Thursday, March 06, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, March 6, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, two bombings in Baghdad result in mass deaths, in the US Gary Ackerman attempts to tutor the adminstration on the Constitution and why it matters while Barbara Lee focuses on the issue of permanent bases, and more.
Starting with war resistance.  IVAW chair Camilo Mejia told his story in  Road from Ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia.  He is the first Iraq War veteran to refuse to continue serving in the illegal war.  Frank Houston (Miami New Times) notes that Querido Camilo (Dear Camilo) plays tonight (9:15 pm at Bill Cosford Cinema, University of Miami) and tomorrow (9:15 pm at Regal Cinemas South Beach) as part of the Miami International Film Festival and notes, "Querido Camilo tells Mejia's story from the perspective of friends and family members, sketching in his background with snapshots, interviews, and narrated letters that begin in 1995, when Mejia arrived in the United States from Nicaragua. 'I thought it would be more fun, more beautiful.  But it's really very different,' Mejia says of the United States in an interview with filmmakers Julio Molina and Daniel Ross Mix.  They explore military enlistment as a last resort for the working class, especially immigrants."
Agustin Aguayo is another war resister who served in Iraq and today Aguayo and his wife Helga Aguayo will be speaking at UCLA Riverside, in the Interdisciplinary Building at 6:00 pm while yesterday he took part in a debate on the illegal war at Paso Robles High School. Amber Lee (KSBY -- link has text and video) reports that it is "the second year in a row" that the school has "decided to hold a war debate forum to give students the opportunity to decide about the military."  Aguayo explains, "You know you can't really tell anyone what to do but you can share some knowledge with them."
Meanwhile Americans Against the War-France announces their support for the US war resisters in Canada.   War resisters who went to Canada need the coverage right now.  They  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).

Meanwhile IVAW has a DC action this month:

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.
Click here to sign a statement of support for Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan

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.
Congress held several hearings today and we're noting two.  Background for the first,  Reuters reported this morning, "The U.S. military has authority to conduct combat operations in Iraq beyond the end of this year, even though a United Nations mandate for force ends then, a State Department official said on Wednesday.  David Satterfield, the State Department's coordinator for Iraq, said Congress had authorized U.S. combat in Iraq back in 2002, and the Bush administration did not believe it needed to seek 'explicit additional authorization' from Congress for U.S. combat beyond the end of this year."  Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) reported that "[t]he Bush administration yesterday adavanced a new argument for why it does not require congressional approval to strike a long-term security agreement with Iraq, stating that Congress had already endorsed such an initiative through its 2002 resolution . . . Rep. Gary L. Ackerman (D-N.Y.), whose questions at a House hearing Tuesday elicted the administration statement, described it as an 'open-ended, never-ending authority for the administration to be at war in Iraq forever with no limitations.'   The conditions of 2002 no longer exist, he said."  This afternoon the US House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Middle East and South Asia held a hearing that David Satterfield again showed up for (but couldn't really answer anymore than on Tuesday) as did Mary Beth Long the Asst. Secretary of Defense for International Affairs.
Satterfield attempted repeatedly to claim everything was a hypothetical and refuse to answer.  A lively exchange took place between Gary Ackerman and Satterield.  Asked specific questions, Satterfield declared, "I will respond more formally to that question subsequent to this hearing" leading Ackerman to ask, "When will we hold that hearing?"  At another point Satterfield attempted to hide by declaring, "I'm not a constitutional expert" leading Ackerman to respond, "Neither is anyone else" in the administration "apparently."
The basic principles here (outlined many times before) is whether or not Bully Boy and Nouri al-Maliki can enter into a treaty without Congressional/Parliamentary approval.  The constitutions for both the United States and Iraq say "NO!"  But that hasn't stopped the White House from attempting to circumvent the US Constitution.  As Ackerman noted when Satterfield repeatedly declared questions "hypotheticals," "The Constitution is a document.  It is not a hypothetical."  Her futher noted, "The problem with the administration is that it thinks the Constituion is optional."  Ackerman noted that everything was undefined -- now and in the lead-up to the illegal war.  He noted that now Iraq was apparently a 'threat' to the US in some of the vague responses from Satterfield and that "threat" seems to change from moment to moment leading Satterfield to snap "No, Mister Chairman," the administration has clearly defined threats. Ackerman asked, "Is it this adminstration's belief that you have ongoing authorization in perpetuity?" and "Is Iraq about to attack the United States?" Ackerman noted that it appeared the White House had redefined the mission in Iraq so that "as long as there is trouble in Iraq" the US must remain in "a never ending process".
As the committee told Sattefield, it appeared he arrived with an attitude of he would talk about what he wanted to and not answer the questions posed.  In a milder but still comical moment, Mary Beth Long attempted to compare the agreement Bully Boy and al-Maliki are trying to impose with agreements the US has with Belize. Bill Delahunt noted that nothing with Belize talks "about search and destroy actions" such as what takes place in Iraq and Long had to admit that they didn't.  US House Rep Rosa DeLauro was brought into the meeting with the approval of other committee members (she's not a member of the subcommitte) and she noted that this wasn't a "typical" SOFA agreement and that "we should not rush to approve" it, that it is in the best interests of both countries not to rush.  As Satterfield continued to obsfucate, DeLauro noted that, "We're not going to get any straight answers on this."  While Rep Bill Delahunt had noted earlier -- when Satterfield again attempted to propose a closed door briefing -- "The American people deserve to hear what you have to say."  The hearing ended with Ackerman having extracted the promise that Satterfield would have answers to the questions asked no later than three p.m. Friday.

This morning the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations of the House Committee on Appropriations met.  Early on Nita M. Lowery, the chair, noted the ongoing "attacks on doctors, engineers and technocrats" in Iraq and how these were "the very people needed to run the country."  They were hearing the testimony of John Negroponte, the Deputy Secretary of State.  Or what passed for it.  He had no answers.  But he did agree with Lowrey that Jordan was an ally of the US.  He had no answer to her question about what happens "when the force levels" in Iraq "drop to pre-surge levels?  Can the areas be held?"  He referred that to David Petraeus April dog & pony show.  "What percent" of areas "are led by the Iraqi forces and not US troops" was another answer Lowrey wanted.  He hedged, she repeated the question.  "I don't know the answer to that question," Negroponte said.  "But what I would say about this is that Iraqi forces are becoming more capable whether or not they can lead operations.  I think it is important that they have an increased capacity."  He thinks that's important?  They're "becoming more capable"?  Five years into the illegal war?  After training seriously started in 2004?   Lowrey noted that it was "a major disappointment that we're not seeing a transfer from US forces to the Iraqis".  As for reducing US forces in Iraq, Negroponte stated "That is the intent."
We are short on time so we're jumping to when Rep Barbara Lee joined the hearing and questioned Negroponte.  She noted the nearly 4,000 US forces dead in the illegal war, the wounded and "the countless Iraqi civilians" as well as the fact that the Iraq War has "created a generation of future enemies" and "the $500 billion the American taxpayers have already spent on this occupation" when money is needed at home.  Then she noted Bully Boy's signing statements and how "on six occassions now, the president has signed legislation that prevents permanent military bases in Iraq" but then come the signing statements.  "How successful," Lee wondered, "is your department's diplomatic process" with that going on and "How can you communicate then that the US has no interest in permanent bases?"
Negroponte: We don't seek permanent bases and I think we've been clear about that all along.
Lee: Then why would the president issue a signing statement taking that out of the defense authorization.
Negroponte maintained "I know" that permanent bases are not sought.  Lee brought up the treaty that Bully Boy is trying to force through and bypass Congress and that there are details in the proposed SOFA, "I believe there are plans to exempt civilian contractors from prosecution under Iraqi law so there's more to it than standard SOFA presence."
Negroponte agreed: "You're right.  There will be included in these discussions that certain types of immunities and legal exemptions be granted for contractors who provide security."  Lee returned to the issue of premanent bases to get him on record again that there were no plans for them.
Lee: So you can say that you do not believe that the adminstration, that their intent is to build permanent bases in Iraq.
Negroponte: We do not seek permanent military bases in Iraq.
Lee: Well I'll be sure to let the president know that.
Turning to some of today's violence . . .
Michael Holden (Reuters) reports that 55 people are dead from two Baghdad bombings "within a few minutes of each other in a crowded Baghdad shopping area". CBS and AP estimate 130 people were wounded and explains "Many of the victims were teens or young adults, and four were women, police and officials at three hospitals said."  Borzou Daragahi (Los Angeles Times) quotes eye witness Kareem Abdullah, "I ran outside to see what was going on, only to have the second blast going off.  I could see fire and smoke.  I saw people thrown to the ground.  I couldn't tell if they were unconscious or dead." CNN states it was a bombing and then "a sucide bomber" exploding immediately after. Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that as well (a bombing followed by "suicide bomber" and adds a Baghdad bombing this morning that "hit a civilian Kia minibus" resulted in 1 death and five people wounded, a Diyala Province roadside bombing that claimed the life of 1 police officer and left four Iraqi soldiers wounded and a Mosul car bombing that wounded four people.  Reuters notes a Hilla minibus bombing that left two people wounded.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a police officer was shot dead "in downtown old Basra city".

Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad, 1 corpse was discovered in Arbil and a woman's corpse was discovered outside Basra.  Reuters notes that yesterday 3 corpses were discovered in Mosul. 
Rosa DeLauro was brought on -- with committe approval "Clearly this is much more than the typical staus force agreement and we should not rush to approve" this  "it is in both of our nation's interests"
Turning to US presidential elections.  Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report and link has text and audio) observes, "There was only a remnant of a movement left in the United States, before Barack Obama's phenomenal rise.  Black and white progressives claim they are prepared to resume agitation after Obama's election -- that they will rev up the movement once again if they discover the new president turns out to be what he has repeatedly promised to be: a corporate Democrat committed to imperial policies abroad, who shuns any analysis or demand that does not conform to his own 'race neutral' -- in practice, 'race blind' -- domestic policies.  If progressives truly believe they can turn mass, grassroots politics on and off, like a switch, they are delusional.  Large groups of human beings don't act that way.  Barack Obama's honeymoon will surely last for years, no matter what crises he mishandles or provokes.  Blacks and progressives have neutered themselves."  Meanwhile Kimberly Wilder (On the Wilder Side) posts the results for the Massachusetts Green primary (held Super Duper Tuesday) and the results are Ralph Nader with 744 votes, Cynthia McKinney with 474 votes, Write-ins with 273, No Preference with 194, Kat Swift with 60 votes, Jared Ball with 42 votes, Kent Mesplay with 39 votes and Elaine Brown with 38 votes.  Both Ball and Brown dropped out of the race before the primary last month.  On Tuesday, Cynthia McKinney's campaign site notes,  Minnesota's Green Party held a straw poll at their caucus and "McKinney led the state's straw polling with 62% of the votes, with 50 out of 67 senate districts reporting."  Indybay Independent Media notes that McKinney will take part in an Oakland, California event tonight, Speaking Fierce ("An Evening of Art, Spoken Word, Humor and Music, Celebrate International Women's Day") starting at seven tonight, First Congregational Church (2501 Harrison St at 27th).  Meanwhile Alex Domingos (The Retriever Weekly) weighs Barack Obama's campaign and feels it comes up DLC and so concludes:
Cynthia McKinney is the first African American female congresswomen elected . . . [from] Georgia and an ex-Democrat running for the Green Party.  As a six-term member of congress she amassed a consistent voting record.  She voted against the Iraq War, but more importantly voted against the Gulf War in 1991.  It's not enough to just be against the Iraq War, meaningful change is a candidate against all wars of imperialism.  She has also voted against funding the war despite the false assertions by other Democrats that somehow that would translate to troops with no armor or weapons in battle.  McKinney introduced articles for impeachment against George Bush and passed legislation preventing the sale of weapons to human right abusers.  Isn't that change you can believe in?"
As noted Ralph Nader won the Mass Green Party primary.  Nader is not campaigning for the national Green Party nomination.  [See discussion here.]  Whitney Zack writes the Salt Lake Tribune, "As a pro-peace voter, I am delighted that Ralph Nader is running for president as an independent.  Sens. Clinton, Obama and McCain all voted to fund the occupation and war in Iraq.  Nader has consistently opposed the war and the waste of our tax dollars there.  Pro-peace voters should not be fooled by Barack Obama.  Since becoming a senator in 2005, he has voted to approve every war appropriation the Republicans have requested."  Marissa Babin (The Harvard Independent) observes, "Nader's presidential bids have drawn attention to the problems of third-party candidates in a plurality voting system.  Instant runoff voting provides citizens with more choices than plurality voting and is more efficient than two-round elections.  Instead of criticizing Nader's decision to run, the American people should take a closer look at how our two-party system restricts voters' options and hinders democracy.  American should give instant runoff voting a chance."  Ralph Nader announced his choice of a running mate last week: Matt Gonzalez.  Luke Thomas (Fog City Journal) reports Gonzalez has left the Green Party due to potential ballot issues across the country and Gonzales states, "I have enormous respect for the Greens but I don't want to create additional hurdles for the campaign by remaining in the party.  I expect to work in tandem with future Green campaigns, and remain committed to alternatives to the two-party system."  At the Nader 2008 Blog the campaign announces donations of $300,000 in approximately one month and the goal of raising $10 million in 2008 while explaining the campaign is: "To give the American people a choice.  For single payer.  For cutting the bloated military budget. For solar energy first, not nuclear power.  For reversing U.S. policy in the Middle East.  For implementing a broad progressive agenda."  Still on US presidential politics, the all time embarrasment Paul Rogat Loeb has the nerve to show up (at Common Dreams -- aka No Woman Left Unstoned) today to ask "Did Clinton Win Ohio on a Lie?"  Paul's ready to suck up every word he can from War Hawk Stephen Harper because all Ugly Paul has to offer is LIES.  As Ruth pointed out Monday, Liar Loeb  showed up on  Uprising Radio to lie because that's all he has to offer.  He claimed he was a supporter of John Edwards.  That was the 'trick' (try "deciet") he used to pimp Barack.  He was, in fact, a Barack Obama supporter from the start as well as a John Edwards supporter.  He lied.  He always lies.  Meanwhile Walter Shapiro (Salon) and Ken Silverstein (Harper's magazine) both explain why the Democratic primaries should continue and the party and the country is not on the verge of collapse simply because the race continues. All the Nervous Nells out there need to take a deep breath and grasp that (a) the race continues and (b) efforts to stop the race from continuing are no different than efforts to stop the count in Florida 2000.  Since winning Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island on Tuesday night, Hillary Clinton's campaign has raised four million dollars.  Today the Clinton campaign issued a press release noting: "Senator Obama lost Ohio and Texas because voters had doubts about his ability to serve as Commander-in-chief and steward of the economy.  But instead of addressing those concerns, how is Senator Obama responding?  By attacking Senator Clinton.  With one of his top foreign policy advisers acknowledging yesterday that he is not ready to take the 3 am call and one of his principal supporters in Texas unable to name a single legislative accomplishment, Senator Obama's time would be better spent making the case for why he can do the most important job in the world just three years out of the stae senate.  Sen. Obama's decision to go explicitly negative suggests that he is unable to make an affirmative case for his candidacy beyond ad hominem attacks.  Why isn't he discussing the hearings that he held on the Foreign Affairs subcommittee that he chairs?  Why isn't he talking about his travel through Latin America?  Why isn't he briefing the public on his comprehensive plan to address the foreclosure crisis now?  Why isn't he stumping on his universal plan health care plan?  Because he can't and so he is advancing a campaign strategy premised on process and personal attacks."

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