Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, October 23, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, another US airstrike kills more civilians, what do you know -- the PKK was in Iraq (even a headquarters), and more.
Starting with war resisters.  Ehren Watada  is the first US officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq.  After months of hearing from the military brass that they wanted to work towards a solution (they were just delaying -- thinking if they could delay until deployment, Watada would go to Iraq), he went public in June of 2006.  In February of this year, Judge Toilet (aka John Head) rigged a kangaroo court where Watada would be court-martialed for refusing to deploy but would not be allowed to explain to a jury (Watada chose to go with a jury of his peers) why he made the decision he had.  Despite the rigged court-martial, the third day (when Watada would take the stand for the defense) found Judge Toilet calling a mistrial over defense objections to provide the prosecution with a do-over even though the Constitution forbids double-jeopardy."  The Watada National Steering Committee has a message at Courage to Resist:
On the weekend of Oct. 26 - 27, we will be participating in or holding demonstrations in support of Lt. Watada. This is the weekend of the Oct. 27 nationwide day of action called jointly by United for Peace & Justice and International A.N.S.W.E.R. We will be reaching out to them to work jointly where we can, or to have local events in cities and towns where they are not having an event.
For more information, please go to
our website , contact us online , or phone us at 877-689-4162.
Local groups who wish to support Lt. Watada can help by holding events or speaking about his case at events you are already planning, holding press conferences, writing articles in the media, or writing letters to the editor of your local media. In newspapers, the letters to the editor sections are among the most widely read sections of the paper. Letters must be short or they will not be published due to space; see the length of letters currently published in your local paper for examples.
That is this weekend.  Watada is first Iraq War officer to resist.  Stephen Funk is the first public resister of the illegal war.  Iraq Veterans Against the War's chair Camilo Mejia is the first Iraq veteran to publicly resist the illegal war.  From November 10 through December 16th, his voice will be featured in a new play at Culture Project as it presents Rebel Voices the new play which is based on Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove's best-selling book Voices of a People's History of the United States.  Along with Mejia, the voices of Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Malcom X and others will be featured.  Zinn will take part in the November 18th presentation (opening night) and poet Staceyann Chinn and musician Allison Mooerer will hed the permanent cast while those confirmed to be performing on selected nights are Ally Sheedy (actress and poet, best known for films such as High Art, The Breakfast Club, Maid to Order, the two Short Circuit films, St. Elmo's Fire, War Games, and, along with Nicky Katt, has good buzz on the forthcoming Harold),  Eve Ensler who wrote the theater classic The Vagina Monologues (no, it's not too soon to call that a classic), actor David Strathaim (L.A. Confidential, The Firm, Bob Roberts, Dolores Claiborne and The Bourne Ultimatum) and actor and playwright Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride, Clueless -- film and TV series, Gregory and Chicken Little).  The directors are Will Pomerantz and Rob Urbinati with Urbinati collaborating with Zinn and Arnove on the play.  Tickets are $21 for previews and $41 for regular performances (beginning with the Nov. 18th opening night).  The theater is located at 55 Mercer Street and tickets can be purchased there, over the phone (212-352-3101) or online here and here.  More information can be found at Culture Project
Turning to war resisters who have gone to Canada.  Last week Bethany "Skyler" James and Michael Espinal went public about their decision to relocate to Canada.  Going public makes the US nervous, hence the need for spin. Over the weekend  Harold Carmichael (Sudbury Star) reported on the statements issued by John Nay, United States Counsul General to Canada, who insists that there's nothing any war resister needs to fear about America. His spinning also revealed an ignorance of the official US policies on COs which Nay (National War College graduate) insisted was "hard" for anyone signing up to claim afterwards that they were.  It was one joke out of another from Nay -- certainly the most laughs he's ever gotten outside of his comb-over.  In the Canadian parliament, Alex Atamenko delivered another appeal that the government begin granting asylum to war resisters in a speech that many see as a response to some of Nay's ridiculous claims (Atamenko specifically mentioned the glossy ads that gloss over the realities of war) and a speech that was warmly received.  Meanwhile the War Resisters Support Campaign is staging an event tonight and tomorrow.  First up, a Halloween Masquerade ball at the Budda Bar tonight, in Toronto, with doors opening at eight p.m.  Tomorrow night Michelle Mason's breakthrough documentary . Breaking Ranks will be screened at the University of Toronto's Claude Bissell Building from six to eight p.m. followed by a question and answer session with war resisters.
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes James Stepp, Michael Espinal, 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." 
Turkey and northern Iraq still simmer with tension.  Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) explored the topic today with professor Juan Cole:
AMY GOODMAN: Let's go today's top story: tension remaining high on the Turkish-Iraq border, following the killing of seventeen Turkish troops by Kurdish militants over the weekend. How significant is this?
JUAN COLE: Well, it's extremely significant. I mean, imagine what would happen in this country if a guerrilla group based in a neighboring country came over the border and killed seventeen US troops. That would be a war. And the Kurdish guerrilla movement, the Kurdish Workers Party, based now in Iraq, but originally from Eastern Anatolia, from the Turkish regions, is conducting a guerrilla war against the Turkish military. It is being given safe harbor by Kurdish politicians on the Iraqi side. And, in essence, the United States has created this situation in which a NATO ally -- people forget Turkey fought alongside the United States in Korea; it's got troops in Afghanistan -- a NATO ally of the United States is being attacked and its troops killed by a terrorist organization, so designated by the State Department, that essentially has US auspices. The US is responsible for security in Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: And how connected is the US to the PKK, or is it at all?
JUAN COLE: Well, the United States doesn't like the PKK and doesn't have much connection to it, but the United States has allied with the Iraqi Kurdish leaders, who are the most reliable allies of the United States in Iraq: Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani. And Barzani, in particular, it seems to me, just de facto, is giving harbor to, giving haven to, these PKK guerrillas. So the United States needs Barzani and needs his support. He's doing an oil deal with Hunt Oil, which is close to the Bush administration. His Peshmurga paramilitary is the backbone of the most effective fires of the new Iraqi army. They do security details in other cities like Mosul and Kirkuk. So the US really desperately depends on the Kurdistan Regional Authority and its paramilitary and can't afford to alienate Barzani. And since Barzani is -- behind the scenes seems to kind of like the PKK and does -- giving them a haven, the US is politically complicit in these attacks.
AMY GOODMAN: What is the deal with Hunt Oil?
JUAN COLE: Well, Hunt Oil, which is, I think, losing its bids in Yemen, is desperate for a new field to develop, and they are exploring a partnership with the Kurdistan Regional Authority in northern Iraq.
The oil.  Always the oil.  Allowing the PKK to get the kind of fawning press from the mainstream that no other armed resistance has seen in years (not since the US-based thugs the Contras).  The War Comes Home's Aaron Glantz reported on the situation for Pacifica in April of 2004 noting a meet up in DC between the Turkish government and the US government when then US Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Meyers stated, "This is an issue the coalition forces inside Iraq take very seriously.  Let me assure you that there is very close collaboration with Turkey and that they [the PKK] will be dealt with appropriately."  What followed was . . . nothing.  Why?
In Glantz's 2004 report, he noted, "Iraqi Kurds, by contrast, have enjoyed the patronage of the United States for more than a decade and as a consequence have been able to build schools and media institutions where Kurdish is exclusively spoken."  And governing elements have looked the other way as the region has been purged/'cleansed' of non-Kurdish elements such as a plethora of religious sects.  But they have the oil and they've long had US support.  While Falluja remains in rubble and Baghdad is just barely better off, the northern region hasn't seen the falling bombs from US air craft.  And it's so strange that when the press wants to pimp the business opportunites in the region, they act puzzled about how 'peaceful' the region is.  (Dubbing it 'peaceful' requires ignoring the attacks on sects and the 'honor' killings of women.)  When the rest of Iraq has been torn apart by the illegal war and wasn't supported before the illegal war by the US, is it any surprise?
Bay Fang (Chicago Tribune) quotes an unnamed US official who states, "In the past, there has been reluctance to engage in direct U.S. military action against the PKK, either through air strikes or some kind of Special Forces action. But the red line was always, if the Turks were going to come over the border, it could be so destabilizing that it might be less risky for us to do something ourselves. Now the Turks are at the end of their rope, and our risk calculus is changing."  So that was the 'red line' and now -- and only now -- the White House decides to act?  BBC notes the announcement by puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki, "Iraq says it will close the offices of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebel group and will 'not allow it to operate on Iraqi soil'."  All these years later.  CBS and AP note that the announcement of the closing of PKK offices "contradicted repeated assertions by Iraqi officials in recent days that the PKK's presence in Iraq was restricted to inaccessible parts of northern Iraq that could not be reached by authorities" and that the Turkish military is "massing along the border".  Flashback for those who've forgotten, last month's charges that the PKK were using American weapons came as US federal prosecutors were investigating whether Blackwater was selling US arms.   Ben Holland and Mark Bentley (Bloomberg News) report, "Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country's forces may carry out strikes on Kurdish fighters in Iraqi territory in the next few days if the U.S. and Iraq fail to rein in the militants."  They also report that the Turkish military striking does not have to mean on the ground forces, it could mean air strikes -- which would of course likely kill many civilians.  But Bully Boy had a red line he was waiting on all these years, you understand.
Bully Boy has his own hands full when it comes to air strikes and the deaths of innocent civilians.  Aseel Kami (Reuters) explains the US military has fessed up to killing innocent civilians in an air strike outside Baghdad early on Tuesday and they admit 11 civilians died.  But, hand to heart, they insist that only six of the eleven were civilians and the rest were 'terrorists' or 'insurgents' or maybe the Apple Dumpling Gang using the six as "human shields".  A lie but a lie that doesn't excuse the bombing and is still in violation of international law.    Eye witnesses reports that there were two US attacks. The first killed two farmers with a third seeking shelter in his home which the next strike "destroyed . . . killing 14 people, including six members of Ibrahim Jassim family and five from another" according to Abdul al-Rahman Iyadeh and police captain Abdullah al-Isawi says the number killed is sixteen "seven men, six women and three children," Kami notes.
In other violence . . .
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two Baghdad roadside bombs that wounded two police officers and a Kirkuk car bombing that injured wounded one person. Reuters notes a roadside minibus bombing outside Baquba that claimed 3 lives (ten wounded).
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad attack where two police officers were shot dead as they guarded Al Mamoun Intermediate School (two more wounded) while "A foreign protection convoy shot and injured citizen Zirak Youness, 21, on a main road connects Kirkuk and Makhmour last night."  Reuters notes that two infant girls were shot dead by Iraqi police today in Kerbala but, no tears apparently, the father's a suspected member of the militia -- which makes it a-okay to kill two babies, wound the mother and a sister.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 4 corpses discovered in Baghdad.and "Police found the body of Omed Hassan a member of the Kurdish security force known as Assayish near a cementary south east of Kirkuk last night."
In other news of violence, the US military announced yesterday that the Adhamiyah Islamic Party headquarters in Baghdad was targeted "with approximately 35 pounds of homemade explosives"  on October 20th and identify it as "a political organization opposed to Al Qaeda"  and whoe members "have allied with Coalition Forces in recent months to oppose terrorist groups operating in Adhamiyah."  More officials targeted due to being seen as collarborators and yet, even with US military confirmation, the latest event in a continuing trend is not getting much press attetion."  And the trend continues with the US military announcing today that  2 "employees of the city government were wounded when their vehicle was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade in the eastern Adhamiyah neighborhood" yesterday.

Turning to the mercenary corporation Blackwater USA.  Eric Schmitt and David Rohde (New York Times) report on two new reports -- one a US State Dept internal review, the other a report by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.  The first (State Dept internal review) finds that the State Department provided no oversight of Blackwater or Dyncorp.  The second focuses on DynCorp's spending of US tax payer dollars and finds that "the State Department had only two government employees in Iraq overseeing as many as 700 DynCorp employees," that the State Department is not sure what US tax payer money was spent on (at one point insisting that $387,000 was spent at hotels in Iraq and an x-ray machine purchased for $1.8 million was used in Iraq -- then coming back to insist they meant Aghanistan), etc.  -- "A review of DynCorp's spending over the past year identified $29 million in overcharges by DynCorp" while a Defense Congracting Audit Agency report discovered "DynCorp had billed for $162,869 of labor hours 'for which it did not pay its workers'."  DynCorp was put in charge of training the Iraqi police.  For those who've forgotten, one reason Jordan was cut out of the police training (which it had been doing) was because it would be 'cheaper.'
"How you earn your money is no interest to the IRS. Now how can I put this in language you'll understand? We just want our cut." Anne Bancroft's lines from HeartBreakers come back to haunt Blackwater.  Joseph Neff (McClatchy Newspapers) reports  US House Rep and chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Henry Waxman has announced Blackwater "may have evaded tens of millions of dollars in federal taxes" because BlackWater -- unlike DynCorp and Triple Canopy -- has classified its employees as "contractors" -- thereby avoiding taxes, Social Security and Medicare payments: "The issue came to the attention of the IRS when a Blackwater guard working in Afghanistan complained that the company had classified him as an independent contractor.  The IRS said Blackwater's classification was 'without merit' and ruled in March that the man was an employee."   CNN notes, "By classifying workers in Iraq as 'independent contractors' rather than employees, Blackwater appears to have engaged in an 'illegal tax scheme' that avoided an estimated $31 million in employment-related taxes in the last year of its contract alone, said Rep. Henry Waxman on Monday" and that Waxman has advised Erik Prince by letter, "It is deplorable that a company that depends on federal tax dollars for over 90 percent of its business would even contemplate forbidding an employee to report corporate wrongdoing to Congress and federal law enforcement officials."  Now does Blackwater CEO Prince think the American way is to cheat on your taxes?  Over the weekend on PBS' Bill Moyers Journal, Moyers spoke with Jeremy Scahill about Prince's p.r. blitz last week and Scahill noted, "It's almost I think part of the point here was to say, look, you don't understand really, American people, what we're doing for you. While you're enjoying comfort here in the United States, we're over there protecting our-- men in women in uniform, our diplomats. I think that there's a way that he wants to increase the mystique about the company and the operations of Blackwater."  Is "tax cheat" supposed to be part of the red, white and blue that Prince couldn't shut up about in interview after interview?

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