Friday, February 08, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Friday, Feburary 8, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, Andy Sullivan loves John McCain and lies for him, will al-Sadr's cease-fire/truce hold when they're praying in some regions for it to end, Americans say "Save the economy by pulling out of Iraq," and more.
Starting with war resistance, Krystalline Kraus (The Rabble) traces the historical support Canada has provided to war resisters:
According to Lee Zaslofsky, a key organizer for the War Resisters Support Campaign and a Vietnam resister himself, he believes that Canada has a certain historical legacy to live up to by accepting war resisters.       
It was Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and the Liberal Party who opened Canada's doors during the Vietnam war to thousands of Americans war resisters, who were often motivated by the same feeling of objection to an unjust and illegal war.    
"Of course, Canada's legacy extends back further to the [American] Civil War and before that when slaves came north via the underground railroad, and even before that with the United Empire Loyalists, so there is sort of a Canadian tradition of welcoming dissenters from the United States and this is another part of that," Zaslofsky explains.         
With the Canadian Supreme Court refusing to hear appeals on this issue in November, the country's Parliament remains the best hope for safe harbor war resisters may have.  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.
In the United States, a new poll may cause a stir.  Jeannine Aversa (AP) reports that Americans surveyed by AP and Ipsos feel "The way to get the country out of recession -- and most people think we're in one -- is to get the country out of Iraq" and "Pulling out of the war ranked first among proposed remedies in the survey, followed by spending more on domestic programs, cutting taxes and, at the bottom end, giving rebates to poor people in hopes they'll spend the economy into recovery."  The number saying ending the illegal war would pull the United States out a recession was 43% and included respondent Hilda Sanchez who declares, "Let's stop paying for this war.  There are a lot of people who are struggling.  We can use the money to pay for medical care and help people who were put out of their homes."  [Marin of error on the poll was plus/minus 3/1%.]
In Iraq, a cease-fire/truce between the US military and Moqtada al-Sadr is close to expiring.  Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) reports that yesterday a raid conducted by US soldiers, with Iraqi support, was conducted in "the Shia distrcit of Sadr City" utilizing Humvees and helicopters to arrest 16 (one of which would die in 'custody') and doing so over the objections of local Iraqis such as Abu Sajjad who declares that the US military "detained people who are neutral and educated people.  They care only about religion.  They will never be witht he military wing."  al-Sadr has issued a statement for all followers to continue the truce/cease-fire at present.  Lebanon's The Daily Star notes a "report by the International Crisis Group think tank said the respite offered by the cease-fire was 'exceedingly frail' and that Sadrists -- many of whom complain they are targeted by security forces -- remain extremely powerful" and offers this description of the US military incursion into a civilian neighborhood yesterday: "Police and residents said that US soldiers in humvees, backed by helicopters, sealed off a block of the neighborhood and raided four house.  The front-door lock on one of the houses was shattered by gunfire, and 22-year-old Arkan Abid Ali was shot in the chest and wounded.  Diaa Shakir, 20, said he heard gunfire coming from inside houses US soldiers had entered, as he watched the operation from the window of his home nearby."  The paper also notes that the military assualt on a civilian area left two women injured as well as an elderly person.  Though the 16 arrested (that's counting the one who was reported to have died in US 'custody') have not been identified by name, the BBC runs with the US military command's boast that one of the 16 may be "a suspected leader of a Shia militia group allegedly backed by Iran." AP notes the toll from the assualt as 1 Iraqi who died in US custody, 1 Iraqi woman shot (but "treated and released"), "two women and an elderly man also had been wounded and tkane to a hospital, where one of them had died."  Lauren Frayer (AP) explains that in Kufa today, prayers included condemning "the recent arrests and accused Iraqi officials of sectarian bias" quoting Sheik Abdul Hadi al-Karbalaei who believes the truce/cease-fire is leaving them vulnerable, "For the past six months there have been non-stop detentions of al-Sadr followers, day and night."  Those who would like or require audio can refer to Jim Lehrer's News Summary (PBS) from The NewsHour which briefly includes the incident and also notes:
In Iraq, the US military announced an American soldier died Wednesday in a roadside bombing.  There have been eight U.S. deaths so far this month.  More than 3,950 Americans have died in Iraq since the war began.
In the New York Times today, Alissa J. Rubin leaves out the total but makes a similar claim re: 1 death announced.  Repeating from yesterday's snapshot:
Today the US military announced [PDF format warning]: "A Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldier was killed when the Soldier's vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device in western Baghdad Feb. 6."  As noted this morning: "The ICCC total since the start of the illegal war for US service members killed while serving in Iraq is 3950 with 6 for the month. 50 away from the 4,000 mark but since Ted Koppel stepped down from Nightline does the media -- big or small -- even bother to let those numbers register?"  The numbers have gone up -- due to DoD namings, not M-NF announcements. Currently the total is 3952 since the start of the illegal war and 8 for the month thus far.  On the 7th day of the month, the number of US service members who have died in the illegal war this month is 8. 
The US military wasn't eager for the deaths to be widely noted (AEB the fact that M-NF didn't make the announcements) but they're eager for everyone to know something else.  Amit R. Paley (Washington Post) notes the US military is stating that al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia is instructing its followers to 'play nice' out of concern that potential Sunni allies might be turned off and Paley speaks with a man named Riyadh al-Ogaidi whom is identified by the paper as a senior leader of the group who claims, "The Americans have not defeated us, but the turnaround of the Sunnis against us had made us lose a lot and suffer very painfully" and also asserts that the Iraqi membership accounted for 12,000 last year but has fallen "to about 3,500 today."
In political news, Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) reports that Thursday Iraq's "Parliament again deferred a vote on the budget of Thursday as political blocs argued about how to divide financing among the provinces, but legislators did make headway toward approving a law that would outline provincial powers. . . . The debate on Iraq's 2008 budget, which was supposed to have been resolved with a vote in December, has revolved around how much of the money to allocate to the Kurds and whether the central government will pay the costs of the pesh merga soldiers, the Kurdish militia.  Lawmakers said Thursday that the Planning Ministry had collected date showing that Kurdistan had 14 percent to 15 percent of Iraq's population, and that it should get that share of the nonfederal part of the budget."  Along with deferring a vote -- on the 2008 budget, the 2008 budget -- they also had a walk out.  Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times via San Francisco Chronicle) reports the walk out took place "to protest parts of a draft law that would lay out rules for provincial elections later this year, marking another potential setback for U.S.-backed proposals to ease Iraq's sectarian rifts.  The walkout postponed a vote on the measure to redistribute power in Iraq."
"The delay in the budget is harming everyone," stated Adel Abdel-Mehdi, Iraq's Shi'ite vice president according to Lebanon's The Daily Star which also notes that legislation put on hold also included a bill "that would release thousands of mainly Sunni Arabs from Iraqi jails . . . The law that would free prisoners who have not been charged with or convicted of major crimes, like murder or treason, is also seen as a step toward reconciliation because most of the 23,000 people held in Iraqi jails are Sunni Arabs" and this is among the legislative demands that the Sunni Accordance Front made before walking out of  puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki's cabinet.
In some of today's reported violence . . .  
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad mortar attack.  Reuters notes that yesterday people in police uniforms conducted a home invasion in Baquba, shot dead 5 people and then exploded the home and today a Hawija car bombing injured two police officers.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 person and 1 police officer in Anbar Province following a clash with unknown assailants and, last night in Baghdad, the "Head of Sahwa," was shot dead in Baghdad (two bodyguards of the 'Awakening' Council chiefton were also injured). Reuters notes a college student was shot dead in Mosul.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 4 Christian missionaries ("with the Norwegian Churches Organization") were kidnapped last night in Basra.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 corpses discovered in Baghdad.
Today the US State Department issued "Background Notes: Iraq" which contained many amusing 'interpretations' but we'll note this section:
The focus of United States policy in Iraq remains on helping the Iraqi people build a constitutional, representative government that respects the rights of all Iraqis and has security forces capable of maintaining order and preventing the country from becoming a safe haven for terrorists and foreign fighters. The ultimate goal is an Iraq that is peaceful, united, stable, democratic, and secure, with institutions capable of providing just governance and security for all Iraqis and is an ally in the war against terrorism. U.S. forces remain in Iraq (under a UN Security Council mandate) as part of the Multi-National Force-Iraq to assist the Government of Iraq in training its security forces, as well as to work in partnership with the Government of Iraq to combat forces that seek to derail Iraq's progression toward full democracy. The U.S. Government is carrying out a multibillion-dollar program to assist in the reconstruction of Iraq.
"Under a UN Security Council mandate" is a good time to again note the treaty that the Bully Boy is attempting to prepare with Nouri al-Maliki -- without US Congressional consent (a violation of the US Constitution) or the Iraqi Parliament's consent (ditto).  As noted in Wednesday's snapshot, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Stafff Michael G. Mullen went before the US Senate's Armed Service Committee on Wednesday to beg for even more money and claimed that there was no interest in the permanent bases being established in Iraq or that the treaty (neither used that term) didn't call for them.  Yesterday, Peter Spiegel (Los Angeles Times) covered the Wednesday hearing as well as the Wednesday House Armed Service Committee hearing, noting that "Gates denied Wednesday that the Bush administration was seeking a treaty with Iraq that would require long-term secuirty commitments forcing future U.S. presidents to continue sending troops.  Instead, Gates told lawmakers, a new agreement with Baghdad would give the U.S. military continuing legal authority to operate in Iraq, much like the current United Nations resolutions, which expire at the end of the year."  Why not simply renew the resolution isn't dealt with.  At the end of 2006, al-Maliki by-passed the Parliament and the Iraqi Constitution by renewing it all on his own.  Though the Constitution makes clear he does not have the power to do that, the Parliament passed legislation which they hoped would prevent that from taking place agian.  Instead, al-Maliki went around them again.  It needs to be noted that the United Nations was aware of that and should have rejected the renewal (which would legally mean US forces could not be in Iraq) .  Because Parliament is even angrier at al-Maliki this time and because Bully Boy's reign at the White House will come to a close next January, the two are cooking up a scheme that by-passes the United Nations, both countries' Constitutions and both countries' legislative bodies.  As Spiegel notes, "Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York has made the proposed agreement an issue in her presidential campaign, accusing the administration of seeking to tie the hands of the next president by committing to Iraq's protection with U.S. forces"  and that to Gates denial that this is a "treaty," "Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, has countered that the Iraqi foreign minister has termed the agreement a treaty and that, under the U.S. Constitution, Congress is required to ratify any treaty that provides such security guarantees."  Charlie Savage (Boston Globe) interpreted the Senate Committee hearing to mean that the White House "is backing off its unprecedented plans to commit the US military to defending Iraq's security for years to come without submitting the agreement to a vote in Congress" citing Gates' testimony after Gates first attempted to debate what qualified for a treaty.
Staying with the US, Andy Sullivan (Reuters) reports that US Senator John McCain ("his victory as Republican nominee for the U.S. presidency virtually assured"????) has "turned his sights on his Democratic challengers" today claiming that "they were weak on national security and their Iraq stance would hand al Qaeda a victory."  Senator Insane is a little slow on the draw -- possibly due to age? -- and Sullivan misses a lot himself.  Sullivan goes on to quote a statement by US Senator Barack Obama (singing the same song he always sings and has it gotten old: "On the most important foreign policy decision in perhaps a generation, I strongly believe John McCain got it wrong") but seems to miss Hillary Clinton.
Sullivan forgets in his ENTIRE article is a sitting US senator and not just "former first lady" and a presidential contender.  It's cute the way he also refuses to quote Clinton's statements.  But Sullivan IS WRONG.  Bambi may or may not have 'fired back' today.  Hillary Clinton raised the issue yesterday. 
Get it straight, McCain didn't lay down a 'marker' -- a mythical narrative to paint him as a 'leader.'  Perry Bacon Jr. (Washington Post), Julie Bosman (New York Times) and, most important to this community, our own Kat noted that Hillary laid down the marker yesterday declaring, "I have the greatest respect for my friend and my colleague Senator McCain. But I believe that he offers more of the same, more of the same economic policies, more of the same military policies in Iraq."  Reuters needs to figure out (A) how Sullivan is so grossly uninformed that he's not aware of that and today paints Hillary as responding to McCain's 'leadership' and how Sullivan manages to credit Barack Obama as a US Senator when he's only been that since Jan. 2005 but Hillary Clinton, a US Senator since Jan. 2001, is just "former first lady." Reuters really needs to figure that out -- especially since the press has a long history of bending over backwards in favor of Senator Crazy, the Showboat Express.  Kat's finishing her explanation tonight (on the "She's boxed someone in" via the statemtns) tonight, just FYI.  We (KatAva and myself) heard that (Hillary's statement) on NPR yesterday evening but I'm not seeing any article of it online (and it may have been local news and not the national news feed).  Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) takes a look at McCain's public statements and winds down noting, "Now he espouses the belief that the U.S. can stabilize regions -- with enough troops.  The lesson of Vietnam and Iraq, he said in a May 2007 speech, is that 'we must never again launch a military operation with too few troops to complete the mission and build a secure, stable and democratic peace.  When we fight a war, we must fight to win'."  That is a revisionary take on Vietnam.  And it's one that avoids issues such as legalities and treaties.  Senator Crazy, despite Andy Sullivan's mad crush from him, is not yet the GOP presidential candidate and may not yet become it.  Again, Reuters needs to take a serious look at how that nonsense ran to begin with.
Tonight on Bill Moyers Journalthe program looks at viewers recommendations for what book the next president of the United States should take to the White House.  Among the books noted thus far by viewers at the show's blog are Anthony Arnove's IRAQ: The Logic of Withdrawal and Naomi Klein's  The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism.
Lastly.  In DC today, at the US State Dept, this question was asked, "I wondered if you wanted to comment on a memo that was sent by a former contractor at the U.S. Embassy, Manuel Miranda, to Ambassador Crocker at the U.S. -- a former contractor at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. And he, in this memo, complains that the Foreign Service is not competent to do the job that they have undertaken in Iraq. He talks a lot about how Foreign Service officers do not have enough management experience so that they're not equipped to management programs, hundreds of millions of funds and the capital assets needed to help the Government of Iraq to stand up. So do you have any comment on that?"
The State Dept's deputy spokesperson Tom Casey responded by first attempting to make a joke of it ("Yeah, I guess he needs to tell us how he really feels") and then declaring, "Look, Mr. Miranda, was, as you note, a 3161 -- that's a contracting employee -- in Iraq, I guess, for about -- I guess for about a year. Obviously, he's expressing his own views and he's entitled to his opinions.  What I can tell you is that you've heard from the President, Secretary Rice and many others about the job that Ryan Crocker is doing as the U.S. Ambassador to Baghdad. We think he and his team are doing a tremendous job" blah, blah, blah.

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