Monday, March 03, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Monday, March 3, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military and the British military both say "Woopsie," the US embassy in Iraq is a safety hazard, IVAW gears up for this month's action, and more.
Starting with war resistance.  Brad McCall is a US war resister in Canada.  Saturday and Sunday he offered original poetry at his site. From Sunday's poem:
You just don't realize,
The damage your really inflicting,
You say you're doing your job, 
But I know, your really creating pain and suffering.
You wake up at 4 in the morning,
Preparing for a brand new day,
In this hell that they've put you in. 
All these people are creating is enmity, and suffering.
McCall made the decision he could not participate in an illegal war.  Currently he is in Canada attempting to be granted safe harbor.  Just entering Canada was difficult for McCall.  He was detained in September by Canadian authorities when he attempted to enter.  And, as noted Friday, Courage to Resist interview with war resister Robin Long during which Long shares that McCall had a friend return his car to the US and that when the car crossed the border back into the US "they were holding him at gun point, the guy that was bringing his car back, thinking he was the war resister."
War resisters who have moved to Canada were dealt a serious set-back when the Canadian Supreme Court refused to hear the appeals of Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey.  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 ( -- 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.  That is the sort of thing that should receive attention but instead it's ignored. 
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, 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'." 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."  The hearings will be broadcast throughout at the Iraq Veterans Against the War home page an on KPFA March 14th and 16th with Aimee Allison (co-host of the station's The Morning Show and co-author with David Solnit of  Army Of None) and Aaron Glantz hosting and the KPFA live stream will also be available at Glantz' War Comes Home.
"Some people are going to say that we're not upholding our patriotic duty to America, that we're just demoralizing the troops, but if anything we want to make sure that our troops are taken care of the way they should," Vermont's WCAX (text and video) quotes Iraq veteran Adrienne Kinne explaining at the University of Vermont to a crowd of over 150 as she and three other veterans explained the upcoming Winter Soldier Investigation.  Matthew Howard speaks to WCAX's Bianca Slota abouth how service members are encouraged to see "every Iraqi's a threat or terrorist or insurgenty.  You know we never hear the term civilian over there."  Howard speaks of "the feelings of betrayal, of ultimate betrayal" after serving in a war based on lies. Slota notes, "Their stories ranged from tales of intelligence intercepts from listening in on conversations of aid workers or journalists to tales of leaving injured Iraqi civilians on the side of the road."  Sara Buscher (Burlington Free Press) speaks with Matthew Howard who previews the DC action, "We have footage.  We have digital cameras and cell phones.  The public doesn't know what dead Iraqis look like, what little children look like when they have their brains blown away by 50-caliber machine guns -- what a mosque look like when we use it for target practice."  Andy Potter (WCAX text and video) interviewed Drew Cameron last week and Cameron shared his thoughts on the illegal war, "It's sending very young people to do atrocities, things based not on any reality of the security of this country.  If anything, it's destroying the military.  It's destroying peoples' lives and families' lives, not to mention all the innocent civilians.  Massive amount of destruction."
"The soldiers and marines are just doing their jobs, doing what they were trained for or what they were told to do when they got over there.  Things that seem really horrible just become routine -- and they are implicitly or explicitly condoned, or encouraged, by the commanders and the policy-makers," Iraq War veteran Kelly Dougherty states walking Ariel Leve through for a major report in the Sunday Times of London which also includes Afghan War veteran Perry O'Brien recalling, "Anyone carrying a shovel or any sort of implement that could be used to bury an IED could be considered a target.  After dark, you can shoot anyone who is outside.  Or anyone who puts anything on the side of the road can be considered a target.  You won't find it in writing, but it's an order indicated to soldiers."  Iraq War veteran Jason Washburn remembers one mission: "We kick down the door and all we find are a few women holding babies and a couple of kids.  We were ordered to take the babies away and put sandbags on the women's heads, tie their hands behind their backs, put them on their knees facing the wall.  Here I am zip-tying these women, and my buddy is standing next to me holding these babies asking what do I do with these kids?  We stood there, like, oh s**t, what do we do?  The squad leader came in and shouted, 'Everybody is bagged and tagged -- everybody!' So we did it."  Michael Kramer (Workers World) reports today on an NYC event last month to get the word out on IVAW's action this month and notes, "IVAW member and war resister Ryan Johnson was able to take part in the program from Canada via a live video feed.  He is a member of the Winter Soldier Organizing Committee and described the situation of more than 50 absent without leave war resisters in Canada as they courageously struggle for human rights and against deportation.  There is now an IVAW chapter in Toronto.  More ominously for the Bush administration and Pentagon generals, an IVAW chapter has recently been formed on the Fort Hood, Texas, army megabase." 
Starting with news from the weekend.  On Saturday, the UK Ministry of Defence announced, "It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm that a British airman was killed in Basra, southern Iraq yesterday, Friday 29 February 2008.  The ariman, who was attached to 903 Expeditionary Air Wing, Royal Air Force, died as a result of a rocket attack on the Contingency Operating Base in Basra."  They  identified him as Sgt. Duane "Baz" Barwood who is survived by his spouse Sharon and their two children Leanna and Rebecca. Since the start of the illegal war, ICCC's total for British forces who have died in the Iraq is 175.  Also on Saturday, Warren P. Strobel (McClatchy Newspapers) reported, "None of the 26 buildings in the new $740 million U.S. Embassy complex in Baghdad is ready to be occupied.  Fire alarms intended to safeguard more than 1,000 U.S. government employees aren't working.  Kitchens in some of the buildings are fire hazards.  A senior State Department official in December certified that embassy construction was 'substantially complete,' but department inspectors found 'major deficiencies' at the unoccupied embassy, according to their inspection report, which Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif, released Friday." Waxman is the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Goverment Reform and at the committee's website they have a list of the "documents," all in PDF format, released by Chariman Waxman identify 'critical' and 'major' deficiencies in the construction of the new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, raising question about the decision of the State Department to certify in December that the Embassy compound was 'substantially complete'."  These documents include the letter he sent to US Secretary of State Condi Rice Friday where he informs her that he's scheduling a committee hearing March 12th that State Dept employees -- specifically the Acting Director for the Office of Overseas Building Operations Richard J. Shinnick -- should be present for and "to advise you that if the State Department does not commit by the close of business on March 3 to provide by March 7 the documents the Committee has repeatedly requested and subpoenaed, I will initiate steps to require the Deputy Secretary to appear with the documents at the Committee's March 12 hearing."  Waxman's letter summarizes key events including the July 26, 2007 testimony by the State Dept.'s Charles E. Williams (director for Officie of Overseas Building Operations) which declared that the embassy would be completed in September of that year (cost $592 million).  Waxman writes that "Williams's testimony turned out to be highly misleading.  The Embassy did not come in on time and under budget in September.  Although the price tag has increaed to $736 million, the Embassy is still not complete."  He notes the letter he sent October 9th of last year (to Condi) where the issue of the fire protection system was raised, "quoted extensively from a report issued in September 2007 by State Department inspectors who documented widespread deficiencies in the Embassy's fire protection and electrical system" and noted an alleged kickback scheme that was ongoing (one person involved in the alleged kickback scheme "pleaded guilty in federal cout in July 2007").  In terms of the State Dept.'s failure to provide information and produce documents, Waxman notes requests made on July 10th, again on October 9th and again on October 19th; that Rice herself stated in her October 25, 2007 testimony to the committee that "we will get the documents to you, Mr. Chairman" but nothing; which led to the issuing of a subpoena on February 9th requiring that the State Dept produce the documents within seven days.  That February 15th deadline passed with no documentation being provided and Waxman is now requesting a commitment (received by today) that the State Dept will produce the requested material by March 7th. 
Also on Saturday, Sheryl Gay Stoblerg (New York Times) reported on the trial ballon being floated by the White House and US military command (presumably on orders from the White House) that US troop reduction in Iraq will conclude shortly but may pick back up "before Mr. Bush leaves office, a senior administration official said Friday."  For those still not grasping it, Deb Riechmann (AP) reported, "President Bust declined Saturday to promise more  U.S. troops withdrawals from Iraq before he leaves office".  Sunday saw the arrival in Iraq of Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) noted that military and security checkpoints were already set up throughout Baghdad on Saturday in anticipation of Ahmadinejad's Sunday visit and Mike Mullen, US Joint Chiefs of Staff chair, visiting on Saturday and that both "visits come as violence, which in December reached its lowest level in more than a year, has begun to rise."  The BBC puts the Iraqi death toll at 633 for the month of February (an undercount).  Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) notes that Ahmadinejad's visit makes him "the first Iranian head of state to visit Iraq in three decades," that some Sunnis protested his trip in Falluja, that the "Shiite ruling elite" listenend attentively, "clearly comfortable" and without need of translation while the US "officials stayed far way from the visiting Iranian delegation" and Ahmadinejad declared in a joint-press conference with Nouri al Maliki, "Iraqis don't like Americans."  Michael Theodoulus (The Scotsman) draws a contrast between Ahmadinejad's trip and the trips that the Bully Boy of the United States makes, "The Iranian leader arrived yesterday amid great fanfare on a two-day visit that was pre-announced.  By contrast, the US president's visits were hurried and almost furtive.  His presence was never revealed before hand for security reasons -- even though the US has 158,000 troops in Iraq -- and he has never stayed overnight."  Borzou Daragahi (Los Angeles Times) quotes Ahmadinejad stating, "Iran and Iraq are two friendly nations.  Both have a common history and civilization.  Both of them have deep, intimate sentimental and social relations." AFP reports that the Iranian president "accused the US on Sunday of bringing terrorism to the Middel East".  Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times' Babylon & Beyond blog) offers a partial transcript of the press conference Ahmadinejad held today ("at the home of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani") including the following:
QUESTION: Are Iranian elements targeting members of the Sunni militias of the so-called Awakening movement?  
AHMADINEJAD: We did not witness nor did we get any complains from the Iraqi side about this issue. There may be a few incidents along the borders. And this is normal. We have laws and everything will be conducted under the umbrella of our laws.   
Q: What about the fate of Iraqi soldiers missing from the time of the Iran-Iraq war?  
A: There are few missing. Both sides are cooperating to discover the fate of those who are missing.
Q: What about about the American accusations that Iran supports militias in Iraq?
A: We discussed with the Iraqi side the issues that serve the interests of the two countries. We are not committed to answer the demands of others.
AFP reports that "seven pacts" were signed with the Iraqi government today and that Ahmadinejad recommended US forces leave Iraq: "Without the presence of the foreign troops, the region will live in peace and brotherhood."  Deborah Haynes (Times of London) quotes Ahmadinejad stating, "We believe that the major powers who have come to the region from thousands of kilometres away should respect the will of nations and leave this region.  That's the best service they can offer these nations."  CBS and AP cite the network's Allen Pizzey's call that the visit sends the message "that Iran can't be ignored, or even short-changed as a player here."
Friday's snapshot noted the Mosul kidnapping of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho who remains missing.  Independent Catholic News reports, "He had just celebrated the rite of Via Cruis and was on his way back to the Holy Spirit Cathedral when his car was attacked. His driver, Faris, and one of his guards, Rami, were killed. The other guard, Samir, was wounded and was in a very critical condition at the time of this posting.  It is not known who has kidnapped 67-year-old archbishop, who is believed to be in poor health and requiring daily medication." ZENIT notes that the funerals for the three men accompanying the Archbishop Friday (all were shot dead) were held on Saturday and that Pope Benedict XVI has repeated his appeal calling for the kidnappers to release Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho.  Melissa Gonzalo (Arizon's 12 News -- link has text video) reports on Iraqis in Arizona and Peter Oraha states, "Make me feel that I want to do something but I'm too far.  I couldn't do anything to be honest."
Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) reports Baghdad bombings claimed 24 lives today and left at least sixty people injured. Reuters notes a Shirqat car bombing claimed the lives of 2 police officers and left nine civilians injured.  Today CBS and AP report that US military command is stating "regret over the killing of a teenager Friday by a helicopter gunship" while Reuters reports the British military declared today they were "invetigating whether a woman had been killed and three children wounded by a defective artillery shell it had fired in defence of its base in the Iraqi city of Basra" and there is apparently another child who may dead from that assault according to Iraqi authorities "and a hospital source".
Reuters notes police col. Qassim Abid Filaih and 3 guards were shot dead in Basra.

Reuters reports a discovery of a mass grave in Samarra containing 14 corpses believed to have been "either Iraqi police of members" of one of the "Awakening" Councils.
Turning to US politics.  Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont hold Democratic Party primaries tomorrow.  Campaigning in Ohio Sunday, US Senator Barack Obama had an Iraqi talking point and it was one David Axelrod (Bambi's Karl Rove) was repeating the same day on ABC.  Steven Thomma (McClatchy Newspapers) reports facts aren't Bambi's strong point since he declared that Senator Hillary Clinton should have followed the example of Senator Jay Rockefeller -- chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time -- on the 2002 Iraq vote; Bob Graham was the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Rockefeller voted in favor of the 2002 resolution leading Thomma to penalize them "Five yars for sloppy fact checking."  The Chicago Tribune's Frank James disagrees, "I think this is more like 15 yards and loss of a down.  The Iraq War vote is only the central premis of Obama's argument for why he should be president.  Given that, it seems like he would have absolute command of the facts surrounding the vote.  That he doesn't seems curious."  Niall Stanage (New York Observer) reports on Gloria Steinem campaigning for Hillary in Austin, Texas.  From the article:
There is, she said, "a great deal of pressure at play for her to act like her gender and give in." Several shouts of "No!" came from the crowd. Steinem went on: "It's a way of reinforcing the gender roles, right? Men are loved if they win and Hillary is loved if she loses…But maybe we shouldn't be so afraid of an open convention that actually decides something. After all, it was an open convention in New York City that gave us Abraham Lincoln."
Meanwhile Roseanne Barr notes, "Pigdom lives on.  Obama doesn't want to end the war, HE just wants to movie it to pakistan, and those men have nukes . . . our leaders have us at war with a country that has NO ARMY, and they are kicking our asses. . . . YOU NEED TO LISTEN TO WOMEN, NOT SILENCE THEM!!!! HELLOOOOO....!!! HILLARY'S HEALTH CARE PROGRAM IS THE BETTER ONE!!! SHE DIDN'T START THE WAR, AND SHE DIDN'T BLOW ANYBODY!!! SHE DIDN'T VOTE FOR NAFTA, AND SHE DIDN'T INVENT AIPAC."  On the issue of Iraq, Joe Wilson (The Huffington Post) explains it:
Barack Obama argues that he deserves the Democratic nomination and Hillary Clinton doesn't because he possesses superior "judgment," as he calls it, on the key issues we face as a nation. As definitive proof he offers one speech he made in 2002 during a reelection campaign for an Illinois senate seat in the most liberal district in the state, so liberal that no other position would have been viable. When he made that speech, Obama was not privy to the briefings by, among others, Secretary of State Colin Powell, in support of the Authorization of Use of Military Force as a diplomatic tool to push the international community to impose intrusive inspections on Saddam Hussein. 
Would Obama have acted differently had he been in Washington or had he had the benefit of the arguments and the intelligence that the administration was offering to the Congress debating that resolution? During the 2002-2003 timeframe, he was a minor local official uninvolved in the national debate on the war so we can only judge from his own statements prior to the 2008 campaign. Obama repeated these points in a whole host of interviews prior to announcing his candidacy. On July 27, 2004, he told the Chicago Tribune on Iraq: "There's not much of a difference between my position and George Bush's position at this stage." In his book, The Audacity of Hope, published in 2006, he wrote, "...on the merits I didn't consider the case against war to be cut-and- dried." And, in 2006, he clearly said, "I'm always careful to say that I was not in the Senate, so perhaps the reason I thought it was such a bad idea was that I didn't have the benefit of US intelligence. And for those who did, it might have led to a different set of choices."         
I was involved in that debate in every step of the effort to prevent this senseless war and I profoundly resent Obama's distortion of George Bush's folly into Hillary Clinton's responsibility. I was in the middle of the debate in Washington. Obama wasn't there. I remember what was said and done. In fact, the administration lied in order to secure support for its war of choice, including cooking the intelligence and misleading Congress about the intent of the authorization. Senator Clinton's position, stated in her floor speech, was in favor of allowing the United Nations weapons inspectors to complete their mission and to build a broad international coalition. Bush rejected her path. It was his war of choice.       

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