Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, November 14, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, the Green Zone is targeted, the US military announces deaths, an army captain who went AWOL turns himself in,  news due out from Canada's Supreme Court, and more.
Indybay Media has posted an (audio) interview with war resister Brad McCall conducted by Courage to Resist.  Brad McCall is the war resister who self-checked out and attempted  entry into Canada only to be arrested (September 19, 2007) crossing the border.  McCall explains in the interview that he applied for CO status and waited ("and begged and begged and begged") before realizing it wasn't happening.
Brad McCall: I made, the final decision, I made it one night.  I found out -- or one day.  I talked to a friend of mine in Colorado Springs  and he told me about these GIs that were running to Canada and I was like, 'Wow, this is cool.' . . .  I went to another one of my friends' house and got on my laptop at her house and we both looked and saw that it's very possible.  And we found on the internet and that night I made the choice that a week later we would leave.  She traveled with me as just a friend and that we'd leave in a week which, as a matter of face, was payday.  So I knew I would need some cash to get on the road and get moving." 
Courage to Resist: So you drove to British Columbia?
Brad McCall: Yes.
Courage to Resist: And did you connect immediately with other resisters up there? 
Brad McCall: Well, initially the first thing that happened to me up there when I got to British Columbia was I was arrested at the border.   For that week that I was still in Fort Carson, I had e-mail contact with Canada and with people that were willing to help me and I didn't realize that my parents actually had my e-mail password and they were watching all of this go down.  And they were e-mailing all these e-mails to my commander and first sergeant so they knew I was going to Canada.
Courage to Resist: Well I guess I don't need to ask about support from your family for this decision?
Brad McCall: Oh, oh, God, no.  I've been disowned.  But that's why I love Canada.  I have nothing to go back to in the United States so I'm very content with staying here for the rest of my life.  
Courage to Resist: So you were arrested at the border?
Brad McCall: Yes, I was arrested at the border on the command of the US army by Canadian Border Services Agency -- not by US services, but Canadian services -- put into a Canadian jail for two days until my lawyer showed up and got me.
Courage to Resist: Now this was a Canadian lawyer, yes?
Brad McCall: Yes. 
Courage to Resist: From a Canadian support committee for GI resisters? 
Brad McCall: No, he's just a, uh, young lawyer.  He supports the cause.  He's an immigration lawyer.   And he said -- the first thing he told me -- he said. "Me helping you guys out is a no-brainer."  He said, "I'm not associated with the War Resisters Support Campaign  or the War Resisters League or any anti-war group.  I'm a lawyer by myself and I'm helping you guys out.  And he's really an awesome guy.
Courage to Resist: An unsung hero.
Brad McCall: Yes, very much so.
Courage to Resist: So he got you out of the clink --
Brad McCall: Yes.
Courage to Resist: And then what did you do next?
Brad McCall: Well, um, while I was in jail, I filed refugee claim stating that I was requesting to be a refugee from the United States on ground that if I go back to the United States, I will be persecuted or legally prosecuted for my beliefs -- politically, morally and spiritually. 
Brad McCall: And so that's what I've done.  I've started my refugee claim, working on that --
Courage to Resist: And what's the status of that claim right now?  Where are you in the process?
Brad McCall:  Right now it's just a claim.  It has to come under review by the Refugee Board of Canada and they will determine whether or not I am liable for refugee status. .  So far there's only been two that have come up to the Refugee Board, only two claims by war resisters, and they have both been denied. They're in the appeals process right now.
Brad McCall: Exactly.
Courage to Resist: Exactly.  They're going to the Supreme Court I understand?
Brad McCall: Exactly.  So me I'm not really expecting a victory in the way of getting refugee status.  I'm not expecting that so I'm having to go ahead and prepare for other plans.
Hinzman and Hughey are waiting to hear whether or not Canada's Supreme Court will grant a hearing to their appeal over the Immigration and Refugee Board (really one person) denying them refugee status.  Hinzman was the first resister during the Iraq War who went to Canada to go public with his resistance.  He became the first to apply for refugee status (January 2004). He lives there with his wife Nga Nguyen and their son Liam.  Prior to making the decision, Hinzman applied for CO status and was denied.  Hughey went to Canada in March 2004.  McCall's stories of conflicts with his family are echoed in the early reaction of Brandon Hughey's father.  However, at the 2005 Veterans for Peace conference held in Texas, David Hughey delivered an amazing speech explaining the conflicts and how they had been resolved concluding with "I just thought I'd come up and introduce myself.  I do support my son."  The War Resisters Support Campaign announces:
Supreme Court decision on Hinzman & Hughey expected on THURSDAY NOV. 15th, 2007
The Supreme Court of Canada is expected to post its decision on whether or not it will hear the appeal by US war resisters Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey THIS THURSDAY at 9:45 am.
The decision will be posted at . . . [click here] (the case number for Jeremy Hinzman is 32113, and for Brandon Hughey it is 32111).
If the decision is negative, join protests in cities across the country.  Check the take action page for listing of protests locations.
If the decision is positive, we will celebrate right across the country -- but there will still be much work to do to ensure that US soldiers who refuse to fight in Iraq have refuge in Canada.  In TORNOTO, join us at 7 p.m. at Grossman's Tavern, 379 Spadina Avenue (at Cecil Street) for a 'Leave to Appeal' party.
That is tomorrow.  On Iraq, McCall declared, "I want people to realize this is new era of war  and Iraq is not going to -- if we don't stop Iraq, Iraq is not going to be the last step, not going to be the last frontier or whatever that the United States tries to take, it's just the beginning of a long series of wars that I can see in the future.  It's not going to be pretty.  And we've got to do something about it now.  We have to do something about it now."
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.  
IVAW's announcement above will be in tomorrow and Friday's snapshot and then it will appear summarized in each snapshot until the March testimony begins.
Turning to the topic of AWOL, Robert Przbylski (noted here and here and here) is no longer missing.  The Army captain was stationed in Germany, due to deploy to Iraq early next year and has disappeared last month. From the beginning, Stars and Stripes' John Vandiver has owned the story because no one else could show interest.  Sunday Vandiver
reported the Przbylski turned himself in last Friday: "When Przylski turned himself in Friday night he was on the brink of being declared a deserter, a designation that can take effect after 30 consecutive days of unauthorized absence.  Officials said Przybylski was still in AWOL status when he turned himself in.  It is unclear whether the prospect of being classified a deserter was a fact in Przybylski's return.  It also remains unclear what prompted him to depart in the first place."  What is known is that he went missing last month (October 10th -- if not before), that his unit had learned they were deploying to Iraq in March, that he comes from a military family (his father is a retired army Lt. Col.) and that Przybylski had already served one tour of duty in Iraq.  Vandiver reports that the absence is under investigation and Przybylski is currently "restricted to Baumholder barracks and [will] be given a temporary assignment while the case is investigated."
Turning to the topic of Turkey and northern Iraq, Paul Schemm (AP) reports, "Kurdish guerillas watch the border for any signs that Turkey's military will carry out threats to sweep across.  But other rumblings are coming from inside Iraq: a new ambivialence among Iraq's Kurds about support for their rebel cousins holed up in the mountains.  The fear -- expressed by Kurdish officials and on the streets -- is that the showdown could threaten the relatively peaceful and prosperous enclave that Kurds have carved out since 1991 after generations of poverty and oppression."  Meanwhile, following reports of the Turkish attacks on northern Iraq Monday and yesterday, China's Xinhua reports Aydogan Babaoglu (the commander of Turkey's air force) has declared it didn't happen stating: "None of the aircraft of Turkish Air Forces conducted a cross-border operation, and such reports are groundless."  Bay Fang (Chicago Tribune) tries to track it down noting the following are on record stating attacks took place: Fouad Hussein (spokesperson for Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq) states two airplanes flew in and "dropped flares on five villages" on Monday, Iraqi army Col. Hussein Tamir ("who supervises border guards") states "helicopters opened fire on abandoned Iraqi villages".  Damien Cave (New York Times) cited Iraqi officials for a "Turkish military aircraft" attack in northern Iraq Tuesday and noted, "Officials from Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region could not agree on whether helicopters or planes had been used" while also quoting Fouad Hussein.  Today's Zaman, citing "[u]nnamed Kuridsh officials," report "that the villages" were "Pirbela, Birsaka, Avashin and the Norgole area".  In addition, eye witnesses have reported what they saw and heard.  Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London) quotes Ibrahim Mazori stating, "I was on the other side of the mountain when I heard huge explosions and could smell TNT powder all over the area" while .  Meanwhile CBS and AP note that Jala Talabani, Iraq's Kurdish president, declared today, without any further comment, that, "The crisis with Turkey has passed."  Similar statements have been made before.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing ("targeted an American patrol") that claimed the lives of 2 civilians and left three more wounded (this was the bombing that targeted the Green Zone -- a second Baghdad roadside bombing targeting "an American patrol" had no reported casualties) and a Babil car bombing targeting "a host tent for Sheikh Ammar Al-Gurtani" claimed the lives of 3 civilians and left eight more wounded.  CNN notes, "The sheiks and the al-Kardani tribe are part fo the 'Iskandairya Awakening,' one of Iraq's emerging 'awakening' movements -- the grass-roots citizen groups opposing al Qaeda in Iraq."  And, left unstated, taking money from the US.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 Iraqi soldier shot dead in Hawija and, when police reported on the scene, 1 police officer was shot dead.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a farmer was kidnapped "between Hawija and Abassiyah".
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 corpses were discovered in Iraq.
Today, the US military announced, "A Multi-National Corps - Iraq Soldier was killed today during military operations near the city of Mosul. The Soldier was mortally wounded by gunfire while providing security to a Police Transitional Team training mission near an Iraqi Police Station." And they announced: "Two Multi-National Division -- North Soldiers died as a result of an explosion while conducting operations in Diyala Province, Nov. 13. Additionally, four MND-N Soldiers were wounded and evacuated to a coalition hospital." Reuters count is 3863 US service members have died thus far in the illegal war. ICCC's total is also 3863 with 19 for the month thus far. (Neither total includes the 4 US service members who are known to have died from the physical wounds they received in Iraq after leaving Iraq: Jack D. Richards, Gerald J. Cassidy, John "Bill" Smith and Raymond A. Salerno III.)   And Paul Tait and Missy Ryan (Reuters) report that the roadside bombing "targeting a passing American military convoy, killed a U.S. soldier and a civilian and wounded seven people including five soldiers, the U.S. military said. . . . The explosion in Baghdad was close to a checkpoint where hundreds of Iraqis who work inside the sprawling complex queue every morning."  The US military announcement reads: "An explosively formed penetrator detonated in Central Baghdad Nov. 14, killing a Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier and wounding five others.  Also, one Iraqi civilian was killed and two others were wounded."
Another attack on the Green Zone?  Guess it will be harder to spin that as "safety" -- but give the Operation Happy Talkers time, give them time.  Meanwhile the central government in Iraq continues to be in shambles.  AP reports: "Iraqi troops seized the west Baghdad headquarters of a powerful Sunni Muslim group Wednesday, cordoning off the building and ordering employees out, the group said. Iraqi security forces dispatched by the Sunni Endowment, a government agency that cares for Sunni mosques and shrines, surrounded the mosque complex where the group is based at 9 a.m. and demanded that the building be evacuated before noon, the Association of Muslim Scholars said in a statement posted on its Web site."  CBS and AP note the Association of Muslim Scholars' spokesperson Mohammed Bahsar al-Faydi is of the opinion that the forces "were not government forces but the personal guards of Ahmed Abdul-Ghafoor al-Samarraie, the head of the Sunni Endowment".  Reuters notes that they were Sunni Endowment security guards and that in addition to everyone being kicked out of the building "a radio broadcast from the mosque had been stopped."  Paul Tait and Missy Ryan also note that a de-de-Baathification bill is being hailed as 'progress' even though it's just been given to parlaiment (from Nouri al-Maliki's cabinet) and  "[o]fficals had previously said the bill had already been given to parliament."  As Damien Cave (New York Times) notes, this follows yesterday's call by the Sadr bloc for Parliament to be dissolved.
On the issue of the displaced Iraqis, nothing's being done.  Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted today, "The leading refugee-advocate group Refugees International has issued a scathing critique of the Bush administration's treatment of displaced Iraqis. In a new report, Refugees International says the U.S. has been 'unforgivably slow' in resettling Iraqi refugees. Almost five million Iraqis are believed to have been displaced since the U.S. invasion. The U.S. is admitting more than three times as many Iranian immigrants as it is Iraqis."  Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) quotes the report's co-author, Kristele Younes, declaring, "The first reason for this is the lack of political will.  Until very recently, the Bush administration never even acknowledged the humanitarian crisis because they were concerned that it would be interpreted as acknowledging failure in Iraq.  And President Bush still has yet to acknowledge that there are now almost 5 million Iraqis who've had to leave their homes."  Younes co-authored the report with Jake Kurtzer and it includes the following policy recommendations:
 1. The U.S. immediately appoint a senior PRM official to be based in the region and charged with coordinating both the assistance and resettlement components of its response;

2. The U.S. immediately appoint an ambassador level diplomat to be based in Syria;

3. The U.S. and other donors provide earmarked bilateral assistance to countries hosting large numbers of Iraqi refugees, either directly or through a Trust Fund established by the UN or the Arab League;

4. The U.S. fund all pending UN appeals at a level of 50% or more;

5. The UN country teams make responding to Iraqi refugees needs a priority, with the UN resident representatives acting as coordinators of the overall national UN response and as liaisons with the diplomatic and donor communities.
In mercenary news, David Johnston and John M. Broder (New York Times) report that the FBI investigation into Blackwater's slaughter of 17 Iraqis on September 16th have not released a report but reportedly "have found that at least 14 of the shootings were unjustified and violated deadly-force rules in effect for security contractors in Iraq, according to civilian and military officials briefed on the case."
In peace activism news, more activity in Olympia.  On Monday, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted, "In Olympia Washington, 15 anti-war demonstrators were arrested over the weekend while attempting to block a military convoy carrying Stryker vehicles. The protests were organized by the Olympia Port Militarization Resistance which aims to stop the U.S. 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."  The actions have continued and AP reports, "Police wearing riot gear fired pepper spray bullets into a crowd of more than 150 protesters Tuesday night at the Port Olympia and several military convoys eventually moved out" with approximately 50 activists arrested.  Jeremy Pawloski (The Olympian) reports, "Olympia police in riot gear wore gas masks as they prepared to remove protesters from the main entrance about 11 p.m. At the same time, military convoys left for Fort Lewis from the port exit to Marine Drive" and that in addition to the pepper spray and pepper spray bullets, there are reports that "police also threw two concussion grenades into the crowd."  And last week, Morton West High School students learned that their protest -- following the guidelines the school imposed -- against the illegal war was resulting in suspension and possible expulsion.  The Columbia College Chicago chapter of SDS has started an online petition:
We are writing in defense of the students who now face excessive disciplinary actions at the hands of various Morton West school administrators. Our sympathies lie with the courageous and moral struggle that the students have taken up, and with their parents who still support them. The struggle for a peaceful and just society absent of war should not be met with punishment, but should be supported by the community as a whole, especially from within the educational setting. Furthermore, It is our firm belief that an injury to freedom for students anywhere is an injury to freedom for students everywhere. This is why we urge all Morton West administrators to drop all disciplinary action against the said students, and to remove any indications of said events from their permanent records. We urge you to respect these students right to free expression now and in the future. (Written by Columbia College Chicago Students for a Democratic Society)
At Consortium News, Robert Parry's "Why We Write" explains the basics of the site, yes, but also explains the very real need for Consortium News. He and his 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 -- long enough to have had neocon Daniel Pipes insult his reporting long, long before the Iraq War -- a sure sign his investigations cause discomfort.

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