Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, November 27, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces deaths, the puppet enters into a death pact for Iraq, US presidential politics get 'star power' 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.  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:
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
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.
Let's dive into the nonsense.  Bully Boy and his puppet Nouri al-Maliki came to an agreement -- in it al-Maliki sells out Iraq and gets his own ass protected.  CBS and AP play dumb together stating of the agreement: "It would also help the Iraqi government thrwart any attempt to suspend or repeal a constitution drafted with U.S. help and adopted in a nationwide vote in 2005.  That appeared to be a reference to any attempt to remove the government by violence or in a coup." Now there are a number of facts that are questionable in those two sentences but since when does repealing a constitution mean "violence" or "coup"?  It doesn't. And Iraqis are (naturally) interested in writing their own constitution as opposed to having one written for them. Ron Jacobs (CounterPunch) explains reality, "Meanwhile the government in Baghdad's Green Zone is asking the US military to commit to a longterm agreement to stay in Iraq in substantial numbers.  Besides the obvious fact that the Green Zone government really has no say in how long the US military occupies Iraq, the fact that those in power are asking the military to remain is an acknowledgement that their power does not come from the Iraqi people but from the military power of Washington.  In fact, according to the November 26, 2007 Associated Press story discussing this 'request' by the Green Zone government, the request was made because 'Iraq's government, (is) seeking protection against foreign threats and internal coups.'  One can be certain that those internal coups most likely refer to Washington's fear of a victorious insurgency."  James Gerstenzang and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) put their two brains together and all they can come up with that's worth noting is that the new 'agreement' "guarantee a U.S. troop presence in Iraq for at least a few more years."  Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) can't find any current critics of al-Maliki's offensive attempt to circumvent the Iraqi parliament (Question: Who ratifies treaties in the United States?  The Congress.  One more aspect of 'democracy' that never got exported to Iraq.) but she does note that in al-Maliki has (rightly) "critized the U.S. military presence in palaces that formerly belonged to Saddam Hussein and chastised American forces for operating with 'impunity' in Iraq."  Thom Shanker and Cara Buckley (New York Times) probably summarize the events better than any mainstream outlet: "In Iraq on Monday, there was little public discussion of the agreement. It is not a popular move politically because many Iraqis view the United Nations mandate as a reminder that they cannot yet control their own destiny and must rely on outsiders.
In the past, members of the Iraqi Parliament have complained that allowing the continued presence of international forces abrogates the country's sovereignty. While some of the complaints can be labelled political rhetoric, there is also a real underlying resentment that the nation still needs American help."  Well, the puppet government needs help.  The Iraqi people are more than willing to take control of their country.  It's only the US installed government that falters.
What's missing from the coverage?  The voices of Iraqis who aren't the play toys of puppet al-Maliki.  Haifa Zangan is the author of City of Widows: An Iraqi Woman's Account of War and Resistance (Seven Stories Press), and writes for al-Quds and the Guardian of London.  Yesterday she was a guest on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show where she spoke of Paul Bremer dismantling the government, destroying military, the police, jobs for women (90% of women are employed) and much more.
Diane Rehm: The question becomes: If the US withdrew would all of that sectarian violence cease?  Do you really believe that?
Haifa Zangan: If you give a minute.  There was, there are the powers on the ground in Iraq now.  The US army multi-national forces, there are 60,000 of them a parallel army to the US military there which is the mercenary contractors, the security firms, they are both of them enjoy complete immunity from Iraqi law.  But the mercenary firms, the security firms, unlike the US army, they enjoy also immunity from the American law and the international law and those people are really creating havoc within the country.  Those contractors have their own sub-contractors who are willing to kill more and more to continue the war.
Zangan spoke of Iraq's long, long history and explained why she doesn't believe it will be an Iraqi-Iraqi on violence bloodbath should the US military leave Iraq.  Raed Jarrar (Raed in the Middle) also notes the history of the country -- that Baghdad recently celebrated it's 1245th anniversary and that in 20 previous occupations, when foreign forces left the country, there withdrawal was not followed with a "full scale war between Sunnis and Shiites".  Haifa Zangan explained to Rehm, "It seems like every day of the extension of the staying of the American troops and what's called the multi-national forces in Iraq bringing with it new problems for Iraqi people deeping what is there already. . . .  I think their support for the militias would stop, Iraqis themselves would take control of their country."
Rehm returns to the topic of violence later in the interview.
Haifa Zangan: It's not just the Apaches, the helicopters, not only the pre-dawn arrests by the US troops led by with . . . and in collaboration with what's called the Iraqi army and the Iraq police but also we are targeted by the militias and that is not the sectarian war between Iraqi people themselves.  The militias?  Each political party in Iraq at the moment taking part in what's called the political process as designed by Paul Bremer and the occupation, each one of them has its own militia.  Take for example, the Supreme Court for Islamic Revolution --which was established in Iran and has no base whatsoever in Iraq -- went with the occupation and Iraq -- with its own powerful well trained militia -- they are in control of what's called the government now.
Ron Jacobs (CounterPunch) sums up the realities of the illegal war and occupation in four short sentences: "Making occupation and calling it peace.  Killing fewer and calling it progress.  Rotating troops and calling it a withdrawal.  Setting up new death squads and calling them allies.  Lowering standards and calling it opening new opportunities."  Hence the violence continues.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that wounded a taxi driver, another that "near that Amana bus station" that wounded three, a Baghdad car bombing that wounded two, a Diyala bombing where the bomber killed himself and 7 others and thirteen wounded and "Around 9.30 a.m., a roadside bomb targeted an American patrol in an area of about 2 km of Suleiman Beck of Tuz Khurmatu (east of Tikrit).  Eyewitnesses said that a Humvee was destroyed.  Also they saw a helicopter came to the scene taking the killed and injured soldiers with them."  Reuters notes a Mosul car bombing wounded four people.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a clash in Basra that began last night and ended this morning involving multiple weapons and resulting in 1 death and a "few others injured."  Al Jazeera reports a Baghdad shooting by US forces that claimed the lives of 4 "bank employees" traveling in a minibus to work ("three women and one man").  CBS and AP note that 1 child also died making the number shot dead by US forces to make five killed and quote a US military spokesperson (Gregory Smith) stating that "some of the warning fire ricocheted and may have killed two to three individuals." This follows a Monday shooting. 
Reuters notes "two men and a child" were shot dead by US forces "near Baijia" while their car "approached a roadblock."  CBS and AP note that the men died immediately, however, the child lingered until dying from the wounds received and that a US military spokesperson has expressed "regret that civilians are hurt or killed". Reuters notes that today the US military announced US forces had shot and killed a man in Ramadi at a checkpoint on Sunday.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 corpses discovered in Baghdad.  Reuters adds to that to note 5 more discover for a total of eight corpses in Baghdad while 4 were discovered in Mosul and another 4 in Tikrit. 
Turning to a mass shooting noted yesterday, Reporters Without Borders is calling for an investigation into "the murders of 11 close relatives of Dia al-Kawwaz, the Amman-based editor of the online newspaper Shabeqat Akhbar al-Iraq": "We call on the government to order an investigation to identify those responsible for this carnage and to bring them to justice.  The impunity reigning in Baghdad for the past five years encourages attacks on journalists and their families.  It is even more disturbing when security forces see what is happening and yet take no action.  Police at a security checkpoint near the Kawwaz family home failed to intervene or give chase." CBS and AP note a spokesperson for Iraq's Interior Ministry denies that any shootings took place but al-Kawaz has "accused the Interior Ministry forces of involvement in the deaths.  Dhia al-Kawaz said they raided a wake in Iraq for his slain family Tuesday in the predominatly Shiite city of Kut, 100 miles southeast of Baghdad, tearing down banners commemorating the dead."  Mohammed al Dulaimy and Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) note that mass shooting "was the third mass killing reported in Baghdad since Friday".
And today the US military announced: "Two Multi-National Division - North Soldiers were killed as a result of injuries sustained from an explosion near their vehicle while conducting operations in Salah ad Din province, Nov. 27.  Additionally, two Soldiers were wounded and transported to a Coalition medical facililty for treatment."
Over the weekend, Christopher Brauchli (CounterPunch) provided an overview of the mammoth complex being called an embassy in Iraq noting it was over budget by $144 million thus far, that is is still empty and "[n]o one knows when anyone will move in."  This despite Charles Williams, of the US State Dept.'s Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, testifying in July that , "We are slated to complete the project in September of this year and personnel can begin to move into offices and residences shortly thereafter."  To many the multi-acre compound in Baghdad is nothing more than a permanent US military base.  On the subject of bases in Iraq, Chris Dodd's campaing for president released this statement yesterday: "Frankly, it's hard to believe that the Administration is just beginning to figure out what the future bilateral relationship with Iraq should look like after more than four years of military occupation.  But, this [White House] declaration of principles is more notable for what it doesn't say than what it does.  It does not require Iraqi leaders to make substantive progress on their political benchmarks nor does it end US military involvement in Iraq.  Indeed, Senator Dodd is fearful that the lack of clarity on the long-term presence will be used as a justification by this Administration for a permanent military presence in Iraq, at precisely the time when we should be declaring the opposite.  In a Dodd Administration, there will be no permanent bases in Iraq."
Staying with US politics.  How stupid is Mark Halperin?  We'll assume he was too busy rushing to get in a shout out to Sammy Power to do a reality check.  Oprah Winfrey will be hitting Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire to campaign for Barack Obama.  Really?  That's the message a campaign wants to send?  In October, Oprah's already questionable school for girls made headlines as various young females went public with sexual abuse.  Oprah boo-hooed in public.  As if she hadn't brought it all on herself.  (See Margaret Kimberley's January 2007 piece on Oprah's school.) Tears allow Oprah to silence her fans but exactly whom does Campaign Obama think will be on the campaign trail?  And as if that scandal wasn't bad enough -- let's be clear that as the victim of child sexual abuse it was incumbent upon Oprah Winfrey to ensure that any activity or organization she initiated was a safe environment for children which she clearly did not -- she's plugged/hawked plastic surgeon Jan Adams like crazy.  Adams, of course, is the surgeon who peformed surgery on Donda West -- Kanye West's mother -- before she died.  Chicago Sun-Times notes this embarrassing statement by Team Orpah today on their part in making Jan Adams a 'trusted' voice: "Since he was booked as a guest commentator on the subject of medical television, not in his capacity as a surgeon, and since we did not promote him as a cosmetic surgeon, there was no reason t do a background check on him."  TMZ notes Adams' DUIs and mutliple malpractice suits as well as posts a clip of Oprah endorsing him on her show.  It's never Oprah's fault.  That may play on daytime TV to lonely viewers who have no where else to go but the news press isn't the entertainment press and what kind of a political campaign puts a celebrity on the road whose organization (school in Africa) is plagued by sexual abuse controversy and who has promoted a doctor many see as responsible for a high-profile death?  Considering her own history of sexual abuse, the Big O should be spending all of  her time addressing the sexual abuse at her school in Africa.  She really can't 'transcend' that outside of her  viewing 'dynasty'.  How long ago was it that Oprah was 'testifying' that the school sexual abuse scandal  was "one of the most devastating, if not the most devastating experience of my life"?  Monday, November 5th. 
Halpern quotes Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe yacking about how Oprah has never stepped into politics before.  Incorrect.  As Bill Moyers Journal aptly demonstrated in it's debut episdoe, Oprah sold the illegal war.  She used her  daytime show to sell the illegal war.  Which makes her the perfect fit for Obama.  Paul Street (Black Agenda Report) noted last month that Obama's "I was against the war" five-year anniversary was called out by US Senator and presidential contender Chris Dodd who reminded that Obama "forgot to celebrate another anniversary.  Last July 26th marked the third anniversary of the New York Times story in which Obama admitted that he did not know how he would have voted on the Iraq resolution had he been serving in the United States Senate at the time of the vote." 
Meanwhile, US Senator Joe Biden's presidential campaign is marketing a new advertisement featuring testimonials to Biden from fellow presidentidal candiates Senator Hillary Clinton ("Amen to Joe Biden because he's 100% right"), John Edwards ("I actually agree with what Senator Biden said"), Obama ("I think Joe is exactly right") and Bill Richardson ["(Biden's solution) may be ultimately the right solution").  Away from the love-fest, US House Rep Dennis Kucinich's presidential campaign announced: "The Congressman has the utmost respect for Senator Biden and his years of service to the nation.  He just happens to be wrong on some very major issues; and, if the other candidates agree with him, then they're wrong, too.  They voted to authorize the war in Iraq.  They approved continued funding of the war.  They voted for the Patriot Act.  They supported trade agreements that have had a devastating impact on American workers.  They have failed to challenge the President and the Vice President for their unrepentant and continued violations of the U.S. Constitution.  There's a reason that Congressman Kucinich was the only candidate delberately excluded from the ad blitz. Joe Biden knows, and the other Democratic candidates know, that Dennis Kucinich doesn't walk their line.  If voters are dissatisfied with the Biden tweedle-dums and tweedle-dees, they should vote for someone who represents their beliefs and their values.  Not someone who says, 'I agree with Joe.'  Dennis doesn't agree with Joe.  Or Hillary.  Or Barack.  Or John.  Or Chris.  Or Bill."  Bill Richardson is the subject of a blog post by Shailagh Murray (Washington Post) which maintains: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and other D.C. Democrats are as unpopular in the Hawkeye state as President Bush.  Richardson said an 'anti-Washington dysfunctional relationship-feeling' pervades the Iowa landscap and that the Democratic Congress has been a huge disappointment, by failing to end the war or find common ground with Republicans on a whole host of important issues."  Mike Gravel is also running for the Democratic nomination and Mary MacElveen (OpEdNews) focuses on his strengths, "I want you to watch this feed in full as Mike Gravel so rightly states that this is an 'oil war' I feel that this is an important feed especially with the Iowa caucuses are only weeks away and right after many Christians celebrate Christmas.  It is important that all Democrats watch this feed as they go to the polls in the New Hampshire primary in order to make an informed decision.  He is the only one who is telling the American people the truth, yet CNN and NBC blocked him from telling it.  In the spirit of Christmas, one must remember these Ten Commandments which are, you shall not murder, you shall not steal and you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.  The war in Iraq has violated everyone of these commandments. . . . Our soldiers and their families are the ones who will pay the price when men like Gravel are marginalized by the media and the Democratic leadership.  When Gravel speaks out, the phrase that comes to mind is: With age comes wisdom.  And to prove so, he has fought this battle before where others have not."
Finishing out electoral politics, Ralph Nader has stated he will announce by the end of the year whether he will run for president.  Richard Winger (Ballot Access News) reports on a very sad group of people.  There are the sad ones who thought 'winning' came by attempting to deny ballot access to a candidate and there are Pennsylavnia Supreme Court Justices who had conflicts of interest (this is not disputed).  Having tried to block Nader from the Pennsylvania ballot in 2004, sad group one and sad group two scheme to force "Nader's bank to seize almost $80,000 from Nader's account".  Something to think about for 2008: When you endorse a "Don't Run, ___!" campaign, there are others who are going to carry it even further.  Since America needs more choices and more access, the smartest thing to do is remember that in a democracy, anyone who wants to run for office should run.  A US Socialist Worker editorial takes on the concept of "'realistic' strategy":  "With the 2008 election season in full swing, the pressure is on for activists to start doing the 'reasonable' thing -- and adjust their expectations and demands to something that can be achieved.  In fact, however, a look at the last several weeks of the Democrats' behavior -- both in Congress and on the presidential campaign  trail -- offers object lessons about who the 'party of the people' really listens to (not us), and how much it will deliver (not much) unless it faces pressure.  The problem with the politics of compromise is it accepts that the Democratic Party represents 'the people.'  And it assumes that the rights and freedoms we have today are the product of what politicians achieved in the past, so we need to work for the best of them today to push back the Republican agenda. . . .  The Democrats' failure to fulffill hopes that they would take action to end the occupation of Iraq needs to be understood the same way.  They may have talked tough about the war to win their November 2006 victory, but the Democrats are every bit as committed as the Republicans to defending U.S. economic and military interests around the world.  Some Democrats differ with the Bush administration on how the war was carried out and how the occupation should continue.  But there's aggreement on the goal.  That's why, in a recent debate, none of the three front-running presidential contenders [Clinton, Edwards and Obama] would commit to pulling all U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of a hypothetical first term -- 2013, a full decade after the invasion."

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