Friday, February 01, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Friday, February 1, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, a lesson should be used about tossing around the term "suicide bombers," the administration attempts to push back on two topics getting coverage and more.
Starting with war resistance.  Bethany Skyler James self-checked out of the US military and went to Canada.  Julia Johnson (The Charlatan) reports on James decision to go to Canada and writes, "James says she has official refugee status but because of the Nov. 15 Supreme Court decision not to hear an appeal from resisters Brandon Hughey and Jeremy Hinzman, currently no other resisters are allowed to gain refugee status."  The difference between Skyler and Hinzman and/or Hughey is that she is gay and was targeted with bullying and threats while serving and that may have factored into her case when she applied for refugee status.  She tells Johnson, "I was being treated inhumanely for being a lesbian.  [It was] the worst of the worst of the worst of gay bashing.  I have been sent hate letters.  People threatened to kill me." When she and a friend made it to Canada, she contacted the  War Resisters Support Campaign and she nows lives in Ottawa.
You can make your voice heard by the Canadian parliament which has the ability to pass legislation to grant war resisters the right to remain in Canada.  Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper ( -- that's pm at who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion ( -- that's Dion.S at who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua ( -- that's Bevilacqua.M at who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use.
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Chuck Wiley, 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, Clara 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. Dee Knight (Workers World) notes, "IVAW wants as many people as possible to attend the event. It is planning to provide live broadcasting of the sessions for those who cannot hear the testimony firsthand. 'We have been inspired by the tremendous support the movement has shown us,' IVAW says. 'We believe the success of Winter Soldier will ultimately depend on the support of our allies and the hard work of our members'."  As part of their fundraising efforts for the event, they are holding houseparties and a recent one in Boston featured both IVAW's Liam Madden and the incomprable Howard Zinn as speakers.
"Baghdad's fragile peace was shattered today when two women loaded with explosives blew up in crowded pet markets, killing at least 60 people and wounding scores more," reports Martin Fletcher (Times of London)Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reports: "Both markets are surrounded by concrete barriers to bar cars from entering, but with no one to search women at the entrance and exit checkpoints, the female bombers were able to slip in with explosive vests hidden under flowing coats, police said.  By Friday afternoon, U.S. and Iraqi military had surrounded the markets and were questioning witnesses, as people cleaned pools of blood from the pavement and swept up dead birds and destroyed pet carriers."  CNN maintains the female bombers were "mentally disabled" and "they were blown up by remote control" according to Iraqi Gen. Qasim Atta and places the death toll thus far at 98 with over two-hundred injured.  AFP observes, "The apparently coordinated attacks 20 minutes apart ended a relative lull in violence in the Iraqi capital and were the most lethal since August 1, when three car bombs killed more than 80 people."  Paul Tait and Aws Qusay (Reuters) quote eye witness to the Ghazil pet market bombing, Abu Haider, explaining, "I was right there at the scene when the blast happened.  It knocked me over.  When I managed to get up, I saw dozens had been killed and wounded."  On that second bombing, Stephen Farrell and Graham Bowley (New York Times) report that "army units sealed off the area and set up checkpoints following the exposion.  Bloodstained feathers mixed with melting sleet."  AFP describes scene of the pet market: "Some bodies were packed into bags and put in the back of police pick-up trucks.  Emergency workers sifted through the bomb-blackened garbage-strewn site in search of a wallet, a watch, a piece of paper -- anything that could help identify the unrecognisable corpses.  Bloodied identity cards, watches and sets of prayer beads were placed one after the other into a plastic box.  A mobile phone lay amid the wreckage, ringing incessantly; perhaps a relative trying desperately to reach a loved one caught up in the explosion."
Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) offers this background, "It was the fifth attack since June 2006 on the Ghazel pet market, and the second since November.  Both it and the bird bazaar are popular places for Iraqis to visit on Fridays, the Muslim day off." Camilla Hall (Bloomberg) provides this, "Baghdad's Al-Ghazal market was targeted previously on Nov. 23, when 13 people were killed and more than 22 wounded in an attack that also took place at the weekend.  On Aug. 1, three car bombings in Baghdad killed more than 80 people."  Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) offers concrete details about the pet market bomber "a woman wearing an explosive belt under an all covering, floor length coat".  AP reports US Secretary of State Condi Rice is calling the above "brutal" yet notice what she's not saying in any of her remarks including this: "It certainly underscores and affirms the decision of the Iraqi people that there is no political program here that is acceptable to a civilized society and that this is the most brutal and the most bankrupt of movements that would do this kind of thing."
What do the bombings "certainly underscore"?  That people need to stop using "suicide bombers" repeatedly.  In some cases, cars have been rigged but despite the fact that the press picked up upon that sometime ago, the term "suicide bomber" continues to be applied without any indication that any thought went into the 'reporting.'  We have said, and will continue to say, "a bomber" unless we're quoting.  Condi's trying to sell the illegal war, the press should take away a real lesson from the above: Everyone who explodes because of a bombing on their person, in their vehicle, etc. is not a "sucide bomber."  Despite the reality that the women were mentally challenged some reports are including Rice's remarks while still referring to the two women as "sucide bombers."  You can't have it both ways.  If they are mentally challenged -- and they appear to have been (one was known as the "crazy lady" in her area) -- then they were not "sucide bombers."
In other State Department news, they've announced a press briefing on the topic of Iraqi refugees for Monday featuring James Folely, Stewart Baker and Tony Edson.  Presumably to explain why the United States has still done so damn little (or maybe to explain why the few let over are being told "Get a job in six months or get lost") and since Baker is with the Homeland Security Dept, no doubt we'll have a 'security risk' assessment.
It's the first day of the month and a few will do their monthly reports even though the US military often waits a bit before nothing all the military fatalities.  Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "The U.S. death toll in Iraq increased in January, ending a four-month drop in casualties, and most of the deaths occurred outside Baghdad or the once-restive Anbar province, according to military statistics. In all, 38 American service members had been reported killed in January by Thursday evening, compared with 23 in December. Of those, 33 died from hostile action, but only nine of them in Baghdad or Anbar.
A total of 3,942 American service members have been killed in Iraq as of Thursday, according to, an independent Web site that tracks the statistics."  After Youssef filed, the number would be 39. At the Pentagon today "chief of staff or Multinational Corps-Iraq" Brig Gen Joseph Anderson spun wildly to the press, via videolink from Baghdad, in an attempt to stamp a happy face on the illegal war.  He wrongly claimed that there were only 170 "civilian casualities" in Baghdad for the month.  They like to define "civilian casualities" by not defining the term.  It is what they say it is.  He also 'bragged', "The        
security situation today is about the same as we experienced statistically in early 2005."
That's 'success' in their book -- cooking the numbers and then claiming that the levels are now what they were in 2005 -- as if 2005 was a year of peace or anything to pat one's own back over.
In other news for the month, Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports an update on the thugs of the Iraqi government who decided that female police officers shouldn't be allowed to carry guns (the next step would be: no female police officers), "Iraqi police officials have dropped plans to disarm policewomen and give their guns to male officers after an outcry from critics, who said the move was a sign of religious zealots' rising influence in Iraq."  However, despite that claim some are less than convinced and Susman quotes US General David Phillips declaring, "Even with the revocation order, we will have to watch very closely the actions taken in regards to the remaining female Iraqi police" which is backed up by a Najaf female police officer Hanan Jaafer who says "none of the roughly two dozen female officers posted at the shrine had guns or uniforms, even though they searched women and children entering the complex and faced threats from the increased use of female suicide bombers."  Increased use of female suicide bombers?  Today demonstrates more than ever the need for trained female police officers with as much authority as their male counterparts.
While the US installed thugs of al-Maliki's government (especially the Interior Ministry) do their damage, Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) reports the Kurds aren't feeling the US love they used to and that their "leverage appears to be declining".  Rubin offers a number of reasons including forcing a vote on Kirkuk (she misses her own paper's earlier report about how the Kurds are forcing Kurds into Kirkuck), the arming of Sunnis for hire (which also threatens the US installed Shi'ite thugs) but the clear irritant is buried in paragraph 19: Turkey.  The US has long declared the PKK a terrorist group and the fact that they haven't changed that designation and that Turkey has made incursions into the Kurdish region of Iraq (by land and air) has not played well with the Kurdish provisional government in northern Iraq.
Meanwhile the US is in damage control mode on the heals of two stories.  First up, Bully Boy and the end of the illegal war.  Michael Abramowitz (Washington Post) reports that Bully Boy bragged yesterday that "he would not be pressured into making further troop cuts in Iraq beyond the five combat brigades already scheduled to come home by the middle of the summer" which, Abramowitz notes are the latest in a round of remarks where the Whie House has signaled "that it may keep the number of troops in Iraq at roughly the same level they were before last year's buildup of U.S. forces, possibly through the end of Bush's presidency. Under existing plans, the levels are gradually falling about 5,000 troops a month, from roughly 160,000 to 130,000 by July -- or approximately where they stood before Bush sent reinforcements to Iraq seeking to curtail spiraling sectarian violence."  James Gerstenzang (Los Angeles Times) reports that Bully Boy gave the speech to a right-wing non-think tank on Thursday in Nevada and declared he wasn't worried about the "political right thing" to do -- or about international law.  Now comes the spin.  Andrew Gray (Reuters) notes that the chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff made a big show of pointing today to an interview General Davey Petraues gave to CNN Sunday and stating that neither Davey or US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker "have made any specific recommendations about future force levels in Iraq" and that Davey's "given no indication to anybody in the chain of command that" he's wanting to pause the drawdown of troops to nearly the level they were at before the escalation.  The second news was about Moqtada al-Sadr.  Michael Howard (Guardian of London) offers that al-Sadr is saying the cease-fire is over unless puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki prevents attacks on his followers, that the freeze was only for six months and that Jalal Talbani, Iraq's President, has expressed concerns, to General Davey, "asking him to recognise Sadr's initiative and urging American troops to halt their attacks on Sadr's supporters. In reply, Petraeus praised the anti-US Shia cleric, but said the troops would continue to target those who were apparently not obeying the cleric's orders." So at the Pentagon today, via video link, Brig Gen Joseph Anderson was questioned about al-Sadr by NPR's Guy Ruz who asked about whether "the continued reduction in violence over the coming months depend on Sadr's movement recommitting to its cease-fire pledge?"  [On NPR's Morning Edition today, before the press conference, Guy Ruz reported on the topic of drawdown and escalation noting that General Davey intends to speak in April -- possibly April Fool's Day and possibly dependent upon whether or not he doesn't earlier see his own shadow.] Anderson judged the freeze "clearly a help" and that the US military was in talks with al-Sadr regarding the continuing the freeze.  Pinned down about the lack of legislative advances (the whole point of the escalation was to create a 'zone' for the Iraqi government to act in), Anderson praised the 2007 provincial budgets -- because he can't praise the central government in Baghdad which still hasn't passed the 2008 budget -- and the de-de-Baathifcation bill which is not a "law" though he called it that.  In reality, the bill isn't moving and, as noted yesterday,  Tareq al-Hashemi, Iraq's Sunni Vice President (they also have a Shi'ite Vice President) declared it "unlikely" that the bill would become a law -- despite the fact that it is a White House designated "benchmark" and despite the fact that Anderson referenced it today and wrongly called it a "law."
Turning to some of the violence besides today's twin bombings . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a police officer wounded by gunfire in Samarra.  Reuters notes two police officers shot dead and four other people wounded by unknown assailants storming a bus in Kut and an Iraqi soldier shot dead in Samarra.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 corpses discovered today in Baghdad.
DOLORES HUERTA: Well, I believe that she's a person who has the experience that we need. I believe she has the courage, because she has, you know, taken risks like coming out for national healthcare when nobody else was doing that. She was also--just the fact that shes running for the presidency of the United States. So you've got the combination that we need for a president that can take, you know, as she has said often, to lead on the first day she gets inaugurated, because she's got the intelligence and the experience and the courage and the capability of running the country.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Dolores, as I'm sure you're aware, Ted Kennedy, I guess the icon of the Democratic Party in the Senate, this week came out in support of Barack Obama, and he immediately went to try to campaign among Latinos in California, I guess evoking especially the memory of Bobby Kennedy, who marched with Cesar and you and many of the farm workers in the 1960s. Your response to this effort by Ted Kennedy to convince Latinos to back Obama?

DOLORES HUERTA: Well, on the other hand, we have the endorsement of Bobby Kennedy, actually, Robert Kennedy's son. Bobby Kennedy, as you know, has been very active on the environment, and he had a beautiful piece at the--he, Kerry Kennedy, the head of the Robert Kennedy Foundation, Kathleen Kennedy, former lieutenant governor of Maryland--all of these are Robert's children. And I want to refer you to an LA Times editorial that they wrote of why they were supporting Hillary. And in that article, Bobby says he has worked with Hillary on the environment for fifteen years, and Kathleen has worked with Hillary for twenty-five years.
One of the things that, you know, they keep talking about, the progressive candidates, you know, Hillary Clinton voted against the nuclear waste dumping in Yucca Mountain in Nevada, while on the other hand Barack Obama actually took money from the company that was creating the nuclear waste and wanted to dump it in Nevada. So, you know, I think that that pretty much offsets Ted Kennedy's endorsement, because you've got Robert Kennedy's children--of course, the farm workers' union, we were much more closer to Robert, and these are the activists. These are the ones that are out there doing community work, and that they know what Hillary has done in terms of her long history in civil rights, in working for children, working for education. You know, so they know that she's the one that they feel is the best person to run for president.
[. . .]
DOLORES HUERTA: Yeah. There was a big issue, if you will recall, where we had a woman who--in Chicago, Elvira Arellano, who refused to be deported, and she was undocumented. She was in sanctuary for twelve months, for an entire year, right there in Chicago, where Obama lives. The people who did that campaign, these were the same ones that organized the big marches in Chicago, went to see Obama to get some support for Elvira Arellano. He not only refused to help them, but he didn't even bother to go see Elvira. I went from California four times to be there with her. We had a large delegation from Mexico from all the political parties that went to see Elvira. Five ambassadors, they all flew to Washington, D.C. to plead on her behalf. Obama never, never lifted a finger to help her, as he never did when we had two Latinos that had been unjustly incarcerated for a murder that they did not commit. Again, a big campaign to free these two young men from prison. They were ultimately freed. But when they went to see Senator Obama, he refused to help them.
I have been a civil rights activist like this all of my life, and I have been to Chicago many times for many different campaigns that the community there--the Latino community was there. I have, to this day, to meet Mr. Obama. I have never encountered him in any of these big campaigns that we have done in Chicago on different issues. And, as I say, I have never yet to meet the man. And so, I don't know about his--

AMY GOODMAN: Did Senator Clinton weigh in--Dolores Huerta, did Senator Clinton weigh in in either of those cases?

DOLORES HUERTA: Well, let me--yeah, let me just say this, that this is a--we're talking about Chicago. We're talking about the third largest Latino area outside of Mexico City, right?


DOLORES HUERTA: But Hillary doesn't live in Chicago. These people here actually went to see Obama, Senator Obama. So I don't believe that he has that kind of courage and that kind of judgment. Or let's say, is it judgment or is it wisdom or whatever? But he chose not to be associated with one of the biggest causes that we have in our community, the cause of Elvira Arellano, the cause of these two young men, where he could have stepped in. They were ultimately freed, by the way, but not with his help. So, I mean, I don't know--
While it was wonderful to see Huerta on the show, with Edwards out of the race, it was a given that Democracy Now! would have to start inviting on Clinton supporters.  See Ava and my "TV: Democracy Sometimes?" and Mike and Marcia will be blogging about this topic tonight at their sites.
In other programming news tonight (Friday) on PBS,  Bill Moyers Journal will interview US House Rep Henry Waxman who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform as part of an investigation by the program into government waste and abuse.  There is a promotional video for it posted at YouTube. And that's Friday nights in most PBS markets but some may air it (or reair it) over the weekend at different times.  Online, Bill Moyers Journal  streams video and audio and provides text -- accessible for all.  Also, NOW on PBS (which airs on Friday in most markets) has created "Adventures in Democracy Online" which is intended to be "a counter to traditional, ubiquitous election-themed programming centered around candidates, debates, polls, and punditry." It will focus on "Burning Questions," "Democracy Tookit" and "Election 2008 'Toon In."

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