Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Most nights on SBS's NewsHour With Jim Lehrer there's a silent roll call of American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are, with few exceptions, teenagers or young men in their twenties. Who are these casualties of war? What is their background?
This story of a young soldier who deserted from the Iraq War paints a stark portrait of a typical American soldier in the 21st century. Josh Key grew up in a trailer on his grandfather's farm in Oklahoma. His mother was thrice married to alcoholics and wife-beaters. Young Key could shoot at the age of eight, killed his first deer by the age of 12 and by the time he was a teenager had had brushes with the law. He married his wife Brandi when they were both 18.
They had three boys in quick succession and because he was working in unskilled jobs that often paid only $US 5 an hour he was easily persuaded that a non-combat job in the army would solve his financial problems and offer him a secure future. The problem was that the army recruiter lied to him when he promised a non-combat job building bridges in the US.

The above, noted by Olive, is from Bruce Elder's review of Joshua Key and Lawrence Hill's The Deserter's Tale, (Sydney Morning Herald via The Canberra Times). Joshua Key returned from the Iraq War and made the decision to refuse to return based on the fact that the war was illegal. He is among the hundreds of war resisters who have gone to Canada and are seeking a safe harbor. 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 (pm@pm.gc.ca -- 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.

Along with those who self-checkout because the war is illegal and they can't continue to participate in, there are those who check out for other reasons and it says a great deal about the status of veterans health care that so many have checked out due to the fact that they are not getting the care they need. It says a great deal about the real priorities in Washington and, as it continues to happen over and over, it says a great deal about us -- the citizens -- that we allow it to happen. David Ovalle's "Dade soldier deserted, Army says" (Miami Herald) is the story of one service member who did not receive the care he needed:

Depression, nightmares and anxiety attacks plagued him after a roadside bomb obliterated his friends in Iraq.
He shared his plight with reporters and a congressional delegation. He complained about inadequate treatment and indifference from military superiors.
Diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, Army Spec. Alex Lotero was a public casualty of the Iraq War -- and now the military says he's a deserter.
Shortly after he took his case public, Lotero deserted his base in Fort Carson, Colo., in June 2007, the military said. Lotero, 21, was arrested late last week after he was discovered by Miami-Dade police in Kendall.
Miami-Dade officers were called to a domestic dispute involving Lotero and his girlfriend in Kendall, where he had been hiding from military authorities.
Officer Keyfrem Guzman ran a routine records check on Lotero and discovered the Army had issued an arrest warrant for the goateed, tattooed soldier.
''He had no choice but to arrest him,'' said Miami-Dade Detective Mario Rachid, a police spokesman.

American troops killed an innocent woman during a raid in Iraq on Tuesday, the U.S. military said, the day after it admitted killing nine Iraqi civilians while hunting down al Qaeda militants.
Tuesday's incident, the latest in a series of mistakes in which innocent Iraqis have died, occurred during raids against al Qaeda in the small town of Dour near Tikrit, 175 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad.

It's becoming a familiar cry "Oops!" and another familiar cry is "Progress!" but it never turns out to be that, does it? CNN reports:

A new Iraqi flag flew for the first time in Baghdad Tuesday morning.
As a band played the Iraqi national anthem, officials lowered the old flag and hoisted a new, temporary one at an official ceremony at Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office in Baghdad's Green Zone.
The new flag does not include symbols from the Saddam Hussein era. And the design was altered to appease Iraqi Kurds, who demanded changes to the Hussein-era flag.
It's a temporary flag approved last week by the president and two vice presidents. The Iraqi parliament has one year to agree on a permanent flag.

Temporary is the key term. Lelia Fadel explained what was actually going on in real time, while the rest of the press was playing 'nice' and refusing to report. From her "No More Stars" (Baghdad Observer, McClatchy Newspapers):

The latest version of the Iraq flag, which is to be raised across the nation and in Iraqi embassies immediately, is temporary. Today the parliament passed two amendments to two Iraqi laws, removing the requirement that "Allahu Akbar" on the Iraq flag must be written in the handwriting of Saddam Hussein and another that allowed them to remove the three stars and change the interpretation of the colors from Arab colors to Islamic colors.
But it is another band-aid solution. The constitution requires that the parliament pass a new law to pick a flag for Iraq and a national anthem.
"Iraqis your council has chosen the new flag that will be raised over constitutional and non-constitutional establishments and Iraqi embassies and the Kurdistan Region until the certification on a permanent flag for Iraq," the speaker of the parliament, Mahmoud al Mashhadani said today.
In technical terms Iraq still has no flag and no anthem. Little has been decided that lasts in Iraq. The heads of political blocs put the problem off for another year. In a year maybe the problem will again be solved at a later date.

In other words, the flag 'solution' accomplished nothing. And remember there's still no 2008 budget (though they plan to take up the issue on Thursday).

In political news, Otis' "Super Tuesday with Mike Gravel in Berkeley!" (Indybaymedia) notes an appearance today by :

On Super Tuesday . . . Meet Senator Mike Gravel in person . . . WORLD CAN’T WAIT OPEN HOUSE This coming Tuesday evening, as the national results from the “Super Tuesday” primaries roll in, don’t sit at home yelling at the TV! Come spend a few hours with World Can’t Wait – Drive Out the Bush Regime! activists and many other friends over pizza, politics, and lively debate!
Tuesday February 5 6-9PM Spud’s Pizza 3290 Adeline, Berkeley (Spud's is a short walk from Ashby BART / easy street parking / wheelchair accessible)

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