Monday, November 12, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Monday, November 12, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, Di-Fi steps up for the ones who brought her to the dance, another mercenary organization shoots and kills another Iraqi civilian, and more.
Starting with war resisters. Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) explained the latest about US Senator Dianne Feinstein ("Miss Dianne: Girl Senator -- the non-action figure").  Di-Fi's a war resister?  No, she's a War Hawk with blood on her filthy hands.  But as Goodman explained, Di-Fi is concerned that the illegal spying issue needs some "legal immunity for telecomunications companies . . .  because the companies are unable to defend themselves in court since the governments insist their activities be kept secret." [Click here for Bob Egelko's San Francisco Chronicle report from Friday.] How very interesting.  Ehren Watada, like Camilo Mejia before him, was subject to a military court-martial in which a military 'judge' refused to allow him to defend himself, ruled that his reasons for refusing to deploy were immaterial.  Di-Fi didn't raise an objection.  But then war resisters haven't been the big donors to Di-Fi; however, the telecommunications industry has deep pockets and certainly Pacific Telesis has reached deeper than most.  The San Francisco located company (don't forget that the chief witness against AT&T is talking about a switching station located in San Francisco) was merged with/folded into SBC in 1997 and SBC folded in with AT&T Corporation to form AT&T Inc. in 2005.  So Di-Fi has no interest in whether or not a defendant can present their best defense, she's only (yet again) protecting her big donors -- the hallmark of her shameful Senate career. The mergers and foldings meant all her big telecommunications donors were "bundled" allowing her to "reach out and touch someone" much easier while giving the public the finger.
Ehren Watada is the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq (June 2006).  In February 2006, Judge Toilet (aka John Head) presided over a rigged court-martial -- that Di-Fi never raised an objection to -- and, when the prosecution was losing, Judge Toilet ruled a mistrial over defense objection.  Despite the Constition's provision against double-jeopardy, the US military has repeatedly attempted to force another court-martial -- again, Di-Fi never raised an objection.  US District Judge Benjamin Settle heard and appeal, issued two stays while weighing the briefs from both the prosecution and the defense and ruled last week that the US military could not proceed with any court-martial until Watada's double-jeopardy claim was addressed.  He futher stated in his ruling that his judgement was the Constitutional provision against double-jeopardy would prevail.  The Honolulu Advertiser reported Friday that Bob Watada, Ehren's father, explaining, "We talked for a few minutes and he said he's happy"  and that Eric Seitz "believes the latest federal court decisions means the case against Watada essentially is dead."  Seitz was Watada's civilian attorney prior to and throughout the February court-martial.  Watada is currently represented (on the civilian side) by Kenneth Kagan and Jim Lobsenz.  AP notes, "Watada contends the war is illegal and that he would be party to war crimes if he served in Iraq.  The Army refused his request to be posted in Afghanistan or elsewhere."  That's . . . some of the story.  Watada researched the Iraq War when he got his orders -- researched as his superiors recommended -- not only did he feel he could be party to war crimes, as an officer he felt those serving under him could also be party to war crimes.  In addition to offering to go to "Afghanistan or elsewhere," Watada offered other things including resigning his commission.  The US military only offered him a desk job in Iraq where he would be 'safe' which was not what his objections to the illegal war were about.  Jeff Paterson (at Indybay Media and Courage to Resist) explains, "No court martial can now take place unless Judge Settle reverses himself, or the military successfully appeals to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, or the U.S. Supreme Court -- all of which are unlikely."
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 voice of war resister Camilo Mejia is featured in Rebel Voices -- playing now through December 16th at Culture Project and based on Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove's best-selling book Voices of a People's History of the United States. It features dramatic readings of historical voices such as war resister Mejia, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Malcom X and others will be featured. Zinn will take part in the November 18th presentation (the official opening night -- but performances are already taking place) and musician Allison Mooerer will head the permanent cast while those confirmed to be performing on selected nights are Ally Sheedy (actress and poet, best known for films such as High Art, The Breakfast Club, Maid to Order, the two Short Circuit films, St. Elmo's Fire, War Games, and, along with Nicky Katt, has good buzz on the forthcoming Harold), Eve Ensler who wrote the theater classic The Vagina Monologues (no, it's not too soon to call that a classic), actor David Strathaim (L.A. Confidential, The Firm, Bob Roberts, Dolores Claiborne and The Bourne Ultimatum), actor and playwright Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride, Clueless -- film and TV series, Gregory and Chicken Little), actress Lili Taylor (Dogfight, Shortcuts, Say Anything, Household Saints, I Shot Andy Warhol, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, State of Mind) and actor, director and activist Danny Glover (The Color Purple, Beloved, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Rainmaker, Places In The Heart, Dreamgirls, Shooter and who appeared on Democracy Now! Friday addressing the US militarization of Africa) The directors are Will Pomerantz and Rob Urbinati with Urbinati collaborating with Zinn and Arnove on the play. Tickets are $21 for previews and $41 for regular performances (beginning with the Nov. 18th opening night). The theater is located at 55 Mercer Street and tickets can be purchased there, over the phone (212-352-3101) or online here and here. More information can be found at Culture Project.  Stacyann Chinn will take part this weekend, Anthony Arnove stated today on WBAI's Cat Radio Cafe where he discussed the project and how the rotating, non-permanent cast members allowed them to mix it up from performance to performance.  With Janet Coleman (co-host with David Dozer), Arnove discussed how so much of the history -- the hidden history -- resonates today and specifically cited an editorial, from Frederick Douglass' newspaper the North Star, entitled "The War With Mexico" has a great deal to say today about the Iraq War.  From the editorial, "No politician of any considerable distinction or eminence, seems willing to hazard his popularity with his party, or stem the fierce current of executive influence, by an open and unqualified disapprobation of the war.  None seem willing to take their stand for peace at all risks; and all seem willing that the war should be carried on, in some form or other. . . .  We have no preference for parties, regarding this slaveholding crusade.  The one is as bad as the other.  The friends of peace have nothing to hope from either."  True then, true today.
Turning to Iraq, Jessica Pupovac (In These Times) highlights the Iraqi collaborators with the foreign military in the illegal occupation which the US military is calling "grassroots" and, like any grassroots group?, they "have signed contracts with the U.S. military" and "earn about $300 per month for their services -- more than three times Iraq's average monthly per capita income.  They also receive $50 to $100 bonuses for 'actionable intelligence'."  Pupovac informs that by October 20th, 67,000 Iraqis had 'enslisted'  and that "[t]he vast majority of Concerned Citizens (79 percent) are Sunni, while 9 percent are Shiite and the remaining 12 percent are 'mixed'."  Joshua Partlow and Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post) report on this topic that the collaborators are known as "volunteers" and that "more than 80 percent of whom are Sunni" leading to a panic on the part "Of Iraqi's Shiite-dominated government" who worry they "could eventually mount an armed opposition". 
Turning to the topic of Blackwater.  On Thursday, Steve Fainaru's "How Blackwater Sniper Fire Felled 3 Iraqi Guards" (Washington Post) covered the latest revelations of the mercenary company's past actions in Iraq, specifically a February 7, 2007 incident where the mercenaries "opened fir from the roof of the Iraqi Justice Ministry" killing 3 Iraqi Media Network guards with 8 witnesses stating Blackwater's actions were not responding to anything.  On Friday's Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez spoke with Fainaru about his report :
JUAN GONZALEZ: Now, Steve, in your investigation, obviously, you went at it many months later, but you found that virtually none of the witnesses had actually been interviewed by any American investigators about what actually happened?
STEVE FAINARU: Yeah, I think that was the thing that was most striking. You know, it's still very unclear sort of what precipitated the shooting. You know, the Iraqi guards -- I mean, we interviewed, you know, probably two dozen people inside that compound, and no one said that the Iraqi guards had fired first. Blackwater, of course, reported to the embassy that they had come under fire and responded with targeted rounds.
But what I think was most striking is that there was no real investigation that occurred on behalf of the US embassy's Regional Security Office, which is responsible for overseeing Blackwater. And, you know, their position was that they had conducted extensive interviews with the Blackwater team. They didn't really explain why they had never returned to the scene where it had taken place to try to interview witnesses, but that had not happened. There wasn't any real investigation that occurred. Now, the embassy claimed that there were other people who were interviewed, in terms of their own inquiry or review, but it was never entirely clear who those people were.
[. . .]
AMY GOODMAN: And now, what is happening now, after the September 16th incident, attack by the Blackwater forces in Baghdad have opened up this whole question of responsibility and culpability?
STEVE FAINARU: Well, with regard to this specific incident or more generally?
AMY GOODMAN: In regard to this specific attack, is it being re-looked at?
STEVE FAINARU: Well, as in before yesterday, no, not really. I mean, we had looked into it because -- really, we were interested in it -- but we've been covering the private security issue all year -- and we were interested in it because we wanted to try to find out -- we were aware that an incident had taken place, but only sort of generally, that it was one of the incidents that the Iraqi Ministry of Interior had brought to the embassy to try to figure out what had happened and see if the Americans would respond. So the goal was to find out what happened and what, if any, response there was on behalf of the Americans.
So, you know, in terms of what's going on with it now, it's not totally clear. You know, there is a joint Iraqi commission that has been set up that's addressing private security matters in the wake of the September 16th Nisoor Square incident. And so, that commission is supposed to, among other things, look into previous incidents, presumably this one, although it was -- it's not clear to us that this specific incident is on the agenda of that commission. So I think it's the hope of the Iraqi Media Network that some resolution will occur, whether it's, you know, compensation or clarification for why the shooting took place, you know, an actual investigation. But up to now, nothing has really happened.
Friday, David Martin (CBS News) reported on "Removing the legal immunity" -- a letter the Iraqi Interior Ministry sent to 'security' contractors advising them that "all immunities . . . shall be cancelled."  Blackwater is far from the only mercenary guns in Iraq.  Today Missy Ryan (Reuters) reports on another Iraqi civilian killed by mercenaries in Iraq, this time by DynCorp who shot dead an Iraqi cab driver in Baghdad Saturday. James Glanz (New York Times) reports 3 "witnesses said the taxi had posed no threat to the convoy, and one of them, an Iraqi Army sergeant who inspected the car afterward, said it contained no weapons or explosive devices" and quotes the Interior Ministry spokesperson Abdul-Karim Khalaf declaring, "They just killed a man and drove away."  Camilla Hall (Bloomberg News) reports that the US State Department's Baghdad embassy spokesperson Philip Reeker says (apparently with a straight face) that they are "closely" examining the shooting.
CBS has [PDF format warning] posted the letter David Martin was reporting on the text of which reads: "According to the directions of the Minister Council regarding moving the legal immunity from all the foreign private security companies and deal with it according to Iraqi law.  Please notify that in all your future missions and give the direction to all your staff.  For your information all the Iraqi security departments were informed about it.  The MNF confirming taking the legal actions against any violator in the future.  Including signing your passports from the traveling and Jinsseya directorate to make your residence in Iraq legal.  And the violator will face legal punishment from the Iraqi law."   Only the Iraq Parliament has the power to pass laws so [PDF format warning] what CBS has posted is proposal from al-Maliki's cabinet at present and nothing more:
Article 1:
Non-Iraqi security companies and its non-Iraqi employees and contractors shall be subject to the Iraqi legislation and the jurisdiction of the Iraqi judiciary in all civil and criminal cases.  All immunities granted to them in accordance with any valid legislation shall be canceled.
Article 2: 
The categories mentioned in Article 1 of this law shall be subject to the Iraqi legislations including those related to the residency, granting visas, possessing and carrying weapons, paying taxes, fees and customs, registering companies and granting them license to work in the Iraqi territories.
Article 3:
The vehicles, ships, airplanes belonging to the categories mentioned in Article 1 of this law shall be subject to the procedures of registration, licensing, checking and inspection stipulated in the Iraqi legislations.
Article 4:
This law shall be deemed as an amendment for the Dissolved CPA Order No17 of 2004.
Article 5:
This Law shall enter in force on the date of its publishing in the Official Gazette.
At issue as well is whether Order 17 can be overturned?  Before fleeing Iraq like a thief in the night, Bwana Paul Bremer signed Coalition Provisional Autority Order 17:
Contractors shall not be subject to Iraqi laws or regulations in matters relating to the terms and conditions of their Congrats, including licensing and registering employees, businesses and corporations; provided, however, that Contractors shall comply with such applicable licensing and registration laws and regulations if engaging in business or transactions in Iraq other than Contracts.  Notwithstanding any provisions in this order, Private Security Companies and their employees operating in Iraq must comply with all CPA Orders, Regulations, Memoranda, and any implementing instructions or regulations governing the existence and activities of Private Security Companies in Iraq, including registration and licensing of weapons and firearms.
Elizabeth Schulte (US Socialist Worker) explains, "Order 17 effectively barred the Iraqi government -- to which the U.S. was preparing to 'hand over' power -- from prosecuting contractors in Iraqi courts.  Moreover, as private contractors, Blackwaters' goons aren't bound by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, as regular U.S. soldiers are.  [The US} Congress is debating rescinding the immunity of security firms like Blackwater and giving U.S. civilian courts the right to prosecute contractors."
Over the weekend, the attacks on officials continued.  Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reported two Sunday attacks: police Gen Brig. Wathiq al-Hamadni and the Mosul governor Dureed Kashmoola were targeted with roadside bombings (both survived) while Wajihiyah village's deputy governor was targeted and two bodyguards were wounded, also five people wounded by a grenade in Baghdad. McClatchy's Laith Hammoudi reported a Friday bombing claimed the life of Sheikh Lafta Al Obeidi.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . .
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports three civilians were wounded in a Baghdad roadside bombing, a mortar attack on a military base, a Tirkit roadside bombing left one police officer wounded and "Iraqi army officer LC Salam Ismaeel" car was bombed -- from inside -- while he was driving it in Baghdad  -- Reuters reports the bomb was under the car -- demonstrating that not only are officials being targeted but that the methods are being fine tuned (Ismaeel was wounded) also evidenced by a roadside bomb targeting "Al Rashad town police chief in Al Rashad".  Al Dulaimy also notes that on Sunday a 10-year-old girl was killed in a Baghdad bombing while a Kirkuk roadside bombing claimed the life of 1police officer Sunday.  Reuters notes that today's Tikrit roadside bombing's count has gone with three injured and 1 dead.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Iraqi police said an American military convoy killed Khalaf Hussein and his wife Safra Ibraheem as he was approaching the convoy on a main road west of Kirkuk yesterday.  The US military said the shooting was related to convoy operation adding that the Iraqi police fired from an outpost on a truck was coming against the traffic."  Reuters notes 2 police officers were shot dead in Baghdad.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 corpses were discovered in Baghdad today.
Meanwhile Cara Buckley (New York Times) reports on the al-Malikik government's claims of a mass return due to 'improved security conditions' with Buckley noting that "it was not clear how he tallied the number of returning families, which officials say have been exceedingly difficult to locate.  The significance of the returns is also a subject of debate."  IRIN does not provide any of their own numbers (IRIN is part of the United Nations) but looks at one family that has returned from Syria and notes that those moving back do so "not because they are confident of Iraq's future but because they have run out of money."  (Yes, we did cover that  point last week.)
Turning to peace news.  Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted, "In Olympia, Washington, 15 anti-war deomnstrators were arrested over the weekend while attempting to block a military convoy carrying Stryker vehicles.  The protests were organizaed by the Olympia Port Militarization Resistance which aims to stop the US military from using the Port of Olympia to ship equipment to Iraq.  Protest organizers also accused police of brutalizing dozens of peaceful demonstrators and journalists.  On Saturday police dressed in riot gear repeatedly used pepper spray and batons to break up the protest."  Goodman also noted today that Bethesda Maryland, one of the children winning cash prized from Lego, has garnered a great deal of attention because her winning essay explains, "I don't want kids to lose any parents in the war" and because her father filmed a video [portions of the video are included the report] of her singing "Happy Springtime" which reworks John Lennon and Yoko Ono's classic peace anthem "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" into "Happy Springtime (Bush Is Over)."
Sunday was Veterans' Day.  New Brunswick's Home News Tribune editorialized today, "The National Alliance to End Homelessness reported Thursday that, although one in 10 Americans is a veteran, they account for 25 percent of the homeless population.  Already veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have been found living on the streets."  The Boston Globe's editorial highlights this statistic, "On any given night in 2006, an estimated 196,000 veterans were homeless in America, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, a Washington nonprofit.  Over the course of the year, nearly a half-million veterans were homeless."  Megan Ingerson (Indianapolis Star) reports that those supplying care and/or assistance to the homeless "say the actual numbers may be triple what's reported in the new study. . . .  Veterans working with the Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation say the study's estimates could be low because many veterans don't want to admit they're in trouble."  Nashville's WKRN offers text and video as they highlight Vietnam veteran Frederick Keys who is hopeful that things will improve via the Matthew 25 Shelter's assistance in contrast to John who suffers from crippling medical bills and declares, "I'm not proud to be a veteran.  I'm sorry to be a veteran."  Meanwhile, the Bully Boy of the United States declared in his radio address Saturday, "Veterans Day also reminds us of our solemn responsibility to care for those who have fought our Nation's wars. Under my Adminstration, Federal spending for our veterans has increased by more than two-thirds.  We have extended medical treatment to a million additional veterans, including hundreds of thousands returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.  And we have expanded grants to help homeless veterans across the country."  Lies.  Lies.  And more lies.  From the liar decided to carry water for in 2004 and claim that the White House had a wonderful program.  They accused Senator John Kerry of lying in his presidential campaign when the reality failed to grasp was that programs such as Veterans Affairs need increases each year in peace time.  When two wars are going on (Iraq and Afghanistan), they need huge increases.  That was the point Kerry made repeatedly in his 2004 presidential campaign that the 'non-partisan' chose to ignore.  Meanwhile Matthew Cardinale (Atlanta Progressive News) reports that Veterans for Peace Chapter 125 and American Veterans for Equal Rights Georgia were informed they weren't allowed to participate in Sunday's Veterans Day parade for "FAILURE TO FOLLOW GUIDELINES IN PREVIOUS YEAR!" as was written on their applications this year and President of the Parade Association, Melvin Myers, when not asking if Cardinale was "a communist or something," insisted that the parade "doesn't allow anyone out there to promote ideas."  No ideas?  A parade without a message?  Only in the United States under Bully Boy.  On KPFK's Uprising today, Aura Bogado (filling in for Sonali Kolhatkar who is on maternity leave) noted a Denver parade was barring Military Families Speak Out from participating today (yesterday was Veterans' Day, today ) while speaking with MFSO's Larry Syverson "what we want Congress to do is step up to the plate and defund the war.  Our campaign is: 'Funding the war is killing our troops'."  
Syverson  also spoke of the first year of the illegal war and the toil it took on his wife and himself as they worried about the phone call, the sound of a car bearing bad news about their son as the tires rolled over the gravel
Meanwhile journalist Robert Parry does battle that all of his previous investigative work may have prepared him for but it's a monumental task: wading through the many, many lies of the Bully Boy.  Parry (Consortium News) notes, "But my personal favorite Bush lie is when he insists that the United States invaded Iraq to enforce a United Nations resolution and that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein 'chose war' by barring U.N. weapons inspectors.  Bush dusted off that old canard on Nov. 7 while standing next to French President Nicolas Sarkozy during a press conference at George Washington's estate at Mount Vernon in Virginia.  Responding to a question from a French journalist about Bush's dispute with France over the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, the U.S. president said: 'We had a difference of opinion with your great country over whether or not I should have used military force to enforce U.N. demands. . . . I just want to remind you that [U.N. Resolution] 1441 was supported by France and the United States, which clearly said to the dictator, you will disclose, disarm, or face serious consequences.  Now I'm the kind of person that when somebody says something, I take them for their word.'  Bush has made this same false argument scores of times dating back to July 2003, several months after the invasion when it was becoming clear that Saddam Hussein had told the truth when his government reported to the U.N. in 2002 that Iraq's WMD stockpiles had been eliminated."   Robert Parry and sons Nat and Sam will be speaking at Busboys and Poets in Arlingtion, Virginia Saturday Nov. 17th from four p.m. to six p.m. discussing their new book Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush. Sam and Nat Parry have established their own journalist skills at Consortium News and they and Robert Parry can discuss any of the topics pertaining to the current administration but remember that Robert Parry has been doing investigative journalism for years and, if you're in that area or are visting it on the 19th, you'll have access to one of the most straighforward and determined journalists in this country.

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