Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Other Items

Today is December 11th and the Canadian parliament is set to hold hearings on the issue of war resisters. Since that seems to have mentioned the attention of the news media, we'll again note this from yesterday's BBC Radio One's Newsbeat:

Phil McDowell: We were in convoys we were being instructed to run civilian cars off the road. I refused to do that because it didn't seem right to invade another country under false prestense and say that you're there to help them and start running their cars off the road.

Newsbeat: Since the US invaded Iraq in 2003, there's been an 80% increase in soldiers quitting in combat.

Phil: The invasion was never approved by the United Nations. In terms of that Iraq was never threating the United States. The whole weapons of mass destruction argument was, uh, ceased to exist.

Newsbeat: If they're AWOL for more than 30 days soldiers are issued with an arrest warrant but for some, like Phil McDowell, they'd rather do time behind bars than go back to Iraq and see the mistreatment of civilians.

Phil: They would have them tied up and hooded and they were laying on the ground. And their required to let them use the washrooms but they would take them into the washrooms but a soldier would refuse to untie their hands or take off their blindfold.

Newsbeat: Another of the deserters is Dean Walcott, a corporal in the Marine Corps. He saw US forces destroy a tent they had suspected of harboring terrorists but the fire spread rapidly to other tents burning innocent people.

Dean Walcott: There's no way for me to accurately describe what a human being looks like when he's been set on fire. It's horrible and there's screaming that I can only compare to some of the things you hear in movies.

Newsbeat: We put the soldiers' claims to the US Defense Department and the Pentagon. They told Newsbeat many deserters are on the run because of their shame about abandoning comrades. As a result they now face spending the rest of their lives looking over their shoulders wondering when they'll be discovered.

Phil McDowell: It's an internationally condemned war

Newsbeat: But isn't it your job as a soldier to obey orders even if you don't like them?

Phil McDowell: It is absolutely but there comes a point when what you're being asked to do if it breaks the law, you're not supposed to do it.

As the year winds down, Congress rushes to wrap up business before beginning their vacations. One issue is the illegal war which Democratic leadership said they were taking a stand and not backing down on. Noam N. Levey (Los Angeles Times) reports:

At the same time, senior Democrats are facing a restive liberal base incensed by talk that a budget deal would provide more money for the war in Iraq without attaching any conditions aimed at forcing troop withdrawals.
Additional war funding would represent a major concession to the president, who has demanded that Congress abandon its push to impose a schedule for bringing troops home.On Monday, one of the country's leading antiwar groups, MoveOn.org, called on Democratic leaders to maintain their demands that any war funding be tied to a withdrawal timeline."
Americans elected a Democratic Congress in 2006 to end the war in Iraq. A blank check for billions in war funding moves us in the wrong direction," said Nita Chaudhary, MoveOn's Iraq campaign director.

The African Press Orgnaization -- Organisation de la Presse Africaine has released a statement regarding imprisoned AP journalist Bilal Hussein and other attacks on journalists around the world.

"IFJ Says End to Persecution of Journalists is Key to Protection of Human Rights for All"
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today says an end to the legal persecution of journalists is an essential step towards providing human rights protection around the world.
The IFJ, which is the world’s largest journalists’ group, says that governments who use criminal defamation and other legal restrictions to silence critical reporting undermine the role of media in exposing violations of rights across society
In a statement marking United Nations International Human Rights Day, the IFJ has called for a new global campaign to free the press from restrictive laws.
"Freedom of expression is a basic human right," said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. "Without it we cannot hope to defend or promote the rights of people set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and we dramatically reduce opportunities to expose violation of those rights."
The IFJ is calling on governments to end prosecution of journalists to silence investigative reporting. "Press freedom is under attack in many countries and journalists find themselves in the dock often on trumped up charges accused of defamation or endangering national security or undermining government and the authorities. Whenever such an attack takes place, everyone suffers. When access to information is blocked and journalists are muzzled the public loses its 'right to know,' says the IFJ.
The IFJ says that countries led by authoritarian regimes are the chief culprits, but the Federation warns that many of the recent attacks are coming in countries that are supposed to be the models of democracy.
"In Europe and the United States we have seen numerous court cases where the government has prosecuted journalists in an effort to find out their confidential sources or simply to silence their reporting," said the IFJ.
In a case last week in France, Le Monde reporter Guillaume Dasquie was accused of "compromising national defence intelligence" over an article published on April 17th where he revealed classified reports showing that French intelligence services knew of some Al Qaeda plans, including a potential plot to highjack an airplane. Dasquié has refused to name the person who gave him the information.
The European Court of Human Rights recently condemned the Belgian state for acting illegally for raiding a journalist’s home and office three years ago following a complaint by the European Union that he was bribing officials for access to secret documents. No evidence was found to justify the complaints and the IFJ has asked searching questions over the affair.
The United States military has finally allowed Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein and his lawyers to see some of the evidence against him after holding him for almost 20 months without charges. 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.
In other regions of the world attacks on the press are common in countries whose human rights records are already under scrutiny. The IFJ highlighted a number of recent cases:
• In Azerbaijan, which has one of the highest rates of jailing journalists in the world, where 10 journalists are in jail for a variety of charges stemming from critical reporting on the government.
• In Tunisia, where journalist Slim Boukhdir was sentenced to a year in jail after a fracas involving police following months of harassment over his journalism critical of the government.
• In Pakistan, where authorities have initiated legal action against Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and its subsidiary union, the Rawalpindi Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ) for displaying placards and distributing pamphlets during a protest on November 14 against anti-media rules imposed by President Pervez Musharraf.
• In Isreal where the authorities have announced plans to prosecute three journalists for visiting Lebanon and Syria in the course of their work.
• In Nigeria where four media workers are being held, two on defamation charges after they criticised the Minister of Economy and Finance and two others accused of criminal offences following their coverage of the Tuareg rebellion in the country.
• In Venezuela where voters narrowly defeated a referendum that would have, among other changes to the constitution, given President Hugo Chavez the power to declare an indefinite state of emergency and suspend press freedom.
"Cases like this reveal a pattern of routine abuse of journalists’ rights around the world," White said. "It's time for an end to this. We cannot hope to make human rights protection truly universal without an end to judicial intimidation of journalism and attacks on press freedom."

More information on Bilal can be found at Free Bilal.

And there are Iraqi police officers who are female in Iraq. Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports that now it appears they will be unarmed:

The Iraqi government has ordered all policewomen to hand in their guns for redistribution to men or face having their pay withheld, thwarting a U.S. initiative to bring women into the nation's police force.The Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, issued the order late last month, according to ministry documents, U.S. officials and several of the women. It affects all officers who have earned the title "policewoman" by graduating from the police academy. It does not apply to men in the same type of jobs.
Critics say the move is the latest sign of the religious and cultural conservatism that has taken hold in Iraq since Saddam Hussein's ouster ushered in a government dominated by Shiite Muslims. Now, that tendency is hampering efforts to bring stability to Iraq by driving women from the force, said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. David Phillips, who has led the effort to recruit female officers.

One more sign of how Iraq has been a complete disaster and the US should immediately leave. In case some drive-by visitor pops through, I am not making a joke. The US has installed the puppet government and the reality is that Iraqi female police officers will now not carry guns. At some point they will be purged from the force if the line of non-reason continues. The US is doing no good in Iraq. The US installed the thugs because it was 'easy' the same way it was easy to support the fundamentalists who launched attacks on women in Afghanistan, the same way it was easy to put war lords back in power in Afghanistan. Neither country is ruled by its people, they are ruled by the ones the US decided would be 'easiest' to work with. The sooner the US leaves Iraq, the sooner the puppet government crumbles and Iraqis can put their country back together. The longer the US stays, the more power the thugs amass until they can rival the Afghanistan war lords -- in which case, they'll be in power for some time.

Isaiah's latest goes up after this. PBS' NOW with David Brancaccio:

This week's show is about the Ron Paul Phenomenon -- how online outreach galvanizes supporters who may have little or no previous political activism, and who have little connection to the actual Ron Paul campaign. A formal episode description with links to the full show will be sent out in a week, but I wanted to share a compelling early sneak preview of the program. It can be found at www.pbs.org/now -- just clickthe link below his photo on the left hand side of the page.

We don't cover Paul, he's not left and we're a left site. Iraq Veterans Against the War's co-chair Adam Kokesh is supporting Paul and you can check out his site. (Note, Kokesh is personally supporting Paul. He is not speaking doing so in his position of co-chair of IVAW and he makes that very clear at his site.)

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.