Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, April 16, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, Pulizter Prize winning photographer Bilal Hussein is finally released by the US military in Iraq, a Senate committee makes noises about war funding, the US military announces more deaths, and more.
Starting with war resistance.  Courage to Resist has compiled a page providing names of war resisters and we'll note Jose Vasquez's sketch: "Staff. Sgt. Jose Vasquez served fourteen years in the Army and Army Reserve.  In January 2005, he applied for conscientious objector status requesting immediate discharge from the military which was approved.  He was honorably discharged in May 2007.  Jose is an active member of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) serving as Co-chiar of the Borad and President of the New York City chapter.  He is pursuing a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from the City University of New York." Vasquez helped verify all witnesses testifying at Winter Soldier Investigation last month and also chaired the March 14th's first panel.  Vasquez also organized the successful Operation First Casualty II last May (Memorial Day) in NYC.
That's the US.  In Canada, US war resisters are waiting 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, Jose Vasquez, 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, Jason Marek, 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.
Bilal is free.  The Committee to Protect Journalists notes, "Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein was freed today from U.S custody in Iraq, ending a two-year ordeal in which he fended off unsubstantiated accusations from the U.S. military that he collaborated with Iraq insurgents." Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reminds, "The military never made public its evidence against Hussein" and that they announced their decision on Monday when they "released a statement with a slightly gruding tone". "Two years and four days" of imprisonment, Daryl Lang (Photo District News) calculates, also noting the "five-month judicial process" that ended last week.  Robert H. Reid (AP) explains, "Hussein, 36, was freed at a checkpoint in Baghdad, where he was taken by the military aboard a prisoner bus.  He left U.S. custody wearing a traditional Iraqi robe and appeared in good health."  Dean Yates (Reuters) quotes Bilal stating, "I want to thank all the people working in AP . . . I have spent two years in prison even though I was innocent.  I thank everybody."  Editorial Photographers United Kingdom & Ireland describes the scene, "The photographer was embraced by sobbing family members, including his brother and mother, and spoke to other well-wishers on a mobile phone as he was showered with flowers and sweets.  He later was honored with a traditional feast." They also quote professor Yassir Hussein (Bilal's brother) explaining, "I cannot describe my happiness at seeing him again.  The family has been going through a hard time over the past two years, but now we thank God that we will have some rest."  AFP notes Bilal's Pulitzer Prize win and that he was released at "an entry checkpoint near Camp Victory near the Baghdad airport" according to US Maj Matt Morgan. Paul Colford, Associated Press' Director of Media Relations, announced Monday, "After two years in detention, Bilal Hussein needs time to spend with his family, to rest and to catch up with the rest of the world."
"We need to trust" declared Jim Nussle at the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing today on tossing away more American dollars on funding the illegal war.  Nussle is the budget director for the White House so his credentials on "trust" remain murky.  US Senator Robert Byrd is the chair (despite attempts by US Senator Patrick Leahy to oust him) and, appearing robust, he opened the haring by noting first US Senator Arlen Specter's "health has hit a small bump in the road.  While many of us know what it's like to face a health challenge, I know this man.  His strong fighting spirit will quickly lead him on the path to recovery."  Byrd then moved the topic of the hearing:
Eleven months ago, Congress sent the president a war funding supplemental that included clear direction to bring our troops home by December of 2007.  The president chose to veto that bill.  If he had signed that bill, most of our troops would already be home.  But instead of bring our troops home, the president decided to increase our commitment of US troops and treasure to a war that has now entered its sixth year.  Over 4,000 US service members have died.  Over 30,000 US service members have been wounded.  By the end of 2008, the war in Iraq will have cost a whopping $600 billion.  In the next few weeks, the Appropriations Committee will consider the president's request for Congress to approve another $108 billion of emergency funding, most for this endless war in Iraq.  We will be considering the president's request at a time when the US ecnomy is, by most accounts, in serious trouble. Under the president's fiscal leadership, the US government will have piled up the five largest deficits in the history of our Republic.  It took 212 years and 42 US presidents to accumulate one-trillion-dollars of foreign-held debt.  But in only seven years, President George W. Bush has more than doubled the debt our country owes to China, Japan, and other foreign entities.
As he concluded his opening remarks, Byrd also noted, "This year, we will once again take good care of our troops.  But we must also invest in our own economy and take care of our people here at home.  To fail to do so will only further dampen our economy, work a hardship on our our citizens, and deplete our ability to pay these endless, every-climbing requests for more money to fund this war in Iraq.  The well is running dry, and it is time to prime the pump."  The senators worthy of note include Patty Murray who pointed out that the White House repeatedly underfunds in the US (infastructure, etc) and that when Congress attempts to address the underfunding, the White House threatens a veto.  She stated that Congress was attempting to fund the needed programs "in a responsible way" but there's no effort on the part of the White House to reach out to the Congress and that can stop.  "If that means," Murray declared, "we're going to to have to wait until we get" the next president, "then that's what we're going to do."   Senator Byron Dorgan echoed Murray's point and noted that "the game is over."  He referenced the New York Times story (C.J. Chivers' "Washington Blocks Exports of Munitions Firm Suspected of Fraud") on the 'businessmen' providing ammo to Afghanistan (emphasing "massage therapist" repeatedly) as well as the fact that Halliburton gets US tax payer funds and then "runs the payroll through the Cayman Islands" in order to avoid paying the US payroll taxes.  He stated that everyone -- Congress, the administration -- bears responsibility for the lack of oversight but that "there comes a time when you have to say enough."  Senator Ben Nelson noted the "blank check policy" the administration has attempted to utilize repeatedly.
The big surprise may have been Senator Dianne Feinstein who may have done her best job in a Senate hearing period.  She was to the point, she knew what you wanted to say.  She noted the frustrations everyone on the committee felt and maybe that's what it took but Feinstein, repeatedly holding her forehead as she held the administration accountable, Feinstein was professional and focused. "Never before in history has a war been funded on the debt," Feinstein pointed out.  "I think it's a . . . problem for the survival of the nation."  She was referring to the climbing debt and the White House's request for yet another 'emergency' funding bill.  Feinstein noted what wasn't getting funded, she noted the failing infrastructure across America, and the lack of funding to prevent wildfires or the leveys in Califonria that need to be fixed.  "My problem is," she explained, "I've got a part of a state that might well burn over the summer again and we can't provide" the needed funding.  She noted the tax cuts for the wealthy throughout the years of the illegal war and the domestic programs cut and re-cut during this emphasizing, "It's rather cyncial what happens: You fund the war off budget, on the debt, and you press for further tax reduction."  Regarding the latest 'emergency' request, Feinstein declared, "I think maybe the time has come when we do have to put our foot down" to make clear that "we're not going to do" this "and I'm going to have a very hard time for $108 billion knowing what's happening in the United States, . . knowing we need to do some things just to protect our own people. . . . It's not right and it's not why we" came to Congress.
"The legacy that this president will leave," Senator Mary Landrieu pointed out, "is that he drove the country into a war and for the next six years . . . refused to submit a plan to pay for it. There's nothing, Director, clean about this bill -- it's either a cover-up . . . or a sloppy sales job."
At the conclusion of the hearing, the chair, Robert Byrd, spoke noting in "the next few weeks the committee will mark up a supplemental that meets the needs" of the military and the civilians.  A lively hearing and a CODEPINK activist chanted "Fund them home! Fund the home!" repeatedly at the end; however, it needs to be noted that some of the life in the hearing may have had less to do with the illegal war (and the drain its placed on the US economy -- present and future) and more to do with the White House's threat to veto what Congress sends up if they add any additional spending to it (which is their right, they control the purse and the White House does not have line-item veto).  Senator Ben Nelson hit especially hard on the issue of the money going to the Iraq War and reminded that he and Senator Evan Bayh had, early on, requested that the monies for reconstruction, et al in Iraq be given in the form of a loan.  Nussle apparently missed last week's hearings because this was a new concept to him.  He spoke of taking the idea back to the White House and begged off additional questions noting he was not the Secretary of State.  In terms of the waste Dorgan emphasized, he also acted as if this was news to him.  He suggested Congress explore that.  That's what they were attempting . . . while he played dumb.
Dumb travels.  "We are today more confident than any time before," CBS and AP quote Nouri al-Maliki, puppet of the occupation, declaring, "that we are close to the point where we can declare victory against al Qaeda . . . and its allies."  String it along, al-Maliki, string it along. He needed some good (false) news to promote because other news wasn't reflecting on the US established government in Iraq.  Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports, "The Iraqi army and police commanders in the southern city of Basra were reassigned today in what the government described as routine staff movements but which came amid controversy over troops' preformance during a recent offensive."  It's the puppet government so no sooner was the announcement made to the press then an alternative was released.  Reuters notes, "The top Iraqi military commander in the southern city of Basra has not been replaced, the Defence Ministry said" and then quotes Maj Gen Mohammed al-Askari stating, "He is still in his job.".   Or maybe he defected or deserted?  (Or maybe his scheduled retirement next week is how the 'firing' is being fudged.) Nancy Moran (Bloomberg News) reports, "About 50 Iraqi troops fled a joint fight with American soldiers in Baghdad's Sadr City last night, setting back U.S. efforts to get Iraqis to take the lead in gaining control".
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 Baghdad mortar attacks which claimed 1 life and left thirteen wounded, a Mosul car bombing that claimed 1 life, and a Kirkuk roadside bombing that wounded two people.  Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) notes a Basra US attack with "an unmanned US Predator aircraft" which killed 4 people with missiles.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that, last night, an assassination attempt "on one of Al-Sistani representatives in Kut" which left the man wounded and which followed an attack Laith Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reported yesterday on al Sistania's representative Ali Al Fadhil.  CBS and AP note an attack outside Muqdadiyah oon a vehicle that left 2 women dead and three males wounded. UPI, citing a US military announcement, notes that the US military killed 1 person they suspected of being a 'terrorist' and another who was "a bystander" (in Mosul).
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 4 corpses discovered in Baghdad
Meanwhile the US military announces: "Two Multi-National Force – West Marines were killed in action April 14 when their vehicle was attacked by an enemy force with an improvised explosive device in al Anbar Province." This brings the death toll of US service members in Iraq to 4037 since the start of the illegal war.
"We have so many candidates that say that they're against the war.  Well if we had these candidates that say that they're against the war actually vote against the war then we wouldn't be talking about the war anymore," declared former US Congress woman Cynthia McKinney, who is running for the Green Party's presidential nomination over the weekend in a LA speech (link has video only). "Some of us took those hard votes early on and voted to stop funding the war but then, of course, something happened along the way -- it always does -- and that is that the War Party which has a Democratic wing and a Republican wing got together and counted their votes.  They understood that they had 218 votes they needed, 218 votes in order to keep us in the war.  They knew from their experience in 2002 which, I hope all of you have seen American Blackout, that they had a sure-fire way to get one of those votes out of the Congress, one of those no votes.  And so they did it.  That very first vote to fund the war after the Democratic majority took place passed exactly by 218 votes.  If I had been there, we wouldn't be talking about ending the funding for the war.  We'd be talking about how we're going to build a single-payer healtchcare system in this country.  We'd be talking about why it is that students have to be a hundred thousand dollars in debt just to get an education.  We could be talking about how we're going to green our economy, how we're going to provide jobs for the environement people and, at the same time, refuse to accept that the so-called 'American way of life' is something worth killing for.  We would have a whole different conversation about what true American values really are. But instead, because the corporate media allows those who actually fund the war to claim that they are against the war, then we have to continue to have the same conversation.  And that's that same conversation that I've rejected."   
Staying with US presidential politics, Susan UnPC (No Quarter) wonders if ABC's Charlie Gibson intends to ask Senator Barack Obama about Nahdmi Auchi whom Obama claims he doesn't remember but Michael Sneed (Chicago Sun-Times) thinks Bambi might be showing "a Pinocchio problem".  When would Gibson ask that?  In tonight's ABC News debate between Barack and Senator Hillary Clinton where Barack will attempt to put Bitter-gate behind him -- or persuade the press that it is. Or maybe put behind his really bad ad regarding oil.  Ken Dilanian (USA Today) notes, "It's accurate that Obama doesn't take money from oil companies; neither do his opponents, because corporate contributions are illegal. But Obama, like Clinton and John McCain, has accepted donations from oil and gas company employees -- $222,309 in Obama's case from donors from Exxon, Shell, Chevron and others, according to campaign-finance data. Two oil company CEOs have pledged to raise at least $50,000 each as part of Obama's fundraising team."  In a busy day for Bambi, he also found time to slam former US president Jimmy Carter.  In other news, the US Congress' newest member, Rep Jackie Speier endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party presidential nomination yesterday:
"Nothing makes me more proud than to announce my endorsement of Hillary Clinton for President," said Speier. "As a woman, a lawmaker and a mother, I understand what electing Hillary will mean for this country. She will not only bring an extraordinary grasp of the issues to the White House, but also a uniquely feminine skill set - consensus building, negotiation, and patience - that will serve our nation well. As President, Hillary will set an example for how to run a country with diplomacy and restraint."
"I am thrilled to have the support of the newest Member of Congress, Jackie Speier," said Clinton. "Jackie has been a force to be reckoned with in California politics for more than two decades, standing up for children, families, and consumers across the state. Congress is fortunate to have someone with her fortitude and vision, and I look forward to working with her as we bring real change to Washington."

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