Friday, September 07, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Friday, September 7, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces multiple deaths, the British announce a death, Riverbend makes it to Syria, Adam Kokesh gets arrested with Tina Richards for the 'crime' of posting fliers, Ali al-Fadhily reports on a battle that the press has missed thus far, and more.

Starting with war resisters. Daryl Shandro (Political Affairs) reports on how the influx of war resisters into Canada has created the need for new chapters to be created (they were -- Ottawa, Kingston, Hamilton and London) and shares how war resister Steve Yoczik spoke informatively and amusingly about his own experience to a group in Sudbury: "Steve waged a concerted bid to be kicked out of the army. Over a period of months, he deliberately failed between 50 and 100 physical tests. When it became obvious that the officers would not file three consecutive failing reports so as to have his status reviewed, Steve started to fail to appear for the tests and was flippant, if not outright insubordinate, if these absences brought any reporach. Steve figures he was gone for a while before anyone realized that he was AWOL. He found out about the War Resisters Support Campaign in Canada through a friend -- a model soldier and US patriot who disagreed so strongly with the war in Iraq that he fled to Canada rather than participate in it." Shandro notes Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey's appeals to Canada's Supreme Court and that the "continues to lobby for the political solution: these War Resisters must be given sanctuary under a separate immigration category, much like the US war resisters of the Vietnam era received under the Trudeau government. In Sudbuy we are now fielding a serious inquiry every week from War Resisters. These are people 'checking into' Toronot and then moving to their host city within hours or days. They are calling from Germany (military hosipital) and bases all over the continental U.S., and they are coming. In Toronto the serious inquiries are about three a week; arrivals, both anticipated and unanticipated, are becoming more and more frequent."

Ehren Watada is also resisting the Iraq War. In June 2006, he became the first known officer to publicly refuse to deploy the war (he cited the illegal nature of the war). In February of this year, Judge Toilet (aka John Head) presided over the court-martial of Watada. Watada had elected to go with a jury of his peers. Judge Toilet saw Watada's case was being made for him by the prosecution witness and attempted to flush justice by delcaring a mistrial -- over defense objection and over the initial objection of the prosecution -- Toilet had to coax the prosecution into seeing that what he was offering was a 'do over.' However, the Constitution does not allow for 'do overs' and, as National Lawyers Guild president Marjorie Cohn has noted, double-jeopardy had already attached. Currently, Watada is due to stand for another court-martial next month. The appeals process are ongoing. Judge Toilet has said there is no double-jeopary and that he can be impartial and should be allowed to sit on a second court-martial. Howls of laughter echo through the land at both assertions. Last month, we noted the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL)'s statement regarding Watada. On Wednesday, Caroline Aoyagi-Strom (New American Media) noted the JACL's statement and the struggle it took to get that weak statement and notes Mas Hashimoto declaring, "Today we are at a crossroads. What kind of organization are we going to be? We need to take a stand, a firm and dedicated stand." while Alan Nishi declares, "We should take a more solid stance than we have in the past." The stand taken thus far is to note that Watada has civil rights and that he is "protected from double jeopardy" and, as Aoyagi-Strom notes, JALC is now supposed "to help educate other groups on the controversial issue."

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. The G.I. Rights Hotline link has been included in the snapshots forever now, but please note that this is a new website. The new website is still being upgarded (but working) and with the new website comes a new phone number (877) 4474487 which is "GI RGHTS" the name but missing the second "I". To make sure everyone's aware that there is a new number and a new (toll free) number, we'll included this notice in the snapshot all week. Again, The G.I. Rights Hotline is a new and improved (and new and improving) website that will begin replacing the old site.

Last month, NOW with David Brancaccio covered war resisters Agustin Aguayo and James Burmeister. Tonight (in most PBS markets, the program airs tonight) NOW with David Brancaccio examines the issue of sexual abuse in the military:

Roughly one in seven of America's active duty military soldiers is a woman, but a NOW investigation found that sexual assault and rape is widespread. One study of National Guard and Reserve forces found that almost one in four women had been assaulted or raped. Last year alone, almost 3,000 soldiers reported sexual assault and rape by other soldiers. On Friday, September 7 (check your local listings), in one of the only national television broadcasts of the issue, NOW features women who speak out for the first time about what happened. One woman recounts her ordeal of rape by her superior officer. Many more don't report the incidents for fear of how it will affect their careers. The shocking phenomenon has a label: military sexual trauma, or MST. NOW meets women courageously battling to overcome their MST, bringing light to an issue that's putting the army in shame. A NOW exclusive investigation. The NOW website at will offer the latest statistics on MST and insight into the challenges of reporting sexual abuse in the military

Online, NOW with David Branccacio has a fact sheet regarding the percentages. Some that should immediately stand out include "60% of women have experienced military sexual trauma" and "23% of women have experienced military sexual assault." (27% of males have also "experienced military sexual trauma".) Also online, they interview (text) Kate Summers (Miles Foundation) about the issue and offer advice from Rev. Dorthy Mackey: "I encourage any survivor of sexual abuse in the military to immediately contact family or friends who love them. Tell them the complete sotry of the facts, have them record or get e-mails of the facts from the survivor. These friends and family who are not traumatized must be willing to act as guides/support and spokesperson for the survivor. Within the military system, the already traumatized survivor is lost. Once the covert or overt hostility begins, the survivor is multiply re-victimized." Rev. Mackey founded Survivors Take Action Against Abuse by Military Personnel, served nine years in the Air Force and, as she discussed with Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) in July of 2004, was raped three times, "twice by military doctors during appointments. Rev. Mackey explained to Goodman, "So there's a lot more to this, and yet no one wants to invite those of us who know. And one of the moves on right now is to have the Pentagon itself establish a victim's advocacy office. I would hate to tell you, but from the Congressional Congress' own lips, the Women's Congressional Congress' own lips, they said, as we have been telling them, that rapists keep getting promoted into the senior ranks. Up into the Pentagon. And when you have the Pentagon itself, who has refused any recommendations in the last 16 years with 19 task forces of sexual misconduct, it's not being addressed. What's going to happen is the same that many of us who've lived through it have seen, and they will typically shut down these victims even more so. I mean, a nice term they really should do for this victim's advocacy office they're considering, call it the Pentagon's Lobotomy Shop, because that's what it will be for these victims."

More recently, Traci Hukill (The Progressive, January 2007) examined the issue and offered many important details such as: "Last year, the Pentagon received reports of 2,374 rapes or attempted rapes from all of its bases worldwide, about 40 percent more than the year before. But that's probably just a fraction of the real number. One reason the crime still goes unreported may lurk in the annual [Pentago] report: Last year, just seventy-nine servicemembers were court-martialed for sexual assault. Why bother reporting if nothing will happen to the perpetrator?"

The most famous example of sexual abuse and command rape during this illegal war is Suzanne Swift. Swift attempted to work through military channels. Nothing was done. Finally, 'help' was offering her a class on how women could work not to 'invite' rape and abuse. Swift self-checked out when she returned from Iraq. She was taken from her mother's home in handcuffs. The military wanted the entire matter to go away. Even their white wash investigation verified some of the details of assault. Instead of doing the honorable thing and immediately discharge Swift (with full benefits and an honorable discharge), the US military elected to punish her. Sarah Rich, her mother, continues to fight for her daughter and other victims of sexual assault. The US Congress continues to pretend that nothing happened to Swift and that, if it did, it's not like they have oversight of the military.

Not content to be useless, a number are gearing up for DC actions this month. Paul Schwartzman (Washington Post) reports that in Lafayette Square Thursday, the police staged a big rollout to disrupt a press conference and 'deal' with the very important 'crime' of sign posting. One police officer attempted to 'disarm' Tina Richards who held menacing glue (wheat paste). Schwartman reports, "A few feet away, Kristine Klein, 13, Richards's daughter, started crying. She said that another officer had grabbed her arm and pushed her. As Richards tried to call to her daughter from the cruiser, another officer closed the window." What a proud moment for DC police. They also nabbed Adam Kokesh and Ian Thompson. Don't you feel safer? The three were charged with "defacing public property." Descrating the Constitution is a-okay in DC which is why Bully Boy's still sitting pretty and not facing impeachment. But try to post a flier, and it's SWAT time. The Times of India quotes A.N.S.W.E.R.'s Brian Becker declaring, "The police suppressed the press conference. In the middle of the speeches, they grabbed the podium. Then, mounted police charged the media present to disperse them." The Times of India notes, "The charge caused a peaceful crowd of some 20 journalists and four or five protestors to scatter in terror, an AFP correspondent at the event in Layfayette Square said." The press conference was intended to get the word out on the actions in DC beginning September 15th with a march and a die-in. A.N.S.W.E.R. has a press release with photos and note the police officer pulling Kokesh's left arm behind his back to save the capital from . . . a posted flier. A video is posted on YouTube. You'll hear chatter about "a national security threat" as DC police swarm in. You'll see a police officer jerk Tina Richards by her arm repeatedly, call for "backup" over his radio before grabbing the bucket of paste. Backup takes a while to arrive (with sirens). Then a real idiot on horseback comes galloping up screeching, "Back up, folks, back up, back up, back up, back up" over and over like the idiot he is. The entire point was to disrupt the statements that Tina Richards was making to the press at the time.

Richards and Kokesh do not represent a minority view in the US. Nor are they in the minority around the world. A new BBC poll of 22 countries has found 39% say troops home right now and another "28% backed a gradual pull-out" while only 23% declared US troops should "stay until Iraq was safe".

And yet . . . yesterday came the news from the US Pentagon that the number of US forces in Iraq had reached 168,000 and were expected to rise to 172,000 shortly. Before Democrats won control of both houses in the US Congress in the November 2006 elections and before the US Congress was sworn in (January 2007) the number of US troops in Iraq was approximately 144,000. Robin Wright and Jonathan Weisman (Washington Post) report that US General and White House spokesperson David Petraeus is reportedly showing "a willingness to consider a drawdown of one brigade of between 3,500 and 4,500 US troops from Iraq early next year" and that Fancy Nancy Pelosi (Speaker of the House) and her right hand, Steny Hoyer, are yet again throwing in the towel with Hoyer stating, "Clearly we don't have the numbers to override the president's vetoes, as has been clearly demonstrated, nor do we expect to for a long time." Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) also notes the cowardice in Congress: "On Capitol Hill, the Democratic leadership appears set to give up its efforts on setting a deadline for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. The Senate is expected to vote on a bill later this month that would call for withdrawal to begin this year but it would include no language on when the troop withdrawal had to be completed." Susan Cornwell (Reuters) reports US Senator Dick Durbin gave a speech today where he declared: "This Congress can't give President (George W.) Bush another blank check for Iraq. I can't support an open-ended appropriation which allows this president to continue this failed policy." While it's great that Durbin realizes Congress did give Bully Boy a "blank check," he'll need more than straight talk to combat his own party's rush to cave again.

Outside the spineless DC bubble, Greg Mitchell (Editor & Publisher) quotes Cathy Fish, mother of John Fish III, explaining, "Three weeks ago I was hugging a happy loving wonderful son. And now as you can see . . . I've got pictures." John Fish committed sucide after returning from Iraq.

It's Friday which means news of violence trickles out slowly. So we'll start out with Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) reporting that Samarra has been the site of fighting between the US and Iraqis beginning August 26th when, an Iraqi explains, "there was fierce fighting between armed men and American forces in the Armooshiya district, and I saw Americans evacuate many of their soldiers by stretchers. As usual, Americans took revenge by bombing the district." Iman, an Iraqi woman, tells Fadhily that a US bombing "killed a woman with her seven children" and that the violence has been confirmed in a statement from the Muslim Scholars Association
while the associations Sheikh Taha tells al-Fadhily, "They think their crimes would stop Iraqis from demanding their rights for liberty and prosperity, but the results are always different from what the American leaders hope. They are only pushing more Iraqis to be armed against them, and you can see that the facts on the ground are the opposite of what they tell their people. Their soldiers are getting killed every day and they (U.S. military) are losing in Iraq."
In the small reported violence that will lead to many filing reports of "Yesterday in . . ." tomorrow . . .


Robert H. Reid (AP) reports in 'peaceful' Al Anbar Province, the 'model' Bully Boy touts, "two suspension bridges" were blown up and brought to five the number of bridges in Al Anbar Province blown up this year..


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Dwood Salman ("member of the municipality council") was shot dead outside of his home in Suleiman Beck.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 8 corpses were discovered in Baghdad.

Today the US military announced: "Three Task Force Lightning Soldiers were killed in Nineveh province Thursday when an explosion occurred near their vehicle." And they announced: "Four Marines assigned to Multi National Force-West were killed Sept. 6 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province." ICCC lists the total number for US service members who have died in the illegal war at 3760 and, for the month thus far, at 18. And four of the seven deaths were in Al Anbar Province, the 'model' province.

Today the UK Ministry of Defence announced: "It is with deep sadness that the MOD must confirm the death of a British soldier from the Parachute Regiment in Iraq on Wednesday 5, September 2007. The soldier sustained fatal injuries in the early hours of Wednesday while conducting routine operations". The death bringsthe number of United Kingdom troops killed in Iraq to 169.

In other news, the Online Predator has turned his attention away from underage girls and is now attacking Katie Couric online. One might wonder why he hates all women were it not for the howls of laughter at his latest blunder -- which should make everyone wonder about his previous 'facts' on Iran. Let's quote Pig Predator: "CBS is owned by General Electric. GE is working hard to get favorable trading status with any number of foreign trading partners. The U.S. trade representative is working hard on GE's behalf." GE owns NBC. Facts are tough, eh, Online Predator? [FYI, The Progressive's Matthew Rothschild -- who has not engaged in Bash the Bitch -- has posted the efforts CBS' Early Show took, while on location, to avoid allowing people against the illegal war to be on camera in the background.] So CBS Evening News went to Iraq and did any of the critics watch? Apparently not. Probably Piggy Pedophile tried to. He probably pulled the lever down on his GE toaster and got confused when no picture came on.

Yesterday, Katie Couric (CBS Evening News) interviewed Syrian president Bashar Assad who responded to the charges that the Syrian government was funding, training or whatever else the US military brass wants to offer as the current justification for the failure of the illegal war (it failed because it was illegal), "What do they do, those terrorists in Iraq? They kill civilians, they create chaos. What interest have Syria in having chaos in Iraq? Chaos is contagious. If we help the chaos in Iraq, this means we we work against our interest. So we do our best to control our borders, first of all for Syrians; second, for the Iraqis; third, for the region." This morning Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) reported that "Israeli Air Force jets purportedly entered Syrian airspace" and Syria fired back. So you might think some of the 'critics' would take a moment to check out yesterday's interview with the president of Syria. However, you would be wrong.

Couric interviewed Assad and Iraq was the topic. Assad explained that Syria pays "the price for the chaos in Iraq today," criticized the US administration for attempting to respond to political situations with military non-answers, and observed, "It's getting worse every day, nothing is better. Sometimes it gets better, but it's like a flash in the pan; it just disappears, it's transient. We're talking about the result, the chaos is worse, the killing is worse than before. . . ." Assad also declared his belief that US troops should leave Iraq pointing out that "after four years . . . every day is getting worse than before. So I cannot say that American forces will bring stability to Iraq."

It's cute the way another round of Bash the Bitch allows alleged 'media critics' to ignore the fact that one of the biggest complaints about network news is the decrease in international coverage but a whole crowd ignored an interview on Iraq with the president of one of Iraq's neighboring countries. Same way they didn't appear to notice the slack off in coverage from Iraq by Los Angeles Times and New York Times correspondents this week (most noticeable today).

Syria is where Riverbend is now. The Iraqi blogger of Baghdad Burning recounts how she and her family waited and waited for the safest time to make their journey and she writes:

The tears had stopped about an hour after we'd left Baghdad. Just seeing the dirty streets, the ruins of buildings and houses, the smoke-filled horizon all helped me realize how fortunate I was to have a chance for something safer.
By the time we were out of Baghdad, my heart was no longer aching as it had been while we were still leaving it. The cars around us on the border were making me nervous. I hated being in the middle of so many possibly explosive vehicles. A part of me wanted to study the faces of the people around me, mostly families, and the other part of me, the one that's been trained to stay out of trouble the last four years, told me to keep my eyes to myself- it was almost over.
It was finally our turn. I sat stiffly in the car and waited as money passed hands; our passports were looked over and finally stamped. We were ushered along and the driver smiled with satisfaction, "It's been an easy trip, Alhamdulillah," he said cheerfully.
As we crossed the border and saw the last of the Iraqi flags, the tears began again. The car was silent except for the prattling of the driver who was telling us stories of escapades he had while crossing the border. I sneaked a look at my mother sitting beside me and her tears were flowing as well. There was simply nothing to say as we left Iraq. I wanted to sob, but I didn't want to seem like a baby. I didn't want the driver to think I was ungrateful for the chance to leave what had become a hellish place over the last four and a half years.

Riverbend and her family join over 4 million Iraqi refugees (internal and external) whom the illegal war has 'liberated'. Relief Web released a new study today on the refugee crisis
noting that their numbers increase "[a]s the security situation continues to deteriorate inside Iraq, human displacement escalates to levels unparalleled in the region" and that it threatens the entire region. The report notes: "The exodus of Iraq's professionals has led to severe brain drain, hitting the health, education, and government sectors particularly hard. This will have serious implications for Iraq's ability to rebuild the country when the violence decreases. Internal displacement is resulting in ethnic and sectarian homogenization of the country, and displaced communities are increasingly vulnerable to violence, kidnappings, and control by militias. Displacement is both a consequence and a cause of sectarian polarization in the country. Jordan and Syria now face internal security threats related to the immense economic burden of hosting the Iraqi populations, new sectarian demographics, tension among host and refugee populations as well as across sectarian divides, the potential of increased regime opposition, and the possibility that refugees will be recruited into armed militias if humanitarian assistance isn't sufficient to meet their needs."

Unrelated note, Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights, co-host of Law and Disorder) has a website entitled Just Left. Community member Jonah noted that we plug things in the snapshot from time to time and asked if that could be worked in.

ehren watada
now with david branccacio
democracy now
amy goodman
adam kokesh
iraq veterans against the war
the washington post