Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, October 9, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, mercenaries in Iraq are still in hot water, the allged coalition loses more, Ehren Watada is not being court-martialed today (at least one US paper missed that news over the weekend), things heat up between Turkey and Iraq, 57 is the highest count thus far for the number dead from violence in Iraq today, and more.

Starting with war resistance. Despite Michael Winter (USA Today)'s blog post ("Lt. Ehren Watada, who refused to deploy to Iraq, faces his second court-martial at Fort Lewis, Wash.") posted last night, there is no court-martial for Ehren Watada today. The court-martial has a stay in place until at least October 26th. As Dave Lindorff (CounterPunch) observes, "US. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle in Seattle, WA took the unusual step of intervening in a military proceeding, ordering a halt to the second attempt by the Army to court-martial Lt. Ehren Watada, while he considers the merits of Lt. Watada's claim that he is being subjected to double jeopardy by being re-court-martialed a second time. Watada, who in June 2006 refused orders to ship out to Iraq with his Stryker brigade, claiming that it was an illegal war and that it would subject US military particpants to participating in war crimes, made his argument last February at a court-martial proceeding that eneded in a mistrail when the military and the military trial judge realized that the young lieutenant was winning his case. Rather than risk losing on acliam of the Iraq War's legitimacy, the judge in the prosecution sought, and the hearing officer granted a mistrial. However, under established precedent, all the way to the US Supreme Court, it has been accepted that it is not appropritate for prosecutors to declare mistrials and then seek another trial, for the obvious reason that prosecutors would always resort to such a tactic if they found themselves in danger of losing a case. Only when the defense wins a mistrial ruling can the prosecution seek a second trial. Precedent notwithstanding, the Army decided it couldn't let Lt. Watada walk away from the war claiming it is illegal, so it has attempted to court-martial him again." Mari-Ela David (Hawaii's KHNL) quotes Kenneth Kagan -- one of Watada's two civilian attorneys -- stating, "As you can imagine Lt. Watada is feeling incredibly relieved that A, he's not going to have to go to trial on Tuesday and B., that somebody finally is going to take this case seriously and give it a meaningful review.". At the Veterans for Peace confrence last year (August 12, 2006), Watada was one of the speakers (a/v and text both here) and his speech included this:

I stand before you today, not as an expert -- not as one who pretends to have all the answers. I am simply an American and a servant of the American people. My humble opinions today are just that. I realize that you may not agree with everything I have to say. However, I did not choose to be a leader for popularity. I did it to serve and make better the soldiers of this country. And I swore to carry out this charge honorably under the rule of law.

Today, I speak with you about a radical idea. It is one born from the very concept of the American soldier (or service member). It became instrumental in ending the Vietnam War - but it has been long since forgotten. The idea is this: that to stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers can choose to stop fighting it.

Now it is not an easy task for the soldier. For he or she must be aware that they are being used for ill-gain. They must hold themselves responsible for individual action. They must remember duty to the Constitution and the people supersedes the ideologies of their leadership. The soldier must be willing to face ostracism by their peers, worry over the survival of their families, and of course the loss of personal freedom. They must know that resisting an authoritarian government at home is equally important to fighting a foreign aggressor on the battlefield. Finally, those wearing the uniform must know beyond any shadow of a doubt that by refusing immoral and illegal orders they will be supported by the people not with mere words but by action.

Philip Greenspan (Swans Commentary) reflects on the historical nature of resistance within the military, "An unprecedented massive mutiny during the Vietnam War was the coup de grace for the US. Col Robert D. Heinl, Jr. in an englightening article on that mutiny states 'It is a truism that national armies closely reflect societies from which they have been raised. It would be strange indeed if the Armed Forces did not today mirror the agonizing divisions and social traumas of American society, and of course they do.' What happened then can recur and symptoms are already appearing. Reenlistments are down. The services are having difficulty meeting enlistment quotas although they have downgraded requirements and expanded the age for enlistment. West Point graduates are increasingly opting-out when their commitment is complete. Over twenty retired generals defied tradition to criticize the commander in chief. Desertions and AOWLs are increasing."

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.

"I mean, is part of the problem that even though they've had this rogue reputation, they've been successful?" Joan Biskupic, USA Today, demonstrating a desire to jump into the gas baggery on PBS' Washington Week over the weekend and also demonstrating she's hopelessly out of touch when it comes to the issue of Blackwater or any other mecenaries operating under US contract in Iraq. Today, Aileen Alfandary, on KPFA's The Morning Show, noted the latest victims of the mercenaries who think the country of Iraq is a turkey shoot -- mercenaries "killed two women". Sources at the Iraqi Interior Ministry inform CNN that the women had been driving through Baghdad and the spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, Abdul Karim Khalaf, states that the women's vehicle was hit by at least nineteen bullets. CBS and AP place the slaughter "at an intersection in central Baghdad, notes the US State Dept states their own staff were not part of the convoy but "an American nongovernmental organization may have been involved" while CBS and AP note that the two "deaths threatened to increase calls for limits on the private security firms, which have come under intense scrutiny since the Sept. 15 shooting deaths of as many as 17 Iraqi civilians allegedly by guards with Blackwater" -- Blackwater is not said to be the mercenary company involved in this slaughter, to be clear. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) notes the mercenary company is thought to be Australian. Mariam Karouny and Haider Salahudding (Reuters) report that the company is Unity Resources Group which is a Dubai-based company that has been "on a U.S. State Department list of security firms doing business in Iraq. The State Department Web site said the company was staffed and managed by experienced security professionals drawn from the special forces and police SWAT communities of the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Europe." AFP reports eye witness Sattar Jabar states a third woman was "wounded in the shoulder" and that children in the car included at least one who "had been struck by flying glass." On the September slaughter, Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) noted today, "Meanwhile the Los Angeles Times has revealed that the widow of the Iraqi vice presidential guard killed last year by a Blackwater employee has yet to receive any compensation. The Iraqi guard was fatally shot while on duty in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone by a drunk Blackwater employee named Andrew Moonen. After the fatal shooting Moonen was flown out of Iraq. He was never charged with a crime. Two months later, Moonen reportedly returned to the Middle East to work for another private military company, Combat Support Associates." Tina Susman and Raheem Salman are the LAT reporters who covered that story and wrote of thirty-year-old Umm Sajjad and the two sons she now raises without their father (ages six and ten-years-old) and quote Umm Sajjad stating, "The money of the whole world is not able to compensate for my husband, but what I want is enough to guarantee my children's future . . . and to buy a house. I don't want them to feel that they lost their father. My responsibilities now are to act as both a mother and a father." Umm Sajjad was also misinformed by someone because she was under the impression Andrew Moonen had been tried in Iraq for the death of her husband -- that has never happened.

Staying with violence. AP reports that "at least 24" died in Iraq yesterday from bombings. Mariam Karouny and David Clarke (Reuters) note their agency counts at least 56 reported deaths from violence today. Christian Berthelsen (Los Angeles Times) places the count at 57.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Baghdad mortar attack left six injured, while a Baghdad bombing "near the old bridge in Jisr Diyala" claimed 1 life and left eleven wounded, and four Baghdad car bombings claimed 10 lives and left fifty-eight injured. David Clarke and Aseel Kami (Reuters) count 22 dead from two car bombings in northern Iraq. Reuters notes at least 30 injured in the bombings while a Tuz Khurmato roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and left three people injured,


KUNA reports that Sheikh Ibrahim Abdel Karim was assassinated today in Baghdad by unknown assailants. Reuters reports, "Gunmen killed Abdul-Aali Thenoon, the deputy police chief of Nineveh Province, and wounded his driver in a drive-by shooting in the city of Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. . . . Gunmen wounded Abdul-Amir Mahmoud, the head of police intelligence in Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police said." Reuters also notes a police officer shot dead in Kirkuk. Christian Bethelsen (Los Angeles Times) reports a Baghdad home invasion that claimed the lives of a the father, a "son, another relative and a neighbor."


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 8 corpses discovered in Baghdad today and 3 in Babil.

Today Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) reports that the border between Iran and Iraq has been repopened by Iran -- this is in northern Iraq, in the Kurdish region -- and Zavis notes, "In a deal announced Sunday, the two sides pledged to crack down on Iranian Kurdish rebels who are using Iraq as a base to launch attacks against Iran, and Iraqi militants who are using Iran as a base to attack Kurdish regional authorities." But wait. Iran shares a border with Turkey and Turkey shares a northern border with Iraq. Hidir Goktas and Gareth Jones (Reuters) report that -- as tensions continue to flare between the Kurdish region in Iraq and the Turkish government -- "Turkey's prime minister gave the green light on Tuesday for possible military action in northern Iraq to confront Kurdish rebels there, drawing a warning from the United States, which fears wider regional instability." Turkish Daily News reports that the 15 Turkish troops killed "late Sunday and early Monday" are thought to have been killed by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and that, as a result, "Military action to crack down on the PKK bases in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq was one of the strong measures on the table."

Meanwhile the announcement yesterday regarding the drawdown by the United Kingdom is, according to AP, only "the latest blow to the U.S.-led coalition . . . The alliance is crumbling and fast: Half a dozen other members are withdrawing troops or intend to. By mid-2008, excluding Americans, there will be about 7,000 troops in the multinational force, down from a peak of about 50,000 at the start of the war 4 1/2 years ago, a new review by The Associated Press shows."

Yesterday in England, thousands of demonstators gathered to say no to war. Brian Eno, in a speech (posted at CounterPunch), delcared, "What this says to me is that the current American government -- and ours, for as long as we follow them -- thrives on a state of war. They need it because it allows them to carry on with business as usual whilst at the same time suppressing dissent 'for security reasons'. It allows them to sidestep the democratic process by maintaining a continuous state of emergency. For the sake of our country, and Iraq -- as well as for the sake of all those who in the future are going to be cast as 'our enemies,' we must get off this war-mongering treadmill. Our government talks about our 'special relationship' with America, but we should be asking how special that really is." Prior to an our before the march, arrests were expected with the authorities calling the march illegal. As the BBC notes, "The Stop the War Coalition timed its protest to coincide with Gordon Brown's Commons statement on Iraq. Students, campaigners and trade unions joined the rally in Trafalgar Square, before marching down to Parliament." Chris Bambery (Great Britain's Socialist Worker) reports the at least 5,000 participating included students and "The big turn out of students on the march demonstrated Stop the War's success in establishing itself on campus this year. The hundred and fifty students joined a feeder march from the School of Oriental and African Studies in central London. Alexandria Szyellowski had travelled from Warwick university because she felt it important 'to exercise democracy'. She said there was an active Stop the War group at the university. Birmingham university student Rachel Hudd chipped in to say she'd come to protest at the police ban. She added that she felt that students needed to build a Stop the War group at her college. Matthew Vickery had come from Sheffield Hallam University where a Stop the War group had just been launched. 'This is the first thing we've done as a group. The students have come down. People were furious when they found out the march had been banned'." The Stop the War Coalition makes a point "to thank everyone who managed to attend yesterday, everyone who helped organise and publicise the demonstration and the many hundreds of people from around the country and the world who have e-mailed and phoned their messages of support." Clicking here will take you to photos, videos and blog posts of yesterday's demonstration. Mike Wells (UK Indymedia) contributes a photo essay focusing on the police tactics. Jennifer Hill (Reuters) reports that four people were arrested. As noted in yesterday's snapshot, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced he would draw troops down to 2,500 (from 5,500) by spring 2008. Kim Murphy (Los Angeles Times) notes, "Brown's government faces increasingly vociferous opposition to the war. A YouGov poll this year showed that 30% of respondents wanted troops out as soon as possible, while an additional 40% wanted a time limit of no more than 18 months. Thousands of protestors marched through central London to Parliament on Monday to voice opposition to a war in which 170 British soldiers have lost their lives. Protesters were dismissive of the reductions Brown announced. 'The smaller the number of British troops is, the more stupid the British policy is. What can you do with two and a half thousand troops? It's simply a political gesture to support George Bush,' said David Wilson, a spokes[person] for the Stop the War Coalition, which organized the march." Jeni Harvey (Rochdale Observer) reports member of Parliament Paul Rowen was among the protesters and quotes him stating, "The Lib Dems have long called for our troops to come home. That is why I joined the Stop the War Coalition in their march from Trafalgar Square to Parliament. If the former Prime Minister Tony Blair had listened to our leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, in January, then all of our troops would be coming home this month. . . . It's time to bring all our troops home and that's why I was proud to join the march. I know that this will be welcomed by the dozens of Rochdale residents who called for me to join the march." On March 13, 2006, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted Ben Griffin, "In Britain, an elite SAS soldier is refusing to return to fight in Iraq in what he describes as a morally wrong war of aggression. The soldier, Ben Griffin, is believed to be the first SAS soldier to refuse to go into combat and to leave the army on moral grounds. Griffin said he refused to fight alongside U.S. troops because they viewed Iraqis as 'untermenschen' -- the Nazi term for races regarded as sub-human. He also accused U.S. troops of committing 'dozens of illegal acts' in Iraq." Griffin was among the speakers at yesterday's rally and Military Families Against War has posted video of his speech: "Sometime today Gordon Brown will probably announce a drawdown in British troops in Basra. He only did this last week as a feeble piece of electioneering. And if you look at the photos of Gordon Brown and the soldiers behind him, the looks on their faces say it all -- they're fed up. Even when we bring those troops out of Basra -- who are, at present, an insignificant number anyway -- there will still be a continued presence of British troops in Baghdad. By a sizeable force the special forces are currently operating there under the direct control of America. Now when we bring our forces out of Basra, questions have to be asked about what our special forces are doing in Baghdad and whose interests they are serving?" In March of 2006, Alistair Highet wrote about Griffin in "Observer: Vietnam All Over Again" for the Hartford Advocate -- which now appears to be gone but we noted it then and Highet quoted Griffen telling the military board review that "I did not join the British army to conduct American foreign policy."

In the US, Military Families Speak Out's Dante Zappala raises serious questions (Philadelphia Inquirer via Common Dreams): "The question is: What are we funding? Are we really benefiting our military by leaving them under-equipped and stretched thin? What is their mission amidst a civil war fought, in part, with weapons we flooded into the country? Does continuing this morass not somehow benefit al Qaeda? Politicians will gloss over these questions and the brunt of the unending carnage will be absorbed by people like my nephew. Some pundits, meanwhile, cheer from the sidelines and ask these children to accept their tragedy as historically insignificant. How awful will we, as a nation, become to maintain this war?"

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