Thursday, September 20, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, September 20, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, Blackwater is still hot water, cholera comes to Baghdad, the Iraq Moratorium starts Friday, and more.
Starting with war resistance.  Last week, Carol Mulligan (The Sudbury Star) reported on the Sudbury chapter of War Resisters Support Campaign to find lodging for an expected arrival -- a family of four.  The Canadian community pulled together and went to work.  Today Carol Mulligan (The Sudbury Star) reports that, "The soldier planning to come to Canada with his family to avoid deployment to combat in Iraq has been transferred to a non-combat role" after being granted CO status and will not moving to Canada and that Lee Zaslofsky (national co-ordinator of  War Resisters Support Campaign) congratulated the community on their strong work and to "assure you that, with the current volume of inquiries from potential war resisters in the U.S., there will likely be war resisters in Sudbury very soon" with 2 war resisters having "arrived unexpectedly in Ottawa" as well as the London chapter having a family arrive "last weekend and another settled in the Niagara region." 
Last week, Anthony Lane (Colorado Springs Indy) reported on Brad McCall, 20 years old, army private, who made the decision to self-checkout of the US military.  Lane explained, "Soldiers tell him details of fighting in Iraq meant to make his pacifist blood boil.  Soldiers who've been and returned say he'll see the bodies of dead little girls, if and when his unit is deployed.  They goad him with stories of a soldier they say peeled charred flesh from an Iraqi civilian's corpse and ate it."  McCall considered applying for CO status but didn't think the chances were likely of his being granted that status.  So, while Lane was working on the report, McCall self-checked out and, "He'll join hundreds of other U.S. soldiers in Canada.  He'll go to college, in the States, if he can get discharged.  If not, maybe in Canada. . . .  Army officials notified McCall's family on Tuesday that he had disappeared.  Charlotte McCall, his mother, says she's saddened and worried."  While she expects that he will change his mind, Lane reports "McCall contends that staying in the Army could only lead to bad things, particularly if he is deployed.  The fighting in Iraq has put soldiers in nerve-wracking situations where some have fired their weapons only to realize they killed civilians, he says.  'How would I live [with] myself,' he asks, 'knowing I killed an innocent person fighting in a war I didn't believe in?'"
Already in Canada, war resister Patrick Hart is attempting to be granted refugee status. His band will be playing in Winnipeg Sunday.  David Schmeichel (Winnipeg Sun) notes, "Yes, the Refuse & Resist tour lineup is jam-packed with punks who oppose the war in Iraq.  But before you dismiss 'em as snotty agitators, know that Skull Device guitarist Pat Hart is something of an expert on the topic.  Hart served 9 years with the U.S. military before going AWOL and fleeing to Canada, and now faces up to 30 years in prison if our government denies his bid for refugee status.  He's got the support of tourmates Nikki's Trick and My Shaky Jane, (plus local recruits C-Punisher and Saxton)."  Patrick Hart went to Canada at the end of August 2005 and was followed a few weeks later by Jill Hart and their son Rian.
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Derek Hess, Brad McCall, 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.
McCall tells Lane that he doubts the US military will even look for him.  If that has to do with his own record in the military, he may be right.  But the reality is that the US military does attempt to track down members who check out.  In news on some recent AWOLs . . .   Brad Zinn (Virginia's The News Leader) reports Denise A. Jones checked out, turned herself in and was arrested (she's 42-years-old and now at the Fort Knox Deserter Control Point).  Russ Rizzo (The Salt Lake Tribune) reports Austin Lee Sommers developed pink, bronchitis, pneumonia and cellulitis while in basic training (marines) and checked out and stay with an aunt when the Orem police -- tipped off by the military and, his aunt believes, Austin's brother -- showed up to arrest him.  Meanwhile in Maryland another AWOL soldier has been shot.  Rocco Vertuccio (R News) reports Aberdeen was the location where 22-year-old Evan Parker of Rochester, NY was shot after he was picked up at a motel in the Aberdeen area and then returned to base (Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland) on Sunday only to go AWOL again and return to the same motel: "As an officer approached Parker, they say Parker displayed a gun.  Police told Parker to drop the gun.  They say instead, he waved it at the officer.  The officer then fired several shots, hitting Parker in the abdomen, the leg, and upper chest. . . .  Parker is now in stable condition at the University of Maryland Shock and Trauma Center.  Aberdeen Police say, while Parker was being taken to the hospital, he told them and the medical personnel, he wanted police to shoot him."
This week on The Progressive Radio Show, Matthew Rothschild interviews Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan about the illegal war, the Democrats and the Republicans and why she is running for Congress from the eighth district in California.
Matthew Rothschild: Cindy, what does it mean when two-thirds of the public is against the war and yet the war and surge goes on?
Cindy Sheehan: I think it means that what our country was founded on, which was being a representative republic, has transformed into a country or government by -- instead of by and for the people -- by and for the corporations, the special interests.  I think that both parties -- the people in both parties are very similar in their ideologies, they're very similar in the people who pull their strings, the people who fund their campaigns and so I think that our government and, you know, with most of the people's consent by their silence, we're sliding into a form of fascism and I think that that is, it's corporate, you know Benito Mussolini famously said, it's when corporations and government -- it's the merger of those two interests and I think that's what we have right now.
Matthew Rothschild: How do we stop that slide?  How do we reverse that slide?
Cindy Sheehan: I think we have to take back our government. I think we have to take back our representative republic. On July 23rd, I went with Ray McGovern and Rev. Lennox Yearwood  to meet with John Conyers about impeachment.  We took a petition with over a million signatures.  We had three hundred people lining the halls by his office on Capitol Hill and, while we were there, there was a call every thirty seconds demanding impeachment and John Conyers said, "I can't do it."  And I said, "So what you're telling me is that we the people have no voice in our government, we have no recourse."  He said, "Yes, you do in the ballot boxes."   But the candidates we vote for are the ones that the elite, the corporate elite pick for us and the media picks for us and they don't do what the people want them to do what kind of representative republic . . . do we have.  So I think that we have to challenge this two-party system which really is just one party basically.  People have to challenge their congress people like I'm challenging Nancy Pelosi. And I think that challenging her as an independent, unaffiliated with any party, that you can truly look at the human and not the politics --  you know, what would be right for me politically or what would make me more money -- but look at a human being and say, "What would be best for humanity?  What would be best for our country?"  And not what's best for myself and my own interests or the people who owns me interest. So I think that by challenging her I'm not just challenging Pelosi, I'm challenging the system and I'm challenging the military industrial complex that I think controls our system.
Matthew Rothschild: Cindy Sheehan, why do you think John Conyers told you that he couldn't do it?  Because the time before in Congress, when the Democrats weren't in control, he did introduce a bill to explore grounds of impeachment.
Cindy Sheehan:  This is just so puzzling to so many people -- especially people who have been impeachment-anti-war activists.  A lot of people in the movement don't link impeachment  with peace but there's many of us who do because first of all there's the thing of accountability.  Second of all, George Bush has said the troops aren't coming home while he's president.  And you know if Nixon had been held accountable for the, you know, for the prosecuting of Vietnam and for the illegal bombings of Laos and Cambodia I think it would reign in future presidents. But John Conyers wrote a book called The Constitution in Crisis and he laid out, he and his staff laid out, the crimes and the charges against George Bush.  And in my many meetings with him since they've become in the majority, I've said, "You know, Congressman,  what happened, all the sudden are they like innocent of these crimes?  You know you have to put them to trial, you have to give them a hearing." And there's been a lot of speculation  that Nancy Pelosi,  and we know she did because before they were even elected she said election was off the table.  And we think that Nancy Pelosi is reigning-reigning his hand in.  And you know he keeps saying 'I don't have the votes, I don't have the votes".  Well you're not going to have the votes if you don't put the resolution for impeachment out there and we think it's a Constitutional duty, we thank it's mandatory  and he thinks he has discretion.  And one thing he told me that broke my heart  because I really have admired him -- even before I knew him, you know, even before my son was killed -- I admired him.  And  he told us that it's more important for him to have a Democratic president than to end the war.  So what the democratic leadership are doing are playing politics with our flesh and blood and the people of Iraq and our soldiers are being put in the middle of this political struggle.  And I think it's inherently immoral.
Matthew Rothschild: I mean that -- when I'm most cynical I think the Democrats want the war to go on because it will help them.
Staying on the topic of peace and truth telling, Amanda Grosgebauer, Karin Scott and Kathleen Kreuger at Texas A&M refused to let a War Hawk columnist go unchallenged as he spewed hate and attacks and called him out as the pig he was.  Good for them.  Maybe he'll think twice before he tries to distor the work of Iraq Veterans Against the War?  And a time when so many women paid to pen their opinions elect to be silent on the topic of the illegal war, the three college students show far more strength and passion that most 'professionals'.  The "women of tomorrow" are already here and Kathleen Kreuger, Karin Scott and Amanda Grosgebauer make that very clear.  Another strong woman is IVAW's Kelly Dougherty.  Paul Pryse and Chris Chable (The Badger Herald) explain how Dougherty's story intersects with corporate profits: "When Kelly Dougherty was deployed to Iraq in 2003, her unit was assigned to escort truck convoys, usually from Kellogg Brown and Root Inc., then a subsidary of the Halliburton Company.  Dougherty remembers one incident when her unit was guarding a broken-down truck containing produce and a crowd of destitute Iraqis assembled and begged for food.  After Hallibruton told them to destroy the truck, Dougherty and other soldiers asked if they could distribute the food first, but were refused because it would be 'too hectic.'  'We sat there and burned produce in front of people struggling to get by, living not only under an occupation, but without jobs, without healthcare,' Dougherty said.  To most people, this is wanton cruelty.  However, under Halliburton's 'cost-plus' contract, they made a profit by charging the costs of that truck, the produce, plus an extra percentage to taxpayers."  Which is why students at University of Wisconsin-Madison were protesting today as Halliburton showed up on campus for a job fair.  Ryan J. Foley (AP) reports Chris Dols leading the hundreds of students in singing "From high to low, Halliburton got to go" and Foley observes, "The event is drawing parallels to a 1967 protest against recruiters for Dow Chemical Co., which made napalm used in Vietnam.  A peaceful sit-in that ended in a bloody confrontation between students and club-wielding police officers galvanized the anti-war movement."  Anita Weier (The Capital Times) notes the ingenuity of the students in the following: "They were allowed to enter the career fair but were told not to chant, so they sang.  They were told to use conversational tones, but they did so with a bullhorn."
They aren't the only ones standing up.  Alive in Baghdad offers their latest video report and this one is on the Al Hurriya section of Baghdad which was once a mixed neighborhood but has become pure Shi'ite and was the scene for Nabeel Kamal's report of a protest following the murder of Jawad Kadhim Al Sultani which called for all US forces to "leave our safe district and be replaced with Iraqi Forces".  Who led the protest?  Women.  Carrying banners and accompanied by small children, they changed We defend our country and we're call terrorists, No, no to America!  No, no to America!  Maliki government, how long will you be silent?"
Turning to the topic of Blackwater.  Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes today, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is promising to hold the private military firm Blackwater USA accountable for its deadly attack on Iraqis last weekend in Baghdad. Maliki's pledge comes as the estimated death toll from the shooting continues to rise. Iraqi officials now say as many twenty-eight Iraqis were killed when Blackwater guards opened fire. The initial estimate was of nine dead. On Wednesday, Maliki said Iraq would not allow the killing of Iraqis 'in cold blood.' He also called on the Bush administration to cut ties with Blackwater. The shooting has put new scrutiny on the free reign companies like Blackwater enjoy in Iraq. The State Department says its formed a joint committee with Iraqi officials to suggest ways to improve regulation of private military firms."  Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that Nouri al-Maliki declared yesterday that the mercenaries of Blackwater "have been involved in at least seven serious incidents" already and Mohammed al Askari (spokesperson for the Defense Ministry) declares "one of the incidents was former Iraqi Electricity Minister Ahyam al Samarrai's escape from a Green Zone jail in December.  Samarrai had been awaiting sentencing on charges that he had embezzled $2.5 billion that was intended to rebuild Iraq's decrepit electricity grid.  Another incident, Askari said, was the shooting death last month of a Baghdad taxi driver when Blackwater guards led a convoy the wrong way down a street."  Steve Fainaru (Washington Post) informs that "the State Department's oversight of Blackwater became a central issue as Iraqi authorities repeatedly clashed with the company over its aggressive street tactics. Many U.S. and Iraqi officials and industry representatives said they came to see Blackwater as untouchable, protected by State Department officials who defended the company at every turn. Blackwater employees protect the U.S. ambassador and other diplomats in Iraq.
Blackwater 'has a client who will support them no matter what they do,' said H.C. Lawrence Smith, deputy director of the Private Security Company Association of Iraq, an advocacy organization in Baghdad that is funded by security firms, including Blackwater."  Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reports, "Two American diplomats speaking on condition of anonymity have told The Times that the State Department had failed to take Blackwater to task in past cases in which Iraqi civilians were shot. The diplomats complained that the State Department's security office in Baghdad had often failed to scrutinize Blackwater's actions."
Let's get the alleged 'progress' out of the way before we go further.  This morning Paul Tait (Reuters) reported that serial liar Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno is again claiming violence is a-dropping.  He's got nothing to back it up, just his oft disproven claims.  But it sure does eat a lot of press time (which is always the point of a wave of Operation Happy Talk).  Meanwhile, no one knows anything about an arrest of an alleged Iraian for alleged smuggling but that eats up even more time.  Maybe they'll distract from the looming 3800 mark for the number of US service members killed in the illegal Iraq War?  Or maybe from AP's report on the 'handover': "In another sign of U.S. struggles in Iraq, the target date for putting Iraqi authorities in charge of security in all 18 provinces has slipped yet again, to at least July. The delay, noted in a Pentagon report to Congress on progress and problems in Iraq, highlights the difficulties in developing Iraqi police forces and the slow pace of economic and political progress in some areas. It is the second time this year the target date for completing what is known as 'Provincial Iraqi Control' has been pushed back. The Pentagon report submitted to Congress on Monday hinted at the possibility of further delays."  Or maybe it will distract from the cholera outbreak in northern Iraq that, bad sign, has now moved to Baghdad according to the World Health Organization
In other violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing claimed 1 life (police officer) and left three more people wounded, another Baghdad bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left a second injured, a Baghdad car bombing claimed 3 lives and left eleven others injured and 2 Falluja roadside bombings claimed 2 lives (police officers) and left four more wounded.  Reuters reports a mortar attack in Madaen claimed 2 lives (ten more were injured).
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Sheikh Khalid Salim Faris al-Bayati was shot dead in Tuz Khurmato today while Lt. Col. Mejeed Shnan "was shot in the shoulder and is being treated in hospital" after surviving an attack. Reuters notes that "radio presenter" Muhannad Ghanim was shot dead in Mosul that Judge Mustafa Kadhim was shot dead in Baghdad,  and a person was shot dead in Hawija
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 7 corpses were discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes that 3 corpses ("including a woman and her daughter") were discovered in Mosul.
Today the US military announced: "A Soldier assigned to Multi-National Force-West died Sept. 19 in a non-combat-related incident in Al Anbar Province."
corporate media picks for us and the elite and they don't do what the people
In yet another sign of how the US Veterans Affairs Dept continues to fails service members, Reuters reports Fort Riley's cemetary "has run out of space" and that US Senators Pat Robers and Sam Brownback are "urging . . . full funding for a new cementary for Fort Riley" -- that two US Senators (they are Republicans) have to urge the Veterans Affairs Dept to do their job is only one example of how mismanaged the department has been under the Bully Boy.
On WBAI today, The Largest Minority Radio Show devoted a segment to remembering Dave Cline.  In addition, yesterday's note on David Zeiger's piece didn't include the link to the website.  First, language warning before clicking to get the essay, second, the site is Sir! No Sir! -- site of the amazing documentary.  You can also Zeiger's piece and others (including one by Cindy Sheehan) at Veterans for Peace's memorial online.

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