Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, November 13, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, attacks in northern Iraq, IVAW announces an upcoming event,  the myth of the 'returning home' in Iraq gets challenged and more.
Starting with war resistance. Today on KPFK's Sojourner Truth, Margaret Prescod spoke with Kenneth Kagan about where things stood for Ehren Watada currently.  Watada is the first officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq.  Kagan, along with Jim Lobsenz, is Watada's civilian attorney and he explained Judge Benjamin Settle's ruling and what it means.  Last Thursday, following the issuance of two stays in the US military's attempt to court-martial Watada a second time, Judge Settle ruled that no court-martial could take place until the double-jeopardy issue was resolved and that his opinion was Watada had strong standing on that issue and the courts would find in his favor. Kagan declared that it was highly unlikely that there would be futher court action this year.  He also thinks it's doubtful the US military will be able to proceed with a court-martial period.  (Following the rest of the year, Kagan ticked off 2008 and the next.)  As Laura Flanders (Nation via Common Dreams) notes of Settle's ruling today, "In issuing a preliminary injunction, the Judge concluded that 'it is likely' that Watada will succeed in his claims that a second court-martial would violate constitutional protections against being tried twice for the same crimes. But army officials aren't giving up.  In a statement, they said they will file briefs in U.S. District Court to try to prevent the injunction from becoming permanent.  Now is the time for all moral men and women in uniform to stand up -- not just behind Lt. Watada, but at his side.  So far, not one other officer has followed in the lieutenant's footstep."   As Ruth noted, yesterday on Free Speech Radio News, Iraq Veterans Against the War's chair Camilo Mejia declared this was a victory, "Here we have the first commissioned officer who at great risks to a public, personal stance on the war calling it illegal and refusing to deploy."
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
In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers. 
In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.  
The Winter Soldier Investigation during Vietnam took place from January 31st to February 2nd (1971) and was held in Detroit.  By holding theirs in DC, IVAW already has improved.  That's not a slap at Detroit, that's noting the concentration of media. 
Turning to Iraq.  CBS and AP file a story telling us things are good, real good, damn good.  Great.  No more Iraq snapshots!  We get to shut down shop.  Oh, wait.  It's just another wave of Operation Happy Talk and it's a story so bad it took TWO outlets to write it.  But they shouldn't feel that bad, the outlet with the most egg on their face today is Fars News Agency which ran the feel good story of the month yesterday, headlined, "Iraq-Turkey Border Problems Resolved."  Oh really now?  BBC: "Turkish military helicopters bombed suspected Kurdish rebel positions in northern Iraq, Iraqi officials have said."  AP quotes Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declaring, "This business needs to happen before winter conditions worsen.  If we don't see concrete things from the other side an operation is near."  Mark Bentley and Ali Berat Meric (Bloomberg News) report, "Turkey is gathering intelligence on the whereabouts of PKK positions in northern Iraq before starting the operation, Erdogan told party officials in Ankara late yesterday after talks with Ergin Saygun, deputy head of the Turkish military, according to a lawmaker who attended the meeting and rquested anonymity." CNN's Jomana Karadsheh quotes Jamal Abdullah, spokesperson for Iraq's KRG, stating that stun grenades were dropped from "two Turkish military aircrafts crossed into Iraqi border" Monday night.  Yahya Barzanji (AP) reports Turkish helicopters firing today within Iraq which the Turkey government denies and Iraqi Col. Hussein Tamir states did take place -- both on the record and, in addition, an unnamed "Turkish government official" states that the attacks did take place.  Al Jazeera notes that 4 Turkish soldiers are dead and two more wounded according to the Turkish military.  Mark Bentley and Ali Berat Meric (Bloomberg News) note the US Pentagon continues to maintain they intend to share intelligence with Turkey.
In other reported violence . . .

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing this morning left four wounded while two Diyala bombings resulted in the deaths of 2 Iraqi soldiers, two Iraqi soldiers wounded and three civilians wounded.  Reuters notes that a roadside bombing outside Baquba claimed the lives of 4 Iraqi soldiers and left seven more wounded today while a Jurf Al-Sakhar roadisde bombing claimed 2 lives with two more wound while, also yesterday, Col. Samir Atrous was killed in a Samarra bombing that left two of his bodyguards wounded.  And the air war continues as well.  Reuters reports the US military is claiming 15 'terrorists' were killed in Adwaniya on Monday after they dropped two 500 pound bombs from the air on the area. 

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 police officer was shot dead and his wife injured in a Kirkuk shooting today while yesterday 2 sons, 2 daughters and a mother from the same family were killed.  Reuters notes 1 police officer and 1 Iraqi soldier were shot dead in Hawija today while yesterday a man was shot dead in Kifl. 
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 6 corpses in Baghdad and 1 corpse was discovered in Kirkuk.
Meanwhile IRIN reports "[m]ale gynaecologists are being targeted by Islamic extremists in Iraq as they are accues of invading the privacy of women," that at least 22 have received threatening letters while there is a shortage on male gynaecologists and very few female ones left in Iraq.
In political news, AP reports that Bahaa al-Araji, apparently speaking for all 30 members of the Sadr bloc in the Iraqi parliament, has called for the "parliament to be dissolved and new elections held."  This takes place while puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki's cabinet continues with empty spots after he refused to agree to the requests of Sunni ministers.  Those who keep giving lip service to a "political solution" that really means a US imposed "political situation" must be hoping no one notices al-Maliki's puppet government is as chaotic as it was in May 2006 when he kept missing deadlines to announce his complete cabinet.  The escalation Bully Boy dubbed the 'surge' is ending as it was always planned to. 3,000 US service members stationed in Diyala Province will begin returning to the United States.  And what got accomplished in the 'surge'?  Puppet al-Maliki traveled a great deal (as did Iraq's president) but nothing's been accomplished.  Not even the theft of Iraqi oil -- the White House pushed, big business written bill that would open Iraqi oil fields to foreign corporations and allow them to keep as much as 70% of the profits -- has been pushed through and the year is almost over.  The United Nations' Relief Web has a list of things that still show no improvement such as: "Only one in three Iraqi children under the age of five has access to safe drinking water, according to UNICEF(4)." 
Turning to the myth of civilians returning to Iraq.  One return can be verified, McClatchy Newspaper's Leila Fadel has returned to Iraq.  Of course, she's a journalist and American but her return can be verified placing her in a minority.  As Baghdad Observer, she explains the checkpoints, the body searches, the delays (including stand-still traffic) and everything else it takes to move through the Green Zone for two scheduled meetings -- one  with a US military general:  "Two are body searches, two are just badge checks. At one checkpoint pedestrians are asked to walk through a spaceship looking X-ray machine. The elderly Iraqi woman in front of me starts to cry when she is asked to spread her legs and arms and step inside the machine.'I'm scared,' she says between sobs. When I'm done there a dog sniffs my camera, cell phone and recorder for explosive substances."  Along with the body searches, "a woman gropes for anything illegal under my clothes and searches through my bag."  Meanwhile on the much talked up in the press returns (that cannot be proven), organizations aren't continuing to be silent in the face of these false claims made by the puppet government and the US military.  Australia's ABC reports the Red Crescent Society has released their report for September which found "almost 370,000 Iraqis fled their homes" and that "almost 2.3 million Iraqis have been internally displaced since the US-led invasion in 2003."  uruk.net reports the Iraqi Red Crescent has stated the numbers being tossed around by the Iraqi government regarding the internally displace are not accurate and "were not related realities of the situation faced by the displaced," that they stood by their numbers and their methodology (remember, as we noted last week, this is the same nonsense that was pulled with The Lancet study, a push to discredit the science with numbers the US military and the Iraqi government refused to backup by making public their own alleged tabulations) and quotes their statement: "The real number of displaced persons by October (was) well over two million, three hundred thousand displaced inside the country." In addition, the United Nations Secretary General's office today released findings on displaced around the world and included this: "In Iraq, there are some 2.2 million internally displaced that we know of."  As the Iraqi government's laughable claims get questioned, Reuters reports, "U.S. Catholic bishops on Tuesday described the situation in Iraq as 'unacceptable and unsustainable,' and urged the Bush administration to pull out American troops in a responsible way as quickly as possible." 
Ali al-Fadhily (IPS via Common Dreams) reports, "Claims are going the rounds that sectarian violence in Iraq has fallen, and that the U.S. military 'surge' has succeeded in reducing attacks against civilians.  Baghdad residents speak of the other side of the coint -- that they now live in a largely divided city that has brought this uneasy calm."  And repeating 'political solution' hasn't happened.  Waleed al-Ubaidy tells al-Fadhily, "All that has happened is a dramatic change in the demographic map of Iraq" and that, "Most of the honest journalists have left."  While, reflecting Leila Fadel's report on moving through the Green Zone, Ahmad Ali tells al-Fadhily, "Baghdad has been torn into two cities and many towns and neighbourhoods.  There is now the Shia Baghdad and the Sunni Baghdad to start with.  Then, each is divided into little twon-like pieces of the hundreds of thousands who had to leave their homes."
Along with the human costs, there is the issue of the money.  Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted today, "A new study by Congressional Democrats estimates the total economic costs to the United States of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan now total approximately $1.5 trillion dollars.  The study estimates the 'hidden costs' of the conflict including higher oil prices, the expense of treating wounded veterans and interest payments on the money borrowed to pay for the wars.  The Washington Post reports this amount is nearly double the $800 billion the White House has spent or requested to wage the wars through 2008."  Josh White (Washington Post) reports that the calculated cost for the Iraq invasion is "$15,900 for a [US] family of four".


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