Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, October 17, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, war resisters meet new roadblocks in Canada, Turkey's parliament votes, and more.
Starting with war resistance.  As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Peter D. Brown received conscientious objector (CO) status.   Courage to Resist has an AP article up which explains, "While in Iraq, Brown applied for discharge from the Army as a conscientious objector.  Though a chaplain appointed by the Army and an investigating officer both concluded that he was sincere and recommended an honorable discharge, the Army disagreed and denied his request.  The ACLU and its New York chapter sued in July, asking a federal court to order the Army to reverse its decision.  Before the court could act, the Army reconsidered and granted Brown's request Aug. 28, NYCLU spokeswoman Jennifer Carnig said.  The announcement was delayed until after Brown's return from Iraq in September."  Alexa James (New York's Times Herald-Record) reports that although the US government claims that 425 CO applications were evaluated from 2002 to 2006 with 53% of those applicants receiving CO status, the ACLU's Deborah Karpatkin "said those numbers are skewed.  Conscientious objectors, she said, are subject to harassment and hostility.  'You have to be tough,' she said.  '(Brown) was an officer.  He was a West Point grad . . . he came out of mainstream Christianity."   Lower Hudson Valley's The Journal News notes, "Brown successfully petitioned in federal court in Washington, D.C. for release from the U.S. Army".  AP notes that Peter "Brown currently works in a non-combat capacity processing detainee information, according to 2nd Brigade Combat Team spokesman Maj. Webster Wright III."  The New York Civil Liberties Union (NY ACLU chapter) issued a news release yesterday explaining the military's sudden decision to avoid a legal show down in a civilian court and quoting the legal director of the ACLU of the National Capital Area and co-counsel in Brown's lawsuit Arthur Spitzer explaining, "The ACLU's founder, Roger Baldwin, went to prison in 1918 because the World War I draft law made no provision for conscientious objectors. Civil liberties have advanced when the Army itself can recognize that a West Point graduate can be a sincere conscientious objector -- even if it took a lawsuit to wake them up."  Had the military not rushed to a decision, Brown might have, like Robert Zabala and others, required a civilian court to declare him a CO -- something made necessary by the nonsense the military pulls -- some of which Deborah Karpatkin noted above but it also includes the military refusing to follow their own rules on COs such as playing games with the issue of religion when religion is not a requirement for CO status -- by the military's own guidelines.
Meanwhile, Veterans for Peace notes the new documentary Soldiers of Conscience which features war resisters Aiden Delgado, Camilo Mejia, Joshua Casteel and Kevin Benderman. The documentary, directed by Catherine Ryan and Gary Weimberg of Luna Productions in Berkeley, is narrated by Peter Coyote and playing at various festivals over the next weeks.  Right not it is playing at the Hamptons International Film Festival (East Hampton, NY -- Oct. 17th through 21st), October 21st at 9:00 pm it plays in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Film Festival, October 22nd at 5:50 pm and October 27 at 7:50 pm it plays at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival in Arkansas, October 24th at 10:10 pm it plays in Stanford at the UN Association Film Festivals, it plays at the Starz Denver Film Festival (November 8th through 18th), and on November 16th, at 6:30 pm it plays in Olympia, Washington at The Capitol Theater.  More information is available at the Soldiers of Conscience website
And Ish Theilheimer (Canada's Straight Goods) reflects on his own experience as a war resister during the Vietnam era:
It was 40 years ago today, I stood on the steps of a courthouse in New York City and joined with up to 2,000 other young American men (Wikipedia says 1,000 -- they are wrong) in returning our draft cards to the US government to protest the immoral and disastrous war in Vietnam. We were among the waves and waves of protesters who eventually forced the end of the war.
This particular action led to most of us being punitively drafted, which led to my adopting Canada as a new home. Now, with deep integration of immigration and policing, it is much harder for American war resisters to get into and stay in Canada as I was fortunate enough to do. It was hard enough for us in the laid-back '60s and '70s. I feel for today's deserters. Because they were volunteers, and generally not middle class, they don't get the public support we got. The Bush administration has been able to keep their protests in check.
Our act of mass civil disobedience on October 16, 1967 didn't change a lot, but it contributed to the mass effort. Those punitive draft calls most of us received may have triggered an important change, though.
The Supreme Court later declared these call-ups illegal because they were not due process of law. According to Wiki, "The charges of unfairness led to the institution of a draft lottery for the year 1970 in which a young man's birthday determined his relative risk of being drafted."
That protest, on October 16 1967, was the pivotal turning point in my life. In many ways the fallout made my life a lot harder, though not as hard as being a prisoner, a soldier, a casualty, or a Vietnamese war victim. With all the things I might have done in life, I don't regret, for a moment, this one action.
Another war resister from that era, Gerry Condon (Soldier Say No!) observers, "There is a taboo in the antiwar movement against actually calling on the troops to resist.  Only Iraq Veterans Against the War have begun to cross the line.  What is behind this taboo?  I believe there are a number of factors.  One is fear of the perceived legal jeopardy. . . . Another part of the taboo against calling on the troops to resist is that many antiwar organizations, especially the larger and more established, are organized as nonprofit organizations (501c3) for purposes of receiving tax-deductible organizations.  They fear they might lose their nonprofit status if they advocate actions the government would consider illegal.  To my knowledge, this has not happened.  But nonprofits' boards of directors tend to be pretty conservative about such matters.  Many of them also wrongfully believe that their nonprofit status will be jeopardized if they engage in any advocacy or support legislative proposals.  . . .  I believe it is time for the antiwar movement to relocate to the gates of every military base in this country, and abroad.  Democracy has failed in Washington.  Seventy percent of the U.S. people want the troops out of Iraq as soon as possible.  But the Congress says no way.  And the leading presidential candidates of both parties say no way.  In this election cycle, the antiwar movement should not spend one ounce of its energy backing any candidate who is not credibly committed to ending the war and giving Iraq back to the Iraqis.  Instead of wasting our enery on the politicians, we in the antiwar movement should take democracy into our own hands.  The slogan 'Troops Out Now' should be directed at the troops themselves.  We should encourage and assist our citizen soldiers to vote with their feet.  As Bertold Brecht famously suggested, the war machine cannot function if the troops won't fight.  Even the drones and the robots require humans to direct and repair them.  This is somewhat of a revolutionary proposal.  But it now appears that nothing short of a revolutionary movement will bring an end to the Iraq War."  That's an excerpt from Condon's piece.  And Gerry Condon didn't just resist during Vietnam and then turn his backs on others.  He's been there for war resisters of today including Kyle Snyder.  Snyder, after serving in Iraq, self-checked out and went to Canada.  In October 2006, he returned to the US to turn himself in on October 31st only to check back out when the military lied to him yet again.  Condon was there for Snyder.  And war resisters need even more support these days.  In the October 5th snapshot, we noted Brad McCall who was arrested when he tried to enter Canada September 19, 2007 (he got in on his second attempt).  McCall told Charlie Smith (Vancouver's Straight) that he was "driven to a jail in Surrey" and that, to the Canadian Border Services Agency, "I told them, 'Why are you playing the part of the hound dog for the U.S. army?'  They didn't know what to say.  They just started stuttering and mumbling."  Brad McCall isn't the only one that's happened to.  Andrew MacLeod (Canada's Monday Magazine) reports, "Four weeks ago an American soldier was jailed for two days while crossing from Washington State to B.C., says Michelle Robidoux, a WRSC organizer from Toronto who was visiting campaign supporters in Victoria this week.  Officials with the Canada Border Services Agency called his base, then encouraged him to go back.  Eventually he was allowed to make a refugee claim and enter Canada.  Then last week another soldier arrived at the border and was refused entry to Canada after an official called his base.  He was told he would never be allowed to return to Canada, says Robidoux. 'In both cases, the border guards called the military base where these fellows were stationed to consult the COs to see what their status was,' she says.  'These are things we believe the B.C. border guards are not entitled to do . . . People's military status in the United States should not be a concern for the border guards here'."  The Canada Border Services Agency refused to confirm to MacLeod whether this was a change in policy or the behaviors of individuals. 
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, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, 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, at least fifty 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." 
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Qadisiyah bombing that claimed the lives of 7 police officers "in Efach district 35 Kms south of Diwaniyah city" and a Jalawla bombing ("north of Baquba") claimed 1 life ("Kurdish security forces known as Bashmarga") with ten more injured.  KUNA reports, "An Iraqi soldier was killed and four others were wounded when a booby-trapped car exploded on Wednesday in the Diyala province north-east of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad."  AP reports that "a bomb exploded near a residential building in a predominately Shiite neighborhood of southeastern Baghdad.  Police say at least two Iraqi civilians died in that blast and two others were wounded."
DPA reports, "Two people were seriously injured Wednesday when US forces opened a fire in a street near the Wehda neighbourhood of southern Baghdad, independent Voices of Iraq news agency reported, citing a police source" while, in Baquba, a gunfire exchange left 1 person dead and a police officer wounded. And KUNA reports that "US and Iraqi forces stormed into Al-Sadr City in eastern Baghdad this morning . . . backed up by helicopters . . . targeting a house in Al-Sadr City."
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 4 corpses discovered in Baghdad.  Reuters notes the corpse of a police officer was discovered in Riyadh
The Age's report on an unnamed Australian soldier who was shot in Iraq of which little details are currently known -- though Prime Minister John Howard assures that the soldier will make a full recovery: "He will make a full recovery".  On Australia's ABC's PM, Daniel Hoare reported, "Details about the circumstances of the soldier's shooting are limited.  The Defence Force can only confirm that he was shot by a bullet coming from the opposite direction and it was a shot that most likely came from Iraqi insurgents. . . .   The soldier was involved in a routine patrol in Dhi Qar province, about 60 kilometres from the Australian military base at Camp Terendak.  The shooting happened at about midnight Iraqi time or five am on the Australian east coast.  The soldier was given emergency first aid treatment and evacuated by US helicopter to a nearby hospital at Tallil."
Meanwhile Reuters notes: "One U.S. soldier was killed by small arms fire while conducting a raid south of Baghdad on Sunday, the US military said."
Turning to the issue of continued tensions between Turkey and Iraq.  Chip Cummins and Russel Gold (Wall St. Journal) note, "Oil prices set record highs for the third straight trading day as tensions ramped up in Iraq, in the latest sign that the messy aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion four years ago continues to haunt petroleum markets.  Fears that Turkey might invade the Kurdish area of Iraq sent crude-oil futures prices climbing $1.48 to $87.61 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, an exchange record, though oil remains shy of the inflation-adjusted record of more than $101 a barrel set in April 1980."  Steve Gelsi (Market Watch) reveals that "legendary oil man T. Boone Pickens said he expects the price of oil to hit $100 a barrel within a year."  Kirk Shinkle (Investor's Business Daily) offers,  "Given the shaky state of the U.S. economy, record oil prices could be taken as a harbinger of a coming recession. . . .  Sluggish U.S. economic growth hasn't kept oil prices from rising this time.  America, while still the largest consumer of crude oil by far, no longer accounts for the biggest share in energy demand.  China will account for 29% of the rise in global oil use, the Energy Information Administration estimates.  That's almost double America's 15.3%."  Elaine Frei (Oil Marketer) notes that "crude oil prices finally slowed on Wednesday" but not before West Texas Intermediate crude "peaked at a new record of $89 per barrel earlier in the session on the news that the Turkish Parliament had approved a measure to allow Turkish troops to cross the border with Iraq to fight the Kurds there."  Yes, the measure was approved.  Yesim Borg (Los Angeles Times) reports, "Turkey's parliament today overwhelmingly approved a government request to launch cross-border raids into northern Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish separatists.  Ignoring the pleas from Washington, Baghdad and other foreign capitals to refrain from actions that could inflame the region, Turkish lawmakers granted the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan permission to send counter-terrorism troops into Iraq at any time during the next year.  The vote was 507 in favor to 19 against, with most of those opposing votes coming from Kurdish members of parliament.  Lawmakers broke into applause when the widely expected results were announced."  As the tensions flare between Iraq and Turkey, they also flare over this issue within Iraq.  Steven R. Hurst (AP) informs, "Sami al-Askari, a close al-Maliki aide, complained in an interview with the U.S.-funded Radio Sawa that leaders of the autonomous Kurdish region only acknowledge they are part of Iraq when they need the central government to come to their rescue.  'They consider that whatever goes on in their region is a Kurdish affair, but when they face a crisis they remember they belong to the country and are part of the Iraqi government that should defend them,' he said."  The PKK, labeled a terrorist organization by the US, is a Kurdish seperatist movement in Turkey.  If not embraced, they've not been pushed away in northern Iraq which is a heavily Kurdish region.  The Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq favor splitting off from a national Iraqi government which may explain some of the remarks made by al-Maliki's aide.  CBS and AP cites Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declaring, "The passage of the motion in parliament does not mean that an operation will be carried out at once.  Turkey will act with common sense and determination when necessary and when the time is ripe."  Nico Hines and Jenny Booth (Times of London) report, "The Turkish Government's invasion threat has caused alarm in Baghdad.  The Iraqi Government held a crisis cabinet meeting last night, and decided to send a high-level political and security delegation to Turkey to seek a diplomatic solution" and that "Brent Scowcroft, a former US National Security Council adviser, blamed Washington for failing to do enough to address Turkish concerns about the PKK."  Meanwhile, Iraq's president Jalal Talabani does nothing of importance or weight -- continuing to send the impression that he supports or tolerates the PKK and their presence in northern Iraq.  Al Jazeera notes, "In a telephone conversation on Wednesday, Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister, told Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his Turkish counterpart, that Baghdad was 'absolutely determined' to end the presence of Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq.  He assured Erdogan that he had given orders to the autonomous Kurdish administration in northern Iraq to take action against the PKK."  KUNA offers, "The military move will be inevitable in case the United States and Iraq fail to neutralize the Kurd separatists in the northern Iraqi semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan."
In mercenary news, Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) notes, "The New York Times is reporting the Pentagon and the State Department are clashing over a proposal that would bring all private security companies like Blackwater USA under military oversight. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is said to be pushing for Pentagon control following Blackwater's killing of at least seventeen Iraqi civilians in Baghdad last month. The State Department currently employs Blackwater to guard high-level U.S. officials in Iraq. It remains unclear if Blackwater contractors would be subject to military law under the proposal."  Meanwhile AP reports that the United Nations is looking into the mercenary issue and has sent "experts" into "Honduras, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Fiji over the past 14 months to look into recruiting and trainign practices by the private contractors. . . .  Gomez del Prado said that he knew Blackwater had recruited soldiers and ex-soldiers from Chile and that the security companies in general had hired recruits from all over the world".
Turning to peace news, Sharon Smith (at CounterPunch) notes the Democrats refusal to utilize their "congressional majority . . . toward fulfilling the campaign promises that won them votes from the antiwar majority last November.  If anything, they have accomplished less than nothing, since their rubber-stamping of Bush's troops surge last January raised the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to more than 160,000 for the foreseeable future."  Noting the disgraces of US Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's public attacks/whines on/about peace activists, Smith turns an eye to United for Peace and Justice which she feels "remains undeterred from maintaining its amicable relationships with Democrats, however miserably that strategy failed in 2004 when pro-war neoliberal candidate John Kerry was the party's anointed candidate. . . . Given that most states have joined in the rush for early primaries, the Democrats' corporate-backed nominee should be in place by the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2008.  If past pracitice is any indication, UFPJ can be expected to go into hibernation to weather the contradications of the coming election, as it did in 2004, to the detriment of the anti-war movement.  UFPJ has called for regional antiwar mobilizations on October 27 -- an anticlimatic date, since it follows Congress' recent debate (and approval) of war funding.  Yet UFPJ promises the protests will show the 'breadth and depth of antiwar sentiment' across the U.S.  But organizers for the Midwest regional protest, to be held in Chicago, boast on their website that invited guest speakers include Obama, Senator Richard Durbin and Mayor Richard Daley.  This list of elected officials came as a surprise to many local antiwar activists and endorsers who were not privy to the information before it was posted publicly.  CodePINK's Chicago coordinator asked pointedly, 'The stated rationale for inviting Senator Obama to speak is that he is our Senator.  We're mobilizing the Midwest, right?  Is Ohio in the Midwest?  Representative Kucinich is not listed as a potential speaker despite his stellar anti-war position.  Presidential politics here?"  Some organizations (including the 8th Day Center for Justice, the International Solidarity Movement and the International Socialist Organization) revoked their endorsements, while Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) has called for an [anti-]imperialist feeder march."  Daley was re-elected in February of this year, however, Durbin is up for re-election and Obama is running for the Democratic presidential nomanation.  Dennis Kucinich, who is running for both the presidential nomination and his House seat, apparently made the mistake of being too strongly in favor of peace for the rally?  United For Peace and Justice is terming the activities a "NATIONAL MOBILIATION," a "FALL OUT AGAINST THE WAR" and "11 Massive Demostrations for Peace."  UFPJ is an umbrella organization (coalition) made up of smaller groups.  At the start of last month, we wrote "How Not To Stage A Rally" (The Third Estate Sunday Review) detailing what was billed as a public event but apparently was nothing but a private party desperate for public speakers and noted, "We strongly urge all groups and speakers not to participate with any event where the organizers cannot provide you (in writing) with their to-do lists to get attention for the event."  That non-event wasn't a United for Peace and Justice but the events Smith's listing are not planned nationally (meaning the UFPJ steering committee presumably has no say in the planning). Should UFPJ be promoting them?  In the case of the Chicago event, no.  If politicians are needed up on stage (don't they already have platforms?), it should be because they've actively worked to end the illegal war.  That is not the case with Durbin or the alleged anti-war candidate Obama (who, while campaigning for the Senate in 2004, made clear he didn't support withdrawal).  If it's some sort of equal time argument that argument would only apply if Dennis Kucinich were included.  Then the (weak) argument would be that Kucinich is running for re-election (as is Durbin) and for the Democratic presidential nomination (as is Obama) so inviting Kucinich means inviting the other two (and more).  But Kucinich isn't invited and United for Peace and Justice should not be promoting the event as a result. UFPJ is structured to support the power of local grassroots but, as with the DFW non-event, some local groups really can't get their act together. [And I don't need a whiney e-mail from Charlie Jackson on this issue.  We addressed his whine in "Roundtable" (The Third Estate Sunday Review).  Take accountability for your inactions.  Your organization was contacted by community members and they were all blown off.]  When that is the case, promoting them does the peace movement no good.
On the subject of Students for a Democratic Society,  SDS is "calling for SDS chapters and members to join us in supporting the mobilizations of the October Rebellion and No War No Warming.  The October Rebellion is a locally organized mass mobilization targeting the meetings of the World Bank and IMF, running from Friday, October 19 to Sunday, October 22.  It includes a massive and well-supported unpermitted march on the financial and shopping center of Washington, DC-Georgetown -- as well as a series of teach-ins and rallies on issues ranging from the gentrification of urban America to immigrant rights and shutting down the World Bank and IMF."  Click here for more information.
Staying on the topic of peace.  Yesterday, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) interviewed Yoko Onon about the Imagine Peace Tower, other activism, art and much more.  Today, Goodman (via Truthdig) explores the legacies left behind and the ugly legacies resurfacing (such as illegal spying on citizens by the US government):
John Lennon would have turned 67 years old last week had he not been murdered in 1980, at the age of 40, by a mentally disturbed fan. On his birthday, Oct. 9, his widow, peace activist and artist Yoko Ono, realized a dream they shared. In Iceland, she inaugurated the Imagine Peace Tower, a pillar of light emerging from a wishing well, surrounded on the ground by the phrase "Imagine Peace" in 24 languages.
The legacy of Lennon is relevant now more than ever. The Nixon administration spied on him and tried to deport him, all because he opposed the war in Vietnam. Parallel details of the Bush administration's warrantless wiretap program and the Pentagon's participation in domestic spying, with mass roundups of immigrants, are chilling, and the lessons vital.
Ono conceived the peace tower 40 years ago, at the outset of her relationship with Lennon. She grew up in Japan, surviving the firebombing of Tokyo. She told me, "Because of that memory of what I went through in the Second World War, it is embedded in me how terrible it is to go through war."

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