Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, September 25, 2007.  Chaos and violence continues, the 3800 mark has been reached for US service members who have died in the illegal war, cholera -- forgotten by the press but stil raging in Iraq, Jame Burmeister was talking about the "kill teams" in June but where were All Things Media Big and Small, and more.
Starting with war resistance and starting with James Burmeister who shared his story with Maria Hinojosa PBS' NOW with David Brancaccio (first broadcast August 24th in most PBS markets -- click here for transcript and here for a/v). 23-year-old Burmeister explained why he signed up: "I always wanted to do something that would be a big help and it seemed like the perfect thing."  The segment focused on Burmeister and Agustin Aguayo and though Aguayo explained how his opinion changed while serving Iraq.  Burmeister?   Tape exists of why he changed his mind.  It didn't make the final cut.  NOW with David Brancaccio could air that footage or post it online and be seen as 'up to the minute' because one of the reasons Burmeister .  Instead, we skip over reasons for his opposition and are taken to "James saw only two options either go back to Iraq or go AWOL" with Burmeister going to Canada May 4th.  [At this site, screen cap is included and community member Eddie provided it.  It's used in Ava and my TV commentary from August 26, 2007.]
What's missing from the story?  It's a story told on Canada's CBC if not PBS.  Click here for summary (which includes audio link as well) of the June 29th interview.
James Burmeister: Myself, I was a Calvary scout.  We do a lot of reconnaissance, mapping out, a lot of raids.  Our platoon in particular would set up small groups called "Platoon Kill Teams" -- maybe a group of four, five people, some snipers and we would set up fake cameras, we would put "Property of US government" in English and Arabic and we would wait for an Iraqi to come up and touch it because that gives the US the right to kill them -- so they say.  That would be the typical thing we would do.
Rob Benzie: You called this baiting.  Is that right?
James Burmeister: Definitely. 
"Baiting."  In the news this week.  The Washington Post yesterday, the New York Times today and it could have been PBS in August -- if they'd aired the video.  They didn't.  And they couldn't tell you why Burmeister turned against the illegal war without airing the video of that section of the interview.  Back to the CBC interview.
James Burmeister: It had a lot to do with the small kill teams which really bothered me.  I didn't see how that was helping at all.  We would roll around in the streets of Baghdad looking for a fight, and go into the danger areas and wait for somebody to shoot just so we could shoot somebody else.  When I was back in Germany, after my six months there, I had threats to lie about my medical situation.  At that point . . .
Rob Benzie: What took you to Germany after Iraq?
James Burmeister: I was actually injured in a bomb blast.  I was a gunner on top of a Humvee and we were going up and down the same route several times something that you never should do in a combat situation.  Bomb just blew up to the left side of the truck, knocked me out, I lost the hearing in my right ear, some shrapnel in my face and they decided to send me back on two weeks of leave instead of actually sending me to a hospital and so I had to go back and on my two weeks of leave had to do all my own hospital work on my own time.  Eventually, I got my leave extended but after, after awhile they started to threaten me to lie about my medical situation or else they were just going to destroy my life. You know, they really wanted to get me back.
Rob Benzie:  So you decided to leave?
James Burmeister:  Definitely.  I kind of had the idea in my mind a little bit but it wasn't a certain thing,  Definitely after the threats and I had all these doubts about the war.  That was it for me.  
Kill squads.  Platoon Kill Teams.  Due to the fact that cases are going on right now, court-martials, the mainstream press is semi-talking about Kill Teams.  They're zooming in on 'materials' of interest to 'insurgents' being left out.  That is not reality. 
Now if war resisters were covered, this would have been a news topic some time ago.  But war resistance isn't covered and in terms of any coverage at all, it's done better by big media than small if you're looking volume.  PBS remains the only American national outlet to interveiw Burmeister.  Some papers in his the area he grew up in interviewed as well.  But All Things Media Big and Small took a pass.  For most of them, it was the same pass they've taken since the start of the illegal war. 
In this morning's New York Times, Paul von Zielbauer reports on the "testimony presented in a military court" which some might argue is also known as "transcription."  PvZ notes "soldiers testifying for the defense have said the sniper team was employing a 'baiting program' developed at the Pentagon by the Asymmetrical Warfare Group, which met with Ranger sniper teams in Iraq in January and gave equipment to them."  Human Rights Watch weighs in their general useless manner (and demonstrates their ignorance with regards to war resisters -- no surprise).  Jorge G. Sandoval Jr., Michael A. Hensley and Evan Vela are the three US service members facing punishment -- and if more were public about the program, many higher ups would probably also be facing charges.  Across the Atlantic, the BBC demonstrates the stupidity (willfrul or just a natural state) isn't confined to the US as they note that the US military will not confirm or deny the program's existance and cite military flack Paul Boyce as delcaring that using "drop weapons" would not "appear legally justified, as the three snipers are accused of doing."  For those who paid attention, the wording is that way because the military is saying, "OH NO!  We didn't okay that!  But we're not going to go into what we did say and thank goodness no one uses Canada's CBC as a trusted news source so no one will ever raise the important issue!"
On the subject of war resistance, The Fayetteville Observer interviewed Chuck Fager last weekend.  Fager is the director of the area's Quaker House and he reported that in 2002 there were 3,000 phone calls asking for assistance while in 2006 the number of calls had trippled to 9,000 "[a]nd most of the months this year have set records for each month.  As of the end of May, we have received 4,320 calls".  Fager explained that they were "getting more and more calls about (AWOL) . . . sometimes from people who are thinking about it and sometimes from people who already are."
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.
The 3800 marker has been reached.  Today the US military announced, "A Task Force Lightning Soldier was killed in Diyala Province, Tuesday, when an explosion occured near his vehicle."  3800 US service members have been announced killed in the illegal war.  As noted Sunday in "Editorial: Buying the illegal war" (The Third Estate Sunday Review): "In the November 2006 elections, Democrats were put back in charge of both houses of Congress with a mandate to end the illegal war. The session of the 110th Congress started on January 3rd. On January 4th, the first announced death to take place after Dems were sworn in was made ("A Multi-National Division - Baghdad patrol was attacked by small arms fire, killing one Soldier in the western part of the Iraqi capital today.") and that took the number of US service members to die in the illegal war to 3006. His name was Charles D. Allen."  3005 before Dems were sworn in, put in control of both houses.  3800 today.  795 deaths while they have been in power and they continue to fund the illegal war, they refuse to use the filibuster to end the funding, they've done nothing but pass 'symbolic' measures -- such as when they 'symbolically' agreed they weren't in favor of the escalation (aka "the surge").
3800 dead
Keep the number in your head
36,943 maimed
They will never be the same
1.06 million Iraqis 'liberated' from their lives
It was all based on lies
It was all based on lies.
Turning to the land of 'progress,' 'democracy' and 'liberation' -- Iraq.  A McClatchy Newspapers' Iraqi correspondent observes (at Inside Iraq) the realities for Iraqi women since the start of the illegal war, the loss of rights, and wonders, "Why?? Why have we lost our rights?  For what have we been pushed back into the dark ages?  How can this be liberation if my daughter has fewer rights than I did at her age?  If she has less control over her life than I did?  Fewer choices than even her grandmother had?"  Fewer choices.  Jay Price (McClatchy Newspapers) writes of the rash of burn victims (female) showing up in Kurdistan with many assumed to be suicide attempts (most of which are successful -- and many confess they were suicide attempts).  Why set yourself on fire with kerosene?  Don't you remember?  Newsweek said it was a trend!  And fashionable!  And just something little romantic teenager 'girls' do.  They do love their (false) trend stories at NewsweekPrice writes, "The common factor, though, was usually the traditional, patriarchal culture, which often leaves women feeling powerless in dealings with husbands, fathers or even brothers.  That powerlessness is magnified when a girl marries young and comes under a husband's domination before she has a chance to learn much about life, Monsour said."  Meanwhile, AKI reports that a "newly formed women's caucus" in the parliament is attempting to apply prssure on the issue of assisting "victims of the war in Iraq, including widows and orphans, war victims' families and Iraqi refugee".
Let's drop back to yesterday's snapshot:
In news of other attacks, Reuters reports a the targeting of various officials such as Sunday's Kut attack aimed at the police chief of the Wasit province (two bodyguards were injured) that continue today with a bombing targeting the police chief of Kirkuk (two bodyguards wounded) and an attack on the mayor of Kirkuk (1 bodyguard killed, seven wounded). Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reveals there were more officials targeted "General Secretary of the National Accordance Group, Najaf Branch, Adel Waheed Abood was targeted by gunmen and sustained two bullets this morning; one in the neck and another in the shoulder. The Health Department in Najaf says his condition is critical. He was a nominee for the position of Governor in Najaf governorate."
That would be a trend.  A continuing trend and one that alert reporters should pick up on and immediately flashback to the months of June and July 2003 when resistance seemed unthinkable to so many enlisted in Operation Happy Talk.  Edward E. Kramer (New York Times) sees a trend in an attack on a 'reconciliation banquet'.  The trend to watch is the escalating attacks outside the capital directed at those in charge of protecting and governing provinces.  Such as AP's report this morning on the bombing attack of "police headquarters . . . in Basra" that claimed the lives of at least 3 Iraqi police officers.  Or how about this?  Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "The head of the local council of Hawija town Hussein Ali Salih was injured with one of his guards and a third civilian when a suicide car bomb targeted the convoy of Salih near Al Mahmoudiyah fuel station in Hawija town west of Kirkuk today afternoon." and "An IED exploded near the house of one of the officers of the 1st battalion, the 2nd Iraqi army brigade in Hawiha town yesterday night." and (this is all Hammoudi), "A gunman killed one of the military commandeers of the PUK Party today afternoon.  The police said that Col. Ali Simeen, the commander of the emergency battalion of Bashmarga (Kurdish military troops) in Tuz Khurmatu town was killed in front of his house inside Kifri district south of Kirkuk city."  And Reuters reports a "bomber wearing an explosives belt blew himself up near a police colonel, wounding the officer and nine others in Mosul."  On the Basra attack, Deborah Haynes (Times of London) notes, "The suicide bomber approached al-Ashar police station as trainees were taking part in a morning demonstration outside the front, police said. A guard saw him and opened fire but failed to stop the car from detonating. Police said that three trainees were killed and seventeen wounded. Major Shearer said that only one member of the Iraqi security forces had been killed, along with two civilians, while a number of others were injured."
On the bombing Monday that Kramer was recounting, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) observered today, "In news from Iraq, up to 25 people died on Monday when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a mosque during a reconciliation meeting between a Shiite and Sunni militia. The suicide bomber struck in the mixed village of Shifta, outside Baquba. Baquba's police chief died in the attack. Meanwhile in Baghdad, residents of the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City say US forces have raided a number of houses. One civilian died in the raids. Iraq Resident: 'We are poor people. We do not have oil! We do not have anything! They took everything from us and in addition to all these things, they attacked us (repeatedly). Why did they do this to us? What did those innocent people do? They burnt out this generator (points), which supply us with electricity'."
Returning to today's violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports three police officers were wonded in a downtown Baghdad bombing,and two Baghdad car bombings claimed 2 lives and left twelve wounded.  Reuters reports a Khaldiya bombing killed a police office and a Falluja roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left a second injured.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an Iraqi contractor was kidnapped in Kirkuk.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 8 corpses were discovered in Baghdad.
Reuters notes one corpses discovered in Kirkuk.
Meanwhile the World Health Organization remembers the cholera breakout that the press has forgotten.  WHO announced today that "more than 30,000 people have fallen ill with acute watery diarrhoea, among which 2,116 were identified as positive for Vibrio cholerae.  The case fatality rate is 0.52% and has remained low throughout the outbreak, although it continues to spread across Iraq and dissemination to as yet unaffected areas remains highly possible.  The oubreak was first detected in Kirkuk province, where 68% of laboratory-confirmed cholera cases have so far been reported, and then spread to Sulaymaniah and Erbil provinces.  Additional isolated cases of cholera have also been identified in other parts of the country, including Tikrit (6 cases confirmed), Mosul (2 cases confirmed), Basra (1 case confirmed), Baghdad (2 cases confirmed) and Dahuk (1 case confirmed)."
Meanwhile, over the weekend came news that's gotten very little attention in the US press.  KUNA reported another threat of withdrawal from the US installed government in Iraq and  one that might make more waves than usual since it was from the Accord Front and the threat of withdrawal came from Iraq's president Tareq al-Hashemi who declared the intentions of his bloc and himself to withdraw stating they would not "be marginalized" and that, "Now we have withdrawn from the Iraqi government, but we will quite the presidency and the parliament in case our talks with the government reached a dead end". Among the issues include Aghai Farhadi, the Iranian delegate arrested by US forces on ThursdayCBS and AP report that Talabni is still raising the issue of the Iranian delegate: "President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd who has been one of America's staunchest allies in Iraq, called it 'illegal' and said he met with American leaders to demand the Iranian's release. He said the Americans did not have the right to arrest somebody inside the autonomous Kurdish area in northern Iraq because the U.S. had handed over security responsibilities to the Kurds. 'Arresting a person inside the Kurdish region is illegal because the security file was handed over to the Kurdish government months ago,' he said."
In other legal news, the issue of Blackwater has seen the puppet Nouri al-Maliki -- following pressure from the US government -- to back down.  No surprise.  He is now willing to disown the report his own government produced and hop in bed with the White House for the white wash.  However, that's not all of the story just yet.  Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) reports that a law which "would strip local and foreign security companies of their immunity" -- given to them by Paul Bremer -- "has been submitted to a state committee for legal vetting".  BBC notes: "The new code would require contractors to be subject to Iraqi law and to be monitored by the Iraqi government. The draft is being considered by the consultative State Shura Council before being passed to parliament for debate."

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