Saturday, July 28, 2007


I miss my son
I miss my home
I miss green grass and beautiful flowers in my garden
I miss my extended family, we can't visit any more
I miss our gatherings on Thursdays
I miss walking to the roundabout, with my kids, for exercise every evening
I miss Mutanebbi Street on Friday mornings, where I bought countless second-hand books -- the only kind there are.

The above is from Sahar's "Just a tale to tell" (Inside Iraq, McClatchy Newspapers) reflections on some of the things lost as the illegal war continues and continues and drags on. Kayla noted the above and Inside Iraq is the blog where Iraqis working for McClatchy Newspapers post observations from their experiences, it may be something that happened that day or recently or it may be a reflection. At a time when so much of the coverage at domestic outlets reads as if it's written by an American who went to France and spent the entire visit inside a McDonald's, Inside Iraq is a place where you can hear Iraqis speaking for themselves.

Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad car bombing that claimed 2 lives and left at least 16 wounded. Reuters notes that the toll has risen to 4 dead and 22 wounded while a roadside bombing outside Yousifiya claimed the life of an Iraqi soldier and left at least three more wounded.

While Barack Obama tries to play outraged that the Iraqi Parliament will take August off (when daily tempertaures will be over 100 degrees and while he prepares for his own month long break as Congress shuts down from August 3rd to September 4th -- which is actually over 30 days), Stephen Farrell's "In Baghdad, the search for ice becomes a deadly struggle" (New York Times owned International Herald Tribune) notes some of the realities that the inexperienced Barack Obama is unaware of:

Each day before the midsummer sun rises high enough to bake blood on concrete, Baghdad's underclass lines up outside Dickensian ice factories.
With electricity reaching most homes for just a couple of hours each day, the poor hand over soiled brown dinars for what has become a symbol of Iraq's steady descent into a more primitive era and its broken covenant with leaders, domestic and foreign. In a capital that was once the seat of the Islamic Caliphate and a center of Arab worldliness, ice is now a currency of last resort for the poor, subject to sectarian horrors and gangland rules.

In the New York Times, Stephen Farrell offers "Americans Call In Airstrike in Clash With Shiite Militia" and we'll highlight the attack on Iraqi civilians:

Mahdi Army officials said that American and Iraqi forces arrived by air and that the battle lasted from 1:30 a.m. until 4 a.m. Karbala’s governor and city council members immediately denounced the strike, saying it was carried out without advance consultation; they allege that the Americans have previously agreed to notify them before raids on the sacred city.
[. . .]
An American military statement said the airstrikes killed about a dozen insurgents. The statement disputed the allegation that civilians had been killed, saying, "No Iraqi civilians were present in the area while the strike was performed," without disclosing how the military confirmed that.

With more problems for the puppet, Martha highlights this from Megan Greenwell and Saad al-Izzi's "Maliki Aide Lashes Out Over Sunni Demands" (Washington Post):

The Shiite-led Iraqi government issued a sharp response Friday to a Sunni political bloc that is threatening to pull out of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's administration, saying the group's "threatening, pressuring and blackmail" will not impede Iraq's progress.
In a four-page statement, Maliki's spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, dismissed each of the 11 demands made by the Iraqi Accordance Front, the country's largest Sunni political group. Dabbagh accused the Accordance Front of working for its own political gains rather than for the benefit of the Iraqi people.

In the New York Times, James Glanz zooms in on the fact that the Iraqi government is refusing to take over projects abandoned by American contractors. He seems to miss or bury the point which is in this paragraph:

The United States often promotes the number of rebuilding projects, like power plants and hospitals, that have been completed in Iraq, citing them as signs of progress in a nation otherwise fraught with violence and political stalemate. But closer examination by the inspector general's office, headed by Stuart W. Bowen Jr., has found that a number of individual projects are crumbling, abandoned or otherwise inoperative only months after the United States declared that they had been successfully completed. The United States always intended to hand over projects to the Iraqi government when they were completed.

Expecting the US installed Iraqi government to be foolish enough to grab up the left overs (and take the blame that will follow) is a bit naive. It's like reading Dilbert and seeing everyone rush to grab a project failure that can't be fixed from a co-worker who has destroyed it. No one wants to get left holding the bag. Grabbing on to projects that US contractors refused to finish is grabbing onto all of the blame because that's how it will play out. It won't be, "Iraqis did the best they could after US contractors shorted projects and bailed." It will be, "American contractors had done much of the work, then Iraqis took over and now it's nowhere near completetion" (or nowhere near working).

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

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The growing war resistance (that The Nation won't tell you about)

A couple of hundred, like [Phil] McDowell, have gone further, leaving their former lives to flee to Canada, seeking sanctuary from the long arm of Uncle Sam. It is a well-worn path, trodden first in the 19th century by the pioneers of the Underground Railroad, African slaves fleeing the South, aided by abolitionists who sheltered them along the way. Then, in the Sixties, thousands of young men took the same route in evading the draft for Vietnam. And now, a steady trickle of soldiers, broken on the battlefields of Iraq, is once again following suit.
Much has changed since more than 50,000 young men escaping service in Vietnam made their journey north. Back then, the army was conscripted; now it is a volunteer force, though the current make-up of the military strains that description. Back then, young men signed up for university to defer the draft; now many young men from poor backgrounds join the military simply for the funds to go to college. Back then, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau threw open the border, declaring that his country would be "a refuge from militarism" from which no deserter would be returned. Now, the only way for a deserter to seek refuge is to claim asylum and wait to see if Canada decides to accept them or deport them back home.
It is no small thing to turn your back on your country, as Phil McDowell can attest. McDowell thought he had served his time when he returned to Rhode Island after a year in Iraq. He had always been sceptical of the claims of WMDs, but still, "I just didn't think they'd make something that important up." He had joined the army just two months after September 11, during his senior year at college. "I felt it was something important for our generation, something honourable." Over the course of his year in Iraq, his disquiet grew. At Camp Justice near Sadr city, he was filled with shame at what he claims to have witnessed: hooded prisoners lying in their own faeces before being taken off and beaten.
He spoke to Iraqi translators who worked with the Americans; heard how they felt under occupation. He thought he might feel the same. To the irritation of his superiors, he began speaking out to his fellow soldiers against the war. "Most were kind of on my side, but there was nothing they could do," he says. He began saving up his leave, not wishing to take a single break that might lengthen his time there. His time over, he flew back to Rhode Island, dumped his gear and set out on a four-month hike along the Appalachian Trail to clear his head of the war.

Three hundred miles in, he called an old army friend. The friend had bad news: McDowell had been "stop-lossed", recalled to a compulsory extension on his service, referred to as the "back-door draft". He had a little over a week to report back to Fort Hood, and in three months he’d be back in Iraq. It was then he remembered a guy who’d gone to Canada, Jeremy Hinzmann, the first deserter there, now awaiting the outcome of his refugee status appeal. "I asked myself, could I really leave my country behind? It would have been easier just to go back, but I didn't want to be a pushover to myself."

The above is from Catherine Philip's "Goodbye Uncle Sam" (Times of London). Along with covering Phil McDowell's story, she also reports Dean Walcott and Chris Teske's journies and here's the concluding paragraph of the article:

None of them yet regrets his drastic move. For some, the War Resisters’ Campaign has provided an outlet for their frustrations, and the chance to meet other exiles like themselves. "The funny thing is, these past six years, I keep being sent to places where I don’t know anyone and I’m not allowed to leave," Walcott jokes. "So I refer to this as my fifth deployment. Because it’s really the same rule, it’s illegal to leave and I don’t know anybody. The difference up here is there’s a group that is dedicated to helping me, whereas being in the military, there’s a group more or less intent on destroying me."

The War Resisters Support Campaign is a Canadian based organization that works to help American war resisters in Canada. They are supported via donations. They have helped Jeremy Hinzman, Brandon Hughey, Kyle Snyder, Ross Spears and others.

Not all war resisters who move to Canada go public or, for that matter, utilize War Resisters Support Campaign. There are many underground in Canada and waiting to see if Canada will change its currently policy (thus far, the government has refused to grant asylum to any war resister).

As this has gone on, The Nation has played dumb. Initial coverage of Jeremy Hinzman took place before the handover of control. Since control was handed over, you've seen nothing on war resisters. Even when a Carl Webb or Camilo Mejia's name actually makes it into print, look for the term "war resister" anywhere next to it. The Nation, in it's current light-weight version, is allergic to the term while wanting to play off a reputation for bravery that came into being under Victor. Currently, the magazine's run by The Peace Resister and it's happy to hide behind generals, etc. It's happy to be as pathetic as the John Kerry campaign in 2004, mourning that a 'smart' illegal war wasn't being fought.

In the summer of 2006, the stories of war resisters burst forward and became one of the biggest stories of the year (even Rolling Stone magazine noted it in their year end issue) but The Nation refused to cover it and continues to refuse. Of the summer 2006 group going public, only Ehren Watada's name made it into print and that was a sidebar, after he'd been called a coward in the main article (on the bravery involved in signing petitions).

After constant and continued pressure, The Nation finally opted to cover Iraq in some real manner (printing reports that ran online at websites is not real coverage -- especially when you heavily edit the original online version). Because there's no journalistic training or experience in the current publisher and editor, the article embarrassed itself in many ways -- journalistically the most embarrassing aspect was the claim to have "dozens" of photos of Iraqis being abused by US troops -- without running a single photo. Thank you, Peace Resister, for protecting us from truth and reality. (That was sarcasm.) A journalism outlet doesn't do that. But The Nation's not about journalism, it's about electing Democrats (and pushing Obama for president). It has not been about ending the illegal war since Victor left.

The magazine since has picked up and dropped the story of the illegal war repeatedly and the only term for their coverage is 'dabbling.' They have run more feature articles in 2007 on a presidential race than they have on Iraq. Repeating: An ongoing, illegal war (one they've been happy to play publicly to be against) has gotten less coverage than what might happen in an election still over 12 months away.

That is embarrassing and it shameful.

While The Nation plays cowardly and stupid war resisters demonstrate real bravery. Someone return and refuse to go back. Some refuse to deploy in the first place. Some give up careers that they are satisfied in, that they enjoy, because they will not take part in the illegal war. Centrists (who get a lot of propping up from The Nation) want to create a scale that says those who left (either via self-checkout or through the recognized channels) don't have a voice worth hearing. The reality is that all voices are valued when they call out an illegal war. The reality is that in a democracy, citizens don't hide behind a military. The reality is that a person who gave up a career they believed in (think of Ann Wright leaving the State Dept.) know a great deal about loss and are more than informed enough to speak. They don't need to belong to a centrist organization (which, for the record, does not call for an end to the illegal war) to be able to speak. They don't need to macho-up in order to speak.

The Nation loves to push that lie and then whine that they have women in top posts. The answer isn't cowards of the female gender or the male gender, the answer is bravery and it's in short supply at that magazine. (In fairness, before friends call, I know there's a clampdown coming from the top. I've heard it and I respect it. But reality is that Katrina vanden Heuvel is not all powerful and she can be countered.)

The alleged independent weekly is now run in such a way that it ignores reality. What's happening in the US military, the resistance in the ranks, is not only happening in this country.
From Ian Bruce's "Cases of Awol soldiers exceed 9000 since 2004" (Scotland's The Herald):

Army chiefs have been hit by more than 9000 cases of soldiers going absent without leave since 2004 and 1100 are still on the run at a time when the military is being stretched by its involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Ministry of Defence denied yesterday that the incidents -- the equivalent of almost 10% of the entire force - were connected to the current conflicts but admitted that there were almost 1300 cases of soldiers having gone missing in the first six months of this year alone.

Every day, more resist. This is from Sacramento's KTXL's "Sacramento Marine Has Gone AWOL:"

The war in Iraq has split the country, led to the lowest presidential approval ratings in decades, and is now resulting in more internal defiance than ever.
Private Zamesha Dominique has taken an absence without official leave, or AWOL, from the Marines. The 19 year old from Sacramento says she wishes she never signed up.
"I could refuse to go, but I'd be facing jail time. I'd rather face the jail time, than go to Iraq," Dominique said.Dominique's unit is currently training in Camp Pendleton and will soon be deployed to Iraq. She refuses to go because she says the Marines tricked her into joining; promising to pay for college and assuring her that she wouldn't see combat. Her decision not to attend training could cost her prison time and a dishonorable discharge.

A visitor wrote thinking we were missing a war resister. If you think we are, please e-mail. We're not trying to ignore anyone. The one in question has not yet made any statement I can find about war resistance. If he does, he will be noted here. The backstory there is that a not then war resister was pushed as such in 2006 despite no public statements on war resistance. It did the person more harm than good because there was actually another narrative that could have been told and could have helped the person. Instead, promoted as a war resister, a lot of outlets weren't interested in the other story. For that reason, we do not promote anyone as a war resister unless they've made a public statement.

Across the world, resistance grows to the illegal war. The really amazing thing is that some alleged independent outlets haven't increased their own coverage (not even in the fact of the approximately 70% of Americans who are against the illegal war). They toss it out in what they hope is enough quantity to keep begging for your money. They don't lead because they don't care about the illegal war. They're more interested in travel study pieces and in attempting to game a Democratic Party primary by lying (and it was lying) about the questions asked in a debate and the answers supplied. I'm not in the mood for that crap. Remember, Labor Day is coming. Short of an article appearing in The Nation, all community sites will be running a feature that day.

The e-mail address for this site is [Also, this is the second entry. I'm almost done with that one but I was returning calls and the things linked to above were noted by friends.]

al-Maliki and Petraeus throwdown

Relations between the top United States general in Iraq and Nouri al-Maliki, the country's prime minister, are so bad that the Iraqi leader made a direct appeal for his removal to President George W Bush.
Although the call was rejected, aides to both men admit that Mr Maliki and Gen David Petraeus engage in frequent stand-up shouting matches, differing particularly over the US general's moves to arm Sunni tribesmen to fight al-Qa'eda.
One Iraqi source said Mr Maliki used a video conference with Mr Bush to call for the general's signature strategy to be scrapped. "He told Bush that if Petraeus continues, he would arm Shia militias," said the official. "Bush told Maliki to calm down."

The above, noted by Polly, is from Damien McElroy's "Iraqi leader tells Bush: Get Gen Petraeus out" (Telegraph of London). Petraeus and the Puppet at odds. The article states that al-Maliki has asked Bully Boy to replace Petraues. al-Maliki can't deliver the oil law (the theft of Iraqi oil) he swore he could. It's been over a year and he's accomplished nothing. He's accomplished nothing for Iraqis but the administration doesn't give a damn about that. They do care that he has not accomplished their aims.

A number of visitors this morning express outrage that the article in the New York Times yesterday was not linked to or mentioned in the snapshot. Helene Cooper was one of the writers of that piece. It was an unsourced piece. It was something I hadn't heard before (I'd heard of what McElroy's reporting). Cooper covers the US State Department which, at the Times, means they whisper, it's printed as truth. (That's true of any State Department in any US administration.)

It's part of preparing the US public for al-Maliki's ouster. The details (unsourced) may or may not be true. But it's to prepare Americans for the fact that al-Maliki's departure is a good thing.

al-Maliki's departure, like the departure of US forces from Iraq, should have happened a long time ago. (In fact, he should have never been installed.) It's to soften up outrage, to mitigate it, when the push comes. Americans should be outraged. al-Maliki was installed over a year ago. He missed the Constitutional deadlines to put together a cabinet. At which point, he gave himself an extension (which the Iraqi Constitution did not allow) and he still missed that. That should have been the first indication to the world that al-Maliki was going to be a failure.

The fact that this US selected puppet was allowed to remain in power while accomplishing nothing is a failure of the US administration.

His failures are not an indictment of Iraqis. He never represented them. Whether or not he passed on warnings to Moqtada al-Sadr (as the Times' whispers claimed) doesn't change the fact that he did not represent Iraqis. When the US began installing walls around Baghdad, they made it clear to the entire world that al-Maliki was nothing but a puppet.

al-Maliki held a press conference to announce that he did not favor the construction and it would cease immediately. It didn't cease. American forces and Iraqis continued the walls. The Iraqi military, which al-Maliki is supposed to be in charge of, took pot shots at the puppet in the press, explaining how they didn't listen to him.

al-Maliki has no power, puppets never do, and he has no support from the people. He doesn't represent them. When he's replaced, the spin will be, in the US, "How could he do that to us?"

The reality is that the US administration created him and propped him up.

Any sense of betrayal or time wasted belongs with the White House, not with the puppet.

That said, he's not just someone willing to stab Iraqis in the back, he's also really stupid. Demanding that Patreaus be replaced is not a demand he can make. It is far more embarrassing to Bully Boy to replace the top general than it is to replace al-Maliki.

There will be a second entry this morning, but we'll go ahead and note Margaret Kimberly's latest right now. From her "Freedom Rider: Banks, Baseball and Corporate Welfare" (Freedom Rider, Black Agenda Report):

There used to be an old adage, "What's good for General Motors is good for America." That once mighty corporation is now on life support, but the ideology behind the saying remains. What is good for corporate interests is supposed to be good for everyone else.
American cities and states vie with one another to see who can give the biggest subsidies to big box stores, sports teams, or investment banks. While the poor and working class who ask for help are stigmatized as parasites, the high and mighty get the red carpet treatment when they stick their hands in the public treasury.
The New York Yankees and the New York Mets are both in the process of building new stadiums, subsidized by the taxpayers, and with the seal of approval from politicians. Housing, small businesses and public park land will be reduced or eliminated to line the pockets of already wealthy corporations.
The Yankees stole parks from the people of New York City with the connivance of current and former politicians now turned lobbyists. The local community board and City Council member voted against the Yankees land grab but the opposition was out spent and out muscled. Community wishes were seen only as nuisances that had to be eliminated.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Friday, July 27, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, Cindy Sheehan debates a moron, Operation Happy Talk continues.

Starting with war resisters. From  September 2nd through September 26th, Agustin Aguayo was absent without leave.  Aguayo self-checked out when facing a second deployment to Iraq and while his case was moving through the civilian courts.  Aguayo was denied CO status by a military that doesn't know their own regulations.  John A. Rogowsky Jr. is another, among many others, who have been wrongly denied CO status. From  "Selective Service System: Fast Facts:"  "Beliefs which qualify a registrant for CO status may be religious in nature, but don't have to be."  Despite that basic reality, Aguayo, Rogowsky and others have been told that they're not religious enough, that their religion is not recognized, when religion really is NOT required for CO status.  In Aguayo's case, the military refused to recognize that time in Iraq deepened Aguayo's faith (already present when he enlisted).

Speaking with Don Bustany on KPFK's Middle East in Focus Wednesday, Aguayo shared his story.and noted that when he arrived in Iraq in February of 2004, the medics were gathered for a speech that was in conflict in with the printed training material.  They were told that they were medics and they were combat troops and that, "'You medics,' speaking to us, 'has to make it clear, has to make it clear in the minds of your infantry man that they must finish their job   because if they don't then there will be more work for you'."  As Aguayo looked around he saw acceptance and an eagerness to get back to the routine but "I  could not accept that I was being told those things."

He also spoke of the eagerness to blame Iraqis for any problems as opposed to questioning the illegal war or the Bully Boy who sent them there.  Aguayo began to realize, "I was a particiant, a supporter, of all the missions that took place."  Today Aguayo is sharing his story publicly.

Mialka Bonadonna (LAist) reports he will be speaking tonight (Friday) in Los Angeles, 7:00 pm at 3303 Wilshire Blvd., 2nd floor.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Jared Hood and James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Care, Kyle Huwer, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty-one US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters.

From reality to Operation Happy Talk.  The push-back is on and Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno has enlisted.  Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) writes of the press briefing Odierno gave yesterday where he issued the talking points that US military deaths were falling.  Parker rightly notes that seven deaths were announced after the press briefing and the one of the deaths announced on Thursday dated back to Sunday.  The US military was delaying announcing deaths.  Reality is that in terms of what has been annouced, the deaths were 67 on Thursday and that July is not yet over but July 2007 is already the deadliest July for US service members since the start of the illegal war. July 2006: 43 US service members were killed in Iraq. In July 2005 and July 2004, 54 US service members were killed in Iraq. In July 2003, 48 US service members were killed in Iraq. 

Last week, Odierno enlisted in the push-back in a vareity of ways at a press briefing with reporters at the US Pentagon via video-link.  In terms of downgrading expectations for the September report to the US Congress by the military, he declared that the report that was needed would come in November and clarified, "What I was saying is -- again, my remarks were, in 45 days I will have a better idea if the trends are continuing, and that's September. Obviously, we have an assessment we will conduct in September that will provide -- that General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will provide. I was not looking at extending that time frame when they have to report back. What I imagine we'll have to do is do assessments that follow that initial assessment in September, and that's -- I'm assuming we'll continue to do assessments while we're here." Yesterday, Odierno stressed "trends" as well but forgot to include 7 deaths he should have known about in his remarks.

In addition, at the same press briefing, he attempted to yet again sell the non-proven link between resistance fighters in Iraq and the Iranian government.  When pressed by reporters for evidence,  Odierno's confident remarks of such a link were replaced with his statements that, "We don't see any evidence -- significant evidence". And a third way he enlisted was in calling into question the right of an open debate in a free society when he took to suggesting that discussions in the media and in the US Congress about US forces withdrawing from Iraq,  was 'emboldening' al Qaeda. Again, when pressed, Odierno had to back off from his original remarks and admit he had "no specific intelligence" on any such emboldening.

Operation Happy Talk is not confined to the US military brass and the US administration.  Andrew Grice (Independent of London) reports that the UK Air Chief Marshal Jock Stirrup (I did not make that name up) has declared, "We are very close to being able to hand over Basra in my judgement.  Just when we will reach that point is at the moment uncertain but I am fairly confident it'll be in the second half of the year."  Basra is one base, the Basra Palace (and it's also the last of four provinces the British military currently controls -- the other three were already turned over)  Grice interprets Jock Stirrup's remarks to mean control of Basra could be handed off before the year's end; however, it could come much sooner.  After all, British troops, the Soldiers of the Queen's Royal Hussars, proved they could hustle when they pulled out of the Maysan province with less than 24 hours notice after their base their repeatedly was attacked  back in August. As Haidar Hani (AP) reported then that following the British hitting the road in 'stripped down mode': "Looters ravaged a former British base Friday . . . taking everything from doors and window frames to corrugated roofing and metal pipes".  Iraqi authorites noted then that the British had only given them 24 hours notice that the departure was coming.  As with that base, the Basra Palace has been under rocket and mortar attacks repeatedly.  In addition, IRIN reports that approximately "150 doctors in Basra, Iraq's second largest city about 600km south of Baghdad, began a three-day strike on 23 July, demanding the government protect them and their families."  This was to call attention to the lack of security and this comes as over "618 medical employees" have been killed since the start of the illegal war.

Turning to realities that US administration prefers we don't know.  Noam N. Levey and Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) report that the White House "has stopped reporting to Congress a key quality-of-life indicator in Baghdad: how long the power stays on."  This is an agreed upon 'benchmark' by the US administration and Congress -- and one even Iraqis could agree to even though they were consulted when it was time to draw on benchmarks.  When you can't meet the benchmark, this administration stops reporting it.

This approach is an affront to democracy and one of many the current administration has repeatedly shown not only to people in the US but to people around the world.  Today, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) hosted a debate on the issue of impeachment.  All sides were represented, with Cindy Sheehan representing the pro-impeachment and Dan Gerstein representing the lunatic fringe.  Gerstein is a Democratic Party Hack and not even a good one.  His full credentials were not listed on the program and that's probably due to the fact that if he'd had to sit through even a partial litany of his many losses, he would have walked off on air.

Gerstein doesn't want impeachment.  He doesn't think anything that's been done rises to the level of impeachment.  He thinks the way to 'fix' is to vote Democrats into power in 2008 (he might want to check out his consulting p.r. faxes because I'm seeing something about him being in favor of Democrats "all things being equal").  To impeach the Bully Boy and/or Cheney would be a distraction that would harm the Democrats chances to regain the White House in 2008.

Gerstein's been more wrong than right when gazing into his crystal ball and that may say it all but for those who've forgotten his nasty snit-fits when his boy Joe Lieberman lost the primary to Ned Lamont, try google-ing. 

The reality, as Cindy Sheehan pointed out, is that impeachment hasn't been a problem in terms of the White House.  Gerstein is wrong, Sheehan is right.  Gerstein tried to use the 1998 Congressional election (not a White House election) as an example.  After the 2002 Congressional election demonstrated that no patterns were holding, no tea leafs could be read, Gerstein might try sticking to reality and leaving his fantasy land where he knows the outcome.  (If he truly did, he might be a player and not a Lieberman lackey.)

From the broadcast:

CINDY SHEEHAN: Well, also in Article II, yeah, Clause 4, it says for treason and bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors. I believe that -- and there's, you know, legal proof out there that when he commuted Scooter Libby's sentence, he committed treason, because Scooter Libby was convicted of obstructing justice in the cover-up of the Bush administration outing Valerie Plame. And I believe that the American people will be behind this.
The Democrats aren't trying to end the war. They just gave George Bush $120 billion more to wage it. And he has said the troops aren't coming home while he's president. So I think we need to look at it as human-based and not political.
John Conyers told me in a meeting previously to the one we had on Monday that winning the presidency in '08 was more important to him than ending the war in Iraq. When are our leaders going to -- I guarantee there's 150,000 mothers in this country, who it's more important to them to end the war in Iraq and get their children home safely than who's president in '08.
And I think, historically, when this impeachment has been tried, like I said before, the party who tried it, even though it hasn't been successful, has -- it has galvanized the base of that party to say, "Wow, our leaders are courageous. Our leaders have integrity. Our leaders are leading us from a moral base, not from political expediency."

It was hilarious to see the Sterile Gerstein LIE and we'll use the word even though he will take offense but that is reality.  A liar, for instance, is someone who attacks Cindy Sheehan as an attention hog (or whatever the term he used) only a short time ago but pretends to have the upmost respect for her during the debate today.  The Peace Mom cleaned his clock.

In today's violence, CNN reports that 17 Iraqis -- count includes 2 women -- were killed by the US military and the Iraqi military today in Karbala with hospital officials reporting at least twenty-five wounded ("including women and children") had been brought to the hospital.  To no one's surprise the US military is claiming
"Not true!"  The US military asserts, in the same press release -- keep that in mind, that "No Iraqi civilians were present in the area while the strike was performed" -- the strike involved "aeiral fires" -- and that this was "a raid in a neighborhood in Karbala."  One of those, no doubt, ghost town neighborhoods in Karbala?  By their own admission, the raid took place in a neighborhood.  The raid took place during the sleeping hours.  The raid involved air strikes as well as shooting on the ground.  And there is the matter of the bodies of the dead and the wounded.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a man was killed in a Baghdad bombing when the car he was driving was stopped by assailants who put "explosives into his car" and then attempted to use the man and his car in an attack on a police check point (two police officers were wounded), a Baghdad mortar attack that left four wounded, two people wounded when "U.S. troops bombed Al Husseiniya district" in Baghdad, an Al Muqdadiyah roadside bombing claimed 1 life with five others wounded, a Kirkuk rocket attack that claimed 2 lives, and a Karbala roadside bombing targeting Brig. Gen. Raed Shakir Hamed that left 3 of his bodyguards killed while he survived.  Reuters notes a Mahmudiya mortar attack that claimed the life of 1 woman and left a child and an adult wounded, that a Samarra roadside bombing that claimed the lives of 7 police officers so . . .


Reuters notes the Samarra police decided to open fire and 3 innocent civilians were killed (open fire after the bombing).  Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Saidiyah and Adeeb Abdul Salam were shot dead in a Baghdad home invasion, a person shot dead in Buhruz and attorney Hussam Al Nahi was shot dead in Basra.  Reuters notes an Iraqi soldier shot dead in Kirkuk.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 7 corpses discovered in Baghdad, two corpses delivered to Al Muqdadiyah hospital, 1 corpse discovered in Baquba.  KUNA reports the corpses of five women were discovered in Mosul today and that the women had been kidnapped yesterday while returning from work.

Today, the US military announced: "One Task Force Lightning Soldier died as a result of injuries sustained from an explosion near his vehicle while conducting operations in Diyala province, Thursday."  The death brings ICCC's current total to 3646 US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war with 67 killed for the month thus far.

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Two former employees of First Kuwaiti Trading and Contracting, the company that's building the new $592 million U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, testified to a House of Representatives panel Thursday that they'd observed abuses of construction workers.
John Owens, who worked on the site as a security liaison from November 2005 to June 2006, said he'd seen foreign workers packed in trailers and working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, with time off Fridays for Muslim prayers. Several told him they earned about $300 a month, after fees were taken out, and that they were docked three days' pay for such offenses as clocking in five minutes late.
Rory Mayberry, who said he'd been a medic on the site for five days, said First Kuwaiti had asked him to escort 51 Filipino men from Kuwait to Baghdad but not to tell them where they were going. Their tickets showed that they were flying to Dubai, Mayberry said. They screamed protests when they discovered on the flight that they were headed to Baghdad, he said.
Mayberry also said he'd seen workers high on scaffolding without safety harnesses.
In a hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., said Americans were responsible because U.S. taxpayers' money paid the workers.

The above is from Renee Schoof's "Abuse of workers building U.S. embassy in Iraq is alleged" (McClatchy Newspapers) and, on the same topic, Lloyd notes William Branigin's "Foreign Workers Abused at Embassy, Panel Told" (Washington Post):

The accounts were delivered at a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on allegations of waste, fraud and abuse in the construction of a huge new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad at a cost of nearly $600 million. The embassy, slated to be the largest U.S. diplomatic mission in the world, is being built by a Kuwaiti firm, First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting Co., which was awarded the contract after no U.S. company would meet the terms, the committee was told.
First Kuwaiti's labor practices are under investigation by the Justice Department, which is looking into allegations that foreign employees were brought into Iraq under false pretenses and were unable to leave because the company had confiscated their passports.

Jessica Bernstein-Wax offers the brief "Facts, comments about U.S. Embassy in Baghdad" (McClatchy Newspapers):

The walled U.S. Embassy on 104 acres along the Tigris River in Baghdad will have 619 one-bedroom apartments, a recreation center with a pool and gym, and two office buildings. A third building is designed for future use as a school. The compound will have its own power generator -- in a city where most people are without electricity much of the time -- and water-treatment plant.

And if you're looking for a historical comparison an oversize monument being built with slave labor, consider the pyramids in Egypt.

In this morning's New York Times, Stephen Farrell's "Bomb Kills 25 in Baghdad After U.S. Cites Security Success" begins:

A car bomb killed 25 people in a Shiite area of the city during the evening rush hour on Thursday, wounding dozens of shoppers, destroying stores and leaving a pall of smoke hanging over the center of the city.
The attack occurred hours after Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the second-ranking American commander in Iraq, claimed "significant success" for recent security operations in Baghdad and Diyala Province.

Martha notes the following from Megan Greenwall's "Blast Kills at Least 25 in Long-Secure Baghdad Neighborhood" (Washington Post):

The explosion was the latest in a string of car bombs in Karrada, a largely Shiite district long considered one of Baghdad's safest neighborhoods. More than 50 people have been killed in seven car bomb attacks in the neighborhood this month. There was no significant violence in Karrada in June, police records show.
Since the war began, Karrada had been one of the few places in Baghdad to have escaped intense sectarian violence. Sunnis and Shiites driven out of other areas of the capital flocked to the neighborhood, willing to pay higher rents for the prospect of safety.
A sprawling set of streets with dozens of produce stalls, clothing stores and restaurants, Karrada is especially known for its jewelry stores, selling products from cheap costume bracelets to gold rings. Thursday afternoons are one of the busiest times in Karrada, as people finish their shopping before the midday curfew Friday, the Muslim holy day.

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Rewriting Ned Parker on the death toll

Today, the US military announced: "One Task Force Lightning Soldier died as a result of injuries sustained from an explosion near his vehicle while conducting operations in Diyala province, Thursday."

In the Los Angeles Times today, Ned Parker attempts to cover the issue of the death announcements (which he mistakes for the deaths) and, briefly, we're just going to walk through how that article could have gone had the military's talking points not been utilized.

The US military announced the deaths of seven American troops Thursday, hours after the No. 2 US commander touted a decline in the number of fatatlies to so far this month as an indication that an increase in American forces was having a positive effect on the ground. [Note, that's Parker's opening.]

Lt. Gen Raymond T. Odierno stressed that after April, May and June all saw US troop fatalities climb past 100 each month, the figures were down for July.

What Odierno neglected to address was the rising air war which media critic Norman Solomon has long noted would be used as a substitute for boots on the ground.

Odierno focused on Baghdad and, in the capital, we see Solomon's critique play out as news of US helicopter attacks have become ever more common.

After Odierno spoke, the announcement of 7 deaths would be made. None of the deaths took place on *Thursday*. One death, the oldest, took place on Sunday.

For this reason, it is difficult to speak in terms of "deaths" and a better choice of terms might be "deaths announced." Certainly, Odierno, as number 2 in command, knew of the 7 deaths that would be announced since all took place between Sunday and Wednesday. For whatever reasons, Odierno elected not to mention those deaths or include them in his presentation or talking points.

Odierno's talking points last week included down playing the September report that the military will deliver on Iraq to determine the escalation. Last week, Odierno stated, "What I was saying is -- again, my remarks were, in 45 days I will have a better idea if the trends are continuing, and that's September. Obviously, we have an assessment we will conduct in September that will provide -- that General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will provide. I was not looking at extending that time frame when they have to report back. What I imagine we'll have to do is do assessments that follow that initial assessment in September, and that's -- I'm assuming we'll continue to do assessments while we're here." Yesterday, Odierno stressed "trends" as well but forgot to include 7 deaths he should have known about in his remarks.

Last week, Odierno was also attempting to push a link between the Iranian government and those fighting the US occupation in Iraq; however, when pressed by reporters, Odierno's confident remarks of such a link were replaced with his statements that, "We don't see any evidence -- significant evidence". Also last week, Odierno attempted to suggest that the US Congress' talk of withdrawal was 'emboldening' al Qaeda. Again, when pressed, Odierno had to back off from his original remarks and admit he had "no specific intelligence" on any such emboldening.

By refusing to note the 7 deaths that the US military would later announce, Odierno was utilizing the figure of 59 US service members killed in Iraq thus far this month. Setting aside that the month of July is not yet over and the delays over the last few days in the US military promptly announcing deaths, the fact remains that in July 2006, 43 US service members were killed in Iraq. In July 2005 and July 2004, 54 US service members were killed in Iraq. In July 2003, 48 US service members were killed in Iraq.

The current number of deaths announced by the US military for the months of July thus far is 67. Clearly, 59 or 67 would make July 2007 the deadliest July for US troops in Iraq since the illegal war began.

And that is how the Los Angeles Times article could have gone. Instead, there is no noting Odierno's statements from last week -- which, please note, required an admission that his claims were not backed by any proof every time he was pressed -- nor any noting of the basic fact that whether you use 59 or the current 67, even with the month not yet over, this is the deadliest July on record for US troops since the illegal war began.

It's not a bad article and Parker notes the fact that one announcement made yesterday was of a death that occurred on Sunday. But it's not the article it could have been or that many may feel it should have been. Leaving out the numbers for past Julys is probably the weakest flaw of the article. Other outlets have immense flaws, such as running with the figure of five deaths announced.

On the air war, here's Norman Solomon's most recent comments:

But realities on the ground -- and in the air -- are quite different. A recent news dispatch from an air base in Iraq, by Charles J. Hanley of the Associated Press, provided a rare look at the high-tech escalation underway. "Away from the headlines and debate over the ’surge’ in U.S. ground troops," AP reported on July 14, "the Air Force has quietly built up its hardware inside Iraq, sharply stepped up bombing and laid a foundation for a sustained air campaign in support of American and Iraqi forces."
In contrast to the spun speculation so popular with U.S. media outlets like Time and the PBS "NewsHour," the AP article cited key information: "Squadrons of attack planes have been added to the in-country fleet. The air reconnaissance arm has almost doubled since last year. The powerful B1-B bomber has been recalled to action over Iraq."

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

Before we start the entry proper, let me note a few things that have waited all week. First up, do you know I don't. But three e-mails are praising it. One is convinced I'm "Mike" (not apparently our Mike of Mikey Likes It!) and I'm sorry I can't help him with who he is trying to contact. From time to time, with those type of e-mails, we will forward them on. But I don't know anything about the website, sorry.

The Bat Segundo Show is back up and running with new broadcasts. You can listen online without registering or paying for a premium service. The new broadcasts feature:

The current batch features a rare two-part interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Berkeley Breathed, the man behind Opus and Bloom County; another rare interview with Scarlett Thomas, author of The End of Mr. Y; a revealing interview with A.M. Homes about memoirs, a discussion on superheroes in literature with Austin Grossman, and two Litblog Co-Op-related interviews with authors Alan DeNiro and Marshall Klimasewiski .
Mr. Segundo was not available for some of these podcasts, having fled from the Bolshevik practices of the Litblog Co-Op to kill time finding a penguin bride in the Arctic. He was briefly replaced with a raspy gentleman named Larry N. Gittis, who proved equally unsuitable for introductions. As much as it pains our crew to come to terms with the horrible truth, we can find no better host than Mr. Segundo -- at least at our current going rate.
The main Segundo site can be found here:
To subscribe to the show with a podcatcher program (for later transfer to your iPod), copy and paste the following URL into your program:
To listen or to subscribe to the podcasts through Odeo, you can go here:
Please note: You do not have to have an iPod to listen the show! If you go to the main Segundo site, you can save the MP3 to your lovely machine by clicking on the bat picture or, if you're the kind of person who prefers swinging a bat over clicking on one, we do have a user-friendly interface with many listening options.
Please also note that we have now made the first 100 installments of The Bat Segundo Show available as torrents for your listening pleasure. To download these five packs using your favorite BitTorrent client, go to:

Now, warning, the next two things are PDF format. Michael T. Heaney and Fabio Rojas, "Partisans, Nonpartisans, and the Antiwar Movement in the United States," American Politics Research, Vol. 35, No. 4 and their "The Place of Framing: Multiple Audiences and Antiwar Protests Near Fort Bragg," Qualitative Sociology, Vol. 29, No. 4 (December): 484-505. Lastly Make Them Accountable posts several features and commentaries each day.

Now, let's get started.

On July 23, Cindy Sheehan, Ray McGovern and I met with U.S. Rep. John Conyers about the issue of impeachment. We delivered a petition for impeachment with one million signatures. While we met, 400 activists waited in the halls outside of his office along with a hoard of media to find out what the outcome of the meeting would be. The meeting was a very significant moment for the progressive movement from a historical standpoint. The movement for impeachment and the immediate reactions to why John Conyers was publicly targeted on this issue reflect how race continues to be, as my dear friend Bill Fletcher says, the tripwire for the progressive movement.
Rep. Conyers is a great mentor to me and my respect for him is unquestionable. He has been fighting for peace and justice and civil rights for decades inside and outside of Congress. He is a man for the people and for America. So, it was a truly disappointing moment on Monday, when we realized -- as mentor and mentee -- that we do not agree on his role as the Chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary committee to uphold our constitution by holding our President and Vice President accountable for their impeachable offensives.
After concluding our meeting I stepped into the hallway with Cindy Sheehan and Ray McGovern to inform the crowd that he refused to put impeachment back on the table. We then returned to his office and sat down, refusing to leave until Capitol Police arrested us.
Since Monday, our action has been criticized on two fronts. First, by the tedious "maintain the Democratic party line no matter what" folks who think that we should wait Bush out until November 2008 and get back at him by voting in a Democrat for President. Second, by folks who have interpreted our targeting of Rep. Conyers, a deeply respected African-American leader in Congress, as an attack that is fundamentally racist by the White leftists of the anti-war movement.
To uncritical supporters of the Democratic Party, I say this is not a time for partisan politics. To use the American people's frustration with Bush as political leverage in the 2008 elections, and to ignore the constitutional responsibility the legislative branch has to hold the executive branch accountable through the impeachment process, flies in the face of our democracy. People are dying in Iraq because of Bush's lies; people are being tortured in Guantanamo because of Bush's disregard for the Constitution and international law; and the American people are loosing faith in our democracy. But, Congress doesn't get that, and that is why their current approval rating is lower than Bush's.

The above, noted by Krystal, is from Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr.'s "Race is the Tripwire for the Progressive Movement: John Conyers and Impeachment" (Common Dreams). Rev. Yearwood is both a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and the chair of the chair of the Hip Hop Caucus. As we noted Tuesday, asking why Conyers is one of the dumbest questions in the book. He chairs the judiciary. He wrote a book on why Bully Boy should be impeached. He told voters in 2006 that Dems in charge would mean impeachment (before Pelosi took it off the table). He has continued to make statements off the Hill supporting impeachment. Holding him accountable is actually treating him with respect -- it's accepting that when he speaks to the public, when he takes the time to write, he's not tossing out sop, he's addressing things he really believes. As for the issue of race, Yearwood (and continue reading his column via the link) is African-American. Possibly those bringing up the issue of race should be asking why Conyers had an African-American clergy member arrested for civil disobedience? Or does race only matter from the top? That's how we saw the Clarence Thomas issue play out in the 90s. Anita Hill was smeared and lied about. And it was how dare anyone question Clarence Thomas, an African-American man? Somehow that 'racial' concern never was extended to Anita Hill and, today, it's not being extended to Yearwood.

Whether Congress grasps it or not, every day the case for impeachment is being made. The abuses and crimes of Alberto Gonzales make a direct case for impeaching his boss who has either signed off on the abuses or is so incompetent that he has been unaware of him. Government's not a business but Bully Boy campaigned as the CEO leader. (Don't look too closely -- and fortunately the press didn't -- because his CEO 'success' echoes his current 'success' in leading a nation.) Well any CEO whose underling had broken so many laws (including perjury) would either be shown the door by the CEO or the shareholders would revolt. Today, citizens are demanding accountability and the Democratic leadership is refusing to utilize the needed recourse. John Dean wrote Worse Than Watergate before the 2004 election. Since then the known crimes of this administration have only multiplied. As they continue to go unchecked, the illegal war also continues.

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, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3628. Tonight? 3645. Let's talk the death count. As noted in today's snapshot, the US military announced seven deaths today (not five, as most outlets reported). MNF isn't DoD. DoD announces the names of the fatalities. MNF's only work is to announce the deaths with the note that names will be released after the families have been informed.

No one seems willing to note the delay that's been going on lately with MNF. Today is July 26 and they announced seven deaths. Not one of those people died today. Four died yesterday and one announcement went four days back (July 22nd). MNF is sitting on death announcements. It's no different than Fort Lewis' move to starting holding mass meorials and not individual ones. It's a way to clamp down on the bad news. And MNF is getting away with it because the press refuses to call it out. To use today's most extreme example, a marine died on July 22nd. Are we all supposed to play dumb and pretend the US military didn't learn of that death until today?

What's going on is an effort to keep the deaths out of the headlines. And they know what they're doing. Announcing today that a marine died on the 22nd, four days ago, puts it in the past. Not for family or friends, but for the press coverage. They aren't going to open with, "Four days ago a US marine . . ." If they include it, it will be buried deep in the report.

It's amazing that they've gotten away with that this month but they have. (And we noted they were doing it long before today.) What is the next step?

American opinion has hardened against the illegal war. It's not changing. And efforts to sell the continuation of the illegal war continue. At the rate things are going, it wouldn't be a stretch to next learn that the US military will not disclose the deaths of service members. We will be informed that deaths are classified.

If anyone sees that as beyond possible, grasp that the US military has been keep track of Iraqis deaths since 2005 but it won't release those numbers. It's not a big stretch for this secretive administration to next move towards refusing to release information on deaths. No doubt, the excuse offered would be to "spare" the pain of the families.

To be clear, it does not take four days to announce a death of someone you're not even identifying in your press release. What's going on is what went on for months and months, where MNF delayed announcements of deaths until the 2nd or 3rd of the month so that the deaths wouldn't be included in the monthly counts. That got called out when people caught on. What's going on now needs to be called out.

For MNF today was a great day. They did an info dump on the deaths of 7 US service members and most press outlets were confused enough to run with 5 and not 7. They'll continue doing this unless they are called on it.

It's part of the effort to make it appear all that talk of 'turned corners' is finally taking place.

Had they made the announcements in a timely fashion, late Sunday or Monday's news cycle would have included the death of one marine in Al Anbar Province. Late Tuesday or Wednesday's news cycle would have included the news of one soldier dying in Baghdad and three soldiers and a marine dying in Diyala Province. Late yesterday and today the news cycle would have included the news that a soldier died in Baghdad.

Of course those realities might have clamped down on some of the rah-rah related to a soccer match. But the match was the perfect distraction and you saw the usual ones who sold you the illegal war rush to run photos of Iraqis (males only) rushing around cheering. Before the bombing, if the photos were taken in Baghdad. But don't let anyone rain on the Operation Happy Talk parade.

In tonight's roundtable (you can read it in tomorrow's gina & krista round-robin), Susan made the (correct) point that last night's entry should have included a musical quote. From Tori Amos' "Raspberry Swirl" (From the Choirgirl Hotel) "I am not your senorita, I am not from your tribe."

We'll close by noting this excerpt, Jennifer pointed it out, from the Institute for Public Accuracy:

WASHINGTON - JULY 25 - Last week, McClatchy newspapers reported that, according to the U.S. military's own statistics, "U.S. soldiers have killed or wounded 429 Iraqi civilians at checkpoints or near patrols and convoys during the past year. ... The statistics don't include instances of American soldiers killing civilians during raids, arrests or in the midst of battle with armed groups, and it remains unclear how the U.S. military tracks such information."

Mejia is an Iraq combat veteran who served a year in a U.S. military prison for refusing to return to the war in Iraq. He is the author of Road from Ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia. He was one of the 50 veterans interviewed for the forthcoming book Collateral Damage: America's War Against Iraqi Civilians. Months before the appearance of the Abu Graib photos, Mejia complained to his superiors about treatment of detainees. Explaining his decision not to return to Iraq, Mejia said: "People would ask me about my war experiences and answering them took me back to all the horrors -- the firefights, the ambushes, the time I saw a young Iraqi dragged by his shoulders through a pool of his own blood or an innocent man was decapitated by our machine gun fire. The time I saw a soldier broken down inside because he killed a child, or an old man on his knees, crying with his arms raised to the sky, perhaps asking God why we had taken the lifeless body of his son."
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Kevin Benderman was imprisoned for 14 months after trying to apply for conscientious objector status. His book Letters from Ft. Lewis Brig, co-authored with his wife, Monica Benderman, is forthcoming. Monica Benderman said: "[Last week] a Marine -- not only convicted of conspiring to commit kidnapping, larceny, and making false statements but [also] the murder of an innocent Iraqi man -- was given his sentence. He is to receive a reduction in rank and a bad conduct discharge."Monica Benderman added: "It is now considered 'bad conduct' to murder an unarmed man, knowingly return to the scene to fabricate the appearance of self-defense and hide the facts after the fact." She continued: "In 2004 my husband, a 10-year U.S. Army veteran, made a conscious decision to no longer participate in war -- he spoke openly of the bad conduct of his commanders in giving orders to soldiers in his unit which not only jeopardized the lives of innocent Iraqis, and children, but also those of the soldiers he served with. For his decision ... he was found guilty of missing movement or not getting on a plane and was sentenced to 15 months in prison, loss of all pay, reduction in rank and a dishonorable discharge."

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Iraq snapshot

Thursday, July 26, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, jock boys in the press treat a soccer match (not even a title win) as bigger news than 50 dead, the White House is all a titter over Bully Boy's upcoming meeting with Gordon Brown, the US military announces multiple deaths in Iraq (announces seven deaths, not the five many press outlets are reporting), the refugee crisis continues, and more.
Starting with war resisters. The San Francisco Chapter of Veterans for Peace (Chapter 69) and Asian Pacific Islanders Resist have penned an op-ed (San Francisco Bay Guardian) noting that responsibilities don't fly out the window during an illegal war.  In this section, they address the kanagroo courts that those who speak out face in the alleged name of military 'justice': "Many soldiers of conscience who dared to speak openly about the immorality and illegality of the war have been court-martialed and imprisoned. Their cases, dating back to 2004, raise serious doubts about the capacity of our soldiers to receive justice in our military courts. Five months prior to the Abu Ghraib scandal, a soft-spoken Army soldier named Camilo Mejía was visibly upset by the atrocities he observed during his tour of duty in Iraq. Repulsed by the slaughter of civilians and the needless deaths of American GIs -- all reported in his riveting combat memoir, Road from Ar Ramadi (New Press, 2007) -- Mejía gathered his courage and made formal complaints to his superiors. Commanders refused to listen and questioned his patriotism. Eventually Mejía was sentenced to a year in prison for speaking out, for telling the truth.  His trial, like subsequent trials of war resisters, was a travesty of justice. The judge, Col. Gary Smith, ruled that evidence of the illegality of the war was inadmissible in court, that international law is irrelevant, and that a soldier's only duty is to follow orders, regardless of their legality. In essence, Mejía spent months in prison for upholding the rule of law in wartime. Had commanders listened to Mejía, had judges respected due process and the rule of law, the Abu Ghraib scandal that humiliated our troops might never have occurred."
Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia  is Mejia's story of becmoing the first Iraq veteran to publicly become a war resisters (Stephen Funk is the first known war resisters in this illegal war and his resistance began when he refused to take part in an illegal war). Along with detailing the court-martial, Mejia also explains how, as that was about to get underweigh, the US military suddenly needed him to refile his CO application.  Why?  Well he'd outlined abuses and the military had ignored them so refiling it would make it appear that he was just then, as the court-martial approached, for the first time, noting the abuses he'd witnessed.  Another point in the Mejia case that is often overlooked is that the US military was in violation of their own rules.  Non-US citizen Mejia's eight-year contract was coming to an end.  From Iraq, he and superiors made a call during which Mejia learned that his mother had contacted their senator (US Senator Bill Nelson) who had already made an issue of this -- as a noncitizen, Mejia could not be extended.  That was the rule and Mejia was informed of that on the phone, when he repeated that and handed the phone to his superior, the superior "lost" the call.  The same military that refused to grant Mejia CO status was also in violation of their own rules and this was all before Mejia self-checked out.  That's why mainstream (or alternative) media dubbing Mejia a "deserter" without ever exploring those facts is more than a little simplistic.
Mejia's book came out in May and is one of two books published by war resisters this year.
Joshua Key's The Deserter's Tale is the other one and, in it, Key outlines his own experiences in Iraq and how he came to the decision to self-check out.  Joshua and Brandi Key and their children went underground and then moved to Canada.  The Deserter's Tale  has repeatedly won positive reviews since its release including an unwritten 'rave' from the US military which so enjoyed it, they sent two members to Canada to pose as Canadian police officers and badger Winnie Ng as to Key's whereabouts.  Though far less fanatical, Phil Shannon (Autralia's Green Left Weekly) recently reviewed the book and found it to be
"told with unadorned but compelling simplicity, follows the life-altering path of a US citizen who turned from super-patriot to war-resister."
Currently, war resister Agustin Aguayo is on a speaking tour telling his story and The Acorn reports that Aguayo will speak this Thursday from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm at Grant Brimhall, Thousand Oaks Library, 1401 E. James Rd., that the event is "free and open to the public" and more information is available by calling (805) 375-9939. War resister Pablo Paredes will also be at the event.
This comes as Terry Lee Goodrich (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) reports on yesterday's meeting of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) General Assembly during which they passed a resolution "opposing the war in Iraq as contrary to Jesus' teachings" and
supporting war resisters who refuse to serve in the illegal war based upon church teachings.
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Jared Hood and James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Care, Kyle Huwer, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty-one US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters.
Meanwhile, the White House has to deal with not one but two reports in September.  On September 15th, General David Petraeus will present his report detailing the 'progress' resulting from Bully Boy's escalation of US troops in Iraq (approximately 160,000 are now on the ground).  Robin Wright (Washington Post) reveals the General Accounting Office will also be presenting a report on September 1st: "The GAO's international affairs team has had far more experience in Iraq than the study group led by former secretary of state James A. Baker III and former congressman Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.) or any of the other independent panels that have weighed in on Iraq. Indeed, the study group consulted the GAO team in preparing its report. Over the past four years, the GAO has issued 91 reports on Iraq, on topics including the mismanagement of Iraq's oil industry and problems in its new army.
The GAO team is back in Iraq this week doing research to make its own assessment of the 18 benchmarks covered by the administration's reports."  The 'benchmarks' were pushed by the White House and Congress mandated them.  These are the same 'benchmarks' that the White House and the US military now attempts to play down as part of the push-back on the September deadline.
They aren't pushing back against the US Congress which still has no real desire to end the illegal war, instead they are pushing back against public opinion domestically which repeatedly finds approximately 70% of Americans are opposed to Bully Boy's illegal war of choice with 61% now wanting any futher funding of the illegal war to come with a timeline for withdrawal. 
As Norman Solomon observes (at Common Dreams), "Despite all the talk about how members of Congress have been turning against the war, few are clearly advocating a genuine end to U.S. military intervention in Iraq" and that the media joins in prolonging the illegal war, "Media outlets will keep telling us that the U.S. government is developing serious plans to 'leave' Iraq. But we would be foolish to believe those tall tales. The antiwar movement has an enormous amount of grassroots work to do -- changing the political terrain of the United States from the bottom up -- before the calculus of political opportunism in Washington determines that it would be more expedient to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq than to keep it going under one guise or another."  Solomon details the efforts by PBS' NewsHour and Time magazine to mitigate public outrage, " The game involves dangling illusionary references to 'withdrawal' in front of the public" while no real withdrawal is being proposed and Solomon cites IPS' Phylis Bennis on yesterday's House amendment regarding permanent bases in Iraq, "The bill states an important principle opposing the 'establishment' of new bases in Iraq and 'not to exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq.' But it is limited in several ways. It prohibits only those bases which are acknowledged to be for the purpose of permanently stationing U.S. troops in Iraq; therefore any base constructed for temporarily stationing troops, or rotating troops, or anything less than an officially permanent deployment, would still be accepted. Further, the bill says nothing about the need to decommission the existing U.S. bases already built in Iraq; it only prohibits 'establishing' military installations, implying only new ones would be prohibited."
Meanwhile the press corps are in a frenzy over a gaggle where White House flack Tony Snow confirmed that, grab the tissues, Bully Boy will host new UK prime minister Gordon Brown at Camp David.  A two day meeting -- Sunday and Monday!  And "they'll have a dinner" after Brown arrives Sunday.  They'll take meeting "the following day."  Of course, it's really not news since it's been in the British papers for days but let's all pretend and pretend that Tony Snow wasn't short on specifics, "This will be their first meeting" . . . well "at least here in the States" . . . "since Mr. Brown has become Prime Minister."  Snow was probably closer to reality when he noted that the two would cover "sort of the predictable topics".
In other "feel good" news, Richard A. Oppel Jr and Qais Mizher (New York Times) gush excitedly over a soccer game (one that is apparently so important, the paper front pages an AFP photo by Ali Yussef of boys and men running around in a frenzy) including two paragraphs on the fact that at least 50 Iraqis DIED while offering 17 paragraphs about the games and 'reactions' which the reporters didn't actually observe.  But why should at least 50 dead interfere with selling 'good news' and letting alleged reporters grab their moment to play "Boys will be boys"?
Left out of their mouth breathing coverage are any women and why bother there?  Why bother intruding on a jock moment with some actual reality?  As IRIN has noted, women activists in Iraq are under attack and receiving no support from the US and WFO's Haifaa Nour explains, "I know my life is under threat and I might be killed at any time especially for refusing to wear a veil or other traditional clothes, but if I do so, I will just be abetting the extremists."  But the jock boys are too busy tearing off their shirts, beating their sunken chests and pounding away on the keyboards to note any of that reality.  The jock boys also miss out on what some see as a telling bit of information.  Angeel Hussein (Telegraph of London) observes, "American attempts to co-opt Iraqi insurgents in Baghdad have suffered a set back after Sunni and Shia Muslim militants in a key district of the city forged an alliance against United States forces. . . . the al-Girtani tribe reached across Iraq's sectarian divide, in what is believed to be the first partnership of its kind. 'We fought the Shia because of pressure from al-Qa'eda,' said Turki al-Girtani, the tribe leader. 'Now after they were beaten we have to refocus on the real enemy, which is the US army'."  Rah, rah, boys of the New York Times, rah, rah!
The BBC reports on the conference in Jordan to explore the Iraqi refugee crisis (4 million refugees when internally and externally displaced are counted) and notes the UN estimates 50,000 Iraqi refugees are being created each month.  The CBC notes that Jordan has an estimated 750,000 Iraqi refugees and that they are asking for help.  Voices in the Wilderness Kathy Kelly (CounterPunch) observes, "The U.S. could direct the amount of money spent on just six hours of the war in Iraq and fully meet the UNHCR request to assist millions of people who have barely survived this U.S. 'war of choice'."  In other news of money spent or not spent, James Glanz (New York Times) continues to report on the contract waste in Iraq, noting today, "One of the largest American contractors working in Iraq, Bechtel National, met its original objectives on fewer than half of the projects it received as part of a $1.8 billion reconstruction contract, while most of the rest were canceled, reduced in scope or never completed as designed, federal investigators have found in a report released yesterday."  [Glanz' article appears on A6 within the paper and has no 'cheery' photo illustrating the paper's front page.]
Despite the rah-rah over a sports match, violence continued in Iraq today including in the land of the 'crackdown' Baghdad.  CBS and AP report on a Baghdad car bombing that claimed the lives of at least 21 (at least sixty wounded) and left smoke billowing "into the sky after the thunderous explosion" while "nine cars burned" as well as a three story building.  Paul Tait (Reuters) reports the death toll has climbed to at least 25 with at least 115 wounded and that the death toll is expected to climb while describing the scene, "Bodies lay strewn around the street after the blast, which smashed three buildings into piles of masonry and concrete. It was at least the fourth to hit the predominantly Shi'ite district of Karrada this week."
In other violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi  (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing that claimed 4 lives in the south, one in the west that claimed 6 lives (including an Iraqi soldier), a Hilla bombing that claimed 7 lives (five of which were police officer),  Reuters notes mortar attacks in Mosul that claimed 1 life and left seven wounded.
Laith Hammoudi  (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 police officers were killed in Tikrit "while chasing gunmen" and the Karrada shooting death of Abdul Satar Abdul Jabar who had been "a general manager in the ministry of housing and rebuilding."  Reuters notes three police officers shot dead in Yarubiya.
Laith Hammoudi  (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 20 corpses discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes two corpses discovered in Latifiya ("blindfolded, handcuffed and riddled with bullets").
Today the US military announced: "One MNC-I Soldier was killed when an improvised explosive device detonated during clearing operations in Baghdad July 24." That death took place two days ago and was announced today. And they announced: "A Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West died July 22 in a non-combat related incident in Al Anbar Province."  That death took place four days ago and was announced today.  And they announced: "A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier was killed during a small arms fire engagement in a southern section of the Iraqi capital July 25."  That death took place one day ago.  And they announced: "Three Marines and one Sailor assigned to Multi National Force-West died July 24 while conducting combat operations in Diyala Province."  Those deaths took place two days ago and were announced today.  Before someone wants to harp on "time differences" all announcements are coming out of Baghdad.  Also note that this is seven deaths and not, as so many in the press are reporting, five deaths.  It's easy to be confused with the MNF's new pattern of delaying death announcements -- but the press isn't commenting on that either.  The totals currently at ICCC are 3645 US service members killed in the illegal war since it started with 66 for the month thus far.
Meanwhile Svea Herbst-Bayliss (Reuters) reports that the parents of Jeffrey Lucey have filed a federal lawsuit against the US government over the suicide of their son "in his parents' Massachusetts basement less than a year after returning home from fighting during the invasion of Iraq in 2003" with the father, Kevin Lucey, maintaining, "The government is guilty of not taking care of the troops after they come home."
Today, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) interviewed Iraqi Nesreen (last name withheld) and Brooklyn teacher Bruce Wallace about their project to dispell "the other" and bridge the physical distance between Iraqi and US students.  From the broadcast:
AMY GOODMAN: Nesreen, let's begin with you. Talk about the situation in Baghdad, what it's like for you to teach, for your kids to go to school.
NESREEN: Well, everything is difficult in Baghdad. Me, as a teacher, when I go to school, it is hard to get to my school, simply because the American troops are there in the streets, and they sometimes close all the streets or sometimes they are stuck or stop in the streets to -- you know, it's a kind of delay there will be for going to school, and looking for landmines or trying to attack some people, some Iraqi people, looking for insurgents.
And on my way to school, I saw many, many bad things, such as dead bodies or sometimes the random shooting all of a sudden started. And when I go to a school, sometimes I find students and sometimes very few students and sometimes no students.
JUAN GONZALEZ: In terms of the -- the images that we see here, obviously, in the United States, when they are presented, are of constant bombings that occur on an almost daily basis. On a day-to-day level for your students, what is life like? Does that violence -- is it there constantly or is it once in a while?
NESREEN: Constantly. Yeah, because, you know, the situation is very, very difficult right there in the school. Some of my students stopped coming to school, because their parents were threatened or family is threatened, some of them afraid to come to school because of the bad situation in the streets or afraid of kidnapping, things like that.
[. . .]
AMY GOODMAN: How about your kids in the Brooklyn school? We asked Nesreen about her girls. What about the effect of this email exchange with your kids? How old are they?
BRUCE WALLACE: They're high school students in Brooklyn, so they are between twelve and eighteen years old. For them, it was partly an awakening of knowledge, and for myself also. I have a few college degrees. I went up to the Master's level. I knew nothing about Iraq. I had to look for it on the map. I knew nothing about the culture, nothing about the people. For me, it was an awakening, and for my students also. I remember one email that said, "Oh, you hear Jay-Z in Baghdad?" We just had no idea of who these people were, and little by little learned to understand them as people very much like ourselves. And that was a very powerful thing for the students.
No front page photo on the New York Times of that.
Finally, in political news, CBS and AP report, "Iraq's Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi's office said the moderate Sunni leader had met with U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker on Wednesday to discuss his political bloc's objections to the leadership of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The meeting occurred on the same day al-Hashemi's Iraqi Accordance Front suspended membership in the government, a bid that appeared timed to deepen disenchantment in Washington with the Shiite prime minister's faltering leadership."  Things get worse for the puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki but, by all means, let's all focus on a soccer game. 

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