Monday, January 07, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Monday, January 7, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths over the weekend and also 'clarifies' deaths in December, Democratic presidential candidates rediscover the illegal war, and more.
Starting with war resistance.  Urar reposts the Freedom Socialist Party's 2008 outline and summary which notes, But, as we enter the eighth year of the new millennium, opportunities exist to fight back and to make real change!  To borrow from the Asian Zodiac, the coming Year of the Rat will be a time of hard work and constant activity."  FSP applies that to the ability to "build on our victories in 2007 some of them tangible, some of them gains in consciousness" and notes, "Lt. Ehren Watada is a bright voice among GI resisters and their families who are telling the military that it's immoral and illegal to fight in Iraq."  This time last year, Lance Holter's essay on Watada was published at Peace Corps Online:
I learned about the courage of conviction last week when I meat (as a guest during a family dinner in Honolulu) with a courageous young American patriot.  A leader who lives by example.  An individual, who out of a decision of moral conscience, refuses to participate in a war that he believes (after much personal research) violates the U.S. Constitution, Geneva accords, Nuremberg principals, and the United Nations Charter. 
First Lieutenant Ehren Watada, a 28 year old U.S. Army artillery officer from Hawaii, has become the first active duty military officer publicly to oppose the war in Iraq.  As a result of his act of conscience and challenging what we now know about the war in Iraq, Lt. Watada is facing military court martial at Ft. Lewis Washington this February 5, 2007. 
[. . .] 
Lt. Watada shared the following with me at our dinner, "I'm trying to send out to the American people of this country a message that the responsibility of ending this illegal and immoral war lies with the people of this country and holding their leader accountable because if they don't do anything nothing is going to happen."
Bringing it up to date since then, Monday, February 5, 2007, Watada's court-martial began. It continued on Tuesday when the prosecution argued their case. Wednesday the seventh, Watada was to take the stand in his semi-defense.Over defense objection, Judge Toilet ruled a mistrial thus ending the court-martial.  As legal experts such as National Lawyers Guild president Marjorie Cohn immediately pointed out, Judge Toilet's ruling over defense objection meant that the Constitutional provision against double-jeopardy should prevent another court-martial.  Last year, November 8th Judge Benjamin Settle, a US District Court judge, put Head's planned court-martial on hold where it currently remains.  Watada's service contract ended in December 2006.  He continues to report for assignments on base.  The military should have released him long ago.  He has now been extended  over a year just to court-martial him.  Only in a demented mind does the continued extension make sense. 
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).

In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers.
In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.

March 13th through 16th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation. 
We'll come back to IVAW later in the snapshot.  Over the weekend, Iraq sometimes made the news.  On Saturday, the New York Times managed to 'cover' the ongoing illegal war by ignoring it.  The same morning, CNN reported:, "Two U.S. soldiers who died last month in Iraq were apparently shot to death by an Iraqi soldier during a combined U.S. and Iraqi Army operation, the U.S. military said."  The two killed were Rowdy Inman and Benjamin Portell and we'll come back to Inman in a moment.  Sunday, Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Stephen Farrell (New York Times) covered the topic quoting that the US military's December statement that "small arms fire during dismounted combat operations" despite the fact that the suspect "tried to flee, but he was apprehended after being identified by other Iraqi soldiers" which tells you that even when the release was put out on the December 26th deaths, it was known what had happened.  On Saturday, the US military released another statement -- repeating ON SATURDAY -- and it noted, "Two US Soldiers killed during a combined Iraqi Army and CF operation in Ninewah province on Dec. 26, were allegedly shot by an Iraqi Soldier.  For reasons that are as yet unknown, at least one Iraqi Army Soldier allegedly opened fire killing Capt. Rowdy Inman and Sgt. Benjamin Portell, both of whom were assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment."  That statement was released on Saturday.
Why stress Saturday repeatedly?  Though the Times didn't tell you, Friday was rather significant: the memorial for Rowdy Inman.  Amanda Kim Stairrett (Killeen Daily Herald) reports on the service at the Harper-Talasek Funeral Home in Killen, Texas attended by his widow Shannon and their children Casey, Gary and Keeley, his parents Ann Denny and Tony Inman "and numerous friends and relatives . . . who filled the standing-room-only funeral home."  It was 'nice' of the military brass to play clean up the day after the memorial service -- on an incident they knew about from the start.  Oh, they knew, the family knew.  Really?  Based on what?  Louis Median (The Bakersfield California) reports, "The friends and family of Sgt. Benjamin B. Portell learned the shocking details of the decorated soldier's death only hours after his moving funeral.  His family received word late Friday night about an Iraqi soldier's betrayal of Portell's patrol, according to the Rev. Brian Murphy, executive pastor of RiverLakes Community Church where Portell worshipped."  His widow Michelle, his parents Susan and Matt Portell found out after Friday's funeral service.  After.
On December 26th, the US military knew how Inman and Portell had died.  Parents, surviving spouses and other loved ones have been repeatedly lied to by the US military and every time supposedly it won't happen again.  It keeps happening.  The realities they learned after the services should have been passed on to them before.  This is really basic, on the 26th both men are shot dead.  The US military has a suspect in custody.  At the earliest, the families learn what happened on the evening or night of Friday, January 4th, after the services for both men have taken place.
Over the weekend, at least 18 corpses were discovered in Baghdad alone.  The US military announced in a Saturday military press release: "A Multi-National Division – North Soldier died from injuries sustained from an improvised explosive device detonation near his vehicle while conducting operations in Diyala Province, Jan. 5."  On Sunday [PDF format warning], they announced, "A Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldier was killed and three others wounded when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle during combat operations in southern Baghdad on Jan. 6."   Among the non-stop violence reported was the Sunday Baghdad assassination of Sheik Ismael Abass who wanted to start an 'Awakening' Council and Solomon Moore and Mudhafer al-Husaini (New York Times) reported today on the Sunday Baquba assassination of Sheik Dhari Mandeel -- 'Awakening' Council leader in the region (the attack also resulted in his wife's death and the kidnapping of 10 people).  Also on Sunday, Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reported a Baghdad bombing in which a bomber killed his or herself outside the Iraqi Unity Association and also killed 3 Iraqi soldiers and 1 civilian.  That one bombing (there were many others) received more attention from the media than any of the other many incidents of violence taking place over the weekend.  And Hussein Kadhim reported many other incidents of violence.  Very few others can make that claim.  They can claim, unlike Kadhim, to have echoed and rewritten the US military press release (including the stressing of 'heorics').  Providing some common sense,  Amit R. Paley (Washington Post) pointed out that various figures have been given for the death toll of Iraqis from the Baghdad bombing Sunday (as little as three people, as many as nine) and he also noted Sunday's bombings of Christian structures in Mosul: "Two churches, a convent and an orphanage were damaged, the officials said, but no one was injured, in large part because so many Christians have fled the city after repeated threats against them since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion."  Jamie Gumbrecht and Hussein Khadim (McClatchy Newspapers) inform that "five people from one family were injured" in the Mosul bombings.
On Saturday, Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) noted life for US civilians working in the Green Zone and observed, "Inside the Green Zone, fear replaced enthusiasm as mortar shells rained from the sky during 2006 and 2007, and many hours were spent inside concrete bunkers. Over the past several months, the attacks have largely stopped, except for a burst of two dozen shells on Thanksgiving, but the walls grew higher and civilian trips outside the wire became infrequent."  Well get in there money grubbers!  DeYoung notes that the money grubbers opened "no fewer than six bars, a disco, a cafe, two Chinese restaurants and an outdoor shopping arcade."  All 'necessary' projects -- life changing ones -- to be sure.  On Saturday, puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki returned to Iraq from England.  An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers (Inside Iraq) noted of the return, "but the strange thing is to have blocked streets having some people raising the prime minister's pictures in hands and shouting for his long live welcoming his coming back home to show off the people's love of their beloved prime minister while the real Iraqi people were in some other blocked streets which are blocked for security reasons as they heard or to have celebrated people of the coming of their prime minister.  The people in the blocked streets were upset to make them stuck without reaching their destination for no reasonable purpose, but for showing off a celebration or having the prime minister in Iraq. This thing reminds us of the former regime during Saddam's reign when that regime used to have demonstrations and celebrations of such kinds forcing people to be in streets to make the world see them trying to convince them that the government is from the people and for them. I think the Iraqi people are smart enough to know who made this small demonstration and for what reason. Also the Iraqi people fed up with celebrations and speeches having one thing to be achieved which is Iraq for Iraqis no more."  Solomon Moore and Mudhafer al-Husaini (New York Times) noted that "exhaustion" is the official explanation for al-Maliki's sudden departure from Baghdad weeks ago and, presumably, the puppet got himself some rest.
On Sunday, news broke of another arrest for a US military member who self-checked out.  Amie McLain (NBC2) reported on the Friday arrest of Yesenia Marengo-Angelino who was the second army soldier to be arrested in the Southwest Florida region in two months (Matthew Fewox preceded her).  As McLain observed, "According to the Army, soldiers are deserting their posts at the highest rate since 1980."  (Text and video at the link.) No word is reported on how either was arrested -- traffic stop, military 'tip,' what?
Violence continued today . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing that wounded one person when the bomb went off in "his car" with another person wounded the same way in a Baghdad bombing outside the Saj al Reef restaurant and another similar bombing in Baghdad that claimed 1 life and left three more wounded; a Baghdad bombing outside the Technology University claimed 3 lives and left sixteen people wounded; two Baghdad bombings that left one person wounded; a Baghdad bombing that left three people wounded; a Baquba mortar attack that wounded one police officer "and a member of Sahwa"; and a person exploded themselves and took the lives of 14 others (eighteen more were wounded) "near the information department inside the Sunni endowment" in Baghdad -- among the dead was "the leader of the Sahwa council Reyadh  Al Samarra'i".  Sabah al-Bazee (Reuters) reports a fire "at Iraq's largest" oil "refinery on Monday" in Baiji and "[a] Reuters cameraman at the complex said he saw at least one dead body" while local police say they are aware of three deaths and an engineer tells Reuters at least four people are dead.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports "at least eigh members of Sahwa council" were kidnapped in Baghdad while 8 people kidnapped in Kut over a month ago were released.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports one person shot dead in Buhorz village today (and "a husband and his wife and an Iraqi army soldier" shot dead last night outside of Kirkuk).  Reuters notes "a member of a neighbourhood patrol" shot dead in his carpentry shop in Samarra, a couple and their child were all shot dead outside Hawija and "a neighbourhood patrol volunteer" was shot dead in Latifiya.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 7 corpses discovered in Baghdad, five in Qara Kitta.  Reuters notes 2 corpses discovered in Mosul.
Turning to war crimes, Frida Berrigan (In These Times) reviews some of the best known War Crimes of the Iraq War and notes that a few rank and file have been convicted (many haven't even been charged, as Berrigan points out) but no one high in rank has suffered serious punishment.  Berringan points out that the Center for Constitutional Rights is pursuing war crimes on the part "of high-ranking U.S. officials" and that, "In March 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will convene new Winter Soldier hearings, modeled on the February 1971 meetings in a Detroit Howard Johnson's.  In the shadow of the My Lai massacre revelations, the hearings provided a platform to more than 125 Vietnam veterans to describe the atrocities they participated in and witnessed.  This effort could once again give the United States a chance to listen to soldiers and Marines as they break the silence, hold themselves and each other accountable and demand the same from the architects of the war." 
IVAW also attempted to be in New Hampshire for the debates over the weekend.  Carol Coakley (Gather) explains, "A contingent of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), and Mass. Peace Action activists from the Boston area went by bus and car to Manchester to drive home the peace message to the candidates.  An Edwards/peace supporting friend and my Kucinich/peace-supporting self drove up to join them.  After stopping by downtown Manchester and an Edwards rally on Elm St. and waving at the Kucinich bus that drove by, we headed up to St. Anselms College.  Approaching the College was a little like driving into Vegas at night.  The campus was buzzing with lights, people, and the media.  As you drove up the hill towards the 400 acre campus signs directed you to parking for ticket-bearing-audience members, the press, and demonstrators. The American Friends Service Committee, and various campaign supporters lined the snowy sidewalks and embankments.  Unbenounced to demonstrators with banners or signs over a certain size, they were not allowed on campus, so many AFSC and IVAW members stayed on the public road near the entrance."  The debates?  Glenn Thrush (Newsday) observes Iraq is back in the race for the White House following the debates with Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama being the main ones.  Thrush notes Bambi hid behind his campaign as usual while Hillary made her own comments publicly (not whispered to reporters), "You [Obama] gave a speech, and a very good speech, against the war in Iraq and . . . then you voted to [fund the war] you were against."
On the Democratic debate in New Hampshire, Katha Pollitt (And Another Thing, The Nation) probably sums it up better than any noting of the Democratic candidates, "But what really got them excited were the vague competing mantras of 'change' and 'experience.' Obama says he stands for change.  Edwards, siding with Obama against Clinton for some strategic reason too subtle for me to understand, says he stands for change too.  Hillary Clinton, who casts herself as the candidate of experience but actually uttered the word 'change' more often than the other candidates."  Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted, "One of the most heated moments of the debate came when Senator John Edwards teamed up with Senator Barack Obama and accused Senator Hillary Clinton of representing the status quo."  Ava and I (The Third Estate Sunday Review) found it interesting to see who, with Dennis Kucinich excluded, would go for the role of clown -- answer: Barack Obama and Bill Richardson.  Obama bombed but "Richardson provided one laugh-getter after another including, 'Well, I've been in hostage negotiations that are a lot more civil than this.' Possibly too much time has been spent with the lie that you learn everything you need to know in kindergarten? Certainly high school teaches its own lessons such as this one: The class clown rarely becomes the class president."  Pollitt offers, "Hillary Clinton was fiery and funny and bore no resemblance to the candidate relentless attacked in the media as rigid, incompetent, Machiavellian and screccy.  You can understand her obvious frustration with the ongoing lovefest for Obama: At one point she even compared his 'likeability' to that of George W. Bush.  In real life, Obama has made the same sort of compromises she herself has made.  As she pointed out, he said he'd vote against the Patriot Act, and then he voted for it.  He cast himself as the candidate who'd repair our bellicose relations with the world, and then talks about bombing Pakistan.  He talks about putting Republicans in his cabinet, as Bill Clinton did."  On the never ending lovefest for Bambi, Ralph Nader (at Common Dreams) examines the love-fest through the use of fiction [Nader has endorsed John Edwards for the Democratic primary] and demonstrates the hollow center of the Easter candy allowing "Obama" to snap at one point to a citizen calling for accountability, "You don't understand (testily), impeachment talk is just more of the same old Washington politics.  I stand for change.  No need to point fingers.  We are one people."  Meanwhile Missy Comley Beattie (at CounterPunch) attempts to make sense of the nonsense and notes Sy Hersh's laughable claim that the US' "only hope" for "a reconcislaition between the Muslim countries and the US" is Obama; concludes Comley Beattie, "It matters little to me that Barack Obama says he was against invading Iraq.  After all, he votes to continue funding it.  If this presidential candidate wanted to mend relations with Muslims, he could start by voting against additional war funding.  And he could say no to AIPCAC -- but this would be political suicide."  Of the GOP candidates, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) explained today, "In other campaign news, Republican Senator John McCain admitted he would be fine if the United States military stayed in Iraq for a hundred years.  McCain said 'We've been in Japan for 60 years.  We've been in South Korea 50 years or so. . .  As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed.  That's fine with me'."  Vote Insane! Vote John McCain!  In other news, Goodman noted that speculation continues that NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg will declare he is running for president as an independent candidate.  Friday, PBS'  Bill Moyers Journal  offered interviews with a GOP candidate for president and a Democratic one: Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich.  On the latter, as Ava and I noted, it's over and citing his 2004 endorsement of John Edwards in Iowa (as he did to Moyers) should only remind people that not only did he ignore the candidate most like him in 2008 (which would be Edwards) but in 2004 he ignored Howard Dean.  It's a pattern.  Also on PBS (beginning Friday), NOW with David Branccacio examined voter ID laws and mudslinging.  If you missed either broadcast, both Moyers and Branccacio stream video online, in addition Branccacio offers text excerpts while Moyers offers full transcripts and an audio only option (like Democracy Now!, Bill Moyers Journal is watch, listen or read).  Today on Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman offered the voices of three students working to get their candidates (Kucinich, Obama and Clinton) elected.  Lastly on US politics, next Sunday, January 13th, in the Green Party presidential debate in San Francisco (moderated by Cindy Sheehan) with Cynthia McKinney, Kent Mesplay, Jard Bell and Ralph Nader to participate.  The Green Party notes, "The first, and only, live debate between candidates on the Green Party's California ballot for President of the United States - featuring a former Democratic Party member of Congress, consumer protection icon, professor and environmental engineer - is scheduled here January 13, said John Morton of the Green Party Presidential Debate Committee."  The debate starts at two p.m., Herbst Theater in the Veterans Memorial Building on 401 Van Ness Avenue.

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