Wednesday, October 3, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, Robin Long's supporters rally, more officials targeted in Iraq, and more.
Starting with war resistance. Yesterday, NDP (New Democratic Party of Canada) announced their support for war resister Robin Long arrested in Nelson British Columbia citing Olivia Chow (iimigration critic) and parliament member Alex Atamanenko (click here for release in English, here for release in French). The War Resisters Support Campaign also issued a statement of support. Today a support rally was held in Toronto. Timothy Schafer (Vancouver Sun) reported yesterday on Long's arrest "on Baker Street by police on a nation-wide warrant" according to Klaus Offermann who visited the jail to protest and tells Schafer that, "The city of Nelson is arrest-central for war resistors in Canada" -- referencing the February 23rd arrest of Kyle Snyder (hauled off in his boxers at the request of the US military). Today, Schafer (at Canada's Globe and Mail) cotinues covering the story and notes the cover story just issued by police chief Dan Maluta: Robin Long was smoking pot in public with four other people and that's why he was arrested! Of course the reality from eye witnesses is different and of course three others weren't arrested with Long. But it's more of the lies the Nelson city police have become famous for. Did that announced investigation in Maluta and the department ever get completed? Yes, it was signed to one of Maluta's personal friends, which should only mean the white wash moved even faster than usual. The cover story comes out after last night's strong show of support for Robin Long at the police station. Now LIAR Maluta said what about the arrest of Kyle Snyder? Oh, that's right, he repeated lies non-stop and that's why an investigation was required because it got so bad there was no doubt he was lying.
While Long is under attack in Canada, in the US Ehren Watada is scheduled to face court-martial number two next week -- despite the very clear Constitutional provision against double-jeopardy. Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) reports that the court-martial is scheduled to begin next Tuesday, that Watada will be represented by Ken Kagan and James Lobsenz, that Watada service contract ended in December 2006 but the US military elected to extend it and that, "The Army has refiled four charges against Watada, including one count of missing a deployment and two counts of conduct unbecoming of an officer. Those counts cover statements Watada made criticizing the Iraq war and President Bush. Conviction on all counts could mean nearly eight years in prison and a dishonorable discharge." AP's brief story is only six sentences long. It will pop up everywhere which is why the factual mistakes in it are all the more glaring. Ehren Watada is the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to the Iraq War. He will also be the first officer in which double-jeopardy is tossed out, in which the Constitution is completely shredded, if the second court-martial goes through. The more war resisters there are, the more nervous the military brass gets.
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes James Stepp, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, 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, Blake LeMoine, 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, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, 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.
Turning to the topic of Blackwater, John M. Broder (New York Times) and Peter Spiegel (Los Angeles Times) got into a nasty slap fight today as both used their papers to argue, "No! I love Erik Prince more!" Broder apparently sat through yesterday's House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform fantasizing about Erik Prince (Blackwater CEO) instead of paying attention (maybe he's turned on by the crook of a neck?). Spiegel saw him as really, really cool and not suffering from the big head at all, but, like, a guy you can really, really talk to! which is why he referred to Prince answering "questions politely" -- in what world is repeatedly rolling your eyes, smirking and turning your head in disgust "polite"? Desperate to proclaim (in his very best Melrose Place manner), "Paws off, Petey, I saw Prince first," Broder raves over Prince's attire ("trim") and "blond hair" with "a fresh cut."
In the real world, Jeremy Scahill offered his evaluation of yesterday's hearing to Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!):
JEREMY SCAHILL: When Erik Prince stepped into the room, he was mobbed by photographers, and he came in, not with an army of armed mercenaries, but with an army of lawyers and advisers. And one of the people with him was Barbara Comstock, who's a well-known Republican operative and a crisis management consultant. Blackwater had the first and second rows basically empty behind Mr. Prince, with the exception of his team of advisers and his consiglieri, and an unidentified man on several occasions during the course of the hearing himself interrupted the hearings and asked Henry Waxman to be able to consult with Prince. And then, what would result from that is that Erik Prince would turn around, and his advisers and lawyers would pile around him like a sports team plotting out their next play. It was very dramatic.
And I think that the issue here is that the Democrats really, I feel, dropped the ball on many of the most important issues surrounding Blackwater. Yes, there were some important questions raised. But for the most part, they steered away from some of the most devastating and violent incidents involving the company. The ambush at Fallujah in March of 2004, for instance, wasn't addressed at all, except in passing. And there were a number of family members of the four Blackwater operatives who were killed in that incident. That's a crucial one for the Congress to investigate, not only because of the allegations that Blackwater sent those four men into Fallujah in unarmored vehicles, short two men, and without heavy weapons, but because of the enormous price that Iraqi civilians paid for the deaths of those four corporate employees, the Bush administration ordering the leveling of Fallujah and, of course, the inflammation of the Iraqi resistance. There are a number of other incidents that never came up in the hearing.
I think that what needs to happen is that Erik Prince needs to become a more frequent visitor to Capitol Hill than his industry lobbyists have been over the past several years, and his visits should always begin with his right hand raised and cameras in front of him.
In other news of violence, Robert Parry (Consortium News) explores the death squads Bully Boy has created for Iraq and Afghanistan. These are the "kill teams," the "bait and kill teams," the teams war resister James Burmeister went public on last June and the mainstream media 'discovered' last week. Parry writes, "The ugly image of Americans killing unarmed Iraqis also helps explain the growing hostility of Iraqis toward the presence of U.S. troops. While the Bush administration has touted the supposed improved security created by the 'surge' of additional U.S. troops into Iraq, a major poll found Iraqis increasingly object to the American occupation." On a related note, Steve Negus (Financial Times of London) reports: "US military officials in Baghdad on Wednesday defended their support of local anti-insurgent volunteer organisations, the day after the country's largest political bloc attacked the programme as an 'adventure' and accused participants of kidnap and murder. The controversy over the scheme, which is a centrepiece of the US military's new strategy in Iraq, has flared as these local alliances against al-Qaeda spread from their point of origin in the western province of al-Anbar to other Sunni and even some Shia parts of Iraq."
In some of today's reported violence . . .
Yasser Faisal and Mussab Al-Khairalla (Reuters) report that Poland's General Edward Pietrzyk (ambassador to Iraq) was wounded in Iraq today in what the Polish government is calling "an assassination attempt" that also claimed the lives of at least one of Pietrzyk's bodyguards and one Iraqi civilian. NPR and AP report, "The attack took place a few hundred yards from the Polish embassy." Deborah Haynes (Times of London) notes the attack utilized three roadside bombs and that Pietrzyk "was being treated for burns at a hospital inside Baghdad's fortified Green Zone." CBS and AP put the bombs at two and note at least 11 more people were wounded in the bombings. CNN goes with three bombs being used in the attack and states that "three others in the entourage, including one of his bodyguards" were killed as well as "two Iraqi civilians". Katya Andrusz (Bloomberg News) reports being told by Robert Szaniawski (spokesperson for Poland's Foreign Ministry) that there were three bombs and Andrusz notes that while 53% of Poles were against the illegal war in January 2004, opposition now stands at 80%. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that the ambassador and his entourage "were leaving the Polish embassy" when the attack happened and also notes a Baghdad car bombing that claimed 2 lives (five more wounded), 1 dead from a Falluja bombing that left four more injured, and thirteen were wounding by a bombing "inside an in internet cafe" in Jalawa. Reuters notes the AIR WAR continues with "five suspected insurgent bombers" being shot dead by US helicopters in Baghdad, a Baquba mortar attack claimed 3 lives, while a Kirkuk roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer (left another injured) -- Reuters also notes that yesterday saw "the local senior figure in Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council" shot dead in Ifach. DPA reports a roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer in Kirkuk.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports "the official of tribes in Diwaniyah city local council" was shot dead in Qadisiyah. Reuters notes, "Three people were killed, including a girl student, during clashes between police and gunmen in Baquba" and a police captain was shot dead in Tikrit. KUNA reports an Iraqi "army officer was shot dead" in Mosul by unknown assailants "in a speeding car".
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 6 corpses discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes a police officer's corpse was found in Ishaqi.
Turning to politics, The Peace Resister Katrina vanden Heuvel (you can use the link -- it's Common Dreams and KvH is providing plenty of laughter) is on her Barack bandwagon and determined to make sure that when her ass is finally kicked out of The Nation, no one else will touch her. KvH wants credit (she links to her self) for "an under-reported event" at the Council On/For Foreign Relations and considers her policy of under-disclosure (KvH probably 'reported' on it in real time due to the fact that she is a Council On/For Foreign Relations member). If a New York Times columnist attempted to give a 'shout out' to an organization they were a member of without disclosing it, it would be considered news. But maybe no one sees Katrina vanden Heuvel as a journalist? The friend I'm dictating this to says the comments left are hilarious so check those out: "Just another article from The Nation pandering to the impotent Democratic Party." And why is that? Or how about the recent commentary that borrowed heavily from The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life In The Universe -- Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner's masterpiece -- from Trudee's scene at the end where the aliens tell her the audience was art. But is there really a need for this nonsense of cheerleading Barack Obama or (in Flanders' case) his supporters? Here's the thing (and include John Nichols and others in this -- in fact David Corn appears to be the only one at the magazine not wearing a "Barack Has My Vote And Body" t-shirt), this time next year, a HUGE number of people will be telling you that you have to vote for Candidate X -- whomever the Democratic Party nominates. You've got to, you've just got to, they'll insist sounding like a deranged Miss Manners. And for those who elect not to and decide to be upfront about that, they'll still hear the mantra: "Vote Democratic to save the Republic!" You'll get the faux sympathy, the nod of the head, and the same damn sermon trotted out every four years, "Well we'll do that next time but vote Democratic, it's really, really important." If Candidate X is a War Hawk (very likely since Hillary Clinton, Obama and John Edwards refuse to promise that, if elected president, they would end the illegal war by the end of their first four years), you'll be told to hold your nose and vote for someone who disgusts you and that 'next time' everyone will get it together to make sure it doesn't happen. Those speeches were given in 2004 too. The Nation proves those speeches are hollow (at best) or flat out lies (at worst). They started their 2008 presidential coverage days before the November 2006 election took place and what do they have to show for it? Not a damn thing. The magazine hates Hillary Clinton and appears to see Barack Obama as having the best shot to take her out. So they've pushed Obama like crazy. Even though he's a War Hawk who is on record being against withdrawal since 2004. Had they used the last months (or the ones remaining) to cover Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel or Bill Richardson they wouldn't be playing the lesser of two evils currently. They're playing it in the primary and they'll play it in the general election. (And the Green Party will be as non-covered by the magazine as it was in 2004 or 2006.) "Power" to The Nation has meant "Do anything to take Hillary out." It's really disgusting. Kucinich has been covered more by our own Trina (who blogs once a week) than by The Nation. That's not just print, that's "online exclusives" and blog posts. Even lumping all of that together, Trina's still provided more coverage of Dennis Kucinich in 2007 (with her once a week posts) than The Nation. Sharon Smith (CounterPunch) does a good summary of Kucinich versus the press reinforced candidates. She notes the 2004 cave by Kucinich (Democratic National Convention) and thinks expecting a similar cave in 2008 isn't going out on a limb. One factor she may miss on that is Kucinich may not be a House candidate. By the time of the Democratic National Convention, Kucinich may have lost the primary for his House seat (the party is offering 'advise' to his opponent). If that happens, there should be very little reason for Kucinich to back down from his supporters demands. Regardless, and here's the point, in 2008, your vote is your vote. Vote for who you want (or don't vote, your business). And if you hear the "Hold Your Nose" speech and don't wish to hold your nose, just remember that The Nation elected to ignore candidates offering real opposition to the illegal war. Their anti-stories have revolved repeatedly around Hillary Clinton and their pro-coverage has been Obama (after earlier flirting with John Edwards). Free press? Be great to have one but let's not pretend we do as not one of them will tell you the truth about Barack Obama but will let him continue to repeat his stale talking point of being against the war (he doesn't say "illegal") before it began without ever noting the very obvious fact that, once he began his 2004 Senate campaign, he was on record as against withdrawal. That's why no one should be surprised that -- despite all the hype for an empty suit -- he declared in last week's 'debate' that, if elected, he couldn't promise to end the illegal war by the end of his first term.
In the new issue of The Progressive (October 2007), Ruth Conniff contributes "Doing the Hillary Dance" (pp. 16-17). She notes US House Rep Tammy Baldwin is on board with support for Hillary even thought it means "on the Iraq War, Baldwin gives Clinton a pass." For the piece, Conniff also interviews Iraq Veterans Against the War's Garrett Reppenhagen and the Center for Media and Democracy's John Stauber. Conniff notes that Reppenhagen "has hopes that the Internet could be a powerful tool for getting the U.S. out of Iraq. Now a member of Iraq Vets Against the War, he doesn't want to see the blogosphere hijacked by the Democratic Party." He tells Conniff, "I worry because more and more people start endorsing candidates and we become like sports enthusiasts." Stauber, who was refused a forum on Iraq by The Daily Toliet Scrubbers (but created a forum on his own), "concurs. As Stauber sees it, the idea that the Democrats, if only they can get elected, will end the war is 'just the blue Kool-Aid talking'." Stauber tells Conniff, "There's a delusion that there are going to be sweeping reforms once the Democrats have more power. But looking back over the last several decades, I don't see any reason for that optimism."
Finally, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) opened her conversation with Norman Solomon today by quoting from his new book Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State, "The warfare state doesn't come and go. It can't be defeated on Election Day. Like it or not, it's at the core of the United States -- and it has infiltrated our very being." From their conversation today:
NORMAN SOLOMON: Just a few minutes ago, we heard a clip from the Blackwater hearing yesterday about the way in which, supposedly, Blackwater, as one Congressperson put it, a Democrat, a critic of Blackwater, said that Blackwater is undermining the US mission in Iraq. And all too often the insidious nature of the warfare state gets us to at least tacitly accept the idea that there is something in that mission to be supported. And yet, $2 billion a day going into the Pentagon's coffers, that's our money. That's money that should belong to the people of this country for healthcare, education, housing.
And yet, we are tamped down, our numbing process, which is part of the warfare state, gets us to be passive, to accept. And often, you know, Amy, I travel around the country. I talk with people. Many are concerned. They watch this program. They're active. We get in a room. There's fifty, there's five, there's five hundred people. And often, the question comes up: "Well, aren't we just preaching to the choir?" And that is a concern. We have to go outside our own constituencies as progressives. But the reality is that the choir needs to learn to sing better, to challenge more fundamentally the warfare state, because right now it's our passivity, our acculturated acceptance, that's causing so much damage.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you really think that it's a choir right now that is a very confined to a certain group of people? I mean, in this country now, the level of opposition to the war in Iraq, doesn't it go far beyond any particular category of people?
NORMAN SOLOMON: The opposition is registered in opinion polls, but largely quiescent, and if we look at the progression of the Vietnam War, year after year, from the late '60s through the first years of the '70s, opinion polls show that most Americans were opposed to the war, even felt it was immoral. You fast-forward to this decade, for years now most polls have shown most people are opposed. But what does that mean? Our political culture encourages us to be passive, not to get out in the streets, not to blockade the government war-making offices, not to go into the congressional offices and not leave, not to raise our voices in impolite or disruptive ways. We have to become enemies of the warfare state, not in a rhetorical way, but in a way that speaks to the American people in terms of where our humane values are and should be.
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