Oasis (135 12th St., btwen. Madison and Oak Sts., Oakland 6 blocks E. of Broadway/12th St. -- click here for East Bay express' map of Club Oasis' location). The event is free and open to all. The authors will be there, Jeff Paterson will have a slide show, there will be a puppet show, poets, snakcs, a dj . . . The event starts at 6:30 pm. More information can be found [Warning: MySpace page] by clicking here.

Aug 29, at 12:00P,
Aimee and David on KPFA Radio! @ KPFA Radio 94.1;
Aug 30, at6:00P
Army of None Book Release Party & Tour Kick-Off @ Oasis Restaurant & Bar - Oakland, CA;
Sep 14 at 4:00P
Army of None Workshop - San Jose, CA @ Californians for Justice, San Jose, CA;
Sep 14 at 7:30P
Army of None Book Release/Signing - San Jose, CA @ Dowtown San Jose - Location TBA;
Sep 15 at 12:00P
Army of None Tour in Pittsburgh, PA;
Sep 19 at7:00P
Army of None Tour in Cleveland, OH;
Sep 20 at6:00P
Army of None Tour @ Kent, OH;
Sep 23 at6:00P
Army of None Tour @ Milwaukee, WI;
Sep 24 at6:00P
Army of None Tour in Milwaukee, WI @ Milwaukee, WI;
Sep 25 at7:00P
Army of None Tour @ Madison, WI;
Sep 26 at6:00P
Army of None Tour @ Madison, WI;
Sep 27 at6:30P
Army of None Tour @ May Day Books, Minneapolis MN;
Sep 28 at10:00A
Army of None Tour @ High Schools in Minneapolis, MN;
Sep 28 at7:30P
Army of None Tour @ Lyndale United Church of Christ, Minneapolis MN;
Sep 29 at1:00P
Army of None Tour @ Rondo Community Outreach Library - St. Paul, MN;
Oct 12 at7:00P
Army of None Tour @ Bluestockings Bookstore - New York City; and
Oct 17 at7:00P
Army of None Tour @ Sanctuary for Independent Media - Troy, NY

Yesterday Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) revealed that the US government was funding the people fighting US forces in Iraq by ignoring the fact that Iraqi contractors were paying those people off to to do business in Al Anbar Province. Today James Glanz and Eric Schmitt (New York Times) report US is arming them as well and "federal agencies are investigating a widening network of criminal cases involving the purchasing and delivery of billions of dollars of weapons, supplies and other materiel to Iraqi and American forces" -- "the largest ring of fruad and kickbacks uncovered in the conflict here". Among those under investigation is "a senior American officer [Lt. Com. Levonda Joey Selph] who worked closely with Gen. David H. Petraeus in setting up the logistics operation to supply the Iraqi forces when General Petraeus was in charge of training and equipping those forces in 2004 and 2005". The reporters cite an August 18th interview with Petraeus where he explained "he made a decision not to wait for formal tracking systems to be put in place before distributing weapons". There is no tracking system for the tax payer dollars and no tracking system within Iraq where the weapons were apparently passed around like candy. (US arms already glut the blackmarket in Iraq.) Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted that the "investigation includes the Army Criminal Investigation Command, the Department of Justice, the FBI and others. The senior officer, Lt. Col. Levonda Joey Selph, worked closely with General Petraeus to set up logistic services for Iraqi forces." And in response to that, Pauline Jelinek (AP) reports, "The Pentagon is sending a team of investigators to Iraq because of the growing number of cases of fraud and other irregularities in contracts involving weapons and supplies for Iraqi forces."

While arms flow (unchecked and untracked) from the US to Iraq like milk and honey, what's the effect within the United States? From July 25th: "Billie passes on this from DFW's NBC 5, it's a video clip. You'll learn that law enforcement in North Texas has a bullet shortage -- law enforcement has a bullet shortage -- and they're being told that maybe they just shouldn't plan to buy any bullets until the illegal war is over? (Ellen Goldberg's the reporter, by the way.)" From the report:

Ellen Goldberg: The situation overseas has created a battle for bullets here at home . . . Law enforcement agencies across North Texas are waiting six months, even a year, on ammunition orders. That's the case for the Fort Worth P.D. They are still waiting on ammunition orders that they placed last year. The Dallas County Sheriff's department says that when it comes to 9 milimeter and Ball ammo they were told to call back quote: "when the war was over." The Denton County Sheriff's Dept. and Plano P.D. tell us they too are experiencing similar delays.

Sgt. Brian Stevens (Fort Worth Police Department): It's definitaly the war Everything they make bullet wise is headed that direction and we're fighting to get whatever we have to fight to get the scraps that are left over.

That is not just one area of the United States. Today Candace Rondeaux (Washington Post) reports: "The U.S. military's soaring demand for small-arms ammunition, fueled by two wars abroad, has left domestic police agencies less able to quickly replenish their supplies, leading some to conserve rounds by cutting back on weapons training, police officials said.
To varying degrees, officials in Montgomery, Loudoun and Anne Arundel counties said, they have begun rationing or making other adjustments to accommodate delivery schedules that have changed markedly since the military campaigns began in Iraq and Afghanistan."

While police ration in this country, bullets fly freely in Karbala. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "52 people were killed and 206 injured in clashes between gunmen and security forces near the shrine of Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas". Martin Fletcher (Times of London) explains that "police ordered hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to leave Kerbala and imposed a nightime curfew. Addition security forces were rushed to the city from Baghdad and neighbouring provinces. US jets flew overhead in a show of force requested by the Iraqi government. The injured were rushed to hospitals on handcarts because vehicles had been banned." Carol J. Williams and Saad Fakhrildeen (Los Angeles Times) estimate that the amount of pilgrims ordered to leave was "more than 1 million". The BBC reports the eye witness account of one pligrim in a "hotel opposite the shrine of Imam Hussain": "Shots are being fired everywhere including at hotels. We have recently seen hotels going up in flames due to rockets being fired at them by militants. We cannot tell who is behind this. If we try to look down to see what is going on from our hotel rooms they tell us to close the curtains. We are not allowed to leave the hotel and the shrines have been closed down." AFP notes that many who were not able to evacuate are still "locked in their hotels" and that the battle "erupted in the early afternoon and grew fiercer after darkness fell". Williams and Fakhrildeen cite witnesses maintaining that the battle started with the throwing of "rocks, bricks and knives at police" -- thrown by the Mahdi Army -- "but quickly escalated into an exchange of rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47 fire". CNN notes that "fighting reportedly spread to Baghdad after the Karbala clashes" and that in Baghdad "Mehdi Army fighters torched six offices belonging to the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq." Laith Hammoudi notes four people were kidnapped before the torching. Fletcher explains the two different narratives: police (and Iraq's Interior Ministry) are stating that Moqtada al-Sadr's militia started the battle "in an attempt to seize control of the area" and al-Sadr's people are stating it was starting by the "police linked to the Badr Brigade of beating pilgrims who were chanting their support for al-Sadr." Reuters observes, "The fighting is likely to be seen as embarrassing for Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who wants to show that his security forces can take control of security from U.S.-led forces."

Turning to other violence . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad car bombing that claimed 1 life (three people were also wounded). Reuters notes 33 Iraqis killed by the US "in an airborne assault" (credited to US and Iraqi forces but anyone who's followed the briefings on Iraqi air force should laugh at such an assertion), a Baquba roadside bombing that injured ten people
CNN reports an "air assault" on Monday by US forces ("and Iraqi troops") in Diyala province that left 33 suspected 'insurgents' dead following issues with the city's water supply.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two incidents where a total of 10 pilgrims were wounded in attacks (one in Baghdad, one to the south of Baghdad in Mahmudiya), a Baghdad attack on Haj Ismaiil mosque that left 3 people dead and 3 more kidnapped and Kirkuk shooting that claimed the life of 1 police officer who was traveling with his wife in their car. Reuters notes the wife was wounded and they note another Kirkuk shooting that left two police officers wounded.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 13 corpses discovered in Baghdad.

In release news, CNN reports the "deputy oil minister and four other kidnapped employees were freed Tuesday after two weeks of captivity". The kidnapping took place on August 14th and the five released were not all that was kidnapped. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reported then that Abdul Jabbar Al Wagga'a and 2 of his body guards "and 4 general directors" were kidnapped by unknown men who "were wearing a military uniform" when they invaded the marketing building of the Baghdad Oil Ministry (five people were wounded during the kidnapping).

Turning to nonsense news, AP reports Bully Boy spoke to American Legion convention in Reno, Nevada attempting to drum up support for his illegal (and lost) war. How bad was it? Even the official White House transcript uses "[sic]" to note Bully Boy's mistakes.

In legal news, Reuters reports Army Lt. Col. Steven Jordan's court-martial has ended and he was found "not responsible for abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, but was guilty of disobeying an order not to discuss an investigation into the case." Sam Provance, an NCO stationed at Abu Ghraib from September 2003 to February 2004, shares his thought (prior to the verdict) at Consortium News noting he wasn't asked to testify, but had he been, he could take apart "the myth that Jordan was not really all that much involved in interrogations. One of the soldiers who worked very closely with Jordan verified that he was fully familiar with the infamous 'hard site,' where much of the torture took place. Jordan had been seen there on more than one occasion, hanging out laid back with his feet propped up. My soldier informant also bragged that he had joined Jordan in beating up a prisoner."