Friday, April 04, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Friday, April 4, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, the Iraqi refugee crisis continues, al-Maliki's evaluations less than glowing, Barack Obama says one thing on Iraq in public and apparently another thing in private, and more.
Starting with war resistance.  War veteran Chad Hetman writes The Daily Targum to explain, "People should be asking if ROTC instructors are teaching cadets that it is their legal duty under the Uniform Code of Military Justice to refuse and challenge unlawful orders. Since the illegal war began, only one soldier has had the sense and courage to do his duty, Lieutenant Ehren Watada. The military is supposed to be politically neutral, but not legally neutral and almost all troops never read or understand the Constitution that they blindly swear to 'Support and Defend Against ALL Enemies both Foreign And DOMESTIC'."  Watada is the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq (June 2006).  In February 2007, Watada was court-martialed.  Judge Toilet (aka John Head) halted the court-martial in order to give the prosecution a do-over and he halted the court-martial over defense objection.  Double-jeopardy should prevent Watada from being prosecuted/persecuted again; however, the US military holds out hopes of convincing a judge that the Constitution -- though members of military swear to uphold it -- does not actually apply to the military.
Weeks before the court-martial took place, Ave Diaz and Lance Holter (Haleakala Times) spoke with Watada who shared these expectations:
I certainly expect the army to make an example out of my stand and what I'm speaking against. Certainly they want to set the example and I think it's very dangerous because the example or message they are trying to send is that when you join the military you do what you are told -- it doesn't matter what your beliefs are, you do what you are told and that is a very dangerous message to send because who wants to join the military if you are going to be forced to do (something) -- regardless of whatever you believe in your own conscience -- and I think that will lead to a mass exodus of soldiers leaving the military because of that and also it will prevent a lot of potential recruits from joining the military.
And that apparently remains the goal of the US military which refuses to discharge Watada (whose service contract ended December 2006) and holds out hopes of subverting the Constitution by court-martialing him again.  Since his contract expired, Watada has reported for duty each day.  He continues to do so.  Thank You Lt. Watada is calling for: "No New Court Martial! Dismiss All Charges! Release Lt. Watada with an Honorable Discharge!"
Some war resisters are attempting to be granted safe harbor in Canada.  The Canadian Parliament will debate a measure this month on that issue.  You can make your voice heard. 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.

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).  
Next Tuesday, Gen David Petraeus and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker begin their attempts to sell Congress -- and therefore the American people -- on the notion that "progress" exists and thrives in Iraq.  In anticipation of the expected snow job, Congress has attempted to lay down some guidance this week.  Most successful was Wendesday's hearing by the US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee where retired Gen William Odom explained the escalation ("surge") didn't work, was never going to work, explained the problems with paying off thugs who are 'loyal' for coin, and much more.  Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee continued to explore Iraq and US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a press conference on Iraq that was supposed to outline the message but instead she got sidetracked (with her travels, her candidate of choice, etc.) -- US House Rep Rahm Emanuel managed to salvage the conference.
If the snow job is blinded by realities this time, credit will go to those like Marilou Johanek (Toledo Blade) who've shown what a working press is:
SO MUCH for Iraq's "defining moment." That's what the "Decider" called last week's Iraqi offensive against Shiite militants in Basra. It was a defining moment all right, one that underscored how worthless Iraqi's army and "unity" government are five years into the war.        
Interesting how muted Washington has been about the whole affair lately. Initially, the Bush Administration scrambled to put a positive spin on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's ill-advised and ill-prepared government crackdown in the country's second largest city. Only after Iraqi security forces got a "thumpin" -- to put it in George W. Bush's vernacular -- and the prime minister, who had vowed to remain in Basra for a "decisive and final battle" against the militias, backed down after Iran brokered a cease-fire, did the administration start to disown the debacle.
And include  The Villager  whose  editorial, "Dems must find their spine on Iraq," spelled it out clearly: "The so-called surge is not "working" and it has nothing to do with the heightened violence last week. Even with the reduced level of violence against Americans in the last few months, we were still losing about a soldier a day. Many more troops are being severely wounded with crippling physical and mental injuries. Iraqi civilians continue to be killed in far greater numbers. The surge's intent was to prompt the Iraqis into making political compromises in order to govern themselves. Even the Bush administration admits there has been little progress on that front. How will the Iraqis ever be able to police themselves if Bush and John McCain continue to suggest we are willing to stay indefinitely -- a century, if necessary?"  The assault on Basra was a War Crime.  It was also a moment that revealed to the entire world that the US installed puppet Nouri al-Maliki was incompentent and unsupported by the Iraqi people. 
He made ultimatums and then had to back down because he lacks the support to carry those out.  This week he showed up attempting to save face after Moqtada al-Sadr's call for a stand-down (via talks between members of Iraq's parliament and Iran) brought the peace al-Maliki can never provide.  He also begged for resistance fighters to return at least 50 government vehicles they had seized during the fighting -- but he calls it a 'win.'  And he and his White House handlers learn nothing from the experience.  AFP reports that Thursday he was boasting of more assaults on al-Sadr's followers and repeating his talk of "outlaws" and how he doesn't make deals with him.  Having yet again talked big, he got sleep and -- maybe he had scary nightmares -- showed up today with a different tune.  Reuters reported this morning that he was now saying turn in weapons and everyone can get along!  He'll even "grant amnesty from prosectuion"!  Retuers observed, "The statement appeared to soften Maliki's position from Thursday, when at a news conference he threatened a crackdown on Sadr's strongholds in Baghdad."  Meanwhile Matt Schofield (Kansas City Star) wonders, "So, we're almost five years from the day Baghdad fell, and it's time to ask: Who is in control of Iraq?"

Turning to the topic of Iraqi refugees.  Tuesday the UNHCR's Jennifer Pagonis broke down the latest figures on the internally displaced noting that "it is estimated that over 2.77 million people are currently displaced inside the country.  Of these, 1.2 million were displaced before 2006 and more than 1.5 million were displaced in 2006 and 2007."  Of these, "over 1 million cannot access regular income.  Around 300,000 individuals have no access to clean water and are in need of legal aid to enable them to access other basic services."  On external refugees, Trudy Rubin (Philadelphia Inquirer) observes, "More than two million Iraqi refugees are struggling to survive outside Iraq, the bulk of them in neighboring Jordan and Syria. . . . Jordan and Syria can't afford to keep them, but they can't go home and are running out of money.  Yet the desperate plight of Iraq's refugees isn't one the president wants to highlight -- because it underlines how tenuous the situation remains in Iraq."  That's putting it mildly.  Relief Web notes this from the Christian Reformed Church in North America, "Early last year the U.S. government agreed to resettle 7,000 refugees by February 2008, giving preference to those at greatest risk of violence.  Today, only 2,000 Iraq refugees have entered the United States, with nearly 12,000 more awaiting approval."  That should read: "still waiting approval."  Dropping back to the Feb. 21st snapshot:
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. 
The crisis is not 'new,' it's not something unexpected.  It remains something the US refuses to address.  Simone Campbell (The Mountain Mail) notes, "Traveling throughout Lebanon and Syria recently with several religious sisters and staff members from Catholic Relief Services, I witnessed lives of desperation and quiet stories of hope.  Our visits with Iraqi families, Christian and Muslim, humanize numbing statistics staggering in scope."  She notes are:
Among them is Dovid, a gentle Christian man so traumatized by torture at the hands of a militia in Iraq that his body constantly shakes. He struggled to hold steady for a picture we took with his wife and 10 children who live crowded into one room in a poor Beirut neighborhood.       
There is Leila, a Shiite Muslim who had a successful career in nuclear medicine in Iraq until she and her father were threatened because they worked with a U.S. company on hospital construction.    
Her father sent her to safety in Lebanon; a few months later, he was executed as he walked home from his job.
She is haunted by rumors her father's enemies are searching for her.
Sheryl Kornman (Tuscon Citizen) speaks with the US State Dept's Barbara Day who attempts to stamp a happy face on things like refugees "remain near their countries in refugee camps or in cities hoping to one day return to their homes."  The State Dept wants them to return.  It looks better for the administration if that happens.  But the United Nations and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent have noted that it is not safe for them to return.  Homeland Security's Barbara Strack also spins for Kornman explaining that those who have "provided any money or goods to terrorists" may get exemptions -- since the US is defining a family who pays the ransom for a family member kidnapped as having "provided any money or goods to terrorists."  In the current issue of Harper's Magazine (April 2008), Deborah Campbell debunks that nonsense and other policies and attitudes preventing the Iraqi refugees from getting assistance in "Exodus: Where will Iraq go next?" (pp. 50 -56; link may only work for subscribers to the magazine).  Campbell describes the crisis:

The result of this societal collapse has been the largest exodus in the Middle East since the Palestinian refugee crisis of 1948.  One fifth of the population have fled their homes.  In addition to the 2.5 million people known to be displaced within Iraq, a further 2.5 million have left the country.  Several hundred thousand have made it to Egypt, the Gulf States, Iran, Turkey or Yemen, and Jordan hosts another half million.  But it is Syria that has taken on the largest burden.
She shares the stories of many Iraqi refugees in Syria such as Aisha who provides English clases for free to other Iraqis each weekend and left Iraq after being kidnapped and the ransom being $50,000 and leave Iraq immediately There's Saif who was an intelligence officer but was among the many to lose their jobs when Paul Bremer (with White House approval) disbanded the Iraqi military.  A rocket attack on his home left his wife paralyzed and his days in Syria are mainly spent "feeding and bathing his wife". A daughter was killed in the attack.  Another daughter badly burned with no money for reconstructive surgey and a son was kidnapped "and tortured with electric cables to the head -- now he babbled incoherently and was violent unless drugged."  In Lebanaon, she meets Iraqi refugees win jail such as the man trying to get his family "to Europe on passports he had pruchased" and was now told he would only be released if he agreed to go back to Baghdad.  These are among the many stories she shares and she also charts the routes of Iraq.  She notes falsehoods of The Myth of the Great Return (including that the bussed and bought featured one family that was kidnapped immediately upon arriving in Baghdad) and explains that "the plight of former U.S. employees, particularly translators, remains the sum total of the discussion of the crisis within American media and political circles.  The result is that, although more than 30,000 Iraqis were resettled in the United States after the 1991 Gulf War, only 3,775 Iraqis were granted entry between the beginning of the 2003 invasion and the end of January 2008." 
As the US government ignores the crisis they created, criticism also goes to the United Kingdom.  Jamie Doward (The Observer) reports that 50 Iraqi refugees were forcibly taken back to Iraq, to a 'safe' area (Irbil): "The British government claims the region is safe, but human rights campaigners warn it is becoming increasingly dangerous.  It has emerged that one failed asylum seeker, Solyman Rashid, who was returned from Britain after his appeal was rejected, was killed by a car bomb in Kirkuk, northern Iraq, last September."  Speaking in Amman, Jordan today, John Holmes, United Nation's Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, explained the crisis for all Iraqis and, of internally displaced ones, that that "have little or no access to proper health care, food assistance, sanitation and other services"  which is why the UN has issued a call for $265 million in donations and currently is $60 million short of that figure.
UPI reports a movement in Germany's religious communities to lobby "for sancturay in the country for Iraqi Christians" and asking for "long-term asylum for 25,000 to 30,000 Christians". In the United States, David Zucchino (Los Angeles Times) reports, attorney Robert Dekelaita is attempting to do the same thing:
Over the last decade, DeKelaita has obtained asylum for hundreds of Iraqi Christians threatened with deportation. He travels the U.S. to counsel distraught, uprooted men and women who have fled religious persecution in Iraq.

But each new grant of asylum leaves DeKelaita feeling conflicted; his efforts inadvertently contribute to the slow dissolution of the once-vibrant Christian community in Iraq.

"My heart is really wedded to the idea that they should be safe and secure in their own homeland in Iraq," DeKelaita, 45, said inside his law office in Skokie, Ill., near Chicago. "What I'm doing is temporary. That's how I justify it to myself -- that they will one day all go back home safely to their homeland."

Repressed under Saddam Hussein, Iraq's Christian population has been decimated since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Muslim extremists have murdered priests and burned churches and Christian-owned shops and homes. Priests in Iraq estimate that fewer than 500,000 Christians remain, about a third of the number as before 2003.
Turning to some of the violence that's created the refugee crisis . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports mortar attacks on the Green Zone, a Diyala Province bombing at a funeral that claimed 16 lives and left 29 wounded. CBS and AP report: "The attacker detonated an explosive vest in the midst of the mourners attending the funeral for a Sunni policeman who had been shot dead on Thursday night, said and officer who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak."  Reuters reports a Mussayab roadside bombing claimed the lives of 3 police officers (two more wounded).  Reuters also notes a US helicopter attack in Basra that had multiple "casualties" according to eyewitnesses.
Reuters reports a member of the "Awakening" Council was shot dead outside Samarra.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad.
Meanwhile Kevin Naff (Washington Blade) reports on keeping someone in the closet even in death.  Major Alan Rogers died in Iraq on Januray 27th and was buried March 14th. 
But the mainstream media accounts of his death omitted any reference to his sexual orientation. These were not benign omissions. The Washington Post, in particular, worked overtime to excise any mention of Rogers' sexual orientation. It did not even report his work for AVER. Several of Rogers' gay friends told the Blade that they were interviewed by a Post reporter at the funeral, but their memories were not included in the paper's coverage.
As offensive, possibly more, is the report Steve Inskeep (Morning Edition) which offered such gems such as this "Rogers had no wife or child to take away the flag that draped his coffin, so soldiers folded the flag and gave it to his cousin."  Rogers had no wife?  Why was that?  NPR worked overtime to avoid telling the truth and was selective in what they aired.  Not only did the media attempt to deny who Rogers was, Chris Johnson (Washington Blade) reports someone at the Pentagon recently attempted to remove references to Rogers' sexuality from the Wikipeida entry on him.
On the topic of veterans, US Senator Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign announces the creation of Veterans for Hillary Leadership Committee which has "21 distinguished veterans from the Keystone State" and "will spearhead the campaign's efforts to reach out to Pennsylvania's veterans and inform them about Hillary's record of fighting for the men and women who have worn our nation's uniform.  Congressmen John Murtha and Joe Sestak will co-chair the committee."  Serving on the committee:
  • Larry Babitts, Boiling Springs, US Army
  • Ron Byrd, Tobyhanna, US Army**
  • Russell Canevari, Jessup, US Army
  • Ed Cemic, Sr., Johnstown, US Army
  • Kathy Cullinane, Scranton, USAF
  • Hal Donahue, Scranton, USAF
  • Thomas Dougherty, Dunmore, US Army
  • General Mike Dunn, Davidsville, US Army
  • Glen Embree, Mt. Pleasant Township, Navy
  • Greg Erosenko, Monroeville, US Army
  • Wy Gowell, Clark Summit, USAF
  • John Hugya, Hollsopple, USMC
  • Christin Joltes, Johnstown, USAF
  • Jim Kull, Uniondale, US Army
  • Joe Long, Bethlehem, USAF
  • William McCool, Levittown, Navy
  • Mike Miskell, Scranton, Navy
  • Phyllis Reinhardt, Scranton, US Army
  • General Gerald Sajer, East Berlin, US Army
  • Joseph Tully, Scranton, Navy
  • Jeffrey Voice, Philadelphia, US Army
**"Ron" is my guess.  The first half of the name is left off the list.  If that guess is incorrect on my part, my apologies and we'll correct it if it's pointed out.
At ZNet, Phyllis Bennis attempts to interject a little honesty into the discussions of Barack Obama: He Pees Peace and Rainbows.  Naturally, Tom-Tom Hayden is having none of it.  Bennis notes that Obama does not need to "'clarify' his own position on counter-insurgency or troop withdrawal, but to CHANGE his position."  Those are fighting words to Bambi Groupies, Phyllis.  And Tom-Tom shows up singing "Songs to Aging Children come, Aging children, I am one."  Trying aging fool -- and for the record, Tom-Tom, I didn't need to poll behind your back to make that call.  Tom-Tom's humping Bambi like his found another cash cow, chattering on about the 2002 anti-war speech (that no one heard in real time and could be 'expanded' today -- the same way recordings of it were 'recreated'), "his 16 month combat troop withdrawal plan, his refusal to support Bush on Iran's Revolutionary Guard" blah, blah, blah.  Reality check.  Bambi didn't refuse to support Bully Boy on that measure.  He didn't show up for the vote.  Patricia J. Williams has tried that LIE as well.  Let's stick to the real world, Tom-Tom.  In addition, as William M. Arkin (Washington Post) observed at the end of March, Obama's anti-Iran talk now "sounds like current White House policy." 
The 16-month is the most hilarious.  Showing the same dedication to denial that got him kicked out of the commune in California, Tom-Tom wants to pretend Samantha Power never happened.  Power told the BBC -- while still Bambi's chief foreign policy advisor -- that the 16-month pledge . . . really wasn't a pledge.  If Barack made it into the White House, he'd decide what to do about Iraq then.  Of all days to look like a sap, Tom-Tom picked the wrong-wrong one.  Eli Lake (New York Sun) reports:
A key adviser to Senator Obama's campaign is recommending in a cofidential paper that America keep between 60,000 and 80,000 troops in Iraq as of late 2010, a plan at odds with the public pledge of the Illinois senator to withdraw combat forces from Iraq within 16 months of taking office.
The paper, obtained by The New York Sun, was written by Colin Kahl for the center-left Center for a New American Security. In "Stay on Success: A Policy of Conditional Engagement," Mr. Kahl writes that through negotiations with the Iraqi government "the U.S. should aim to transition to a sustainable over-watch posture (of perhaps 60,000--80,000 forces) by the end of 2010 (although the specific timelines should be the byproduct of negotiations and conditions on the ground)."
Mr. Kahl is the day-to-day coordinator of the Obama campaign's working group on Iraq. A shorter and less detailed version of this paper appeared on the center's Web site as a policy brief.
No fool like an old fool, Tom-Tom.  Sarah Sewall is the 'brain' behind the US counter-insurgency strategy in Iraq.  She advises which campaign?  Barack Obama's.  At some point the PATHETIC are going to have to stop lying -- they are a danger to themselves and others.  As Doug Henwood (ZNet) observes -- no fan of either Hillary or Barack, "And despite the grand claims of enthusiasts, he doesn't really have a movement behind him -- he's got a fan club.  How does a fan club hold a candidate accountable?"  As Tom-Tom demonstrates repeatedly, they don't.

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