Thursday, March 20, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, March 20, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, which outlets are covering Winter Soldier and more. 
Starting with war resistance.  Aaron Glantz (OneWorld) reports on a CO testifying at Winter Soldier:
"The problem that we face in Iraq is that policy makers in leadership have set a precedent of lawlessness where we don't abide by the rule of law, we don't respect internationl treaties," argued U.S. Army Sgt. Logan Laituri, who served a tour in Iraq from 2004 to 2005 before being discharged as a conscientious objector.  "So when that atmosphere exists, it lends itself to criminal activity."  
Laituri told OneWorld that precedent of lawlessness makes itself felt in the rules of engagement handed down by commanders to soldiers on the front lines.  For example, when he was stationed in Samarra, he said, one of his fellow soldiers shot an unarmed man while he walkded down the street.              
The problem is that that soldier was not committing a crime as you might call it, because the rules of engagement were very clear that no one was supposed to be walking down the street," Laituri said.  "But I have a problem with that.  You can't tell a family to leave everything they know so you can bomb the [expletive] out of their house or their city.  So while he definitely has protection under the law, I don't think that legitimates that type of violence."
We'll come back to Winter Soldier in a moment but it concluded on Sunday and also over the weekend, protests against the war took place in Canada.  Jenny Yuen (Toronto Sun) reports that among those taking part was war resister Linjamin Mull who was among at least 500 protesting in Toronto.
War resisters in Canada were dealt a setback in November  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. We will note war resisters in Canada tomorrow.  There is not time today, my apologies.          

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, Logan Laituri, 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).    
FAIR asks why  Iraq Veterans Against the War Winter Soldier Investigation isn't news in the US and it's a question worth asking but that requires more honesty and facts than FAIR is providing.  They give two shout-outs to Democracy Now! which is about one too many.  Fact check FAIR in this statement: "While the tetimony of soldiers who had served multiple tours of duty was broadcast on Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now!, Free Speech TV and the Real News network, the major broadcast networks and PBS instead . . . "  Free Speech TV and Real News Network broadcast the hearings in real time.  Democracy Now! did not.  Where in that sentence -- or anywhere else in their action alert -- is there any acknowledgement that KPFA broadcast the hearings live, that the stream was available at Pacifica's homepage, at The War Comes Home, at KPFK?  Where in that action alert do Aaron Glantz and Aimee Allison receive any credit for anchoring the live coverage?
We've noted that Christopher Hayes did two blog posts at The Nation -- the first noting that the hearings were streaming live and the second noting Camilo Mejia.  That's not included.  More importantly the wasteland that is Panhandle Media gets a walk.  The Progressive did nothing on them (it's finally published it's written ahead of time story today and we're not linking to that crap -- community wide, we're not linking to that crap), Mother Jones couldn't be found either.  In These Times' article that ran AFTER we linked to but it needs to be noted they were among the ones contacted AHEAD of time to ask if they'd be covering Winter Soldier and, of course, they had something else to do.  As did Mother Jones and assorted others in Panhandle Media who elected to blow off Winter Soldier.
Before we go futher, if you missed Winter Soldier you can stream online at Iraq Veterans Against the War, at War Comes Home, at KPFK, at the Pacifica Radio homepage and at KPFA, here for Friday, here for Saturday, here for Sunday. Aimee Allison (co-host of the station's The Morning Show and co-author with David Solnit of Army Of None) and Aaron Glantz were the anchors for Pacifica's live coverage.  That's credit FAIR forgot to give.  Anthony Swofford (Slate) attended the hearings and his article was published Monday.  He quotes Jose Vasquez, who oversaw the verification process for witnesses taking part in the panels, stating, "We were willing at least to take testimony from anybody, whether or not they were a member.  They didn't even have to agree with our points of unity.  If you had a story to tell about Iraq and you were able to prove your service, then we would give you a venue to spread that word."  He focuses on the the first Rules of Engagement panel on Friday and notes Jon Turner provided video clips during his testimony:
He then played a few videos he'd made while in Iraq.  The first video he played was of his executive officer, after having called in a 500-pound bomb, saying, "I think I just killed half the population of northern Ramadi.  F**k the red tape."         
Then he played video of a missile attack on a Ministry of Health building.  He spoke about the standard procedure of a "weapon drop": When mistakes are made, you drop a weapon on the innocent dead man so it appears he was a combatant.  He showed photos of a man's brain.  "This wasn't my kill, it was my friend's," he stated.  
When the next image of a corpse appeared on the big screens in the hall, he continued, "On April 18, 2006, I had my first confirmed kill.  Ahh.  This man was innocent.  I don't know his name.  I call him the Fat Man.  He was walking back to his house, and I shot him in front of his friend and father.  The first round didn't kill him after I hit him up here in his neck area.  So I looked at my friend who I was on post with and said, 'Well, can't let that happen.'  So I took another shot and took him out."  It took seven members of the Fat Man's family to move his body.
Linda Milazzo (OpEdNews) notes the blackout from big broadcast and observes, "Had Winter Soldier been televised, viewers would have seen the anguish of young Americans who saw and committed acts that torment them every day.  The public would have heard stories of returning veterans abandoned by their government and by their V.A. (Veterans' Administration).  The public would have seen the agony of parents whose 23 year old son hung himself in their closet due to untreated PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).  If Winter soldier had been televised, The People could no longer accpe the deceptions of those who had alterted the facts.  The people would have received the knowledge they need to motivate them to act -- to stop the atrocities -- to end the war -- NOW!"  OpEdNews, FYI, may have been the only website of its kind (Truthout, BuzzFlash, et al) to actually COVER Winter Soldier.  Throughout the hearings, various contributors to OpEdNews were filing stories.  By the way, here's a folder The Real News Network has created for its Winter Soldier coverage. Celeste De Vore (Boise State's Arbiter) observes, "Many people may not even know this is happening; the event has been completely ignored by the corporate media.  I suppose I can understand why: If America really took hold of the message portrayed by these brave veterans and soldiers (a message of betrayal, brutality, dismay and disillusionment) its citizens couldn't stand in silent ignorance anymore.  We would demand an end to the Iraq occupation now."  Eric Ruder (Socialist Worker) reports on the hearings and we'll note this section on Bryan Casler:
Bryan Casler was a Marine who, in the course of his four years of action-duty service, was deployed first to Iraq, then to Afghanistan, and then again to Iraq.  His testimony captured the indifference of the U.S. military for the well-being of Iraqis, as well as U.S. soldiers.  
"During my first deployment, I was deployed to Kuwait in support of the invasion of Iraq," said Casler.  "This was in 2003.  Our unit was responsible for guarding Gen. Tommy Franks.  While stationed in Kuwait, we received alerts for incoming missiles or possible gas attacks.   
"As a Marine, being with the general, you feel like you're going to get the most current information, and you're going to be protected because you are going to be up to date and around these other important people.   
"It was very disheartening to see the generals running out of their tents, putting on their gas masks, and I look over to our commander and say, 'Shouldn't we put on our gas masks?' He said, 'We'll wait.  The siren hasn't been sounded yet.' 
"And several minutes later, maybe five or 10 minutes, they would come running back out because they had forgotten to sound the siren for the rest of the base.  As Marines, we knew our place.  We were at the bottom of the food chain.  We are the ones that get forgotten about."  
Casler went on to explain that his unit had no clearly defined mission except to keep moving forward.  In such circumstances, he said, the first instinct of every Marine is to rely on the tactical training that is drilled into recruits from the start of basic training, which is to use lethal force to repel attacks and destroy the enemy.    
"When you mission is not defined, you are going to use . . . those skills that you have to handle hostile people -- not friendly people, not people that are looking for your help or looking for a hand," said Casler.  "All you have is hammers, and everything you find is nails.  And you are going to crush it.  You are going to crush every nail that you find.  We are crushing the Iraqi people with the training we're given."
Michael Kramer (Workers World) offers testimony and backround and we'll highlight this section:
While most of the panelists were IVAW members, expert witnesses also testified. Iraqi civilians, including refugees, described their experiences with the occupation through detailed interviews that had been video recorded in Iraq, Jordan and Syria. IVAW Advisory Board member Dr. Dahlia Wasfi raised the occupation of Palestine
IVAW is a growing organization with over 800 members. The leadership is diverse: the chair of its Board of Directors was born in Nicaragua and the co-chair is African-American. The treasurer and executive director are women. The group is LGBT-friendly.          
Most members come from the enlisted ranks and are under 30 years old. They are from both urban and rural areas. Many were on track to be career noncommissioned officers--the foundation of any military organization. Their membership in IVAW is a major defeat for the U.S. imperialist war machine.
Kat wrote about Dahlai Wasfi's testimony on Monday.  Tim Wheeler and Joel Wendland (People's Weekly World) provide a cross-section report and we'l lfocus on this section:
Marine Lars Ekstrom said he suffered an emotional breakdown from brutal "hazing" during his tour in Iraq.  It included ordering him to do pushups and then to crawl with his face pressed against the ground causing cuts, a bloody nose, and sand filling his eyelids.  "I was more afraid of my own unit than I was of the enemy," he said.  He finally accepted "administrative separation" from his unit.    
Marine Matt Howard said the Marine Corps "bases itself on subjugation and abuse" of lower-ranking enlisted personnel.  "I was beaten and then I was kicked out of my platoon for being beaten," he said.    
Many of the casualties in Iraq "are from friendly fire," he said.
Howard was the at the front in Kuwait the day the invasion began in March 2003.  The first Abrams M-1 tank to cross into Iraq was destroyed by a U.S. helicopter gunship firing rockets armed with depleted uranium, he said.  Luckily, the American soldiers escaped.  "Why are we using these weapons?" he demanded.  "We're poisoning the soldiers.  We're poisoning Iraq.  We're poisonin the world.  Depleted uranium is the Agent Orange of the Iraq war."
Matt Howard's who we're focusing on today.  "The Marine Corps bases itself on dehumanization and subjegation and abuse of its lower enlisted in order for it to function," Howard stated early on.  He testified on Sunday's The Breakdown of the Military panel and noted being beaten during bootcamp "and ended up being kicked out of my platoon."  He noted being on the border between Iraq and Kuwait before the invasion officially started and learning that Captain Banning of Alpha Company a helffire missile was launched into a tank.
Matt Howard: Contained in that Hellfire Missile was depleted uranium.  Contained in the armor of the M1A1 tank was depleted uranium.  Maximum exposure time for depleted uranium or when you're most susceptible to exposure is directly after impact.  You should not be in the vincity of a vehicle that was just hit by friendly fire.  I certainly don't have a science background.  I won't get into the issue of depleted uranium too much, I expect you to do that and do the research.  But I can speak briefly to the fact that this is the Agent Orange of this occupation.  This weapon has no purpose in Iraq.  Granted this was during the initial invasion so I can maybe understand its deployment but let's be clear here depleted uranium is an anti-armor weapon.  The Iraqis do not have armor.   They don't have tanks.  They don't have bombers. Why are we using this?  And, again, I urge you to do the research yourself.  I can quickly say that we're using this because it's a way to get rid of atomic waste. We do not know what to do with that.  We are posioning our soldiers.  We are posioning the people of Iraq.  But make no mistake, we are posioning the world.  I can test every single person in this room and I can find depleted uranium in your hair.  I was tested myself personally.  in Australia.  I had begged the VA for testing. I received this letter recently: "Dear Mr. Howard, I checked with the provider who has been with the VA and many branches of the services and he does not know of any depleted uranium testing.  I have put in a request for your dental visit but it will be most likely only cover an evaluation for mouth-jaw pain due to grinding teeth for PTSD.  For routine cleaning, we would need a letter from your command stating you were due for routine dental work prior to leaving the service."  The VA has continually denied my requests to be tested for depleted uranium.  This letter clearly shows they're saying a test doesn't even exist.  And I will say for the record a test does exist.  It's the wrong test.  It's an urinalysis used to detect exposure, immediate exposure.  The problem with depleted uranimum is that these particles dig deep within your body and you will not find them in your urine after a couple of days.  You need a very expensive test, one that the VA is certainly not willing to pay for.  But I would also like to point out that the VA does recognize the danger of depleted uranium.  While they might not want to test for it, or talk about it, or give us any briefings on it beforehand.  I specifically remember still holding this round . . .  When we were issued tank rounds in Kuwait, most of the tankers had never seen this weapon.  They don't use it, at least the Marines don't use it, in training.  Probably because they don't just have the money for it compared to the other branches. But we finally got to Kuwait and we're being issued this ammunition, I just so clearly remember these Marines coming up and saying, "Hey, Howard, will you take my picture, will you take my picture?"  They wanted the picture of them holding the Black Widow because this is the first time they ever got to actually have their hands on it.  And this was a depleted uranium sable round that went in the tank.  That round on impact aerosols and vaporizes and these particles go up in the air.  And that's why I was saying I can test every single one of you for depleted uranium and find it in your hair.  These particles blow up into the atmosphere and they are disseminated all around the entire globe.  They have found depleted uranium on the skin of NASA vehicles in space.  We are changing the entire genome of our planet -- human beings, cats and dogs, plants.  We're changing the genetic makeup of our planet by using these munitions in Iraq and Afhganistan.  And as I said, the VA does recognize the danger albeit in a different way.  I'm holding here is a depleted uranium questionnaire that I had dowload from the VA. I certainly never saw this in Iraq. And it says: "Did you enter an Abrams battle tank to retrieve sensitive items immediately after it was struck by friendly fire?"  Why do they ask that question?  Because they know how dangerous a situation that is.   And my best friend, Lance Cpl. Greg ____ did exactly that he entered an Abrams battle tank to retrieve sensitive items immediately after it was struck by friendly fire.  And those sensitive items did not need to be retrieved.  The tank was already destroyed.  In fact there were live rounds still on that tank.  My command that ordered him to retrieve those sensitive items put his life at risk -- those rounds could have cooked off. And not only that, they weren't that sensitive to begin with.  Another Hellfire could have been launched into that tank and we could have moved on.  Instead he was ordered to stay on that tank for an extended period of time and was exposed to depleted uranium in the process.
Greg's last name given sounds likes Stroll but I'm not sure I transcribed that correctly so there's ____ instead.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad rocket attack that left two people wounded, a Baghdad mortar attack wounded two police officers, Nineveh Province car bombing wounded two police officers and a Mosul roadside bombing wounded two police officers.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an Iraqi soldier was shot and wounded in Kirkuk today by unknown assailants. Reuters notes 2 police officers shot dead in Mosul.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Raad Shallal and his driver were kidnapped yesterday and are being held for a $250,000 ransom while today Khalid al-Seyid was kidnapped in Kirkuk as was the owner of a story in Kirkuk.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 corpses discovered in Baghdad, 1 corpse discovered in Sulaimaniyah Province. 
Meanwhile Marcus Baram (ABC News) reports on Ryan D. Maseth who died January 2nd of this year while serving in Iraq as a result of electrocution in the base shower due to "an improperly grounded electric water pump [which] short-circuited and flowed through the pipes.  Since the coiled hose was touching his arm, he was hit with an electrical jolt and went into cardiac arrest and died." He was at least the 12th US service member to die "in Iraq due to accidental electrocution".  Guess who had that contract?  KBR. 
With over four milliion Iraqi refugees (internal and external), the International Rescue Committee issues a report entitled "Five Years Later, A Hidden Crisis."  In the (PDF format warning] report, they make four recommendations.  1) Displaced Iraqis need more aid delivered more effectively and efficiently.  2) Calls for the international community to work on the problem.  3) The US must lead on admitting Iraqi refugees. 4) Hold a talk with Ban Ki-moon chairing.  It really is that superficial and that disappointing.  On step 3, for example, they note that 12,000 is the number of Iraqis the White House has promised to allow into the US in this year (fiscal year).  They said it needs to be "more".  While that may be true (I wouldn't argue with that) it also needs to be at least 12,000.  The US is not on track to admit 12,000 currently and the fiscal year started October 1st -- not January 1st.  Last year (last fiscal year), the US government did not meet the total they pledged and this year is already on track to be a repeat.  Yes, more would be nice but how about we point out the reality that even the number the White House has promised to admit isn't happening?
In a community-wide correction, Barack Obama's maternal grandmother -- the one he chose to shame in his speech Tuesday -- is alive and our apologies.  With wife number two or three of his father is paraded around on TV as his paternal grandmother (his father and his paternal grandfather had multiple wives), one would assume his maternal grandmother must be dead.  But that's not the case.   Taylor Marsh ( reports Bambi can't stop shaming the woman and that he's now called her "a typical white person".  This is the grandmother he painted as a racist in his speech (though that 'creative tale' doesn't go with what he wrote in his book if anyone in the press wants to check that out).
For those worrying about a US war with Iran, William M. Arkin (Washington Post) offers a score card:

When it comes to making sense on Iran, Hillary Clinton wins hands down over Barack Obama, John McCain and George Bush.        
In his zeal to describe the mess created by the war in Iraq, Obama falls into the trap of lumping Iran in with our "enemies." McCain is even more offensive, borrowing from the president's always-change-the-justification playbook to argue that the Iraq war is ultimately about Iran. And President Bush is more confused than ever, fretting about emboldening Iran if we leave Iraq, but oblivious to how invading and occupying Iraq may have had the same effect.       
[. . .]      
We throw the word "enemy" around way too much these days. Is that what Obama thinks Iran is? The same country he has pledged to negotiate with?     
In his five-year anniversary speech about Iraq yesterday, Obama said Iran "poses the greatest challenge to American interests in the Middle East in a generation,  continuing its nuclear program and threatening our ally, Israel." It is time to present Iran "with a clear choice," Obama said, to abandon its nuclear program, its support for terrorism and its threats to Israel.   
"Make no mistake," Obama bellowed about Iran, "if and when we ever have to use military force against any country, we must exert the power of American diplomacy first."      
Gee, I'm no Republican and have no confidence in the Bush administration. But that sounds like current White House policy.           

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