Monday, April 14, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Monday, April 14, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces they will
finally free Bilal Hussein, a kidnapped photojournalist is rescued, the US military announces more deaths, and more.
Starting with war resistance.  Writing earlier this month about a protest for the 4,000 mark (US service members killed), the Catalyst Project's Clare Bayard (Indybay IMC) notes, "Every day, people act to resist the U.S. military, from around the world, from within its ranks.  And how do we know how many of those names read out last night belong to resisters?  How many were carrying an unloaded weapon, like Agustin Aguayo did for a year while the Army denied his conscientious objector status?  How many were considering going AWOL?  How many were pursuing, if they knew the option existed, a conscientious objector status?  How many had done something recently to stand up to racism, misogyny, or some random violence within their unit?  Mostly we'll never know because now their mouths are filled with dirt and their stories will be carried only by those suriving them."  Last month, Joanne Tucker (Daily 49er) reported on a rally Aguayo attended noting he "spent almost seven months in jail after going absent without official leave (AWOL) before his second deployment to Iraq as an Army medic" and quotes Aguayo declaring to the crowd, "We came back and we feel lucky. I have my limbs.  I have my family, but still, it's hard to function.  I'm glad you're here and you do want change." Aguayo served in Iraq on one of tour of duty.  When he arrived, he wasn't prepared for what he saw and he had a spiritual transformation/awakening.  He grasped immediately that what was taking place was against his moral beliefs and took to not loading his weapon.  He applied for CO status and the military rejected it.  The thrust of their argument is offensive which is that you are who you  are -- in terms of spirituality and religious belief -- when you sign up.  They argued against what almost every religion practiced in the US maintains, that your spirituality in, your commitment to, the religion can deepen and increase. The reason they got away with that is that so few people know Aguayo's story.  If most people knew the US military was rejecting a claim for CO status (or for anything) based on the argument that a religion has a fixed point, they would be offended and outraged.  (Especially considering the basic issue of who is the US military to weigh in on religion?) Aguayo took the issue to the civilian courts which had agreed to hear it.  That alone should have made the US military back off long enough to let the court system weigh in.  They didn't back off, Aguayo got across how serious he was about not being able to ethically, religiously and morally deploy to Iraq.  Though gone less than 30 days -- the usual yardstick for whether someone is prosecuted for being AWOL -- and though he had turned himself in, the US military decided to court-martial him for desertion.  The court-martial took place March 6, 2007 at which he declared, "I respect everyone's views and your decision.  I understand that people don't understand me.  I tried my best, but I couldn't bear weapons and I could never point weapons at someone. . . . The words of Martin Luther come to mind, 'Here I stand, I can do no more'."
Two years prior (May 10, 2005), Pablo Paredes was court-martialed.  Pablo Paredes was schedule dto deploy in 2004, but he refused to board the ship.  Rick Rogers (San Diego Union-Tribune) reported on it in real time noting December 7, 2004, "Petty Officer 3rd Class Pablo Paredes followed through on his plan: He refused to board his Navy ship yesterday morning when it sailed for Iraq with thousands of Camp Penleton Marines. . . . Paredes might be the first local sailor to refuse deployment on the grounds of being philosophically opposed to the Iraq war, said Sam Samuelson, spokesman for the San Diego Naval Station." National Lawyers Guild president Marjorie Cohn testified at Paredes court-martial.  As she observed in May of 2005:
In a stunning blow to the Bush administration, a Navy judge gave Petty Officer 3rd Class Pablo Paredes no jail time for refusing orders to board the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard before it left San Diego with 3,000 sailors and Marines bound for the Persian Gulf on December 6th.  Lt. Cmdr. Robert Klant found Pablo guilty of missing his ship's movement by design, but dismissed the charge of unauthorized absence.  Although Pablo faced one year in the brig, the judge sentenced him to two months' restriction and three months of hard labor, and reduced his rank to seaman recruit.  
"This is a huge victory," said Jeremy Warren, Pablo's lawyer.  "A sailor can show up on a Navy base, refuse in good conscience to board a ship bound for Iraq, and receive no time in jail.  Warren added.  Although Pablo is delighted he will not have to go to jail, he still regrets that he was convicted of a crime.  He told the judge at sentencing: "I am guilty of believing this war is illegal.  I am guilty of believing war in all forms is immoral and useless, and I am guilty of believing that as a service member I have a duty to refuse to participate in this War because it is illegal."
Scripps News noted Pablo Paredes at the end of last month when addressing Pew Hispanic Center's polling which found only 24% of Latinos were in favor of the the Iraq War and noting that Paredes "now works as a peace educator with the American Friends Service Committee."  At the same time, Parades and Jess Quintero contributed a piece for Scripps Howard News Service with Quinteror providing reasons Latinos should enlist and with Parades offering reasons why Latinos should be opposed to US involvement in Iraq.  Parades reasons are below:
1. Hispanics are overrepresented in the most dangerous roles of the military and sorely underrepresented in the officer ranks and elite jobs.         
2. Recruitment programs that target Hispanics make false promises of education, a better economic status and citizenship.             
3. Hispanics who have served honorably come home to face inequality and discrimination; they aren't provided access to adequate veterans' benefits.           
4. Hispanics' historical ties to the U.S. military have been destructive to their ancestors. "Marines are taught to sing about the pillaging of the 'Halls of Montezuma.' "             
5. The war has propelled the rise of vigilante groups such as the Minutemen who in their propaganda messages stereotype and scapegoat all Hispanics as national-security risks.          
Meanwhile war resisters in Canada wait to find out whether they will be granted safe harbor.  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).  
Last month Iraq Veterans Against the War's Winter Soldier took place and KPFA has a live program coming up April 22nd:

Live On Air and Online at!            
April 22 from 10am-1pm                    
Join us on April 22nd for this very important follow up to Pacifica's groundbreaking Winter Soldier live coverage. We will be following the San Francisco trial involving wounded vets and the Department of Veterans Affairs. In this first class action lawsuit U.S. Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder sue the VA, alleging a system wide breakdown in the way the Government treats those soldiers.
During this special broadcast we will be bringing our listeners live updates from the San Francisco federal courthouse, we'll speak with wounded Veterans attorney Gordon Erspamer, (taking this case pro bono because his father was permanently disabled in World War II and never received proper health care) and speak with Veterans advocates including Veterans for Common Sense, and Vets for America.
Read more about the broadcast here.              
That announcement will appear in the snapshots until the broadcast.  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. 
Turning to Iraq,  Free Bilal. Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist Bilal Hussein.  For the 'crime' of being a reporter, he has been imprisoned by the US military since April 12, 2006. As last year drew to a close the US military stated Bilal would be tried by the Iraqi legal system.  Last week, Reporters Without Borders noted that the "Iraqi appeal court panel of judges to dismiss the charges brought by the US defence department".  But the US military refused to release him.  As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorialized last week: "To recap: U.S. forces detain a man for 20 months without any charges. They hamstring his lawyers by not allowing them proper access to the evidence against him. When he finally gets his day in court and is exonerated, the U.S. military can still refuse to free him. How's that for justice?"  At AP's Bilal folder, Robert H. Reid (AP) reports, "The U.S. military said Monday it will release Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein, more than two years after he was detained by U.S. Marines on suspicions of links to insurgents.  The military said it has determined Hussein is not a threat and plans to free him Wednesday."  Tom Curley, the CEO and president of AP states, "In time, we will celebrate Bilal's release.  For now, we want him safe and united with his family.  While we may never see eye to eye with the U.S. military over this case, it is time for all of us to move on." Hopefully, the news of Bilal's release will get a great deal of coverage (although some will probably breathe easier when Wednesday arrives and he's actually released). 
What is getting attention out of Iraq today is the freeing of photojournalist Richard Butler.  Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) observes Bulter "appeared to be in good condition in Iraqi television footage that showed him smiling broadly as jubilant Iraqi officials embraced him and celebrated the rescue".  Deborah Haynes (Times of London) provides backstory, "A British photojournalist kidnpped two months ago in Basra was set free today in a dramtic rescue by Iraqi soldiers who stormed a house where he was being held captive with a hood over his head." David Blair (Telegraph of London) explains that the Iraqi soldiers "did not know that Mr Butler was being held there." BBC (text and video) also notes that fact, "The Iraqi forces launched the raid following an intelligence tip-off that was not about Mr Butler, but about a weapons cache in Basra, our correspondent said."  Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) quotes Butler declaring, "The Iraqi Army stormed the house and overcame my guards.  They burst through my door."  Erica Goode and Graham Bowley (New York Times) provides details on Butler (kidnapped February 10th): "a freelance photographer, worked for World Picture Network, an agency, and reported from countries such as Liberia and Iraq, before leaving to work for CBS News.  He and his wife and family, which includes at least one son, are based in Toulouse, France, according to people who have worked with him." CBS News explains (text and audio) he "was working as a producer for 60 Minutes when he was taken by gunmen, along with his Iraqi translator, from the Sultan Palace Hotel early on the morning of Feb. 10, 2008.  The translator was released several weeks ago."  Robin Stringer (Bloomberg News) reminds, "The interpreter was released days later in a deal struck by Basra followers of Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.  Last year, 25 journalists and media assistants were kidnapped in Iraq, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders press freedom campaign group said.  A total of 208 have been killed in connection with their work since the start of the U.S.-led invasion in 2003." Canada's CBC adds to that, "Forces loyal to the radical Shia cleric Moqtada Al Sadr were involved in negotiations to free the two, but fighting between Sadr's militia and Iraqi army forces that began in last March is thought to have delayed the British journalist's release." Iran's Press TV states that following the release of the interpreter "the group says it couldn't free Butler."  The Committee to Protect Journalists released a statement noting Butler's rescue. 
It's interesting what passes for news and what doesn't.  Specialist Matthew T. Morris, Captain Ulises Burgos-Cruz, Major Stuart A. Wolfer, Colonel Stephen K. Scott, Private 1st Class Shane D. Penley, Staff Sergeant Emanuel Pickett, Staff Sergeant Jeremiah E. McNeal, Sergeant Richard A. Vaughn, Specialist Jason C. Kazarick, Sergeant Michael T. Lilly, Sergeant Timothy M. Smith, Major Mark E. Rosenberg, Staff Sergeant Jeffery L. Hartley, Specialist Jacob J. Fairbanks, Sergeant Shaun P. Tousha, Sergeant Jesse A. Ault, Specialist Jeremiah C. Hughes and Technical Sergeant Anthony L. Capra were not news.  Who are they?  They are 18 of the 20 US service members who died last week (as noted at Third Sunday) -- two names are still not released.  20 US service members in Iraq were declared dead and where the newspapers headlines?  Apparently the death toll only qualifies as 'news' when it's low and the US military brass can spin "It's down!  It's down!" 
One exception to the silence was The CBS Evening NewsSpeaking to US Gen David Petreaus on Thursday, Katie Couric noted (text and video) 16 US service members killed in Iraq.  That was the AP count at that time.  The number was already up 18 by ICCC which updates their count more quickly since it goes by MNF when possible (DoD announces names; MNF is supposed to announce deaths that DoD later -- after families are contacted -- provides the names for).  Pia Malbran (CBS News) reports today:
The Department of Defense has released its latest American military casualty numbers for those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the figures reveal non-fatal casualties that go well beyond the more than 4,000 U.S. troops who have died so far.        
As of April 5, a total of 36,082 members of the U.S. military have been wounded in action and killed in Iraq, since the beginning of the war in March 2003, and in Afghanistan, where the war there began in October 2001. The 36,082 number breaks down to 4,492 deaths and 31,590 wounded. According to the same DoD "casualty" counts, an additional 38,631 U.S. military personnel have also been removed from the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan for "non-hostile-related medical air transports."        
"That's a tremendous number," said Paul Sullivan, the executive director of the advocate group Veterans for Common Sense, who believes these latest figures paint a more realistic picture of the true cost of the Iraq and Afghan wars. He is concerned troop casualties, including those who have been wounded, killed and medically transported, is now nearing 75,000.
Today the US military announced: "A Coalition force soldier was killed in an improvised explosive device attack in the Salah ad Din Province April 14.  The name of the deceased is being withheld pending next of kin notification and release by the Department of Defense."  And they announced: "A Multi-National Division -- Baghdad Soldier was killed from wounds sustained when an improvised-explosive device struck the vehilce the Soldier was riding in while conducting a combat patrol in northeastern Baghdad at approximately 4:45 p.m. April 14.  The soldier was quickly transported by air to the combat army support hospital where he later died of his wounds." 4035 is now the number of US service members announced killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.
Turning to other reported violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Baghdad roadside bombing that claimed the lives of 5 police officers and wounded thirteen people (including two police officers), 7 Baghdad mortar attacks that claimed 3 lives left thirteen wounded, a Mosul truck bombing that also involved gunfire resulted in the deaths of 14 Iraqi soldiers and 15 people, 2 Mosul car bombings claimed 2 lives and left four people wounded and a Tal Afer bomber killed themselves in an attack on funeral that resulted in the deaths of 4 mourners and twenty two being wounded.  Reuters notes a Baghdad bus bombing claimed 2 lives and left six people wounded, a roadside bombing outside Yusuifya that claimed the lives of 2 police officers and left a third  injured, while a Falluja car bombing wounded six family members.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Maj Rafia Mohammad ("Basra intelligence directorate") was assassinated in Basra, while 17 "Awakening" Council members in Salahuddin Province were wounded in attacks on their homes and 1 person ("head of the electoral station centers") was shot dead in Diyala Province.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 corpses discovered in Baghdad, 30 corpses in Muqdadiyah  and 1 in Dour.  Reuters notes 2 corpses discovered in Mahaweel and 2 "northeast of Kirkuk".
Turning to the US presidential race.  All the news is about Senator Barack Obama.  Which might be a good thing for him . . . were it not for the news.  As noted in Friday's snapshot, he declared, "You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. It's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."  Instead of immediately apologizing, he tried to play it off (as his surrogates continue to).  He was offensive.  He can't garner votes and offend. Eloise Harper (ABC News) reports Hillary stated Barack should have been "owning up to his remarks" which he should have been. It's really basic. And it's not helpful to the Democratic Party.  As Fernando Suarez (CBS News) notes, Hillary explained that Sunday, "The Democratic Party has been unfortunately viewed by many people over the last decades as being elitist and out of touch."  And that killed the John Kerry momentum (which did briefly exist -- go back to the days of the young Edwards children, John and Elizabeth Edwards and John Kerry and Teresa Heinz-Kerry on the front page of the New York Times -- that period briefly existed).  Melinda Henneberger (Slate) dubs it Bambi's "worst" mistake and notes, "Sure, many Americans in places like my hometown are angry and they do 'cling'' to guns and God, though not in that order. It's connecting the two that's belittling in the extreme to the 'typical white person'-- to cite a phrase I chose to overlook at the time. Now, if Obama is sticking by the essence of what he said out of stubbornness or arrogance, that's one kind of problem. But if he really doesn't see why this could be a game-changer, that's worse. And though I've been pretty unrelievedly positive about the guy, it's the first thing he's said that's made me question his ability to win."  Jay Newton-Small (Time magazine) notes that both Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain called out Barack's remarks and that his elitist remarks "dominated" "campaign news" over the weekend and quotes Duke University's poli sci professor Michael Munger explaining the problems when gaffes "play to an underlying stereotype," ". . . the Obama stereotype is a wealthy ivy-league elitist.  He's a little too well-spoken; his suits are a little too expensive.  From him, the comment comes off as condescending." Mike Dorning (Chicago Tribune) reports it dominated the Sunday chat & chews and quotes the GOP's Mary Matalin stating, "The damage here is that what he said accurately reflects the current Democratic Party" which isn't reality but is how the GOP would use it in a general election because, as Matlin notes, his comments are "a general election nightmare."  US News & World Report explains that the weekend didn't vanish the controversy and headlines their round-up with "Obama's 'Bitter' Comment Halts His Momentum."  Anante Higgins (CBS News) reports John McCain stated today, "I think those comments are elitist."
KDKA's Paul Martino got reactions from the Pittsburgh area:

In local small towns like Oakdale, many people say they were just hearing about Obama's comments and the reaction was mixed.
"It's a right to own a gun. You have every right in the world to own a gun," said Oakdale resident Mike Smith. "He's got no right to take that away from anybody."
Local teacher, Joe Welch, of South Fayette Township, says he is an undecided Democratic voter, but adds that Obama's remarks may sway him now to vote for Senator Hillary Clinton.
"I don't want to make an instant reaction here, but this is something I'll take into consideration," said Welch. "Religion and personal freedoms, that's something that should be taken into consideration."
I am well aware that at a fundraiser in San Francisco, he said some things that many people in Pennsylvania and beyond Pennsylvania have found offensive. He was explaining to a small group of his donors what people who live in small towns right here in Pennsylvania are like and why some of you aren't voting for him. But instead of looking at himself, he blamed them.       
He said that they cling to religion and guns and dislike people who are different from them. Well, I don't believe that. I believe that people don't cling to religion, they value their faith.   You don't cling to guns, you enjoy hunting or collecting or sport shooting.       
I don't think he really gets it that people are looking for a president who stands up for you and not looks down on you.  
After seven years of Americans feeling invisible to this president, President Bush, it's time that we level the playing field and begin acting like Americans again. And that means we roll up our sleeves and we get to work making our country what we know it can be. 
And I think it's time we turned words into action. As a great Pennsylvanian once said, Ben Franklin, "well done is better than well said." And that's what you're doing here and that's what I want to do with you. We're going to get things done. We're going to take action. We're going to bring people together. And I want you to hold me accountable.
Instead of apologizing for his remarks he chose to attack Hillary.  Now Barack Obama already seems to think he can win without the support of Florida and Michigan (he wants to disenfranchise both -- those who remember the 1964 DNC should be appalled) -- but exactly who does he expect to vote for him?  Where is this supposed 'coalition' going to come from?  Because he's alienating Americans left and right.  As part of his attempt to blame Hillary for what he said (where's the maturity, Barack?), he began telling 'jokes' about Annie Oakley.  Chastity (No Quarter) explains why that is offensive to her.  And it is offensive and part of the long history of attacks he and his campaign have launched on women.  Larry Johnson (No Quarter) explains why Barack shouldn't make gun 'jokes' when he doesn't know the basics.  (This is worse than John Kerry's big 'kill' that the Washington Post and the New York Times had a field day with in 2004.)