Friday, September 28, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Friday, September 28, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, the air-war continues and NPR goes ga-ga over it, the mercenaries at Blackwater continue to raise questions, and Dems fund the illegal war again. And, ADDED, PBS examines the Iraq War (tonight in most markets) via Bill Moyers Journal and NOW with David Branccacio.
Starting with war resistance.  As Iraq Veterans Against the War notes, the government's 'do-over' (double-jeopardy) attempt at court-martialing Ehren Watada is scheduled for October 9th and "Lt. Watada is facing four charges that could land him in jail for up to six years."  June 22, 2006, Ehren Watada became the first officer to publicly refuse to serve in the Iraq War (rightly) noting that the war is illegal.  Daniel Ellsberg gave a speech (posted at ICH) last week where he noted  Watada, "I've often said that Lt. Ehren Watada -- who still faces trial for refusing to obey orders to deploy to Iraq which he correctly perceives to be an unconstitutional and aggressive war -- is the single officer in the United States armed services who is taking seriously in upholding his oath."  Watada's attorneys are appealing on a number of grounds including the fact that Judge Toilet (aka John Head) thinks he can be impartial and preside again as well as the fact that a second court-martial (after Head ruled the February court-martial a mistrial over defense objection) would be in violation of the US Constitution which forbids double-jeopardy. 
At the start of the week, Audra D.S. Burch (Miami Herald) provided an overview of war resister Aidan Delgado's book  The Sutras Of Abu Ghraib: Notes From A Conscientious Objector In Iraq, noting, "This is a story of one young man's transformation from reserve volunteer to soldier to conscientious objector, practicing Buddhist, author and always -- always -- relentless critic of the Iraq War, a peace advocate with a point of view based on real wartime experiences."  Delgado is the third war resister to tell their story in book form this year. In May, Camilo Mejia shared his story in Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia while in February Joshua Key told his story in The Deserter's Tale.
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.
ADDED:In media news, the latest episode of Bill Moyers Journal airs on PBS in many markets tonight (check your local listings) and he will remember two US service members who died recently (two of the seven who wrote the New York Times column "The War as We Saw It") and this is also up at YouTube..In addition Bill Moyers Journal  examines the Iraqi refugee crisis with NPR's Deborah Amos and War Hawk George Packer while also taking a look at the outrageous amount of monies being spent on the illegal war.
Also: This week (Fridays in most markets) PBS' NOW with David Brancaccio examines the issue of US service members wounded in the illegal war:  "For many Iraq and Gulf War veterans, the transition from battlefield to home front is difficult. Bouts of fierce anger, depression and anxiety that previous generations of soldiers described as "shell shock" or "combat/battle fatigue" now earn a clinical diagnosis: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. But the relatively new medical label doesn't guarantee soldiers will get the care they need. On Friday, September 28 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW looks at how America's newest crop of returning soldiers is coping with the emotional scars of war, and some new and innovative treatments for them." 
On NPR's The Diane Rehm Show today (second hour), Al-Arabiya TV's Hisham Melhem explained the new meaning of Blackwater since the September 16th incident where they slaughtered at least 16 Iraqi civilians, "In the past, Susan [Page, USA Today], if you wanted to discredit the American war in Iraq or if you wanted to discredit the war on terror all you had to do is just invoke the names of places such as Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib or Haditha.  Now you can add to that Blackwater USA.  I mean this is a huge embarrassment and a problem for the United States in the future.  These people are now seen by the Iraqis as the new face of the occupation. And the irony of all ironies now, because these people are in charge of providing protection to the American diplomats there -- I mean, you have a private army.  This is the privatization of war.  More than 30,000 men.  And I'm not saying that many of them . . . are [not] honorable and former good soldiers, the problem is that given what they've done, as Robin [Wright, Washington Post] said, just imagine Ryan Crocker, one of the best American diplomats serving in the Middle East, probably the best one available for Iraq now, trying to visit a neighborhood in Baghdad, after the surge, whatever, he's going to be protected by whom? By elements of the Blackwater.  That's the irony of ironies."
On the topic of Blackwater, today Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reported that among the deaths resulting from the US mercenary compnay are four Iraq journalists including Suhad Shakir who was shot dead February 2nd while driving to work inside the Green Zone while three guards of the Iraqi Media Network were shot dead, "picked off one by one by Blackwater snipers stationed on the roof of the 10-story Justice Ministry".  The US Defense Department has maintained that they do not use Blackwater for their employees; however, the US State Dept does.  James Risen (New York Times) reports that the State Department released a count that found Blaackwater "had been involved in 56 shootings while guarding American diplomats in Iraq so far this year."  An Iraqi government investigation found Blackwater responsible for the September 16th deaths at a time when Nouri al-Maliki, puppet of the occupation, was issuing strong words that Blackwater would be gone.  Instead, the puppet's strings were pulled and he agreed to go along with a US State Department led investigation.  AFP reports today that US Gen David Petraues and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker have stated that this 'commission' has still not met and is still "preparing for its first meeting in Baghdad".  Rather surprising when Steve Fainaru and Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) are able to report on the US embassy's insta-study of the situation today which finds 'confusion' and 'good intentions' (at least one Blackwater employee all but yelled, "Stop the madness!"). Though James Glanz and Sabrina Tavernise are back to pimp this report, the New York Times' reporters fail to use the term "self-serving" though they were very happy to apply that to the report on Blackwater from the Iraqi government.  Since the mercenaries do not protect Iraqis, since they protect US embassy employees, exactly which report would be more likely to be "self-serving"?  Play dumb, Glanz and Tavernise, play dumb.  As Reuters notes, the official US State Dept response is "We're not commenting on the substance of the investigation" which allows them to float this, to get it out there, and if it explodes in their faces, claim they never said those things happened.  Meanwhile, Kristin Roberts and Sue Pleming (Reuters) report that US Brig Gen Joseph Anderson declared today of the mercenaries, "I can certainly say I've seen them do some tactics that I thought were over the top.  Are they quicker with the trigger?  Are they quicker to wave a weapon, brandish a weapon, other tactics, cutting people off?  All of us have experience, have seen different things at different times.  I have seen them, in my opinion, over-react but that does not mean it's consistently the case."
Blackwater is far from the only problem facing Iraqis.  Today on WBAI's Wakeupcall Radio (first hour), host Mario Murillo spoke with CorpWatch's Pratap Chatterjee who explained his latest piece ("The Boys from Baghdad: Iraqi Commandos Trained by U.S. Contractor") noting that Blackwater shooting at civilians was "just the tip of the iceberg . . .  because you do have US soldiers and US security guards that are in the country shooting at civilians, dropping bombs on them, etc. -- creating mayhem.  But in fact the role the US has played in creating the civil war in fact is far more long lasting, could be far more insidious and dangerous than the occasional massacre of civilians. That's in no way to condone it at all -- but just say that there are far worse things happening today.  There are probably at least,  to the best of my knowledge, six training programs to support 'Iraqi security'.  The first couple are the training of the Iraqi police and the Iraqi army which interestingly enough were given over to private contractors. DynCorp from Virginia trains the police and Vinnell from Los Angeles originally had the contract to train the Iraqi army.  Both of these have been pretty much disasters.  And in fact one of the things I explain in this article is that in April 2004 when there were like two major incidents in the country -- and I was in Iraq at the time -- one was the civil uprisings in the south with the siege of various cities and the attack on Blackwater personnel in Falluja -- the US tried to press this police and army into service and in both cases, in fact they shipped police down to Najaf the Iraqi police and soldiers just basically fled the scene and refused to fight and, in some case, turned against the US.  So the US quickly realized they needed something way beyond the sort of regular security forces. . . .  So they came up with this idea of third force. The third force was going to be special commandos that would be highly trained -- a little like Special Forces that could go into action."  Chatterjee explains in his article that these are Emergency Response Unit or ERU and that they training "began under General David Petreaus as an effort to bolster security in Iraq, and soon evolved into a system for providing support to the deeply sectarian Ministry of the Interior."  That ministry provides their paychecks as well as controls them today.  "Sometimes the people that they train are people who come from backgrounds that are either sectarian or criminal," Chatterjee explained to Murillo.  "It's one thing to bring in Blackwater and have them protect US diplomats and shoot at anybody who comes close -- that's horrendous --  but it's another thing to actually go in and train people in the art of warfare and hand this training over to sectarian groups that are now creating multiple civil wars in the country.  And that, to me, is one of the most insidious and dangerous parts of the US occupation."
Another insidious part of the illegal war is the little noted air war.  (Norman Solomon has long noted the air war and it's under-reporting by the media.)  Guy Raz (NPR's Morning Edition) reported today that "about every 90 seconds something takes off or lands at Balad Air Base there's C130 Cargo planes, there are helicopters, there are fighter jets and those are just a fraction of the forty different kinds of aircraft that use this base.  It's not just busy, it's really busy.  Actually the busiest Pentagon airport in the world and the second busiest airport  in the world overall."  Though such activity might give many pause, Guy Raz is a rah-rah-rah-er and tickled pink to be one of the 'boys'.  This as Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Around 2 a.m. U.S. military used aerial fire targeting a building in Al Doura area south Baghdad, Iraqi police said.  The aerial fire targeted building number 139 in Al Siha district.  10 people were killed and 7 others were injured according to the Iraqi police sources."  Reuters notes eight dead.  Meanwhile, the US military issues a press release regarding events Tuesday: "A U.S. Air Force F-16CJ Fighting Falcom dropped precision munitions near Al Nussayyib, Iraq Sept. 25, killing Abu Nasr al-Tunisi and two other Al Q'aeda in Iraq operatives.  They were killed when the aircraft, assigned to U.S. Central Command Air Forces, dropped two laser guided 500 lb Joint Direct Attack Munition GBU-12 bombs, destroying the terrorist safe house when the three were meeting."  If this is the announced 'investigation' into the Tuesday bombing in Mussyyib that claimed the lives of 5 women and 4 children (see yesterday's snapshot), consider it a white wash.
In news of other violence . . .
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad mortar attack that wounded two people while a truck bombing in Mosull "destroyed a bridge".  Reuters notes the Mosul truck bombing left twenty people wounded. KUNA reports that the  British military base in Basra was attacked with mortars overnight.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports "David Shamoun, a 28 Christian Iraqi . . . worked with a Turkish company and a college students" was shot dead in Mosul

Meanwhile Dominic Evans (Reuters) reports that if the 59 announced deaths holds, September will be the lowest month of announced US service members deaths for the year. September in 2005 and 2003 was lower than the announced 59. Also worth noting is that M-NF 'elected' to allow DoD to announce deaths this month.
On the subject of the US military's "kill teams," the press continues to avoid the fact that war resister James Burmeister was publicly speaking of them months before the press stumbled onto them this week.  Paul von Zeilbauer (New York Times) reported this morning on the court-martial of Jorge G. Sandoval  and noted that Anthony G. Murphy had testified in July that there was a sense of sense "of disappointment from field commanders seeking higher enemy body counts" and that "Soldiers also testified that battalion commanders authorized a classified new technique that used fake explosives and detonation wires as 'bait' to lure and kill suspected insurgents around Iskandariya, a hostile Sunni Arab region south of Baghdad."  AP reports that Sandoval was acquitted today of some charges; however, "the panel decided he had placed a detonation wire on one of the bodies to make it look as if the man was an insurgent."

In Wednesday's snapshot, the Joe Biden led push in the Senate (Biden is a senator and also a candidate for the Democratic Party's potential presidential nomination) to divide Iraq into three section in a vote that found 75 US senators voting in favor of it and only 23 voting against it. Ron Jacobs (CounterPunch) observes, "Partitioning Iraq is not a solution that is Washington's to make.  The recent vote by the US Senate is misguided.  In addition, it will do little to further the desire of the US public to bring the troops home.  Instead, it will put US forces in the position of maintaining the newly created divisions along new lines in the sand.  Senator Biden's bill is not a solution.  It is another false approach that has as much chance at success as anything tried by the Bush administration.  In other words, it is destined to fail."  Al Jazeera reports that Nouri Al-Maliki is denouncing the US resolution and declaring, "They should stand by Iraq to solidify its unity and its sovereignty.  They shouldn't be proposing its division.  That could be a disaster not just for Iraq but for the region."  Strong words from the puppet.  Words that, if pattern holds, will vanish with the mere pulling of a string. 
Which is why the Iraqi government, 'officially' led by the puppet, is held in such low opinion by Iraqis.  Yesterday on Free Speech Radio News, Hiba Dawood reported, "The slow crumbling of Iraq's government began when the Sadrists withdraw their ministers from cabinet, demanding real authority to provide local services and a timetable for an end to the US occupation.  In the fourteen months since then, the Sadrists and the Fadheela Party have  split from the United Iraqi Alliance Coalition  the largest Shi'ite grouping in the Iraqi parliament.  The latest to leave the government were the ministers from the Sunni Accord.  They accuse the government of serving sectarian ends.  Shi'ite prime minister Nouri al-Maliki's government is accused of sectarianism even by other Shias who accuse him of marginalizing them.  But the United Iraqi Alliance, now reduced to just the Dawa Party, and the Iraq Islam Supreme Council insists the government is still performing.  Jinan [Jasim] al-Ubaydi is a member of parliament and with the Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council.  She says the withdrawal of so many parties from the governing alliance doesn't effect government policy or performance: 'There dreams are negotiable and though there are many withdrawals, the government is not collapsing.  Ryan Crocker said the Iraqi government has enjoyed many vital successes.'  Despite the US ambassador's optimism few ordinary Iraqis say the government is succeeding.  There is a growing frustration with both the government and the parties that have pulled out."
Despite this, the US Congress continues to fund the illegal war.  John Nichols (Common Dreams) reports that the Senate raised the debt limit for the federal government and gave the Bully Boy "at least $9 billion in new funding for its war in Iraq" in a 94 to 1 vote with Russ Feingold being the sole senator to vote no (and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, John McCain and Sam Brownback all missing the vote due to campaiging for their parties' presidential nomination) while the House of Represenatives passed the measure by a 404 to 14 vote with Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters, Earl Blumenauer, Keith Ellison, Ron Paul, Bob Filner, Barney Frank, Maurice Hinchey, Dennis Kunich, Jim McDermott, Donald Payne, Lynn Woolsey and Diane Watson voting no (Kucinich and Paul are running for their parties' presidential nomination).  Meanwhile, the national Green Party has noted Democratic party hopefuls for their party's presidential nomination Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama declared this week in a forum broadcast by MSNBC that they couldn't guarantee all US troops would be home, if they were elected to president, by the year 2013.  The Green Party notes:
In news of pacts, CBS and AP report: "Turkey and Iraq signed a counterterrorism pact Friday aimed at cracking down on separatist Kurdish rebels who have been attacking Turkey from bases in Iraq. The agreement, however, falls short of meeting Ankara's demand to send troops in pursuit of Kurdish rebels fleeing across the border into northern Iraq, Turkey's Interior Minister Besir Atalay said. 'It was not possible to reach a deal on chasing Kurdish rebels, however, we hope this issue will be solved in the future,' Atalay said. 'We are expecting this cooperation against terrorism to be broadened as much as possible'." 
Last night, Houston's The Progressive Forum (KPFT -- here for KPFT archives) devoted the second hour of the program to a speech by Gloria Steinem delivered September 17th in Houston, Texas and entitled "The Progression of Feminism: Where Are We Going?".  Steinem declared near the start, "I arrived here this morning and I said, 'Oh, this is Ann Richards Airport.'  Don't you think we're going to live to see the day when they'll be glad to change the name?"  She then began addressing the efforts to destroy tribes, women, LBGT and other members in an attempt to dominate and colonialize.  As she observed, "No, we can't go back and it's not about romanticizing the past but it is about understanding that if a system of male dominance had a beginning, it can have an end."  Steinem's Outrageous Acts & Everyday Rebellions was mentioned in yesterday's snapshot as was a documentary, Anthony Thomas' Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done which a typo turned into "They" (I put in links on a good day and then dictate later in the day -- I dictate very fast and would have my own typos if I typed the snapshots -- we're noting this one because the documentary's title was wrong due to the typo "They Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done.")

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