Thursday, February 21, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, the British military announces wounded soldiers, the Iraqi refugee crisis continues, and more.
Starting with war resitance. Gina Hotta (Asia Times) writes today of James Yee, Antonio Taguba and war resister Lt. Ehren Watada noting, "The war in Iraq has thrust American soldiers of Asian ancestry into the limelight as no toher US conflict has ever done before." Of Watada, the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to the Iraq War, Hotta notes his "refusal to deploy to Iraq underscored the Bush administration's determination to go to war, with Truth being its first casualty. Watada argues that the President misled the public and that the reasons for going to war were based on false premises. Watada states that he will not fight an illegal war. He now faces a possible court martial. The stand Watada took remains a source of controversy. Yet support for him is strong, with a group of Asian American supporters driving several hundred miles to his trials in Washington State." Earlier this month Gregg K. Kakesako (The Honolulu Star Bulletin) offered an update on Watada, citing one of Watada's civilian attorneys, Ken Kagan (James Lobsenz is Watada's other civilian attorney) is cited explaining there is "No real News . . . since the federal judge issued a preliminary injuction in November prohibiting the Army from bringing Watada to a second court-martial. Watada's first court-martial, a year ago, ended in a mistrial." The mistrial was declared over the objection of defense counse. Kakesako notes, "Watada and his attorney claim that a second trial would violate his constitutional rights. U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle ruled on Nov. 8 that no court-martial will be held for Watada pending the outcome of his claim that it would violate his Fifth Amendment rights by trying him twice for the same charges." Whether or not double-jeopardy applies (it should apply, it attached when the February court-martial started) will be determined by the US Circuit Court for the Armed Forces and Kakesako concludes, "Watada's term of service in the military ended in December 2006, but the legal proceedings have prevented his discharge. He lives in Olympia, Wash. and continues to perform administrative duties at Fort Lewis, south of Seattle." Watada himself weighed in this month with "Is the Iraq War Illegal?" (Pacific Citizen) where he explains exactly why it is illegal:
Is the war illegal? Before answering this question, it is essential to divide up this conflict into: 1) the invasion and toppling of the former regime, and 2) the subsequent occupation of Iraq by American troops.
There can be no doubt that according to the UN Charter which forbids preventative wars and regime change, the invasion of Iraq was unlawful on its face. Is outlawing pre-emption fair? Absolutely - there is nothing that prohibits a nation from having a very strong defense. Moreover, nothing in the Charter prohibits a nation from retaliating after being attacked (which we were not as stated unequivocally and after-the-fact by the Bush Administration).
Ultimately, this law was established to protect the weak from the powerful, which left unaccountable, can invent any rationale for an invasion and occupation like Hitler did with Poland.
Next, is the occupation illegal? That would depend on who you ask. For supporters of continued involvement, the answer is no -- American troops are protecting us against international terrorism and the Iraqis have requested our help; we have a legal mandate granted by the same institution that we ignored and de-legitimized by invading in the first place.
On the other hand, if you ask the Iraqis themselves (who make up the vast majority of the anti-American insurgency and not Al Qaeda) - as a democratic people, they may have an entirely different answer.
[. . .]
I may not know much, but one thing is certain. Japanese American men and women did not sacrifice their lives and freedoms throughout history, so that today's leaders could invade and occupy another country, then strip the people of their democratic rights when it didn't suit their interests. To believe otherwise, is to bring dishonor upon their memory.
Watada is the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to the illegal war. Camilo Mejia is the first Iraq War veteran to refuse to return. Stephen Funk was the first non-officer (after the war was declared) to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. Jeremy Hinzman was the first war resister to go public about seeking asylum in Canada. In March of 2004, Brandon Hughey also went to Canada and he also went public. Hinzman and Hughey have repeatedly attempted to be granted asylum and repeatedly been denied. November 15th, Canada's Supreme Court refused to hear their cases. Today, Canada's Parliament remaining the best hope for safe harbor war resisters 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org -- that's pm at gc.ca) who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion (Dion.S@parl.gc.ca -- that's Dion.S at parl.gc.ca) who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua (Bevilacqua.M@parl.gc.ca -- that's Bevilacqua.M at parl.gc.ca) 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).
Meanwhile IVAW is organizing a March 2008 DC action:
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. IVAW's co-chair Adam Kokesh will, of course, be participating and he explains why at his site, "But out of a strong sense of duty, some of us are trying to put our experiences to use for a good cause. Some of us couldn't live with ourselves if weren't doing everything we could to bring our brothers and sisters home as soon as possible. The environment may be unking, but that is why I will be testifying to shooting at civilians as a result of changing Rules of Engagement, abuse of detainees, and desecration of Iraqi bodies. It won't be easy but it must be done. Some of the stories are things that are difficult to admit that I was a part of, but if one more veteran realizes that they are not alone because of my testimony it will be worth it."
In preparation of the March action, IVAW has posted a video online featuring three veterans. They also note the action will be carried over KPFA airwaves (Friday through Sunday) and available for streaming online via KPFA -- video will be streamed online from Thursday through Sunday via IVAW. They also note Chelsea Hover's (News 8 Austin) report "Fort Hood soldiers breaking the silence in war in Iraq" (text and video at link and at the IVAW homepage) which features Ronn Cantu, Selena Coppa, Hart Viges and Casey Porter. Porter explains, "We lost really good friends, really good leaders who died in Iraq. From my perspective, it didn't make any sense, we didn't accomplish anything, and I talked to a lot of other soldiers who feel the same way." That's Texas. North Carolina? Erin Callender (The News Observer) reports SDS and IVAW took part in an action today where "UNC-Chapel Hill students burned fake draft cards symbolizing their opposition to the war in Iraq" as part of a rally where IVAW's Jason Hurd spoke along with Iraqi-America Dahlia Wasfi ("Hurd and Wasfi will also speak tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Dey Hall.").
Meanwhile the rightwing Economist out of England notes of the Iraqi refugee crisis, "Whether they supported the American-led campaign to topple Saddam Hussein or denounced it, all rich countries now agree that the turmoil which engulfed Iraq after the war was a tragedy whose victims should be succoured. But by no means all wealthy countries are prepared to back up those compassionate sentiments with money or hospitality." However, the United High Commissioner for Refugees does praise "the Lebanese government for its decision to recognize thousands of Iraqi refugees who had been considered as illegal immigrants liable to detention. From the beginning of this week, Lebanon's Directorate General of the General Security will give Iraqis who have entered the country illegally or overstayed their visas three months to regularize their status. The decision will benefit thousands of Iraqi refugees in Lebanon and will result in the release of hundreds from detention. As of October last year, 584 Iraqis were being held in detention in Lebanon due to their irregular status." Ferry Biedermann (Financial Times of London) reports, "But the measures stop short of giving Iraqis special residence permits. Najla Chahda, director of Caritas' Migrant Centre in Beirut, said that the release and the grace period offered Iraqi refugees, 'a chance to feel a bit more comfortable'. She said it was the best they could hope for as long as Lebanon wasn't prepared to offer special status for refugees." IRIN notes, "Starting this week Lebanon's General Security intelligence body has given Iraqi asylum-seekers three months to regularise their status, which entails giving them residency and work permits that were previously denied. UNHCR spokeswoman Laure Chedrawi told IRIN none of the hundreds of Iraqi would-be refugees in Lebanese prisons for violating immigration rules had yet been released, but the administration process had started and the agency was waiting for a list from the General Security Directorate of all those who had served their sentences and were therefore eligible for the process." That's Lebanon. Syria? The BBC reports, "Despite all efforts to provide security in Iraq, large numbers of Iraqis are still fleeing the country, with about 1,000 reportedly crossing into Syria daily, where they join a population of more than one million. The refugees are not allowed to work legally in Syria, and many families whose money is used up face the difficult choice of living in poverty or returning home with no guarantees of safety." Syria is where Riverbend and her family decided to go and, in October, she wrote (Baghdad Burning), "It is estimated that there are at least 1.5 million Iraqis in Syria today. I believe it. Walking down the streets of Damascus, you can hear the Iraqi accent everywhere. There are areas like Geramana and Qudsiya that are packed full of Iraqi refugees. Syrians are few and far between in these areas. Even the public schools in the areas are full of Iraqi children. A cousin of mine is now attending a school in Qudsiya and his class is composed of 26 Iraqi children, and 5 Syrian children. It's beyond belief sometimes. Most of the families have nothing to live on beyond their savings which are quickly being depleted with rent and the costs of living." The other country with the largest concentration of Iraqi refugees is Jordan. In an effort to allow any Iraqi refugees who wanted to go home to be able to do so, the government was setting aside fines for those wanting to return to Iraq. IRIN reports, "Four days into the new rules, only a few dozen Iraqis gathered outside the Interior Ministry and relevant immigration offices to take advantage of the grace period" -- "rules" which also include "reducing by 50 percent visa fines for those who wish to remain in" Jordan and Jordanian-Iraqi Brotherhood Association's Shankal Qader is quoted stating that it's the latter option most Iraqis will chose due to the fact that, "The situation in Iraq does not encourage Iraqis to leave Jordan yet." Last week, UPI reported, "The Jordanian government said it would continue to support Iraqi refugees in Jordan despite them costing $2.2 billion over the past three years." As early as 2004, Jordan was receiving refugees from Iraq. In July of that year, NPR's Deborah Amos reported for Morning Edition: "The large asphalt parking lot a few miles outside of the center of the Jordanian capital is known as Iraqi Square. More than two dozen taxis with Iraqi license plates stand idle, doors wide open, while the Iraqi drivers drink small glasses of hot, sweet tea. They share complaints about the problems of picking up passengers on the Jordanian-Iraqi border: the long lines; the hours of security checks." At that point there were estimates of 300,000 to 600,000 Iraqis in Jordan. At the start of 2007, Carolyn Lochhead (San Francisco Chronicle) was reporting, "Jordan, a U.S. ally, has long accepted Arab refugees, and so has Syria's pan-Arabist dictatorship. The fear now is that both may close their borders. Pressure on Jordan, a country of just 6 million, is intense, with Iraqi refugees now accounting for 10 percent of its population -- the equivalent of 30 million landing on U.S. shores." Like thirty million arriving in the US. And how many have actually arrived?
The total number of Iraqi refugees accepted by the US in 2007 was 1,608. In the February 5th snapshot, the US State Department's laughable press confrence was noted. It featured Homeland Security's Senior Advisor to the Secretary on Iraqi Refugee Issues Lori Scialabba, The State Dept's Deputy Assistant for Consular Affairs Tony Edson, and the Senior Coordinator on Iraqi Refugee Issues Ambassador James Folely with a lot of excuses. CNN Elise Labott and Bloomberg News' Janice Zacharia had questions (and numbers) the State Department wasn't expecting which led to such claims by Foley as the State Dept had never said it would have 7,000 settled by the 2007 fiscal year. Finally, he offered "I came on board in September" (the end of the 2007 fiscal year) and that apparently means that he can't be updated on what's come before. Forget internal briefings, can't they even offer a shift change? May 30, 2007, AP was reporting, "The United States will soon begin admitting a bigger trickle of the more than 2 million refugees who have fled Iraq, acknowledging for the first time the country may never be safe for some who have helped the U.S. there. Since the war began in 2003, fewer than 800 Iraqi refugees have been admitted, angering critics who argued the United States is obligated to assist many more . . . Now, under enhanced screening measures aimed at weeding out potential terrorists -- announced this week by the Department of Homeland Security -- the administration plans to allow nearly 7,000 Iraqis to resettle in the United States by the end of September." Foley wants to offer the excuse that "I came on board in September" 2007 -- which should have been a time when the pledged 7,000 figure was being discussed at length due to the fact that it was the deadline for the announced pledge. It should have been discussed since only 1,608 were admitted which is over 5,000 short of what they promised in May of 2007 (and since 15,477 Iraqis were recommended for asylum to the US government during that period by the United Nations). The "cooridnator" on the Iraqi refugee issue for the State Dept has no excuse for first denying that a pledge of 7,000 was ever made and he has no excuse for then trying to cover by saying he started in September. That was a February press briefing, a scheduled one. If he wasn't lying, then he's obviously not up to speed on the basics of his job. Where's the supervision, Condi? In terms of media coverage, Tara Conlan (Guardian of London) reports, "Channel 4 is to launch its Happy Birthday Iraq season on March 15 with a week of programmes examing the devastating fall-out of the war for Iraq and the Middle East, America and Britain. . . . The first Dispatches investigation features journalist Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy travelling to Jordan and Syria to meet Iraqi refugees struggling to start new lives from scratch." That's in England. In the US? Let's not hold our breath.
In some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that left three people injured, a Baghad mortar attack that left two people wounded, an Al Anbar Province roadside bombing that claimed 2 lives -- Brig. Gen. Ahmed al-Juburi and his driver -- while wounding a bodyguard, an Al Anbar Province car bombing that claimed 1 life and left another person wounded, a Mosul roadside bombing that left five police officers wounded and a rocket attack on the Basra International Airport. Reuters notes, "The Turkish military shelled several Kurdish rebel positions in northern Iraq, Kudish officials said, just days after Ankara said it was weighing a ground operation against the guerrillas." Shamal Aqrawi (Reuters) adds, "A senior Iraqi border official said a bridge had been destroyed in Nerva Rikan, an area close to Iraq's border with Turkey in Dahuk province" -- did it happen? There are always denials and conflicting reports. Today is no different.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports police 1st Lt. Ahmed Mohammed was shot dead in Baghdad while Lt. Col. Haxim and another police officer were wounded and a driver for the Ministry of Transport was shot dead in Baghdad. Reuters notes a police officer was shot dead in Numaniya outside his home.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 corpses discovered in Baghdad and 15 corpses in Diyala Province ("hand cuffed, blindfolded and shot to death"). Reuters adds the Diyala corpses were "shot execution-style in the head."
Today the US military announced: " A Multi-National Division -- Center Soldier was killed when the Soldier's vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device Feb. 20." And they announced: "A Multi-National Force - West Marine was killed in action against enemy forces in Al Anbar Province Feb. 21."
In addition, Megan Levy (Telegraph of London) reports that 4 British soldiers were wounded Wednesday in a Basra attack. The Press Association cites rumors that it was a roadside bombing.
Yesterday's snapshot noted the nonsense and harm of talk of round-ups in Baghdad. The Los Angeles Times' Baghdad bureau raises further issues today: "But enforcing the law will be difficult. Beggars and street people are part of life here, and their numbers have grown dramatically since the war. In addition, the Koran encourages people to help the needy, and Iraqis see nothing wrong with giving money to people who ask for it. In fact, beggars here often go door-to-door in residential neighborhoods seeking handouts. Others walk the chaotic streets hitting up people in passing cars when traffic slows." Meanwhile, as speculation continues to mount as to the continuation or cancellation of the cease-fire/true Moqtada al-Sadr initiated with the US military, Tina Susman and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) report that "aides" and "loyalists" are expressing doubts that it will be renewed with one member of Iraq's parliament in the Sadr bloc, Ghufran Saidi, explaining, "We have made more than one gesture. . . . However, we haven't received any help from the government. The aim is to eliminate the Sadr movement in all provinces." While everyone waits to see what al-Sadr will do, the situation in northern Iraq gets more tense (the Kirkuk election will supposedly take this year -- determining whether the oil-rich area is part of the central government or part of nothern Iraq). Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reports on the pressures being placed on Iraqi Arabs ("They treat us like foreigners," says Munawer Fayeq Rashid) and how you need a 'sponsor' to live in the region and then a residency permit. The region -- the desires of some War Hawks not withstanding -- is still a part of Iraq. Fadel observes, "The rules have created tension between Kurds and Arabs, both of whom are citizens of Iraq but who speak different languages and have different histories. Most Kurds are Muslims, but they shudder at the thought of traveling to the dangers of Baghdad."
Now let's turn to US politics. Tonight Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama debate in Austin, Texas. KPFA will broadcast (and stream) it live with Larry Bensky hosting and taking calls after. Tom Hayden has a ridiculous column (guess we won't see the bounc back from embarrassment this week) based on speech that Bambi gave in Houston last week. We'll wait and see on his claims after he explained, while running for the Senate, to Elaine and I that US troops were in Iraq so they couldn't be pulled. Meanwhile, the public trashing of Hillary goes on. It is a trashing and it is very much a trashing in the feminist sense of the term. As a result, Common Dreams -- one of the worst offenders -- has taken to feature faux feminists and today's idiot (we're not even naming her) tries to go after Robin Morgan and Hillary Clinton from a standpoint of 'caring.' Apparently she worked so hard on her act that she was unable to spare time for logic? The faux feminist acknowledges that maybe a climate has been created where Hillary is held to a standard others aren't but, having offered that, she then blames Hillary. That would be blaming the victim. No, that is not feminism. We'll get back to that, let's just enjoy the 'worth' of what she shares such as this statement, "Barack Obama chose the Howard-Dean-Deval Patrick strategy (the Clintons hate Dean): pay attention to all the states" blah, blah, blah. When did Deval Patrick "pay attention to all the states"? Never. He's a governor -- a very bad governor who got into office on pretty words and demonstrates that words are not actions -- of Massachusetts. Explain to us how Deval Patrick, running for governor of Massachusetts, was "paying attention to all the states"? Did all fifty vote him into office as governor? (Mike's friends and family -- including Trina -- call Patrick "Governor Who" because when the pretty words proved not enough, Patrick appeared to go MIA.) Since an idiot has brought Governor Who into it, let's go ahead and note that Jake Tapper (ABC News) caught Patrick lying publicly when he claimed he'd given permission for Obama. But let's get back to the trashing. These 'concerned' columns that blame Hillary are just as much about a trashing as are the ones featuring the on-the-nose hatred. To be clear, Hillary can be held a standard but equality means all are held to the same standard. That hasn't happened. Further, there's no reason a supporter of any candidate has to trash Hillary to make their case. Halle Berry is strongly for Barack Obama and she has not engaged in a trashing. But many others can't do anything but trash and for women, they need to stop pretending they are feminists. What they are doing is acting out against other women, saying, 'You think you're better,' or 'You think your s**t don't stink?' It's a very old story and feminist history has long charted it. Posing as if you're writing out of concern is actually more offensive because at least the other pose is honest. When women's history is written in the near future -- not the far future -- it will not look kindly on a number of these women. It will be very harsh to them as it should be. By contrast, Robin Morgan's "Goodbye To All That (#2)" (Women's Media Center) will still be required reading.
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