Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, November 7, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, new lies about refugees returning hit the media, officials continue to be attacked in Iraq, impeachment and more.
Starting with war resistance.  The Berkeley Daily Planet notes He Stood Up: The Mistrial of Lt. Ehren Watada shows at the Berkeley Fellowship Unitarian Universalists (1924 Cedar at Bonita) Friday at seven p.m.  He Stood Up, The Judge Bailed Out, The Mistrial of Lt. Ehren Watada is a documentary from PepperSpray Productions.  The film opens with Ehren Watada explaining why he began researching the Iraq War upon learning he would be deploying, "I remember my former commander told me when I was stationed in Iraq it's your responsibility to know everything you can about what you're going to undertake and if you don't that's a disservice to your soldiers."  So began Watada's odyssey which would lead him to become (June 2006) the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq.  The documentary focuses on the February court-martial that ended in a mistrial when Judge Toilet (aka John Head) saw that the prosecution was losing and called a mistrial just as the defense was about to present their argument.  The mistrial was called over defense objection.  As National Lawyers Guild president Marjorie Cohn has observed, double- jeopardy had already attached to the case.
Watada's future?  Friday when the documentary is shown in Berkeley, the current stay, issued by US District Court Judge Benjamin H. Settle, expires Friday, November 9th.  Settle issued the stay to review the double-jeopardy issue and other motions.  The documentary takes you back to the February court-martial when Judge Toilet wanted Watada to stand trial for his actions but refused to allow the actions to be explained -- in other words, Toilet refused to allow the defense to make a case -- even before he called a mistrial over defense objection.
In addition, he refused to allow the defense's witnesses to testify including Denis Halliday, Marjorie Cohn, Stacy Bannerman, Antonia Juhasz, Richard Falk,  Daniel Ellsberg, Francis Boyle, Ann Wright, IVAW's Geoffrey Millard, war resister Darrell Anderson and others.
Early in the documentary, Ann Wright, retired Col. and State Department, explains, "I think we have a military judge who knows full well that his career is on the line.  There's lots of pressure that's been brought by the Bush administration on the military, military justice, military lawyers.  You have the Judge Advocate Generals of the four military services who, back in 2001, 2002, were slapped down by the Bush administration for daring to suggest that the Geneva Conventions should apply to the people taken from Afghanistan and other parts of the world.  You have the military that was standing up saying habeas corpus ought to apply to the people that we've had imprisoned for five years and it's the Bush administration that's saying, 'No, we won't have it.'  So I have no doubts that there's a lot of pressure on this military court.  The Bush administration doesn't want a First Lieutenant to be able to argue the legality of  the war in Iraq.  They don't want that at all."
Which explains why the attempted kangaroo-court-martial in the first place.  Watada's research demonstrated that the Iraq War was illegal.  That's why he refused to deploy.  Originally, he attempted to find an alternative -- the US military indicated they were willing to explore that as well.  Instead, it became obvious the military was hoping to stall and that, faced with impending deployment, Watada was just head off to Iraq.  In June of 2006, months later, he went public with his refusal and why he had reached the decision.  The Watada National Steering Committee is calling for vigils on the first and third Saturdays of every month to show support for Watada.
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.
Have you heard the spin?  Iraqi families are returning!  Turning and returning!  To some secret place inside!  Why it's like Cherie Karo Schwartz' Circle Spinning -- except those were Jewish Folk Tales.  These? Consider them US Government-Iraqi folk tales.  CBS and AP, without even serving you some cookies, want to tuck you in with a tale of a vast returning to Iraq -- saying that those who had fled "abroad" are returning "with more than 46,000 people coming home last month, an Iraqi government spokesman said Wednesday."  It, they tell you, is due to the 'improving security situation'.  No, the nonsense is repeated because two new outlets lack basic sense.    Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) notes, "The International Organization for Migration (IOM), which tracks the movement of displaced Iraqis, said Iraq's Ministry of Displacement and Migration had registered the return of some 3,350 families, or 20,000 people, to Baghdad since January. Most had come from other areas within Iraq. Dana Graber, an Iraqi displacement expert at IOM in Jordan, said she had not seen the figures referred to by Moussawi and could not comment on the apparent discrepancies."  Do you get it?  IOM -- which actually tracks -- says 20,000 returned since January and the US' puppet government in Iraq declares 46,000 returning in the last month.  Realizing that the lie was laughable (even though the press picked it up), the US military has attached a new qualifier to today's spin which is "border crossings."  That's how the Iraqis are tracking this!  Border crossings!  For those who've forgotten, the earlier attempted lie presented returns to Baghdad, returning to their homes.  Today's lie is still a lie.  Some of those fleeing the country do return -- when the money runs out and there is no employment in the host country.  This is well documented by relief agencies.  But the new lie is that it's border crossings!  So laughable, so insane, so pathetic.  But some -- CBS and AP? -- enjoy having their intelligence insulted.  Iraq's not counting at the borders -- all the borders are not secure and many borders that are depend upon the US military.  But let's all play stupid and repeat the lie?  Apparently that's how it's supposed to work.  CBS and AP note, in passing, that the same flack for the US-Iraq military demands that the Iraqi Red Crescent "give reasons behind this hugh number" referring to the 2.3 million Iraqis who have left the country due to the violence.  Instead of helping Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi smear an international relief agency, the two outlets should try to doing their own jobs.  Reuters managed to do its job. 2.3 million is not a large number.  The United Nations has been (PDF format warning) using the figure 2.2 million for about a month now.  And, the lies pushed earlier in the week (CBS fell for those as well) came out of the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration and Sattar Nawroz spoke then providing laughter for anyone listening.  Again, border crossing weren't brought up then, you just had Nawroz insisting only his ministry had the official figures!  His official figures were laughable then as well.  Especially amusing in the lies is that earlier in the week, November 4th, the puppet government -- via Nawroz -- was insisting approximately 15,500 individuals had returned to Baghdad and surrounding areas from outside of the country.  Three days later, Qassim Moussawi (also a flack -- don't let the Brig. Gen. title fool you) announces 46,600 peoples have returned to Baghdad -- 46,000 people!  Even those bad at math (CBS News?) should be able to see that's an increase of over 30,000 families in three days -- the borders must have been trampled!  As we noted Monday, "You really have had to been sleeping throughout the Iraqi refugee crisis to pen something like the above. The return numbers are questionable just because Iraq is not officially tracking the numbers. It's equally true that report after report (whether mainstream press or relief agency) has noted returning to Iraq is based upon one thing and one thing only -- running out of money."  What's really going on is that the refugee crisis is an embarrassment for the White House and the puppet government so they're attempting to Lancet the United Nations and the Red Crescent, attempting to muddy the waters by attacking the figures (which are accurate) and some outlets happily go along.
In fact, reality on the state of Iraq these days comes not from the professional media but from journalism students such as Matthew Chavez (University of New Mexico's The Daily Lobo):
The Associated Press figures show a decline in American and Iraqi fatalities, especially in Baghdad and Anbar province. But these and other figures should be viewed skeptically -- some sources, such as a recent Agence France-Presse tally, show civilian fatalities slightly increased between September and October, and official agencies are known to underestimate casualty statistics. U.S. military reporting rules, for example, designate corpses with wounds in the back of the head sectarian killings; the front, criminal. Further, an October 30 Government Accountability Office study notes that military reporting of civilian fatalities "may underreport incidents of Shia militias fighting each other and attacks against Iraqi security forces in southern Iraq and other areas with few or no coalition forces." Despite the decreased violence, 2007 is scheduled to be the deadliest year on record for U.S. occupation forces.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad mortar attack on the headquarters of the Red Crescent that set on fire two Red Cresent vehicles, and a mortar attack on the Green Zone.  AP notes that a four-year-old child and an eight year-old child were killed in Baghdad today in a mortar attack that also left their father and two of their brothers injured.
CBS and AP reports a home invasion in Kut in which an Iraqi soldier was shot dead, a drive-by in Baghdad where a school teacher Hanaa Lafta Muhssim was shot dead. Hanna Lafta Muhssim is the third female educator to be shot this week in Baghdad.  Eman Hussein, a principal, was shot dead in Baghdad and Eman Hussein (also a prinipal) was shot in Baghdad but survived.  AP notes, "Hanaa Lafta Muhssim, 35 was walking to school at 8am when gunmen showered her with bullets".  Could some explain how the press continues to run with the myth of 'improved security' when in one week three female educators (three so far) have been shot in Baghdad with two of them being shot dead?
How safe it is?  And why is the consistent targeting of officials not addressed?  Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports "a sniper killed the son of Mizher Al-Sheikhli (a member of the political buerau of the Islamic party in Doura neighborhood)" and that this morning "a roadside bomb targeted the commander in chief of Basra police and the commander of Basra operation center's convoy on the road that leads to Zubair and near the Technology institution (10 km west Basra) injuring 4 of their guards (one of them was seriously injured)."  Reuters notes the commander was Maj. Gen. Abdul-Jalil Khalaf and that this was the second attempted assassination on him "in four days".
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 6 corpses discovered in Baghdad, 17 in a mass grave were discovered in Diyala and a headless corpse was found Tuesday night in Babil.  On the 17 corpses, CBS and AP report that the Iraqi military belives "the bodies were from passengers kidnapped at fake checkpoints on a nearby road leading to Baqouba.  There were no identification cards on the bodies".
Turning to politics, Iraqi politics.  Raed Jarrar (Raed in the Middle) notes, "The Iraqi executive branch (the cabinet and presidency), dominated by Sunni, Shia, Kurdish, and Secular separatists, have been systematically bypassing the Iraqi legislative branch (the parliament) which is controlled by a majority of Iraqi nationalists from all different religious/sectarian/ethnic backgrounds.  This unconstitutional bypassing was supported by the bush administration, helping the adminstration's separatist allies gain more political and military control over other Iraqis who reprsent the majority of the public.  The Iraqi parliament is the only elected entity in the Iraqi government, and that's why, unlike the other selected entities, it is demanding to set a timetable to end the US-led occupation.  Lastweek witnessed a new unconstitutional trick.  The Iraqi executive branch needs the legislative branch's approval of any new ministers nominated for the cabinet.  The separatist parties that completely control the cabinet and presidency are in the minority of the Iraqi parliament (they have less than 138 seats). They held a session in the parliament with only 110 separatist MPs (which is less that the quorum), and approved two new ministers to be added to the cabinet!" Jarrar quotes an e-mail from a member of parliament explaining that not only did the proposed vote not get posted on the agenda ("against article 37 of the parliament's bylaw") but the vote was pushed without a quorum being present.  'Freedom' in Iraq, 'democracy' in Iraq.
In the US?  Yesterday Dennis Kucinich's motion to impeach president of vice (nod to Wally and Cedric) came to the House floor.  As Ruth notedFree Speech Radio News offered Karen Miller's report on the issue which featured National Lawyers Guild president Marjorie Cohn explaining, "Bush and Cheney, and others down the chain of command, are responsible for waging an illegal war of aggression in Iraq the torture and cruel inhumane degrading treatment of prisoners constitute war crimes under the Geneva Conventions, the illegal surveillance of Americans and the indefinite and unlawful detention of prisoners in Guantanamo and other places around the world constitute a few examples of the high crimes and misdemeanors of the Bush administration."  Kucinich's privileged resolution is online at his Congress website -- Kucinich is in the House of Representatives and is also running for the Democratic presidential nomination -- notes, "In his conduct while Vice President of the United States, Richard B. Cheney, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of Vice President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has purposely manipulated the intelligence process to deceive the citizens and Congress of the United States by fabricating a threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to justify the use of the United States Armed Forces against the nation of Iraq in a manner damaging to our national security interests . . ."  That's from Article I and Kucincih goes along to list examples.  Article II deals with distortion of intelligence, Article III with the statements regarding Iran.  There were three potential responses to the resoultion and the non-leaders in Democratic leadership went with burying it in Judiciary Committee although David Swanson (AfterDowningStreet) reports that US House Rep. Robert Wexler is advocating for "immediate hearings on impeachment".  And the response from the press?
As Wally and Cedric pointed out yesterday, David Herszenhorn (New York Times) took to his paper's blog to partake in "ridiculing and distorting reality".  The Cleaveland Leader's "Kucinich a Big Winner Today, Democratic Party a Loser Once More" is an editorial that sums up Kucinich's stand and the reaction to it from his own party and wonders: "Where are the Democrats who, in the 2006 elections, were voted to stop the war and have the moxy to actually lead the country out of war? It seems they put their tails between their legs and scurry at any hint of confrontation. Three in four Democrats, and a majority of all Americans, favor impeaching the vice president. Isn't the legislatures job to listen to their constituents? Isn't this the basis of democracy?"  The Cleaveland Leader also has video and text of Kucinich introducing the resolution yesterday.  Meanwhile, Kucincih's presidential campaign site notes, "In the first real test of grassroots support for the eight Democratic Presidential candidates, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich scored a stunning first place finish nationally and topped every other candidate in 41 of 50 states, according to results released late last night by Democracy for Action (DFA). . . . Yesterday's victory underscores a growing surge of support that has put Kucinich in fourth place nationally in some polls, second in a major California straw poll, and tied for fourth place with New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson in New Hampshire, only seven points behind Edwards."  Earlier this week, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson's campaign blog explained that his calling out the dog-pile on Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in last week's Democratic forum wasn't out of agreement on the issues with Clinton (he thinks No Child Left Behind should be scrapped, not 'reformed') and notes, "Most importantly, I disagree with Senator Clinton's belief that we cannot end the war now and get our troops out.  I do not understand why she, and others who claim to be against the war, continue to vote for additional funding so the war can continue and still don't stand up to Bush on getting our troops out so we can begin reconciliation.  I don't belive we are helpless against Bush and the Republicans.  I believe Congress was elected to end this war, that they have the power to act, and yet don't.  I profoundly disagree with Senator Clinton that it is unreasonable to commit to getting troops out of Iraq by 2013.  . . . None of the attacks I've heard lately deal with the issue at the heart of this campaign, and the issue that will win or lose us the White House: ending the war in Iraq.  When closely examined, Senator Obama's position is not much different from Senator Clinton's on key points.  They may disagree on exactly how many troops to leave behind, and the mission, but they both would leave troops in Iraq for years after taking office.  And Senator Edwards talks about removing combat troops but what about the tens of thousands non-combat troops?  And who can forget that at the MSNBC Darmouth Debate each and every one of them refused to commit to getting the troops out of Iraq by 2013 -- SIX YEARS FROM NOW."  Meanwhile, Democratic presidential nominee contender John Edwards spoke in Iowa City, Iowa on Monday and provided some numbers for his Iraq plan -- he would leave behind an entire brigade.  As Perry Bacon Jr. (Washington Post) explains that's between 3,500 and 5,000 US  troops.  In the text of a speech given Iowa City on Monday, posted at his campaign website, there's no mention of that.  He does state, "When I am president, I will immediately withdraw 40-50,000 troops, launch a diplomatic offensive to invest all local, national, and regional parties in the comprehensive political solution that will end the violence, and will completely withdraw all combat troops with 9 to 10 months."  There will be rougly 130,000 US troops in Iraq when the escalation ceases.  If Bully Boy neither increases nor decreases the number in 2008, that means Edwards would after his first nine months, be keeping 80,000 US troops in Iraq. 
[Elaine noted the one-brigade story yesterday.  Click here to read her post.
Meanwhile, as Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes, "House and Senate negotiators have approved a $459 billion military spending bill.  Democrats rejected an amendment that would have added seventy-billion dollars for the Iraq War without restrictions.  Senate Appropriations chair Robert Byrd says Democrats will refuse to provide further blank checks for war funding.  But senior Democrats say they still intend to provide up to fifty-billion dollars for the Iraq War as part of the bill."  As Tina Richards' Grassroots America, Iraq Veterans Against the War and Military Families Speak Out have noted, "Funding the war is killing the troops."
Today Crystal Yednak (New York Times) reports on students attempting to end the illegal war and adults who attempt to punish them: "A school superintendent's decision to suspend, and perhaps expel, about two dozen students who took part in a protest against the Iraq war at a suburban high school drew criticism Tuesday from the students and their parents, who demanded that their children be allowed to return to classes.  Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted, "Last Thursday, students at Morton West High School in the town of Berwyn locked arms and sang protest songs in an approved area on school grounds. One participant said the group had been told they would face no more than a Saturday detention for missing class. But they were each given ten-day suspensions and told they could be expelled. The American Civil Liberties Union says it may take up the case."  Back to Yednak on when the students were asked to move and did:
But several students said the protesters, whose numbers had dwindled to about 25, obeyed the administration's request to move from a high-traffic area in the cafeteria to a less-crowded hall near the principal's office. There, they intertwined arms, sang along to an acoustic guitar and talked about how the war was affecting the world, said Matt Heffernan, a junior who took part.
"We agreed to move to another side of the building," Matt said. "We also made a deal that if we moved there, there would be no disciplinary action taken upon us."
Matt said the group had been told that the most severe punishment would be a Saturday detention for cutting class that day.
Today Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) spoke with Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism , about several topics including the Senate Judiciary Committee approving the nomination of Michael Mukasey to become the US Attorney General:
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I think that was an absolutely shocking display, and I think what's most shocking about it is this idea that this is somehow a question of good government and the torture question can be belittled. I mean, what we just saw was lawmakers knowingly voting in favor of someone who has said that one of the classic modern torture techniques -- I mean, the classic torture techniques of the French in Algeria, for instance, were simulated drowning, electroshock and rape. These are the three main tools of contemporary torture. And this is a man who has said to the world that one of those key techniques, simulated drowning, water torture, is not illegal. So, with that knowledge, he was just endorsed.
And to elevate a man who has said this to the highest legal office in the country, I think, just puts everyone of those lawmakers, but particularly the Democrats who voted for him, into bold new territory. They have just crossed a line, because they can no longer pin this on Bush. They can no longer claim ignorance. Anyone who faces these techniques in the future, they will be complicit in those war crimes, in those crimes against humanity -- everybody who voted for this man.
In the report she did Saturday, Ruth noted this on the FCC, "'The sixth and final [FCC] hearing [on the issue of allowing further media consolidation],' 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."   This week, PBS' NOW with David Brancaccio (Friday night in most markets) feautes a look at "the latest Congressional maneuvers to determine the fate of children's health care program. The State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, is a block grant from the federal government to cover children whose family incomes exceed that which would make them eligible for Medicaid, but are too low to afford private insurance. But the fund is quickly running out of money. President Bush vetoed a bipartisan SCHIP reauthorization bill on October 3, claiming it would attract recipients who could otherwise afford private insurance. Now, the issue has become a political free-for-all . . ." 12-year-old Graeme Frost and his parents will be interviewed on the program, the webiste will offer features on Friday morning such as "state-by-state information about healthcare coverage programs for children." PBS' NOW with David Brancaccio is the program, Friday evening/night on most PBS stations (check local listings).

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