Friday, October 19, 2007, Iraq Moratorium Day. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces two more deaths, Amy Goodman shines a light on the Iraqi wounded, and more.
Starting with war resistance. War resister Camilo Mejia speaks Saturday in Madison, Wisconsin. Janet Parker (The Capital Times) notes, "This weekend at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, energy is building among student activists who are hosting a national event, Students Rising: The 5th Anniversary Summit of the Campus Antiwar Network. Their featured speaker will be brave conscientious objector to war, Camilo Mejia. In 2004 Staff Sgt. Mejia applied for a discharge from the Army. He was the first known Iraq veteran to refuse to fight, citing moral concerns about the war and occupation. His public talk will be in the Humanities Building, Room 3650, at 8 p.m. Saturday." Pablo Paredes is another war resister. On Wednesday, he was in Berkeley with CODEPINK and other activists to protest the recruiting center on Shattuck Ave. Henry K. Lee (San Francisco Chronicle) reports on the right wing activists descending upon the area to demonstrate their support for recruiting centers to send more people off to die in an illegal war and points out one right winger made a fool out of himself. The right-winger's son died in Iraq (this isn't in the article) and -- the then under-age son was able to join the military only because he signed a waiver. Instead of addressing that, he elected to scream at Pablo Paredes, "Are you a soldier? They wouldn't let you looking like that!" A soldier? Paredes was in the navy and was a Petty Officer Third Class. Lee writes, "Paredes said later that he had served five years in the Navy and that people of color like himself bore the brunt of military service. 'I think the color of my skin shouldn't make me be on the front line,' Paredes said, adding that he left the Navy because he refused orders and opposed the war in Iraq." Along with Mejia, Stephen Funk and Aiden Delgado, Paredes is one of the early faces of war resistance and they -- and many others including Carl Webb -- demonstrated from the start that the movement was not "White" -- despite the mistaken claims of many.
Demonstrating further the diversity is the fact that one Iraq War resister is the first officer to publicy refuse to serve in the illegal war. That officer is Ehren Watada. Today is Iraq Moratorium day and many participants will be showing their solidarity with Watada whose legal status is on hold as federal judge Benjamin Settle reviews issues arising from the first court-martial of Watada (in February) when Judge Toilet (aka John Head) declared a mistrial over defense objection which should have prevented any further court-martials due to the double-jeopardy clause in the US Constitution. In a letter to People's Weekly World entitled "Watada's Leadership," T. Kyoshi Nagano explains how Watada's refusal to engage in an illegal war was upholding the highest of military standards by juxtaposing Watada's statements with those of US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
Watada: "I refuse to be silent any longer. I refuse to be party to an illegal and immoral war against people who did nothing to deserve our agression. My oath of office is to protect and defend America's laws and its people. By refusing unlawful orders for an illegal war, I fulfill that oath today."
Gates: "For a real leader, the elements of personal virtue -- self-reliance, self-control, honor, truthfulness, morality -- are absolute. They are absolute even when doing what is right may bring embarrassment or bad publicy to your unit or the service or to you. Those are the moements that will truly test the leader withing you -- test whether you will take the hard parth or the easy path, the wrong path or the right path. The willingness always to take the right path, even if it is the hard path, is called character. In every aspect of your life, whether personal or professional, you must always maintain the courage of your convictions -- your personal integrity."
T, Kyoshi Nagano observes, "There is a tradition in the Japanese American community to act on personal belief from volunteer 442/Nisei Linguist (while their family and friends were in camps), the NoNo Boys and the Vietnam War resisters. There are words, yet actions speak loudly." While the federal court examines the issue of double-jeopardy, a stay has been issued through at least October 26th.
New war resisters pop up daily and some go public and some don't. One who has decided to go public is Michael Espinal who self-checked out and went to Canada after serving in Iraq. Denis St. Pierre (The Sudbury Star) reports that Espinal "witnessed -- and participated in -- authorized missions that saw hundreds -- perhaps thousands of innocent Iraqis killed, injured, imprisoned and humiliated, their homes destroyed, their families ripped apart. In Espinal's view, he and his colleagues committed numerous human rights abuses and criminal acts. When his first tour of duy in Iraq ended, he resolved not to return. . . . Espinal and his partner, Jennifer Harrison, who are expecting their first child in April, have been living in Sudbury for the last few weeks. They are the first Americans to attempt to settle in the city with the help from the War Resisters Support Campaign. War Resisters is a country-wide coalition of community, faith, labour and other organizations and individuals helping U.S. soldiers who seek asylum in Canada rather than fight in Iraq." [Note: They are posting video to go with the text. If you click on the link try later. There's also an excerpt of the article in this entry.]
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."
Each Wednesday, CODEPINK protests at the military recruiting center in Berkeley. As Medea Benjamin explained to Kristin Bender (Alameda Times-Star), "Our message is very clear. We are peaceful people. We don't want to send our sons and daughters into this war. I think the sentiment of Berkeley is on this side of the street." Bender notes, "The Golden State in 2001 was the nation's largest source of new enlistees, with 23,503 residents joining the military in 2001. But in 2006, 2,400 fewer residents heeded the call, and today California ranks second behind Texas in recruitment." Aimee Allison and David Solnit address counter-recruiting in their book Army Of None: Strategies to Counter Military Recruitment, End War, and Build a Better World (published by Seven Stories Press and available at Courage to Resist). Speaking with Matthew Rothschild last week on The Progressive Radio, Allison noted, "One of the things that I think the military recruiters on the ground rely on are sustained access, regular access to high school kids in particular so they can develop relationships. For the recruiter, they become father or friend or guide and take students out to Burger King and, you know. But of all of the messages that they learn, that recruiters learn, through their hard sell and sustained selling techniques, they never mention the word 'kill.' And the reason why is because it's very deeply ingrained in human beings not to kill. And we've all had these kind of, someone makes us mad and there's a reason we don't act on that because our church, and our family and our society condition us against that kind of violence. So it's the center of the recruiters' message to tell them all the things they can do with their life without letting them know about what the military really is and that is an institution designed to train someone to kill on command and that was the most surprising thing for me in my own experiences." CODEPINK's actions (and the actions of many others throughout the US) are an attempt to break the myths and silence.
A backdoor draft currently exists and is more popularly known as "stop loss." In addition, the US government has set up the framework that would be utilized should the draft be reinstated -- including Selective Service boards. Kyle Knight (University of Southern Indiana's The Shield) explores what would quickly happen if the draft were reinstated, "First, all 20 year-olds must report to their local draft board then 21, 22, and so on. Other aspects of the draft also differ from Vietnam. The S.S.S. states that no one can cite school as a possible deferment. At most, the student could postpone until the end of the semester and not until they finish their degree. The S.S.S. states 'beliefs which qualify a registrant for C.O. status may be religious in nature, but don't have to be. Beliefs may be moral or ethical; however, a man's reasons for not wanting to participate in a war must not be based on politics, expediency, or self-interest.' To claim conscientious objector you must appear before your local draft board and present a written statement on the influence of your beliefs on your life and how you arrived at them. You can even include someone to speak on your behalf, then the Selective Service Appeal Board will either reject or accept your claim. If accepted you must engage in one of two alternative service choices."
From yesterday's snapshot: "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'." Today, Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) explores the issue of collaborators zooming in on Abdul Sattar Abu Risha who was killed on September 13th, "It is no secret in Anbar province that Abu Risha's activities were not legal either before or after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. When the U.S. government began to support the 'Awakening of Anbar' led by Sattar Abu Risha, which operated under the flag of fighting al-Qaeda [in Iraq], some people did begin to think differently. 'Americans always choose the worst of their collaborators to be leaders of their campaigns,' Sheikh Ahmed Ali of the Muslim Scholars Association told IPS in Baghdad. 'Look at the governments and councils they choose to lead Iraq. This Sattar Abu Risha only provoked a division among the people of Anbar, and that was exactly what the Americans wanted'."
In some of today's reported violence . . .
Reuters notes a Baghdad mortar attack that left three wounded.
Reuters notes an attack on a Riyadh police chief that left two guards injured.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 6 corpses were discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes two corpses were discovered in Muwailha.
Today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier was killed and one other wounded when their unit was attacked by an improvised explosive device and small arms fire in a southern section of the Iraqi capital Oct. 18." And they announced: "A Task Force Lightning Soldier based in Salah ad Din province died as a result of a non-combat-related illness Wednesday after being evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany." ICCC's total for the month of October thus far is 26 dead with 3832 US service members killed in the illegal war since it started.
Turning to the topic of wounded US service members, yesterday on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, Rehm spoke with the Washington Post's Anne V. Hull and Dana Priest about the issue of medical care provided by the Veterans Affairs Dept. (for Hull and Priest's prior reporting at the Post on this issue click here).
Diane Rehm: What's extraordinary is that you say, Dana, the current Veterans Administration is pulled at the seams with some 800,000 cases of backlog.
Dana Priest: Yep. And it seems like it was just a surprise to them that this was going to happen. I don't know if anybody's tried to explain it away but certainly they haven't done a good job if they have. And not only do they have the case backlog, but they also are trying to merge the two disability systems. This is one of the recommendations -- the main recommendation -- of the Donna Shalala and Bob Dole panel that has just given the president their recommendations. They want to merge these two systems and, and -uh, give the burden to the VA to rate, to determine the level of disability that each soldier has and what will be their benefit, their pension, their disability payment from then on. So it's probably a good idea -- a lot of people do think it is a good idea because the army is having such trouble doing it. But it will add a lot of people onto the VA -- into the VA system -- that is already overcrowded and one assumes that they will be getting a lot more funding and some other personnel to do that.
[. . .]
Anne Hull: . . . And the heart of what Bush sent to Congress is, as Dana said, and to let the military determine whether or not a soldier is fit for duty let the VA rate for disability. And that's a huge culture shift and that is going to require legislation. There's already a lot of pushback from veterans' organizations who do not want the disability compensation system tinkered with in any way, it's known as "the third rail." They're afraid that older veterans might lose out and the younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are obviously concerned about their generation. Secondly, it expands family leave. The spouse of a soldier can get up to six months of unpaid leave --
Diane Rehm: Unpaid leave.
Anne Hull: Unpaid leave, that's right. In a two year period. So this is basically to safe guard their job but not to provide them money while they're caring for the wounded.
Diane Rehm: But how do they -- how do they manage while they're taking the six-month unpaid leave?
Anne Hull: This is the big story. This is . . . You know, we had a story on Sunday, one soldier's one year war becomes a wife's endless war. It is put upon the families to carry the burden of having a wounded soldier or marine in their life.
Dana Priest: And it's going to be awfully hard to monitor the getting the job back. I mean, it's already difficult for people who go away in the Guard and Reserve to make sure that they get the job that they had back as required by law and this is virtually unenforceable. The other recommendation they made had to do with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD]. And that would -- it opens up the door to say, "You don't have to prove to us when you got it or why you got it. Come on in and get an evaluation if you think you need it."
On Monday, Anne Hull participated in an online exchange at the Washington Post and it needs to be noted that the Turners (the subjects of the Sunday story) have received an outpouring of support from people (donations can be made care of the Washington Post, address at link) but where is the government, where is the VA? On the reporting she and Priest have been doing, Hull responds in the exchange as to how she and Priest have found their stories, "People have asked us this question over and over on the Walter Reed stories and the answer is quite simple: wounded soldiers and their families are frustrated and many feel abandoned by the country that they fought for. They don't feel heard. Many feel out of sight and forgotten, a long way from the bright parades of deployment. So they are okay about opening up and talking and letting us witness the small details of their lives, and almost to a person, the response is always this: 'As long as this will help other soldiers'." And, speaking to Rehm on Thursday, she noted that "we probably still get five calls, ten calls a day".
Staying on the topic of veterans, The War Comes Home's Aaron Glantz (IPS) covers the case of James Eggemeyer, a 25-year-old homeless veteran, "By December 2006, when James Eggemeyer filed a disability claim with the Veterans administration, he had already joined the ranks of the United State's burgeoning population of homeless veterans, and was living out of his girlfriend's Ford Explorer. So when the VA responded with a letter to his old address requesting that he come in for a physical examination, he missed the appointment. It's a vicious cycle so familiar to homeless people across the country. They need help from the government because they don't have a home, but can't receive mail because they don't have an address. . . . Since the start of the Iraq war, the backlog of unanswered disability claims has grown from 325,000 to more than 600,000. On average, a veteran must wait almost six months to have a claim heard. If a veteran loses and appeals a case, it usually takes at about three years. Veterans groups maintain that the backlog amounts to official negligence. Since the launch of the Iraq war more than four years ago, the number of people charged with reviewing and approving veteran's disability claims has actually dropped. According to the American Federation of Government Employees, the VA employed 1,392 Veterans Service Representatives in June 2007 compared to 1,516 in January 2003." An earlier, audio report Glantz did on homeless veterans can be found here.
Turning to US politics, Margaret Kimberley (Black Agenda Reports) weighs in on US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, "Activists must keep protesting at her house and working for her defeat in the 2008 congressional elections. They must also cease cooperating with her. The farce must end before it is too late. Pelosi, like Bush, has no loyalty to her constitutionally based responsibilities. She must no longer be treated as though she is a friend when she has proven herself to to be an enemy. Civil liberties groups and antiwar groups must stop meeting with Pelosi or her staff. They must finally realize that they can only play a role in movement politics. It is said that insanity is defined as repeating the same action over and over yet expecting a different result. Progressives have waged many righteous battles in the last seven years, but they are about to go down in history as insane actors in a badly written play."
Today, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) spoke with Cole Miller (No More Victims) about his organizations work in raising awareness on the Iraqi wounded who noted "what was shocking was so many people in South Carolina seemed to be simply unaware that children were being hurt in Iraq. And that's, of course, a pretty profound criticism of the mainstream media." Amy Goodman then interviewed Salee Allawee a ten-year-old victim of a US air strike (precision, no doubt -- that is sarcasm) in which she lost both of her legs and Salee's father Hussein Allawee Feras:
AMY GOODMAN: Salee, you're wearing lots of jewelry. Can you talk about where you got it from?
SALEE ALLAWEE: [translated] This is from Georgia, and this is from South Carolina. So they are both from South Carolina and Georgia.
AMY GOODMAN: So these are all from friends you have made here in the United States?
SALEE ALLAWEE: [translated] These are her best friends, Ann and Cole.
AMY GOODMAN: From here. You have come here to America and have gotten new legs?
SALEE ALLAWEE: [translated] Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: How does it feel?
SALEE ALLAWEE: [translated] It feels good. One of my legs just hurts so much, and so I think it's just infected. It hurts when I wear it.
AMY GOODMAN: Hussein, how has it been for you to come to the United States? Can you -- we just watched the video where you describe what happened to Salee. Can you describe what you felt when you were invited to America?
HUSSEIN ALLAWEE FERAS: [translated] Honestly, I want to start with -- I thank very much the good American people. It is a very late information that we learned that the American people are good people. Because the US military is so harsh, they didn't leave us any time to feel that there are still good people in the US, that we just felt that everyone in the US is like the American army. But honestly, when I came to the US, I just saw a lot of people who were very interested to help Salee and other than Salee. I couldn't believe it. A big difference. Alas, we had a very bad impression on the people in the US. The American soldiers, alas, are really harsh on us.
AMY GOODMAN: You lost -- well, your daughter lost her legs, her best friend. You lost your son?
HUSSEIN ALLAWEE FERAS: [translated] Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: In that attack?
HUSSEIN ALLAWEE FERAS: [translated] Yes, the same incident.
AMY GOODMAN: And your other daughter?
HUSSEIN ALLAWEE FERAS: [translated] Yes. One of her legs has to be cut off.
AMY GOODMAN: Salee, what do you tell American children about what happened to you?
SALEE ALLAWEE: [translated] I want to tell them thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Are you going back to Iraq, Salee? Are you afraid to go back?
SALEE ALLAWEE: [translated] No, I'm not afraid.
AMY GOODMAN: How do you feel about going back, Hussein?
HUSSEIN ALLAWEE FERAS: [translated] As you know, my body is here, but my soul is over there. And I don't think worse things are going to happen in Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: What was your experience with the US military before the air attack?
HUSSEIN ALLAWEE FERAS: [translated] There is nothing good to tell. Two months after the incident where Salee was injured, again random shooting started to happen in the neighborhood. At 3:00 in the morning one night, a tank was firing at a house while people were sleeping inside, and I saw the roof of that house collapsing on the people inside. We spent eleven hours to dig through the wreckage, trying to find someone who's alive, because we heard someone's voice who was still alive. Seven people out of eight were killed in that attack. Only one baby, who was four months old, was alive, and we were able to get him outside. And he's still alive. And now he's in Fallujah. This is one of the hundreds of thousands of the incidents and miseries Iraqis face every day.
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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