Sunday, October 28, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

A decision as consequential as joining the military should be made carefully with a sober understanding of what serving our country entails.
That is why the Juneau Empire believes that when military recruiters visit Juneau-Douglas High School, members of Southeast Alaska Truth in Recruiting should be allowed in as well, to represent another point of view.
Recently, National Guard recruiter Sgt. Seth Beebe asked the Juneau School Board to restrict the anti-recruiting group's access to students. He pointed to a brochure distributed by the group that states: "The atmosphere in the military encourages rape, murder and other kinds of violence against civilian women."

The above is from Juneau Empire's "Empire editorial: Anti-recruiters should have student access" and was noted by Sophie. She notes it is a "disappointing report on an important story" and that about says it all. The topic is important, neither the paper nor the sources seem to grasp that. Students have the right to have anti-recruiters on campus. The article comes out in favor of that but fails to make that this is a right recognized by the courts and the woman quoted in the article is (a) a caver and (b) an embarrassment. If she didn't like a pamphlet, well don't distribute it. To say so after she's pulled it is just STUPID. The only reply to the press is, "We reconsidered it and we stopped distributing it." Instead she makes an idiot of herself and then compounds that by declaring that she's really interested in finding a pro-woman military pamphlet to distribute ("Paige said she'd like her group to address women's issues in a future pamphlet that's not perceived as a direct attack on the military."). Lots of luck, Amy Paige, but considering the realities for women serving in the US military, you'll have to check the fiction aisles. Of course it shouldn't be Paige's goal to present an Up With People take on the military. But such is the stupidity in so much of the anti-war movement (I wouldn't call Paige a member of the peace movement) that she doesn't even grasp that.

One way to end the illegal war is cut down on the pool of potential recruits. I'm really sorry that the mention of rapes in a pamphlet offended Paige's sweet, innocent sensibilities. If she can't take reality (and women in the US military face rape and attempted rape on a regular basis, they also face sexual harassment and the US government statistics back up how common those crimes are), maybe she's not suited to attempt to bring the truth to young adults? And if she wants to shoot herself in both feet, she should find a room in her home for that and not do so in front of the press where her remarks will not be seen as her remarks but as 'the voice of counter-recruitment.' Whether she meant to smear three groups (including the Quakers), she did. She's not currently fit to speak to the press and if she's all Juneau's got, she's done enough damage and it's very doubtful such weak ass, apologetic attempts reach many students so her retirement would be no great loss. If she intends to stay in, she needs to wise up and grasp that her job is not to make herself beloved by the press for her 'balanced' nature (i.e. "I will trash myself and others! Happily!") but to fight a very real struggle. If she can't do that, she's wasting everyone's time and doing more damage than good.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3834. Tonight? 3839 announced. 1,089,455 was the number of Iraqis killed in the illegal war (not a full count) last Sunday. Tonight? Just Foreign Policy lists 1,096,367. But no need to worry, there is still money to be made off the illegal war. Angela Macdonald-Smith and Christian Schmollinger (Bloomberg News) report, "Crude oil rose to a record above $92.50 a barrel in New York after Turkey's Foreign Minister said his government is considering 'all options' including military action to deal with Kurdish rebels operating from Iraq."

Brenda notes Joshua Partlow's "'I Don't Think This Place is Worth Another Soldier's Life'" (Washington Post via Truthout):

That was 14 long months ago, when the soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, arrived in southwestern Baghdad. It was before their partners in the Iraqi National Police became their enemies and before Shiite militiamen, aligned with the police, attempted to exterminate a neighborhood of middle-class Sunni families.
Next month, the U.S. soldiers will complete their tour in Iraq. Their experience in Sadiyah has left many of them deeply discouraged, by both the unabated hatred between rival sectarian fighters and the questionable will of the Iraqi government to work toward peaceful solutions.
Asked if the American endeavor here was worth their sacrifice - 20 soldiers from the battalion have been killed in Baghdad - Alarcon said no: "I don't think this place is worth another soldier's life." While top U.S. commanders say the statistics of violence have registered a steep drop in Baghdad and elsewhere, the soldiers' experience in Sadiyah shows that numbers alone do not describe the sense of aborted normalcy - the fear, the disrupted lives - that still hangs over the city.
Before the war, Sadiyah was a bustling middle-class district, popular with Sunni officers in Saddam Hussein's military. It has become strategically important because it represents a fault line between militia power bases in al-Amil to the west and the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Dora to the east. U.S. commanders say the militias have made a strong push for the neighborhood in part because it lies along the main road that Shiite pilgrims travel to the southern holy cities of Najaf and Karbala.
American soldiers estimate that since violence intensified this year, half of the families in Sadiyah have fled, leaving approximately 100,000 people. After they left, insurgents and militiamen used their abandoned homes to hold meetings and store weapons. The neighborhood deteriorated so quickly that many residents came to believe neither U.S. nor Iraqi security forces could stop it happening.
The descent of Sadiyah followed a now-familiar pattern in Baghdad. In response to suicide bombings blamed on Sunni insurgent groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Shiite militias, particularly the Mahdi Army, went from house to house killing and intimidating Sunni families. In many formerly mixed neighborhoods of Baghdad, such as al-Amil and Bayaa, Shiites have become the dominant sect, with their militias the most powerful force.

"It's just a slow, somewhat government-supported sectarian cleansing," said Maj. Eric Timmerman, the battalion's operations officer.

Now the above, on a pamphlet, would probably panic Amy Paige because, although she's supposed to be taking part in counter-recruiting, she gets nervous about realities regarding the military. She's probably be attempting a public blood letting right about now if the realities Partlow notes made it on to pamphlet she was distributing. Alaska's the only state I haven't visited (not even once) since February 2003. It's just not worth it. Not due to the people (I'm sure many care about ending the illegal war), but due to the travel time requirements. If you're reading this in Alaska, grasp that you need to step up to the plate because your 'voices' are weak and ineffective. If you have friends in Alaska, call them, write them, e-mail them, i.m. them, but let them know that their 'voices' are doing more damage than good and they need to get active. Paige would have a been an embarrassment in 2004. In 2007, she is a road block allowing the illegal war to continue. If she can't fix her own self-presentation, other leaders need to emerge and to do so quickly.

Recruiters do not present a full picture of military life. They present a glossy, air brushed portrait where it's all grins and triumphs on obstacle courses and a lot of bonding. Death, command rape, and many other topics are 'promoted,' aren't 'advertised.' Counter-recruiting is about confronting the p.r. hype with reality. Those who turn squeamish in the face of reality aren't up to the task of leading counter-recruiting efforts and, in their weak approach, do the same as a play-left-on-TV type: They allow the mistaken impression that two sides have had a fair hearing when in fact one side's gotten a hearing and the other has started off a little in disagreement but will agree with the larger picture because what's more 'fun' than throwing in the towel?

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad car bombing that claimed 2 lives (thirteen more wounded), a Baghdad bombing that left two wounded and a Kirkuk car bombing that claimed 6 lives (twenty-five more injured). Reuters notes that an "office of supporters of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr" was blown up in Baghdad. AFP notes Saturday roadside bombings just outside Kirkuk claimed the lives of 5 people


Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that six Iraqi civilians demanding jobs from the FBS of South Oil Company were shot by the company and, in attacks on officials, that a "prominent member of the Supreme Election Committee in Basra" was shot dead in Basra today and that on Saturday a member of the Islamic Party was shot dead in Basra with three more being wounded and two being kidnapped. Reuters notes that the "retired police brigadier-general" was shot dead in Mosul, that a police officer was shot dead in Hawija and that a woman was shot dead in a Kut home invasion today while yesterday there was a Mosul gunfire attack on "a police colonel and his driver".


In addition to the above, the Kansas City Star reports, "Eleven tribal leaders who had banded with U.S. troops to fight the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaide in Iraq were kidnapped Sunday" -- the leaders were Sunni and Shi'ite sheiks and "members of the Salam Support Council" and a spokesperson for the group blames the Mahdi Army for the kidnappings while a family member of one of the kidnapped blames "Sunni extremists" (the corpses of Mishaan Hilan has already been discovered). AFP notes that last "Monday, Sadr had warned his fighters to obey the current six-month suspension of his Mahdi Army militia or face being branded as traitors."


Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 6 corpses discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes that a corpse was discovered in Suwayra today while four corpses were discovered in Baghdad yesterday. AFP notes 17 corpses were discovered in Baquba Saturday.

And Ross Colvin (Reuters) reports:

A suicide bomber on a bicycle killed 28 policemen at their base in the volatile Iraqi province of Diyala on Monday, police said, in one of the deadliest strikes on Iraq's security forces in months.
The bomber entered the base and attacked a group of policemen -- members of a rapid reaction force -- doing their morning exercises, said Major-General Ghanim al-Quraishi, police chief of Diyala province.

Turning to the continued tensions between Turkey and northern Iraq, Vic notes Eric Margolis' "A conflict waiting to happen" (Toronto Sun):

No one should be surprised by the dangerous crisis between Turkey and Iraq-based Kurdish separatists.
Critics long warned the U.S. invasion of Iraq would inevitably release the genii of Kurdish nationalism. Creation of a virtually independent, U.S.-backed Kurdish state in northern Iraq was certain to provoke Turkish fury.
A decade ago, I covered the low intensity war in Eastern Anatolia between Kurdish PKK guerillas and the Turkish army. At the time, the world ignored this ugly conflict in which 35,000 people had died. I came away torn by sympathy for both sides.
In recent weeks, Turkish-Kurdish tensions erupted. Marxist-nationalist PKK guerillas (Turks brand them terrorists) fighting for an independent nation for Turkey's 20 million or so Kurds killed 12 Turkish soldiers and captured eight.
Hundreds of Turkish soldiers have been killed in Turkish Anatolia by Kurdish fighters known as "pesh-merga."

No, Friday's reported plan to wait did not hold (if it was ever true). The tensions continue to escalate.

Pru notes "Carnage in Baghdad after US air raid" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

A deadly attack by US helicopter gunships killed tens of civilians in Baghdad’s Sadr City.
US troops called in airstrikes last Sunday during a botched attempt to seize a local leader of the Mehdi Army, the Shia resistance group led by rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
According to witnesses, US helicopters swept over the impoverished neighbourhood, firing machine guns and rockets into crowded buildings.
One witness, Jassim Hashim, who was hit in the leg, told a news agency, "The helicopters were shooting randomly." Some 49 people died, including many children.
The US announced recently that it was fighting a "proxy war" with Iran in the Shia Muslim areas of Iraq, despite a call by al-Sadr for his fighters to observe a ceasefire.
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