Tuesday, October 30, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, Naomi Wolf points to the "blinking lights" of democracy, the US military announces multiple deaths, Blackwater continues to simmer and the focus goes to Condi, Giuliana Sgrena responds to the sliming she received and more.
Starting with war resisters. Steve Gardner (Kitsap Sun) writes of the just published "The Most Influential People of 2007" in Seattle Magazine. and notes "Iraq war resister U.S. Army Lt. Ehren Watada appears, as does Olympic Sculpture Park shepherd Chris Rogers (who the magazine selected as the 2007 Person of the Year). Early learning advocate and the state's former first ladey Mona Locke is on the list, and so is former U.S. Attorney John McKay and Google's Narayanan 'Shiva' Shivakumar." Watada is the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. After months of working with the military (in good faith), Watada went public in June of 2006 after it became obvious that the military was stringing him along with false assurance. Watada (rightly) judges the Iraq War as illegal. In February of this year he was court-martialed in a kangaroo hearing presided over by Judge Toilet (aka John Head) who called a mistrial over defense objection and after the prosecution had presented their case which means double-jeopardy should prevent Watada from standing before a court-martial again. (Watada's service contract has already expired. He has been kept in the US military for months due to the issue of a potential court-martial.) US District Judge Benjamin Settle Friday is reviewing that and other issues and has extended the stay on Watada's case through November 9th.
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."
On the above NLG event, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes today, "Meanwhile the National Lawyers Guild is criticizing the Bush administration for refusing to allow a prominent Cuban attorney into the country. The guild had invited Guillermo Ferriol Molina to speak at the group's 70th anniversary convention this week but he was apparently denied a visa. Molina is the Vice-President of the Labor Law Society of the Cuban bar association and a member of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers."
How does that happen? "There's this horrible phase in a closing democracy when leaders and citizens still think it's a democracy but the people who have already started to close it are just kind of drumming their fingers waiting for everyone to realize that that's not the dance anymore," explains Naomi Wolf on the October 26th episode of The Bat Segundo Show. Her new book is The End of America: Letters of Warning to a Young Patriot where she argues that democracy needs to be reclaimed in the United States before it is lost. Covering a large historical terrain, she outlines the "echoes" present in the US today that have been signals of a shift to a closed society in our historical past. Addressing the inaction of Congress on so many topics (including impeachment and the refusal to listen to the citizens on the issue of the illegal war), Wolf declared, "Congress is like an abused woman that keeps thinking, 'Surely my boyfriend will be nice now. What do you mean you're not turning over your e-mails? We're Congress! You can't just not listen to us.' So you're right to notice the American people are getting it before Congress is. The people in power right now are no longer engaged in the democratic social contract and so it does take us recognizing that we can't heal democracy only through conventional means of democracy. So, Nancy Pelosi, is saying we're not going to impeach. Guess what? The founders didn't intend for Nancy Pelosi to decide what the people are going to do when there's this kind of criminal assault on the Constitution and checks and balances. It's up to us. And that's why we started the American Freedom Campaign which is a democracy movement which now has five million members in really, like two months, across the political spectrum and we're driving a grassroots movement to push, to confront Pelosi, and to confront the leaders in Congress and to let them know this is an emergency, it's not business as usual and they can't unilaterally take issues like that off the table. We're now, impeachment is not yet an AFC position, this is just me speaking for myself, but from the historical blue print, seeing what is now in place -- it is not safe to leave those people in power anymore and I'm saying this to Republicans and Democrats alike. It is not safe to entrust the next election with them. So I don't think we just need to move forward with impeaching, this is me speaking personally -- not for the AFC, but from the historical blueprint, we need to do it now and also we need to prosecute for treason because it's not enough to get people like this out of power you have to get them behind bars." Will impeachment be an issue for AFC? Wolf explained that since it's a grassroots movement, the goals will be determined by the members. The fifty minute broadcast touches on a large number of issues and we'll note Wolf on another topic:
Blackwater just got another billion dollar contract after massacring 17 innocent civilians in Iraq, okay? They operate fully outside the law in Iraq. Order 17, Paul Bremer, guaranteed that they were unaccountable. So it's not just the Iraqis who have to worry about Blackwater. The second step in the ten-point blue print [of moving a state from democracy to fascist, Wolf charts this in her book The End of America] is to create a paramilitary force that's not answerable to the people. This is how, in Italy, Mussolini closed democracy using the Black Shirts. And this is how, in Germany, Hitler closed democracy using Brown Shirts. Paramilitary forces excerpt pressure on civilians. So what Americans don't know is that Blackwater is already operating in the United States. Homeland Security already brought them in to patrol the streets of New Orleans after Katrina. And Jeremy Scahill reported that they were firing, our contractors, were firing on civilians. We don't know, most of us, that Blackwater's business model calls for increased deployment here in the United States in the event of say a natural catastrophe or quote 'a public emergency.' And with Defense Authorization Act 2007, it is the president, who's hand in hand with Blackwater, who now has the unilateral power to determine what is a national emergency that calls for a quote 'restoration of public order.' And I just want to tell you that the invoking of a national emergency and the call to restore public order is the is the tenth step in the blue print to close down an open society.
Staying on the topic of the mercenaries of Blackwater USA new developments can be classified under "What Condi forgot to tell Congress about Blackwater." US Secretary of State and Anger Condi Rice most recently offered testimony to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform last week on Thursday, October 25th. Rice declared that ("thank God so far" -- putting someone or Someone on notice?) Blackwater was needed and that she just wouldn't know how to run the department she heads without Blackwater (prior to the rise of Blackwater and other mercenaries, embassy security staff were responsible for guarding State Dept employees in foreign countries) and insisted, "But we do recognize that their must be sufficient oversight, sufficient rules and that is why I have accepted the recommendations of the panel on the private security contractors." That would have been a good time to insert an item in today's news; however, she didn't. When speaking of reports that puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki had made a backdoor deal to grant immunity from prosecution to members of his cabinet, Rice did not want to talk about "rumor" or "unsubstantiated" claims "I'd like to state again, Mr. Chairman, because I'd rather state it in my own words than have it be stated for me. It is the policy of this administration -- and I'm quite certain that the president would feel strongly about this: That there shouldn't be corrupt officials anywhere. And that no official -- no matter how high -- should be immune from investigation, prosecution or, indeed, punishment should corruption be found." So no immunity for officials in al-Maliki's cabinet. Rice could have used that moment -- "in my own words" -- to address the issue of immunity that the State Department was granting. Because the department she heads had granted immunity. Noting that the Associated Press broke the story Monday, David Johnston (New York Times) reports today, "The State Department investigators from the agency's investigative arm, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, offered the immunity grants [to Blackwater] even though they did not have the authority to do so, the officials said. Prosecutors at the Justice Department, who do have such authority, had no advance knowledge of the arranement, they added. Most of the [Blackwater] guards who took part in the Sept. 16 shooting were offered what officials described as limited-use immunity, which means that they were promised they would not be prosecuted for anything they said in their interviews with the authorities as long as their statements were true."
This news came out Monday via AP. On Thursday, Rice faced the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and Blackwater was a topic many touched on (Democrats and Republicans). Rice was not forthcoming. When the issue of immunity came up -- with regards to al-Maliki's cabinet -- Rice made no effort to inform Congress that the department she heads, the department which she is supposed to provide oversight to, had offered Blackwater guards involved in the incident immunity -- an immunity that her department did not have the power to offer.
CBS and AP report, "Law enforcement officials say the State Department granted them immunity from prosecution before taking their statements. They can still be prosecuted, bur fromer prosecutor David Laufman said it will be harder to make a case, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reported. . . . The FBI can still interview the guards, but Laufman doubts they will cooperate." Terry Frieden (CNN) notes Senator Patrick Leahy has "accused the Bush 'amnesty administration' of letting its allies, including security contractors in Iraq, shirk responsibility for their actions" and Quotes Leahy declaring, "In this administration, accountability goes by the boards. That seems to be a central tenet in the Bush administration -- that no one from their team should be held accountable, if accountability can be avoided." Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) offers this perspective: "Under State Department contractor rules, Diplomatic Security agents are charged with investigating and reporting on all 'use of force' incidents. Although there have been previous Blackwater shootings over the past three years -- none of which resulted in prosecutions -- the Sept. 16 incident was by far the most serious." Johnston reports, "The immunity deals were an unwelcome surprise at the Justice Department, which was already grappling with the fundamental legal question of whether any prosecution could take place involving American civilians in Iraq. . . . In addition, the Justice Department reassigned the investigation from prosecutors in the criminal division who had read the statements the State Department had taken under the offer of immunity to prosecutors in the national security division who had no knowledge of the statements."
Waxman writes Rice today about the immunity:
Multiple news reports are asserting that the State Department compromised the investigation into the shootings and the potential for prosecutions of Blackwater personnel by offering immunity to the Blackwater guards. According to one report, agents of the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security promised Blackwater personnel 'immunity from prosecution' in order to elicit statements. Another report stated that the State Department offered 'limited-use immunity' without authority to do so so and without consulting with the Justice Department. According to these accounts, prosecution of Blackwater personnel has become, at minimum, "a lot more complicated and dfficult."
This rash grant of immunity was an egregious misjudgement. It raises serious questions about who conferred the immunity, who approved it at the State Department, and what their motives were. To help the Committee investigate these matters, I request that the State Department provide written responses to the following questions no later than noon on Friday, November 2, 2007:
1) What form of immunity was offered to the Blackwater personnel?
2) What limitations does this form of immunity impose upon the investigation?
3) Who authorized the offers of immunity?
4) Who was aware of the offers of immunity at or before the time that they were delivered?
5) When did you, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, former Assistant Secretary of State Richard Griffin, Ambassador David Satterfield, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker learn of the grant of immunity?
6) What consultation, if any, was conducted with the Justice Department prior to the offers of immunity?
7) Has the State Department ever offered immunity to security contractor personnel as part of other investigations into contractor conduct? Please describe each such occasion.
I further request that knowledgeable officials appear at the previously scheduled briefing for Committee staff on November 2 to respond to questions about the State Department's written response to these questions.
Finally, I request that the State Department produce the following documents no later than Friday, November 9, 2007:
1) All communications relating to any offers of immunity to Blackwater personnel relating to the September 16, 2007, Nissor Square incident; and
2) All communications relating to any offers of immunity to Blackwater personnel or other private military contractors relating to other incidents in Iraq.
The letter is available online by [PDF format warning] clicking here.
Last Friday on the second hour of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show the issue of Rice's appearences before Congress was noted with Rehm explaining Congress felt Rice "has mismanaged diplomatic efforts in Iraq and they accused her of concealing information from Congress." A perfect example -- not known then -- would be the offer of limited-immunity to Blackwater employees. Again, that was not known then. NBC's Andrea Mitchell (who, along with Newsweek's Michael Hirsh and the Los Angeles Times' Doyle McManus, took part in the roundtable) explained, "Well in particular there were memos, internal Iraqi memos, that the State Department was well aware of, that she had not turned over, that she had not turned over memos on Blackwater, corruption in the Iraqi government, which is a growing problem. That she has ignored it, not brought it to their attention. Her worst nightmare is Henry Waxman. Henry Waxman sixteen terms now chairman of the House Oversight Committee and he is going after her and after the State Department and other government agencies. He has a pipeline of investigations and he just keeps one after the other." [For more on the broadcast, see Ruth's Saturday report.] Along with not turning over memos to Congress, Rice's department is now known for not telling Congress about the offer of limited immunity. While Condi's department has granted further immunity, Deborah Haynes (Times of London) reports others are attempting to pull some back: "The Iraqi Cabinet today approved a draft law lifting the immunity from prosecution enjoyed by foreign security companies contracted by the US-led coalition, but it was unclear how guards working for the controversial American firm Blackwater would be affected." Steve Negus (Financial Times of London) notes the next step for the bill would be the Iraqi parliament (where, for the record, the bill could have originated in) and that is is unclear "whether the proposed Iraqi legislation would apply retrospectively."
In other mercenary news, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) reports, "Meanwhile the British private military company Erinys has been sued in Texas over the death of a U.S. soldier who died after being hit by one of the company's convoys in Iraq. The lawsuit was filed by Perry Monroe, father of Christopher Monroe who died in southern Iraq two years ago. The lawsuit accuses the Erinys convoy of ignoring warnings and traveling at excessive speed after dark without lights fully on. At the time of the incident, the British company was working under a contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers." Christopher Monroe died October 25, 2005. He was 19-years-old. Interestingly, although a mercenary caused the death, the Defense Department's announcement stated Monroe died "when his 5-ton truck was involved in an automobile accident with a civilian vehicle." It's cute the way departments of the US government work overtime to protect contractors. In the instance of Monroe's death, they are happy to make it sound as if an Iraqi's mini-van collided with the truck. AP reports that the mercenary company Erinys "has made more than $150 million in Iraq and has contracts to protect the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to the lawsuit filled by the father of Army Spc. Christopher T. Monroe." In addition, the DoD trumpeted "civilian vehicle" was actually one "armored Suburban [which] struck Monroe and his truck, tearing off Monroe's right leg and throwing him 30 to 40 feet in the air" -- begging the question of how fast the mercenary vehicle was traveling (traveling at night "with headlights off" after having already been told of Monroe's convoy). Suzanne Goldenberg (Guardian of London) offers that Erinys "reportedly has close ties to the former Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi," notes that Monroe was on guard duty, that Erinys was traveling "at an estimated speed of up to 80mph on a dark road using only their parking lights" and that they were not under fire. In addition, Goldenberg notes that the company received a contract in 2003 "to provide security for Iraq's oil refineries and pipelines. . . . The first recruits of the 14,000-strong oil protection force raised by Erinys Iraq were members of the Iraqi Free Forces, the US-trained milita that was headed by Ahmed Chalabi, an Iraqi exile who was America's protege in the run-up to the invasion. Members of Mr Chalabi's inner circle were among the founding partners of Erinys Iraq."
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad mortar attack that wounded two people "near Milky Master shop" and a Salahuddin car bombing that claimed the lives of 3 Iraqi soldiers with nine more wounded. Reuters notes a Baghdad mini-bus bombing that left two people wounded as well as another on that claimed the life of 1 person (four more wounded), a grenade tossed into a Baghdad street that claimed the life of 1 "street cleaner" and left six more people injured, and a Baghdad car bombing that claimed the lives of 4 police officers (eight more injured).
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a police officer was shot dead on Monday in Mosul.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 corpses discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes 4 corpses discovered in Mosul today, 1 in Kirkuk yesterday.
Meanwhile an Iraqi correspondent at Inside Iraq (McClatchy Newspapers) notes the death of a friend, Haider, over the weekend in a car accident: "Haider is my closest friend in Baghdad and the entire world. He was my friend from childhood when I was 6 years till we finished the high school. We had had great time. We used to play soccer, play ping-pong, chess and fishing small fish from the lake near by from Tigris river in Missan province in the south of Iraq. He chose the engineering college while my choice was teaching.
Today, the US military announced: "Three Multi-National Division - Center Soldiers were killed when their patrol was struck by an improvised explosive device southeast of Baghdad Oct. 30." ICCC places the US service member death toll since the start of the illegal war at 3842 with 36 for the month. CNN says it is 37 for the month.
As Iraq continues to fall apart as a result of the illegal war, Amit R. Paley (Washington Post) reports that 500,000 Iraqis could die of drowning in Mosul "and parts of Baghdad" as a result of problems with a Mosul dam -- a dam that $27 million has gone to for reconstruction and that the Army Corps of Engineers states has "an unacceptable annual failure probability". AFP reports that "the US 27 million dollar project launched two years ago to help strengthen the dam has been marred by incompetence and mismangement. The report said SIGIR's most recent inspection concludes that the project has made no headway in improving grout injection operations, and said that poor oversight had allowed millions of dollars in construction and equipment to go to waste."
"I don't know if he knew who was -- who were the passenger of the car, of course. I don't know if maybe he just answered to an order. So that's why I wanted Mario Lozano to tell the truth to the trial or in any way to tell the truth, and not just accusing me that it's my fault. It's not my fault. He was shooting to us. I didn't shoot to anybody. So, he shooted, and he has to give us a reason why he shooted, even if it was an order. When I was in United States, I heard from a lot of veterans against the war that they were obliged to shoot when they were in Iraq. So I think that we can understand that he also was a victim of the war. But he has to tell the truth, not just to tell that it's my fault. It's not my fault. He has to realize that it is his fault, because he shoot to us and to Calipari. He killed Calipari. So he has to explain. I can imagine that he has psychological problems because of the shooting, because it's normal for a normal person, it's normal to have pyschological problems if you kill a man." That's Guiulian Sgrena speaking with Amy Goodman today on Democracy Now! regarding the nonsense from the Dumb Ass yesterday who blamed her for the fact that he shot someone dead. From today's broadcast:
GIULIANA SGRENA: Oh, it's not true. I was just doing my work, and many other journalists went to interview the refugees, the refugees of Fallujah. Me, I usually go to interview the refugees, because I think that it's the people that more suffer for the situation. And also, in this case, I went there just to interview these refugees.
I know that for military, army, it's not the case to go around and to do an independent work, because they want the journalists just to be embedded, but I can say that in the same day, the same moment that I was there doing to interview the refugees of Fallujah, there was also a photographer working for the US Time taking pictures there. So I was not doing a work with terrorists, because if not everybody work with terrorists. I was just there to interview refugees.
And I think that this is the only way to do our job as we have to do it, because we have to listen to the people that is suffering under the occupation and not just interview the commanders or people that have weapons in their -- that they're using weapons. So I think that I was in a right position, and I will do always the same when I go around the world.
And I don't understand what mean Lozano by saying that I was going there, doing something with terrorists. They were not terrorists. What means? So we don't have the chance to do our work? Is it true that now we have not the chance to do our work true in Iraq, but this is because of the occupation and, of course, also because nobody in Iraq want to have witness there to see what is going on. But I was just doing my work.
AMY GOODMAN: Giuliana Sgrena, can you remind us what happened when you were released? From the point, well, that you learned you were going to be released -- first who you were held by and then what happened, all the way through the shooting on your road to the airport?
GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes, when I was released, Calipari came to pick me up, and we were on the road to the airport, after, of course, giving the news to the person that were interested in, and we were on the way to the airport. It was dark, because it was night. And at a certain point, we were not so far from the airport, when they started to shoot us. At the beginning, I couldn't understand who was shooting, because we were in the area controlled by the Americans, and I couldn't believe that the Americans, they were shooting to us. There was Italian agents with me. So, really, it was really a shock.
And immediately, when they started to shoot, Calipari stopped to talk, and I realized that something was going wrong, because he didn't speak to me. And the agent that was driving the car started to shout and to say that we were Italian, we were of the Italian embassy, just to try to stop the shooting. And when the shooting stopped, I saw that Calipari was killed. Me, I was wounded, and also the other agent. So, it was really a big shock.
But there were no warnings before the shooting. And the shooting, they reached the car, and they were, after -- we can say now, after the inquiry, the Italian inquiry, because there was an Italian inquiry of the Italian justice, that against the car was shooted fifty-eight bullets, and fifty-seven bullets were against the passengers of the car and only the last one against the engine of the car. So if they wanted to stop the car, they had to shoot to the engine or to the wheels, but not to the passengers. And that's why the Italian justice asked the trial for Lozano for voluntarily killing of Nicola Calipari. That's the point. It's not only my testify now; it's the conclusion of the Italian justice inquiry.
As Sgrena points out, the judge did not find Lozano innocent, the judge stated the case was out of Italy's jurisdiction -- prosecutors are appealing that ruling. Lastly, David Price's latest on the betrayal of a social science is a must read at CounterPunch. (Ideally, this will be quoted from in tomorrow's snapshot.)
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