Monday, November 26, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Monday, November 26, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, a Bully Boy down under goes down, Damien Cave explodes the myth of "The Great Return" and more.
Starting with war resistance.  Sonali Kolhatkur returned to hosting duties of  KPFK's Uprising (she was on maternity leave) and her first guest was Lee Zaslofsky of the War Resisters Support Campaign. Kolhatkur began by noting "the Canadian Arab Federation is the latest" organization to rally around the call that US war resisters should be allowed to remained in the US.  Kolhatkur and Zaslofsky then addressed the basics of Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey whose appeal the Canadian Supreme Court refused to hear.  What of the reception among Canadian, Kohlhatkur asked and Zaslofsky explained both the polling in Ontario (64.6% state that the war resisters should be permitted to remain in Canada) and that, in terms of personal interation, the response has been "great warmth and a great welcome actually" with a diverse based support from labor, the United Church of Canada, the Quakers and the Mennonites among others.  "We have always had a two pronged approach to this, one of them being the legal process," Zaslofsky stated.  "Essentially the courts are finished with this.  So we've intensified our efforts on the political front which we've always been doing" but this became the best path in the wake of the Supreme Court refusal to hear Hinzman and Hughey's appeals. The Canadian Parliament has not gotten behind legislation at this point; however, they will hold hearings next month.
Zaslofsky explained that when he went to Canada (during Vietnam), at the border you could apply for permanent residence but today you either apply in your home country and wait a year for the process or you come into Canada and apply for refugee statues.  Also regarding then and now, he made the point, "First of all, there were quite a few enlistees that came to Canada" referring to then and, referring to now, explained "we believe there is a poverty draft in the United States."  This is based on the resisters they enounter in Canada, the fact that they enlisted for basics such as health care, college, etc.  Things that are seen as rights in other 'advanced' countries but are seen as 'luxuries' in the United States.  Zaslofsky estimates that, in addition to the forty to fifty US war resisters who have applied for refugee status in Canada, "we estimate there may be several hundred" US war resisters who have come to Canada, are working jobs without documentation and are waiting to see what happens to the known war resisters before going public.  Also noted was the concern that deportation might kick in: "We're concerned that what will happen is that the Canadian government will start becoming an enforcement arm for the Pentagon and start rounding up war resisters and sending them back."  Zaslofsky pointed out Canada's resistance to the illegal war, refusal to take part in it and stated "it seems very consistent that Canada would then protect other Americans who agree" with the same stand regarding the Iraq War's illegality.  As he noted, both the War Resisters Support Campaign and Courage to Resist have launched campaigns to force the Canadian parliament to step up and do the job that the Canadian government once did: provide a haven to war resisters.
Corey Glass, another US war resister in Canada, shared his story yesterday with Brett Clarkson (Toronto Sun):  "For Corey Glass, the last straw was a video of Iraqi children talking about how they wanted to grow up to be suicide bombers so they could kill Americans.  It's the moment when Glass, who was born and raised in small-town Indiana, decided to quit the war. . . .  For him, he says it was the right decision.  Glass, in fact, doesn't see his decision to desert as breaking his word.  Instead, he says the U.S. government broke its word by mounting a war based on a now widely discredited claim Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction."  Clarkson notes that the hearings in Parliament are scheduled to take place December 6th. 
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.  In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).
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. 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.  
March 13th through 15th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation.
Turning to The 'Great Return' -- bussed in and bought. You've heard the lies, you've heard the myths.  Today, Damien Cave (New York Times) becomes the first big or small media reporter to bring you some reality.  You learn that "Under intense pressure to show results after months of political stalemate, the government has continued to publicize figures that exaggerate the movement back to Iraq and Iraqis' confidence that the current lull in violence can be sustained."  You learn that, yes, the trickle of returnees are coming from Syria and often from busses since Iraqi's central (puppet) government is sending busses into Syria and paying off refugees to return.  You learn about the United Nations polling 110 families who have returned: 46% returned because they had no money, 25% due to Syria's increased requirements for a visa "and only 14 percent said they were returning because they had heard about improved security."  And you learn that the refugee criisis continues with the United Nations figure for October being 28,017 internally displaced Iraqis.  It's the sort of reporting many outlets could have done but refused to.  Just last week the BBC has some of the same information but attempted to spin it.  While the article succeeds by Times standards, it is also a major article by any standard.  Sadly, the same New York Times that sold the myth of the returns and the myth of 'safer' on their front pages elects to hide the strongest piece they've contributed on Iraq in some time on page A7. 
"On Saturday," Danny Schechter (News Dissector) observes of the paper, "a front page story reported yet another major horrific casualty-causing bomb blast in Baghdad.  On Sunday, two side by side front page stories spoke of 'military successes' as if the military battle had been won.  Did they read Saturday's paper?"  The article referred to was by Stephen Farrell (whose earlier version was noted in Friday's snapshot) and noted Friday's Baghdad bombing that claimed 13 lives and left at least fifty-seven people wounded.  The paper should have run the early version in print.  Instead, readers were fed the lie that for "months" there was a "lull in violence" ("had extended from weeks into months").  It hadn't even made it to two months despite the hype.  The twin car bombings on September 26th were not "months" before November 23rd.  And of course yesterday Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reported a Baghdad Sunday car bombing which claimed 9 lives with at least thirty-nine wounded.  (Farrell reports on that in today's New York Times.)
There has been no lull.  Violence has continued throughout the escalation.  'Success' is actually the buying off of milita groups as Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) has pointed out.  As Robert Parry (Consortium News) has pointed out, the prisons in Iraq (US prisons and Iraqi) are overcrowded with new people being arrested constantly.  At some point, the mass graves that keep getting discovered might clue some people in.  November 22nd, Damien Cave (New York Times) reported on 40 discovered "near Ramadi" and argues the "area [was] controlled until recently by Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia".  Kathleen Lucadamo (New York Daily News) reported on the November 17th discovery of 30 corpses "in southern Baghdad"Of course, November 6th, Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) reported on mass graves containing 30 corpses discovered "north of the Anbar provincial capital of Ramadi."  These are far from the only ones discovered this month.  The US threw a lot of money around to questionable sources who then did whatever they wanted and as long as it could be portrayed as 'safer' (easy to do when mass graves aren't discovered until months after) the majority of the media didn't care all that much.  Hala Jaber (Times of London) reports today: "Members of the Baghdad Brigade receive $300 a man each month from the Americans, who also provide vehicles, uniforms and flak jackets.  In return the brigade keeps out Al-Qaeda, dismantles roadside bombs and patrols the area, a task performed with considerable swagger by many of its 4,000 recruits."  Jaber is reporting on the Sunni militias.  The US 'plan' of addressing the frustrations and anger of the Sunni population from the US arming Shi'ite thugs is to turn around and upset Shi'ites by arming Sunni thugs.  And people wounded why civilians leave Iraq and why Iraq is the biggest refugee crisis currently.  These 'sweethearts' funded and armed by the US show the 'love' by, for instance, entering a school, going "from one class to the next, looking for mobile phones with 'unIslamic' ringtones.  One child with a pop music ringtone was slapped and kicked in the legs as a warning to others."  Thugs.  Armed thughs patrolling inside a school and harassing the young.  Armed and funded by the US.  And their 'school patrol' is far from the worst of their 'duties.'  Thugs, death squads, will not bring 'security' to Iraq.  They will, however, buy time for distractions.  As Ava I noted (The Third Estate Sunday Review), Martha Raddatz (ABC News) spoke some basic truth on PBS' Washington Week: "Every day that Iraq is not in the news is a good day for the president."  Radditz also noted that the administration would shift the 'measures' for 'success' in Iraq.  You see that today as Paul Tait (Reuters) that despite the US military swearing control of fourteen provinces could be handed over to Iraqis by the end of the year, Lt. Gen. James Dubik states they will not be able "to take control of most of Iraq's 18 provinces by the end of the year".  There's no movement foward on the de-de-Baathification.  Yesterday the measure was raised in the Iraqi Parliament and Mariam Karnouny (Reuters) reported that "a row" broke out: "It was the first time parliament had taken up any major bills this year that Washington believes will help heal the deep divide between majority Shi'ites and minority Sunni Arabs. Objections to the bill from a key Shi'ite faction and arguments over whether it had been submitted properly prevented the draft law from being read out fully, participants at the closed-door session told Reuters."  Meanwhile the tensions between Turkey and northern Iraq have not eased -- 100,000 Turkish troops remain stationed on the border and the US continues to send military generals into Turkey for talks.  Reuters reported yesterday that US General Bantz Craddock was in Ankara on Saturday and his visit followed recent trips by US General David Petraeus and US General James Cartwright.
Over the weekend, Philip Pullella (Reuters) reported Pope Benedict "made a pressing appeal on Saturady for an end to the war in Iraq and decried the plight of the country's Christian minority."  On Sunday, another call was made by a religious leader.  Barbara Miller (AM on Australia's ABC) reports that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams ("the leader of the world's 70 million Anglicans") again called out the illegal war, compared the US "unfavourably to . . . the British Empire" and stated that attacks against Iraqn or Syria would be "criminal."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Kirkuk car bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left five more wounded and a Baghdad roadside bombing that wounded two people.  Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing that claimed 1 life and left another person wounded.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Around midday A gunman killed a woman as she was shopping in Al Banat (girls in Arabic) market according to eye witnesses" in Basra,  that Jabar Kadhim was shot dead in Babil, an attack using bombs and gunfire that killed at least 1 person in Kanan and a clash in Al Muqdadiyah that resulted in 4 deaths.  Reuters notes that 1 police officer was shot dead in a Kut home invasion. 
And Jordan's Al Bawaba reports another attack on a journalist, Shabeqat Akhbar al-Iraq's editor Dia al-Kawwaz whose home was invaded Sunday by "militiamen [who] sprayed his relatives with bullets".  Ammar Karim (AFP) quotes al-Kawwaz declaring, "Four gunmen entered my family house in Shab area.  Two of my sisters, their husbands and seven children between five and 10 years old were killed yesterday (Sunday) morning" in Baghdad.  BBC notes, "The police in Baghdad have not confirmed the attack, but one officer told the BBC the killings had occured".
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 4 corpses discovered in Baghdad.  Reuters notes that 3 corpses were discovered in Mosul.
Aaron Glantz has long observed that the signature wound for US service members serving in the Iraq War is brain injury.  Ruth noted on Friday that USA Today's Gregg Zoroya studied "military and civilian records" and determined that "At least 20,000 U.S. troops . . . were not classified as wounded during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan have been found with signs of brain injuries".  Audio of Zoroya discussing the discovery with Madeline Brand (NPR's Day by Day) can be found here.  Meanwhile Simon Basketter (Great Britain's Socialist Worker) reports a study of the British military commissioned by General Sir Richard Dannatt has found "morale is at an all time low. . . .  This report highlights the depth of anger among troops about shortages in equipment and manpower, poor food and housing.  It says soldiers are deliberately taking 'sickies' to avoid going on operations."
Earlier we noted the 'preventive' 'security' the US has bought by arming and funding death squads/militias.  The issue of the preventive paradigm was addressed today on WBAI's Law and Disorder with Jules Lobel who has co-authored with David Cole Less Safe, Less Free: Why America Is Losing the War on Terror (The New Press).
Michael Ratner: But if I look at the preventive paradigm on Iraq, for example, that we went to war, at least publicly -- for their reasons -- to prevent an imminent attack on the United States, a dangerous attack, or to stop them from attacking us, or developing a bomb or weapons of mass destruction,  that was essentially b.s. They went to war against Iraq -- we can't all articulate exactly the reasons but it has to do with a combination of oil, presence in the Mid East, those kind of issues, and the preventive paradigm was just put up there as a way of trying to get people to go along with an attack for really imperialist reasons around Iraq.  How does your book address that issue?
Jules Lobel: Yeah, I think that, obviously, in many cases the preventative rational is simply a smoke screen for something that they want to do for other reasons and the war in Iraq might be a good example of this. But the trouble is that in a time of crisis or a time when people feel an emergency, they're very susceptible to this preventive rational and even if it masks other reasons we felt that you had to take on what was the rational and show  why it was counter-productive -- even if it was the true rational.  From our perspective, even if Bush and company really believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and if they weren't lying to us -- which we think that they were -- but even if they weren't the underlying analysis is still the same: It still is illegal to engage in preventive war and it's still counter-productive and very dangerous as we have seen.  So I think the second point of the book was really to show that these actions taking under this preventive rational are usually counter-productive and have been counter-productive in this situation.  What is viewed by many people -- even people of goodwill.  
Earlier this month, Ranter was named the 2007 Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship.  On the broadcast, Ratner gave credit to ("too modest," stated co-hosts Heidi Boghosian and Michael Smith) to the Center for Constitutional Rights (of which he is president) and joked prizes came your way if you lived long enough.  The three also noted that a future broadcast would note the life and recent passing of Victor Rabinowitz.
Today on Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman noted the US military was again trying to implicate Iran in Iraqi violence, "The U.S. military's claim comes as new statistics show that the vast majority of foreign fighters in Iraq are not coming from Iran but Arab allies of the United States. The New York Times reports Saudi Arabia and Libya were the source of about 60 percent of the foreign fighters who came to Iraq in the past year. While American officials have accused Iran of aiding anti-U.S. militants, only 11 Iranians are in U.S. detention in Iraq."
Goodman also spoke with journalist Tara McKelvey about the Democratic Party response to Bully Boy's radio address on Saturday -- a response they elected to turn over to an Abu Ghraib torture czar: Ricardo Sanchez.
AMY GOODMAN: That was University of Wisconsin Professor McCoy. We're joined today from Washington, D.C., by Tara McKelvey. She's author of a new book; it's called Monstering: Inside America's Policy of Secret Interrogations and Torture in the Terror War. Tara is also senior editor at the American Prospect and a research fellow at New York University's Center for Law and Security. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Tara McKelvey.
TARA McKELVEY: Thanks for inviting me.
AMY GOODMAN: It's good to have you with us. Were you surprised the Democrats chose retired General Sanchez to give their Saturday radio address?
TARA McKELVEY: Yeah. I was at home over the long weekend, and I got an email about Sanchez's doing the radio address, and I just kept staring at the email and thinking, like, how could they do this? I was really, really surprised by it.
AMY GOODMAN: You write about him extensively, among many other issues, in Monstering. Talk about his significance.
TARA McKELVEY: Well, one of the things that he did was he spoke a lot with General Geoffrey Miller, who had come over from Guantanamo in the fall of 2003, and they talked about the types of interrogations that would take place at Abu Ghraib. And at that point, Miller had decided that Abu Ghraib would be the central intelligence collection place in Iraq, and it was tremendous pressure on these officers, as well as the entire military, to get what was known as "actionable intelligence" from detainees who were held in Iraq, because there were so many attacks on American troops. And it was in September of 2003 that Sanchez issued a memo that outlined certain guidelines for interrogations. And these included many of the things that had been used at Guantanamo, like sleep deprivation or stress positions.
And when you first hear of these things, you don't think that they sound so bad, you know, like Giuliani was saying, "You know, I stay awake all the time on the campaign trail. You know, sleep deprivation, what's so horrible about that?" But the fact is that over a period of time, sleep deprivation, it causes a body to collapse entirely, and a person will die.
As far as stress positions go, again, according to the official guidelines, it can mean something like having a person crouch in a position for no more than, say, forty-five minutes. And the truth of the matter at Abu Ghraib was somewhat different. The stress positions were used for much longer periods of time, and they also encompassed a wide variety of positions, one of which was something called a Palestinian hanging, which is where they have the person's hands tied behind their back and then they're suspended from their hands. So then, at a certain point, the person's shoulders would become dislocated. And according to a lot of people who were at the prison at the time, you could hear people screaming in their cells at night since they were being held in these positions. And in addition, there was this photograph, what was known as "the Iceman." It was a prisoner named al-Jamadi. Maybe you remember that picture. He actually died while being held in what was known as the Palestinian hanging. So stress positions are anything but benign.
And then, the other thing to remember is that at Guantanamo, you know, however you feel about these interrogation techniques, at Guantanamo they were done under highly controlled circumstances. For instance, the prisoner-to-detainee [sic] ratio at Guantanamo was one-to-one. At Abu Ghraib, the prison was overcrowded. They didn't have enough people working there. You know, they were getting mortared at night. And the ratio of prisoner to guard at Abu Ghraib was seventy-five-to-one. So these techniques were being introduced in an environment that was utterly chaotic.
Goodman mentions McKelvey's exclusive interview with Lynndie England during the broadcast.  Click here to read McKelvey's "A Soldier's Tale" (marie claire).
In other news, on the heels of Poland's announcement that they will withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2008, Australia held elections on Saturday.  Prime Minister John Howard -- a Bully Boy wannabe -- has held power for eleven years.  He was not victorious on Saturday.
Patrick Barta and Rachel Pannett (Wall St. Journal) called the results "a humiliating defeat," as Australia's littlest bully John Howard has been sent packing in the country's federal election. Gemma Daley (Bloomberg News) summed up the Labor Party's winning platform: "tackle climate change, restore workers' bargaining power and withdraw Australian troops from Iraq." Michelle Grattan (Sydney Morning Herald) explained the winning side of the election: "Kevin Rudd will be prime minister and, as John Howard said in his last desperate days during the campaign, Australia will change. Just how much, we will learn over coming months and years."  AP observed, "Australia has elected a new prime minister who has promised to withdraw his country's 550 combat troops from Iraq, and leave twice that number there in mostly security roles. Kevin Rudd succeeds John Howard, who had said all the troops would stay as long as needed. Rudd is also promising to change Australia's approach to climate change, and make the issue his top priority."  Combat troops are not "all troops."  Australia's troops have largely been stationed in the Green Zone at an embassy (although they did enter Iraq right before the start of the illegal war in one of the least noted episodes of the Iraq War).
Remember the Pacifica Radio Archives special broadcast begins tomorrow (7:00 a.m. EST)  and the lineup can be found here.   

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