Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, November 6, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more multiple deaths, Turkey appears set to move military into northern Iraq (if anyone's paying attention), and more.
Staring with war resistance.  Michael Massing offers an excerpt (at Salon) from an anthology entitled What Orwell Didn't Know: Propaganda and the New Faces of American Politics.  Massing notes that the mainstream press has a very difficult time conveying the realities of Iraq including the vast number of Iraqis being killed and wounded by US service members.  He notes books by former US service members tell more than the press about:
The prevalence of drug use among U.S. troops.
The ubiquity of pornography.
The frequency of stealing from Iraqis.
The widespread contempt in which Iraqis are held.
The routine mistreatment of Iraqi citizens during house raids.
The killing of innocent Iraqis at checkpoints.
The high civilian death toll in Iraq.
Among these recommended readings in the excerpt is Joshua Key's The Deserter's Tale:
". . . Key observes that each military company in Iraq is responsible for dealing with the bodies of the civilians it has killed, and it fell to him to build a shack to hold the bodies of Iraqis slain by his unit until someone came to claim them."  In addition, Key explains how they were discouraged from expressions of sympathy with the families picking up their dead and how he was warned and threatened for being seen as too sympethic.  Key now lives in Canada with wife Brandi and their four children.  His book has been optioned for filming.
Another war resister who went to Canada is James Burmeister and in June he broke the news on the kill teams.  The kill teams of US service members purposely leave US property lying around to then have justification for shooting Iraqis.  This isn't something a few enlisted thought up, it is a policy and plan coming from the top.  Since war resiters get so little attention from All Things Media Big and Small to begin with, it's not surprising that only Canadian media covered those revelations.  In this country Josh White and Joshua Partlow broke the story for the Washington Post on September 24, 2007. AP notes: "An Army sniper team leader charged with murdering three men will be tried today in a court-martial that is likely to highlight a classified Pentagon program in which snipers placed fake weapons as 'bait' to attract and kill enemy fighters."  Paul von Zielbauer (New York Times) reports on Michael A. Hensley -- the team leader:
The baiting program was introduced to select members of the First Battalion, including Sergeant Hensley, in late January by the Asymmetrical Warfare Group, a Defense Department agency that develops secret methods of githing insurgents in Iraq, said Capt. Mattew Didier, the platoon commander at the time of the killings, in a sworn statement that has not been made public but was obtained by The New York Times.
"If we happened to see the individual take the items we would engage, to destroy the enemy," Captain Didier said in the statement, dated June 23.
Lawyers for Sergeant Hensley and the other snipers accused in the case have suggested the baiting program is relevant to their defense because it demonstrates the extent to which Army and Pentagon commanders approved unconventional methods of killing not only insurgents but also unarmed men of military age who were believed to be enemy fighters.
Again, Burmeister was discussing the program in June -- and yes, it is a program, it is not a few soldiers deciding to have 'kicks'.  They were ordered to participate.  That is among the reasons Burmeister decided enough was enough and he was checking himself out.
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.
Yesterday in DC, Bully Boy met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the continued tensions between Turkey and northern Iraq.  Erdogan and Bully Boy met with the press with Edrogan stating (through a translator), "The focus of our discussions today was mostly on terrorism, international terrorism, and also the PKK and the activities of the PKK terrorist organization in orthern Iraq.  As strategic partners, we are fighting jointly against international terrorism in the world.  As part of our joint efforts to combat terrorism, we spoke about what we can do against the separatist terrorist organization which has deployed itself in northern Iraq.  As you know, on the 17th of October, the Turkish parliament overwhelmingly, almost every single member of the Turkish parliament, gave an authority to our government -- the authority, the mandate, in other words, to do a military cross-border incursion, if necessary.  This is a mandate for a cross-border operation that solely aims [at] the PKK.  It cannot and it does not cover the civilians."  The PKK is defined by the US, Turkey and the European Union as a 'terrorist' organization.  In terms of the claims about civilians, any attacks -- small scale or big scale -- would increase Iraq's refugee crisis.  Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted "that President Bush has effectively given his tacit approval for limited Turkish bombings of Kurdish rebel positions there."  At the brief press conference, four questions were permitted.  Erdogan and Bully Boy stood before the press which elected to ask two questions about Turkey and two questions about Pakistan.  For the record, Erdogan is not the prime minister of Pakistan.  Bully Boy refused to "answer hypothetical questions" regarding Turkey's possible actions but noted that "the PKK is an enemy of Turkey, a free Iraq, and the United States of America.  And it's in our joint interest to work effectively to deal with the problem."  BBC notes, "Kurdish protesters demonstrated outside the White House on Monday, voicing their opposition to any violent action by Turkey."  James Gerstenzang (Los Angeles Times) observes that "there was no indication that Erdogan received a US committment to take specific steps that Turkey is seeking to counter Kurdish militants based in northern Iraq."  Today, AP reports Turkish President Abdullah Gul is declaring, "Turkey has made its preparations and had decided what to do on this issue before the prime minister left." Decided what? He doesn't say. Reported in the foreign media was the fact that Turkey had a battle plan drawn up. Reuters notes that the prime minister of Turkey, Tayyip Erdogan, "has said that a military operation is still planned against Kurdish guerrillas in northern Iraq".  The Financial Times of London sees Turkey on the verge of beginning operations in northern Iraq. AKI reports that Turkey will try to seek support for an operation in northern Iraq when Erdogan visits Italy tomorrow: "Erdogan is expected to stress Turkey's right to defend itself against increasing PKK attacks and seek support for a possible cross border operations into the militant bases in nothern Europe." The topic of Turkey came up once in today's US State Department press briefing by Sean McCormack:
Q: The Turkish Prime Minister said that the Turkish army is going to go ahead with operations in northern Iraq.  I wondered if you had any sort of indication of timing, size of force or what exactly he's talking --
McCormack: I hadn't seen his comments.  Let me -- let me check for you.  I want to -- it's an important, sensitive topic so I want to take a look at exactly what he said.
And that was that. (At the White House press briefing, Turkey came up once and the question had nothing to do with Iraq.)
Repeating, any military operation by Turkey in northern Iraq can be expected to increase the refugee crises.  Kurds, Christians and many others would flee (becoming part of the external displaced or the internal).  Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes the crisis and that "new figures show the number of displaced Iraqis has quadrupled under the so-called U.S. troop surge that began earlier this year.  According to the Iraqi Red screscent, two-point three million people have been forced to flee their homes.  Eight in ten were residents of Baghdad."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Hawija bombing that wounded three people.
Reuters notes "six off-duty" police officers were shot dead in Mosul and then there bodies were burned and two people were shot dead in Tikrit.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 4 corpses discovered in Iraq and a corpse discovered in Salahuddin.  Reuters notes 33 corpses ("decomposed") discovered "in the Lake Thar Thar region," 2 outside Latifiya and 3 in Dhuluiya (police officers)..
Today, the US military announced: "A U.S. Soldier assigned to Multi National Force-West was killed Nov. 5 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province." And they announced: "Four U.S. Soldiers were killed as result of an explosion near their vehicle while conducting combat operations in the Kirkuk province Monday."  And they announced: "A U.S. Sailor was killed as a result of injuries sustained from an explosion while conducting operations in Salah ad Din Province Monday."
We're not done with the reported deaths.  This morning, Meanwhile, AP noted that there were 17 reported deaths yesterday in Iraq "including a local councilman gunned down in a neighbourhood next his own in western Baghdad." This continues the trend of assaults on officials in Iraq. Over the weekend, Lt. Gen. Mohan Hafidh and Maj. Gen. Jaleel Khalf (Basra police) survived an attack on Saturday (in Basra) as did Dr. Jabbar Yasir Al Maiyahi (Wasit University president) although he and three bodyguards were wounded; Sunday Qutaiba Badr Al Deen, of the Ministry of Finance, was shot dead Sunday in Baghdad as was Eman Hussein (a female school principal) while a second female principal was wounded and, on Saturday, a police officer's wife was kidnapped in Kut. While yesterday, a municipal manager was shot dead in Baghdad. The trend towards attacks on officials has been largely ignored (Alissa J. Rubin did cover it at the New York Times) though the AP does focus on government worker Mohammed Abdul-Wahab who found a note from a militia telling him to leave his home and he and his family quickly became part of the 2.3 million internally displaced Iraqis as they left their Baghdad home (as 60% of the internally displaced have).  Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports today on an attack "of the offices of the PUK in Sadyah town northeast Baquba" on Monday that left two security guards wounded and today, in Hawija, the mayor ("of Al Manzila village") was shot dead while his son was wounded while in Basra there was an attempt to assassinate Abo Al Khaseeb ("head of the local council"). Meanwhile Reuters notes Arif Yousif was shot dead in Mosul -- he had been "a member of the governing council of Mosul."  The trend of targeting officials continues.
Turning to US politics, Tom Hayden (writing at Common Dreams) offers an evaluation of the Democratic presidential candidates.  He dubs Joe Biden "the worst Democratic candidate because of his demand that partition be imposed on Iraq."  Biden supports partitioning (but doesn't care for the term and insists that's not what he's proposed though it's the same thing he was proposing in 2006) but has implied (September 26th Democratic presidential candidate forum billed as a 'debate' in New Hampshire) that if the US Congress doesn't get behind it (and they shouldn't), he would, if elected president, pull troops out of Iraq.  Biden: Everyone says there's no political -- there's no military solution, only a political solution.  We offered a political solution today" the partition plan "and it got 75 votes. . . .  if in fact there is no political solution by the time I am president, then I would bring them out, because all they are is fodder.  But if you go along with the Biden plan that got 75 votes today, and you have a stable Iraq,. . .  So it would depend on the circumstances when I became president."  Though Biden himself has, at times, referred to his plan (conceived with the Council on Foreign Relations) as a "soft partition," he prefers it be called "federalism."  It is a partition and that is clear by the fact that the three divisions are based upon the three largest ethnic factions in Iraq.  Biden should clarify if his statements -- as they appear to say -- in the September 26th debate are stating that if the Biden plan isn't passed by the time he would become president that would mean he would pull US troops out of Iraq.  If that is the case, troops would come home under a Biden presidency because the plan isn't going to be passed. 
The stance Hayden takes for the analysis is that "single-digit support at present" for a Dem candidate means they "should be considered as strong voices against the war . . . but not as likely nominees."  People can agree with that set-up or not, but that's how he structures his argument.  That approach leaves candidates Dennis Kucinich and Bill Richardson -- who both say all troops come under a their presidency -- on the margins and puts the focus to John Edwards, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.  Noting Obama's desire to construct a "new center" stance, Hayden says Obama's position has improved.  Hayden references the New York Times and is speaking of the article written by Michael R. Gordon and Jeff Zeleny.  As noted in Friday's snapshot and "NYT: 'Barack Obama Will Keep Troops In Iraq'" (The Third Estate Sunday Review), if you use the transcript (which the paper has posted online), Obama's position is not as peace friendly as the reporters portrayed. On Clinton, Hayden judges her "the most indecipherable of the candidates on Iraq" noting her vote against the escalation and support for "a March 2008 withdrawal deadline for combat troops" which it the con-game the Pelosi-controlled Democratic House of Representatives tried to play on Americans -- the proposal leaves troops in Iraq, it just allows for new classifications.  Hadyen finds Edwards to have "the strongest anti-war position" -- remember, the way the analysis is constructed, he's eliminated Dennis Kucinich and Bill Richardson and Mike Gravel doesn't even get a shout out -- but Edwards position is not any different than Clinton's.  And, in fact, Edwards has taken a pass on the topic of Iraq in  debates. 
Hayden sees the potential for Obama and Edwards supporters to be disenchanted with a Clinton nomination which could mean "a two-percent space will open for Ralph Nader and/or Cynthia McKinney to possibly make the difference in the November election."  The November election is in 2008.  Nader will announce whether or not he's running by the end of this year, McKinney will announce this month.  Others in The Green Party may seek the nomination as well.  Just to be clear before Green and third party voters e-mail to point out that flaw in the analysis.  Where he finds the "two-percent space" is not stated.  Since Clinton is leading in the polls, it would be far more likely that someone other than her being selected could create a "space" (of any percentage) for a third party just because she has the larger group of supporters at this point.  At the end of his article is the statement "He has not endorsed any candidate for president."  As Greens and third party community members will note, it should read: "He has not endorsed any Democratic candidate for president."  The two-percent space section comes at the end and is unclear.  If the meaning is that voters could swing to the Green Party, they could go Green for any number of reasons and that is their choice -- not a "stolen" vote, a choice made by voters.  Polling shows self-identified "liberals" are supporting Hillary Clinton in larger numbers than they are Barack Obama or John Edwards.  Hillary leads over all in support (at this point in the primary race, it could change) so she has a much larger number of supporters.  Where these disgruntled voters will allegedly come from if she wins the nomination is not stated.  Repeating, based on the current polling results, Clinton losing the nomination would create more disgruntled Democrats than Obama or Edwards simply because she has much greater support (at this point). 
Reality, if you eliminate Kucinich and Richardson, if voters are left with the three 'front runners' then, on Iraq, there's no difference between the three Democrats.  Nor is there a huge difference between the three and Democratic leadership in Congress.  Which means if the line up of the 'front runners' does not change, there's no peace candidate and the peace movement's energies are better used applying pressure than in blindly supporting a candidate.  That is what happened in 2004, even with many warning against it (Naomi Klein was among those warning against that).  It took forever for the peace movement to recover from having put tremendous energies behind electing John Kerry and, for those not paying attention, the thanks for all that effort expanded was for the 'left' to turn around and dump Iraq.  Hayden, in fact, called out one such voice after 2004.  To be clear, Hayden did not dump Iraq after the 2004 election.  In early January he was on Air America Radio as a guest one night and rightly decrying the lack of attention being given to Iraq.  So much so that the host focused on questions of the Ohio voter results felt the need to state something to the effect of, "I believe we can do two things at once" -- after he was off air.  While the host could, did and does, the bulk of the 'left' does not.  Iraq was dropped like a hot potatoe, Ad Nags created the myth of the 'value voters' (never supported in the New York Times own polling -- we went over all of this in real time) and that's where the 'left' chose to focus their energies with "WE'RE RELIGIOUS TOO!" campaigns and "WE HAVE VALUES!" campaigns and other efforts to use this decade's hulahoop ("framing") but only coming off on the defensive.  All that nonsense (including coming to the defense of James Dobson -- which, yes, did happen) accomplished was nothing.  The peace movement would be better served grasping that no current 'front runner' Democrat is an ally in ending the illegal war and that the illegal war will end because the people demand that it ends.  That's regardless of who gets elected in 2008.  If an Out of Iraq candidate makes it onto the ballot, supporting them is one thing the peace movement can consider but the energies of the movement should not be wasted supporting candidates who are not calling for US troops out of Iraq.  That's the movement itself.  Individuals can do whatever they want.  But the movement's energies should not be focused on electing a Democrat that won the primary just because he or she won the primary.  The peace movement has independents, Greens, third party members, Democrats and, yes, Republicans.  It also has non-voters.  It should not be used as a 527 PAC.
Staying with US House Rep and Democratic presidential contender Kucinich since he was reduced to one sentence in the analysis and if those against the illegal war can't be counted on to note the candidates trying to end it, who can be counted on to do so?   Yesterday Kucinich's campaign planned a teleconference on the impeachment of president of vice Dick Cheney (Wally & Cedric's phrase for Cheney).  Call volume scuttled it and it will take place later in the week. Matthew Hay Brown (Baltimore Sun's blog The Swamp) reports that Kucinich's attempt to get a vote on the impeachment of Cheney should happen today but that House Majority Leader and War Hawk Steny Hoyer has already bragged to the press that it's not happening because he and Fancy Nancy "have both said impeachment is not on our agenda."  Strange, Congress is supposed to work the people's agenda.  Jason Rhyne (Raw Story) reports Kucinich "is also planning a similar resolution to impeach President Bush."  Rhyne steers to Mike Soraghan (The Hill) who reports on the discomfort for the centrists and that the response to the privileged resolution is passage, sent to (buried in) committe or tabled (buried).  Matthew Hay Brown notes, "Kucinich alleges that Cheney misled Congress and the American public into the war in Iraq, and is trying now to mislead lawmakers and voters into a war with Iran."  Along with impeachment being supported by a sizeable portion of Americans (much more than ever supported the impeachment of Bill Clinton in any poll), the National Lawyers Guild voted a resoultion supporting the impeachment of Bully Boy and Cheney "at its national convention in Washington, DC.  The resolution lists more than a dozen high crimes and misdemeanors of the Bush and Cheney administration and 'calls upon the U.S. House of Representatives to immediately initiate impeachment proceedings, to investigate the charges, and if the investigation supports the charges, to vote to impeach George W. Bush and Richard B. cheney as provided in the constitution of the United Stats of America.'"  PDF warning, the resolution is hereNLG president Marjorie Cohn states, "The war of aggression, the secret prisons, the use of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, the use of evidence obtained by torture, and the surveillance of citizens without warrants, all initiated and carried out under the tenure of Bush and Cheney, are illegal under the U.S. Constitution and international law."  The NLG is far from alone.  The Center for Constitutional Rights is among the authors of books on impeachment.  Author most recently of The End of America: Letters of Warning to a Young PatriotNaomi Wolf (The Huffington Post) writes of the new laws on the horizon and, "Why should Congress impeach and prosecute this instant, not waiting till February?  Why should this impeachment and prosecution be solidly bipartisn?  After February it is the leaders on both sides of the aisle -- and the people writing these essays -- who are at most risk" due to changes in the law "of being turned back at the border.  People who can't leave in a police state are effectively silenced.  And history shows that Republicans are at the exact same risk as Democrats of being violently silenced once liberties are lost.  I am reading about IBM's close, profitable involvement with Nazi Germany -- much akin to Prescott Bush's well-documented close and profitable involvement with Nazi Germany through German industrialist Fritz Thyssen.  Right up to the top of the solidly Nazi hierarchy of the IBM affiliate, corporate executives were terrified of taking a wrong step in the eyes of the Party; 'There are concentration camps,' they would whisper to their US backers.  The teenage son of one solid Nazi ally was taken hostage when he resisted Party orders.  So alignment with the regime in a police stat offers no ultimate protection."
Citing Blackwater Tactical Weekly, the mercenary corporation's own weekly, Wolf concludes that "it is reasonable to speculate that Blackwater is focusing on becoming more active domestically in managing domestic domestic protests and rallies."  In yesterday's Los Angeles Times, US House Rep and chair of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which has examined Blackwater, Henry Waxman addressed corruption in Iraq, "Two truths have emerged from Iraq in recent months.  First, corruption is so pervasive in Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's government that political progress in Iraq may be impossible.  Second, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and our embassy in Baghdad are inexplicably neglecting this corrosive threat" and noted that Bully Boy's request "Hearings in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, of which I am chairman, have revealed a devastating cycle of corruption. Rampant theft in Iraqi ministries undermines political reconciliation and diverts billions of dollars from the rebuilding effort. Even worse, the stolen money funds terrorists who attack our troops. Yet no one in our government is holding Iraqi ministers to account."  On corruption in construction and contractors, James Glanz (New York Times) reports that "More than a year after the Parsons Corporation, the American contracting giant, promised Congress that it would fix the disastrous plubming and shoody construction in barracks the company built at the Baghdad police academy, the ceilings are still stained with excrement, parts of the structures are crumbling and sections of the buildings are unusable because the toilets are filthy and nonfuctioning." The water's been shut off because the concrete is "collapsing in places" at the project whose cost (to US tax payers) was $72 million.  As an unnamed US military officer tells Glanz, "When it's for something good, I don't mind flipping the dime, but this money just went from my pocket to a contractor."

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