Friday, September 14, 2007

Iraq snapshot

September 14, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, a Blair crony sobs in public, the reviews are in for Ugly Bully and -- no surprise -- it isn't pretty, the "die-in" is tomorrow, and more.
Starting with war resistance.  Gerry Condon (Courage to Resist) reports on the status of the many women and men who have elected to self-check out of the US military and go to Canada noting, "These abesentee GI's are upholding the Nuremberg Principles, which were adopted as U.S. law after World War II.  By refusing to fight in illegal wars or to commit war crimes, they are exercising their rights and responsibilites as soldiers.  So far, the war resisters' refugee claims have been rejected by the political appointees on Canada's refugee boards, who say that war resisters had legal avenues in the U.S. they could have pursued.  They say that prosecution for being AWOL does not amount to 'persecution.'  They are reluctant to call the U.S. war 'illegal'."  Condon proposes that you let Stephen Harper and Diane Finley hear from you.   Harper is prime minister (clicking on his name provides his e-mail, his fax is 613-941-6900) and Finley is the Minister of Citizenship & Immigration (work phone number between eight in the morning until seven in the evening is 613-954-1064). Also at Courage to Resist, Spc. Justin Cliburn announces he will not be fighting in the illegal war, "I am done with the military.  I don't know how exactly I will leave the service just yet, but I know that I will.  I entered the army in an honorable fashion and I will leave it that way, but leave it I will.  I leave Friday for Washington DC to take part in the September 15th protests in DC with tens of thousands of other concerned Americans, including representatives of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, Gold Star Families, and the ANSWER Coalition.  I am taking more and more responsibility within IVAW to end this war, take care of our veterans, and provide reparations for the Iraqi people and it feels right."  Courage to Resist also offers the story of Derek Hess who entered the Army via a delayed entry program in 2005 and discovered in basic training that "we weren't training for any set mission in Iraq, just for survival."  As he began to see the Iraq War as illegal and as a way to benefit Big Business, he applied for CO status in January of this year.  No surprise, the US military do what they generally do: denied his application.  With Hess informing the higher ups "that I would kill myself if I was sent to Iraq -- so there would be no way I could [be] used as a weapon of mass destruction for the US government," the military elected to give him a medical discharge ("honorable in character").
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Derek Hess, Justin Cliburn, 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 [(877) 447-4487], 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.
As Ugly Bully prepared to air last night in prime time, Iraq Veterans Against the War were ready to respond.  Both Geoff Millard and Adam Kokesh spoke out, Millard on CNN's Situation Room and Kokesh on Larry King Live (videos here at IVAW, CNN transcript for Millard's appearence here, CNN transcript for Kokesh's appearnce here). Millard spoke of what he would like to hear in Bully Boy's speech, "Well, I, of course, would like to hear him say that all U.S. forces, not just merely the ones that are being forced to leave because they don't have replacements at the end of the so-called surge, to be coming home.  But that's not going to happen.  As his political appointee, General Petraeus said when in front of the Congress, that he couldn't even say that this war was making us safer.  It's not making us safer.  It's hurting the military.  It's hurting us here at home.  It's not protecting America. . . . let's face it, he [Petraeus] was put into the position taht he's in as a political appointee of the Bush administration.  He was put there as a political appointee to continue the occupation of Iraq.  And that's really what we're talking about here too, is an occupation.  Not a war like we saw in World War II . . . It's an occupation.  Saddam has been out of power now for quite some time, and we're occupying a foreign country."  Adam Kokesh spoke after the speech and noted, "Well he said a lot of things, but first let me just commend Bush for his service in the Air Guard and choosing to go AWOL instead of being part of the war crimes and setting an example for the growing number of soldiers who have the courage to resist the way that he did out of cowardice."  In response to a question from Larry King, Kokesh replied, "Success would be giving the Iraqi people the right to self-determination and the resources that they need to create the rule of law and stability in their country.  And the best thing we can do to do that is pay repatriations and remove the American troop presence that is impeding that progress. . . I feel I have a moral obligation with my voice as a veteran.  We have a certain power in speaking out and a relevancy in this most pressing debate before America.  And with that power comes a responsibility.  And I don't think I could live with myself if I wasn't doing everything I could to bring our brothers and sisters home alive, safe as soon as possible."
So those were the realities spoken last night, now let's head to Crazy Town where a dazed and lethargic Bully Boy attempted to sell "Return On Success" as this decade's "Peace With Honor" (Tricky Dick's January 23, 1973 speech).  Watching, Americans grasped Why The Caged Bird Wears An Ear Piece.  But sadly, he didn't wear it last night electing instead to prove he was the best little reader in first grade.  Bit . . . by . . . bit . . Peterah . . . Petraues!  He knew that word and resumed reading bit . . . by . . . bit.    No, he isn't the "Great Communicator."  No, his reading level does not appear to be higher than elementary school.  Maybe all those books the White House forever insists he is "reading" are Books on Tape?  If you could follow along without falling asleep, this morning you might have grasped what Robert Parry (Consortium News) did: "Let it be noted that the morning after George W. Bush announced an open-ended -- possibly permanent -- military occupation of Iraq the premier U.S. newspapers ran headlines about the President ordering 'troop cuts,' itself a troubling reminder of how the American people got into this mess.  The New York Times' lead headline read: 'Bush Says Success Allows Gradual Troops Cuts.'  The Washington Post went with: 'Bush Tells Nation He Will Begin to Roll Back "Surge".' . . . So, Americans bustling past newstands on their way to work would get the superficial impression that Bush was finally moving toward the Iraq exit door when he really was doing all he could to paint the country, and his presidential successor, into a corner."  (Parry's brand new book Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush explores the media and Bully Boy and, though it should be filed under "incest" due to the nature of the relationship between the press and the Bully Boy, you can find it in the non-fiction section at bookstores and libraries and you can also order it online.)  Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) added it up and found 12 references to al Qaeda and 13 to "success" but zero on "victory" and provided historical context as well, "He introduced a weak sister to 'peace with honor' that Nixon and Kissinger invoked in Vietnam.  "The principle guiding my decisions on troop levels in Iraq is "return on success",' he said.  And like Nixon and Kissinger, Bush started talking about enemy body counts.  U.S. and Iraq forces, he said, 'have captured or killed an average of more than 1,500 enemy fighters per month since January.'  Somehow the resort to body counts is not reassuring.  Bush let on that the American military presence in Iraq will be long term.  Permanent military bases, anyone?"  Rothschild also observes that, though the administration maintained an illegal war with Iraq had nothing to do with oil, Bully Boy was talking about Iraqi oil last night as well.  (Rothschild's just published book is  You Have No Rights: Stories of America In An Age of Repression.)  Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) analyzes the performance and notes a number of things but we'll zoom in here on this, "And in January, he asked Americans for 'more patience, sacrifice and resolve.'  In Thursday's speech, he did the same."
Far from the lies of the Bully Buy is the distant isle of reality.  Gold Star Families Speak Out Dante Zappala wasn't on TV last night.  At Military Families Speak Out, he shares what he would have discussed had he been on MSNBC's Hardball earlier this week to share his opinion of the 'progress' report: "I wanted to talk about the humanity of this war.  My brother died in Iraq.  He died looking for WMD.  He died because this country capitulated to fear, because the people in power were hell bent on an ideology, because the principles of reason were tossed for negligent policy.  The General says give us time.  Where others see 12 months, or 18 months, I see bodies.  I see 900, 1300 dead troops.  I see tens of thousands injured, wives who will see their husbands again -- someday -- but never know them again.  A million firsts will pass without wtiness.  A baby's first steps, a first word, a first day of school.  The consequences extend beyond this generation.  The consequences are right there, in my nephew's eyes, who has the unmistakable gaze of his father."
Nancy Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) observed that talk of the 18 'benchmarks' were
"[l]argely gone" from last night's speech.  Why was that?  Because in the one report the White House fully controlled, even they could only disguise reality so far.  Jennifer Loven (AP) reports the White House report on 'benchmarks' was delivered to Congress today and found "that Iraqi leaders gained little new ground on key military and political goals, a discouraging assessment a day after President Bush said progress justifies keeping a large U.S. military presence there.  The report underscored the difficulty of Bush's argument that continued American sacrifice was creating space for Iraqi leaders to make gains on tamping down the sectarian fighting that leaves Iraq persistently fractured and violent."  BBC reveals that the report "says Iraq has performed satisfactory on nine out of 18 benchmarks -- one more than in a previous assessment in July.  Among the failures, it cites militia control over security forces and not enacting laws on sharing oil revenues."
In other news out of England, John Kampfner (New Stateman) profiles Tony Blair's ambassador to the United States, David Manning, who wants everyone to know, "You have to understand Blair the person before you get into this.  A lot of what he was doing with Bush, he was doing with Clinton.  Blair was very clear about the doctrine of liberal interventionism.  This was not something . . . invented to justify close relations with George Bush."  No, it wasn't, Blair was endorsing Bully Policies long before the Bully Boy was installed into the US White House. Manning whines that the US State Department was supposed to be in charge of reconstruction but it ended up being the Defense Department and by the time the looting in Baghdad began, "That was the moment I remember having real feelings of disquiet.  Then we got very concerned when we heard the army was being disbanded and when we heard that de-Ba'athification was going ahead on the scale it was."  Manning, like so many War Hawks, wants everyone to believe the illegal war was 'right' and that what resulted after the invasion began were just screw ups.  A defense he might try at a War Crimes Tribunal but it probably won't go over very well there either.  The destruction and tag sale on Iraq was part and parcel of the illegal war.e thought.  As Naomi Klein notes in her forthcoming book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism:
If "nation creating" was going to happen in Iraq, what exactly was supposed to become of the nation that was already there?  The unspoken assumption from the beginning was that much of it would have to disappear, to clear the ground for the grand experiment -- and idea that contained, at its core, the certainty of extraordinary colonialist violence.  
[. . .]  
The bombing badly injured Iraq, but it was the looting, unchecked by occupying troops, that did the most to erase the heart of the country that was.    
[. . .]
Thanks mostly to the efforts of clerics who organized salvage missions in the midst of the looting, a portion of the artifacts has been recovered.  But many Iraqis were, and still are, convinced that the memory lobotomy was intentional -- part of Washington's plans to excise the strong, rooted nation that was and replace it with their own model.  "Baghdad is the mother of Arab culture," seventy-year-old Ahmed Abdullah told the Washington Post, "and they want to wipe out our culture."  
As the war planners were quick to point out, the looting was done by Iraqis, not foreign troops.  And it's true that Rumsfeld did not plan for Iraq to be sacked -- but he did not take measure to prevent it from happening either, or to stop it once it had begun.  These were the failures that cannot be dismissed as mere oversights.
[. . .] 
Some insight into why there was so little official interest in stopping the looting has since been provided by two men who played pivotal roles in the occupation -- Peter McPherson, the senior economic adviser to Paul Bremer, and John Agresto, director of higher education reconstruction for the occupation.  McPherson said that when he saw Iraqis taking state property -- cars, buses, ministry equipment -- it didn't bother him.  His job, as Iraq's top economic shock therapist, was to radically downsize the state and privatize its assets, which meant that the looters were really just giving him a jump-start.  "I thought the privatization that occurs sort of naturally when somebody took over their state vehicle, or began to drive a truck that the state used to own, was just fine," he said.  A veteran bureaucrat of the Reagan administration and a firm believer in Chicago School ecnomics, McPherson termed the pillage a form of public sector "shrinkage." 
His colleague John Agresto also saw a silver lining as he watched the looting of Baghdad on TV.  He envisioned his job -- "a never to be repeated adventure" -- as the remaking of Iraq's system of higher education from scratch.  In that context, the stripping of the universities and the education ministry was, he explained, "the opportunity for a clean start," a chance to give Iraq's schools "the best modern equipment."  If the mission was "nation creating," as so many clearly believed it to be, then everything that remained of the old country was only going to get in the way.  Agresto was the former president of St. John's College in New Mexico, which specializes in a Great Books curriculum.  He explained that although he knew nothing of Iraq, he had refrained from reading books about the country before making the trip so that he would arrive "with as open a mind as I could have."  Like Iraq's colleges, Agresto would be a blank slate.
The Shock Doctrine is released in the United States this coming Tuesday (September 18th).  The book will be launched this Monday (September 17th) in NYC at an event with Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) acting as moderator at the New York Soceity for Ethical Culture, 2 West 64th Street.  Event is free and open to the public and Klein and (I assume) Goodman will be signing their books (Goodman's latest bestseller is Static: Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders, and the People Who Fight Back written with her brother David Goodman and now out in softcover).
Turning to Iraq, Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London) judges yesterday's assassination of Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha as "a serious blow to President Bush and the US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, who have both portrayed the US success in Anbar, once the heart of the Sunni rebellion against US forces, as a sign that victory was attainable across Iraq."  Kim Sengupta (Independent of London) reports that Al Anbar Province is "under a state of emergency" -- that would be the 'model province' according to the White House -- and that "messages were being posted on international jihadist websites exulting at the end of 'the traitor and aposate'."  But don't worry, hate is thriving from all sides.  CBS and AP report that the sheik was buried today and those gathered "vowed revenge".  Bully Boy hears that, grins and sighs, "Progress."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Beiji car bombing that claimed 10 lives ("including 4 policemen") and left fifteen wounded.  CBS and AP report that a US helicopter staged an assault on a mosque yesterday in Karmah and the press release brags of three 'fresh kills' that they're pretty sure were 'insurgents'.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Col. Hussein Alwan ("officer of the protection force in Salaheddin province health dept") was shot dead in Kirkuk today and that Hadla Ali Hassan is the name of the mother who was shot dead yesterday in Kirkuk (her daughter was injured).  Reuters notes that 3 people were shot dead today in Suwayra and that, in Hilla, an attack on the home "of a senior army officer" resulted in 1 guard being shot dead and another injured. 
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports six corpses were discovered in Baghdad.  Reuters notes that the corpses of a judge and police officer were discovered in Balad.
Today the US military announced: "Four Task Force Lightning Soldiers were killed in Diyala Province Friday, when an explosion occured near their vehicle."
Dave Lindorff (This Can't Be Happening!) notes the "accident" on Monday that claimed seven lives including two who were among seven active duty service members who wrote the New York Times op-ed noting the illegal war was lost and he notes, "The mother of one of the dead soldiers is demanding a full and open investigation into their bizarre deaths.  Congress must join in that demand."  As if to head off such a demand, the US military releases their statement today (my, what a quick investigation that was!) which is that the vehicle had an accident with no other car or person, just on it's way back to base and drove off a highway overpass, most natural thing in the world, apparently.  They also state that along with the seven US service members who died, two Iraqi prisoners died as well.  No word as to their alleged crimes. 
Meanwhile, United for Peace & Justice picked a bad time to endorse an undercount.  In their 'report' written by Phyllis Bennis and Eric Leaver, the numbers of Iraqis who have lost their lives in the illegal war range as low as (insert Iraqi Body Count figure) and as high as (insert the lower of two figures in the Lancet study last year -- a study that noted it was tracking deaths through July 2006 -- over a year ago) "over 600,000 plus."  Well fate, like attempting to disappear dead Iraqis, can be ugly and today it slaps the authors and United for Peace & Justice (if not for correct body counts) in the face as Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports that Britain's ORB "has conducted several surveys in Iraq, followed statements this week from the U.S. military defending itself against accusations it was trying to play down Iraqi deaths to make its strategy appear successful.  The military has said civilian deaths from sectarian violence have fallen more than 55% since President Bush sent an additional 28,500 troops to Iraq this year, but it does not provide specific numbers. According to the ORB poll, a survey of 1,461 adults suggested that the total number slain during more than four years of war was more than 1.2 million. [. . .] Based on Iraq's estimated number of households -- 4,050,597 -- it said the 1.2 million figure was reasonable." Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) explains that, "The British agency Opinion Research Business surveyed more than fourteen hundred Iraqi adults."  Alan Maass (US Socialist Worker) isn't one to play dumb or useless and his review of the realities in Iraq gets straight to the point noting in large, bold type, "More than 1 million Iraqis killed."   He refutes the claims of progress with specific data throughout his report but that's all we have time to note. 
Tomorrow, Saturday, September 15th (see ANSWER for more information) mass protests will be taking place in DC and IVAW will lead a "die-in".  Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) explains, "The peace coalition ANSWER says more than one-thousand people will lie down to represent the Iraqis and Americans killed since the US invasion. ANSWER is predicting a turnout of more than ten thousand for a march through Washington."  This will be part of a several days of action lasting from the 15th through the 18th. September 17th IVAW will kick off Truth in Recruiting. CODEPINK will be conducting a Peoples March Inside Congress (along with other groups and individuals) on September 17th. United for Peace & Justice (along with others) will begin Iraq Moratorium on September 21st and follow it every third Friday of the month as people across the country are encouraged to wear and distribute black ribbons and armbands, purchase no gas on those Fridays, conduct vigils, pickets, teach-ins and rallies, etc
Mark Rudd and Doug Viehmeyer (Common Dreams) explain the basics of a moratorium (and it's history):
The original Vietnam Moratorium, October 15, 1969, was a decentralized anti-war demonstration in which literally millions showed their opposition to the war around the world in a vast variety of ways. There were many school walkouts and closures; local demonstrations involving thousands around the country (a quarter of a million in D.C.; 100,000 in Boston); workplace sickouts; vigils, sit-ins at draft boards and induction centers. President Nixon pretended not to notice, but there's good evidence that the outpouring of opposition to the war prevented the war planners from using nukes against the Vietnamese (see Tom Wells, The War Within). A month later, the second moratorium day brought hundreds of thousands to Washington, complete with an angry siege of the Justice Dept. that reminded Attorney General John Mitchell, watching from inside, of the storming of the Czar's Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, back in 1917. Nixon himself, prior to the action, commented during a press conference:  Google "Vietnam Moratorium" to check out what went on. 
Why now? The anti-war movement, for a variety of reasons, has hit a plateau since the war began in 2003, despite the majority sentiment in the country against the war. No strategies have emerged to grow the movement. The thinking behind the Iraq Moratorium is that the moment is right for nationally coordinated local anti-war actions which will allow people to express their anti-war sentiments wherever they are and in a variety of ways. At the same time the Moratorium gives local groups a focus. For example, a campus anti-war organization can decide to do whatever's appropriate for their school--a teach-in, a walk-out, a vigil, a film showing, a sit-in at a recruitment center. It's all good!   
The growth of the anti-war movement has to be seen as our current goal, not just a means. Every action, every demonstration should be judged by one single criterion: does it bring more people? We think that the biggest stumbling block up to now has been the too widespread belief that neither individual nor collective actions have no effect. The moratorium, allowing for a variety of tactics with one single focus, coordinated nationally and possibly internationally, has a chance of bringing antiwar expression into mainstream society. Sept. 21 will be the first moratorium day, followed by succeeding moratoriums (moratoria?) each third Friday of every month. If enough people and groups catch on, the movement grows.       
That article is written by two generations of SDS, Rudd from the original and Viehmeyer from today.  SDS is growing on campuses across the country and an organization to watch.  (In the good way, but you can be sure the FBI is watching it as well.)
Finally, on PBS' NOW with David Brancaccio: this week (Friday's on most PBS stations), the program expands to an hour for a special look at the Third Infantry's First Brigade which is on it's third deployment to Iraq. A preview is posted at YouTube. The earlier broadcast of interviewing the Third Infantry's First Brigade can be found here. And NOW is offering an online exclusive of interviews with members of the Third Infantry and their spouses.

Luggage? GPS? Comic books?
Check out fitting gifts for grads at Yahoo! Search.