Thursday, November 15, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, November 15, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, US war resisters in Canada learn that the country's Supreme Court is as useless as the Immigration and Refugee Board, the US military announces a death, a soldier is arrested, and more.
Starting with war resisters.  CBC reports that the Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear the appeals filed by war resisters Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey. The Canadian Press notes: "They fled to Canada and asked for refugee status, claiming they opposed the war in Iraq as illegal and immoral." Canada's National Post explains that without a Surpeme Court review, the Federal Court of Appeal having "rejected the claims by Mr. Hinzman and Mr. Hughey" now stands and, as the BBC points out, means that the Immigration and Refugee "Board" (one member hears and decides) decision in 2005 that neither were refugees. City News quotes Elizabeth May (Green Party leader) declaring that, "Canada is a peaceful country and we have a proud tradition of welcoming conscientious objectors, most notably American soldiers who fled to Canada while the United States waged war in Vietnam."  L-Girl (We Move to Canada) notes, "This is very bad news.  But it's not the end of the fight.  This decision makes the political battle more crucial."  Randall Palmer and Lynne Oliver (Reuters) cites the War Resisters Support Campaign's Lee Zaslofsky declaring, "They won't be deported tomorrow, there is a process" and notes that the two could "apply for permanent residence in Canada on humanitarian or compassionate grounds."
Canada's War Resisters Support Campaign has issued the following announcement:

In response to today's decision by the Supreme Court of Canada to not hear appeals from American Iraq-war resisters seeking refuge in Canada, the War Resisters Support Campaign will ramp up pressure for a political solution, calling for a provision from Parliament to allow resisters and their families to stay in Canada.
The War Resisters Support Campaign will hold a demonstration tonight at 5 p.m. at 330 University Avenue, Toronto to call on Parliament to do the right thing and allow resisters to stay in Canada.
Who: War Resisters Support Campaign and allies
What: Demonstration to ramp up pressure on Parliament
When: Thursday November 15 at 5 p.m.
Where: 330 University Avenue, Toronto (just north of Queen Street. W., on the west side)
"We call on Parliament to take a stand by enacting a provision that would allow US war resisters and their families to stay in Canada," said actor and activist Shirely Douglas. "The Supreme Court has handed the issue back to Parliament. It is urgent that Parliament demonstrate leadership and act in accordance with Canadian tradition. Do not let the principles that Canadians cherish slip away."
The Supreme Court decision by a panel of three judges prevents the full court from reviewing the decisions of the Immigration and Refugee Board regarding the refugee status of resisters Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey. The Immigration and Refugee Board had refused to grant them refugee status.
Resisters have already found widespread support among Canadians, including faith groups, unions, peace organizations and thousands of individuals and families who have extended a welcome. In a June 2007 poll by Strategic Communications, 64.6 per cent of respondents in Ontario think that resisters should be allowed to stay in Canada (margin of error +/- 4%, 19 times out of 20).
The War Resisters Support Campaign has been assisting US war resisters who come to Canada because of their opposition to the Iraq War since 2004.
For futher information: Lee Zaslofsky (416) 598-1222 and Michelle Robidoux (416) 856-5008
 Contact your Member of Parliament (M.P.) and these key members of government and lobby them to let the war resisters stay in Canada:

The Hon. Stephane Dion, Leader of the Opposition (Liberal): Phone: (613) 996-5789;

Michael Ignatieff, Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Liberal): Phone: (613) 995-9364;

The Hon. Maurizio Bevilacqua, Opposition Critic for Citizenship and Immigration (Liberal):
Phone: (613) 996-4971; E-mail:

The Right Hon. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister: Phone: (613) 992-4211; Fax: (613) 941-6900; E-mail:

The Hon. Diane Finley, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration: Phone: (613) 954-1064;

And contact your own Member of Parliament.
To find your local M.P., by your postal code or by name:
For people outside Canada, Courage to Resist has a "Dear Canada" resource page that allows non-Canadians to weigh in with key officials.
Jeremy Hinzman, his wife Nga Nguyen and their son Liam went to Canada in January 2004.  Brandon Hughey went to Canada in March 2004.  They have established lives there, laid down roots.  There are over 200 US war resisters that have gone to Canada. 
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 Iraq, Leila Fadel and Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) report that a US air attack on Tuesday is in dispute with Mansour abd Salem "of the Sunni Awakening councild in Taji" declaring that members of his group were "deliberately" targeted in an air attack that started Tuesday night "and that his brother, Malek abd Salem, contacted U.S. troops in Taji and asked them to stop.  At 1 a.m., he said, his brother spoke again with the U.S. military.  Four hours later, he told Al Jazeera Arabic Satellite News, aerial attacks resumed, and U.S. ground forces killed everyone in sight.  Abd Salem said the group's parked cars were draped in fluorescent banners that the U.S. military had provided to identify them as Sunni allies."  The US military maintains the 25 killed were 'terrorist,' 'insurgents' or, maybe, 'ones needing to die.'  Reuters notes the US claims 25 people were killed while the Sunni tribe claims it was "45 pro-U.S. fighters."
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two Baghdad roadside bombings that left five wounded, an Al Ajeem mortar attack that left three wounded, a Tala Abass roadside bombing that left three people wounded and a car bombing in Kirkuk "targeted Brigadier General Omar Khatab" claiming the lives of 3 bodyguard and 4 civilians while leaving thirteen civilians injured, three body guards injured and Khatab himself injured.  Reuters notes that yesterday: "The head of a Sunni tribe was killed and 10 members of the tribe wounded . . . when a suicide bomber wearing a vest packed with explosives infiltrated their meeeting".

Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports another Baghdad educator has been targeted.  Suad Kukaz was the high school principle of Al Amal until she was shot dead this morning.  She is at least the third female principal to be shot in Baghdad in the last two weeks.  Two were shot last week with one wounded and the other shot dead (Eman Hussein was the other principal shot dead).  Al Dulaimy also notes that Mohamed Salah was shot dead "near Jalawla" and reports two people suspected in the killing of LC Ali Al Daraji were killed Wednesday by Jassim Al Daraji (brother of LC Ali Al Daraji who is a police lieutenant and who was 'questioning' the two suspects when he killed them).
Reuters notes a home invasion yesterday that targeted Kadhim al-Mehdawi ("head of a Sunni tribe") and resulted in "his 13-year-old son" being kidnapped.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 6 corpses were discovered in Baghdad and that yesterday in Jalawla the corpse of Fadel Ahmed was discovered.  Reuters notes the corpse "of a 25-year-old woman" was found in Mahaweel ("shot and tortured").
Today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division -- North Soldier was killed as a result of an explosion while conducting operations in Diyala Province, Nov. 14. Four additional MND-N Soldiers were wounded in the blast and evacuated to a coalition hospital." ICCC's current total for the number of US service members killed in the illegal war is 3865. The announcement brings to 21 the number of US service members announced killed in the illegal war for the month thus far.
In other violence, Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) reports that yesterday's attack on the Green Zone took place 90 minutes prior the planned annoucing of the 2008 budget proposal ($40 billion).  Rubin also reports either the widening of the cholera outbreak or else enteritis at the Al Hanan Home for the Severely Handicapped in Baghdad where one child has already died and twelve more are suffering.
Turning to the mercenary company Blackwater.  Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted, "The State Department's top oversight official has recused himself from all matters relating the private military firm Blackwater after admitting his brother served on the company's advisory board. Inspector General Howard Krongard announced the move Wednesday just hours after initially denying that his brother, Alvin 'Buzzy' Krongard, is a Blackwater board member. The State Department has already come under criticism for its lax oversight of Blackwater since the September 16th killing of seventeen Iraqi civilians by Blackwater guards. Howard Krongard has previously been accused of thwarting probes of contracting fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan to avoid embarrassing the White House. Krongard is said to have refused to send investigators to Iraq and Afghanistan to probe three billion dollars in contracts." The too-late recusal and announcement came out during Howard Krongard's testimony to the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and he needed a break before he could declare that his brother was serving on Blackwater's advisory board.  (See Cedric yesterday, Wally yesterday and here for a humorous joint-entry.) David Wood (Baltimore Sun) captures the "nasty rumors!" defense that collapses when Krongard, back from break, has to admit that his brother "Buzzy" is on Blackwater's advisory board.  Warren P. Strobel (McClatchy Newspapers) observes that belated 'disclosure' "dismayed even Krongard's Republican defenders on the committee, who'd attempted to portray the probe by chairman Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., as partisan score-settling."  The committee hearing was held to address specific problems with Krongard's performance and these issues are covered in the [PDF format warning] "Report on Allegations Regarding State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard" issued before the hearing.
Krongard has threatened people serving under him and has tossed repeated roadblocks in front of Congressional inquiries.  Of the many complaints about foreign contractors in Iraq, one has been that they then recruit foreign workers, take their passports and the employees are then nothing more than slave labor.  The report reveals that the human trafficking issue arose in 2006 within the department resulting debates about how to proceed to verify the claims until Krongard issued an e-mailing stating ("in effect") "cease and desist all work. I'm taking care of this." "Taking care of this" meant a brief dash through of Iraq where Krongard made brief time to speak with "six employees who had been pre-selected by First Kuwaiti. No translators were provided; the only interviewees made available spoke some English. No reports of interviews were drafted. The only documentation of the investigation consisted of handwritten notes by Mr. Krongard, none of which identified the witnesses by name and two of which did not even decribe them by nationality or position." When Ronald Militana began looking into allegations regarding Blackwater "smuggling arms into Iraq," his superior (John DeDona) notified Krongard of the progress thus far and received an e-mail reply from Krongard: "Please do not treat anything in the email below as having been seen by me, advised to me, or understood or approved by me. If there is something significant in the message below, please come and tell me about it." In other words, Krongard wanted no paper trail -- physical or eletronic.
The report assembles all known problems with the 'leadership' Krongard has supplied and on the issue of roadblocks, notes (page 41 "B. Document Production"):
The Committee's September 18, 2007, letter requested that the Office of Inspector General produce by September 28, all documents related to its investigation of Mr. Krongard.  The Committee subsequently postponed the hearing and extended the document production deadline as an accommodation to the Inspector General and his office's document production limitiations.  During a conference call, on October 15, 2007, an Associate Counsel to the Inspector General advised Committee staff that the Inspector General's office could complete its document production within three weeks.  However, on November 1, the Counsel advised the Committee via e-mail that it would not produce any responsive documents relating to the investigation of bribes or kickbacks involving the Jordan International Police Training Center, the investigation of Kenneth Tomlinson, or hotline complaints about the New Embassy Compound in Baghdad, stating that these were still open investigative matters.
After a week of negotiations yielded no agreement to produce responsive documents, the Committee issued a subpoena on November 7, seeking production by November 9 of all documents relating to the various disrupted subjects, including investigations relating to the construction of the New Embassy Compound in Iraq; allegations of bribery involving State Department contractors in Jordan; and all communications to or from the Inspector General relating to Blackwater USA.
On November 9, the office informed Committee staff that it would not produce documents listed in the subpoena that pertain to open investigations, pending consultation with the Justice Department. As of November 13, the Office of the Inspector General has given the Committee no indication of when, or even if, it will produce the documents called for in the subpoena.  Moreover, even setting aside the documents relating to open investigations, the Office of the Inspector General still has not produced all responsive documents to the original Committee request, almost two months after it was first issued.
Also on Blackwater, Jeremy Scahill offers (at the Los Angeles Times) that the investigation into the September 16th slaughter of 17 Iraqi soldiers is riddled with flaws: US civilian law applies to those "working for or directly accompanying the U.S. military," the 2006 Defense Authorization Act that placed "all U.S. Contractors under the Uniform Code of Military Justice" is untested "and the Department of Defense has shown no desire to use this option"; Paul Bremer's Order 17 prevents Iraq from prosecuting; and, most importantly, the investigation focuses only on the contractors: "The investigation must determine which operatives killed the Iraqis on Sept. 16, but it can't stop there.  It must extend to those who hired them and deployed them, armed, dangerous and apparently above the law."  On KPFK's Mid-Day News today, Scahill explained, "The real culpable party here is the State Department which hired Blackwater, deployed it -- armed dangerous and apparently above the law.  And what I think is a bigger scandal than Blackwater is how the State Department from the moment the shooting happened has tried to cover up for its actions.  I mean, let's remember here that the State Department's initial report on the shooting was drafted by a Blackwater contractor on official US government stationary, the crime scene was contaminated -- for two weeks there were no law enforcement investigators there -- and in October we found out that the State Department had granted some Blackwater operatives 'limited use immunity'  in return for their statements and what that means is anything that these Blackwater guards said to the State Department cannot and will not be used in a court of law and can't be used to bring criminal charges against them which creates serious obstacles to prosecuting them.  And then yesterday at the hearing of the House Oversight Committee, chaired by Henry Waxman, we find out that the State Department Inspector General -- the senior official responsible for investigating charges of waste, fraud and abuse -- on contracts like that given to Blackwater is actually the brother of a Blackwater advisory board member".
Protests continue in Seattle at the Port of Olympia.  As Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted today:"The protests were organized by the Olympia Port Militarization Resistance which aims to stop the U.S. military from using the port to ship equipment to Iraq. Police used pepper spray to disperse a crowd of more than one-hundred fifty people. It's the second straight week of protests at the port."  Peter Bohmer (CounterPunch) observes, "For 10 days, anti-war activists in Olympia, Washington have slowed down and for two different periods of 12 hours or more, stopped the flow of military weapons and military cargo that were unloaded from a Navy ship that had returned from Iraq.  For 24 hours day, we have used a variety of tactics and actions.  They have included sitting in front of trucks carrying Stryker vehicles and other military equipment from leaving the Port of Olympia, building barricades on the roads where these military vehicles were taveling, anti-war demostrations through the streets of Olympia and vigils, downtown.  A hearing was held at City Hall, last Sunday, November 11th, 2007 to document the excessive police force used against people who participated in these actions.  We testified at the Olympia City Council and at a hearing of the elected Port Commissioners demanding that they take a stand opposing the U.S. war against Iraq by not letting our Port be used to transport war supplies.  About 500 people have taken part in some or all of these protests."
Turning to the topic of PTSD, Iraq War veteran Brad Gaskins (25-years-old) was arrested yesterday, 10 miles from Fort Drum, where he was headed to turn himself in. 
Brad Gaskins, 25-years-old, who was 10 miles from Fort Drum, holding a press conference before turning himself in, when the military showed up with local police to arrest him.  Fernanda Santos (New York Times) reports, "The soldier, Brad Gaskins, an Army sergeant who had served two tours in Iraq, was speaking with a television reporter at the cafe when two officers from the fort entered with two local police officers, who took him away, his lawyer, Tod Ensign, said."  Gaskins suffers from PTSD and was diagnosed with PTSD while in the military, not that the chain of command was concerned about that. Amy Ohler's "Soldier arrestd after being AWOL" (News 10 Now) offers the reaction of a family member to the arrest: "'Here he is, a young man who has been in the Amy since he was 17 years old, who fought for this country and when he comes back to his own country he's treated like a criminal,' said Sonia Murray, Gaskins' aunt."

And in an update on last week's decision to suspend and attempt to expell high school students who peacefully protested the illegal war and followed school directions while doing so, Crystal Yednak (New York Times) reports that all but four have been "allowed to return to class" except for four whose suspension will end Friday.

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