Saturday, March 17, 2007

When 23 is 12 in the NYT

In today's New York Times, Edward Wong's "Iran Now Plays Expanded Role In Keeping Iraqi Economy Going" charts the economic ties that are being forged between the two neighboring countries. Alissa J. Rubin's "Visitors to British Jail in Iraq Swap Places With Prisoners" details the Basra incident yesterday where prisoners escaped (ten was the number used frequently as the story was breaking yesterday, Rubin says it was eleven but there was no 'stand-in' for the eleventh). She gives a corpse count that's off. She writes twelve corpses were discovered across Iraq and notes 9 in Diyala and three in Kirkuk. From yesterday's snapshot:

Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) notes that 9 corpses were found in Baghdad and 2 corpses were discovered in Kirkuk today.

That would mean Kirkuk went up to 3, the Diyala Province had 9 and Baghdad had 9. That's 21 corpses, not 12. It does matter and it's all the more surprising when Rubin's article carries a dateline of Baghdad. If McClatchy isn't a good enough source for someone -- I have no idea why it wouldn't be, note that today Reuters also records the 9 corpses discovered yesterday in Baghdad. The Basra prison break/swap was breaking as McClatchy's al Dulaimy's article went out so there's no excuse for claiming that it wasn't known at the time. In addition, Reuters (today) notes two corpses were discovered in Mosul on Friday. That brings the reported count of corpses discovered on Friday to 23. 12 is nearly half of that.

The 4th anniversary of the start of the illegal war (March 19th) is upon us. Around the country, demonstrations and rallies are taking place. (We took part in the march on the Pentagon which is why I'm starting so late.) Activities will take part today, tomorrow and Monday. And they also took place yesterday. Martha notes Steve Vogel and Clarence Williams' "Rousing, Emotional Start for War Protest" (Washington Post):

Dozens of demonstrators, many of them Christian peace activists, were arrested outside the White House late last night and early this morning as part of a protest against the war in Iraq.
About 11:30 p.m., police began handcuffing the first of about 100 protesters who had assembled on the White House sidewalk to pray in a planned act of civil disobedience.
The protesters were part of a larger group that had assembled at the Washington National Cathedral for a service on the fourth anniversary of the start of the war. From the service, demonstrators marched through the wind, cold and dampness to the White House.
The demonstration began a weekend of protest that is to include a march on the Pentagon today. Last night's event, which was sponsored by more than two dozen religious groups, was not part of today's antiwar rally at the Pentagon.
Those who were arrested had been among almost 3,000 people who assembled at the cathedral at 7 p.m. for a rousing, emotional service that lasted more than 90 minutes.
Participants, whom the cathedral staff numbered at 2,825, heard speakers including Celeste Zappala of Philadelphia, whose son was killed in Iraq in 2004.
"I am here tonight as a witness to the true cost of war," she said, "the betrayal and madness that is the war in Iraq."

This is the event Melinda noted WJLA's coverage of yesterday. (I forgot to include the link to WJLA in yesterday's entry -- my apologies.) Carl was the first to note Margaret Kimberley's "Michelle Malkin and Dinesh D’Souza - Fascists of Color" (Freedom Rider, Black Agenda Report):

The corporate media makes advocates of racism and white American supremacy very rich. American racism also gives certain non-white people advantages. They are able to escape the indignity that black Americans face. They are then able to disassociate themselves and become allies with the very worst and most dangerous aspects of political life in this country.
Michelle Malkin, born Michelle Maglalang, is a dark skinned Filipino-American who loves the worst that white American civilization has to offer. Malkin is a darling of the right wing, a blogger and author who is eager to advocate invading other nations, and spewing hatred of immigrants in general and of Muslims in particular.
Malkin constantly rails against immigration, complaining about "drive by" and "accidental" citizenship attained by the children of immigrants who she and others label
"anchor" and "jackpot" babies.
Malkin never told her loyal readership that her father came to the United States in 1970 on a temporary work visa. She was born in October 1970. Malkin is
herself a jackpot baby, given automatic citizenship when her parents were not even permanent residents. The truth may set you free, but it doesn't get you on Fox news.
In 2002 Malkin wrote that the
internment of thousands of Japanese-Americans was "wrong and abhorrent." Who knows if she ever believed those words, but times changed quickly and there was a book deal waiting for an Asian who would approve past and future efforts to profile and then incarcerate non-white people.

Turning to radio, we'll start with RadioNation with Laura Flanders (Saturdays and Sundays, 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm EST, Air America Radio, XM radio and online):

Four years after the invasion of Iraq, autocracy is taking its toll. We’ll hear from people who are taking to the streets, to the Congress and to the board rooms of this country to build a real democracy. SUNSARA TAYLOR reports from the
'March on the Pentagon' first up. Then MARK GREEN -- Air America's new president -- ERIKA WOOD and MILES RAPAPORT lay out an agenda for Democracy. And finally, GIULIANA SGRENA, the Italian journalist who was kidnapped, released, and then shot by US troops...on the toll of the occupation, as seen by one reporter up close. Special Gift: Laura's new book
SUNDAY journalist MARK BENJAMIN was reporting on the treatment of wounded soldiers at
Walter Reed for years before the latest controversy made waves in the mainstream media. He'll join us to discuss his latest report on injured troops being sent back to Iraq. Then, Nation contributor, JEREMY SCAHILL, on the world's most powerful shadow army. Scahill's new book is 'Blackwater: The Rise of The World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.'

Rachel notes the following upcoming programs (Sunday and Monday) on WBAI -- over the airwaves in the NYC area (and beyond) and also available online (times given are EST):

Sunday, March 18, 11am-noon
Director Cynthia Croot and actress Brigit Evans bring dramatic excerpts and discussion of The Venus Project Worldwide, their theatrical experiment with Suzan-Lori Parks' play about Sarah Bartmann, the South African servant who gained strange fame as "The Hottentot Venus." With actors Kathleen Chalfant and Jeffrey Frace and humanitarian advocate Rachel Lloyd of Gems Girls. Hosted by Janet Coleman.

Monday, March 19, 2-3pm
Orange Prize winner Lionel Shriver on her new novel, "The Post-Birthday World"; violinist Ching Chen Juhl on The Women's Work Concert Series 2007; and playwright Steve Berman with actors Patrick Husted and Kathleen Doyle on their new play about the origins of Alcoholics Anonymous, "Bill W. and Dr. Bob." Hosted by Janet Coleman and David Dozer.

Turning to war resistance, Vic notes Jennifer Taplin's "Former U.S. marine to speak against war" (Halifax' The Daily News):

It wasn't two tours in Iraq. It wasn't pacifism.It was seeing young soldiers disabled and dying from war which turned Dean Walcott into a U.S. marine deserter.Born in Connecticut and raised in up-state New York, the 25-year-old refugee is now living in Toronto. He was invited by the Halifax Peace Coalition to speak at Dalhousie University last night and march in an anti-war demonstration this afternoon.After his first tour in Iraq in 2003, Walcott was assigned to assist the seriously wounded at the American hospital in Germany for two months in 2004."It's a place you go when you are either dying or seriously wounded," said Walcott.It was rewarding helping burned and limbless soldiers, but Walcott said he just didn't like why they were there. It was the war he didn't understand."There will still be times when I'll sitting there and I'll be spaced out and I'll be seeing it all over again. I'll see the people in the beds ... and it just immobilizes me for a bit."
[. . .]
Realizing there was nowhere to turn, Walcott went AWOL and moved to Toronto a few months ago. He applied for refugee status and is now waiting for the paperwork to hopefully go through.

The following community sites have updated since yesterday morning:

Rebecca's Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Cedric's Cedric's Big Mix;
Kat's Kat's Korner;
Betty's Thomas Friedman is a Great Man;
Mike's Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine's Like Maria Said Paz;
Wally's The Daily Jot;
and Trina's Trina's Kitchen

[Note, title corrected. Thank you, Shirley for pointing that out. "12" not "21." "When 23 is 12 in the NYT."]
The e-mail address for this site is

Friday, March 16, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Friday, March 16, 2007.  Chaos and violence continues in Iraq;  US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid proclaims "The war has gone on too long.  We must change direction in Iraq" but apparently can't control senators in his own party; protests rock Sadr City in Baghdad; Vicky Toejam will have to think of a new falsehood now that Valerie Plame has testified to the US Congress that she was a covert CIA agent; and the health 'care' for veterans remains a scandal.
Starting with war resistance, today on KPFA's Making Contact, Aaron Glantz addressed the topic of Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq (June 2006) and the first to be court-martialed (last month).  Glantz noted that before the court-martial began, on a rainy Sunday night, people gathered to show their support.  Among those speaking were retired Lt. Col. and retired State Department Ann Wright, "
I have been here so many times and so many times for justice and principle."  Glantz noted how the presiding judge, Lt. Col. John Head (aka Judge Toilet) refused to allow Watada to put foward his best defense -- explaining why he refused to deploy.  A review of the court-martial's second day included Geoffrey Millard's observations (Millard reported on the court-martial for Truthout) that the prosecutions' own witnesses backed up Watada under cross examination.  This point was echoed by Jeff Paterson who told Glantz,  "All the prosecution's witnesses stood up there and said miltary service are important oaths are important but on cross examination they explained how Ehren Watada  was trying to fulfill his oath."  (Paterson covered the court-martial for Courage to Resist.) Glantz noted that the prosecution witnesses had stated that intent was important as the second day ended so there was a belief that Watada might be able to present his motivations when he took the stand the following day. 
"On Wednseday morning the court room was filled with anticipation," Glantz noted.  But that quickly changed as Judge Toilet zeroed in on a stipulation where Watada agreed to making public statements.  Judge Toilet had seen the stipulation the week prior, on Monday he had instructed the jury on the stipulation.  On Wednesday, it was suddenly an issue. Judge Toilet declared a mistrail (over the defense's objections).  Eric Seitz, Watada's civilian attorney, notes that double-jeopardy should prevent Watada from being court-martialed again; however, the military has scheduled Juyl 16th for the start of his second court-martial.
US war resister Joshua Key has told his story in the new book The Deserter's Tale.  In addition, he is also one of the war resisters profiled in Peter Laufer's Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq, from page 14:
Joshua still does not understand what he was doing in Iraq in the first place.  "I still couldn't tell you why I was there.  What purpose was it for?  Whose gain was it for?  I don't know the truth to it.  Like I tell my wife, that's the problem with war -- your president, your generals, they send you off to go fight these battles.  And all the way down to your commanding officers, they don't go out there with you.  They send you out there to fight and do the crazy sh*t and do the dirty stuff.  You're the one who has to live with the nightmares from it.  You come back, you're nothing, you know?  Guys are living on the streets that fought in Iraq just as well as I did.  I mean it's horrific."
Ehren Watada and Joshua Key are part of a movement of resistance within the military that also includes Darrell Anderson, Agustin Aguayo,  Kyle SnyderMark Wilkerson, Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Corey Glass, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.
Joshua Key's statements ("You come back, you're nothing, you know?  Guys are living on the streets that fought in Iraq just as well as I did.  I mean it's horrific.")  are the jumping off point to the realities now more openly addressed: what passes for 'care' that many returning receive (or 'receive').  In light of the recent scandals about Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) establishes the point that not all have to deal with mold, rats and roaches -- some quarters are very nice such as the Esienhower Executive Nursing Suite (Ward 72) which "features heightened security, including bullet-proof windows and secure telephone lines.  Among the other touches are flat-panel television and curio cabinets filled with gifts from foreign leaders."  This is the VIP suite but US Rep John Tierney feels "the true VIPs" are the returning service members and not the ones who get the Esienhower Executive Nursing Suite: "the presidents, the vice president, federal judges, members of Congress and the Cabinet, high-ranking military officials and even foreign dignitaries and their spouse.  The only enlisted members of the military who are eligible to stay there are receipients of the Medal of Honor."  Conn Hallinan (Berkeley Daily Planet) observes that the problems with Walter Reed require more than show firings, "'addressing' the problem will require jettisoning former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's high-tech subsidies to the nation's arms makers at the expense of the grunts, as well as the White House's mania for privitaziation.  [Francis] Harvey [Army Secretary until recently] was brought in by Rumsfeld specifically to reduce the federal work force and, as he said in a speech last year, 'improve efficiency.'  A former executive for one of the nation's leading arms producers, Westinghouse, Harvey hired IAP Worldwide Services -- run by two former Halliburton executives -- which promptly reduced the number of people providing service at Walter Reed from 300 to 60.  The cutback and resulting increase in workloads kicked off an exodus of trained personnel, which an in-hospital study just released by the House Committee on Oversight and Governance found could lead to 'mission failure'."
One person who has been fighting for better service and for an end to the illegal war is Tina Richards whose son Cloy Richards has served two tours of duty in Iraq and now suffers from PTSD.  Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) spoke with Richards today and she explained what was next for her son in the Veterans Affairs system: "On March 24th, he's supposed to report in with documentation from Veterans Affairs as to his disabilities.  The problem is, is that he doesn't have that documentation, because we've ben fighting with the VA system for close to a year now, just trying to get him treatment.  Recently, I've been sitting in on the hearings, and I was interviewed by a Veterans Affairs Committee on the House.  And it appears that a lot symptoms that my son has is actually from traumatic brain injury, which can sometimbes be confused with PTSD, or it can be a combination of both.  You know, he definitely has undiagnosed traumatic brain injury." 
On today's Democracy Now!, Gonzalez and Goodman also spoke with Jean Stentz whose husband, Vietnam vet Willie Dougherty, died last year in a series of injustices that began when he was denied a VA hospital in his area -- Jean Stenz: "Because the VA hospital was full, and they wanted him to go to another one.  And so, Beaumont's two hours away from us, and Houston's an hour away, but they sent him to Beaumont.  And then, when they released him, I took him down by ambulance to the VA hospital emergency room, who refused him at that time, because they said he wasn't sick enough.  He had an infection.  He was perspiring profusely.  I mean, the pillows were wet.  He had fever.  He had trouble breathing.  But he wasn't sick enough.  So we came home.  We called on the phone -- in fact, my daughter and I had two phones going, the cell and the home phone -- trying to find help for him.  Finally, the VA doctor in Lufkin decided that he should be put in a nursing home.  He was in a nursing home in Huntsville less than two days and was very sick, was transferred to the Huntsville emergency room, who transferred him finally to the VA hospital in Houston, where he was in ICU -- very ill -- and transferred to their hospice room and died."
And though the US administration shows no genuine efforts at caring for those injured in combat, they're more than prepared to send even more over to Iraq.  Bryan Bender (Boston Globe) reports the escalation goes on, the escalation goes on:  "The top US commander in Iraq has requested another Army brigade . . . .  The appeal -- not yet made public -- by General David Petraeus for a combat aviation unti would involved between 2,500 and 3,000 more soldiers and dozens of transport helicopters and powerful gunships, said the Pentagon sources.  That would bring the planned expansion of US forces to close to 30,000 troops."  Meanwhile, Pauline Jelinek (AP) reports that an additional 2,600 troops "from a combat aviation unit" are going to Iraq "45 days earlier than planned" and that the excuse for not including it in Bully Boy's January numbers was because, Col. Steven Boylan, "This was requested over a month ago as part of the surge."  For those who've forgotten, in January Bully Boy announced his intentions to send 21,500 more US service members into Iraq.  The response from the American people was "NO!"  The US Congress couldn't find it's spine and now that number is not threatened so Bully Boy's upped it.  Bender reports that it's about to be upped again and Jelinek reports that in addition to those numbers made public, the White House has numbers they have not made public -- apparently to the people or the Congress. 
As Edward Wong and Damien Cave (New York Times) and Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) reported, yesterday Rahim al-Daraji was attacked (mayor of Sadr City) and Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports that, today, Moqtada al Sadr "denounced the presences of U.S. troops in his Baghdad stronghold of Sadr City, and thousands of his followers waved banners and marched through the neighborhood to back his call for a withdrawal of foreign forces."  Prior to the attack, al-Sadr was widely reported to have instructed his militia to lay low during the US sweeps of Sadr City. 
In violence today . . .
Reuters notes a mortar attack in Baghdad that killed one and wounded five "in southern Baghdad" and a Kirkuk roadside bomb the resulted in the deaths of two police officers and left three wounded. Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) notes the Baghdad mortar attack was on a Sunni mosque.  Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports that the mortar attack on the mosque found two mortars landing behind the structure and an third landing in front and Susman also notes another mortar in Hillah which killed one person. Mohammed al Dulainy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a roadside bombing in Baghdad damaged a US military vehicle, a mortar attack on a home "in Al Muasllat neighborhood" killed three members of one family, and three police officers were wounded id Diyala when a man with a "vest bomb" staged an attack. 
Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) notes the shooting death of "a member of the governmental facilities protection service in Suwayrah, 25 miles south of Baghdad."  Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a fake checkpoint was set up in Diyala and "3 Kurd brothers" were shot dead -- "two of them were less than 10 years old" -- and that, in Kirkuk, an attack on police officers that started with a roadside bomb ended in gunfire with two police officers being killed, and 10 people wounded (6 of whom were police officers).
Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) notes that 9 corpses were found in Baghdad and  2 corpses were discovered in Kirkuk today.
Also today, the US military made announcements: First, they announce: "A Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West died March 14 in a noncombat related incident in Al Anbar Province." Then they announce: "One Soldier died as a result of injuries sustained from an explosion when Task Force Lightning Soldiers were attacked while conducting combat operations in Salah ad Din Province, Thursday."
Noting yesterday's US Congressional news, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) summarized today: "On Thursday, Democrats advanced an Iraq withdrawal resolution in the House but failed to pass a similar measure in the Senate.  The House Appropriations Committee voted to send the military spending bill to the House floor.  The vote was thirty-six to twenty-eight.  The bill would link war funding in part to the withdrawal of combat troops by September of 2008.  Democratic Congressmember Barbara Lee of California broke party ranks to vote against the measure.  Lee says the resolution doesn't go far enough to end the war.  Lee said: 'I believe the American people sent a mandate to us to bring home our men and women before the end of the year.' Meanwhile, the Senate voted down a measure to withdraw troops by April of 2008.  The final vote was fifty to forty-eight.  Before voting, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid hailed the measure as an opportunity to change course. . . .  Two Democratic Senators -- Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Ben Nelson of Nebraska -- joined Republicans in voting against the proposal.  Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut also sided with Republicans."  As noted on page A8 of today's New York Times (AP box, lower left hand corner), Republican Gordon Smith (Oregon) voted in favote of the measure and was the only Republican to do so.  In addition, Socialist Bernie Sanders (Vermont) voted for the measure.  AFP reports that Senator and 2008 presidential hopeful Joe Biden stated those who voted against the measure would hear from their constituents on the vote; therefore, "It is ony a matter of time before our Republican colleagues come to that conclusion . . . In the meantime a lot of innocent lives are going to be lost." 
The day prior, US House Rep and 2008 presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich proposed an amendment to the supplemental which would address the Iraqi oil law: "The United States should not be requiring Iraq to open their oil fields to private foreign companies as a condition of ending our occupation.  The Administration's strong push to enact a hydrocarbon law has little to do with the needs of the Iraqi people. Instead it is a concerted effort to ensure that American oil companies are granted access to Iraqi oil fields.  By adopting this benchmark in the supplemental, and requiring the enactment of this law by the Iraqi government, Democrats will be instrumental in privatizing Iraqi oil.  We must remove this benchmark from the supplemental and work to ensure any hydrocarbon law put in place is truly the best interests of all Iraqi people."
Finally, CNN reports that Valerie Plame testifed to Congress today (a) that she was a covert agent and that (b) the outing of her for political reasons was harmful not only to her but to other (and that it hurt morale).  In addition, CNN reports that she "testified her work involved gathering intelligence on weapons of mass destruction."  Plame is married to former ambassador Joe Wilson who went to Niger to determine whether or not Iraq had attempted to obtain yellow cake uranium from that country.  Wilson found no evidence of an attempt.  Despite that fact (which was reported back, through channels, up to the administration), Bully Boy elected to include the false claim (known false) in his 2003 State of the Union address as part of his attempt to scare a nation into war.  Wilson would speak privately to Nicholas Kristof (New York Times) about the falsehood and then write his own New York Times op-ed entitled "What I Didn't Find In Africa."  The result was the White House conspired to out a CIA covert agent.  The Vicky Toejam brigade has long tried to obscure the realities with false claims and the press has often helped them playing fast and loose with the facts -- such as Darlene Superville (AP) -- see Wally and Cedric's entry from yesterday.

We won't tell. Get more on shows you hate to love
(and love to hate): Yahoo! TV's Guilty Pleasures list.

KPFA 1:30 pm, Aaron Glantz discusses war resistance

While Bryan Bender (Boston Globe) reports that the numbers for Bully Boy's planned escalation are again going up, the US military makes a few announcements. First, they announce: "A Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West died March 14 in a noncombat related incident in Al Anbar Province." Then they announce: "One Soldier died as a result of injuries sustained from an explosion when Task Force Lightning Soldiers were attacked while conducting combat operations in Salah ad Din Province, Thursday." 3210 is the current number of US service members who have died in the illegal war since it started nearly four years ago according to ICCC.

In England a verdict has been reached in a case involving US service members. Polly notes this from the BBC:

The death of a UK soldier when a US pilot fired on his convoy in Iraq was unlawful, a coroner has ruled.
The "friendly fire" incident near Basra in March 2003 which killed Lance Corporal Matty Hull, 25, amounted to a criminal act, Andrew Walker said.
Video footage from the cockpit of the US A-10 "tankbuster" plane was shown to his family during the inquest, but was not shown at the Oxford inquest.
The coroner said the death was "entirely avoidable".
He said: "I believe that the full facts have not yet come to light."
No American witnesses gave evidence at the inquest, despite Mr Walker's requests to them to co-operate more fully with his investigation.
He said the US pilots should have flown lower to confirm identities before opening fire.
"I don't think this was a case of honest mistake," he said.

You'll note that Matty Hull was killed nearly four years ago. With news of another action to note the four year anniversary of the illegal war, Melinda highlights this from WJLA:

Christian peace activist plan a service Friday night at the National Cathedral followed by a march to the White House to demonstrate opposition to the war in Iraq. The groups behind the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq march expect several thousand people to show up, and organizers say several hundred plan to stage acts of civil disobedience that could lead to arrest.
[. . .]
Organizers include the District-based religious group Sojourners/Call to Renewal, American Friends Service Committee and Lutheran Peace Fellowship. The event starts with a 7 p.m. service at the cathedral and a march that begins at about 8:15 p.m. Friday.

Mia notes that today on KPFA at 1:30 pm, Aaron Glantz will host Making Contact (1:30 pm PST) and the topic is (or will include) war resistance with Glantz discussing last month's court-martial of Ehren Watada (which ended with Judge Toilet calling a mistrial -- over defense objections). Glantz was in Tacoma reporting on the court-martial so the program should contain a lot of information even if you think you know the basics already.

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aaron glantz

Escalation numbers continue to grow (Bryan Bender)

Gunmen ambushed a convoy on Thursday that was carrying the mayor of the sprawling Shiite area known as Sadr City, seriously wounding him and complicating American efforts to rein in a powerful Shiite militia there. The attack killed Lt. Col. Muhammad Motashar, the director of the Sadr City police station.
The mayor, Rahim al-Daraji, has led negotiations with the Americans over what to do about the militia, the Mahdi Army, which has rebelled twice against the Iraqi government and the American military.
He has lobbied the Americans to finance reconstruction projects that would bring jobs to his impoverished neighborhood, an approach American commanders say could help disarm the largely unemployed men in the Mahdi Army.
Mr. Daraji is a soft-spoken sheik whose office has been a regular stop for American military officers in Sadr City.
Early this month, American and Iraqi forces moved into Sadr City and have been trying to establish two garrisons there. Throughout Baghdad, American forces plan to operate out of 100 neighborhood garrisons in the next month as part of the new offensive to secure the city, the American commander in charge of Baghdad said Thursday.

The above is from Edward Wong and Damien Cave's "Attack on Sadr City Mayor Hinders Antimilitia Effort" in this morning's New York Times. And with more on the attack, Sadr City and al-Sadr, Martha notes Sudarsan Raghavan's "For U.S. and Sadr, Wary Cooperation" (Washington Post):

It is a tenuous cooperation that could collapse at any moment. U.S. troops walk a thin line between peace and war in Sadr City, a sprawling jumble of narrow streets, tan buildings and crowded markets. Each day tests the tolerance of Sadr and his fighters, who are widely believed to operate death squads. U.S. commanders concede that their troops may face isolated attacks.
"They are an occupation force. We refuse their presence totally," said Mohammad Abu Haider, a Mahdi Army commander who has battled Americans. "Their ultimate goal is to destroy the Sadr trend."
On Thursday, gunmen ambushed the convoy of Sadr City's mayor, Rahim al-Darraji, seriously wounding him and killing two of his bodyguards. Darraji, a Sadr appointee, has been negotiating with U.S. and Iraqi government officials over the role of U.S. troops in the security clampdown.
A few hours earlier, at a luncheon with Western journalists, Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil Jr., the U.S. commander in charge of Baghdad, spoke about Darraji.
"We're in Sadr City, working closely with the mayor and it's been completely permissive. It's a collaboration," he said.
Publicly, Sadr has criticized the U.S. presence inside his stronghold. He is a fierce nationalist who has long demanded a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, and his authority derives in large part from his opposition to the occupation. But privately, he has ordered his militiamen to lie low no matter how much they are provoked by U.S. forces, according to interviews with Sadr representatives and fighters.

Vince wanted to note that there will be actions in Canada to note the four year mark of the illegal war and he highlights "Anti-war rally is tomorrow" (Brampton Guardian):

The Brampton Coalition for Peace and Justice (BCPJ) is co-organizing an anti-war rally tomorrow in Mississauga.
The rally, organized by the BCPJ and the Mississauga Coalition for Peace and Justice, will be held from 10 a.m. to noon at Hurontario and Dundas streets in the small square on the northeast corner (Revolution Square). Other groups such as the Barrie Peace Coalition and CUPE will join them. Community activists will speak at the rally, which will be followed by a short march. Slogans for the rally include: Troops Out of Iraq and Afghanistan, War Resisters Welcome Here, No Canada-U.S. Military Partnership, No to Islamophobia and Racism and Free Palestine
Saturday is the fourth anniversary of the US/UK invasion of Iraq, and anti-war activists will mark the day across Canada, led by the Canadian Peace Alliance.
Following the morning rally, bus transportation to Toronto will be provided to join a protest at the US consulate in Toronto, which starts at 1 p.m.

So that's a rally tomorrow, events from yesterday and with one of the should-be-big topics of today, Mike's father highlights Bryan Bender's "General seeks another brigade in Iraq" (Boston Globe):

The top US commander in Iraq has requested another Army brigade, in addition to five already on the way, as part of the controversial "surge" of American troops designed to clamp down on sectarian violence and insurgent groups, senior Pentagon officials said yesterday.
The appeal -- not yet made public -- by General David Petraeus for a combat aviation unit would involve between 2,500 and 3,000 more soldiers and dozens of transport helicopters and powerful gunships, said the Pentagon sources. That would bring the planned expansion of US forces to close to 30,000 troops.
News of the additional deployment comes about a week after President Bush announced that about 4,700 support troops will join the initial 21,500 he ordered in January. They are in addition to the estimated 130,000 troops already in Iraq.
"This is the next shoe to drop," said one senior Pentagon official closely involved in the war planning, who requested anonymity because of prohibitions against publicly discussing internal deliberations. "But you cannot put five combat brigades in there and not have more aviation guys, military police, and intelligence units."
The additional troops designated for the strategy are expected to be in Baghdad and western Anbar Province by May.

But even supporters of the stepped-up US commitment in Iraq criticized the Bush administration yesterday, saying it should have been more straightforward about how many troops the strategy might require.

So the escalation numbers continue to go up and there's shock/suprise that Bully Boy wasn't honest about the numbers from the beginning? Where have the shocked/surprised been for the last six years? The numbers have gone from a little over 20,000 to nearly 30,000. (And, for the record, most outlets report the number of nearly 140,000 for US troops in Iraq, not 130,000. AFP and Reuters were again using the nearly 140,000 in stories yesterday.) The American people said no to the escalation. The people's representatives, Congress, refused to hear, refused to back them up. (As a body, some individuals in Congress did speak out.) Consider it part of the usual White House marketing but also a test by the administration to see if this big talking Congress intended to actually do anything? (The answer appears to be, with regards to the illegal war, "no.")

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

The United States is entering the fifth year of its violent, failed occupation of Iraq, a war that has lasted longer than the U.S. was involved in World War II. Through the grimly deepening quagmire, a strengthening, pervasive U.S. antiwar movement is emerging. An increasingly powerful voice comes from soldiers and their families, turning grief into action. Take the Arredondo family.
On Aug. 25, 2004--Carlos Arredondo’s 44th birthday--a U.S. Marine van arrived outside his house. He thought that his son Alex had managed to come home from his second deployment to Iraq to surprise him. Instead, the Marines informed him that Alex had been killed in action in Najaf.
Carlos lost his mind. He asked, he begged, the Marines to leave. He pleaded. They didn't leave, so he ran to his garage and grabbed a hammer, gasoline and a blowtorch. He began pummeling the van. He climbed in, pouring the gasoline. His mother, distraught and wailing, tried to pull him from the van. The blowtorch accidentally sparked, and Carlos was blown from the van into the yard, in flames.
Then his wife, Melida, arrived. She saw her husband burning. Carlos' younger son, Brian, 16 years old, in Bangor, Maine, later saw the incident on television. This was the day he learned that the brother he loved and emulated was dead.
Carlos suffered burns on more than one-quarter of his body. The physical healing was the easy part. It is the emotional healing that he pursues in his tireless and remarkable odyssey to end the war. To honor Alex's memory, he has been crisscrossing the country, from Capitol Hill to Crawford, Texas, pulling a flag-draped coffin. He calls it his public mourning: "I want the caskets coming home to be very public. The government doesn’t want you to see them."

The above, noted by Kayla is from Amy Goodman's "Exploding Into Action" (Truthdig). That was over two and a half years ago and many families and friends have had to hear the same news, had to watch their lives shatter. And Congress can't figure out what it wants to do and presidential candidates (announced) seem lost about how to stand up (Dennis Kucinich is the exception). They've had four years, the world's had four years of this illegal war. So where's the leadership?

They can hide behind generals (like the Bully Boy) but where's the civilian leadership because that's what's the US is based on? A lot of people (Obama, Clinton . . .) can go stand before AIPAC and pledge their undying love to Israel (which is really sad since they're running to become president of the United States and not Homecoming Queen of Israel) but they don't have real plans on Iraq. Hillary stated that if she became president, troops would still be in Iraq. She cited the oil (of course) and Israel (again, is she trying to be president -- this goes for Obama as well and anyone else that's courting lobbyists for foreign countries -- or the Israeli Homecoming Queen?). Where is the leadership?

While they play craven and offer what they hope are 'inspiring' moments (that just come off as sop tossed to pigs), the war drags on.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Thursday, AP's number for the US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3188. 6 deaths were announced today but the AP seems to think if they refeed that piece of crap (covering Wednesday) by Lauren Frayer that no one will notice. Tonight, Reuters notes that the count is now over 3200. Yeah, that could have been noted this morning. (They also only got around -- an hour ago -- to noting that four US service members died today.) Yeah, we noted that this morning. 3205 was AFP's count before the four deaths today were announced.
ICCC's count is 3207.

This weekend, actions will be taking place across the US to mark the fourth anniversary of the illegal war (March 19th). Kyle notes Ann Wright's "Why I Will March to Support the Troops and End the War" (Truthout) about one action:

I am returning to Fayetteville, North Carolina, on March 17 for the first time in over twenty years. I spent three years on active duty at [nearby] Fort Bragg as an instructor at the Special Warfare Center and as executive officer of the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion, Special Operations Command. During my time at Fort Bragg, I deployed to Grenada on the 18th Airborne Corps international law team and was a member of the US Army claims commission in Grenada. I stayed for four months, helping to re-establish governmental functions and assisting with economic development programs.
I ended up being in the US Army and Army Reserves for 29 years and retired as a Colonel. I then joined the US diplomatic corps and served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Mongolia and Afghanistan. I was on the first State Department team to reopen the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan in December 2001 after the CIA and US military pushed the Taliban out of Kabul and had al-Qaeda heading for the Tora Bora mountains.
Ironically, after serving in eight presidential administrations, either in the US military or in the US diplomatic corps, I am returning to Fayetteville to participate in a rally and march to end the war on Iraq.

Why would a 29-year retired US Army colonel be marching to end the war? Well, in March 2003, four years ago, as the war in Iraq began, I resigned from the US diplomatic corps in opposition to the war. I was one of three US government employees who resigned. That's why I am marching to end the war - I gave up my career over the war.

That's one action, there are many others. We did a roundtable for the gina & krista round-robin tonight and Elaine, Ava, Jess, Dona, Jim, Mike, Gina and Krista are currently noting every local event that members e-mailed in on so check your inbox for the round-robin tomorrow. What we're going to do here is note organizations. After which, there will be a personal story (just for the AlterPunk). Denise notes Sunsara Taylor's "The Democrats and Iran" (CounterPunch):

You could close your eyes and pretend it isn't happening.
Pretend that the new Democratic Congress -- after four years of torture, mass murder and war crimes against the people of Iraq -- didn't just promise the War-Criminal-In-Chief that they would do nothing to stop a new and even more dangerous war against Iran.
Pretend that these same Democrats -- who have sold you out so many times and at the cost of so many lives -- didn't just promise to give the president more money than he even asked for to fight his current wars!
Pretend that somehow history -- and the people of the Middle East -- will forgive you for meeting this news with passivity, silence or at best "protest as usual."
Or you could open your eyes and confront the nightmares engulfing millions of people in the Middle East and endangering people around the world that only people living in this country can bring to a halt.
You can get on a bus, hop on a train, purchase an airline ticket, or pile into a van and get your butt to Washington DC on March 17t to march across the bridge and encircle the Pentagon, on March 17th before the eyes of the world!
Forty years ago, a generation who refused to accept an unjust and murderous war on Vietnam descended on the Pentagon. They looked out at the villages being razed, the children burning alive by napalm, and the blood that would be on their hands if they didn't bring this to a halt and they declared it was time to go "from protest to resistance."
Now, at a time when the Bush regime, with the silence and complicity of the Democrats, are escalating their assault on Iraq and aggressively preparing a new war against Iran, it is wrong not to be at the Pentagon.

Taylor is with World Can't Wait and here's their heads up on the march:

March 17: March on the Pentagon. Stop the Iraq War Now! No Iran War! Impeach Bush for War Crimes!
4 years have passed since the start of this unjust war; 655,000 Iraqis lay dead, and Bush’s escalation, now in effect, is widening the horror. The Bush regime is poised to launch an attack on Iran, which could well inflame the entire Middle East with devastating global consequences. What we do now can make all the difference. Go all out over the next days to get everyone you know to Washington, DC March 17.
Get bus tickets from NYC to DC March 20: Student Walkouts
Sunsara Taylor: Dems Lay Down for Bush's Next War: The People Must Go "From Protest to Resistance"
Cindy Sheehan: Why You Should March on the Pentagon
11 Arrested at Congressional Hearing on War Funding

With more on the march on the Penatagon, we'll note this from A.N.S.W.E.R.:

Major Alert: Pentagon March will step off at 12:30 p.m.There will be a rally at the Pentagon!
Cindy Sheehan at Tuesday's press conference for the March on the Pentagon
Click here for audio from the press conference
There will not be a rally at the assembly area, as we want to hit the streets and march to the Pentagon. There will be a rally at the Pentagon. It is important that everyone make the effort to get to the assembly location at 23rd and Constitution early. Try to get to the site by noon - don't miss the march! If you are coming by bus or driving from out of town, make sure your group is leaving early enough to get you to the assembly site no later than noon.
At the assembly site, between 8 a.m. and 12:30, there will be a pre-march People's Assembly in the park at 23rd and Constitution. Contingents and organizations will be providing information displays and literature tables.
[Read more]

We'll note this from United for Peace & Justice about events across the country:

4 Years Far Too Many -- 1,000 Actions for PEACE!
You can help make sure that the 4th anniversary of the illegal, immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the terrible toll it has taken around the world, is marked visibly and vocally in every town, on every street corner in the country. More than 1,000 actions have already been planned, and more are being organized every day.
Find 4th anniversary events in your area.
Add your 4th anniversary event to our online calendar.
SIGN OUR PETITION TO CONGRESS!Click here to download and print the petition to collect signatures.
Read More »

Veteran for Peace is taking part in the march on the Pentagon and planning local actions as well:

4th Anniversary of the War - IT'S TIME WE RAISE OUR VOICES!
This weekend marks the 5th year of the war and occupation of Iraq. In four years, we have had over 3200 members of our military personnel killed, over 23000 wounded, and tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of Iraqis have died. The United States has spent over $407,688,000,000 on this war, and the President is asking for another $93 Billion. However, the work that members of Veterans For Peace has done has been priceless in the struggle for peace. Because of the countless rallies, congressional campaigns, and educational outreach that our chapters have done, we have educated people about the cost of war. But our work is not complete! This weekend, we have to march again. We march for peace, justice, and an end to this occupation. Whether you choose to join VFP in Fayetteville, NC, go march on the Pentagon in Washington D.C., or you decided to join your local efforts at home - IT'S TIME WE RAISE OUR VOICES!
Read Colonel Ann Wright's essay: Why I march to support the troops and end the war.

Not In Our Name is also taking part in the march on the Pentagon:

March on the Pentagon 3/17
Not in Our Name organizers from California, Wisconsin, Ohio, South Carolina and New York will be joining the March 17th
March on the Pentagon. We call on you to join us in DC at this critical juncture. Working together, we can stop the war.

So those are some of the organizations, there are events around the country. Some members will have house parties. The war's not going to end by "Wishin' and Hopin'." We're in Texas this week and one of things I've been dealing with long distance is a one-time friend's crisis. We were very close during the 90s and, in fact, up until this illegal war was about to start. To build her business, she decided to promote the war. This was a complete turn for her. We've pretty much avoided one another since then. I'll note she works within the court system and that's all I'll say on that. She does know this is being noted, by the way.

So she's spent the last four years cheerleading an illegal war to make a little money, to get business tossed her way. And actions do have consequences. Her young, adult son, decided this week, because Mommy's so good with words, that he needed to enlist. At which point she went into extreme panic attack and was so at a loss she decided to phone me for help.

I won't drag this out, he's not joining. I spoke to him, some friends who had served in Iraq agreed to speak to him. He now gets that Mommy is a hypocrite. Which she is and which he's told her and I've told her. She was happy to make a buck by promoting the illegal war as long as it was other people's children that were having to serve. When her own child bought into her never ending hype, it wasn't so pretty then. It wasn't so rah-rah. It was cry over the phone begging for help. Where does it stand for her now? She can't, she says, come out against the war because of business relationships but she's going to cool her jets in terms of publicly supporting it. She's going to be silent and that's supposed to do the world a favor.

Again, she knows I'm writing about this and there's nothing in this that she hasn't already heard (either this week or in the few times we've spoken since the illegal war started). When everything was settled (her son wasn't enlisting), she called to say thank you and to say I probably think everyone who pushes the war should face what she did. On some level maybe? Maybe the scare. The moment when suddenly the war is no longer abstract but personal. But in terms of anyone enlisting (no matter how their parents have sold their souls)? No. We don't need more troops over there, we need for the troops to come home.

Though she's not going to publicly speak against the war (remember, it's all about the bucks and contacts), she is going to be attending an anti-war event with her son this weekend. Maybe it will reach her? Maybe it will move to her to speak out? She was once a very aware person, a very pro-peace person. But at some point, in the legal circles she travels, success became supporting the Bully Boy and she was happy to sign up for extra dollars (none of which were needed -- not only was no one starving, no wish for her family went ungranted, no matter how costly). She made a calculated decision and the costs to other people's childrens didn't matter. This week, she the war came home to her in a way she never expected.

This community is solidly against the war but we do get visitors and writing about this was actually her suggestion (or fear, I'm not sure which) so we'll toss this story out there and if any of the right-wingers who love to visit read it, maybe they'll put themselves in her shoes. The ones who feel the need to write daily haven't been effected by anything else, maybe this will reach them? Maybe not.

But the point of the actions this weekend, all the actions, is to demonstrate that the war is personal, that the war is taking a toll on this country. She'll be at one demonstration this weekend. A hypocrite will be attending. If a hypocrite can attend, I don't think anyone has an excuse (if there's an event in their area or if they're able to travel to an event) for not making their voice heard.

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and the war drags on
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world cant wait
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Iraq snapshot

Thursday, March 15, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces the deaths of more US service members, Hillary Clinton gives bad press, and the Senate says "no" and the House says "yes."
Starting with news of war resistance.  Dean Kuipers (LA City Beat) examines the war resistance within the military and notes AWOL figures (8,000 since the start of the illegal war according the US Defense Department), desertion figures (40,000 since 2000) and that: "Several hundred of those soldiers have fled to Canada, according to unconfirmed reports, but only a few have identified themselves and thus face prosecution."  On the issue of the sentencing of war resisters who go public, attorney Jim Feldman, who represents Agustin Aguayo among others, sees the sentencing as encouraging, noting that, "People who really are sincere, the Army judges are not going to come down hard on 'em.  The judges seem to recognize that as a mitigating circumstance."  Agustin Aguayo's recent court-martial in Germany found him sentenced to eight months and the time he had been in custory already (since turning himself in at the end of September 2006) was credited to his sentence.   Iraq Veterans Against the War's Kelly Dougherty shares her view with Kupier, "At the same time, I think they are taking a tough stand because eight months in prison is still a long time in prison, especially for refusing to serve in a war because your conscience says it's wrong to kill people, or because you reel that this particular war is illegal.  They could certainly be prosecuting people more.  But the sentences that they are giving are being handed down as a message to others serving in the military not to apply for CO status and not to refuse to go to Iraq." 
Ehren Watada, the first commissoned officer to publicy refuse to deploy to Iraq, is but one example of the attempt to "send a message."  His second court-martial is scheduled to begin July 16th.  The double jeopardy issue (a Constitutional issue) is something the military seems determined to ignore.  Courage to Resist is asking that a mail campaign (snail mail) be used to demonstrate to Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik how much support there is for Watada.  Dubik "has the power to drop all charges and let Lt. Watada out of the army". You can write to Lt. Gen. Dubik at: Bldg 2025 Stop 1, Fort Lewis, WA 98433.   
In other news, Vue Weekly reports: "Toronto hip-hop artist Mohammad Ali is about to release his new album at an event here in Edmonton for the War Resisters Support Campaign, a coalition of indivduals supporting US soldiers seeking asylum in Canada because they refuse to fight in Iraq.  The self-proclaimed in-your-face activist ('I write about names, events and dates -- specifics.') is highlighting some of the controversial politics behind the war in Iraq, drawing some examples from the experiences of Darrell Anderson, an Iraq combat veteran."  Darrell Anderson is the US war resister who served in Iraq, was awarded a Purple Heart and then self-checked out in January 2005 and moved to Canada.  In September of last year, Anderson announced that he was returning to the US to turn himself inOn October 3rd, he turned himself in at Fort Knox. He was released by the military on October 6th and, as expected, he was not charged and was given an other-than-honorable discharge.
Darrell Anderson, Agustin Aguayo and Ehren Watada are part of a movement of resistance within the military that includes Joshua Key*, Kyle SnyderMark Wilkerson, Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Corey Glass, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.
[*Yesterday, the third time I mentioned Joshua Key, I wrongly called him Josh Wolf.  Wolf is a reporter who has been imprisoned for refusing to roll over on the First Amendment -- imprisoned "longer than any other reporter in U.S. history for refusing a federal grand jury subpoena" as Howard Vicini notes.]
Turning to the selling of the illegal war, a wave of Operation Happy Talk hit big media and they suited up, grabbed the Sticky Bumps and rushed to ride that wave. The talking point was that the ongoing crackdown in Baghdad (which began in June of last year and has been beefed up and juiced up ever since) had achieved real results!  It was a success!  This was true because they were told it was true!  One of the few who remembered he was a reporter and that the occupation entails more than mere stenography was Damien Cave (New York Times) who noted problems with the announcement that violence had declined: "But the degree of improvement was unclear, partly because of the continued confusion over casualty counts here, and an American general cautioned against reading too much into optimistic reports, given that January and February were two of the worst months for car bombings since the invasion. The Iraqi review came from Brig. Qassim al-Moussawi, a military spokesman, who said at a news conference that civilian deaths since the start of the plan on Feb. 14 were counted at 265 in Baghdad, down from 1,440 in the four weeks before. He said 36 car bombings struck the capital over the past four weeks, down from 56. [. . .] It was not clear what his statistics were based on, though, and they may not have taken into account the bodies found strewn around the capital each day. An analysis by The New York Times found more than 450 Iraqi civilians killed or found dead during the same 28-day period, based on initial daily reports from Interior Ministry and hospital officials."  While Cave reported, many of his cohorts were at the beach (mentally, if not physically). 
The wave came rolling in despite a new report from the Pentagon.  (Or maybe because of a new report from the Pentagon.  Operation Happy Talk has always attempted to counter reality.)   Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post) reported on the Pentagon's "bleakest assessment of Iraq yet" which found: "record levels of violence and hardening sectarian divisions in the last quarter of 2006 as rival Sunni and Shiite militiias waged campaigns of 'sectarian cleansing' that forced as many as 9,000 civilians to flee the country each month.  Weekly attacks in Iraq rose to more than 1,000 during the period and average daily casualties increased to more than 140, with Iraqi civilians bearing the brunt of the violence".  Also noted was that the assement acknowledged "Those figures may represent as little as half of the true casualties because they include only violence observed by or reported to the U.S.-led military coalition".  That obvious fact was ignored by those pushing the wave of "violence is down" due to the latest version of the crackdown (this version was 'released' in February of this year).  Of the Pentagon assessment, Reuters noted, "There was an average of 1,047 attacks per week on U.S.-led forces and Iraqi soldiers, police and civilians in January and early February, according to statistics released with the report."  The report also notes the civil war aspect raging in Iraq.  This as the AFP notes Mister Tony's denials of civil war: "British Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted that despite the raging violence four years after the invasion, Iraq is not in a state of civil war. 'not a country at civil war'."
And the violence continues today.
BBC reports that a bombing in the Karrada district of Baghdad has killed a least eight Iraq police officers and left 25 civilians wounded. Kim Gamel (AP) reports the death of a man (unnamed) in Baghdad who was "vegetable seller" who discovered a package which contained a bomb that "exploded as he was trying to carry it away from a populated area in Sadr City."  Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) identifies the man as "Ahmed Draiwel, 18" an dnotes that he "was able to hurl it [the package containing the bomb] into a distant trash pile.  His brother, who was trying to help him, lost his arm, witnesses said."  Reuters notes a bombing in "the western Yarmouk district of Baghdad" which killed an Iraqi soldier and left two people wounded, while a car bombing in Mosul wounded a police officer.
CNN reports: "At least five people were killed and 21 wounded when a parked car packed with explosives detonated Thursday morning next ot a minibus in Iskandiriya, south of Baghdad, police said.  The vehicle was carrying employees of the state-run National Car Industry Co. Police also said the manager of the company was shot dead this past week, while driving to work."  The BBC notes this blast took place "outside one of the few factories still operating in Iraq."
AFP reports five shooting deaths in Baquba "by gunmen who attacked a string of gas stations and set them on fire".  They also note that, in Baghdad, Rakim al-Darraji's car was attacked and he was wounded while a police officer traveling with al-Darraji was killed -- "Darraji had helped the US military in setting up a security centre in the district [Sadr City] as part of the crackdown in Baghdad".  AP notes two deaths ("bodyguards") in the attack.  Reuters notes a police officer and a cook were shot dead in Mosul while, also in Mosul, "U.S. forces targeting al Qaeda militants in the northern city of Mosul killed one Iraqi soldier and wounded three after thinking they were insurgent".
Kim Gamel (AP) reports: "Twenty bullet-riddled bodies also were found, most of them in Baghdad".  The corpse count in Iraq for Thursday will, no doubt, be reported by others (and a higher number) on Friday.  (Reuters is currently reporting corpses from yesterday.)
Today, the US military announced: "A Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West died Mar. 14 in a noncombat related incident in Al Anbar Province." And they announced: "A Soldier assigned to Multi National Force-West was killed Mar. 14 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province." ICCC puts the total number of US service members who have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war at 3203. And, most recently, the US military has announced: "Four Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldiers died when two roadside bombs targeted their vehicles in an eastern section of the Iraqi captial, March 15."
What?  In Baghdad?  But the Happy Talkers couldn't stop bragging about the crackdown!
Kim Gamel (AP) notes that 2 US service members were wounded.  The number of US service member deaths announced toay now stands at six.
In the United States, news from both house of Congress.  Reuters reports the Senate plan (withdrawal of US troops by March 31st of 2008) did not pass. AP reports that the vote was 50 to 48 (50 voting against the measure).
Meanwhile, in the lower house, a bill passed a committee vote and will now go to the full house.  Al Jazeera reports that the "Democratic party plan to withdraw US combat troops from Iraq by September 2008 has been approved by a House of Representatives committee.  The House approriations committe approved a $124.1 bn emergency spending bill, including around $100bn to continue fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan by 36 votes to 28."  David Espo (AP) notes US Rep Jose Serrano stating: "I want this war to end.  I don't want to go to any more funerals."  This led to a rejoinder from US Rep C. W. Bill Young who claimed he wanted troops out more than anyone.  C.W. Bill Young is most infamous for refusing to call out the scandals at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (which he admitted last month he'd seen himself months prior).  His "support" of anyone is curiously exhibited. Espo notes that US Rep Barbara Lee voted against the plan and stated, "I believe the American people sent a mandate to us to bring home our men and women before the end of the year" which Lee (and many others) do not believe the bill  honors.
In other political news, Michael Gordon and Patrick Healy (New York Times via Common Dreams) report on their sit down with US Senator and 2008 presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton who told them that leaving out Iraq was out of the question -- "It is right in the heart of the oil region."  Well you go, gas guzzling War Hawk.  Her sit down position of some US will remain in Iraq if she's elected president is, as the writers note, in contrast to her campaign stop speech where she claims, "If we in Congress don't end this war before January 2009, as president, I will." 
Turning to Iraq, Yes! magazine has the second part of a three part feature.  It's worth noting for a number of reasons but, chiefly, due to the overly praised Rolling Stone roundtable which was all male and nothing you really couldn't have seen by turning on cable TV.  In the second part, Lisa Farino and Dal LaMagna discuss their meeting with Iraqi parliamentarians and "ambassadors and leaders from other Middle East cocuntires."  Also interested in listening, Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) who reports on what Iraqis are saying they want from leaders and, bad news for exiles, "Iraqis have little faith in people who fled and left them to face the situation."  Yesterday on KPFA's Flashpoints, Robert Knight noted that Ayad Allawi was in Saudi Arabia attempting to drum up support for his challenge to Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister/puppet of the occupation.

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3200 mark passed

Today, the US military announced: "A Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West died Mar. 14 in a noncombat related incident in Al Anbar Province." And they announced: "A Soldier assigned to Multi National Force-West was killed Mar. 14 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province." ICCC puts the total number of US service members who have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war at 3203.

Zach notes Dean Kuipers' "Walking Away From War" (LA City Beat):

U.S. Army Specialist Agustin Aguayo went to war in Iraq, but not the way most soldiers do. He trained as an Army medic, and while still going through basic training, he came to the realization that he was opposed to war and didn't want to support it, even as a medic. He applied for conscientious objector status, but was denied, and was sent to Iraq, where he served from 2004 to 2005. Unable to get official recognition for his evolving beliefs, he did what he thought was right: Assigned to guard duty, he refused to load his weapon. He served a year in a combat zone with no bullets in his gun.
He got lucky, served honorably, and got out. But when the Army called him up for another tour, he decided enough was enough. Two MPs were sent to pick him up at his barracks in Germany, but as they waited for him to pack he fled out a window and escaped, eventually making his way back to Los Angeles to join his wife, Helga, and his two twin daughters. He later turned himself in at Fort Irwin.
On March 6, the gentle and soft-spoken Aguayo was convicted of desertion and missing movement at a court martial in Germany and sentenced to eight months in prison. He has joined a growing list of active-duty soldiers like San Diego sailor Pablo Paredes who have been prosecuted for resisting the war in Iraq for reasons including moral aversion to violence and claims that the war itself was based on official deception and is therefore illegal. A list of active war resister cases on includes 18 soldiers -- a relatively small number, but activists say it represents a tiny fraction of those who have quietly fled the U.S. armed services. Still, the sentence was far short of the seven-year maximum sentence, and peace activists see this as a good sign.
"I think this sends a fairly good message," says Jim Feldman, an attorney with the offices of Peter Goldberg, who is representing Aguayo in his federal civil case over his conscientious objector status. "People who really are sincere, the Army judges are not going to come down hard on 'em. The judges seem to recognize that as a mitigating circumstance."
"At the same time, I think they are taking a tough stand, because eight months in prison is still a long time in prison, especially for refusing to serve in a war because your conscience says it's wrong to kill people, or because you feel that this particular war is illegal," says Kelly Dougherty, who attended the trial. A former Sgt. E-5 in the Colorado National Guard who served in Iraq, Dougherty is co-founder and executive director of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
"They could certainly be prosecuting people more," she adds. "But the sentences that they are giving are being handed down as a message to others serving in the military not to apply for CO status and not to refuse to go to Iraq."
The U.S. Department of Defense says it does not keep central statistics on desertion, but told reporters recently that 8,000 soldiers have been AWOL at one time or another since the war began in March 2003. The Pentagon told the Gannett News Service in 2006 that a total of 40,000 soldiers have deserted from all branches of the U.S. military since 2000, but that the numbers have been decreasing since it began what it calls the "war on terror" in Afghanistan. Several hundred of those soldiers have fled to Canada, according to unconfirmed reports, but only a few have identified themselves and thus face prosecution.
Those prosecutions are risky for the military. While they make it clear that the U.S. armed forces cannot condone desertion, many of those who stand trial, like Aguayo, are otherwise model soldiers and become lightning rods for public outrage over a very unpopular war.

Also from LA City Beat, Marissa notes these events:

Saturday, March 17
Come Together. Ozomatli, Jackson Browne, and tens of thousands of other Southern California peace demonstrators are expected to gather in Hollywood for a protest marking the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq. Participants gather at noon at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, and march to Hollywood and Highland, where Ozomatli and Browne perform at 2 p.m. For more details, call the ANSWER Coalition at (323) 464-1636 or visit Free peace signs and postcards available at
A Separate Peace. Orange County activists host their own area peace rally at Pioneer Park, 12722 Chapman Ave., Garden Grove. Noon. Info:
Remember. Organizers of the Arlington West soldiers' memorial near the Santa Monica Pier mark the fourth anniversary of the Iraq war with live music, screenings of interviews with families who lost loved ones in the war, and readings of the names of war dead. The memorial will stand from 7 a.m. Saturday through sundown Sunday, with an overnight candlelight vigil Saturday. To volunteer, call Veterans for Peace at (323) 934-4351 or visit

There will be actions across the US and if there's one in your area you want noted, e-mail. Meanwhile, Reuters reports:

A South Korean soldier may be a U.S. military deserter after he left his U.S. base and joined the South Korean army, apparently to avoid a tour of duty in Iraq, the defense ministry in Seoul said on Thursday.
The South Korean army private second class, whose identity was given only as Kim, joined the U.S. military in 2003 to become a permanent U.S. citizen on condition that he would serve in Iraq, a ministry official said.
In 2005, he visited his home country on leave just before his U.S. unit was to be deployed to Iraq and never went back, the South Korean defense ministry official.
Instead, as he still held a South Korean passport, he was called up by the South Korean military and began serving late last year due to mandatory military enlistment.

And we'll close this excerpt from Noam N. Levey's "Liberal lawmakers may sway key vote on Iraq war" (Los Angeles Times):

Barbara Lee once called for a U.S. Department of Peace. Lynn Woolsey tried to revoke the Boy Scouts' federal charter because the group excludes gays. And Maxine Waters accused the CIA of helping import cocaine into South Los Angeles.
Their ideas made them folk heroes to the American left.
But like slightly eccentric relatives at a family reunion, Reps. Lee, Woolsey and Waters were rarely invited to sit at the head table in Washington.
Until now.
The three California Democrats -- who have been waging a passionate, four-year campaign to end the war in Iraq -- find themselves in the mainstream as Congress begins debate today on a crucial war spending bill. And the group they lead, the more than 80-member Out of Iraq Caucus, controls the fate of the most important war vote since the 2003 invasion.
Reporters seek out the three liberal lawmakers, recording their daily proclamations. Waters, the fiery chairwoman of the caucus, is a frequent guest on national news programs.
And as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) labors to find the votes to pass the bill, she is seeking them out. Last week, she invited the three to her office to try to persuade them to support the measure, which would require the withdrawal of American combat forces from Iraq by no later than August 2008."
They have really become the conscience of the caucus," said Tom Andrews, a former Democratic congressman who heads the national Win Without War coalition.
Andrews credits the three with forcing Pelosi to insist on a timeline for withdrawal.
Lee, Woolsey and Waters have reservations about Pelosi's bill. They are demanding the withdrawal of combat troops by the end of this year.

Levey appears unaware of what the CIA's inspector general report said (but that's true of the LA Times period), Dennis Kucinich (and others) are still calling for a Department of Peace and Woolsey's argument re: the Boy Scouts isn't as out of step as the opening paragraph would have you believe. Nor are the three women themselves.

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agustin aguayo