Monday, December 31, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Monday, December 31, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, 2007 winds down, and the illegal war?  Hit it, Donovan, and the war drags on.
"I went in for financial reasons, I wanted to attend college but couldn't," Ghanim Khalil explains to Courage to Resist in an audio interview.  Khalil joined up in the 90s and was in IRR before switching over to the reserves. 
Ghanim Khalil: In February 2003, I had contacted Citizen Soldier.  The director is Todd Ensign.  He's someone who's been working with military people and vets for a long time and between me and him we thought the best option was for me to have a press conference because I tried to solve it in the military You know --  I went to my chaplain, I went to my staff  N.C.O.s. and the best thing, the most safest thing for me, and I really, really care about the principles here, the safest thing for me was to have a press conference to let the military know how I feel, to let people -- the American people -- know how a soldier feels -- how a former Marine feels, and then see what happens from there.  And that's why I held a press conference because I thought I can't keep silent and I knew the war was going to happen.  I wasn't one of those people who thought, you know, maybe this thing is going to go away, that diplomacy was going to win out, I knew the war was going to happen because the war had started six months prior before with the bombardment had already started -- and people knew that -- and so that's what led up to the press conference and the press conference is where I said, you know, 'These are my reasons 1-2-3, A-B-C why I think this war is illegal and immoral and I don't want to be a part of it.  I think it's unconstitutional.' That's why I had the press conference.
The press conference was held before a rally at the United Nations February 15th with Khalil declaring, "I have objections to this war.  I believe that this war is for material gain.  I believe that this war will lead to security problems for the American people and that our children will be endangered in the future."  At the rally itself, he declared, "Today, I am in a position to make a difference or remain silent.  Will I participate in a war which could lead to hundreds of thousands of civilian dead, endanger the safety of the American people and create chaos in the Middle East, all to benefit a few powerful and wealthy people?  This war will spread hatred between America and the Muslim world.  It is the duty of educated groups on both sides to put down our masks and weapons, so that there can be a dialogue -- not a clash -- of civilizations.  Today, I'm making my choice and it's to make a difference."
Khalil discussed his book Contemplating Dissent: Why Saying No To The War In Iraq Was The Right thing To Do From a Muslim Perspective.  The book is currently not available at Courage to Resist; however, added to the books, DVDs, postcards and clothing they do offer is Michelle Mason's must-see documentary Breaking Ranks featuring war resisters in Canada.   And on that topic . . .
On November 15th, the Canadian Supreme Court refused to hear the appeals of war resisters Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey?  Does he even care?  Judging by his column, the answer is no.  An over hyped voice of the 'left' gives the greatest gift of all in 2007: The reality of how little the alleged 'left' cares about ending the illegal war.  (Give to the DNC!  Give to two presidential candidates who refuse to promise, that if elected in 2008, they would pull out the troops by 2013!)  That just about sums it all up.  In the real world, 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 ( -- 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. 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.
Iraq War resister Ehren Watada is the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to the illegal war (June 2006).  Phil Tajitsu Nash (Asian Week) mentions Watada and others (such as US House Rep Mike Honda) as he selects his choice for APA Person of the Year (attorney Michael Yaki who currently sits on the US Commission on Civil Rights). Meanwhile videographer Joseph La Sac cites Watada to Stacey Mulick (Tacoma's The News Tribune) who notes that "while filming at a rally related to Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, two military police officers told La Sac that he had to erase footage of military police and the gate at Fort Lewis.  Not knowing any better, La Sac said he compiled.  'It's just heightened my awareness and other people's awareness regarding issues of freedom of the press,' La Sac, now a senior at the University of Puget Sound, said last week."  La Sac now carries a card listing "the rights of photographers".
Watada went public in June of 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 presided 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.  Repeating, Watada's service contract ended in December 2006.  He continues to report for assignments on base.  The military should have released him long ago.  He has now been extended a year just to court-martial him.  Watada needs to be discharged immediately.  Watada's story was one of the important ones in 2007 and had many victories.  But, outside of Asian-geared media, see who mentions him.  (Don't worry, we'll get there in this snapshot.)
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. 
On Saturday, Stephen Farrell (New York Times) reported that the central (puppet) government in Baghdad had reminded South Korea that those contracts they drew up with the Kurdistan region of Iraq were no good.  Reminded.  The central government has made the point before.  It was difficult news for the government of South Korea having just voted last week (146 in favor, 104 against) to continue their minor involvement in the illegal war thereby giving the illusion that Bully Boy's war of choice had international backing.  The vote means that 600 South Korean troops will be kept in Iraq in 2008. Apparently not enough to share the spoils of illegal war.  On Sunday Farrell collaborated with the paper's Solomon Moore and the US government to report on hand outs and charts the US military prepared and to repeat numbers that cannot be verified.  The three-some also informed that rumors abounded puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki was in England for medical treatment of an unspecified ailment.
Over the weekend, Missy Comley Beattie (CounterPunch) observed, "Perhaps Bush's greatest coup has been as a 'uniter, not a divider,' one of his campaign promises.  Certainly, he has united Congress so tightly that we no longer have a two-party system.  George W. Bush has neutered the Democrats with surgical accuracy.  No matter how loudly they bellow that they will challenge him, that he will receive no more blank checks for war, they capitulate."  And it does them no good and only makes them weak.  The point was made clear on the front page of Saturday's New York Times where Steven Lee Myers and David M. Herszenhorn reported that despite pressuring the Democrats (who collapse under the gentlest breeze due to their defect of being born without spines) to do his bidding on again funding the illegal war -- which the Dems did and then some only to learn that Bully Boy intends to veto the bill.  For chuckles, Bully Boy declared on his radio address Saturday:
You expect your elected leaders in Washington to address these pressures on our economy and give you more options to help you deal with them. And I have put forth several proposals to do so.
In the last month, Congress has responded to some of my initiatives. They passed a good energy bill, they passed a temporary patch to protect middle-class families from the burden of the Alternative Minimum Tax, and they passed a law that will help protect families from higher taxes when their lenders reduce their mortgage debt.
But this is only a start. Congress needs to do more to decrease America's dependence on oil. Congress needs to pass legislation that will help make health care coverage more affordable for small businesses and workers who buy their own policies. And Congress needs to act quickly on the rest of my proposals to help families struggling with rising mortgage payments keep their homes.
Most of all, we need to set a good example in Washington by being careful with your money.
Bully Boy was wasted billions and billions, no question.  But this is where Bully Boy steps into the 2008 elections and begins using his Bully Boy Pulpit to make the case to the American people that the reason they live in economic uncertainty and worse is because of the Democratic-controlled Congress.  Having done exactly as he told -- without getting the money upfront like a good hooker -- the Dems are now left to puzzle over how they combat this 'surprise' development.  (It was totally expected.  He does this over and over and with his party suffering due to him, he'll be making many more 'speeches' throughout 2008 attempting to influence the elections.) To his (small) base, what he says make sense.  To others, the Dems have aided Bully Boy by funding the illegal war and -- with the veto -- he's sending a message to the country: "It takes a Republican to whipe Congress into shape."  Congress will most likely give him all the visuals for that talking point because instead of saying, "Veto?  Well forget it," they will rush to appease him, cower and tremble and look like fools and weaklings to the entire nation.  It's not too late to stand up to him but they've done nothing to indicate that there's even a body memory of that they could call up.
Over the weekend, violence continued in Iraq thanks to the Democrats fully funding Bully Boy's illegal war.  Among the violence reported, Saturday Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reported, "The media officer of Mosul police Ahmed al Jobori survived from an assassination attempt when gunmen attacked his convoy in Al Qadisiyah neighborhood northeast Mosul city today afternoon. One of al Jobori guards was killed and another was injured while two gunmen were killed in the clashes."  Part of the continued trend in targeting officials and collaborators with the US.  On Sunday, Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reported, "Basra police chief Abdul Jalil Khalaf survived two assassinations attempts in two hours today. The first was when two roadside bombs targeted his convoy as he was heading to a tribal conference in northern Basra. On the way back another two roadside bombs exploded causing damages to one of the convoy's cars and injuring one bodyguard."  Reuters noted that this was the seventh known attempt on Abdul-Jalil Khalaf's life and that it was the "first since the Dec. 18 handover of security in the city to Iraqi forces." Left unstated is the current issue in the UK Parliament, about a British based mercenary group who allegedly knew the Basra police force was being inflitrated but refused to turn that information over to the British military.  The Guardian of London covered that in multiple reports on the British based company AmorGroup.  In the continued targeting of educators, Reuters reported three teachers were shot dead on Sunday in the Maysan Province.
In some of today's reported violence . . .
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that left 3 police officers wounded, a truck bombing "north of Baghdad" that claimed 9 lives, a woman who apparently exploded herself in Baquba and wounded seven other people, an Iraq-Iran border bombing targeting "Iraq borders guards" that claimed the life of 1 as well as the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left six more wounded. Reuters notes an Iskandariya car bombing that claimed the life of the driver and 1 security force while leaving three people wounded.  CBS and AP report the truck bombing took place in Mishada and claimed the lives of "at least 12 people" and they also note a Baghdad mortar attack the injured three.
Reuters notes 2 people shot dead in Rashad, a police officer shot dead and a nurse shot dead in Mosul, while an armed clash in Baquba resulted in 4 Iraqi soldiers dead and 16 unidentified people killed (they were not identified independently).  CBS and AP note a Khalis clash that resulted in 1 police officer dead as well as 1 member of an 'Awakening' Council.
2007 winds to a close.  AP notes that 2007 "was the deadliest for the U.S. military since the 2003 invasion, with 899 troops killed."  Democracy Now! began the first of a two part look back at 2007 today "2007 in Review: Power, Politics and Resistance Pt. 1"  Click here for the first part (watch, listen or read) and the second part airs tomorrow.  DN!'s part one is among many lookbacks at 2007 and two others worth noting domestically (but text only) are CODEPINK's Medea Benjamin's "Let's Toast to Ten Good Things About 2007" and Alexander Cockburn's "Goodbye 2007 and Good Riddance!" (CounterPunch).  All three are US pieces.  We have to leave the US to get any war resisters?  Apparently so.  Canada's The Rabble's "2007: the Good, the Bad and the Mulroney" notes this on their look back at the year: "The Supreme Court turned down an appeal by U.S. war resisters seeking to stay in Canada."  Part two of Democracy Now! airs tomorrow and maybe it'll note Watada but don't count on it.  War resisters lost ground in terms of media attention in 2006 and they really lost ground in 2007.  We'll note this more tomorrow in our year-in-review.  Elsewhere, the best feature article of 2007 can be found here.  It's not about Iraq but, novel concept, it's not about someone sitting down to push a new CD or film release.  That allows it to actually be about something and, once upon a time before the advent of People magazine, feature writing offered more than hype.  Outside the US, an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers offers "One Year Ago Today" (Inside Iraq):
Picking up the news paper I saw the strangest headline of all.
"The Ministry of Electricity announces that the hours of lack of electricity will be increased as a result of scarcity of fuel and some technical issues."
This is something I cannot undestand. How less electricity?? How fuel scarcity??
We have one hour of electricity in every twelve - How can it be less? And how in any scenario could there be a scarcity of fuel in Iraq ? !
We have despaired of warm homes.
We have despaired of hot water.
We have forgotten how to sit relaxed in our homes. I walk into the living room looking for my son and couldn't find him. I looked for him in the other rooms, but he was nowhere to be seen.
And today an Iraqi correspondent offers "2007 --- 2008" (Inside Iraq):
Its already more than three years and a half had passed since the MNF invaded Iraq. I don't how long they intend to stay but they already lost three years and 9 months. 45 months passed without real progress. 45 months passed without achieving the main goal of the invasion, creating a democratic Iraq.
45 months passed without fulfilling the minimum level of the Iraqis needs. We have electricity for less than two hours a day. We never stop using the water pump because we would never have water without it. The administrational corruption reached the top to the extent that it became the rule, no one can finish any work in the governmental establishment without paying a bribe to that or this employee. The most important thing that both the American and Iraqi governments failed to achieve is security. They failed because they couldn't persuade Iraqis that they came to help them. Now, we live in the middle of unannounced civil war.

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