Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Iraq snapshot

November 28, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces a mass wounding of US soldiers, a new survey of US journalists in Iraq provides a lot of answers, and more.
Starting with war resistance.  Following the refusal of the Canadian Supreme Cour to hear the appeals of US war resisters  Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey, the best road to legal recognition appears to be the Canadian Parliament.  The War Resisters Support Campaign has a two minute and forty-six seconds video PSA on the situation.
In 2003, the Liberal government upheld international law and refused to join the war in Iraq.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien
Iraq war debate -- March 17, 2003
Chretien: If military action proceeds without a new resultion of the [United Nations] Security Council, Canada will not participate.
[Applause. Standing ovation.]
Since 2004, dozens of U.S. soldiers have left the military and come to Canada. 
These soldiers have come to Canada because they oppose the war in Iraq.
They need a provision from the Canadian government to let them stay.
US War Resister Justin Colby: My name is Justin Colby.  I was a specialist in the United States Army.  I served for three years.  I spent one year in Ar Ramadi, Iraq.  I joined the army after 9-11 and I left the army after my year in Iraq, before my unit was going to go back. And I left because Iraq never attacked the United States and the things that we did there led me to believe that we weren't defending our country.
On November 15th, 2007, the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeals of U.S. war resisters.
As a result, U.S. war resisters living in Canada face deportation back to the U.S.
If deported, they face imprisonmnet, or even deployment back to Iraq. 
US War Resister Kimberly Rivera: I'm Kimbely Rivera.  I served three months in Iraq and I'm here with my family.
A 2007 poll found that 64.6% of Ontario voters and 71% of Liberal voters want U.S. war resisters to stay in Canada.
US War Resister Phil McDowell: My name is Phil McDowell.  I'm a former sergeant in the United States Army.  I joined the army after September the 11th.  I served a one-year tour in Iraq from 2004 to 2005.  During my tour I realized that the war was unjust and illegal and the reasons for the invasion were lies.  After completing my contractual agreement with the army, I was called back into service for another fifteen-month tour.  At that time, I refused to deploy, moved to Canada because I believed I'd be able to stay here.  We're asking Liberals to support a provision that would allow Iraq War Resisters to remain in Canada.
U.S. war resisters need the support of the Liberal Party to live in Canada.
War Resisters Support Campaign
Cindy Sheehan (OpEdNews) urges people to utilize Courage to Resist's easy to mail or e-mail resources to allow the Canadian government to know you are watching and to support organizations supporting war resisters as well as supporting war resisters:
Support actual war resisters in Canada by sending them expense money. From my friend Ryan (I gave him and his wife money to get to Canada over two years ago):
In light of the recent Supreme Court denial in Canada, I (Ryan Johnson), My wife (Jen Johnson) and Brandon Hughey need help raising funds to travel to Ottawa to attend hearings before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, where War Resisters will be giving Testimony to the committee. At these hearings the committee will be deciding on whether or not to make a provision to allow war resisters to stay in Canada. This is one of our last chances to be able to continue living in Canada. We will be leaving December 7th because the hearings are December 11th, 2007 so we need to act fast. They may try to send guys back soon and we need to have a strong War Resister Presence. We appreciate all of the support and Want to thank all of you who can help.
Checks/money orders can be sent for Ryan, Jen and Brandon to:312 Tower RdNelson, BC V1L3K6
L-girl (We move to canada) blogs, "I know I've been belabouring the war and war resisters lately, but as I've said elsewhere, this blog reflects what's on my mind.  I'm so disgusted, enraged, heartsick, horrified -- got any words? -- at what's going on in Iraq, at how veterans are being treated in the US, at how ordinary citizens are being treated in the US.  Wmtc is a chance to vent that, and maybe bring some items to your attention that you haven't seen."  And who wouldn't be horrified?  The illegal war started -- over international opposition -- and continues.  War resisters who have taken a stand and said "no" need support.  As Guy Charron (WSWS) observes, "The war has, moreover, resulted in untold violence and countless atrocities. According to studies by reputable agencies, the war and the accompanying destruction of Iraq society have caused the death of over one million Iraqis and the flight of millions of people from their homes and Iraq altogether.  If the Canadian government intervened in the Hinzman and Hughey cases to prevent their raising the illegality of the war, it wasn't just to save the Bush administration from embarrassment. Ottawa feared Canada would become a haven for 'war resisters' and a pole of resistance to the war. Given a different decision on Hinzman's and Hughey's refugee claim, thousands more might well have joined them."
If you are in Canada, you can utilize the contact info at War Resisters Support Campaign to let members of the Canadian Parliament know you support legislation allowing war resisters to stay in Canada.  If you are in the United States (or elsewhere), you can utilize the contact info and/or forum at  Courage to Resist.  Public outcry didn't stop the illegal war from starting and public opposition has yet to end it.  War resisters in Canada who have gone public are putting a great deal on the line.  Use the links to show your support for them.
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.
IVAW is attempting to get the truth out.  The need for that is demonstrated right now by a new poll by the Pew Research Center which illustrates just how successful Operation Happy Talk can still be (especially when so few bother to counter it).  Demetri Sevastopulo (Financial Times of London via MSNBC) surveys the polls results and finds a shift in Pew's figures from February -- then 30 percent of Americans surveyed said the illegal war was going well and now 47 percent say it is while 53 percent surveyed in February said bring the troops home and now that number is 54 percent.  Eric Boehlert (Media Matters) examines Nightline (US' ABC network) and finds "that Nightline's interest in covering the war . . . waned.  The program certainly was not alone.  Most television news outlets, and the networks, in particular, have drastically cut back on the amount of airtime they now give to the war.  Sometimes it appears as though the war doesn't even exist."  And that's big media -- little media's no better.  If you're a magazine or broadcast program -- big or small -- you should probably doing a self-check right about now because very few hands are clean and this latest poll is a reflection of what passes for coverage.
Did someone say coverage?  The New York Times runs an important story on Iraq.  On the front page?  Stop, we're all laughing.  A6 or A7?  It didn't even make the news section.  Richard Perez-Pena's report is entitled "Grim View of Iraq Dangers in Survey of Journalists" and runs on C5 (the business section, page five).  Perez-Pena is summarizing a poll of "American journalists in Iraq" by the Project for Excellence in Journalism with most answering the survey "in October" -- considered 'less deadly'.  Perez-Pena informs: "In a newly released survey, American journalists in Iraq give harrowing accounts of their work, with the great majority saying that colleagues have been kidnapped or killed and that most parts of Baghdad are too dangerous for them to visit."  That was October.  Where in your news coverage have you seen that indicated?  What outlet?  PEJ notes that they surveyed "111 journalists from 29 news organizations reporting from Iraq."
PEJ's report is entitled [PDF format warning] "Journalists in Iraq: A survey of reporters on the front lines" and opens with this paragraph:
After four years of war in Iraq, the journalists reporting from that country give their coverage a mixed but generally positive assessment, but they believe they have done a better job of covering the American military and the insurgency than they have the lives of ordinary Iraqis.  And they do not believe the coverage of Iraq over time has been too negative.  If anything, many believes the situation over the course of the war has been worse than the American public has perceived, according to a new survey of journalists covering the war from Iraq.
The report quotes a bureau chief stating, "Welcome to the new world of journalism, boys and girls.  This is where we lost our innocence.  Security teams, body armor and armored cars will forever now be pushed in between journalism and stories."  They praise the embedding (get in bed with the US military) program and self-report that theyve done an "excellent" or "good" job reporting on the US military (82%).  I'll bite me tongue and move on.  No, actually, I won't.  The New York Times is notorious among the enlisted in Iraq for blowing them off -- it's a complaint that's registered every year of the illegal war.  So it's interesting to turn to page 16 of the study and see that PEJ has blown the enlisted off as well. That's really embarrassing and goes to why the coverage today sucks so bad.  I'm not talking about "embedding," I am talking about journalists talking with average soldiers and anyone who covered a war zone in the past will tell you that.  But PEJ also doesn't feel they are important or sources.  They asked the journalists to rank their access to a group of "key sources" and there are eight listed:
1) Iraqi civilians
2) Other international diplomats/officials
3) Iraqi government officials
4) High ranking American military officers
5) American diplomats/officials
6) Iraqi sectarian leaders
7) Western private contractors
8) Iraqi terrorists/insurgents
The only military on the list are "High ranking American military officers" -- the ones the press already takes dictation from.  Where are the enlisted?  And how could PEJ have done a survey and not noticed that obvious flaw?  85% of the respondents have been embedded and of those who have 35% state that they were required to ask permission (from brass) "to interview soldiers."  Obviously, it's far more difficult to speak to the enlisted than to a military p.r. flack with what's really an honorary title -- but don't those honorary titles look good in print.  Of this embedded segment, 33% reply "yes" to the question of "Does the U.S. Military screen out reporters whose coverage of the war has been critical in the past?"
The journalists give themselves low marks (62% rated this area "fair to poor") on covering "the lives of ordinary Iraqis."  It would be interesting to see a survey on earlier periods, especially on the issue of average Iraqis since in the Times' 'glory' days of Dexy and Burnsie, women didn't appear to exist in Iraq.  (Sabrina Tavernise and other reporters that followed allowed Times readers to know that women did live in Iraq.)  The survey finds -- remember this, "Six out of ten (63%) of the journalists surveyed say that Iraqi staffers do all or most of the street reporting outside the Green Zone."
In other findings, 62 percent say that their "editors back home" have lost interest in reports of day-to-day violence (no kidding) and the only significant increases have been in reports on contractors (79%) and "U.S. military strategy" (67%). The respondents rated the "Impact on Iraqi civilians" as the most under reported (40%) while the respondents rated "U.S. Military strategy" as the most over reported (29%).
Staying on Iraq but flashing back to the days of Judith Miller at the New York Times -- does anyone remember how Miller and Warren Hoge launched their grudge f--k against the United Nations in story after story?  Miller's no longer with the paper and Hoge is on the down low.  So Alan Feuer grabs duty and apparently does so without any editorial assistance which would explain how the world is learning of Texan "Farah Fawcett" for the first time.  It's two r's: Farrah Fawcett.  Having never heard of Farrah Fawcett, it's not all that surprising that Feuer hasn't heard of other things -- like the law.  Oscar S. Wyatt Jr. received a sentence of one year and one day in prison.  For what?  Feuer tells you he "broke the rules of the United Nations program" -- no, he broke the law.  Not a rule, a law.  He bribed.  He broke the law.  The UN -- Miller and Hoge told you -- was the root of all corruption.  Wyatt admitted his guilt and it's buried in the paper.  "Act of kindess" and "he saved my life."  Remember to use those two phrases when writing a judge about sentencing.  They moved Wyatt's judge enough to show the felon mercy.  (Fawcett was among those writing the judge asking for mercy -- for those wondering how she comes into the story.)
Not a lot of mercy in Iraq.  Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) notes, "For the second day in a row, U.S. soldiers on Tuesday killed Iraqi civilians when they fired on a vehicle that they thought was a threat, the U.S. military said."  Damien Cave (New York Times) offers, "The shootings by soldiers appear to receive less attention from Iraqi officials because, unlike contractors, whose legal situation remains murky, American soldiers are subject to military laws."  They also receive less attention because they're rarely reported and when they are reported, there's an effort to explain them away -- even when it's the case of Iraqi children and women being shot in their own homes.  Of the US military's apologies, Fadel quotes Saad Abdul Wahid asking, "Is sorry enough to bring back our friends to life?  They keep making their mistakes day by day and we are paying too much."  Meanwhile an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers shared this event at Inside Iraq on Tuesday, "Yesterday noon, an American squad from the United State Army (about ten to twelve) broke in Al-Mansour preparatory school for one reason or another. We don't have the right to ask them why they came to the school. The soldiers spread in different spots of the school walking towards the back yard which is used as a soccer field. Most of the students were in their classes when the squad came, but still there were many students in the yard who were terrified to see the American soldiers with their guns. One of the students was upset to see the soldiers and he threw a stone and hit one of them. Three soldiers surrounded him kicking him with their boots for some minutes on different parts of his body."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded three civilians and another one that wounded "two soldiers and one civilian."
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports "4 bodyguards of state minister for tribal affairs were wounded" in a clash with the Iraqi military in Baghdad while Muhaned Mekhlif was shot dead "in Al Hawija west of Kirkuk."  Reuters notes that 4 people were shot dead by Iraqi soldiers because they were 'suspected insurgents' (or that's what the Iraqi Defence Ministry states) and that 27 people were arrested.  The US military announced: "A female suicide bomber detonated an explosive laden suicide-vest, wounding seven U.S. Soldiers and five Iraqi citizens in Baqubah, Nov. 27." 
Today the UNHCR released a brief report on the returning refugees.  Someone get a copy to CBS and AP who flat out lie  ("More Iraqi refugees, heartened by reports of the lull in violence in Baghdad, were beginning to return").  Though Damien Cave has reported on the refugees being bussed in bought, CBS and AP play dumb there as well.  (It is playing, right?)  Reality from the UNHCR: approximately 800 left Syria for Baghdad on approximately 15 buses provided by the central (puppet) government in Iraq (no word on how much they were paid to return) and -- pay attention CBS and AP -- "most said they were going back to Iraq because they had run out of money and could no longer afford to stay in Syria, which is hosting more than 1.4 million Iraqi refugees."  The UNHCR's figures find that the tiny trickle of returnees is composed of 14% returning due to the 'safety' myths and 70% returning "because of tougher visa regulations and because they are not allowed to work and can no longer afford to stay in Syria."  Get it yet?
On Democracy Now! today, Naomi Wolf discussed her new book  The End of America: Letters of Warning to a Young Patriot.  She outlined the ten signs when an open society closes and becomes a fascist state and why Americans need to pay attention to.  Picking up the discussion at Iraq:
Naomi Wolf: . . . they used the fake yellow-cake documents to argue that Iraq was trying to secure yellow-cake uranium and remember the famous soundbye, 'We can't wait for the smoking gun to come in the form of a mushroom cloud' to drive us into an illegal war with a nation we were not at war with.
Amy Goodman: You also talk about the language like the Department of Homeland Security. 
Naomi Wolf: That is where I, as a social critic and student of language, get really scared.  It's scary enough to see these ten steps but what is terrifying to me personally is how many actual phrases are being recycle and tactics.  Homland security [the German phrase] "heimat" became popularized by the National Socialists [NAZIs].  Goebbels developed the practice of embedding journalists.  Leni Reifenstahl was embedded for instance  in Poland.
Amy Goodman: She's the famous German film maker.
Naomi Wolf: I mean if you look at the sequence of Hitler descending in an airplane and in Leni Reifenstahl's famous Triumph of the Will and being greeted by the uniformly armed para-military  surrounding their leader and he's saying, 'Help us accomplish our mission' and then you look at other famous images from this administration --
Amy Goodman: Like George Bush on "Mission Accomplished."
Naomi Wolf: Accomplished." Exactly. You look at how Hitler said 'We have to invade Czecholslavakia, they're a staging ground for terrorists and they're abusing their ethnic minorities' -- again, a country that we're not at war with; when the WMD charge vanished, the White House said we have to invade Iraq 'staging ground for terrorists and they're abusing their ethnic minorities' -- on and on and on.
In her latest column (changing the topic), Goodman wonders about the shame factor involved in the Democratic Party using torture czar Ricardo Sanchez to deliver their radio address last Saturday.  This Sunday on RadioNation with Laura Flanders, the program broadcasts a June discussion on the Constitution and national security under Bully Boy featuring Slate's Dahlia Lithwick, John Nichols and David Cole.

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