Thursday, October 04, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, October 4, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, resistance within the military continues (and McClatchy Newspapers states it's spreading to the top brass), US presidential candidate Bill Richardson says the debate is over and US troops need to leave Iraq now, war resister Robin Long is released from detention, officials continue to be targeted for assassination in Iraq, and more.
 
Starting with war resisters.  On Tuesday came the news that US war resister Robin Long, who self-checked out and went to Canada, had been arrested in Canada the day prior.  Today Dharm Makwana (24 Hours Vancouver) reports, "Robin Long, an American army deserter, was released from Canada Border Services' custody yesterday after an anti-war activist posted a $5,000 cash bond" -- posted by Bob Ages of the War Resisters Support CampaignThe Canadian Press gives the detail of Robin Long's public statement, "A handcuffed Long told reporters at a detention review hearing that he left the U.S. Army two years ago and came to Canada because he felt it was a safe refuge.  Immigration officials will conduct a pre-removal risk assessment of Long before deciding whether he will be deported to the U.S." Robin Long has been released from jail, he is not 'free.'  Courage to Resist makes it clear: "He still faces a pre-removal risk assessment which could lead to deportation at a later time so the fight is not over yet."  Canada's CBC notes that during that "risk" assessment, Long "will live at a home in Delta while reporting to the department [Citizenship and Immigration Canada] once a month."  In a TV interview with CBC, Long noted, "It feels good to be out.  The fresh air feels really good. . . . When I got arrested and was sitting in the detention cell in Nelson, I was pretty sure I was going home right away.  I was pretty sure I would be deported.  The way that the immigration officer made it sound, I would be deported Friday.  That's not quite what happened and I'm very thankful for that."  What happened was Canadians got active and mobilized.   Organizations such as the War Resisters Support Campaign and the Canadian Peace Alliance, the New Democratic Party of Canada political party (click here for release in English, here for release in French) and individuals worked very hard and worked very quickly, raising awareness, getting the word out and ensuring that whatever happened would not happen in silence or shielded from the public.  The Prince George Citizen reports that Long has to report to the Canada Border Service Agency monthly and quote his attorney Warren Puddicombe stating the monitoring is due to the belief "that if he were removed to the U.S. he might not report voluntarily."  John Colebourn (The Province) covers the arrest and adds perspective, "In November, the Supreme Court of Canada will decide whether to hear the cases of U.S. war resisters Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey.  The decision is expected to have an impact on all war resisters now seeking sanctuary in Canada."  Referring to that decision, Long told CBC television, "Hopefully something will happen within the next couple of months with the [Canadian] government and maybe some kind of legal action will let us stay here other than the refugee protection." 
 
Other perspective was offered by Rod Mickleburgh (Canada's Globe and Mail) who points out, "His detention on Monday follows the bizarre apprehension earlier this year of Kyle Snyder, another war resister staying in Nelson, who was taken off to jail in the middle of a winter's night, wearing just a toque, a robe and his boxers.  Nelson police have refused to say on whose request they detained Mr. Snyder, or why they knocked on his door at 4 a.m. They released him three hours later, after learning that he was legally in Canada as a visitor."  The arrest of  Kyle Snyder came on the orders of the US and -- though Nelson police seem to have trouble grasping this -- the US cannot order around the police of Canada.  After Snyder was arrested, the department and its head, Dan Maluta, repeatedly altered their story on what happened and happened.  It was very similar to the way the visit to Winnie Ng's home repeatedly changed.  Following the publication of Joshua Key's The Deserter's Tale, the US military decided to enter Canada.  Accompanied by a Canadian police officer, two members of the US military began searching for Key.  The trio went to Winnie Ng's home (she had housed Joshua and Brandi Key along with their children early on when they moved to Canada) and presented themselves -- all three -- as Canadian police as they began questioning her.  Ng told her story and was dismissed.  She was ridiculed by the police and the US military denied it.  But the story didn't go away and finally -- bit by bit -- it was learned that a Canadian police officer did escort two members of the US military around in their search for Key.  Everything Winnie Ng said happened, happened.  She stuck to her story and her story -- subsquently -- was proven accurate.  Which is why the latest sop tossed out by Dan Maluta is greeted with skepticsm and Manluta is under investigation for his actions in Snyder's arrest.  In the US media, only Gregory Levey (Salon) covered these earlier instances.
 
Long explains his reasons for resisting to CBC TV, "Because I feel the war in Iraq is an illegal war of aggression and its an indiscriminate killing of the Arab people and I believe it's all for lies and the wrong reasons so I couldn't with good conscience take part in that conflict. . . .  When I joined the army, I thought the war in Iraq was a good thing.  I was lied to by my president.  I -- The reasons that were given, I thought were valid but just because I joined the army didn't mean I abdicated my ability to evolve intellectually and morally and what I saw in the independent media and even in mainstream media changed my view of what was going on over there.  And based on what I learned, I made a decision to desert." 
 

We need to keep up the pressure on Canadian politicians for a political solution to the plight of US war resisters. Canada should make a provision for them all to be allowed to stay.
It is urgent that everyone who supports the right of US war resisters to stay in Canada immediately contact Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Minister of Citizenship & Immigration Diane Finley and Leader of the Liberal Party St├ęphane Dion and request that they make a provision to allow U.S. war resisters to stay in Canada.         
Prime Minister Stephen Harper          
Fax: 613-941-6900 | Email:
pm@pm.gc.ca   This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
Minister of Citizenship & Immigration Diane Finley    
Phone: 613-954-1064 (between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.)   
Email:
Minister@cic.gc.ca This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it  
St├ęphane Dion, leader of the Liberal Party    
Phone: 613-996-5789 | Email:
dion.s@parl.gc.ca      
 
Long's reasons aren't unique and as the realities of the lies the war was sold and the realities of the lies still being used to sell the illegal war are unmasked, more decide to resist.  Jonah House and Dorothy Day Catholic Worker have issued a petition  calling (link goes to Courage to Resist cross-posting) for those serving to "Refuse to fight!  Refuse to kill!  You are being ordered to war in the footsteps of veterans, who, more than 10 years ago, were sent to fight the first Gulf War.  Many of those vets returned with severe and unacknowledge illnesses.  Many gave birth to severely deformed children.  All were abandoned by the Veterans Administration.  You are being ordered to war by a nation whose self-acknowledged posture is that of world domination, mastery, control.  This nation can have no moral justification for war."
 
Ehren Watada is another war resister.  In June of 2006, he became the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to the Iraq War.  He cited the illegal nature of the war and his concern that, as an officer, serving would also mean putting those serving under him at risk of war crimes.  Prior to going public, Watada spent months working with the military brass on a solution.  They gave the impression that is what they wanted but that obviously wasn't the case because not only did they shoot down alternatives (such as Watada serving in Afghanistan), they appeared to be attempting to run the clock out.  As Watada's deployment date loomed ever closer, he went public.  In August 2006, he faced the Article 32 hearing. In February of this year, Judge Toilet (aka John Head) presided over the court-martial of Watada; however, it didn't go the way the military would have liked with the prosecution's case falling apart on the second day.  On the third day, Judge Toilet suddenly declared a problem with a stipulation (which he had seen before the court-martial began, which he had signed off on).  He attempted to convince Watada that he (Ehren) now disagreed with the stipulation.  Watada stated he didn't disagree.  Judge Toilet then tossed out mistrial to the prosecution who didn't immediately grasp the lifeline they were being handed.  Once they did, it was all, "Yes, Judge Toilet!  We move for a mistrail!"  Over defense objection, Judge Toilet declared a mistrial in his attempt to hand the prosecution a "do over."  However, that's not how the legal system works in the United States and military courts are as bound by the Constitution as every other court.  As Marjorie Cohn (president of the National Lawyers Guild) has noted, double-jeopardy had already attached.  Double-jeopardy forbids a defendant being tried more than once for the same offense.  Since double-jeopardy had attached, Judge Toilet calling a mistrial (over defense objection) means that the military blew their chances at court-martialing Watada. That's the brief summary thus far.  On Tuesday, Watada is scheduled -- Constitution be damnend and shredded apparently -- to face a second court-martial.
 
Hal Bernton (Seattle Times) reports, "In an unusual appeal to civilian courts, attorneys for 1st Lt. Ehren Watada have asked a federal judge in Seattle to block a military court-martial scheduled to start Tuesday at Fort Lewis.  Watada faces up to six years in prison on charges of failure to deploy to Iraq and four counts of conduct unbecoming an officer." 
Bernton notes that in August (one year after the Article 32 hearing) the Army Court of Criminal Appeals rejected the defense claims and that the matter now lies with the Court of Appeal for the Armed Forces. Watada's attorneys have maintained that the best chance is with that court due to its makeup.  Currently defense is waiting to hear on the latest round of appeals.  Christian Hill (The Olympian) reports, "Their request is pending before the nation's top military court, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. Worried a decision won't arrive before the court-martial begins, they filed a request Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle seeking a judge's order to stop the trial."  Mike Barber (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) reports that the attorneys Kenneth Kagan and Jim Lobsenz (Carney Badley Spellman)  are requestin "an emergency stay in a Seattle federal court because the Appeals Court for the Armed Forces has not ruled and the trial date is quickly approaching" and "Among other remedies, Watada's lawyers have asked the federal court in Seattle 'to issue a writ of habeas corpus releasing (Watada) from all restraint imposed by the pending court-martial charges, and declaring any trial on such charges to be barred and prohibited by the double-jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment'."  Barber notes that Watada's service contract long ago expired and the military is extending it solely for the court-martial.
 
 
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 peace news, Andy Sullivan (Reuters) kind of reported on the peace movement yesterday.  As Elaine and I noted last night, from the small (United for Peace and Justice has a national cooridnator named Leslie Cagan not "Kagan") to the large (the number of people attending rallies), Sullivan was short on facts.  Often the case when you have a 'trend story' to sell.  Sullivan's trend was that divisions in the peace movement (which do exist) are resulting in lower turnout (which is not fact).  To 'prove' his 'trend,' he had to fudge the facts.  Noting that UPFJ held a rally last January with at least 100,000 attending, Sullivan then moved to last month's ANSWER rally which he insisted was attended by only "10,000" people.  Those of us present know that is not accurate (we also know A.N.S.W.E.R. was one coalition sponsor for the rally but Sullivan can't be bothered with that because his sub-trend -- his trend within a trend -- is exploring ANSWER's history) and press accounts also reported 100,000 present.  To make his trend work, Sullivan has to eliminate 90,000 people. Divisions do exist and that's certainly worth exploring but no honest exploration can take place when a reporter doesn't know the estimated attendance (in this case, heavily reported estimates).   In other peace news, on a recent trip to Canada, Ann Wright was stopped at the border and only allowed to enter after much hassle.  Wright is retired US State Dept and a retired Col. in the US military.  Yesterday, Wright and CODEPINK's Medea Benjamin attempted to enter Canada "crossing near Buffalo to attend a conference sponsored by a Canadian peace coalition in Toronto."  As CODEPINK notes, "At the Buaffalo-Niagara Falls Bridge they were detained, questioned and denied entry. . . .  The women were questioned at Canadian customs about their participation in anti-war efforts and informed that they had an FBI file indicating they had been arrested in acts of non-violent civil disobedience."  Benjamin explains, "In my case, the border guard pulled up a file showing that I had been arrested at the US Mission to the UN where, on International Women's Day, a group of us had tried to deliver a peace petition signed by 152,000 women around the world.  For this, the Canadians labeled me a criminal and refused to allow me in the country."  Wright declares, "The FBI's placing of peace activists on an international criminal database is blatant political intimidation of US citizens opposed to Bush administration policies.  The Canadian government should certainly not accept this FBI database as the criteria for entering the country."  The delivery of the petition Benjamin is speaking of also saw Missy Comley Beattie, Patti Ackerman and Cindy Sheehan arrested for the 'crime' of intent to use freed speech.  At Common Dreams, Sheehan writes of the Imagine Peace project Yoko Ono has started to honor her late husband John Lennon,  "Peace will only happen when every member of humanity is guaranteed prosperity, health and security which will not happen when we here in the US can't even get off our asses to protest a war that is four and a half years and hundreds of thousands of bodies old, now.  We can imagine peace all we want but until each and everyone of us is willing to sacrifice some of our prosperity (because we have already had our security robbed from us by the rotten Republicans and complicit corporate Democrats) true peace -- not just the absence of war -- will be as elusive as a morsel of truth or modicum of courage coming out of Washington, DC.  Voluntary sacrifice is truly a revolutionary concept here in the United States of America.  So you say you want a revolution?  Imagine that."  Carolyn Jones (San Francisco Chronicle) reports that a marine recruiting station in Berkeley (sandwiched between UC Berkeley and Berkeley High) is now the site for weekly protests each Wednesday by CODEPINK and Grandmothers Against the War that began last week when the low profile recruiting station was discovered.
 
From recruiters to the military itself, Nancy A. Youssef and Renee Schoof (McClatchy Newspapers) report that some of "the nation's top military leaders . . . are beginning to question the mission" and Iraq "and sound alarms about the toll the war is taking on the Army and the Marine Corps."  Democrats have NOT been powerless in Congress -- as the reporters maintain -- Democrats have CHOSEN TO BE POWERLESS and it's really disappointing that McClatchy (of all outlets) can't get that fact right.  They list six developments they say "have combined" to create the resistance at the top which include the Dems controlling both houses in Congress, Robert Gates replacing Donald Rumsfeld as US Secretary of Defense, government reports declaring that the Iraqi forces are still not able to assume control, concern over Afghanstian (over that war, not over the country, never over the country) and Bully Boy's consistently low polling.
 
Meanwhile . . .
 
Bombings?
 
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Around 10 a.m., the deputy governor of Iskandariyah (45 km north of Hilla and 50 km south of Baghdad) was assassinated by a roadside bomb which targeted his convoy in Iskandariyah killing three of his guards and injuring a fourth one."  This follows yesterday assassination attempt on the Polish ambassador and the hallmark of the last few weeks -- the continual targeting of officials in Iraq.  Aseel Kami and Aws Qusay (Reuters) report that Abbas al-Khafaji had been "a member of the powerful Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council" and that the death toll on his guards now stands at 4.  Yesterday, AP reported a list of diplomats from other countries who've been targeted in Iraq.  No list on the officials in Iraq who are being targets.  They would include the shooting death of a "Sunni tribal leader" (Reuters) who was shot dead in a home invasion yesterday and "a local official in the city of Hilla" shot dead yesterday and "a police brigadier-general" shot dead in Iskandariya yesterday.
 
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bus bombing claimed 4 lives and left seven more injured while a Baghdad car bombing claimed 1 life and left six more people injured, a Salahuddin roadside bombing that wounded three Iraqi soldiers and a Slahuddin roadside bombing that wounded Sheikh Muawiya Jebara "who died later in the hospital" and claimed the lives of 3 bodyguards.  Reuters notes a Tal Afar car bombing that claimed 3 lives and left fifty-seven wounded and a Riyadh motorcycle bombing that injured an Iraqi soldier
 
Shootings?
 
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports unknown assailants littered a home in Mosul with gunfire leaving one woman wounded and that her son (a member of Patriotic Democratic of Kurdistan) is thought to have been the intended target.  Reuters notes a police officer was shot dead outside Kut.
 
Corpses?
 
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 8 corpses discovered in Baghdad.  Reuters reports 1 corpse was discovered in Iskandariya and 1 in Hilla.
 
Meanwhile BBC reports that Naif Jassim Mohammed (Iraqi Parliament member of the Iraqi National Accord) is being held by US forces "after he allegedly attended a meeting of suspected al-Qaeda members" and quotes the Accordance Front stating they didn't "know why he had been seized."  In the US today, CBS and AP report the House of Represenatives "passed a bill . . . that would make all private contractors working in Iraq and other combat zones subject to prosecution by U.S. courts" in a 389-30 vote and quote US House Rep Sheila Jackson-Lee explaining, "There is simply no excuse for the de facto legal immunity for tens of thousands of individuals working in countries" in the US' name  -- such as Blackwater and other mercenaries.  In other US political news, in addition to problems with covering the peace movement, Reuters also had trouble covering the realities of the three Democratic front runners. As Mike noted yesterday, the three front runners, when asked if they could promise that by the end of their first term of office (2013 -- if any of the 3 were elected) they could promise that US troops would be out of Iraq, they refused to make the promise.  Hillary Clinton: "It is very difficult to know what we're going to be inheriting."
John Edwards: "I cannot make that commitment." Barack Obama: "I think it's hard to project four years from now."  Yet Reuters apparently missed that bit of televised reality last week and elected to present both Edwards and Obama as candidates promising to end the illegal war when the reality is that they are not at all different from Clinton when it comes to the illegal war.  Bill Richardson (along with Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel and Chris Dodd) have stronger plans to end the illegal war.  Today, Steve Holland (Reuters) reports that Richardson is saying the US needs to "get all our troops out now"; "I say there has been enough waiting and seeing.  If you haven't enough to know that we need to get all the troops out, then you aren't watching the same war that I and the rest of America are seeing";  "The foundation of my Iraq plan is this: Get out now.  Get all our troops out now."
 
 
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest, Susan Faludi, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, her latest book, The Terror Dream, just out this week, Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America. Susan, talk about Jessica Lynch. Who was she? Tell us her story.
SUSAN FALUDI: Jessica Lynch, as probably most people remember, was a private in an Army maintenance company who went into Iraq in March of 2003, and her unit was basically left behind in the rush to get to Baghdad. The rest of the convoy zoomed ahead. And she wound up, along with, you know, the rest of her company, being ambushed in Nasiriyah. A number of her fellow soldiers were taken captive. She was terribly injured in a car wreck, where the Humvee she was in crashed into a Mack truck, and it jackknifed. So she wound up in an Iraqi hospital. And there was a great rescue drama that ensued.
The story we heard originally was that these, you know, Special Ops teams of brave men, armed with a night vision video camera so they could film themselves, came battling into this Iraqi hospital, which was supposedly overrun with Fedayeen death squads, and they rescued Lynch. The military hustled out a video of this drama only three hours later and woke up all the reporters in the middle of the night so they could see it.
Well, as it turns out, there was no battle. I mean, it took them six minutes, and there wasn't one casualty. And there were no Fedayeen death squads, as the military actually knew, because they had been alerted by an Iraqi translator. It was just, you know, a bunch of doctors and nurses trying to take care of Lynch and actually trying to return her to the US military.
 
AMY GOODMAN: Explain.
 
SUSAN FALUDI: Well, they bundled her into an ambulance and tried to drive her back, and they got to the military checkpoint, and American soldiers started shooting at the ambulance, so they had no choice but to go back to the hospital.
 
AMY GOODMAN: This is Jessica Lynch testifying before Congress on April 24 of this year.
    JESSICA LYNCH: At my parents' home in Wirt County, West Virginia, it was under siege by media, all repeating the story of the little girl Rambo from the hills of West Virginia who went down fighting. It was not true. I have repeatedly said, when asked, that if the stories about me helped inspire our troops and rally a nation, then perhaps there was some good. However, I am still confused as to why they chose to lie and tried to make me a legend, when the real heroics of my fellow soldiers that day were legendary.
AMY GOODMAN: Former Private Jessica Lynch. Go on from there, and also tell us about her book, her autobiography, supposedly.
 
SUSAN FALUDI: Well, right after the rescue, the media sort of bought this story hook -- the American media bought this story hook, line and sinker. I mean, it was ultimately debunked by the British media, which went back and actually talked to the Iraqi doctors and nurses. It turned out she had extraordinarily attentive care and that this was -- that the stories of her being abused and, you know, slapped and, as the media kept insinuating, tortured, were not true. She, herself, was in the hospital and couldn't speak for herself, so everybody else did speak for her.
 
As Faludi notes in The Terror Dream, when Lynch did speak, the media ignored her.  They were too busy finding 'male heroes' to be bothered:
 
Four months after that terrible accident, Lynch spoke publicly for the first time at a homecoming event in Elizabeth, West Virginia.  She chose to focus her remarks on the soldier whose support had meant the most to her.  Lori Piestewa, she said, "fought beside me, and it was an honor to have served with her.  Lori will always be in my heart."  Later, when reporters asked Lynch how she mustered the will to live in that hospital room thousands of miles from home, her body a mass of broken bones, she always told them, "Lori helped me get through."  Lynch said there were moments when she saw her dead friend's spirit perched at the foot of her bed, assuring her that everything would be OK.
The media, though, had little interest in the story of the Native American woman who had protected her sister in arms.  The story in Rolling Stone was one of a very few exceptions, and that profile of Piestewa ran more than a year after the event.  The headline read, accurately enough, "The Forgotten Soldier."  [Rebecca noted Faludi's new book yesterday.]
 
Heads up on PBS' Bill Moyers Journal (this Friday in most markets, check local listings -- and it's a listen, watch and read online after the episode airs) when Moyers explores the group Christians United for Israel and also speaks to Rabbi Michael Lerner and Dr. Timothy Weber on the topic of?  Should the US strike Iran.  A YouTube preview is up and, at the program's website, essays on the topic will be posted as well.  Again, the hour long show begins airing on most PBS markets on Friday (check local listings -- and at the website, you can also locate the airtime for your local PBS station).  Also Friday on most PBS markets, NOW with David Brancaccio airs their latest half hour installment and this week interview Michael Apted about his owngoing documentary where he tracks a group of British people every seven years, energy conversation will be addressed with a report on Decorah, Iowa and Ken Burns will be interviewed about his latest documentary The War.  On October 12th, NOW with David Brancaccio will air a one hour program, "Child Brides: Stolen Lives" documenting "the heartbreaking global phenomenon of forced child marriage, and the hope behind breaking the cycle of poverty and despair it causes."  They've created an e-Card you can send to friends and family or to yourself to provide a heads up to the broadcast (and there is no cost to send the e-Card).
 
 


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