Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, December 12, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, mass bombings and mass fatalities return to news coverage, news on war resisters in Canada, the Iraqi education crisis covers three nations, and more.
Starting with war resistance and starting in Canada.  Yesterday in Parliament, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration met to discuss the motion passed December 6th.  That motion is:
Yesterday, they passed a second motion which will now move it into the House of Commons.  However, elections will be taking place in February and it is unlikely anything will take place prior to the elections.  Where the pressure needs to be currently is on the Liberal party That's the consensus of seven Parliamentarians as well as the staffers at three offices -- and that's NDP and Liberal -- and they recommend non-Canadian citizens e-mail Prime Minister Stephen Harper ( -- that's pm at who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion ( -- that's Dion.S at who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua ( -- that's Bevilacqua.M at  who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration.  The Bloc Quebecois party has worked very hard on this issue and they deserve credit but I focused on NDP and Liberal members simply because that's who I know (and only one served on the committee). There are other actions being called for an we'll note those in the future. In terms of the right-now, for non-Canadians, the e-mails are what to focus on per Parliament and members of Parliament have been very surprised to find how many people outside of Canada are following this issue.
Meanwhile, Eric Ruder (Socialist Worker) explores the GI coffeehouse role during Vietnam by speaking with pioneer Fred Gardner about what led Gardner to set up the first coffeehouse and the impact they had (the documentary Sir! No Sir! explores the GI coffeehouse movement).  Ruder also explores today's coffeehouse, Different Drummer which was started by Tod Ensign who stresses the role the cafe is playing in addressing PTSD: "These meetings on PTSD are important so that we can demonstrate that we're pro-soldier as well as antiwar -- that we are ready and willing to take steps to defend soldiers who are being prosecuted for AWOL charged brought on by their inability to receive even minimal mental health care on base.  We're the only group in the area that is in any way public about the problem of PTSD.  You don't hear the USO talking about it on base.  You don't hear the military's so-called family support groups saying anything about it.  We are an active voice on behalf of these soldiers against these endless deployments and against this endless war."  To be clear, the US military has 'family support groups' on each base that allegedly address the needs of service members and their families.  Ensign is referring to those and not organizations such as Military Families Speak Out.  Amy Ohler (News 10 Now -- text and video) reported last week on a PTSD forum held at Different Drummer.
So 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 -- that's ten more days -- 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 $41.. 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.
But who will investigate the educational crisis facing Iraqis?  Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) reports on Iraqi refugees in Damascus where education needs for children are not being met (nor in Jordan, where a spokesperson for Save the Children says 90,000 Iraqi children are not in the school systems) and she also examines the Zuhairy family in Syria which is headed by Umm Sundus and includes her children "Adam, 4; Bahram, 10; Ram, 14; Ranya, 17; Samir, 20; and Suzanne, 22" who all live in "a freezing one-room apartment in Jaramana" which contains "no bathroom door, no hot water, no furniture, no heat and no privacy."  Umm Sundus (a widow, her husband a victim of the chaos and violence of the illegal war) could only afford to send one of her children to school (a child enrolled in school allows the family to apply for residency) and they struggle to make ends to meet.  Ahmed Ali (IPS) examines the education crisis in Iraq focusing specifically on the Diyala province and finds that "lack of security means many teachers have quite, and children are not going to school.  This is a trend across Iraq.  According to a report released last year by the non-governmental group Save the Children, 818,000 children of primary school age, representing 22 percent of Iraq's potential student population, were not attending school."  Equally reflective of the lack of 'success' or 'safety' in Iraq, the National Museum of Iraq, in Baghdad, remains closed.  Cara Buckley (New York Times) visits it to report on the mixed success the museum has had in recovering many of the artifacts looted in 2003 when the US government made the decision that the oil refineries would be protected but the museums could be looted.  "Freedom is untidy," crowed then US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. It should be noted that Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism speaks of the need for a culture amenesia to be created and for disaster capitlaism and certainly allowing the destruction of cultural history and historical monuments is one to create the 'blank slate' disaster captialism depends upon.  Buckley notes that the tour was organized by Ahmed Chalabi -- forever infamous as a liar, a war cheerleader and a party planner -- on the latter, as Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) observed December 31, 2003: "On April 8, [2003,] in one of the most televised moments in history, US forces pulled down a statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square in Baghdad.  The American public was inundated with images of jubilant Iraqis dancing in the streets as they dragged the statue's head around the square.  What was not reported was that there was only a handful of Iraqis at the event, who had been brought in by the US forces.  In reality, most of the 150 or so people in the square that day were journalists and soldiers.  Some of the Iraqis in the square that day were later identified as agents of the Iraqi opposition figure Ahmed Chalabi, who has a long history of working with the CIA."  As Goodman and her brother David Goodman note in Exceptions to the Rulers, Chalabi's 'party' had just arrived in Iraq the day before.  It also bears noting that Chalabi  was all for the destruction, as Naomi Klein notes in "Baghdad Year Zero" (Harper's magazine): "The prime advocate of the Year Zero approach was Ahmad Chalabi, whose hatred of the Iraqi state for expropriating his family's assets during the 1958 revolution ran so deep he longed to see the entire country burned to the ground -- everything, that is, but the Oil Ministry, which would be the nucleus of the new Iraq, the cluster of cells from which an entire nation would grow.  He called this process 'de-Baathification.'"   That's worked out so very well.
Today, Iraq was rocked by triple car bombings in Amarah. Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) estimates that the bombings "were about five minutes apart" and that they "could be felt a half-mile away". The death toll continues to rise and CNN notes: "Al-Forat, an Iraqi TV station affiliated with the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq (SICI) political movement, and the state TV reported three bombs, with al-Forat saying saying the blasts detonated in a garage. The British military initially reported at least one bombing at a marketplace." Aref Mohammed (Reuters) puts the death toll at 40 thus far with over 125 injured while citing an official with the local police explaining, "Operating rooms are stretched to the limit because of the number of wounded.  The city is in shock because it's the first big explosion like this."  AFP reminds that the Maysan province (where Amarah is located) "has witnessed intense Shiite infighting, often leading to street battles between militias and Iraqi police."  Hannah Strange (Times of London) notes the province was under British control (through 2006 with 'official control' being transferred over in April of this year) and notes that the UK is supposed to pass control over the "neighbouring Basra province to Iraqi forces next week."  CBS and AP note the count has risen to 41 dead with one-hundred-and-fifty wounded and cite CBS' Jeff Glor explaining that "the blasts follow a recent pattern, whereby militants hid multiple devices near one another, to kill people who respond to the first blast."  Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) describes that process "police said that the first car exploded inside a park in Dijla Street and when people gathered for help, the second car exploded followed by the third car."
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a a Baghdad mortar attack that left three people wounded, a Kirkuk bombing that left three people wounded and a Baghdad car bombing that claimed 5 lives and left thirteen wounded.  CBS and AP report that the Baghdad car bombing took place "[i]n a Christian neghborhood".  Which is a good time that there will be no visible celebration of Christmas in Basra.  Leila Fadel and Ali al Basri (McClatchy Newspapers) report that the discovery of the corpses of a Christian sister and brother (Mayoosn Farid and Osama Farid) on Monday (Osama was kidnapped and then kidnappers phoned his sister for a meeting) Archbishop Imad al Banna has decreed that it's not safe for public displays of the holiday which includes a ban on "trees, gift swapping and family gatherings". 
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a police officer was wounded in Baghdad in one shooting while three other people were wounded in another Baghdad shooting.  CBS and AP note today a Tuesday drive-by that left 1 "anti-al Qaeda Sunni tribal sheik who was promoting national unity . . . [and] his nephew" dead outside Tal Afar. Leila Fadel and Ali al Basri (McClatchy Newspapers) report on the death of Hadil Walid Majed Mitaab who had been nine-years-old until a US raid Monday night outside Karmah: "With helicopters flying overhead, the US and Iraqi troops blasted away the doors of two houses and opened fire on a third, which is where Hadill was, family members said.  Police and relatives said a bullet pierced Hadil's neck, and she bled to death in her mother's arms.  A McClatchy special correspondent visited the house on Tuesday afternoon and watched as a U.S. soldier took bloodied carpet and a small shirt stained with blood from the room where Hadil died.  Her father, Walid Majed Mitaab, sat silently among men paying their condolences in one of the partially destroyed houses.  Mitaab said a U.S. soldier apologized to him through a translator."
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 corpses were discovered in Baghdad.  Reuters notes 2 corpses were discovered in Laitifiya "two men from a Sunni Arab tribal council".
Turning to US politics, February 5th, 4 Green Party contenders will be running for the Green Party's presidential nomination in the Illionis primary. They are Jared Ball, Howie Hawkins, Kent Mesplay,  and Cynthia McKinneyKimberly Wilder (On the Wilder Side) has an open letter from Ball at her site -- and his web address.  He doesn't mention Iraq in his open letter so we're not providing him with a link -- same policy we have witth Democrats. (Nothing on Mesplay's site indicates he's aware an illegal war is even going on. Howie Hawkins?  Here's an older site for him and it does note Iraq,)   The Illinois Green Party notes that last week objections to the four candidates were dismissed by the state's Board of Elections and  "The decision by the board sets the stage for the state's first ever contested Green Primary."  Ralph Nader has stated he will announce whether or not he intends to run by the end of this month.  McKinney does talk about Iraq and we'll note her in tomorrow's snapshot.
Finally, Free Bilal. Bilal Hussein is a Pulitzer Prize winning AP journalist.  He was imprisoned by the US military for the 'crime' of reporting.  Since April 12, 2006, he has been imprisoned.  On Sunday, something resembling a 'court hearing' took place.  It's under a gag order and his attorney was not allowed to speak with Bilal in private.  "He was a man full of joy, and his work was exemplary, outstanding," the Philadelphia Daily News' Jim Mac Millan tells Morgan A. Zalot (Philadelphia Weekly) about Bilal, "I don't want one other insurgent bomber on the loose to kill [my friends and colleagues in Iraq], but Bilal is no insurgent.  I'm so proud of the people I met there, and this case leaves me feeling nothing but shame.  When people ask me why he's in detention, I suggest they look at his photos.  Then I ask them why.  It's just heartbreaking."  The Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorialized yesterday on the 'court hearing' stating, "After so long, he and his attorneys were allowed to see evidence against him.  But they weren't allowed to make copies, leaving no time for an adequate review by attorneys, who detailed Hussein's treatment by U.S. captors in a 46-page report (including nine days of blindfolded interrogation and a stint at Abu Ghraib). A distasteful secrecy order prevented them from discussing in public the magistrate's hearing.  But a defense attorney said no formal charges were laid out.  If Hussein is guilty -- and nothing revealed so far indicates that he is -- why did it take the U.S. military quite so long to take the case to court?  We can't help but think that were it not for Hussein's employers keeping the case alive, he would never even get so far as getting his day in court."  The Committee to Protect Journalists quotes AP's Paul Colford explaining, "There is still no formal charge against Bilal, and The Associated Press continues to believe that Bilal Hussein was a photojournalist working in a war zone and that claims that he is involved with insurgent activities are false.  Because the judge ordered that the proceedings today be kept secret, we are restricted from saying anything further." and CPJ reminds: "Hussein's detention is not an isolated incident.  Over the last three years, dozens of journalists -- mostly Iraqis -- have been detained by U.S. troops, according to CPJ research.  While most have been released after short periods, in at least eight cases documented by CPJ Iraqi journalists have been held by U.S. for weeks or months without charge or conviction."  The International Federation of Journalists has also issued a statement noting, "An Iraqi magistrate will decide whether Hussein will stand trial before a three-judge panel.  Hussein's attorneys are still being denied copies of the evidence or time alone with the photographer, which the IFJ fears will make mounting his defence a difficult and unfair task" and places the targeting of Bilal in an international context by noting the other reporters under fire around the globe.

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