Monday, November 05, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Monday, November 5, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, big meetup in DC, violence in the US military, and more.
Starting with war resistance.  John Hartl (Seattle Times) reviews the new documentary by Catherine Ryan and Gary Weimber,  Soldiers of Conscience, which examines war resistance, and Hartl notes, "Two of the conscientious objectors, charismatic Aidan Delgado (who leans toward Buddhism) and straight-arrow Joshua Casteel (a patriotic, evangical Christian), are given honorable discharges after they refuse to kill in Iraq.  Delgado, who finds himself incapable of using arms 'designed to roast people,' honors one rule: 'Don't take life.'  Interrogating an Abu Ghraib jihadist who challenges his commitment to Jesus' teachings, Casteel becomes defensive and self-doubting and finally opts out of the service."
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.
Staying with the topic of the US military.  Courage to Resist reports that a recent story on "search and avoid" missions (which the New York Times described last year -- without identifying it as such) has received attention for one active duty soldier: "The Army has begun a very official 'unofficial investigation of out-spoken Iraq veteran Eli Wright, an active duty soldier at Fort Drum, New York.  Apparently the story below prompted right-wing bloggers to press the military to take action against Eli -- for either the actions decribed, or simply talking about them.  The military might take action to keep 'search and avoid' missions from again becoming an 'open secret' -- as during the Vietnam War."
Turning to the topic of AWOL, Robert Przbylski (noted here and here) is missing.  The Army captain was stationed in Germany, due to deploy to Iraq early next year and has disappeared last month.  John Vandiver (Stars and Stripes) reported last week that the military is moving towards reclassifying him: "Today, Przbylski is the only officer in U.S. Army Europe to be listed absent without leave, a position he's been in since Oct. 10.  And in a matter of days he faces the prospect of being classified as a deserter, which takes effect after 30 consecutive days of unauthorized absence.  As authorities investigate the case, the circumstances surrounding Przbylski's disappearance remain shrouded in mystery."  Przybylski's father refused comment to Vandiver.  What is know is that Robert Przybylski remains misisng.
Also known is that Ashleigh Higgins was discharged from the US military in July 2006.  Over a year ago.  She had been in the IRR -- Individual Ready Reserve.  Rachel Cohen (The Daily Review) reports that Higgins, who gave birth less than four months ago, has been informed that she must report for duty at Fort Jackson November 11th where she will receive training before being shipped off to Iraq "for up to 400 days" and that not only does she have a newborn, she has no one to take care of it since her husband Daniel is in the Oakland Police Department's police academy and her mother just had surgery and can't pick up any baby -- not even her granddaughter Gabriela.  Higgins has found that the military has no desire to work with her thus far.  She's been told to fill out a deferment form and report to Fort Jackson at which point something may be decided.  Women have been the military for some time and that they want to pull a new mother away from an infant -- a new mother who was discharged over 15 months ago -- goes to just how hard up the military currently is.  The guidelines, not suprisingly, for deferments note things such as the potential for a four to six month delay if you are getting married but say nothing about pregnancy.  Apparently the US military hasn't noted that women have been serving for some time.  Cohen reports that when Higgins informed her superiors that she was pregnant, she was 'rewarded' with being ordered to do push-ups and to run. 
Is that really surprising considering the US military's attitude towards women?  Nicole Sotelo (WeNews) observes of the realities for some US women married to service members, "It's the principle of the Golden Rule in action.  The United States is giving and therefore getting violence in return.  The battlefields of Iraq become the battlefields in our homes and neighborhoods in the shape of domestic violence."  Sotelo notes that statistics ("military families have a domestic violence rate three to five times higher than the general U.S. population") and that "The U.S. war in Iraq has produced numerous reports of U.S. male soldiers assaulting both Iraqi women and fellow U.S. female soldiers.  These soldiers are not assailants by nature, but have been traumatized by the violence of war and now act out that violence against the innocent in Iraq and in the United States upon their return."  On the treatment of female service members, Matthew D. LaPlanet (Salt Lake Tribune) covers the topic beginning with Amanda Blume haveing to face soldiers screaming at her ("Why won't you date any of us, b**ch?") beofre kicking her barracks door down and then had to fight off an assault by the men and, GET THIS, "Army commanders charged her with assault." Blume recounts a too familiar story of a command that just didn't give a damn and quotes Blume explaining of how she got charged, "They told me they knew I had hit one of those guys and that was the only thing they could prove."  Faced with extending her time in the military to fight the charges, "Blume accepted the charge".  Now if you're thinking, "Well her door was kicked down and why exactly did the US military think a group of drunken men were showing up at her door, kicking it down and entering her room in the night to begin with, turns out that the 'investigation' never even bothered to send anyone out to examine the door.  The military says three members were punished -- Blume is one of the three -- and Blume reveals that one of the other two punished was a man "who was a senior enlisted soldier who had come to her defense after she ran out of the building."  It gets better.  The punishment she received for hitting the man (who assaulted her)?  He was already supposed to be "under orders to stay away" from her because he had been stalking her.
Now stop a minute and put it all together.  At night, a group of men show up at her door, kick it in, and one of them wants to whine that she hit him.  Even if the US military is unable to prove the men were drunk, they know damn well that if the poor baby struck is "under orders to stay away" from her, he had no business being in her room.  Blume notes her regrets over not fighting it (she just wanted out of the military) and notes that the week before she was finally released "her sergeant, a man she considered a friend . . . chased her into a field and choked her into unconsciousness after she refused his order to stay at at his home after a party there."  Now this time, pay attention Congress, it didn't go the way it had before even though the man knew to swear charges first.  It was off base so a civilian assault: "Lawton, Okla., city prosecutors prepared a criminal complaint against Blume, but ripped up the charges after speaking to her -- and seeing the bruises on her neck" and the man, Larnelle Lewis, and he refused to contest the three counts of misdemanor assault. Even so, he got a slap on the wrist at the sentencing and Blume didn't know that because she was even advised that the sentencing was taking place.  Though convicted, Lewis faced no penalties from the US military -- no reduction in rank, nothing.  Sara Rich is quoted in the article explaining, "It's just so typical.  The women get blamed.  My daughter went to prison instead of getting the help she needed.  She was ridiculed and put in jail and reduced in rank.  She was treated like the criminal."
Rich's daughter is of course Suzanne Swift.  Swift was assaulted and harassed repeatedly as she served in Iraq.  There was no punishment for that.  When she reported it, it was ignored.  When she reported it again it was thought that Swift needed to take a class to learn how not to 'tempt' men because surely every woman who is assaulted -- in the US military's mind -- is just begging for it.  In the US military's mind, who doesn't love that kind of attention?  Swift got sick of it, as any woman would, and when she was back in the US on leave, since the US military REFUSED to address the command rape, the harassment, the assaults, Swift self-checked out proving that she had far more sanity than the US military which thought the way to address the situation was to flat-out ignore it.  The response was to handcuff her and haul her off from her mother's house, to refuse to give her treatment for PTSD, to do a whitewash investigation (that, even so, found some of Swift's charges to be true) and to try to bully her into recanting the truth.  Because she wouldn't lie, the US military court-martialed her, she spent thirty days in prison and she's in the service -- the same service where she was regularly assaulted -- until 2009.  You might think the US Congress would practice some of that "oversight" that US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can't shut up about; however, the reality is that just as the US military failed Suzanne Swift so did the US Congress.  Sara Rich stands without any government body to help her daughter.  To this day.  Swift needs to be immediately and honorably discharged, with full benefits.  That the US Congress will not take up this issue goes to just how worthless the Pelosi-led House and the Reid-led Senate are.  Remember right after the 2006 elections, in November, when Pelosi blogged (at The Huffington Post): "I told my colleagues yesterday that the biggest ethical issue facing our country for the past three and a half years is the war in Iraq"?  That would be the same illegal war that nearly one year later (six days shy of one year) still drags on though Pelosi did endorse a few toothless, symbolic measures.  Is there a reason Pelosi refuses to champion Swift's release?  Or is it just another sign of how useless Pelosi's 'leadership' has been?  Or as Nora Ephron (The Huffington Post) notes of the Dems in Congres: "What a bunch of losers, hiding behind the fact that it takes 60 votes to shut down debate and 67 votes to override a presidential veto.  So what?  So pass a law and make Bush veto it.  Make him veto something every single day.  Drive the guy crazy.  What have you got to lose?  And meanwhile what have you done?  You've voted for the surge, you've voted to authorize a war against Iran, and you're about to vote in favor an attorney general-designate who refuses to call waterboarding torture."  And as former CIA analyst Ray McGovern (at Consortium News) observes of an earlier illegal war (Vietnam), "Why did we leave?  Only because, despite continued lying by the administration then in power, Congress belatedly woke up to the fact that the war was unwinnable, admitted that for the previous ten years Congress had been wrong, and finally cut off funding for the war.  Even then, Congress was not leading; rather it was reacting to a storm of protest across the land."  McGovern is calling for action and calling for US troops to withdraw.  He also castigates US Senator Joseph Biden as "co-opted."  And it's no different across the Atlantic.  Madeleine Bunting (Guardian of London) calls out the inaction, "Government ministers now talk of Iraq as a tragedy, as if it was a natural disaster and they had no hand in its making.  There's a public revolusion at the violent sectarian struggles best summed up as 'a plague on all their houses', as even the horror gives way to exhaustion.  The irony is that in this great age of communications and saturation media, this is perhaps the most important war to become nigh on impossible to report.  Unless the reporter is embedded with the occupation forces, it takes either terrifying courage or extraordinary ingenuity to bring images to our screens of those caught up in the awful maelstrom of this imploded country.  Without the human stories that bring people and their suffering so vividly to life, there is little chance of public opinon re-engaging with the biggest political calamity of our time.  The Iraq war represents the end of the media as a major actor in war." 
Turning to the conflict between Turkey and northern Iraq.  Today, in DC, the Bully Boy met with the Turkish prime minister.  Prior to that there were other meet ups.  Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) reported Saturday on the dissatisfaction Ali Babacan, Foreign Minister for Turkey, was expressing "at a news conference with Secretary of State Conoleezza Rice in Ankara" where he declared, "We need to work on actually making things happen.  This is where the words end and action needs to start."  Matthew Scholfield (McClatchy Newspapers) also noted the Friday meet-up and how Rice was tossing around terms like "terrorist organization" (PKK) and "common enemy" (ibid) but the White House "has assured Turkey at least four times that it would take action against the PKK, as it's known in its Kurdish initials, but hasn't done so, in part because there are no U.S. troops in Iraq available for such a mission."  Yesterday, Helene Cooper and Richard A. Oppel Jr. (New York Times) noted that puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki was painting "a rosy picture" of what was being done as he told Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, and Rice that Iraq was getting tough -- why, they just shut down two "offices of a political party affiliated with the PKK" but, as Cooper and Oppel explained, "a senior party official, Dr. Abu Bakr Majid, said later the party members had been told to go home but had not been ordered out of the city, and that officers told them their computers and other equipment would not be removed."  Also on Sunday, Selcuk Gokoluk (Reuters) reported that the 8 Turkish soldiers captured last month by the PKK were released and the US military was hailing it as an accomplished for the puppet government of Iraq. Today Bobby Caina Calvan (McClatchy Newspapers) reported reality -- "U.S. officials served as the go-between in the release of eight Turkish soldiers who'd been caputer" and the doubts Turkey continued to have regarding the weight of the words the White House and the puppet government in Iraq were tossing around. As Jim Muir (BBC) postulates today, "The timing of the release was probably no coincidence.  It gave US President George W Bush something new and positive to point to when he met an angry Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan" today in DC.  Ross Colvin (Reuters) revealed Sunday that Saturday the Iraqi government announced that instead of holding a vote next month on whether to make the oil rich Kirkuk part of "Iraq's largely autonomous Kurdistan region," the vote has been postponed for two years and Colvin notes that experts state "the dispute over the city's status could trigger and explosion of violence and possibly draw in neighbouring Turkey unless it is carefully handled."  Carol Glatz (Catholic News Service) reports, "Pope Benedict XVI called for a peaceful solution to mouthing tensions between Turkey and northern Iraq" yesterday and that he noted a large number of those fleeing the region were Christians. Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) examines the realities of life in Baghdad for the Catholic Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly who notes that a number of Iraqi Christians live in north Iraq, that it and Baghdad were the traditional areas in which they lived, that an estimated one million have fled the country and quotes him stating, "I am not happy when people ask, 'How is the situation for Christians?' Those who kill don't kill only Christians.  They kill Muslims as well -- the situation is the same for both."
Prior to the meetup between Erdogan and Bully Boy today in DC, White House flack Dana Perino outlined the planned topics for the meet up and then took questions -- very few on Turkey as one reporter noted ("The situation in Pakistan has kind of overshadowed the situation with Turkey") -- replying to the issue of the PKK that she thought "the Turks understand that we are fully committed to helping them eradicate the PKK.  We understand the threat; we agree the PKK are terrorists and they should be stopped."  At the US State Department press briefing today, Turkey was not raised.  Rather surprising since this was the first DC briefing since Rice was dealing with the issue on Friday and Saturday.)  CBS and AP report of the meetup between Erdogan and Bully Boy that intel was offered (sharing of intel was actually offered last week) and Bully Boy pleged that "top military figures from the United States and Turkey would be in more regular contact in an effort to track the movement of guerrilla fighters" (again, they have heard that before -- at least as far as April 2004).  At stake, as Deborah Haynes (Times of London) notes, was whether or not "the prospect of a new and perilous front of fighting in Iraq" -- between Turkey and northern Iraq -- could be put off.  Vicent Boland (Financial Times of London) observes, "Mr Erdogan is under intense pressure to order a large-scale military incursion into northern Iraq to pursue the PKK, which has killed nearly 50 Turkish soldiers and civilians in the past month."  The meet up took place as new polls show continued lack of confidence in the Bully Boy.  Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) explained that "new poll figures continue to show declining support for President Bush and the Iraqi invasion.  According to the Washington Post and ABC News, less than one-quarter of the population thinks the nation is on the right track.  Six out of ten Americans think the Iraq war has not been worth fighting."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 person dead from a Baghdad roadside bombing this morning, 2 people dead from a Baghdad roadside bombing this evening (seven more wounded) and a Diyala province roadside bombing wounded one police officer.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the Baghdad assassination of "a manager department in Baghdad municipality at Al-Ghadeer neighborhood".
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 corpses discovered in Baghdad, 3 corpses discovered in Mosul and two corpses "between Tikrit and Dour".  Reuters notes that the three in Mosul climbed 4 to make seven corpses total (one was decapitated).
On violence, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) observes, "2007 is on pace to be the deadliest year on record for U.S. troops since the invasion more than four years ago.  According to the Associated Press, at least eight-hundred-forty-seven American service members have died in Iraq this year.  With less than two months left it's the second-highest annual U.S. toll of the Iraq occupation."  The easiest way to track the dead in 2007 is to remember that the 3,000 mark was reached December 31, 2006.
Two items quickly.  WBAI's Law and Disorder  -(hosted by Dalia Hashad, Heidi Boghosian, Michael Ratner and Michael Smith), Ratner noted the people need to be contacting their senators to oppose the confirmation of Michael Mukasey for Attorney General.  Ratner gave out the switchboard number (202) 224-3121 -- call that and ask for senators serving on the committe and/or your own senators.  More information at the program's website and here at the Center for Constitutional Rights and here at the National Lawyers Guild.  And in the report Ruth noted, "'The sixth and final hearing,' as the PDF format announcement words it, will take place next Friday, November the 9th, in Seattle, Washington. The timing is four p.m. to eleven p.m. and the location is Town Hall Seattle on 1119 Eight Avenue."

Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around