Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, September 19, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, when the 3800 marker is reached (3800 US service members killed in the illegal war) will anyone know, bad news keeps on coming for the mercenary company Blackwater, Newsweek (which once invented a 'marriage crisis' for women in the 80s) turns their creative 'minds' to young Iraqi women, the US military brags of the 11-year-old children they hold in Iraq prisons, and more.
Starting with war resistance, today on KPFK's Morning Review with Gabriel Gutierrez, Gutierrez spoke with two members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, war resister Agustin Aguayo and Maricela Guzman (also with the Service Women Action Network) about their experiences speaking with students about the Iraq War. 
Maricela Guzman: For me, when I go to schools, I definitely talk about my perspective in the service. I think it's really important to go to that route. And I do tell them about my experience specifically as a woman veteran.  I do tell them that I was assaulted in the service, sexually assaulted when I was in boot camp. And I think it's really important for them to know this and it's been very difficult for me to tell my story over and over but it's really important for them to know this because I want them to understand that there are risks when you join such an organization like this.  So it's very critical.  And for me, what I've found, I've gotten really good feedback from the kids and I've had, you know I've talked about suicide, my suicide attempt. And I've had kids -- I've talked about seeing a psychologist and it's a big taboo when you go to these communities and this is something we don't talk about -- I'm Chicana and it's something definitely my family would never talk about. For me, talking to these kids afterwards, them coming up and telling me, "This is what happened to me.  I was assaulted" or "I've tried suicide." I think, for me, that's very critical.  And we're including these organic  conversations when we're going to these schools -- even besides military. 
Gutierrez asked Aguayo what helped him "make the determination" not to return to Iraq?
Agustin Aguayo: To me, honestly, it wasn't a hard decision once I decided that I could never go back.  Basically because I experienced a moral awakening and I was forced to realize who I was.  And I had to accept that I could deny myself and cause all this violence against myself or I could stand up and say, "No, I believe this is wrong and I'm willing to accept any consequences."  And in the end I think it gave me a . . . feeling of great freedom.  So that is . . . a personal moral determination to do what I felt was right is what helped me the most.
Gabriel Gutierrez: And your wife Helga and your two daughters have been involved in the campaign to bring awareness to your case but also in its aftermath once you've now returned.  What type of work has that led to with regard to awareness and with regard to work with young people specifically?
Agustin Aguayo: Yes, I've had the privilege of speaking supporting groups that have helped other war resisters, the growing number of them.  And now I'm in the position to share with them what I've been through and they, of course, these resisters that are in this path, this crossroads: "What am I going to do?" I've had the privilege of sharing my experience with them and inspiring them.  And one of the happiest things I'm pleased with is the Arlington West Film and speakers program and I think in the peace work nothing is really more important than educating our young because our future really depends on how we take care of our young today and educating them.  So going into inner city schools is just so important.  And veterans sometimes, we're hesitant.  And sometimes we really want to forget everything we've been through, everything we've experienced, our military experience, but I think we owe it to our young people.   They need to know what's going on, what we experienced.
Gutierrez asked what the reaction was from students, teachers and recruiters when they speak in schools?
Maricela Guzman: Well for me, it's definitely been very difficult.  I know I've been on panels -- it was this year sometime, we went to Fairfax -- and Agustin was in jail at that time and we had a panel, we had recruiters veterans that were for the war and we had Helga and we really got a good reception.  It was very interesting because we weren't sure what was going to happen.  And really what it came down to was that it was the kids who were asking the hard questions.  So it was empowering these kids to ask the questions that needed to be asked.  And the most important thing was that they heard from family members.  You know, we have a lot of family members . . . who talk to these kids.  We don't tell them don't be against the war.  We talk about our experiences.  We're storytellers we tell them of what we've gone through and I think that's why it's been such a successful program.  We've become a family, we've definitely become a family, the people that do this work, the Aguayos are a family to me.
Agustin Aguayo: I think the community, administrators, are very receptive because of our tact and like Maricela said the way we share our stories  Basically that's what we do.  And I think our stories are so powerful in themselves even people that are for the war  which I mean at this point, even people who don't want us to go out they really can't say much because all we are doing is sharing stories and nothing is more powerful than the truth.
As pointed out Arlington West Film is "doing the work that the mainstream media is not doing".  Friday, September 28th, there will be a benefit performance of the musical Hair at 8:00 pm at the MET Theater, 1089 No. Oxford Avenue, Hollywood, CA 90029 with Aguayo and Cindy Sheehan among the speakers.
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.
In other peace news, United for Peace & Justice states they are using the Just Foreign Policy count for Iraqis who have died in the illegal war. The report on the state of Iraq has been updated to note the Iraqi dead during the illegal war is over a million.   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.  That's this Friday.  On Sunday,  Christine Anne Piesyk (Tennessee's Clarksville Online) provided a list of some actions that will take place:.
Each of these individuals and groups -- a list too long to print here -- have something in common: each have signed up to support the Iraq Moratorium, which will make its debut as a national movement on Friday, September 21. 
Wear and distribute black ribbons and armbands 
Buy no gas on moratorium days 
Pressure politicians and media  
Hold vigils, pickets, rallies and teach-ins  
Hold special religious services  
Coordinate events in art, music and culture 
Host film screenings, talks and educational events 
Organize student actions: teach-ins, school closings  
Iraq Moratorium is designed to take the issue to the people, and no event or action is to small to be of merit in opposing the Iraq war.  
Turning to the topic of Blackwater USA, the mercenaries that got into Iraq due to crony connections and whom Paul Bremer made above the law during his reign of King of Iraq before fleeing the country.  Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes today, "The private military contractor Blackwater is now believed to have killed twenty Iraqi civilians in a mass-shooting Sunday in Baghdad. The Iraqi government revoked Blackwater's license amidst reports nine civilians were killed when Blackwater guards opened fire. Blackwater says it responded after coming under attack from a roadside bomb. But in its initial report on the shooting, Iraq's Interior Ministry says the guards shot at a small vehicle that failed to make way for Blackwater's convoy to pass. An Iraqi couple and their infant were killed in the attack. The New York Times reports video footage of the shooting shows the child burned to the mother's body after their car caught fire. Blackwater guards and helicopters are then believed to have fired indiscriminately."  In the New York Times, Sabrina Tavernise and James Glanz reported this morning that the Ministry of Interior's preliminary report on the incidnet found "that Blackwater security guards were not ambushed, as the company reported, but instead fired at a car when it did not heed a policeman's call to stop, killing a couple and their infant."  Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) addresses the issue of stopping and the police officer via . . . interviews (take note NYT): "Traffic police officer Sarhan Dhia, 34, said he was standing under the Iraqi flags next to his white guard shack along the traffic circle when he saw the convoy of at least four armored vehicles approch, traveling against the flow of traffic.  He said he jumped out into an intersecting street to prevent cars from entering the circle while the convoy passed.  The next thing he knew, he said, gunfire erupted." Sarhan Dhia says there was no bombing.  Blackwater originally claimed that their mercenaries were 'returning fire' after they had been shot at.  They then declared that their indiscriminate spraying of a civilian area with bullets was their way of responding to car bombing.  Their stories -- like the civilian area they shot up -- is riddled with holes.  Leila Fadel and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) also operate under the belief that reporting requires speaking to eye witnesses and they speak with Hassan Jaber Salma and Sami Hawas Karim (an attorney and a taxi driver respectively) who both -- as does every other eye witnesses quoted in press accounts -- maintain that Blackwater "opened fire without provocation" and the reporters note the ever changing story by Blackwater.  Interior Ministry spokesperson Ali al Dabbagh tells McClatchy Newspapers that, "No country in the world would allow the way they [Blackwater] are operating in Iraq."  Multiple outlets (including McClatchy and the New York Times) report that Blackwater helicopters also fired on civilians in the Sunday slaughter.  CBS and AP cite eye witness Suhad Mizra who stepped outside of her hair salon ("about 250 meters" from the incident) and remebers, "The sounds attracted my attention so I went outside the shop to see a convoy of SUVs with security guards shooting randomly at the people at low level.  We were surprised by this and we rushed inside our shops to avoid random bullets.  Apparently, the guards wanted to make their way through the traffic jam made by Iraqi army checkpoint.  There was no provocation and the guards were using their ammunition to move quicker in the street.  Minutes later, the ambulances arrived to up the wounded and dead."  Reality is that this has long been the procedure: to ram through Iraq so that the "high levels" didn't have to wait.  An important question the press should be asking is: Who was Blackwater transporting?  Among the many times this has happened before, Anne Garrels (All Things Considered, NPR) reports on one: "NPR witnessed a similar scenario two years ago. A State Department convoy, protected by Blackwater, raced out of a compound. Guards immediately shot at the car killing an old man, his son and his daughter-in-law. Blackwater said the car was driving erratically. A U.S. military investigation concluded Blackwater had used excessive force. No one was prosecuted.
"Meanwhile," Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) informs, "Blackwater is now being accused of another fatal shooting of an Iraqi civilian. An Iraqi engineer living in Britain has revealed Blackwater guards shot his seventy-five year old father in the southern Iraqi town of Hilla last month. Safaa Rabee says his father had pulled over to the side of the road to let a Blackwater convoy pass. But Rabee says the last vehicle in the convoy opened fire when his father pulled back on to the road. An Iraqi police chief told Rabee he has no legal recourse to pursue his father's killers."  As the US government continues to attempt damage control, many more of these stories are likely to come out. 
Meanwhile Newsweek continues to prove it is the gutter of all news weeklies.  In the 'safe' Kurdistan region of Iraq (not safe -- but Newsweek needs their fantasies), young women (teenagers) are showing up at hospitals with burns and many are dying from them (since August 10th alone, 25 young women have died) and the best guess Newsweek can offer is that it's a copy-cat trend by romantic teenage females.  As with their notion of the region being 'peaceful,' their notion of women is ridiculously out of touch. Young women have been repeatedly targeted in that area, they've been kidnapped and forced into marriages, they've been persecuted for not being the right sect, go down the list.  But romantic young women self-mutilating (to the death!) is the myth they toss out.  .
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .  
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a roadside bombing in Kirkuk that left five wounded "(four of them are policemen while the fifth man is a civilian)".
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an attack in Mosul in which 1 Iraqi soldier died, 14 unidentified people died and four Iraqi soldiers were wounded.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports eight corpses discovered in Baghdad.
CBS and AP report: "The military said five U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq Tuesday. Three died following an explosion near their patrol northeast of Baghdad. Another soldier was killed in a vehicle accident in the northern province of Ninevah. On Wednesday, the military said another soldier had been killed in an attack in southern Baghdad. The Multi-National Division-Baghdad soldier was killed by small arms fire while conducting combat operations Tuesday in a southern section of the Iraqi capital, according to a brief military statement. The soldiers' names were not released pending notification of relatives. The deaths raised to at least 3,787 members of the U.S. military who have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count."  Maybe.  (Not a slap down.  We noted the string along announcements numbered five deaths this morning.)  Today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier was killed during a small arms fire attack while conducting combat operations in a southern section of the Iraqi capital Sept. 18."  That is in the count of five.  Later today, the US military announced: "A Task Force Lightning Soldier died of a non-battle related cause, Wednesday, in Sala ad Din Province."  And they announced: "A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier was killed during combat operations in an area weat of the Iraqi captial Sep 19."  Reuters count is 3786 since the start of the illegal war.  ICCC's total is 3791 US service members killed in the illegal war thus far.  The reason for the confusion?  M-NF is supposed to announce deaths with the Defense Dept later announcing the names of the dead (after next of kin is notified).  But M-NF has been slacking on the job -- it's not a tough job, they just issue press releases all day long.  They've 'suceeded' in hiding the dead.  And with the 3800 mark looming, let's not kid and pretend this is just an accident.  M-NF has a pattern of doing this when every realities are in conflict with the spin coming out of the White House.  ICCC has period details and their count includes deaths never announced by M-NF but announced by the Defense Dept when the DoD provides the names of the dead. ICCC's period details indicate that six deaths took place on Tuesday -- six deaths that have been announced. 
In other number news, Prensa Latina reports that there are 25,000 Iraqis imprisoned by the US -- up from 10,000 "a year ago."  IRIN reveals that the Iraqi Lawyers Association is asking the parliament to provide the location of all prisoners currently being held and that "[l]awyers representing families of Iraqi detainees have accused the government of concealing information about detainees, including their whereabouts" quoting attorney Ayad Daraji stating, "Hundreds of Iraqis have been detained by the Iraqi police or army in the past three years and their locations and conditions are unknown. There is no evidence as to whether they are alive or not. Families aren't allowed to visit them and this raises big questions about the detainees' situation."  As the numbers grow and families often have no idea that members have been imprisoned, Walter Pincuse (Washington Post)  reports on a program entitled "religious entitlement" that the US military is using on the prisoners "some of whom are as young as 11" according Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone who brags that the programs will "bend them back to our will."  The age should cause further alarm but the realities don't appear to even be sinking in.  For instance, CBS News (or "News") Keach Hagey sees it as a topic to have some funnin' with: "But what really emerges from the article -- a summary of a conference call Stone held from Baghdad with a group of defense bloggers -- is a portrait of Stone as a formidable character who's almost as fun to quote as Donald Rumsfeld was." Hagey and others need it get it through their thick skulls that this isn't 'cute' or 'funny' or even 'new.' 
Yesterday, Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism  was released in the US.  In it, she details "the love shack" in the Guantanamo prison used as a reward to those terrorized and broken down.  There's not a damn bit of difference here except for the fact that the Iraqi prisoners are supposed to be protected by Geneva with no waiver.  Though Hagey can't grasp reality staring in his face, it's not 'funny' that 11-year-olds are prisoners.  It's not 'funny' that the US -- having taken these children from their families -- think they can 'break' them and rebuild them to their liking.  That is what The Shock Doctrine outlines.  Erasing memory, starting with a clean slate, refusal to see people as people but as pawns for the US to play with.  Those who don't grasp how disgraceful this is are either playing dumb or are historically ignorant.  It is not the right of the US military to snatch children from their homes and attempt to do some reprogramming of them.  That is a crime and it is in violation of Geneva.
Yesterday, Elaine (Like Maria Said Paz) wrote about the Free Sami Al-Haj -- a journalist imprisoned in Guantanamo for over five years now and subject to the same torture and disregard for basic rights as every other prisoner in Guantanamo -- and concluded, "  The real terrorism is the silence we allow ourselves to be forced into out of fear."  Or out of stupidty as is the case with Keach Hagey.
In other non-progress news, Alissa J. Rubin and James Glanz (New York Times) cover the upcoming Red Cross report on Iraqi refugees which notes the "radically reshaping" taking place in Iraq (not unlike the aims in the US prison) which indicates "partitioning the country into semiautonomous Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish enclaves would not be easy" (impossible actually because the three divisions ignore Iraq's minority populations) and note, "The migration data, which are expected to be released this week by the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization but were given in advance to The New York Times, indicate that in Baghdad alone there are now nearly 170,000 families, accounting for almost a million people, that have fled their homes in search of security, shelter, water, electricity, functioning schools or jobs to support their families. The figures show that many families move twice, three times or more, first fleeing immediate danger and then making more considered calculations based on the availability of city services or schools for their children."  Peter Apps (Reuters) gets to the point quickly, "Iraq's humanitarian crisis is getting worse and more Iraqis are fleeing their homes despite the recent surge of U.S. troops, aid workers say, with donors reluctant to fund support for millions of displaced. Last week, President George W. Bush presented a relatively upbeat picture of conditions in Iraq and said forces could be cut by around 20,000 by next July. He linked the reduction to improvements on the ground particularly in Baghdad where the surge was centred and the volatile Anbar governorate."  There is no improvement for Iraqis.  There is, however, the US military bragging that they will "break" 11-year-old prisoners -- how proud their parents must be.
Finally, a voice for peace passed away Friday.  As Amy Goodman (DemocracyNow!) noted on Monday, Dave Cline a founder of Vietnam Veterans Against the War passed away.  Margaret Prescod noted the passing Tuesday on KPFK's Sojourner Truth, IVAW's Michael Hoffman offers a look back at Cline. Veterans for Peace has a memorial online and they have created a fund to cover the expenses of Cline's burial. At Sir! No Sir!, director David Zeiger writes of Cline, "Dave and I were from different worlds.  I was a middle class kid who came to my opposition to the war and growing radicalism intellectually.  Dave, a working class kid from Buffalo, had joined the army and had been wounded three times in Vietnam.  It was his last wound, from an NLF soldier at point blank range, that changed everything.  The soldier shattered Dave's knee, and Dave killed him with a bullet in the chest.  His first realization was it was "pure luck" that he was alive and the other guy was dead.  Then it hit him that there was no real difference between the two of them.  Finally, the epiphany: It was the NLF
soldier who was fighting for a just cause, while Dave and his comrades were fighting for a lie.  In typical Dave Cline fashion he concluded in 1970, 'I had to kill a revolutionary to become a revolutionary.' "

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