Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Other Items

The U.S. military said it killed 11 people in a helicopter attack on a group of men seen planting a roadside bomb north of Baghdad on Tuesday, but police and residents said the dead were farmers, women and children.
The U.S. military acknowledged that six of those killed were civilians and said it regretted their deaths, but it blamed militants for using civilians as a shield.

The above is from Aseel Kami's "US says Iraq air strike kills 11, mostly civilians" (Reuters) and Jonah noted it pointing out that the Israeli military cannot get away with that excuse due to international law nor should the US. Jonah is correct and it goes to the point that the illegal war (including the occupation that is ongoing) in Iraq does more, each day, to make people question the events in the occupied territories than anything else has. Arguing that "human shields" were used (especially laughable in the case of the US bombing above) is not just weak, it has no legal standing in international law. Civilians are supposed to be protected by the US which is the occupying power. This isn't even a "woopsie!" This is a, "Yeah, it happened. So what? They used civilians as shield! It's their problem!" No, by international law, it is a US problem because it is an international crime.

Kami opens with the US explanation before getting to Iraqi eye witnesses whose seen with their own eyes testimony is apparently second to official statements. 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."

The mercenary corporation Blackwater USA remains in the news. First, Eric Schmitt and David Rohde offer "Reports Assail State Dept. on Iraq Security" in this morning's New York Times:

A pair of new reports have delivered sharply critical judgments about the State Department's performance in overseeing work done by the private companies that the government relies on increasingly in Iraq and Afghanistan to carry out delicate security work and other missions.
A State Department review of its own security practices in Iraq assails the department for poor coordination, communication, oversight and accountability involving armed security companies like Blackwater USA, according to people who have been briefed on the report. In addition to Blackwater, the State Department's two other security contractors in Iraq are DynCorp International and Triple Canopy.
At the same time, a government audit expected to be released Tuesday says that records documenting the work of DynCorp, the State Department’s largest contractor, are in such disarray that the department cannot say "specifically what it received" for most of the $1.2 billion it has paid the company since 2004 to train the police officers in Iraq.

If repeated Iraqi civilians deaths didn't clue the US State Department into the fact that they had a problem, the fact that Blackwater repeatedly ignored the rules that they were supposed to let the US military know whenever they had a convoy and remain in communication with the US military should have tipped them off. The State Dept has provided no oversight and, at this late date, it's a bit difficult to convincingly pull off the mantra of Condi's "No one could have guessed." The choice was made to look the other way.

Meanwhile, who pays taxes? Joseph Neff's "Congressman: Blackwater evaded federal income taxes" (McClatchy Newspapers) reports:

The congressman leading an investigation into Blackwater said Monday that the embattled security company may have evaded tens of millions of dollars in federal taxes and was seeking to hide its tax practices.
Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, said that Blackwater has avoided paying Social Security, Medicare and unemployment taxes by treating its armed guards as independent contractors and not employees.
The other two large private security companies in Iraq, DynCorp and Triple Canopy, classify their guards as employees and pay the federal taxes that Blackwater has not, Waxman said.
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.
Blackwater agreed to pay back wages and other compensation to the man, but on condition that he not talk to any politician or public official about the company.
"THE UTMOST PROTECTION AND NONDISCLOSURE OF CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION IS OF CRITICAL IMPORTANCE AND IS THE ESSENCE OF THIS AGREEMENT," the settlement agreement stated in capital letters. Waxman released it after obtaining it by subpoena from Blackwater.

Exactly what rules and laws is Blackwater bound to? That's the question to ask. Indiscriminate killins are often tolerated (by the US and other governments). It's shocking but as Anne Bancroft's character (Gloria Vogel) points out in HeartBreakers, the IRS always wants their share: "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." Blackwater apparently thought it wasn't bound by the rules that others are and this has got to top everything else pulled on taxes by corporations. Blackwater tried to call their employees "contract labor" to keep from paying taxes. What Congress refuses to do thus far -- stand up to Blackwater -- the IRS did. The only US governmental force that may indeed make many in power tremble. 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.
Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, also accused the North Carolina-based company of preventing a guard who discovered the practice "from contacting members of Congress or law enforcement officials."
"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," the California Democrat wrote in a letter to Blackwater founder and CEO Erik Prince.

In the October 16th snapshot, we noted a performance war resister Camilo Mejia will be participating in (apparently only as a voice being read). With more on that:

Culture Project presents
a new play based on
Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove's best-selling book Voices of a People's History of the United States.

November 10 - December 16
Opening night, November 18, with special appearance by Howard Zinn
This fall, Culture Project stands with activist scholar Howard Zinn, asserting that "the world is topsy-turvy" and that "things are all wrong -- that the wrong people are in power and the wrong people are out of power, and that civil disobedience is not only necessary, but required."
At a time when voices of dissent have been relegated to "free speech zones" and diminished in the mainstream media, REBEL VOICES brings to life inspirational and challenging stories of protest from U.S. history -- and today.
The play, in its debut at Culture Project, combats hopelessness by igniting the forces responsible for arousing change and celebrating the indomitable human spirit. REBEL VOICES is a testimony to the strength of the individual voice, as told through first-hand accounts from people who have shaped the course of U.S. history, often struggling against seemingly insurmountable odds.Featured voices include Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass and Malcolm X, as well as lesser-known figures like Maria Stewart, a pioneer Black abolitionist from the early 1800s, Stella Nowicki, a union organizer in the 1930s, and contemporary voices such as Iraq war resister Camilo Mejía and Patricia Thompson, a survivor of Hurricane Katrina.
Performance poet Staceyann Chinn and acclaimed musician Allison Moorer will lead the permanent cast, which will also feature a host of rotating special guest performers. Confirmed guests already include Wallace Shawn, Ally Sheedy, Eve Ensler, and David Strathairn.
REBEL VOICES is written by Rob Urbinati, with Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove, and directed by Will Pomerantz and Rob Urbinati.
$21 in previews,
$41 after November 17
By phone: 212.352.3101
Ovation Tx:
In person:
55 Mercer Street
Between Broome & Grand Streets
New York, NY 10013
Box office hours: Sunday, 1 pm - 5 pm; Tuesday - Friday, 7 pm - 8 pm; Saturday, 10 am - 1 pm and 7 pm - 8 pm
Previews start November 10
Opening (with Howard Zinn) November 18
Through December 16, 2007, only!
Saturday, 9 pm; Sunday, 5 pm; Tuesday, 8 pm
Wednesday matinees at 12 pm starting November 28

A Google search will turn up a MySpace page. We don't link to the Murdoch owned MySpace with two and only two exceptions. First, Cindy Sheehan and that says it all. (Or does for community members.) Second, Aimee Allison and David Solnit's tour schedule for Army Of None -- which is mainly due to the fact that we can't note Allison's work on KPFA due to the outrage (that KPFA needs to address, Ruth is correct) over the threat to cut off online listeners. For those who missed it, three more months is what the community voted in the gina & krista round-robin poll. After that, we'll check in again with another poll. That is not a minor issue and the refusal of management to address the threat (not just withdraw it and act like it never happened) has left a very sour note. That's the perfect example of how I am just one vote in the community. I would be happy to note KPFA but it's not happening because of members' feelings on the issues. As a result, Allison doesn't get noted (true of other things as well), so when we note the tour dates, we do link to Allison and Solnit's MySpace page. (Murdoch owns foreign papers. We noted that in the first year of this site and noted that we would link to those on a case by case basis which is what we do and that is based on member's choices or whether I know someone at the paper in question. On the latter, if I do and can verify we're not getting non-stop propaganda, we link. Ruth can, of course, address whatever she wants in her reports, that's her space.) Apologies for delays in the second entry this morning. The laptop's been a nightmare and thank you to a friend who called about the second entry (where it was) and offered to let me dictate it.

The e-mail for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.