Monday, October 15, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Monday, October 15, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, British service members (retired and current) voice their objections, tensions continue between Turkey and northern Iraq, Blackwater USA continues its public relations free fall, and more.
Starting war resistance.  Iraq Veterans Against the War's Liam Madden has written a must-read essay entitled "Moving Forward Together: Common Orientation" that looks toward future actions for IVAW: "During the National Strategy sessions held earlier this year, members analyzed why the war in Iraq was being fought and the institutions that enabled the U.S. government to continue the illegal occupation of Iraq.  Clearly, the U.S. military is the single most important entity to the U.S. government's capacity to wage war and extend the occupation.  We acknowledged that IVAW was in a unique position to remove the support of the military by utilizing three primary methods: 1. Organizing Active Duty resistance.  2. Truth in Recruiting.  3. Counter-Retention.  . . .  The U.S. is perpetuating the occupation of Iraq to dominate world energy supplies and to project military power into the Middle East, ie, the war is being fought for neo-imperialism.  It is important to note that this is not a problem that rests solely on the doorstep of the Bush administration, as we have seen from the prevailing position of ALL presidential front runners, no major candidate or party is calling for an end to occupation.  This is not because the democrats simply don't have the votes; in fact, they are basing their presidential campaigns on the grounds of a continued, albeit modified, occupation that perpetuates the same policy of controlling oil and projecting power.  Even if they did promise to 'Redeploy,' it would be foolish to disregard the lesson taught to the people of 1968 when Richard Nixon was elected on promises of 'peace with honor.'  As history reveals, politician's empty promises often provide little more than broken hearts and shattered lives."  That is an excerpt of Madden's essay.  Read it in full by clicking here.
Iraq War resister Ehren Watada went public with his refusal to deploy to Iraq in June of 2006.  In February of this year, a rigged court proceeding still didn't seem a sure thing leading Judge Toilet (aka John Head) to call a mistrial over defense objection.  Ignoring the Constitutional ban on double-jeopary, a second court-martial was to begin last week.  A US district judge issued a stay (through at least October 26th) last week.  In a wide ranging article, Peter J. Swing (New America Media) examines Watada's life and the lives of his parents Bob Watada and Carolyn Ho [the link also provides video].  Watada began studying up on Iraq and the Iraq War, at the suggestion of his superiors, when he learned he would be deployed there.  Swing reveals that Watada felt there was little he could do when he heard a man call into a radio program about his brother being shipped to Iraq and wonder why people weren't working to end the illegal war.  Watada tells King, "I just snsapped.  I said, 'I can do something about it.'  Though I may suffer for it, though it may just be a blip on the radar, at least I know that I can do something about it."
War resister Camilo Mejia is the chair of IVAW and he spoke in Wayland, Massachusetts on Friday.  Gabriel Leiner (The Milford Daily News) reports that he spoke of how, even now, he "hasn't found a single answer as to why we invaded the country. . . . To this day I still don't believe we found any reason worth invading for."   Mejia also advised, "There are so many ways people can protest the war in their daily lives.  It can be something as simple as holding signs or wearing T-shirts, or as drastic as squirting blood on a recruiter's desk."   Mejia tells his story Road from Ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia (New Press) published in May.
September 26th, Iraq veteran Josh Gaines publicly shipped his Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medla and National Defense Service Medal to former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declaring that chemical weapons had been used (white phosphorus and "incindeary projectiles"), the contractors are "all about contracts and the profits are made by civilians who did not volunteer for this war but promote the very idea of occupation" and "I'm returning my National Defense Medal because I truly believe that I did not help defend my nation and I'm returning my Global War on Terrorism Medal because I do not believe that I helped defeat terrorism in Iraq."  Wisconsin Radio Network has audio of the speech in full.  Gaines is no longer the only one to return his medals.  Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) reports: "An Iraq war veteran has returned all of his war medals to protest what he describes as the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. Specialist Mike Sanger returned the medals on Friday to the office of Democratic Congressman Dennis Moore of Kansas. Sanger said he choose to target Moore's office because the Democrat has supported the continued funding of the war. Since returning from Iraq, Sanger has become a vocal war critic and now serves as president of Iraq Veterans Against the War in Kansas City. During the war Sanger received the National Defense medal, the War on Terror medal and a combat medal."  At Moore's office, Sanger read off the names of the service members from Kansas who had died in the illegal war and cited his two sons (the oldest is three-years-old) and not wanting them to ever participate in an illegal war as among his reasons for returning the medals.  Last week, Mike Belt (Lawrence Journal-World) profiled Sanger and details why Sanger turned against the illegal war (began in Iraq with what he saw first hand), notes that he suffers from PTSD and that his wife Danielle and he have "two sons, ages 3 and 1."
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.
The National Lawyers Guild's convention begins shortly: The Military Law Task Force and the Center on Conscience & War are sponsoring a Continuing Legal Education seminar -- Representing Conscientious Objectors in Habeas Corpus Proceedings -- as part of the National Lawyers Guild National Convention in Washington, D.C.  The half-day seminar will be held on Thursday, November 1st, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at the convention site, the Holiday Inn on the Hill in D.C.  This is a must-attend seminar, with excelent speakers and a wealth of information.  The seminar will be moderated by the Military Law Task Force's co-chair Kathleen Gilberd and scheduled speakers are NYC Bar Association's Committee on Military Affairs and Justice's Deborah Karpatkin, the Center on Conscience & War's J.E. McNeil, the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee's Peter Goldberger, Louis Font who has represented Camilo Mejia, Dr. Mary Hanna and others, and the Central Committee for Conscientious Objector's James Feldman.  The fee is $60 for attorneys; $25 for non-profit attorneys, students and legal workers; and you can also enquire about scholarships or reduced fees.  The convention itself will run from October 31st through November 4th and it's full circle on the 70th anniversary of NLG since they "began in Washington, D.C." where "the founding convention took place in the District at the height of the New Deal in 1937,  Activist, progressive lawyers, tired of butting heads with the reactionary white male lawyers then comprising the American Bar Association, formed the nucleus of the Guild." 
Last Thursday, the US military conducted one of their many air strikes with this one getting a little more attention due to the civilian deaths forcing the US military to issue statement acknowleding that they killed 15 civilians (nine of which were children) but, honest, under oath, 19 people dead they just know were 'insurgents.' Saturday, Paul von Zielbauer (New York Times) presented the defensive voices of . .. the under-represented?  No, no.  The defensive voices ot the US military brass.  Admiral Smith -- who honestly has no idea what happened -- is allowed to babble on endlessly such as here: "The enermy has a vote here and when he chooses to surround himself with civilians and then fire upon U.S. forces, our forces have no choice but to return a commensurate amount of fire."  von Zielbauer does note -- unrelated to Thursday's air strike -- that the US military found 3 weapons that belong to Alex R. Jimenez on Tuesday.  Saturday, May 12th, outside Mahmudiya, an attack left 4 US soldiers and 1 Iraqi translator dead.  In addition, 3 soldiers were missing and presumed captured, one of which, Joseph J. Anzack Jr., would be found dead.  Alex R. Jimenez and Byron W. Fouty are the two who remain missing since May 12th.  (Along with Anzack, the names of the others who died in the May 12th attack are James David Connel Jr., Daniel W. Courneya, Christopher E. Murphy and Anthony J. Schober).  Though the US military has no word on either Jimenez or Fouty, they did confirm three of Jimenez' weapons were found last week.  On last Thursday's air strike, Dave Lindorff (This Can't Be Happening) observes today, "Isn't it odd that in the air attack that the US military claims killed 19 high-ranking leaders of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and 15 civilians, all the slain Al Qaeda members were men and the men were Al Qaeda, while all the civilians were women (6) and children (9)?  Think about this a minute.  This means that no women were Al Qaeda -- and yet we know that women also fight, and also blow themselves up as suicide bombers.  Yet these women were all civilians.  The children, of course, were children.  And we're to believe that there were no men who were innocent bystanders?  All those adult males who were killed were 'bad guys.'  Yet there were innocent bystanders: the women and the children.  Somehow, any innocent bystanding men managed to duck out of the way, or the bullets and bomb fragments (and I'm sure they were fragmentation bombs that were used, as well as a withering spray or machine-gun fire) that hit all those poor women and kids, just somehow (magically?) missed the men.  Pretty amazing huh?  Except that it's an absurd claim that should insult our intelligence."  As Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted today, the UN "is calling for a vigorous investigation" and "Iraqi villagers say some of the victims were shot dead.  Pictures captured at the scene of the attack show bullet holes that appear to be from a ground assault . . . The US has admitted six women and nine children were killed, along with nineteen insurgents.  But local villagers say they have buried twenty-four people and that several others were detained by US forces."  Democracy Now! then offered two Iraqi eye witnesses.
Eye Witness: This is their food, their cups.  These are women's clothes.  Have a look at these women's clothes.  They killed members of a family inside a house.  They shot the children dead here.  They shot women dead here.  This is the blood from the women who were killed.  There were thirty-two.  We have buried twenty-four, and I have no information about the other nine who are in US custody.  We do not know anything about them.  This is a catastrophe.  A US general has inspected the area, and he said they are sorry, and he cried after seeing the beheaded children.
Eye Witness: The Americans said that they are sorry, "you Muslims."  They are sorry for killing the families.  They said that they are sorry.  Is this democracy?
Meanwhile, DPA is reporting that a US airstrike on Sunday "killed by mistake three anti-al-Qaeda tribal fighters in Doualiya city in Salahaddin province".
Turning to England, Friday David Byers and Helen Nugent (Times of London) reported on Janice Murray, whose 18-year-old son Michael Tench was killed in Iraq, being informed by the funeral home that was preparing her son for burial that the left arm and leg transported with him back to England were not his.  The Ministry of Defence denies there's any difference but this is the same Ministry that lied to her about her son's death (claiming his body was intact and he had a chest wound when, in fact, he died in an explosion).  Janice Murray asks the reporters, "How many more families are stuck in my position?"  George Kay and Ricky Clitheroe served in the British military during WWII and Stephen Adams (Telegraph of London) reports the two have gone public with a letter to Queen Elizabeth stating that current members of the British military "returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are being show 'the most detestable contempt' by the Government," that they are "treated like vermin,' and that they are being used as "political mercenary forces" for "illegal wars".  Sean Rayment (Telegraph of London) details the stories of the wounded soldiers -- such as Matt Woollard who lost his right lower leg --  and notes, "Since 2003, Ministry of Defence officials have repeatedly refused to reveal the number of soldiers who have suffered like Matt Woollard -- those who have lost limbs while fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan -- arguing that to do so would amount to a breach of each serviceman's privacy.  Such excuses are dismissed by Tobias Ellwood, the Tory MP for Bournemouth, who is a former member of the Royal Green Jackets, as 'unacceptable'.  The MoD's claims 'smack of a cover-up' in an attempt to avoid negative publicity, he argues.  These are not the only statistics that are hard to come by.  The Government apparenlty has no idea how many troops were wounded in battle in Iraq in 2003, 2004 and 2005, when some of the heaviest and bloodiest fighting took place.  Instead, injured troops were simply categorised as being 'very seriously ill' or 'seirous ill', whether they were hurt in a road traffic accident or shot by an Iraqi sniper.  Only after January 2006 did the MoD begin to collate figures for the number of troops injured in combat.  Officially, it claims that the number of troops injured in combat in Iraq is 282 and in Afghanistan is 256, although there is even doubt that these statistics have been properly recorded."  While UK fatalities in Iraq currently stand at 170, the Telegraph of London's investigation found that 35 British forces have lost a limb in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.  Gary Cleland (Telegraph of London) focuses on one of the wounded last year is Jamie Cooper (18-years-old when he was wounded --  "the youngest Briton to be injured in Iraq") and while receiving treatment for his wounds in England he became "the latest victim of the superbug Clostridium difficile."  The Center for Disease Control explains the infection "is a bacterium that causes diarrhea and more serious intestinal condistions such as colitis" and the Mayo Clinic offers, "Healthcare associated infections -- illnesses you acquire during a stay in a hospital or longterm care facility -- aren't new.  But in recent years, the infections have reached epidemic proportions in hospitals and nursing homes around the world.  One of the most widespread and potentially serious of these illnesses is caused by the bacterium Clostridium difficile, often simply called C. diff or C. difficile."  Helene Mulholland (Guardian of London) reports James Lee, chair of Englands Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust, has resigned due to the "killer bug scandal" following the release of a report last week "from the Healthcare Commission into outbreaks of the clostridium difficile infection that claimed the lives of at least 21 patients -- and probably 90 -- between 2004 and 2006."  BBC explains Jamie Cooper case of Clostridium difficile has resulted in some members of  University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust publicly stating Cooper did not receive infection at their hospital with Dr. David Gourevitch insisting Cooper might have already had C difficile before he arrived at the hospital;however, Cooper's family was lodging complaints about treatment as early as March of this year.
On Saturday, the US military announced: "Two 15th Sustainment Brigade Soldiers were killed and five others were wounded during a mortar attack in the vicinity of Baghdad Oct. 10." The Saturday announcement covered a Wednesday death.  Sunday the US military announced: " Multi-National Division -- Baghdad Soldier was killed and three were wounded during combat operations when an improvised explosive device detonated in a southern area of the Iraqi capital Oct. 14. ." And they announced: "A Task Force Lightning Soldier died in a non-combat related incident in Nineveh province, Oct. 14." This brought the total number of US service members killed in the illegal war thus far to 3829. Also among the dead over the weekend was 32-year-old Salih Saif Aldin, an Iraqi correspondent for the Washington Post. Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted that Saif Aldin "was shot dead in Baghdad on Sunday. The 32-year-old Salih Saif Aldin had worked for the paper since 2004. Iraqi police officers said they believe Saif Aldin was killed by members of the Sunni tribal organization the Awakening Council which is aligned with the U.S. military. Iraqi government officials have accused the Sunni group of abusing its partnership with the Americans by killing and kidnapping residents. Aldin, who was born in the Iraqi town of Tikrit, is the first Washington Post reporter to be killed during the war. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists at least 118 journalists have been killed in Iraq while on duty."  Joshua Parlow and Amit R. Paley (Washington Post) explain:
Western news organizations rely heavily on their Iraqi staff members to navigate the hazards of reporting here: to witness scenes of car bombs, the carnage in hospitals, the grief inside the homes of Iraqis who have died in this war.
For The Post, no one did this more regularly, confidently and fearlessly than Saif Aldin, the divorced father of a 6-year-old daughter, Fatima. He had a striking presence: bald and barrel-chested, with a jagged scar on his bulging neck from a fight in his youth. He was a Sunni from Tikrit, the home town of Saddam Hussein and the epicenter of the insurgency early in the war.
He had studied at the Baghdad University College of Languages and shortly after graduating was hired as a correspondent in Tikrit for al-Iraq al-Yawm, or Iraq Today. Saif Aldin joined The Post in January 2004 as a stringer working from Tikrit. He quickly gained a reputation for tenacity and a seeming imperviousness to danger, taking on assignments that frequently put him in harm's way.
In 2005, he received a note threatening his life if he did not quit journalism and leave Tikrit. He refused. "This is my city, and I'm a journalist," he told colleagues.
Reuters quotes the Post's David Hoffman (assistant managing editor for foreign news) stating, "Salih's death reminds us once again of the central role that Iraqi journalists and others have played in our coverage of the war and the immense sacrifices they have made to help us understand it."  Paul von Zielbauer and Andrew E. Kramer (New York Times) utilize the Post's Baghdad bureau chief Sudarsan Raghavan who recounts that an Iraqi police officer used Saif Aldin's cell phone to call the Baghdad office and declare that he had been killed, that Saif Aldin "was once severely beaten in Tikrit after he ignored threats to leave the city or be killed" and that he reported "under a tribal name, Salih Dehma."  Partlow and Paley quote the Post's executive editor Leonard Downie Jr. stating, "The death of Salih Saif Aldin in the service of our readers is a tragedy for everyone at The Washington Post.  He was a brave and valuable reporter who contributed much to our coverage of Iraq.  We are in his debt.  We grieve with his family, friends, fellow journalists and everyone in our Baghdad bureau."  The Washington Post's Baghdad bureau shares their memories of Saif Aldin. Sudarsan Raghavan writes, "For all of us in the bureau, Salih was the Teflon correspondent.  He could wade through the roughest neighborhoods in Baghdad, Sunni or Shiite.  With his flashy smile and twinkling green eyes, he could persuade both Sunni insurgents and Shiite militiamen to talk frankly.  He was ambitious, energetic, relentless, honest, serious and curious.  Yet he could also be wild, emotional, stubborn, mercurial and fiery.  He was a reporter's reporter.  And we all admired his courage."  Ellen Knickmeyer shares how he tipped her to a story that led to word of a $50,000 bounty being placed on his head and that, "On a trip out of Baghdad last year, he got me past a lot of checkpoints by telling the insurgents I was his mother.  'You couldn't say sister?' I asked him. 'Sorry, Miss, sorry,' he said."  Megan Greenwell remembers, "Salih was the first person I got to know in Baghdad; we bonded while waiting for a group of soldiers to return from lunch and issue our press identification cards.  We talked first about his daughter, the beautiful 6-year-old with ringlets and wide eyes.  He gazed at a faded picture of her with a mixture of pride and pain that he was so far away from her."  Bassam Sebti remembers never seein Salih Saif Aldin looking sad.  Jonathan Finer, Karin Brulliard, John Ward Anderson, Anthony Shadid and Steve Fainaru also share in the piece by the Post's Baghdad bureau.
Turning to mercenaries, September 16th saw the slaughter of innocent Iraqis by Blackwater USA in Iraq.  On Saturday, James Glanz, Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Michael Kamber (New York Times) reported, "Fresh accounts of the Blackwater shooting last month, given by three rooftop witnesses and by American soldiers who arrived shortly after the gunfire ended, cast new doubt Friday on statements by Blackwater guards that they were responding to armed insurgents when Iraqi investigators say 17 Iraqis were killed at a Baghdad intersection last week. The three witnesses, Kurds on a rooftop overlooking the scene, said they observed no gunfire that could have provoked the shooting by Blackwater guards, and American soldiers who arrived minutes later found shell casings from guns normally used by American contractors, as well as the American military."  Today, Amit R. Paley (Washington Post) reports that Iraq is insisting that Blackwater "be expelled from the country within six months and pay $8 million in compensation to the family of every civilian its employees are accused of killing last month" which would be a total of $136 million in US dollars for the billion dollar company which, August Cole (Wall St. Journal) notes, is also moving into producing armored vehicles for US car owners to purchase and drive on US roads.  As one report after another emerges that Blackwater USA came under no fire, it was time for press heart throb and Blackwater CEO Erik Prince to take to the airwaves.  Fluffing his lovely golden locks, he did just that on Sunday.  On CBS' 60 Minutes, he managed to work "America," "American" or "US" five times into four sentences in a row proving that all the money and time spent in prep brought repetition if not believability.  He also appeared on CNN's The Situation Room yesterday.  There he told a little bit of truth when he stated to Wolf Blitzer of the September 16th slaughter, "It was very much a normal, run-of-the-day-mission."  A female correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers shares her thoughts at the paper's Inside Iraq, "The streets of Iraq are full with all kinds of dangers that Iraqi citizens used to live with like car bombs, EIDs, random killing, and prviate security companies that some of their members kill Iraqis in cold blood.  I know some people may not accept these words but this is the truth that we saw in Al Nosoor square and in the last incident of Arasat, part of Karrada neighborhood."  She recounts a recent incident where she encounters the foreign (US) mercenaries at an intersection "when they hardly stopped their vehicles that almost hit my car" and they were of course "driving in the wrong side" of the road.  It's all very normal in Iraq -- and that's the most shocking thing.  As we noted Sunday (The Third Estate Sunday Review): "September 16th in Baghdad, Blackwater mercenaries apparently did what they always do: treat Iraq as their own personal playground and Iraqis as objects who don't have a right to be there. That is, despite how many in the press choose to paint it, the reality. Blackwater mercenaries ride around as if they are armed ambulances, expecting all traffic to stop because they are so damn important. Those who don't immediately pull over to the side of the road get water bottles, flares and worse thrown at them. Those are the lucky ones. Others get the 'joys' of a hail of bullets. In an adult world inhabited by thinking journalists, we might expect the behavior Blackwater exhibits would be questioned. In what other city in the world could foreigners decide that they are so damn important everything must stop for them? In what other country would that 'road rage' even be tolerated?"  So when Prince says it was a run-of-the-mill encounter for Blackwater, he's not lying.  This is how they conduct themselves all the time.  CBS News' Elizabeth Parlmer spoke with Adam Hobson who worked "as a political aide in Baghdad" about his experience being escorted by Blackwater which included Blackwater killing "a young Iraqi", "It's by far the worst thing that's ever happened to me.  It wasn't until I got back to the embassy that I found out that car had been full of Iraqi civilians and someone had died. . . .  What incentive do they have to operate correctly when there is no oversight?  I think that's what the real problem is."  These and other accounts threaten Blackwater's expansion plans which, August Cole (Wall St. Journal) notes, includes "laying plans for an expansion that would put his for-hire forces in hot spots around the world doing far more than guard duty. . . .  The company wants to be a one-stop shop for the US government on missions to which it won't commit American forces."  But even the laughable PR efforts may be for naught.  Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) breaks the news that US "officials are asking whether the contractors could be considered unlawful combatants under international agreements. . . .  If U.S. officials conclude that the use of guards is a potential violation, they may have to limit guards' tasks in war zones, which could leave more work for the already overstretched military.   Unresolved questions are likely to touch off new criticism of Bush's conduct of the unpopular Iraq war, especially given the broad definition of unlawful combatants the president has used in justifying his detention policies at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."  Josh Pringle (Canada's 580 CFRA) reports that there is frantic activity on the part of "US diplomats" currently "working on how to fill the security gap in Iraq if Blackwater USA operations are phased out."  In the forthcoming November issue of Harper's magazine Nicholas Johnson's conversation with contractor "Nero" is reproduced (from Big Dead Place, will run on pp. 22-24) and "Nero" explains, "The main reason the war zones pull people in is the pay.  Antarctica offered nickles and dimes compared to Iraq and Afghanistan.  Contracting allows the government to disperse funds in a cloaked fashion and to stand upon the shoulders of the corporate giants: Raytheon, Halliburton, Boeing, Blackwater.  And at the feet of these giants scurry the smaller contract rats that feast on all the meat and bones dropped from the giants' talbe.  History will one day catch up to the scams, the money shuffles.  I enjoy the war-zone contracts more because many horrible and amazing things happen in war zones.  I swam in Saddam's swimming pools and hung out in his palaces.  I shook hands with Bush, lifted body-filled caskets onto trucks with a forklift, and built boxes for those killed in action."  The US State Dept has been overly involved with Blackwater from the beginning going far beyond the fact that they utilize Blackwater for their travels through Iraq.  US House Rep Henry Waxman has attempted to get answers from the State Dept repeatedly and been stone walled.  Friday, in a State Dept press conference, Tom Casey (spokesperson) not only denied that the State Dept hadn't been forthcoming with Waxman -- the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform), he also claimed that "nowhere in that letter does it say that the State Department hasn't provided all the information that the committee's actually asked for."  As Klaus Marre (The Hill) reports, the letter -- signed by US House Reps Waxman, Ike Skelton, Tom Lantos and David Obey --  directly notes the "refusal of State Department officials to answer questions about the extent of corruption in the government of Iraq."
Tensions continue to flare between the northern portion of Iraq and Turkey.  AFP reports, "Turkey moved a step closer Monday to a possible incursion in northern Iraq as the government sought parliament's approval for military action against Kurdish rebel bases, despite US opposition. . . . Turkey and Iraq signed an accord last month to combat the PKK but failed to agree on a clause allowing Turkish troops to engage in 'hot pursuit' -- as they did regularly in the 1990s -- against rebels fleeing into Iraqi territory.  Observers here [in Turkey] also doubt that the embattled Baghdad government, which has virtually no authority over northern Iraq, can cajole the Iraqi Kurds into action against the PKK."  Despite the escalating tensions, the issue wasn't addressed in a press conference on Air Force One today held by the White House's Tony Fratto and it wasn't addressed by Bully Boy in his radio address SaturdayReuters notes that Iraqi government spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh declared today, "The Iraqi government calls on the Turkish government to pursue a diplomatic solution and not a military solution to solve the (problem) of terrorist attacks which our dear neighbour Turkey has witnessed from the PKK."  Today Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) addressed the topic with Zanku Armenian and Arman Artuc:
AMY GOODMAN: Zanku Armenian, what about the Turkish parliament voting to authorize an invasion of northern Iraq? What does this mean?
ZANKU ARMENIAN: Well, it's very unfortunate that Turkey would behave this way, because, you know, as the general said today, claiming that the United States, you know, is behaving in a way that is not a good way in terms of being a responsible ally, a good ally, well, I would turn that back around: why is the Turkish government behaving more radically, as almost like a radical Islamic state, versus being the NATO ally that it purports to be? Part of this is also creating a fait accompli on the ground. Turkey wants to create these sorts of tensions in order to -- almost as if throwing a temper tantrum in reaction to a bill, such as the House resolution, which is in essence just an expression, a sense of Congress. It is a nonbinding resolution. It does not force the President to do anything specific other than calling upon the President to make sure that our foreign policy reflects the appropriate sensitivity toward these issues of genocide. And unfortunately, the Turkish government, through these actions, is also, in essence, trying to blackmail the United States into curtailing our own freedom of speech on this issue. Why is the United States Congress not going to be allowed to speak about this issue? Why is the Turkish government trying to export Article 301 into the United States by putting a gag order on our Congress to express its sense, its opinion, on this issue?
Turning to some of today's violence . . .
Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad car bombing that claimed 3 lives (left twenty-five wounded).  Reuters notes a car bombing outside Balad that claimed the lives of 6 "members of a tribal police unit" anda Kirkuk roadside bombing injured four people. 
Reuters reports a man shot dead in Kut and "mortar and machinegun attacks" claimed 7 lives in Diwaniya ("four civilians and three gunmen").
Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 corpses discovered in Baghdad and 1 in Basra.  Reuters notes 3 corpses discovered in Ramadi and 2 in Mosul.

Looking for a deal? Find great prices on flights and hotels with Yahoo! FareChase.