Monday, September 24, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, is anyone paying attention to the attacking of province officials, the US military announces another death, the 3800 mark looms, the US military is ordered to escort families out of a neighborhood thereby assisting armed thugs, and more.
Starting with war resistance. The new chair of IVAW Camilo Mejia told his story in Road from Ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia, tracing his awakening to the illegal war as he served in it. Elizabeth Wrigley-Field reviews it in the September-October issue of ISR (the review is not currently available online, pages 73-74) noting, "Most of the book recounts Mejia's five months as a staff sergeant and leader of a nine-person squad in Iraq. This account is invaluable not only because it presents a picture of the reality of the occupation -- infused, from the very beginning, with racism, brutality, and incompetence -- but also because it helps us understand the process through which soldiers can become resisters." In Road from Ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia, Mejia concludes his story with the kangaroo court-martial and notes what he told the court:
We're all on trial. Not just me, sitting here, but everybody here in uniform, everybody in this country. . . . War crimes? Abuse of prisoners? The U.S. Army? No. A few privates, perhaps, one sergeant; they did that. They did that because they didn't have the courage to do what I did, because they were lost in a situation where it's hard to tell the difference between right and wrong. Perhaps they were afraid not to do what they were told by people who are higher ranking. Perhaps they decided that it was easier to do what everybody else was doing. So now it's easier to judge these people and put them on trial and blame it on them. . . . I'm not saying they're not responsible. They have some responsibility, just like I have some responsibility for the things I did in Iraq. Of course I do. But if we really want to look at ourselves as military and we really want to keep our pride and honor as a military, then we have to start from the top.
At which point the 'judge' interrupts. The same 'judge' that refused to let arguments of the legalities of the illegal war be raised and felt that -- pay attention -- the judiciary had no oversight over the military -- that was something to be left to the Executive and Legislative branches. That's real cute and I'm sure there are other matters that the two branches wish the judiciary would sit out. Wrigley-Field concludes of the book, "Mejia was the first. But he wasn't the last and there are many more to come. We have much to learn from his story."
A Matter Of Conscience is a new documentary about the illegal war and Kevin and Monica Benderman's strength when Kevin realized he was a conscientious objector. Like Mejia, Kevin Benderman is among the early war resisters. A preview of the documentary is available at YouTube. More information on the film can be found at Kevin Benderman's website. A Matter of Conscience: GI Resistance During the Vietnam War is a project by William Short and Willa Seidenberg (an incredible project) and, to be clear, that's not this documentary. (There are other items with that title, I believe Kevin Benderman also wrote a column with that title.) If you're interested in purchasing a copy of the documentary, e-mail Earl Brackett (Minehead Productions) at email@example.com
War resister and Iraq veteran James Burmeister, his wife Angelique and their son Cornell went to Canada. Burmeister has repeatedly spoken about his job in Iraq, the US military assigned him the duty of setting "traps" -- equipment left laying out so that any Iraqi who touched it could be shot for touching US property. Burmeister is far from the only veteran of the illegal worker to speak of this. Today the topic makes the mainstream. Josh White and Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) report that "military court documents" reveal this was being done to provide Iraq targets for "U.S. military snipers" and they note: "'Baiting is putting an object out there that we know they will use, with the intention of destroying the enemy,' Capt. Matthew P. Didier, the leader of an elite sniper scout platoon attached to the 1st Battalion of the 501st Infantry Regiment, said in a sworn statement. 'Basically, we would put an item out there and watch it. If someone found the item, picked it up and attempted to leave with the item, we would engage the individual as I saw this as a sign they would use the item against U.S. Forces.' In documents obtained by The Washington Post from family members of the accused soldiers, Didier said members of the U.S. military's Asymmetric Warfare Group visited his unit in January and later passed along ammunition boxes filled with the 'drop items' to be used 'to disrupt the AIF [Anti-Iraq Forces] attempts at harming Coalition Forces and give us the upper hand in a fight'."
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.
Catching up from the weekend. The mercenaries of Blackwater went back to work in Iraq. Andrew E. Kramer (New York Times) wrote about that and the headline writer billed it with that but Kramer's real news was buried deep in the article. Background. Friday, Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) blogged at Baghdad Observer about the death of Hammoundi Naji "his cousin and another man" shot dead while enroute home in the Washash section of Baghdad. Fadel calls Naji "a top Mahdi Army leader" and the deaths resulted in a home invasion -- conducted by the Mahdia Army (think thugs) -- in which four women were slaughtered. Now we're up to Kramer's report in Saturday's New York Times where he reports that as retaliation against the killing of Naji, the Mahdi Army began clearing out the Washash section of Baghdad forcing "[b]etween 50 and 100 Sunni families" (families -- not individuals) to abandon their homes and flee as the thugs went through the neighborhoods with "loudspeakers, telling people to leave" and not just in full view of the US military, with the assistance of the US military. One of the newly created refugees, Sheik Abu Hasan, declares, "What shocked us a lot was that as soon as we reached the main streets, we saw Iraqi and American forces who were showing and directing us to the highway." The US military was used to assist with forced evictions (non-legal ones) and not to protect the people. The myth that the US is preserving anything should have long ago shattered. The US armed and trained the Shi'ites while banishing the Sunnis, they created the division that exists by making their first question to Iraqis: "Are you Sunni or Shia?", and the continued presence breeds the hostility and violence. Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reported that "small gangs from the Mahdi Army hunted down Sunnis across the district. Anywhere from five to 20 people were killed, and byFriday afternoon, at least 30 Sunni families had fled Washash. Violence continued Saturday as a Sunni man was pulled out of a car and shot to death. Naji, a man viewed by many as a criminal, had ignited another chapter in Iraq's civil war."
Turning to the topic of Blackwater. Sabrina Tavernise and James Glanz (New York Times) continued their writing in service of the US State Dept on Sunday declaring that the real tragedy of Blackwater's slaughtering Iraqis the Sunday before last was that US embassy staff couldn't travel freely outside the Green Zone. Oooh. That was the really tragedy. Not at least 11 innocent Iraqis (including an infant) killed by US mercenaries. It's the US embassy being on Green Zone confinement. Now the US State Dept employees are not normally doing the congo through Ramadi. So what's really going on? US service members are interviewing eye witnesses about the slaughter Blackwater conducted, US service members who have no love for mercenaries and aren't prone to lie for them the way the US State Dept would. A real problem after the US government managed to push around the puppet government on the Blackwater issue (we'll get to it). Tavernise and Glanz's punch line is "American officials have privately cautioned against drawing early conclusions." Many conclusions can already be drawn. Tony Allen-Mills (Times of London) quotes Jeremy Scahill making one clear conclusion: "There have been 64 US soldiers court martialled on murder-related charges in Iraq. There hasn't been a single prosecution of an armed contractor under civilians or military law." Al Jazeera reported yesterday that despite puppet Nouri al-Maliki's strong words last week, the strings have been pulled, the puppet directed back in line: "The Iraqi government has made a U-turn on threats to kick out US security firm Blackwater. Instead, the US and Iraqi governments have started a joint investigation of security contractors following Blackwater's alleged involvement in the killing of 11 Iraqi civilians and the wounding of 12." Despite the strings being visible (and then some), al-Maliki's trying to put up a front. Alissa J. Rubin and Andrew E. Kramer (New York Times) report that al-Maliki is calling the slaughter (still) "a challenge to the nation's sovereignty".
Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, appeared on Democracy Now! this morning. Amy Goodman summarized the latest events by noting that today "the Iraqi government said it will await the outcome of an investigation into last Sunday's killing of at least eleven people by Blackwater USA before taking any action against the company." Jeremy Scahill observed, "I mean, I think that the fact that Blackwater mercenaries are heavily armed and on the streets of Iraq is perhaps the greatest indicator of how the Bush administration defines Iraqi sovereignty. And it was initially left up to Iraqi spokespeople to explain that Blackwater would be back on the street. And the reason that they gave -- and it clearly had come from Condoleezza Rice -- is that it would create a security vacuum. I have never heard a more ridiculous statement. It's Blackwater that's created the security vacuum for Iraqi civilians, as many as twenty-eight of whom were gunned down last Sunday in Al-Nisoor Square in the Mansour section of Baghdad. And what we're seeing is that, at the highest levels of government, Maliki has now stuck his neck out. And how it plays in Washington is one thing, but how it plays in Iraq is a very different one . You have the entire Iraqi cabinet and Muqtada al-Sadr demanding that Blackwater be expelled from the country. In fact, many Iraqi politicians are calling for all of these mercenary forces to be expelled from Iraq. This is perhaps one of the greatest crises of the occupation to date. And right now, Condoleezza Rice is clearly acting as though she's the president of Iraq. The idea that you can have twenty-eight people gunned down including -- and we understand the shooting began when Blackwater operatives fired on an Iraqi vehicle, killing the driver. Then they launched, according to witnesses, some kind of a flamed grenade at the car and engulfed it in flames. And inside was a mother with her infant child. And that's when the shooting began. And Iraqi witnesses, survivors, say that it was a melee, where Blackwater guys were just indiscriminately firing in the streets."
Blackwater's big business. They are hardly the only one raking in the big bucks in Iraq. Ginger Thompson and Eric Schmitt (New York Times) report, "Pentagon officials are investigating some $6 billion in military contracts, most covering supplies as varied as bottled water, tents and latrines for troops in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. The inquiries have resulted in charges against at least 29 civilians and soldiers, more than 75 other criminal investigations and the suicides of at least two officers. They have prompted the Pentagon, the largest purchasing agency in the world, to overhaul its war-zone procurement system." Big business? Alan Greenspan -- providing excuses since the beginning of creation. Today Greenspan appeared on Democracy Now! along with Naomi Klein whose The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism was released in the US last Tuesday.
AMY GOODMAN: We're also joined in studio by Naomi Klein, author of the book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Your response to that, Naomi Klein?
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I'm just wondering if it troubles Mr. Greenspan at all that wars over resources in other countries are actually illegal. Mr. Greenspan has praised the rule of law, the importance of the rule of law, in his book. But in his statements about the reasons why this has not been publicly discussed, he has said that it's not politically expedient at this moment. But it's not just that it's not politically expedient, Mr. Greenspan. Are you aware that, according to the Hague Regulations and the Geneva Conventions, it is illegal for one country to invade another over its natural resources?
ALAN GREENSPAN: No. What I was saying is that the issue which, as you know, most people who were pressing for the war were concerned with were weapons of mass destruction. I personally believed that Saddam was behaving in a way that he probably very well had, almost certainly had, weapons of mass destruction. I was surprised, as most, that he didn't. But what I was saying is that my reason for being pleased to see Saddam out of office had nothing to do with the weapons of mass destruction. It had to do with the potential threat that he could create to the rest of the world.
NAOMI KLEIN: Yes, I realize that, but he was not simply deposed. The US invaded Iraq, occupied it and took control over its resources. And under international law, that it is illegal to wage wars to gain access to other countries', sovereign countries', natural resources.
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."
In news of other violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Baghdad mortar attacks with one claiming the lives of 2 children while wounding their parents and a Kirkuk car bombing that left two people wounded. AFP reports a Baquba bombing in "a mosque during a reconciliation meeting between two feared militias . . . killing at least 18 people." And -- remember the targeting of officials? -- BBC reports that among the dead in Baquba was the police chief Brig. Gen. Ali Dalyan.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a woman on a bus returning home with other employees of the Rafidain Bank was shot dead.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 12 corpses were discovered in Baghdad.
Today the US military announced (PDF format warning): "A Task Force Lightning Soldier died of wounds sustained from enemy gunfire in Salah ad Din Province, Monday." The press release brought to 3799 announced deaths in the illegal war since it began in March 2003. One away from the 3800 mark.
Today on WBAI's Law and Disorder, co-hosts Heidi Boghosian and Michael Smith spoke with Matthew Rothschild about his new book You Have No Rights: Stories of America In An Age of Repression. (Co-hosts Michael Ratner and Dalia Hashad were not part of the interview.)
Michael Smith: Matthew Rothschild, what kind of stuff are the Bushies doing to students who are students like you and me and Heidi [were] on campus these days?
Matthew Rothschild: Well that's the other thing. We're going back to the days of COINTELPRO. We're going back to where the police and the feds have undercover people at our rallies. I mean, this shouldn't be happening but it is. I mean at Drake University, for instance, in Des Moines, Iowa -- and I was out in Des Moines recently -- there was, as far back as 2003, November of 2003, which gives you a sense as to how long we've been doing this peace activism -- there was a peace conference there on campus sponsored by the National Lawyers Guild local chapter and they were saying "Bring Our Troops Home! Bring Our National Guard Home!" Well that rally was infilitrated by sherrif's deputies who were there undercover and at that rally evidently the prosecutors weren't happy that peace activists were doing their thing including people from Catholic Peaceministries and Quakers. So the local DA started to issue subpoenas to everybody under the sun including the National Lawyers Guild, including to Drake with gag orders attached to the subpeonas and fortunately the protestors there were able to make enough noise about this prosecutorial excess that the prosecutor withdrew subpeonas.
Heidi Boghosian: And then, Matthew, they wanted to, they asked for our membership lists, they wanted our membership lists.
That's a portion of the interview. Many other topics are covered. Boghosian is the executive director of the National Lawyers Guild (Michael Smith is a member of that and many other attorney organizations fighting for the rights of people) and she is also the author of Punishing Protest (available online in PDF format for free and avaible in book format for $3 at the National Lawyers Guild website) which came out a few weeks ago. Smith, Boghosian and Dalia Hashad are members of the Center for Constitutional Rights and Michael Ratner is the president. CCR is receiving an award this Friday from the War Resisters League, a peace award. Boghosian noted today that Michael Ratner will be accepting the award. The event will be held at the New York Society for Ethical Culture at 2 West 64th, NYC and will
begin at 7:30 with a panel -- tickets are ten dollars [there are events scheduled before and after the panel, for more information call (212) 228-0450)]. Dan Berrigan, Sister Diana Ortiz, Deepa Fernades (Wakeupcall Radio; Fernandez will host the event) and many others will be present.
Quickly, politics. As Trina noted this weekend, "Monday night, Dennis Kucinich will be a guest on The Tonight Show on NBC. (If you're a Diana Krall or fan of 'The Rock,' they are also schedule to appear.)" WalkOn ran an ad that wasn't objectional, 'immoral' or anything shocking. They are under attack which is an attack on free speech and a further step along the way towards complete militarization of the United States. Donna Saggia (CounterPunch) gets it exactly right noting that, "Alarm bells should be ringing louder than ever in progressive circles as Congress, not content with forgeiting its powers to the unitary executive, has now decided to let the military plan foreign policy. . . . In some ways the Petraeus hearings were just another scene in the pro-war theater of the absurd". Saggia demolishes the phony slogan we don't use here and writes probably one of the strongest (if not the strongest -- and it has my vote for the strongest) pieces on the entire matter.
Please check out Mike's site tonight. I'd love to weigh in (Mike told me about it Sunday night) but I'll wait until he does. I will note I'm an adult and was always smart enough NOT to read my own press in my offline life. Possibly a big baby need to realize that it's past time they grow up and the fact that Mike praises you repeatedly but won't lie that you pee rainbows doesn't require you to send hysterical e-mails. I support Mike today, tomorrow and always.
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