Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, October 31, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, the price of oil hits a new record high, Tim Russert gets his ya-yas at the public's expense, Blackwater continues to raise eyebrows and more.
Starting with war resisters.  Over the weekend, Paul St. Armand's Parallels won the Canadian Reflections Award at the enRoute Student Film Festival in Toronto.  Among those serving as judges for the festival were film producer Denise Robert, actor-writer-director Patrick Huard, director-animator Torill Kove, director Atom Egoyan, producer Robert Lantos,  actor-producer Donald Sutherland and film critic (Toronto Star) Geoff Pevere.  Halifax' The Daily News explains, "Parallels is a double portrait of U.S. amry deserters from the Vietnam and Iraq wars.  The film won Best Documentary at the 2007 BC Student Film Festival, was a Golden Sheaf nominee at the Yorkton Short Film & Video Festival, and is a current nominee at Kevin Spacey's Triggerstreet Online Film Festival."  The documentary short explores the lives of James D. Jones and Joshua Key.  Originally, Paul St. Armand thought he was making a documentary that would look at Vietnam war resisters in Canada three decades later.  James D. Jones was one of the war resisters from that era he spoke with.  Then the War Resisters Support Campaign hooked him up with Iraq War resister Joshua Key and St. Armand noted similarities in the two resisters stories.  Key's story is also among those told in Michaelle Mason's documentary  Breaking Ranks (where he states, "As we got down the Euphrates River and we took a shartp right turn, all we seen was heads and bodies.  And American troops in the middle of them saying 'we lost it'.") and in the book he wrote with Lawrence Hill, The Deserter's Tale.  From Key's book, page 176:
By our sins of willful neglect, we were about to have a child's blood on our hands.  I knew it was wrong then, and now I know exactly what the Geneva Conventions say about the protection of women and children in war. 
"Women shall be the object of special respect and shall be protected in particular against rape, forced prostitution, and any other form of indecent assault." 
I knew how things were going to begin for that thirteen-year-old Iraqi girl, that day, but there was no telling how they would end.  We had every means at our disposal to protect that girl.  I say this because, in Iraq, sergeants and officers in my company generally behaved however they wanted in the presence of Iraqi civilians, employees, police officers, and border officials.  In my opinion, it wouldn't have mattered in the slightest to my superiors what Iraqis throught of our actions.  If one of our officers or sergeants had chosen to intervene and protect the girl, no Iraqi working at the border would have been in a position to stop him.  We were the ones with the ultimate authority at the border.  Indeed, one of our roles at al-Qa'im was to teach the Iraqi border officials and police officers how to inspect a car, and to tell them what we would allow Iraqis to take out of their country and what we prohibited as export items.  We were the occupiers and we controlled the border, but when it came to the fate of the thirteen-year-old girl who was about to be raped, we did nothing.
Meanwhile Steve Woodhead (The Brock Press) reports on war resister Michael Espinal recent speaking event at Brock University at St. Catharines, Ontario.  Espinal explains of one thing explains about his time in Iraq, "We were told to walk right past injured civilians, even children who were lying bleeding on the ground.  I've seen soldiers take up to $20,000 U.S. from homes during house raids . . . Soldiers would go around in civilian cars we picked up at border checkpoints."  Like many war resisters, Espinal had to go online to find information about war resistance.
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."
Turning to the topic of the mercenary company Blackwater, an editorial from the Los Angeles Times notes today:  "Congress should also begin investigating growing evidence of an overly cozy relationship between the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and Blackwater.  It appears that the bureau hired the contractors, supervised their activities, allowed them to use deadly force, began to investigate the long-simmering allegations of excessive use of force only after the outcry over the September shootings, and then promised some contractors immunity without asking permission from the Justice Department.  This behavior is more disturbing given reports that Blackwater has hired former State Department officials at high salaries, raising questions about whether the 'revolving door' presented a conflict of interest for investigators.  Certainly Blackwater seems to have unwarranted influence in Washington, as evidenced by the letter it procured from the State Department ordering it not to disclose information to Waxman's committee.  Who's in charge here, the U.S. government or Blackwater?"  As questions continue to rise, John M. Broder and David Johnston (New York Times) inform that the Defense Department and not the State Department will now be in charge of oversight and quote US House Rep Jan Schakowsky stating, "It feels like they're [the State Department] protecting Blackwater."  However, Noah Schatman (Wired) reports that the Department of Defense will not provide oversight because "The US Regional Cooperation Offices -- also called 'Reconstruction Operations Centers' -- are themselves outsourced, through a recently renewed $475 million contract to the British firm Aegis.  And Aegis is run by the infamous old-school gun-for-hire, Tim Spicer." Which calls into question the noted by Peter Grier (Christian Science Monitor), made by Geoff Morrell -- Pentagon flack, that "the military, for its part, would now excercise some control over contractor training" -- a bit hard for the Pentagon to do if oversight has already been contracted out.  Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) notes the limited-immunity the State Department offered Blackwater over the September 16th slaughter of Iraqi civilians in Baghdad and observes, "New details about the 'protections' given Blackwater contractors allegedly involved in the shootings sparked outrage from congressional Democrats yesterday, along with a flood of letters to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from committee chairmen demanding more information."  Tim Harper (Toronto Star) observes of the immunity offered (with no input from anyone outside the State Department), "But legal experts said the state department move makes an already difficult prosecution even more difficult and keeps those who allegedly did the shooting in a legal zone which authorities may not be able to penetrate.  Democrats accused the Bush administration of shielding potential killers and the chair of the powerful oversight committee gave U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice until Friday at noon to answer questions about the decision of her investigators."  Of course, Rice isn't supposed to be in the US then.  She's supposed to be in Turkey for a scheduled conference. Facing reporters in yesterday's State Dept briefing, Sean McCormack repeatedly fell back on a claim that he couldn't speak, "First of all, we have to draw a box around the specific events of September 16th and anything involved with that particular case."  Other comments on the news emerging this week regarding the State Department and Blackwater included, "This is an area that I can't venture into."; "Again, I can't speak to the specifics of the September 16th case."; "In general, you have exhausted my legal knowledge concerning this case."; and "I'm just not going to have anything to say about the September 16th case."  Even on something as general as the process of the incident reports that are supposed to be required whenever a contractor under the State Department fires a weapon in Iraq, McCormack stonewalled with comments such as "Let me just see if there's a standard procedure that I can talk about" and "I'll talk to the lawyers and see what we can do."  Discussing the procedures on incident reports, on who sees them and the process itself does not require speaking to an attorney. Furthermore, in a democracy (open government), the process is not a secret.  When Helen Thomas pressed White House flack Dana Perino on the immunity issue yesterday, Perino refused to expand on more than "Helen, as I said, it's a matter that's under review" and refused to state whether the Bully Boy had been briefed on the immunity deal the State Department offered. 
As the tensions and fallout from the September 16th slaughter continues in Iraq, the puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki feels pressure to do something (his earlier public statements regarding Blackwater having since been clamped down on) so he has proposed a measure that would overturn Paul Bremer's Order 17 which granted immunity (from the Iraqi government) to contractors operating in Iraq.  Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) reports the proposed bill "was written by" al-Maliki's legal adviser. Asked about that in the briefing yesterday, Sean McCormack was again evasive stating "Well, it's their law as I understand it -- unless I'm wrong here and that has been known to happen. . . . But as I understand it, they have the ability to changer their laws.  Now, let's take a look at exactly what has been proposed and has yet to be debated in their legislature.  But once we have a look at it and have a chance to analyze it, perhaps we'll have more to say about it."  Left unstated is exactly why the State Department or the US should have anything to say about the allegedly independent nation-state Iraq.  Meanwhile Christian Berthelsen and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) report that Iraqi eye witnesses to the slaughter say the FBI agents  investigating "appear focused on whether anyone fired first on the American convoy and have been aggressively gathering ballistic evidence" and citing an unnamed "U.S. source" report that the team of investigators left Iraq Sunday.
Staying on the topic of crime, the US military has found a number of anthropologists who will betray their field.  Earlier this month, the BBC noted, "The Pentagon is pulling out all the stops in Iraq and Afghanistan" to recruit wayward academics to assist their Human Terrain System; however, "very frew anthropologists in the US are willing to wear a uniform and receive the mandatory weapons training."  The article also notes the Network of Concerned Anthropologists an organization created to preven the betryal of the social science and the unethical use of the field to harm or destroy a people.  One founding member of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists is David Price.  In a well researched and documented article entitled "Pilfered Scholarship Devastates General Petraeus's Counterinsurgency Manual" (CounterPunch), Price walks readers through how even on something as basic as a monogram, those involved are applying no academic standards and he notes that Montgomery McFate appears to believe that merely stumbling across a passage written by another academic means she can claim it as her own -- word for word -- without credit or attribution.  That's theft, plagiarism and shoddy scholarship.  Monty is as she was -- forever and ever.  Price also examines the press-love for Monty and writes, "In a recent exchange with Dr. McFate, Col. John Agoglia and Lt. Col. Edward Villacres on the Diane Rehm Show, I pressed McFate for an explanation of how voluntary ethical informed consent was produced in environments dominated by weapons.  In response, McFate assured me that was not a problem because 'indigenous local people out in rural Afghanistan are smart, and they can draw a distinction between a lethal unit of the U.S. military and a non-lethal unit'."   The Diane Rehm Show referred to was broadcast October 10th.  In that broadcast, though Monty claimed the local population was able to discern, the New York Times' David Rohde was asked how clear the lines were by USA Today's Susan Page (filling in for Rehm) -- "does it seem transparent for them" when they meet with "Tracy":

David Rohde:  Um, she was transparent with them.  I don't think she gave her full name, I think she does identify herself as an anthropologist.  I saw her briefly, but I don't know what she does at all times. She personally, um, actually chose to carry a weapon for security that's not a requirement for members of the team, I've been told.  And she wore a military uniform which would make her appear to be a soldier, um, to Afghans that she wasn't actually speaking with.
Susan Page: And so you think Aghans knew that she wasn't a soldier even though she was wearing a military uniform and carrying a weapon?  Or do you think that they just assumed that she probably was?
David Rohde: I would think that they assumed that she was.
That's the reality and, strangely, when Rohde was done speaking, Monty had nothing to add even though every false claim she'd offered in the roundtable had just been demolished.  Price notes "a recent New York Times op-ed by Chicago anthropologist Richard Shweder indicates a stance of inaction from which the travesties of Human Terrain can be lightly critiqued while anthropologists are urged not to declare themselves as being 'counter-counterinsurgency'."  that nonsense ran on A31 of last Saturday's Times and mainly serves to update his November 2006 op-ed embarrassment where he gushed -- alleged anthropologist -- "The West is the best".  The non-thinking person's anthropologist -- to anthropology what recipes on the back of a bag of Frito Lays are to fine cooking -- justified the program.  While loose with the truth Monty and lost in stimulation Shweder attempt to put forth the lie that anthropologists are not being used for counter-insurgency measures (thereby assisting an occupying power by gathering information on a population -- information that will then be used against said population which is a clear betrayal of the field), Jacob Kipp, Lester Grau, Karl Prinslow and Don Smith, attempting to get the Happy Talk out on the program for the US military, wrote "The Human Terrain System: A CORDS for the 21st Century" for the September/October 2006 edition of Military Review and which not only makes clear that this is a counter-insurgency program but cites the CIvil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS) as a model.  CORDS was created under LBJ to "pacify" (destroy) the people studied.  As Bryan Bender (Boston Globe) notes, CORDS "helped identify Vietnamese suspected as communists and Viet Cong collaborators; some were later assassinated by the United States."  [Elaine addressed Price's article last night.]  From Monty's crimes against humanity to some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad car bombing claimed 1 life and left 3 injured.  Reuters notes a Tuz Khurmato roadside bombing that claimed the leife of 2 people (Iraqi soldier, police officer) and left another wounded.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a police officer shot dead in Kirkuk (two more wounded), while two children and a father were wounded in Kirkuk in a drive-by shooting and gunfire wounded a police officer in Babil.  Reuters notes yet another attack on an official this time, in Kirkuk, on the chief judge of the court of appeals, Dhahir al-Bayati who was not killed but one guard was and another was left injured while, in Kirkuk, "an intelligence officer along with his wife and son" were injured in a drive-by shooting.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 6 corpses discovered in Baghdad.  Reuters notes 8 corpses discoveredin Mosul. And CBS and AP note that Iraqi Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi announced today that 16 corpses were discovered in Baghdad.
Meanwhile tensions continue to escalate between Turkey and northern Iraq.  CNN reports that US planes are "flying over the Turkey-Iraq border to observe military movements" and quotes Pentagon flack Geoff Morrell stating, "We are assisting by supplying them, the Turks, with intelligence, lots of intelligence."  Mark Bentley (Bloomberg News) informs that  Condi Rice is supposed to "offer Turkey more intelligence on the location of of Kurdish fighters near the border with Iraq in order to avert a large-scale Turkish incursion" when she travels to Turkey for the conference. AP reminds that Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets with the Bully Boy in DC Monday.  Suzan Fraser (AP) quotes Erdogan declaring that "it is now unavoidable that Turkey will have to go through a more intensive military process."  AFP reports the Turkish military is stating it has killed 15 members of the PKK today and cites "press reports" that "possible sanctions against Iraq include restricting trade through the Habur border gate and uctting off electricity supplies to northern Iraq."  While Turkey considers that, CBS and AP report, "Iraq will set up more checkpoints along its northern frontier to keep out supplies for Kurdish rebels". Meanwhile Steve Hargreaves (CNNMoney) reports that while the tensions and violence continues the price of oil per barrel hit a new record today: $94.53 per barrel.
Turning to US politics, Perry Bacon Jr. (Washington Post) notes that Ralph Nader has declared he will make a decision about the 2008 race at the end of this year and quotes Nader stating of the two major parties (Democratic and Republican), "They are converging more and more. They are clearly more similar than they were 30 or 40 years ago."  Nader's 2004 run was the subject of a discussion on Democracy Now! today between Amy Goodman and Carl Mayer who has filed a lawsuit against the Democratic Party:
AMY GOODMAN: Why are you suing?
CARL MAYER: To defend democracy. That's the title of the show -- excuse me, is Democracy Now! And this was the most massive anti-democratic campaign to eliminate a third-party candidate from the ballot in -- probably in recent American history. It is -- not content with having all these laws and statutes on the book that make it difficult for third-party and independent candidates to run, the Democratic Party and their allies in over fifty-three law firms, with over ninety lawyers, were engaged in filing litigation in eighteen states. They were to remove Ralph Nader from the ballot. It was an organized, abusive litigation process. The core of the lawsuit is that these lawyers, led by Toby Moffett and Elizabeth Holtzman, and something called the Ballot Project, which was a 527 organization, systematically went around the country and filed lawsuit after lawsuit, twenty-four in all, plus five FEC complaints, to try to completely remove the Nader campaign from the ballot and to, in effect, bankrupt the campaign, which they succeeded in doing. Not content with that, one of the defendants, Reed Smith, which is a large corporate law firm in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, they are now going after Ralph Nader's personal bank account to make him pay some of the cost of this litigation.
And, understand, despite being outspent by the Democratic Party and its affiliated lawyers, the vast majority of these lawsuits were won by the Nader campaign, which was a largely volunteer effort. And these lawsuits were won across the country, despite this organized effort of intimidation and harassment. It's basically abusive process and malicious prosecution. Those are common law torts. And it was very clear from the beginning that the Democratic Party was using the legal system for an improper purpose. In fact, Toby Moffett, who's a former congressman from Connecticut, said directly to The Guardian of London in an interview in December of 2004, this wasn't about the law. "I'd be less than honest if I said" this was not about the law; this was about getting Ralph Nader off the ballot. And that's what this effort was about. And it's a shameful anti-democratic process by a party that claims to be a democratic party. And on top of that, the Democratic Party, or its allies, filed five FEC complaints against the campaign, alleging improper --
AMY GOODMAN: Federal Election Commission.
CARL MAYER: The Federal Election Commission -- alleging improper funding, improper finances, etc. They were all dismissed by the FEC.
Now, let me tell you how bad it got. There was an organized effort of harassment of petitioners who went around trying to collect signatures for the Nader campaign in Ohio, in Oregon and in Pennsylvania. In Ohio, for example, lawyers were hired to call up petitioners and tell them that if they didn't verify the signatures on the petition, they would be guilty of a felony. They were called at home by -- and they were, in many cases, visited by private investigators and told -- this is voter intimidation of the worst order. In the state of Oregon, for example, there was a nominating convention, and you need a thousand signatures at the convention. We have emails from Democratic Party operatives stating, we want our people to go to this convention and then refuse to sign the petition at the convention so Nader will not get enough signatures at the convention to get on the ballot. And they accomplished their goal in Oregon. After the convention, there's an alternative way of getting on the ballot, which is to collect signatures, and the Nader campaign went about doing that, and during the course of that there was further harassment and intimidation of petitioners by law firms, private investigators, calling up and threatening petitioners that they would be called before a court if they did not certify all the petitions.
For the record, Ralph Nader is against the illegal war and calling for an immediate end to it unlike the three Democratic front runners.  Last night the and others participated in a forum billed as a 'debate' but more of an embarassment.
Hillary Clinton demonstrated that even when attacked by two men (Barack Obama and John Edwards), a woman is up for the job.  Whether she would be the president Americans want or not is another question.  Like Obama and Edwards, Clinton refuses to pledge to end the illegal war if elected president (in 2008) by 2013. 
Apparently having exhausted the alleged "rock star" charm and having no real ideas to offer voters,  Marz Barbabak and Peter Nicholas (Los Angeles Times) report, Barack now claims the really issue is that Clinton is reportedly "divisive" stating, "Part of the reason that Republicans, I think are, obsessed with you, Hillary, is because that's a fight they're very comfortable having."  Considering that many Americans look back favorably on the 90s and that Bill Clinton won two presidential elections, Obama's attempted smear was ineffective. By contrast, John Edwards wanted to talk about his beliefs, CNN notes, for instance: "You know, I believe in Santa Claus. I believe in the tooth fairy."  And candidates wonder why they aren't taken seriously?  As Bill Richardson stated of the tag-team attacks on Clinton (note, neither man was up to the attacks before they could tag-team), "I think that Senators Obama and Edwards should concentrate on the issues and not on attacking Senator Clinton."  
But where were the issues?  Iraq was rendered nearly as invisible as Mike Gravel who was not allowed to take part in the forum.  Moderator Tim Russert attempted to further narrow the field by ridiculing Dennis Kucinich -- possibly because Kucinich actually has a plan to end the illegal war?  "Now, did you see a UFO?"  Many Americans have seen UFOs.  UFOs are not flying saucers.  Russert bungled his own big moment by failing to grasp that, as Kucinch pointed out, a UFO is "unidentified."  Millions of Americans call in UFOs every year -- and  will continue to.  Apparently, if Americans saw strange planes flying along the eastern coast, Russert would prefer they not alert authorities?  UFOs is what Russert offered.  No substantial exchange on issues, just ha-ha UFOs.  All Things Media Big and Small continue to ignore the very real issues at stake in the 2008 election. Last night may be the most extreme televised examples as one candidate felt the need to cite the tooth fairy while avoiding the realities most Americans are living with and a moderator thought he could better serve the public by offering up ha-has.

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