Thursday, October 18, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, tensions continue between Turkey and Iraq, Mother Jones tries 'humor,' and more.
Starting with war resistance. Tomorrow is Iraq Moratorium day and many participating will be supporting a war resister. As Bill Simpich (East Bay Indymedia) notes, "A signature event for the Iraq Moratorium nationally this month is solidarity with Lt. Ehren Watada, who is facing a second trial in Tacoma, Washington for refusing to fight in the Iraq war. On October 19, federal judge Benjamin Settle will be determining if Lt. Watada must endure a second trial in the next few weeks, or whether double jeopardy may bar his case from going any further. Between 5-6 pm [in the Bay area, see the calendar of iraqmoratorium-sfbay.org.], Jack Hirschman, poet laureate of San Francisco, will be reading poetry in front of Sen. Feinstein's office at Post and Market (right near Montgomery BART). Members of the Watada Support Committee will also be addressing Lt. Watada's latest battle for freedom and to stop this illegal war." Iraq Moratorium is tomorrow and every third Friday of the month; in addition, they have also had a presidential candidate sign on, former US Senator and 2008 Democratic presidential hopeful Mike Gravel.
Again, that is tomorrow. Today Vietnam war resister Gerry Condon (Project Safe Haven) will be speaking in Newport, Oregon. The Newport News reports "a potluck dinner" starts at 5;30 this evening, then a showing of Michelle Mason's documentary Breaking Ranks and a presentation by Condon at the Newport Visual Arts Center, 777 NW Beach Dr. Condon is quoted declaring, "It's really tragic that our nation has been dragged into another unjust, unnecessary and unwinnable war. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed for no good reason. This war violates the Nuremberg Principles, the Geneva Conventions on War, the UN Charter, and U.S. law. Those who refuse to be part of this illegal war should not be punished for obeying international law and following their own consciences. U.S. soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen are seeking to remain in Canada as political refugees. The Supreme Court of Canada is expected to make a landmark ruling on their status in November. . . . Iraq War resisters are getting a lot of love and support from the Canadian people. Now it's time for people in the U.S. to step up to the plate."
Today Gerry Condon's speaking, tomorrow show support for Watada and on Saturday, war resister Camilo Mejia addresses the national conference of the Campus Antiwar Network being held at the University of Wisconsin Madison. IVAW member, co-founder of the Madison Chapter of IVAW and CAN member Todd Dennis (The Badger Herald) writes about Mejia's brave stand and how the mood has changed since then, "While Mr. Mejia was in jail, eight Iraq veterans formed Iraq Veterans Against the War in August 2004. Mr. Mejia was elected to become the chair of the board at IVAW's annual convention this past August. This weekend, CAN will be having its national conference, and Mr. Mejia will be the headling speaker. Everyone is invited to hear him talk about his experiences in Iraq and about being a member of both IVAW and CAN this Saturday at 8 p.m. in 3650 Humanities."
Meanwhile Robert Parry (Consortium News) notes the difference in reception when service members speak out against the war as opposed to non-think tankers, "Last summer when two pro-Iraq War pundits returned from a Pentagon-guided tour of Iraq, the New York Times gave them prime op-ed space to re-invent themselves as harsh war critics who had been won over by George W. Bush's 'surge.' . . . By contrast, a few weeks later, the Times editors buried a report by seven U.S. non-commissioned officers who were on 15-month tours in Iraq and offered a more negative assessment. The Times' editors stuck their account, entitled 'The War as We Saw It,' at the back of the Aug. 19 'Week in Review' section. . . . Now, senior Washington Post editors, who have been major Iraq War enthusiasts from the beginning, have given even more dismissive treatment to an anti-war op-ed written by 12 former Army captains who served in Iraq. On Oct. 16, the fifth anniversary of Bush's authorization to use force in Iraq, the Post's editors accepted the article from the captains but did not deign to publish it on the newspaper's influential op-ed page. The article, entitled 'The Real Iraq We Knew,' was consigned to the Post's Web site." Parry reprints the column in full and, just to be clear, "The War as We Saw It" did get attention from the paper -- after they discovered two of seven had just died that week. At which point, Times' management was suddenly available to the press to give quotes about . . . Well, not about people they knew. But about an op-ed they ran. Prior to that, the Times gave it no build up and running it on Sunday is not build up before someone decides to disagree with Parry. Yes, the Sunday edition of the paper has the largest circulation. People buy it for various sections and do not read all of them. For those interested in news, Sunday is the weakest day because they put the paper to bed early (strange that newspapers don't want to address that while addressing every over imagained techonological breakthrough). The 12 who wrote the column that the Washington Post didn't print are Jason Blindauer, Elizabeth Bostwick, Jeffrey Bouldin, Jason Bugajski, Anton Kemps, Kristy (Luken) McCormick, Luis Carlos Montalvan, William Murphy, Josh Rizzo, William "Jamie" Ruehl, Gregg Tharp and Gary Williams.
Robert Przybyski may or may not be a war resister. But, as John Vandiver (Stars and Stripes) notes, it is known that he has been missing from his base in Germany "for more than a week" and that he "was recently named a company commander within the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division. The 2-6 is deploying to Iraq along with the rest of the 2nd Brigade next March." Vandiver notes that the military released his name to the media but has refused to release a photo and has not "said whether there are any leads in the case or if it is thought that foul play could be a factor."
What also is known is that there is a military recruiting center in Berkeley and Jessica Kwong (The Daily Californian) reports, "The City Council plans to voice its disapproval of the center's mission through its Peace and Justice Commission, which is spearheading a proposal to make Berkeley a sanctuary for officers who choose not to serve in the Iraq conflict, meaning the city would not assist in locating or prosecuting war resisters." Commission chair Steve Freedkin explains, "There's a growing number of the military and members of the armed forces who are seeing that the Iraq war is immoral. As we saw in Vietnam, when there starts to be a strong opposition in the military, it has a huge impact on public policy."
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 now to some of today's violence . . .
Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing that claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier (three more injured), a Hawija car bombing left eight people wounded, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the lives of 3 people (two police officers, 1 civilian) and a grenade thrown into a Basra high school left five students injured. CBS and AP note the school is "a private middle- and high-school complex in the Kut al-Hajaj are of Basra" and that the number wounded s six. Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that injured one police officer "and two civilians" and an Al Sibaghiyah roadside bombing that claimed the life of Muayad Abdullah.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports: "Iraqi police accused U.S. military of shooting randomly in an intersection in Al Bunouk area in Baghdad. Iraqi police said five civilians were injured" "Iraqi police said American military shot and killed 3 men and one woman and injured one woman in their car on a road near Beiji city north of Baghdad"
Reuters notes that "three tribesmen, members of a local 'Awakenings Council' aligned to U.S. forces" were whot dead in Dhuluiya. On Tuesday, Sheikh Saleh Fezea Shneitar, his son and nephew were killed outside of Falluja -- the sheikh was a member of "Anbar Awakenings Council," a group that works closely with the US military and whose members have been increasingly targeted for their collaboration. In a White House press conference today Nouri al-Maliki's spokesperson denied that the resistance was "getting more sophisticated in who they go after". And in another incident of mercenaries killing civilians, AFP reports, "Guards from a British security firm fired on a taxi in Iraq on Thursday wounding three civilians, police said, in a shooting that will put new pressure on the government to rein in private contractors. A woman journalist was among the casualties when the guards opened fire after the taxi approached their convoy near the northern oil city of Kirkuk, police said."
Reuters reports 5 corpses discovered in Baghdad. Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse found in Dour and "a chopped head" was discovered in Al Hawija.
Turning to the continued tensions between Turkey and Iraq. Yesim Borg (Los Angeles Times) reminds that the Turkish parliament passed the measure approving sending forces into Iraq on a vote of "507 to 19, with most of the opposing votes coming from Kurdish members of the parliament. Lwasmakers broke into applause when the results were announced. . . . The government is hoping the threat will pressure Iraqi and U.S. forces to act against guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, who have been attacking Turkish targets from bases in northern Iraq's Kurdistan autonomous region." The reaction in the northern region of Iraq was far from jubilant. Yahya Barzanji (AP) reports that over 5,000 people turned out to march and wave "the sunshine flag of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region and shouted slogans and songs praising Kurdish nationality". Kurdish nationality is what the PKK supports as well. They believe a region of what is currently Turkey should be a Kurdistan region, governed by Kurds. This is why the northern region has been tolerant of the PKK being in Iraq. This isn't a minor or new development. The PKK goes back to the early seventies and has been battling within Turkey since at least 1984. Whether someone agrees with the aims of the PKK or not, the point here is that the US (which as designated the PKK a terrorist group) knew about the long standing tensions long before Bully Boy declared his illegal war of choice. Having set the Kurds up on a higher level than the Sunni or Shia, the US made a decision to ignore many things including Turkey's pre-war warnings and Turkey's repeated warnings over the last few years. That's an important point. Deborah Haynes (Times of London) reports on the rallies and notes Renas Jano ("President of the Kurdistan Students' Union) "like many others was prepared to fight for his freedom alongside the Kurdish region's Peshmerga security force if Turkey did cross the border" and Nasser Ali (a teacher) who declares, "We are ready to defend our land." The Turkish Daily News explains, "Observers in Ankara say that an operation is not likely to be conducted before late November. Turkey will host an international summit on Iraq with the participation of the United States, G-8 countries and Iraq's neighbors early in November. Erdogan plans to visit the President of the United States George W. Bush in Washington mid November."
Sebnem Arsu and Sabrina Tavernise (New York Times) report Bully Boy's remarks: "We are making it very clear to Turkey that we don't think it is in their interests to send troops into Iraq. There's a better way to deal with the issue than having the Turks send massive troops into the country." Of course, it wasn't in the US interest to send troops into Iraq and, of course, there were better ways to deal with 'the issue' than the US sending massive troops into Iraq. But as Bully Boy makes his repeated pleas for patience and peace, it needs to be noted that the tensions didn't just emerge and that the White House was fully aware of the tensions before the start of the Iraq War.
AFP reports that throughout Iraq the reaction was "mixed" and "revealed the conflicting agendas of the central government in Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish administration in the north." AFP notes puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki's reaction ("a flurry of conciliatory statements") and contrasts it with the responses in the north: "Compare this with the reaction of Iraqi Kurd leaders who have warned against making any concessions in the face of Ankara's threats." AFP provides the back story, "For all Maliki's talk of action, the situation on the ground means his options are limited: the Iraqi army is not deployed on the Turkish border, nor even in the region, which is controlled by Iraqi Kurdish fighters or peshmergas. Since it was placed under the protection of the United States in 1991, after the Gulf War, the province of Kurdistan has distanced itself more and more from Iraq's central government. After the fall of Saddam in 2003 and the passage of a constitution guaranteeing its autonomy in 2005, it has followed its own course of economic, social and political develpment." In a later report, AFP notes, "The Kurdish adminstration of northern Iraq, accused by Ankara of tolerating and even aiding the PKK, called for direct negotiations with Turkey as thousands of Iraqi Kurds took to the streets to protest against the Turkish threats." BBC notes that Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's Foreign Minister, has issued a request that the PKK "leave the north of the country as soon as possible." If that sounds weak, it is. The BBC forgets to note that Zebari is a Kurd. On Tuesday, Iraq's Sunni vice-president, Tariq al-Hashimi, visited Turkey. Today CNN reports that Iraqi president Jalal Talbani hails that visit as successful and doesn't "believe that there is an imminent Turkish attack into northern Iraq and I hope that it will not happen." Talbani is a Kurd and he has done nothing to avert the tensions. He is now in Paris and prior to that was spotted browsing bookstores in the US (no, that's not a joke, he was here to visit the Mayo Clinic). As Talbani continues his travels, the reality of what has Bully Boy worried comes via the foreign press. Alex Spillius (Telegraph of London) informs that the US government is worried that Turkey might deny the US "access to Incirclik air base" that act as a route for the US to both Iraq and Afghanistan and that, "The United States is looking for alternative ways to supply its troops in Iraq in case Turkey closes its borders in protest at a perceived snub by Washington. A Pentagon official said: 'There is planning going on,' adding that there would be 'serious operational impacts' if the Turks chose to obstruct US equipment." And today at the White House, al-Maliki's spokesperson was asked, "Iraqi Kurdistan is very much autonomous and there is in the Iraqi Kurdistan a lot of support for the PKK. So how do you intend to make good on your promises to ban all PKK activities?" al-Dabbagh replied at length but summed up with this on the Kurds in northern Iraq, "They had declared that they don't provide any support for them, but the natural feeling, which is that they are at the end, Kurds, and it is one race, so naturally they do feel sympathy with their brothers in Turkey."
Turning to the mercenaries. As noted earlier a British group of mercenaries has now fired on Iraqi civilians. Al Jazeera notes, "Blackwater USA, whose security forces were involved in the fatal shooting of civilians in Iraq last month, will leave the country once its contract to escort US diplomats expires in May, US officials say. But the company will not be fired, the officials said following a state department review of private firms providing such services in Iraq." Today Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) addressed the issue of Blackwater with the Center for Constitutional Rights president Michael Ratner who explained, "You see what you said in the earlier part of the program that the State Department is considering not renewing the contract. I think Blackwater is considering not even applying, because they know they're not going to get it. And then, of course, when he says they're doing their job, yeah, if their job is to terrorize the Iraqi population, they're doing their job." Thursday last week, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) broke the news that the Center for Constitutional Rights was filing a lawsuit against Blackwater over their slaughter of civilians in Baghdad September 16th (see "EXCLUSIVE - Family Members of Slain Iraqis Sue Blackwater USA for Deadly Baghdad Shooting"). Goodman asked Ratner today about Erik Prince (mainstream press darling) taking to the airwaves Sunday in an attempt to smear CCR and Ratner responded, "Well, obviously, I mean, this is like a transparent attempt to try and divert attention from Blackwater's actions, particularly in the September killings, where there's many, many witnesses and much evidence that basically says no one fired on Blackwater, Blackwater just fired and killed seventeen people. So that's an obvious attempt. It's barely worthy of a response, because that's all that's going on. Although the killing of the two FBI agents is important to bring out, because what he's speaking of there is the man who's in prison right now, Leonard Peltier, for those two killings at the reservation in South Dakota, and that man is unjustly -- that Indian man is unjustly in that prison. And so, that's a case that particularly is galling, because you have this Indian leader who's been unjustly imprisoned for twenty-five years." Ratner is also a co-host -- along with Heidi Boghosian, Dalia Hashad and Michael Smith -- of WBAI's Law and Disorder -- which also airs online and on other radio stations across the US. Mike covered the live special on WBAI Monday which included Naomi Wolf who rightly noted, "History also shows that bullies are cowards." IVAW's Jen Hogg, a war resister who left the military due to the illegal war, reveals the spin mercenaries recruit with such as "starting at $80,000 or more per year. We offer FULLY PAID benefits including 401K, life insurance, paid housing, paid meals, health, dental, and more. . . . All of our jobs are on civilian bases guarded by the military and are in the safe environments in Iraq." The reality of mercenaries, as Hogg notes, is: "If there is an unpopular war there is no need to worry, we can just hire a shadow army to pick up the slack and keep it out of the public's eyes." At the White House today, a press briefing was held by White House spokesperson Dana Perino and Nouri al-Maliki's spokesperson Dr. Ali Al-Dabbagh. Perino explained she had to "scoot" but hung around long enough to attempt to draw a line between "permanent bases" built in Iraq and "facilities" (when pressed on the difference, Perino begged off with, "Well they're working on all those details"). On the issue of Blackwater, Dr. al-Dabbagh declared, "We would like that the Blackwater to leave Iraq. This is at the end, is their position, is the State Department position. But there is anger, there is great anger among the Iraqis against the Blackwater. They should be held accountable. This is what Iraqi government needs. It's a crime, what they did in Baghdad. We have declared it. It's a crime and they should be kept to justice whether in Baghdad or United States. . . . We do need all the security companies to be liable and questionable and subject to accountability. No country in the world allows security companies to work in the way which they are working here in Iraq. Definitely that we do understand that they are -- they did good job for protection -- diplomat and immune from any questiong of -- from any accountability. That is what Iraqi government is working in order to keep them accountable."
Accountability for the Bully Boy still hasn't arrived. But one he claimed to have peered into the soul of is now taking potshots at the Bully Boy. AP reports, "President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that the U.S. war in Iraq was a 'pointless' battle against the Iraqi people, the latest jab at Washington from the increasingly confrontational Russian leader." And Reuters reports Putin also declared there should be an announced withdrawal date of US forces from Iraq. This comes as James Glanz (New York Times) reports that Iraq is closer to the country that the US government continues to whisper is funding the resistance (but the US has no proof), "Iraq has agreed to award $1.1 billion in contracts to Iranian and Chinese companies to build a pair of enormous power plants, the Iraqi electricity minister said Tuesday. Word of the project prompted serious concerns among American military officials, who fear that Iranian commercial investments can mask military activities at a time of heightened tension with Iran." And in other bad news for the US, the p.r. blitz by US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is falling apart. Despite the realities of the large rift between the US and the United Kingdom's governments over the decision to begin pulling British soldiers out of Basra -- the well reported realities -- Gates attempted to push the notion that the US government was for it all along. Kim Sengupta and Anne Penketh (Independent of London) report, "British forces were prevented from pulling out of their last base in Basra City for five months because the Americans refused to move their consulate, according to senior military sources."
In other reality news, Mark Seibel (McClatchy Newspapers) reports on the (US) Office of Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction which "said that poor security prevents U.S. and coalition civilian officials from meeting with many of their Iraqi counterparts, yet Iranians can travel unmolested in the region." AP notes on the report, "Teaching local officials in Iraq to govern themselves and provide their citizens with basic services will take 'years of steady engagement'." Meanwhile Mother Jones wonders "U.S. Out How? Introduction" which wrongly claims the Pottery Barn has a you-break-it-you-buy-it policy (they do not, Colin Powell was wrong) and argues, "Bush broke it. We own it." Which is so filled with xenophobia you'd expect it from The National Review and not Mother Jones. No American "owns" Iraq. If you come over to my home and burn it down, accidentally or intentionally, you do not "own" my home or the land it was on. You do "owe" me. The idea that a nation inhabited by millions could be "owned" by a foreign country (that would be the US) is insulting and it's appalling that Mother Jones wants to be so glib. (Hopefully, they were being glib. If not, they are being xenophobic.)
In the real world (where it's not 2004 and such crap doesn't fly), Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) interviews Molly Bingham and Steve Connors about their documentary Meeting Resistance:
AMY GOODMAN: Our guests are Molly Bingham and Steve Connors -- Molly, a US journalist; Steve Connors, a British journalist. They co-directed this new film that's opening in Washington, D.C. and in New York this weekend called Meeting Resistance. When you were interviewing these people, the resistance fighters, Molly, did they tell you when they were about to attack something? I mean, you had footage of actual explosions.
MOLLY BINGHAM: Actually, that footage of explosions came from us working as journalists the way everyone else was in Baghdad. We responded to bombings that we heard around the city in a way everyone else did. When we were interviewing the Iraqis and the one Syrian who were engaged in the insurgency, we actually specifically didn't ask about tomorrow or this afternoon. We didn't go out on bombing attacks with them for quite a few reasons, but the most important of which, I think, is that the film is really about who they are and what their backgrounds are and what their motivation is. You can see the consequences of their actions every day on the news. And we just thought, given how complicated it was ethically in this particular conflict, I think quite unfairly, to be seen to be talking with the other side, we thought that having -- if we had gone out with them on attacks, it would have overridden the entire understanding that we had come to by interviewing them and understanding who they are.
STEVE CONNORS: Could I just add to that? We were invited to go out with them. You know, they said, "Do you want to come out with us while we're attacking Americans?" And, you know, I don't have the same ethical problems, in many ways, as Molly does, you know, because she's an American and I'm not. But, ultimately, the decision came down to one thing, which was there was some important information in this film, and we didn't want to lose that to this criticism of us going out on attacks, which I've done in ten conflicts, gone out on attacks with both sides. It's not, you know -- for most journalists, it's not a big deal.
In the interview, Goodman brings up "Home from Iraq," a speech Bingham gave that was turned into a column in May of 2005. Common Dreams has it archived.
Closing with TV. Sunday on CBS' 60 Minutes, Valerie Plame shares her story with Katie Couric. On Friday, PBS's NOW with David Brancaccio looks at immigration in America and "catches up with two New Jersey mayors who have sharply different -- and politically surprising -- approaches to dealing with undocumented immigrants in their communities" -- Democrat Don Cresitello (Morristown) wants to use federal enforcement powers, Republican Bob Patten has created "Sanctuary City". (Friday on most PBS stations, check local listings).
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