Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Iraq snapshot

December 26, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, mass corpses are discovered, bombings result in mass deaths, tensions continue between Iraq and Turkey and more.
Starting with war resistance, an AP story filed in Honolulu looks back at 2007 biggest stories for the stae and includes among their top stories "the attempted court martial of Hawaii 1st Lieutenant Ehren Watada for his refusal to deploy to Iraq in February, the deaths of ten Schofield Barracks soldiers and four other troops when an Army Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Iraq in August" and other non-Iraq related stories.  Ben Hamamoto (Nichi Bei Times) also notes Watada:
The more I look at 2006, the more I realize that the Center for Asian American Media was right and it was indeed the "year of the Asian man."  Yul Kwon won the racially-themed season of "Survivor" and put his celebrity to great use, tabloid-y accounts of C-Net commentator James Kim's heroics gave America a fully formed image of an Asian man, the hugely successful "Letters from Iwo Jima" contained the best portrayals of Asian men we've seen in the mainstream media, like ever, and Lt. Ehren Watada broke numerous stereotypes by becoming a major figure in the Peace Movement.
Watada is the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq.  After months of acting in good faith and attempting to work towards a solution with the military (who indicated that they wanted to work this out privately) and with his unit due to deploy in a matter of weeks, Watada went public (June 2006).  In  August 2006, an Article 32 hearing was held.  Following that it was stated that the military intended to court-martial Watada.  The court-martial took place in February 2007.  At that point, Watada's service was up (December 2006) but the military was keeping him to court-martial him.  The Feb. court-martial was provided over by Judge Toilet (John Head) who refused to allow Watada to present a defense (not being allowed to explain motive is being refused a defense) and who, in the end, refused to obey the Constitution.  On Monday, February 5th, Watada's court-martial began. It continued on Tuesday when the prosecution argued their case. Wednesday, Watada was to take the stand in his semi-defense.Over defense objection, Judge Toilet ruled a mistrial thus ending the court-martial.  In doing so, the legal reading should be Watada walks.  Double-jeopardy should take care of that.  Judge Toilet stated Watada would be court-martialed again in March of 2007.  Didn't happen.  Judge Toilet said it was coming, just you wait.  November 8th Judge Benjamin Settle, a US District Court judge, put Head's planned court-martial on hold where it currently remains

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 16th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation. 
While the above event takes place in March, Mike Sievers (Silver City Sun-News) writes a rah-rah press release on Ted Polanco and his "newly opened office" where the sergeant will be recruiting and intends "to distribut information about the Army through posters, cards, and brochures, and also to deliver presentations at area high schools."  Polanco explains the New Mexico city "was a good recruiting town before, and we shut down for a few years, I'm not sure why, but it has always been a good location."  He thinks it's ripe location "for recruiting because it is a small town with fewoptions when it comes to finding work.  Incentives like money for college are among the reasons people join the Army, he said."  To provide context, the New Mexico city is the county seat (Grant County) and the most recent national census (2000) found that while the national median household income was $41,994, in Silver City is is $25,881.  In 2005, the median for Silver City was estimated at $25,000 and New Mexico's median was $37,492.  Over 52% of the citizens are Latino, 2% Native American, less than 1% is African-American, etc.  You have an economically depressed area and that's why the recruiting center has reopened.    IVAW has a Truth in Recruiting campaign: "Every day, all across this country, there are military recruiters lying to persuade young people to sign up for the military.  Proponets of the policy in Iraq are quick to point out that everyone in the military volunteered, but what does that mean if most soldiers were tricked into enlisting by the lies that recruiters tell?  The Truth in Recruiting campaign challenges those lies and the recruitment machine which depends on them.  We have developed actions and materials for our members and for the general public so you can participate in our campaign.  Together we will share the truth about recruiting and the truth about the war that we must end now.  To learn more about the Truth in Recruiting campaign click here."  In addition, Aimee Allison and David Solnit inspiring, easy to understand and hands on Army Of None  [which Emily Drabinski (Left Turn) recently reviewed] provides students with ways to ensure that their campus is one that protects students' rights as opposed to be an extension of a recruiting center.  The Quaker House of Fayetteville provides an outline of the basics and resources here.  Resources can also be found at The National Network Opposing Militarization of Youth, Coalition Against Militarism in Our Schools and Counter-Recruitment and Alternatives to the Military Program.
Yesterday, violence rocked Iraq.   Bob Strong (Reuters) reported a Baiji car bombing  claimed at least 23 lives (with 77 wounded) while a bomber exploded himself at a funeral in Baquba claiming the lives of at least 10 other people (with five more injured) and the thuggish Interior Ministry 'celebrated' the Baiji bombing by ordering the police cheif of the region fired.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reported the Baiji car bombing on the checkpoint's death toll has risen to 25 (with the wounded toll rising to 80).  Today, Stephen Farrell (New York Times) quotes Khalaf Jabbar,  a witness to the Baiji bombing, who states,  "I was driving with my brother in his pickup truck when there was a huge explosion 10 meters ahead from us.  My brother's vehicle was burned and my brother is missing.  Maybe his body has been destroyed."  Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) also reports on yesterday's bombings and notes the Baquba bombing follows reports that the US military "executed two members of American-backed volunteer force" -- 27-year-old Uday Hassan Hameed and 60-year-old Haji Basim al-Bayiati whose corpses were photographed by the Post, their hands still "bound with plastic handcuffs" and it was their funeral being held that the bombers attacked. (The US military's version of events can be found here.)   Charles Tripp (Le Monde Diplomatique via CounterPunch) observes that in arming the the Sunnis thugs (after having armed the Shi'ites) observes, "Al-Maliki heads an insecure, dependent government, resentful of foreign protection but unable to survive without it; this government protests feebly at repeated infringements of Iraqi soverignty and is subjected to the patronizing imposition of benchmarks by the US Congress as part of a domestic political game within the US.  Meanwhile the protecting power, as well as sponosoring local militias and asking few questions if they seem to be keeping the supposed threat from al-Qaida in Iraq at bay, is also forging a close relationship with the Iraqi armed forces.  This is reminiscent of the close and often sinsister relationship between Latin American military institutions and the US military, and is set against a backdrop of insecure and corrupt political elits, sham representative institutions, resitve provinces and the potentially violent politics of a class-divided society.  Some may use anti-Americanism to overcome these differences, particularly if this can be focused on the continued presence of US military bases."  Meanwhile Con Coughlin (Telegraph of London) notes the British handover of the Basra Province took place at Saddam Hussein International Airport (renamed ) and included the reigion's governmor, Muhammad Wa'ili, issuing a cry for "local militias and terror groups" to lay down [lay down, lay down lay it on down (to quote Melanie)] their arms and Coughling points out, "This might seem a bit rich, coming from a man who only a few months ago was unceremoniously dumped out of office by Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, for refusing to disband his militia amid allegations of corruption."
Also yesterday, Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reported a bombing attack on a Tikrit bridge and the following:
At 3 am morning, the US troops raided the office of the Iraqi Red Crescent in Sab'aa Nisan neighborhood (the 7th of April neighborhood) downtown Baquba city arresting 3 guards. While doing a walking patrol in the area, the US troops arrested a member of the local committees. After a while, the US troops killed the man. Another member of the local committees who was in the scene was killed also by the US troops, Iraqi police said. The US army said in a press release that his troops were attacked while conducting a raid early morning and the forces engaged killing two criminals arresting four.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Reuters reports a Baquba bombing that claimed the lives of 3 Iraqi collaborators with the US military and left two wounded when they entered "a booby-trapped house," a Mosul roadside bombing that claimed the lives of 3 children and left two more injured,
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an attack Kanan that left 2 Iraqi soldiers dead and nine more wounded.  Reuters notes the dead in the Kanan attacks has climbed 1 to three Iraqi soldiers dead and that "tribal leader" Ali al-Igaidi was shot dead in Baiji.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 4 corpses discovered in Baghdad and 17 corpses discovered in the Diyala Province.  Reuters notes 2 bodies were discovered ("bound and shot" in Latifiya.
Today the US military announced: "Two Multi-National Division - North Soldiers died from wounds sustained from small-arms fire while conducting operations in Ninewa Province Dec. 26.  Additionally, three more MND-North Soldiers were injured in the attack and evacuated to a Coalition hospital."  The two announced deaths bring the ICCC total to 3899 US service members announced killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.  One away from the 3900 mark.
Tensions continue between Turkey and northern Iraq.  Yesterday, Turkish military planes flew over Iraq.  Sebnem Arsu and Stephen Farrell (New York Times) report that the US military (specifically Rear Adm. Greg Smith) confirms that Turkish planes flew into the air space of northern Iraq yesterday but does not confirm that any bombs were dropped.  Yesterday, Damien Cave and Stephen Farrell (New York Times) quoted an unnamed US military official who explained, "We do get advance warning" from Turkey and "We do not think there was any operation on Sunday."  Ayla Jean Yackley (Bloomerg News) reports this morning that "Turkish jets bombed eight sites in norhtern Iraq today".  Reuters reports that the northern Iraq region's spokesperon Jabbar Yawar has stated that the bombings have not resulted in any deaths.  CNN notes that Yawar states "the bombing lasted about an hour".  AFP reports that the Turkish government "confirmed its third" bombing "in 10 days" and "praised the United States" today "for providing intelligence in support of attacks against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq".  Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes that Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey, has stated the military attacks will continue "despite protests from the Iraqi government."  Whether bombings are yet again taking place or not, the fly overs are having an economic impact. 
Never forget that there's money to be made on the illegal war.  Manash Goswami and Nesa Subrahmaniyan (Bloomberg News) report, "Crude oil rose for a third day in New York on concern shipments from Iraq may be disrupted after the Turkish military attacked bases of Kurdish rebels in nothern Iraq."  Alex Lawler (Reuters) noted the price per barrel continued to rise and reached "a one-month high abvoe $96 a barrel on Wednesday ahead of a U.S. goverment report expected to show crude inventories in the world's top consumer fell for a sixth straight week."  Conden Nast's provides this context, "Crude oil futures, which fell below $90 a barrel earlier this month, have been climbing back in recent days" just ahead of the release of the US Energy Department's report (tomorrow at 10:30 a.m.) and "Oil, which passed $99 a barrel on November 21, is up 57 percent this year."  Ye Xie (Bloomberg News) notes the effect today's prices have had in Canada -- their "dollar rose to the highest level in a month . . .  The Canadian currency has gained 18.7 percent this year as crude oil futures increased 55 percent."  While money's being made, IRIN reports, "Nearly 4,000 people have fled their homes in Iraq's northern semi-automous region of Kurdistan over the past two weeks in the wake of Turkish bombardments of rebel hideouts, a local official said on 26 December."
On the issue of economics, Naomi Klein will be on PBS' The Charlie Rose Show this Friday.  Klein's new book is  The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster CapitalismPBS recently aired the documentary on the life of Ralph Nader,  An Unreasonable Man, on Independent Lens (for those who missed it, it's streaming at the PBS show's website, it's also available on DVD).  John V. Walsh (CounterPunch) writes about the documentary noting Lawrence O'Donnell's remarks ("If you want to pull the party -- the major party that is closet to the way you're thinking -- to what you're thinking, YOU MUST, YOU MUST show them that you're capable of not voting for them.  If you don't show them you're capable of not voting for them, they don't have to listen to you.") as well as Toad and Alterpunky whom Walsh notes "are given considerable time to dispense their venom . . . come across as very bitter man, capable of nothing more than ad hominem attacks on Nader.  It is quite a disgusting sight . . ."  Or as Rebecca (Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude) noted last week: "an unreasonable man is a wonderful documentary. if you (wrongly) blame nader for al gore's suck-ass campaign, you've got toad and eric alterpunk ranting and raving like 2 old queens about 20 minutes after midnight when they grasp that another night's come and gone and they'll be going home alone. why not go home with each other? they're both bottoms."   Jamal Najjab (Washington Report On Middle East Affairs) reports  on an October 11th showing of the documentary (to benefit Democracy Rising) featuring Nader, Kevin Zeese, Patti Smith (who gave a spoken word performance of the lyrics to her amazing "Radio Baghdad" from 2004's Trampin'), Iraqi-American Andy Shallal and Tina Richards:
Her son [Cloy Richards] has brought back experiences from the war, Richards told the audience. He remembers, for example, the day he saw a young girl laughing with her brother and sister in a field near their village in Iraq. "Seeing the joy in her face caused him to feel proud that just maybe their being there had made a difference in this girl's life," Richards related. At that moment, however, he discovered why she was smiling: in her hand was a brightly colored metallic cylinder with multi-color streamers. Her son knew at once that it was a droplet from a cluster bomb, but before he could warn the girl it exploded, killing her brother and her sister and blowing half the girl's face off. Her son is now consumed with guilt, Richards said, knowing that, as a soldier, he assisted in bringing that bomb to the village "He sits every day debating whether to commit suicide or go on living," she said.
On Sunday, CBS Elizabeth Palrmer joined Iraqi's Sunni vice president Tareq al Hashemi to visit the prison in Khadimiya: "Imagine women in prison because their husbands are accused of terrorism.  Now imagine their infants and children in prison with them.  Worst of all, it seems they have no way out."  An estimated 200 prisoners are held in the Khamimiya prison, plus children including infants who 'were born behind bars."  A woman is quoted stating, "They accused my husband.  Then arrested me too but I've done nothing!" while another speaks of being raped and al Hashemi explains, "This is the most critical stage" after the arrest, "Where the torturing, the rape, everything, all these bad experiences, fraud malpractice is done at this stage."   This is against every international law and international convention.  As the occupying power, the United States has a duty to ensure this doesn't take place; however, the White House has allowed the US military to operate similarly, hauling in women who are not even suspected in order to 'get to' the male members of their families.  IRIN reported earlier this month on efforts by the Iraqi Parliament's Committee for Women's and Children's Affairs demand of "the immediate release of female detainees in Iraqi and US-run prisons" quoting Nadira Habib stating, "The Iraqi government should expedite reviewing the files of these detainees by forming committees of laywers, judges and prosecutors, as the majority of them are innocent" and noting that approximately 200 were held in the Kadimiyah prison (the one CBS News visited over the weekend) but they cannot get a number regarding women held in US prisons because "they always refuse requests from our committee to visit them."   Peter Graff (Reuters) reports that, "The Iraqi cabinet approved a draft law on Wednesday which could see thousands of prisoners freed, one of the main demands of Sunni Arab politicians boycotting the Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad."
Finally, yesterday Bully Boy Press and Cedric's Big Mix reported on the latest 'terrorist' killed by US forces in the early morning hours of December 25th whom the US military is asserting is al-Qaeda and stating "Santa Clause" was only 'an alias'. (Wally and Cedric do humor sites for anyone who missed the joke.)

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