Monday, November 19, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Monday, November 19, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, another contractor shooting takes place in Iraq, Operation Happy Talk offers another wave, a defender of war resisters has passed away and more.
Starting with war resistance.  Last Thursday the Canadian Supreme Court refused to hear the appeals of US war resisters Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey, Aaron Glantz (reporting for IPS) quotes war resister Ryan Johnson explaining, "The Canadian government decided not to fight an illegal war. Canada was going to go into the war in Iraq, but then decided that because the U.N. did not sanction it, Canada would not participate in the war in Iraq. That's a major reason that I came to Canada. Canada felt the same way I did about the war in Iraq."  Thomas Walkom (Toronto Star) observed that, "If Canada's federal government had the inclination to face down Washington just a bit, both men -- who almost certainly qualify for permanent resident status –would be welcomed, not as refugees but as landed immigrants. That's how Canada treated U.S. draft dodgers and deserters from the Vietnam War. And it worked out fine."  Meanwhile war resister Brad McCall has started his own website.  McCall went to Canada after he learned of abuses in Iraq from returning US soldiers.  When attempting to enter Canada, he was stopped at the border and arrested.  He is in Canada now and is speaking out. 
Turning to the topic of Iraq War resister Ehren Watada who saw a court victory two weeks ago, Marilyn Bechtel (People's Weekly World) observes, "Judge Settle's response marked a rare civilian intervention into military court proceedings.  Settel, who served as a military lawyer in the 1970s, was recently appointed to the federal bench by President Bush.  Though Watada's term of mililtary service officially ended last December, the Army has not release him.  He is now performing administrative duties at Fort Lewis, Wash."  Settle is US District Court Judge Benjamin Settle.  Ben Terrall (Dissident Voice) notes that the preliminary injuction issued by Settle resulted in a gathering in San Francisco's Chinatown and quotes Ying Lee of the Watada Support Group declaring, "At the time that we called the news conference we did not know that the judge was going to give his decision yesterday." Lee went on, "The decision was due by today, so he was early (…) we are very appreciative of a United States Federal judge respecting the constitution and saying the trial cannot proceed."  Ben Hamamoto (Nichi Bei Times) also covers the San Francisco support rally and
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes James Stepp, Rodney Watson, 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 recently appeared on Democracy Now! 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 plan had been to fold the above into a summary; however, e-mails really want it included in each snapshot in full so, despite saying that we'd fold into the snapshot via a summary, it will instead run in full in each snapshot until their next announcement on the Winter Soldier Investigation at which point we'll run that one in each snapshot.
Turning to Iraq.  McClatchy's Hussein Kadhim noted Saturday, "Today , Sahwa ( Awaking ) council members in Hour Rijab in Doura found 30 unidentified dead bodies in a deserted house in the area which were transferred to A Shiite mosque first then to Doura police station. - Police found ( 4 ) unidentified dead bodies in the following neighborhoods in Baghdad : ( 2 ) two were found in west Baghdad ( Karkh bank ) ; 1 in Doura and 1 in Amil. While ( 2 ) bodies were found in east Baghdad ( Risafa bank ) 1 in Sadr city and Suleikh."  On Sunday,  China's Xinhau reported the second attack in two weeks on officials with Iraq's Finance Ministry when the vice-finance minister's convoy was attacking in Baghdad with a roadside bomb that claimed the lives of 5 civilians and left nine more wounded as well as wounding one of the vice-finance minister Salman Mgotar's bodyguards.  In Baghdad.  It's important to repeat that: "In Baghdad."  The reason it's important is that it's time to for the press to make like Moondoggie, grab their boogie boards and ride the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk. First to paddle out, Cara  Buckley and War Pornographer Michael R. Gordon (New York Times) explaining that US military flacks are saying violent attacks are down while then noting "But since the source for the data is American military reports, and not the Iraqi government, the figures do not provie an exhaustive measure of sectarian violence."  While spitting out the press releases they're fed, the two refuse to acknowledge that had the 'security' so 'improved' they'd be able to travel in and out of the Green Zone without either the paper's team of black-shirted bodygaurds or a military escort.  For the record, they cannot.  To cover their own butts (Gordo's got a lot to cover), they tack on: "Even as military officials announced the figures, Iraq had one of its deadliest days in weeks, with at least 22 people killed."  Apparently having paddled out too far from shore to hear that warning call, Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) so desperate to stay ahead of the curl, she misses that basic point in a report she files this morning ignoring the violence to tell readers that the worst is over.  Save it for after the pig roasting lua, Tina, when it's time to for a group sing-along to "Morning Has Broken."
Susman does find the time to mention what AP reported this morning, that Iraq's Olympic soccer team is minus three members and an assistant coach -- all of whom are now "seeking asylum in Australia" after vanishing "at dawn Sunday from the home of colleagues in Australia, where they were staying after playing Australia's Olympic team."  Olympic defectors?  It's all very cold war.
Meanwhile tensions continue between northern Iraq and Turkey with Turkish troops still massed on the northern border.  At issue, the PKK, part of a Kurdish separatist movement and identified by the European Union, the United States and others as a 'terrorist' organization.  They've had safe haven in northern Iraq where the Kurds reign.  Today the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) decided to do something.  It's not anything that defuses the situation but maybe their act today -- like so many other topics -- it will just go unreported?  Shamal Aqrawi and Aseel Kami (Reuters) report that the KRG is banning "journalists from travelling to Kurdish rebel bases, officials said on Monday, accusing the media of aggravating the crisis with Turkey."  Was it the media that kidnapped 8 Turkish soldiers?  (No, it wasn't.)  This latest attack on the press comes as the Independent of London reports that oveer 200 journalists have been killed in the Iraq War making it "the deadliest by far for the media trying to cover it," and notes the lack of investigations into the murders of journalists which allows "impunity for the killers from the Shia or Sunni militant groups or government run death squads."  Before you try to determine whether the US military is Sunni or Shia, it's quickly noted that "about 15 reporters have been killed by US troops".  Left unstated is that there were no real investigations there either.  Chapter ten of Amy Goodman and David Goodman's The Exception to the Rulers ("KIlling the Messengers") documents some of the killings early in the illegal war including the attack on the Palestine Hotel -- you can also see Danny Schechter's amazing documentary Weapons of Mass Deception for more on the hotel attack including interviews with survivors.  Meanwhile Reporters Without Borders notes the release of journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi who was kidnapped in Baghdad November 16th and released today of Al-Bagdadiyah. However, AP photographer Bilal Hussein remains held by the US military.  Nineteen months after being taken into custody, he has still not received a trial.  Bilal Hussein has been a prisoner since April 12, 2006. Free Bilal is an online petition calling for his release.
On Sunday  Reuters reported: "An Iraqi provincial governor accused U.S. troops of opening fire on civilian cars south of Baghdad on Sunday, wounding six people, and threatened to suspend ties with U.S. officials over the 'brutal' attack."  Bobby Caina Calvan and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) report that the US Embassy and the US military issued a joint-statement yesterday apologizing for the incident and stating that 2 Iraqis were killed in the attack and four wounded while Muthanna province govenor Ahmed Marzook al-Salal is demanding that the victims and families be compensated.  These are not the only innocent Iraqis to have been killed of late.  On Saturday, Cara Buckley (New York Times) covered the ongoing response to the US air and ground assault that resulted in killing members of US collaborators Awakening Council with the council maintaining that "four dozen" of their members were killed.  This was followed on Sunday with  Maher Nazeh and Ross Colvin (Reuters) reporting that despite the US military's continued, "an American militray official" has confirmed to them that this did indeed happen and states, "There was some confusion and we were not able to turn off the attack quickly enough."  Before anyone thinks only US forces are killing, Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reported on Saturday, "Saturday afternoon, gunmen executed five civilians in front of the public in Mosul Al-Jadeda (New Mosul ) west of the city .
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) notes a Baghdad roadside bombing this morning claimed 1 life and left seven more people wounded, another Baghdad roadside bombing wounded two more people, a third Baghdad roadside bombing wounded three people, a Bagdad car bombing left five wounded, a Biji car bombing wounded five people and a Basra missile attack claimed the lives of 6 members of one family ("five of them are children") and left two more wounded.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports,  "Around 3.15 p.m., An Italian security company which works with communication in Iraq opened fire randomly injuring one woman and two other men in Karrada neighborhood (downtown Baghdad), a source from Baghdad security plan operation said."  BBC reports that 33 people have been arrested by Iraqi forces and that 2 of the arrested are American who were security contractors while some of the other 31 include people who were being escorted by the company.  Cara Buckley (New. York Times) reports it is 21 arrested and only 1 is a contractor -- he is American and eye witness accounts have him shooting an 18-year-old Iraqi female in the leg as she was crossing a street.  On Saturday, Scott Shane (New York Times) filed a fluff report on brothers Cookie and Buzzy -- Howard "Cookie" Krongard being the inspector general for the State Department who has repeatedly provided cover for the mercenary company Blackwater, Buzzy being his brother who serves on the advisory board.  If you waded through the fluff, you learned Buzzy had announced Friday he was quitting the advisory board.  For those who have forgotten, last week Cookie testified to Congress and repeatedly asserted that his brother was not working for Blackwater.  He was confronted with e-mail exchanges and other documentation.  Only after he took a break did he admit that brother Buzzy was serving on the advisory board.  He stated he had called his brother on the break and just learned that information.  Deep in Shane's Saturday report, Buzzy says he told Cookie he was serving on the advisory board "a few weeks ago."  Which would mean no phone call was needed in the middle of Cookie's appearence before Congress last week.  (US) ABC News reports that the September 16th slaughter of Iraqis by Blackwater is now the subject of a US grand jury investigation.
Hussein Kadhim  (McClatchy Newspapers) notes 3 corpses were discovered in Baghdad, 1 corpse was discovered in the Tigris River and 4 corpses were discovered in Samarra. Reuters notes that Sunday 2 corpses were discovered in Suwayra, a three-year-old child's corpse was discovered in Kut, 1 corpse was discovered in Iskandariya and 1 in Latifiya.
AMY GOODMAN: More than four hundred antiwar demonstrators marched through Olympia, Washington Saturday to protest the war in Iraq and police brutality aimed at demonstrators in the past two weeks. Police beat back and repeatedly used pepper spray on peaceful protesters who were trying to stop military shipments to and from Iraq in the port of Olympia. At least 66 people have been arrested, 150 others badly injured since the protests began November 7th. On Saturday, demonstrators used non-violent direct action to block military equipment for 17 hours, forced a convoy back into the port.
Olympia Port Militarization Resistance is a group that was formed in 2006 by community peace activists. They wanted to "end their participation in the illegal occupation of Iraq by stopping the military use of the port of Olympia." Phan Nguyen as a member of Olympia Port Militarization Resistance, works as a IT specialist. He was arrested after participating in the non-violent protest in the port of Olympia in November 2006 and the port of Tacoma in March of 2007. Phan Nguyen joins us now from Seattle, Washington. We welcome you to Democracy Now!. Tell us what you have been doing in your group in the port of Olympia.
PHAN NGUYEN: Thanks Amy. What we have been doing is -- this has started since May 2006, in which the community has responded to the military's use of our port as pretty much a revolving door for war operations in Iraq. They have been using the port to ship striker vehicles to and from Iraq through the port of Olympia. And we decided enough is enough. We are not going to stand for it; we are not going to tolerated it. We have the power to do something about it, and, you know, we are just going to implement it. That is what the Port Militarization Resistance, or PMR is all about. It is about the local residents taking action and understanding that there are so many ways to challenge war, to challenge war and occupation. And we are going to explore every single way and we are going to get it done.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, the latest action in this last two weeks, first, what is a striker vehicle? Explain what that does. Now that wasn't going to Iraq but coming from Iraq, going over to Ft. Lewis, is that right?
PHAN NGUYEN: That is correct. These are striker vehicles from 3rd brigade, 3rd striker brigade, the second combat infantry division. They had actually left Olympia in May of 2006. And when they had left -- on their way out, we had actually blockaded them because we did not want to send them to Iraq. There were being sent in advance of the third striker brigade soldiers being sent to Iraq. And we were hoping by stopping the striker vehicles from reaching Iraq, we would prevent the deployment of the third brigade soldiers. Now the 3rd brigade has since returned, minus 48 soldiers who were killed in Iraq. And who knows how many Iraqis were killed as a result of 3rd brigade's deployment.
Now that they returned, their equipment is returning as well. And we are saying, no, we don't want the equipment to be returned only to be fixed and shipped back to Iraq for further use. It needs to end now. And we understand that the road to Iraq goes through the port of Olympia. And at that point, we decided we're going to block it again. This time, we are going to contain the vehicles, keep them from being sent to Ft. Lewis, keep it from being used again. And that is what we started doing a couple of weeks ago when this all began, when the ship arrived on Monday November 5th.
And so, what we ended up doing was creating blockades. We, as you had mentioned, we reclaimed our own port for 17 hours on November 9 and again on November 13. This is our port and we're going to take control of it. We started -- we actually were able to stop military shipments coming out of the port, while allowing civilian shipments to leave and or enter the port. As well on November 13th, there was a really powerful women's solidarity action in which 39 women were arrested, blockading the port, showing solidarity with the women of Iraq and showing their own strong solidarity this is the community in action. Other communities can follow our lead and do the same thing. We understand that it is possible and it just was far more successful beyond what we could have envisioned as long as you know that you can do this, as long as you know it is possible, then it is all yours. This is our community.
In other activism news, Marianne Mork and Ramy Khalil (Socialist Alternative) report on Friday's student actions:
 "I've been angry for many, many years about our administration and so have lots of youth. I'm really frustrated, for one, because I can't vote for President or legislators, but I can make a stand for what I believe in." - Amy Englesberg, 17 year-old high school senior (Bellingham Herald)
In Seattle on November 16, over 500 students took a bold stand against the war in Iraq and military recruitment in schools. Students from over 30 high schools and nearly 10 universities and colleges walked out of classes at noon and converged at Westlake Center for a mass rally and march.
The Seattle walkout was part of a national student walkout on November 16 called by Youth Against War and Racism (YAWR) and a coalition of antiwar organizations in coordination with the national Iraq Moratorium protests. Socialist Alternative also played a major role in organizing these walkouts. Students organized walkouts in at least 8 cities or counties: Brattleboro (Vermont), Boston, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Whatcom County, and Lewis County.
The Seattle walkout drew students from numerous towns and suburbs: Shoreline, Everett, Kenmore, Redmond, Kirkland, Bellevue, Issaquah, Renton, Bremerton, Bellingham, Anacortes, and Belfair.
In Minneapolis/St. Paul, 700-900 students organized a walkout. According to "The Olympian," 300-400 students from South Puget Sound Community College and Capital high schools organized a walkout in Olympia. The "Bellingham Herald" reported that around 100 Ferndale and Windward high school students walked out of classes and marched through Bellingham. On November 15, Tacoma high school students and Socialist Alternative organized a walkout of nearly 100 students.
The reporters note that adults also participated in the actions and that it was the YAWR 2005 walkout that inspired Ehren Watada  "to refuse to fight in Iraq".
Finally, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted today, "And the civil rights attorney Victor Rabinowitz has died at the age of 96. In 1937 he helped found the National Lawyers Guild. He was a longtime law partner with Leonard Boudin."  Rabinowitz wife, Joanne Grant Rabinowitz, passed away two years ago (January 2005).  In his Unrepentant Leftist: A Lawyer's Memoir, Rabinowitz listed his contribution to preserving the NLG as one of the things he was proudest of in his professional life.  In addition to being a founder, he was also president of the NLG from 1967-1970.  With Joanne Grant Rabinowitz (married 1965 until her death in 2005), he had two children: Mark and Abby; and he had two children from his first marriage: Peter and Joni.  Among Rabinowitz' many professional accomplishments were his work with war resisters during Vietnam, his lifelong advocacy of the Constitution (even when administrations and Congress seemed estranged from the Bill of Rights) and forcing  professional cocktail circuit embellisher Hendrik Hertzberg to issue what we'll term a "corrective" to a 1985 smear against the NLG.  In addition to the many cases he argued himself and with partners, Rabinowitz also filed amicus curiae briefs on cases, such as New York Times Co. v. United States, where he was not counsel but the issues involved were too important to stand on the sidelines.

Be a better sports nut! Let your teams follow you with Yahoo Mobile. Try it now.