Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, December 18, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, Condi's on the move as is the Turkish military, CCR files a new lawsuit in DC representing hundreds of Iraqis, and more.
Starting with war resistance. s3nn5 has posted a video online that's one of the PSAs in support of war resisters in Canada.  It's entitled "Let them stay: US war resisters in Canada (2 of 3)" and the 9 minutes and 53 seconds video features Ryan Johnson, Clifford Cornell and others.  We're going to focus on Joshua and Brandi Key and I've switched the order a bit (others speak between the excerpts) and also moved around Josh and Brandi based on what they're talking about.  "[. . .]" indicates a space and that's where I've plugged in and moved around, just FYI.  This is the Keys telling their story starting with Josh describing his time in Iraq.
Joshua Key: Then they go outside, what we call zip-cuffed -- which is just basically, you just tie their hands together.  Then from that point, they put them on a truck and I don't  ever know whatever else happened to them after that.  After that you don't ever see them again, to our standpoint. You, uh, when you're in the house you usually . . . You demolish all of it.  And it's real dramatic because you have women and kids -- you know, they're screaming because, hell, you just scared the hell out of them.  You woke them up with an outrageous bang.  I mean, C4 is very explosive.  Um, you do that, you just ripped their brothers or their husbands from their arms, they threw 'em out, they don't know where there husbands, sons are going, they don't know when they're going to be back, if they'll be tortured, they don't know . . . you know?  And you can't communicate with the people because you don't know how to communicate with them.  And it adds more, I guess, grief to yourself and a lot more questions because you have to do it on a constant basis.  And it rips people's families apart.  And it rips you apart as well because you're the one having to do it and you don't have no say in 'Well I don't want to participate in this any longer,' you can't do that. 
[. . .]
I didn't go trying to kill innocent farmers and kids trying to protect their own country.  You have innocent people all around you dying all the time.  Then you have, on the other hand, you have your friends, your American soldiers, either getting maimed, you know, with their legs blown off and then you start thinking to yourself for what purpose is any of this, you know?  And then the only thing you can come up with after all's said and done, after you think and it drives you nuts, is that we're here for the benefit of the Bush administration.  That's why we're here.  And then nobody, even your superiors, big time superiors, they can't sit there and tell you what your goal is, what are we here for?  They don't know that either.  They couldn't even tell you.  So then it comes to the point where, 'Okay, then I'm obviously I'm here for the oil.'
[. . .]
I was coming home for a two-week leave and I was supposed to return to Iraq for an unknown amount of time but by the time I got home, I mean, the whole entire time I pretty well know what I've got to do but I have to talk it over with my wife and see how everybody sees -- if they see it my way or if they don't see it my way.  Well we did so we decided we're going to have to leave. So basically at that time, I considered, I deserted at that time.
Brandi Key: He didn't want to go and do the things he was doing to the civilians -- that part of what he had to do was tearing him up inside.  So we thought, well, he might go to jail.  That was very scary.  And we thought about, um, he would be dishonorably discharged
which really upset him because that would follow you for the rest of his life in any job he tried to get or anything like that.  We had to do what we had to do to keep our family together. 
Joshua Key: So all I knew was we had to run.  So then basically we left Colorado Springs and just took off driving.  So we started driving east and we ended up in Philadelphia which was, you know, big enough for us.  We lived there for fourteen months, basically from hotel to hotel.  You, uh, you know you still have to work because you have to provide which is very nerve wracking and stressful at the time.  And basically you have to, you have to be in the shadows constantly. You can't let nobody know who you are really.  You have to be very very quiet.  You have to constantly lie because nobody can know the real situation.  Then it just got to the point where . . . I mean, then it was like in October, you have to start thinking of something, there has to be another way out of this because I was pretty paranoid, you might say, and pretty nervous.  But I had a reason to be.  So then it got to the point well, 'Well there's got to be something there, there's got to be something out there.'  So I started looking on the internet and that's when I found Jeremy was up here, Jeremy Hinzman  was up here and how Jeffry House had helped him and that there was a war resister campaign.  So then I tried to contact them people but even then you really don't know, you know what I mean?
Brandi Key: Before Josh went to Iraq, he was very passive, very calm -- always calm.  He never was nervous or got upset.  The boys could do whatever, he was all fine with them.  Like when he came back, we went out to have a drink, right at first to, you know, celebrate, he's home, whatever.  And he totally flipped out because there was so many people in the place and he kept doing like this and like this [Brandi shifts her body to act out discomfort and looking around] cause he didn't want anybody behind him and he was like having flashbacks -- with a crowd of people around him.  He would just freak out.  He was just freaking out totally. That same night, he got so mad.  He like flipped out in the house and was throwing things and cussing and yelling and ripping drawers out, and tear the ceiling fan down.  It was just . . . things that . . . way different from him.  It's kind of hard when you try to talk to him sometimes -- his mind'll be somewhere else and for the kids it's kind of hard because you try to interact but he's thinking about Iraq.  Like he'll see something and that triggers it to where that's all he thinks about even though he tries to talk to us . . . um, he's just not there.  He's gone.
March of 2005 was when the Keys moved to Canada and they had four children at that time, they now have five.  Joshua Key tells their story in  The Deserter's Tale which he wrote with Lawrence Hill.  It's an incredible book (and has been optioned to be turned into a film).  It makes a wonderful gift.  And it's apparently moving to all readers including [language warning] The Stateside Army Book Club who apparently were so moved by the book, they crossed over into Canada and posed as Canadian police officers in a desperate attempt to meet their literary hero whose book had moved them so. When a book has a devoted fan base like that, it's a must-read. Jordy-boy (Propagandhi) notes that the book covers everything: "From the lies told in recruiting offices, to the racist indoctrination of soldiers-in-training, to the terrorizing of iraqi citizens, to the systematic pilfering of their possessions . . . all the way to the refusal of a soldier to go back to war, putting himself and his family underground, ending up in canada, and truly seeking refuge from a nation that wishes to criminalize his decision to note take part in what of course amounts to the genocidal program of the united states of america, and their s**t-eating allies."
The Canadian Parliament has the power to let war resisters stay in Canada.  Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper (pm@pm.gc.ca -- that's pm at gc.ca) who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion (Dion.S@parl.gc.ca -- that's Dion.S at parl.gc.ca) who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua (Bevilacqua.M@parl.gc.ca -- that's Bevilacqua.M at parl.gc.ca) who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use.  Both War Resisters Support Campaign and Courage to Resist are calling for actions from January 24-26.
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).
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.
Today Turks and Condi Rice visited Iraq.  Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted, "More than 300 Turkish ground troops entered northern Iraq early today less than 48 hours after Turkish warplanes bombed 10 Iraqi villages.  It is believed to be the first major Turkish deployment of troops in Iraq since the Turkish Cabinet backed a ground invasion last month.  The Turkish army accuses rebels from the Kurdistan's Workers' Party of using bases inside Iraq to launch attacks on Turkey. . . .  Meanwhile Pentagon officials have revealed the US is providing the Turkish military with real-time intelligence on northern Iraq.  The Washington Post reports US military personnel have set up a center for sharing intelligence in Ankara providing imagery and other immediate information gathered from U.S. aircraft and unmanned drones flying over northern Iraq. One US military official said the United States is 'essentially handing them their targets'."  Deborah Haynes (Times of London) states this "overshadowed a surprise visit" by Condi. Camilla Hall and Janine Zacharia (Bloomberg News) report that Turkish troops that entered Iraq are starting "to withdraw from several areas in Iraq's Kurdish region" and they note: "The U.S., alarmed about the prospect of a conflict in a relatively peaceful area of Iraq, has been working with Turkey to prevent a broad military offensive across the border.  The Turkish government had complained by more than two years that Iraq and the U.S., which classifies the PKK as a terrorist group, hadn't done enough to stop the group from using northern Iraq as a base."  Scott Peterson (Christian Science Monitor) offers, "Iraqi Kurds, many of them sympathetic to fellow Kurds of the PKK, condemned the Turkish moves, and Washington's apparent green light. . . . Analysts say the attacks will have more negative political impact than positive military results, and will further increase tensions in Baghdad between Iraqi Kurdish, Shiite, and Sunni parliamentarians who are struggling to overcome many political difference rooted in sectarianism." The Turkish Press quoted Abullah Gul, the country's president, declaring that the military did "what is necessary in the fight against terrorism" and Rice offering that the US, Turkey and Iraq have a "common interest" in teaming up. Teaming up?  We'll get to that.  Moming Zhou and Polya Lesova (MarketWatch) report, "Crude-oil futures erased earlier gains on Tuesday and fell for a fourth consectuve session after officials said Turkish troops have started withdrawing from nothern Iraq, reducing fears that a military clash may cripple oil supplies from the Middle East."
Turning to US Secretary of State Condi Rice who, darting in and out of Iraq today, visited Kirkuk and Baghdad.  Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) notes of Stop-over Rice's visit that it was "the latest in a string of high-profile attempts at reigniting the country's stalled reconciliation process"/ Citing Iraqi television, CNN reports she met with Iraqi president Jalal Talabani who is Kurdish: "It came as Turkish troops crossed into Iraq to attack Kurdish separatist rebels" which has more to do with Rice's visit than is being noted.  Talabani may have met with her but Masoud Barzani wouldn't.  Daniel Dombey (Financial Times of London) reports that the president of the Kurdish government (Barazni) refused to meet with Rice and observes Rice "has suffered a seback".  Teaming up?  It appears Condi's talk of teamwork didn't do a thing to change the reaction of the Kurds who, no doubt, feel betrayed at this point.  When not attempting to interject herslef into Kirkuk -- which again has rumors attached to it of a referendum that will determine whether it becomes part of the Kurdish region in the north or is part of the central government (out of Baghdad) -- Rice chatted with contractors.  But, as CBS and AP report, Rice declared "Kirkuk is very critical." Of her statements?  No, she's referring to the referendum.  CBS and AP describe it (rightly) as "the hub of Iraq's northern oil fields."   December 9th, Stephen Farrell's "As Iraqis Vie for Kirkuk's Oil, Refugee Kurds Becomes Pawns" ran on the front page of  the New York Times and revealed some realities that are rarely told regarding the power struggle going on outside of Kirkuk.  In the Kurdish region, people were being evicted, forced to move to Kirkuk in anticipation of the upcoming referendum in which 'the people of Kirkuk' would determine their fate.  It was a strong piece and interesting to read Talabani repeatedly claim that no one was being evicted, had been evicted, would be evicted and then to see Farrell provide the stories of the many who were forced out, the ones who, for instance, now live in "the squalor of the Kirkuk soccer stadium."  It's very critical to many people.

Her meeting with contractors in Kirkuk comes one day before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security has a hearing scheduled to begin at 10:15 a.m. where they will address the assault of and abuse of US women in Iraq by contractors (which has been under Condi's umbrellas) and by the State Department (ditto).  The hearing results from the investigative reporting done by ABC News.  Brian Ross, Maddy Sauer and Justin Rood reported on Jamie Leigh Jones last week.  Jones was gang-raped while working in Iraq, gang-raped by and then imprisoned by KBR.  Her father contacted US House Rep Ted Poe who immediately contacted the State Department -- that would be the department Condi is supposed to be in charge of.  Though the State Department would free Jones from a KBR 'pod,' nothing appears to have happened in terms of punishing the criminals.  In addition, Ross, Sauer and Rood also reported on Tracy Barker who was sexually assaulted while working in Iraq and that assault came via the State Department's Ali Mookhtare -- who remains employed by the State Department.  The links to Ross, Sauer and Rood's reports contain the video option because the reports were combined for the first segment of last Friday's 20/20

Condi had many, many reasons to go to Iraq and that includes giving the impression that she's doing her job on the eve of a Congressional hearing that will likely explore the realities of her department.
In other legal news, the Center for Constitutional Rights is representing over 250 Iraqi "torture victims" in their "complaint in Washington federal court last night against CACI, the private military contractor involved in torturing and abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib and other prisons in Iraq.  The complaint alleges that these victims were repeatedly sodomized, threatened with rape and harm to their family members, stripped naked, kept naked in their cells, chained and handcuffed to the bars of their cells, forced to wear women's panties on their heads and bodies, subjected to electric shock, subjected to extream heat and cold, attack by unmuzzled dogs, subjected to serious pain inflicted on sensitive body parts, and kicked, beaten and struck.  CACI employees did not play a limited, passive, or secondary role in this torture, according to the complaint. Rather, two CACI interrogators – Stephen Stefanowicz (known as 'Big Steve') and Daniel Johnson (known as 'DJ') – were viewed as among the most aggressive. These two men were responsible for directing former U.S. military personnel Charles Graner, Ivan Frederick, and others to torture and abuse prisoners. Indeed, CACI employees Big Steve and DJ directed such harsh torture that both Graner and Frederick, who were convicted and sentenced, respectively, to 10 and 8 years in prison for abusing prisoners, refused to follow the CACI directives to torture prisoners."
Turning to some of today's violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad mortar attack that left three people wounded, a Baghdad car bombing that claimed 4 lives and left seven more people wounded, a Baquba car bombing claimed the lives of 2 people with fifteen wounded and a Diyala Province bombing where a person blew themselves up and killed 16 other people with another twenty-four wounded.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports yet another educator targeted: "Dean of al-Ma'moun college, Mohammed Abdulhasen al-Mayahi, was shot dead by gunmen as he got out of his car in front of his home in Qadisiyah neighbourhood, central Baghdad at 6:30 pm.  The gunmen, in a civilian vehicle, used silencers."  In the continued targeting of officials, Reuters reports "an employee of the committee in charge of purging members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party from public life" was shot dead in Baghdad with two more people wounded.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 corpses were discovered in Baghdad.
Staying on the topic of violence but with specific targets, women and the LGBT community.  MADRE's "Promising Democracy, Imposing Theocracy: Gender-Based Violence and the US War on Iraq" pointed out (in March of this year) noted:
A corollary to the systematic violence against women in Iraq is the campaign of torture and killing of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, and intersex (LGBTTI) Iraqis under US occupation. Homophobic attacks intensified in early 2006, after Grand Ayatollah Sistani issued his fatwa (religious decree) saying that anyone accused of "sodomy or lesbianism" should be killed "in the worst, most severe way possible." The fatwa triggered a systematic witch-hunt by SCIRI's Badr Brigade, which was carried out while the group was receiving military training from the US. Badr militiamen began ordering Iraqis to kill gay and lesbian family members in "honor killings." In so-called religious courts with no official authority, self-appointed clerics--including those affiliated with Sistani--preside over the "trials" and executions of those accused of homosexuality.
In today's New York Times, Cara Buckley examines the LGBT community in Baghdad where rumors float that militias (thugs) stop suspected gay men, shear their hair and force them to eat it, where money is the only thing preventing the shrinking community from leaving the country and where they talk of "an underground existence, eked out behind drawn curtains in a dingy safe house in southwestern Baghdad.  Five people share the apartment -- four gay men and one woman, who says she is bisexual.  They have moved six times in the last three years, just ahead, they say, of neighborhood raids by Shiite and Sunni death squads."  The death squads the US armed and trained because it was 'easy' and 'practical' and these fundamentalists had a ready squad of followers that could be used to attack the larger people as a whole since they were such zealots.  The US government did this.  Meanwhile, Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) reports on the women in Basra and the way they are targeted "by the Shia Badr Organisation and the Medhi Army" who "are leading imposition of strict Islamic rules" and insisting on hijabs, banning make-up while the same thugs now control the universities in Baghdad and Mazin Abdul Jabbar of Baghdad University explains that these thugs now "harass female students all the time with religious restrictions" which is why "many families have stopped sending their daughters to high schools and colleges" and al-Fadhily notes that the Ministry of Education states "that more than 70 percent of girls and young women no longer attend school or college."  Repeating, the illegal war did this, the people the US government elected to 'elevate' did this. 
Closing with a historical note (details after quote):
Well, I think, in the early sixties, we were very full of hope and that was because we had a relationship with the Civil Rights Movement which defined the entire sixties -- that here was a movement that had been planned strategically for decades before, although I wasn't aware of that at the time, planning a focus on school integration, using court cases as a way to provoke the federal government  to become involved in opposing segregation and so on and forth.  And then young people, young Black students became involved in the south and expanded and the movement just exploded in a way. And they began to win and change the conversation in the United States about race and they forced the federal government to become involved after years of working on it.  So we had a sense that you could engage with power and win.  And that sense of hope and power sustained us all through the middle sixties and extended itself to our hope to end the war in Vietnam but by 1968 two things had changed.  King was killed, Kennedy was killed, the civil -- the Black Panther party attempted to move, and other organizations, attempted to move the spirit of the Civil Rights to northern urban cities which had begun to demand attention through a series of riots all through the sixties.  And . .. um, and the federal government began to instead of supporting the movement which they did to some degree in the south began to systematically attack the leadership and particularly of the Black Panther Party of the Mexican-American of the Native American movement.  And also these public leaders like King and Kennedy were killed.  Likewise the government became increasingly committed to escalating the war despite years of anti-war demonstrations that had been growing increasingly massive. So by 69 people were angry and felt, beginning to feel somewhat desperate and powerless.  And everybody felt that.  There were many responses to it.  Weatherman was one response to that.
That's Cathy Wilkerson from this week's Progressive Radio where she's interviewed by Matthew Rothschild.  Wilkerson's new book is Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times as a Weatherman.  The interview can be heard over the radio and streamed online (to see if it airs in your area, go to Progressive Radio).

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