Friday, December 21, 2007

Other Items

It will be a lean Christmas for some Iraq-war resisters living in Vancouver. These former U.S. army recruits are waiting on refugee claims and are fighting a return to the U.S. that could include imprisonment.
Brad McCall moved to Vancouver after abandoning his army company in September. He told the Straight that this Christmas was going to be different from those of his childhood in Alabama. There would be no spending money on presents this year, said McCall, who is still without a work visa.
But it's not all bad. "I've got plenty of dinner invitations," he added. "There will be no lack of food for me."
McCall said that he would spend the holidays quietly, just hanging out with his Canadian girlfriend. He maintains that he has no regrets, including joining the U.S. army.
"Now that I'm in Canada and I'm in Vancouver, I realize how little I did really know about the world," he said. "I had pretty much been brainwashed my entire life, not to realize the struggles that are happening all over the world on a daily basis."

The above is from Travis Lupick's "Iraq-war resisters spend Christmas in Vancouver" (Canada's Straight Talk). Brad McCall is the US war resister who became known to many after Robin Long was arrested this fall. McCall had already sat for some interviews which began being published the week of Long's arrest and revealed that the Canadian police had implemented a policy that most Canadians were unaware of (kind of like when they decided to take two US military members to Winnie Ng's home and try to pass them off as Canadian police in their efforts to track down war resister Joshua Key). Whether you celebrate a holiday this time of year or not, you are aware that it is a gathering month and it can be very difficult for anyone (anywhere) that is removed from the friends and family they'd usually gather with. On the plus side, there are friends and families who go to Canada this time of year to celebrate the holidays with war resisters.

It's equally true that people in Iraq -- including Iraqis -- face difficulties in celebrating a holiday. The bombings, the shootings, the attacks. The people killed. The people carted off. Leila Fadel's "Bitterness apparent as U.S. releases Iraqi prisoners" (McClatchy Newspapers) provides a strong tonic to the talk of "Okay, we've finally got the problem figured out! Finally!" that never results in anything except for breeding hostitlities and tensions:

When Leila Nasser was six months pregnant, U.S. soldiers burst into her house and wrestled away her husband, Mohammed Amin, who was asleep on the roof, trying to escape the summer heat.
This week, Nasser waited outside what's now called the "reconciliation hall" in Baghdad's Jihad neighborhood for Amin to appear. In her arms she cradled her year-old son, whom she'd named Moubin, the Iraqi word for apparent.
"I called him Moubin hoping that his father would appear for his eyes," she said. Moubin had never met his father.
Now Amin was one of 15 detainees who'd be released as part of a reconciliation program that the U.S. military's 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment put together in hopes of easing tensions in this divided neighborhood. But the release showed how far reconciliation has to go.
More than 25,000 Iraqis are now in U.S. detention facilities. The Jihad reconciliation committee of Sunni and Shiite Muslims had requested that 562 men be released. Last month, 48 people were released, but 40 more were detained.

Which is some reality that was missing in Gordon Lubold's "Do U.S. Prisoners in Iraq breed insurgents?" (noted last night). Note that his 'crime' was sleeping on the roof. What is that, fifteen months minimum? He's carted away. She's six months pregnant. The baby's now one-year-old. Now he's out. And that's supposed to be 'lucky.' That's supposed to pass for lucky because of how much this illegal war has degraded everyone and our concepts of justice, equality, fairness, . . . Now some of the men and women (and women are being held in those prisons) won't be greeted by loved ones at the gate. Some of them will emerge to find that their families were the victims of shootings or bombings.

There is no 'win' in Iraq, there never was. The US needs to pull out immediately. Let the Iraqi people be in charge of their country. This is from"friendly argument" by an Iraqi correspondent (Inside Iraq, McClatchy Newspapers) explaining a recent taxi ride conversation with a cab driver:

At that point, I can say the political struggle started. We argued for about 30 minutes. After a long fight, we agreed on one point. We agreed that so many promises were made by the American administration and by the Iraqi government -- so many promises that were never fulfilled. He started laughing and said "I feel so sorry because I participated in the election. I though that Saddam's days were over but now I feel sorry because we have many small Saddams who were brought by the USA. The old Saddam had been kicked out by the Americans but who will help us to end the days of the new Saddams if the USA keeps supporting them". I didn't answer him because I couldn't find an answer.

Reality that you may or may not come across in most news resources.

Lynda and Billie both had a highlight they e-mailed in and they note the same things in their e-mails about the highlight. But Billie just e-mailed another one and it's not going to fit in here but we're forcing it in. The topic is Jamie Leigh Jones and the violence women experience and it really should have been in the last entry, but we'll force it in here. From Marie Tessier's "Sexual Violence as Occupational Hazard -- In Iraq and at Home in the U.S.A." (TWMC):

Nearly half of all sexual assault victims are fired or lose their jobs in the year following the assault, according to figures from the feminist law group Legal Momentum. Some states have passed laws to ensure that crime victims have a right to leave work for criminal proceedings or medical care. The far-reaching impact of sexual assault, however, often renders such legal protections meaningless, and few cover civil court proceedings such as seeking protection from abuse.
"Sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking all naturally affect the ability of anyone to concentrate or focus on work," says Legal Momentum senior staff attorney Maya Raghu. "If a sexual assault happens at work or the perpetrator was a co-worker, it can make the workplace itself a traumatic experience."
Moreover, about one in five acts of nonfatal violence happen in the workplace, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. While Jones' story from the Green Zone is stark and its details dramatic, its facts and its outcome are not unique. She speaks for thousands of sexual assault victims confounded by the failures of justice and facing the Hobson's choice of keeping a job or trying to heal.
In terms of criminal law, much of the media coverage of military contractors and their culpability for alleged crimes committed in Iraq and Afghanistan describes them as enjoying a "loophole" where no laws apply. In fact, while a tangle of laws create a long list of legal defenses for contractors accused of crimes in a war zone, prominent scholars and attorneys point out that legal contracts do not authorize crimes. "The underlying law is in place in many of these contractor cases," University of Connecticut law professor Laura Dickinson told Women's Media Center. Dickinson is an authority on private contractors, foreign affairs and human rights. "We haven't had any prosecution because there's no enforcement mechanism in place, and no U.S. attorney’s office that's equipped to bring the cases."

Lastly, Billie and Lynda both noted a highlight yesterday. They both noted it was important for everyone to remember that there are holidays plural and that, even with all those holidays, not everyone is celebrating. They both enjoyed the way Robin Morgan celebrates this time of year. From the opening of Morgan's "The Four Solstice Miracles" (The Women's Media Center):

The last year I sent Christmas cards was 1968: a plain, black-bordered card, mourning the Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy assassinations and the ongoing Vietnam War, urging friends to donate to movement groups instead of buying gifts. I never sent Christmas cards again, not even UNICEF cards, nor, when options became available, a veritable glut of commercialism masquerading as diversity: Hanukkah cards, Kwanzaa cards, Devali, Ramadan, and Winter Solstice cards (this last sensible, at least, since all year-end holidays are clones of solstice festivals). A secularist, I'm happy not participating in a ritual that devours forests for paper, earns millions for Hallmark and its corporate brothers, and feeds the seasonal-obligations frenzy. But.
I do send four special . . . well, messages during this season, so I can hardly pretend they’re not holiday greetings. But these particular recipients deserve far more than my humble communications, written on personal notepaper, manger- and menorah-free, unsequined by santas, kente cloth, dreydls, or overworked non-unionized elves. This is not because these four people--all highly unusual Christians--send me annual messages, or because their stories are the sort not reported in world media. It's because the imperative of their extraordinary lives inspires a loving, respectful response. Their names are partially changed here, to protect their privacy. But all four are real.

For those who are going to be away from your computers in the next few days -- enjoy it. There will be the "Iraq snapshot" today and there will be entries over the next few days. Krista (of gina & krista's round-robin) was one of the people (members now) asking if we could post over the holidays back in 2004. She'd graduated college, gotten a job in Florida and she didn't have the money to go home for the holidays and her parents didn't so she lied and told them that she had to work so they wouldn't try to pull together money they didn't have. (That's noted per Krista and she said to use the word "lied.") She will be with her family this year but she and Gina will be doing a special December 25th gina & krista round-robin. So if you are by your computers, you can check your inboxes for that. (Hilda's Mix, as noted elsewhere, will go out on Monday next week.) Maria, Francisco and Miguel's newsletter will go out Sunday as will Polly's Brew. Community sites will post as they normally do through Sunday. After that, everyone's still figuring out what they're doing but we will have new stuff here.

Tonight in most PBS markets (check local listings) PBS' NOW with David Brancaccio will air:

In this holiday season, is there a solution to chronic homelessness? What do homeless people most need to reenter the fabric of society? Some say the answer is right there in the question: homes. On December 21 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW investigates a program that secures apartments for the long-term homeless, even if they haven't kicked their bad habits.
If you think that sounds crazy, think again. Advocates say this approach reduces costs, encourages self-help and counseling participation, and restores self-esteem. NOW follows a man nicknamed 'Footie' who invited us to see this idea in action.
As a holiday gift, see the show for free RIGHT NOW at the NOW website:
Also, watch a web-exclusive video report about how some homeless earn a living on the street, and assumption-busting truths about America's homeless population.
Check out as well the Top 10 NOW reports of 2007!

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