Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, April 22, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, the VA gets sued, Patty Murray calls for a resignation, Condi Rice continues to fail at diplomacy and more.
Starting with war resistance.  All who self-checkout of the military are not war resisters; however, in reporting on a husband and wife who self-checkedout and have now returned,
Rick Rogers (San Diego Union-Tribune) notes, "For a variety of reasons, at least 640 Marines based in California -- most of them from Camp Pendleton -- have landed in military court since June 2005 because they went AWOL, according to an analysis of Marine dockets by The San Diego Union-Tribune.  Those records showed at least 30 AWOL proceedings in the past month."  That is significant in and of itself (and Rogers notes that most do not end up in court so they aren't included in the public count).  It's all the more significant when you grasp that the figures given to the public repeatedly have been of the US Army.  Repeatedly the public has been told that this is just a problem for the army and that the marines don't have any problem with AWOLs or desertions.
Let's turn to known war resisters.  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 (pm@pm.gc.ca -- that's pm at gc.ca) who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion (Dion.S@parl.gc.ca -- that's Dion.S at parl.gc.ca) who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua (Bevilacqua.M@parl.gc.ca -- that's Bevilacqua.M at parl.gc.ca) 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 -- 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.  Today Allison and Glantz hosted a live report on KPFA about the trial where veterans are being represented by Gordon Erspamer in their lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Dropping back to yesterday's snapshot:
This morning Paul Elias (AP) reported on the lawsuit against the US Department of Veterans Affairs alleging that they were not "doing enough to prevent suicide and provide adequate medical care for the Americans who have served in the armed forces" -- a charge the government, naturally, denies.  CBS News' Armen Keteyian reports (link has text and text and video to past reports) that despite the government's denials in court today of problems and a rise in suicide risks, an e-mail exists, written earlier this year by the Veterans Affairs' head of Mental Health, Dr. Iraq Katz, which states "Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among veterans we see in our medical facilities." Keteyian explains, "Katz's email was written shortly after the VA provided CBS News data showing there were only 790 attemped suicides in all 2007 -- a fraction of Katz's estimate" and that when US House Rep and chair of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs Bob Filner was shown Katz' e-mail by CBS, Filner stated, "This is disgraceful.  This is a crime against our nation, our nation's veterans. They do not want to come to grips with reality, with the truth."
Allison and Glantz began the broadcast with some highlights from Winter Soldier and then began speaking with Gordon Erspamer who sketched out how few cases ever make it as far as this one has because the VA moves to dismiss.  An 86-year-old Nixon appointee agreed to hear this case despite the VA's efforts to dismiss the case.  The VA showed up with seven attorneys and a press flack.  Glantz revealed that while Erspamer was making points, the flack was repeatedly whispering into the ear of the New York Times reporter assigned to cover the case.  The VA was invited on the broadcast but they refused to send anyone, including their flack. The flack was played via a taped interview where, when asked about the fact that approximately 18 veterans are attempting suicide every day, she insisted "We care very, very much" while also saying that's only about 21% of the rate for the entire US.  The most amusing moment in the first hour of the broadcast came from a reporter for a weekly explaining how important this was.  That was all the funnier when testimony was played from Winter Soldier and he dubbed it "tragic."  Tragic was his outlet's refusal to print a story on Winter Soldier.  Why was he there?  He said it was an important issue.  The reality is that CBS is all over this story so everyone else is rushing to get onboard as well.  The reality is that it's follow the leader as opposed to any bravery.  The reality is it's an easier story to cover because it can be turned into "Oooooh" and clucking as opposed to something that really challenges. 
Reality is also that pathetic job the Veterans Affairs Dept has done.  They were happy to trot out their suicide prevention work on The Diane Rehm Show and others late last year.  And one of their big things, their big improvements, was their new toll free number to provide assistance for veterans contemplating suicide!  They didn't do crap.  The number is 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) and, guess what, that's the National Suicide Prevention Hot Line.  That's the number that's always been in existance for ALL US citizens.  The VA's total contribution to the crisis is that the National Suicide Prevention Hotline now allows you, at approximately 20 seconds into the automate message, to press "one" and identify yourself as a veteran.  That's the sum total of what the VA has done -- they've hopped on board the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. 
One person who is calling the Veterans Affairs Department out, Pia Malbran (CBS News) reports. is US Senator Patty Murray who is calling for the resignation of the VA's Dr. Ira Katz.  Senator Murray released the following statement today:
"It is imperative that the individual responsible for providing top notch mental health services to our veterans be open and honest about the VA's needs.  
"Doctor Katz's irresponsible actions have been a disservice to our veterans and it is time for him to go.  The number one priority of the VA should be caring for our veterans, not covering up the truth.
"I have spoken with Secretary Peake and I have asked him to take immediate action to restore the faith of our veterans in the mental health care provided by the VA.  
"The epidemic of veterans' suicide is horrifying but it should also be preventable.  In order to ensure that it is, the VA must be honest about the numbers and the needs.  It is time for the VA to own up to the true cost of the war and ensure our heroes aren't lost when they come home."
Turning to the 'diplomatic front,' US Secretary Condi Rice's trip to the Middle East has producded no photo-ops and no results.  AFP reports: "Rice failed to clinch any firm Arab pledges on debt relief or diplomatic presence at talks in Bahrain earlier on Monday but took her campaign to Kuwait for a meeting Tuesday with Iraq, Arab states, Turkey, Iran and world powers. Speaking after a meeting in Bahrain with counterparts from six Gulf monarchies, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq, Rice said the talks covered relieving Iraq debt and sending ambassadors to the war-torn nation. But she did not report any decision on either score."  Why has Rice's charm-assault failed so badly?  It probably doesn't help you make your case when you rely on lies that the US press might bite their tongues but foreign governments have to reaspon to. Today in Kuwait, she included this following in her speech, "I would just note that violence in Iraq has decreased. Iraq's leaders have certainly made progress in passing legislation on the budget, provincial powers, de-Baathification reform, pensions and amnesty. They have significantly improved Iraq's budget execution and they are now allocating more of Iraq's own budget to build the infrastructure and provide the services that the Iraqi people expect from their elected government."  Neighboring countries don't have oceans between themselves and Iraq, they are fully aware of what the puppet government in Baghdad hasn't done and probably find it insulting when Rice thinks she can spin them as if they were the press corps..  The de-de-Baathifciation (actual de-Baathification was started by Paul Bremer, overturning that would be de-de-Baathification) 'reform'?  Nothing's happened on that.  A laughable piece of legislation was passed, never implemented and considered by most, impossible to do so.  "Provincial powers" translates as the issue of Kirkuk and Iraq's neighbors pay a lot closer attention to that struggle over who get claim to Kirkuk than the US does.  The puppet-government sits on millions of dollars for reconstruction, none of which it is spending and neighboring countries are as aware of that as they are of the number of Iraqi refugees trying to enter their countries.  Despite the fact that puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki became a worldwide joke for his attempts at 'commanding' the assault on Basra, Rice not only wanted to cite that as 'success,' she wanted to imply that those attending were too stupid to grasp that with remarks such as, "And here, I want just to underscore that we need to really understand what happened in Basra."  Everyone understood what happened.  Not content selling failure as a success, she then wanted to encourage Iraqi's neighbors to back failure, "This is something that the Iraqi Government needed to do, and we all need to support what has been done there."  On the subject of Iraqi refugees her remarks were just insulting.  The US government has not met their (tiny) stated goals for admitting Iraqi refugees and the Iraqi government has not paid neighboring countries any reasonable amount of money so the last thing Iraq's neighbors needed to hear was Rice babbling on about 'success' on that front and all the money Iraq is investing to aid its citizens.. In fact, on Monday, Tom Casey, US State Dept' spokesperson, was asked about the puppet government not spending the oil revenues on the Iraqi people ("they're investing in US treasuries") and the best that Casey could respond was to state he didn't have the information in front of him and then the standard talking point of how "Iraq is investing in its own people."  Casey ignored the reference to January's GAO report.  James Glanz (New York Times) reporting on that report at the start of this year noted the White House claimed in September 2007 (when asking for more war funding) that Iraq had increased their spending on infrastructure, "The Iraqi government had been severely criticized for failing to spend billions of dollars of its oil revenues in 2006 to finance its own reconstruction, but last September the administration said Iraq had greatly accelerated such spending. By July 2007, the administration said, Iraq had spent some 24 percent of $10 billion set aside for reconstruction that year. As Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, and Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador to Iraq, prepared in September to report to Congress on the state of the war, the economic figures were a rare sign of progress within Iraq's often dysfunctional government. But in its report on Tuesday, the accountability office said official Iraqi Finance Ministry records showed that Iraq had spent only 4.4 percent of the reconstruction budget by August 2007. It also said that the rate of spending had substantially slowed from the previous year."  Despite that reality, Casey in the US and Rice in Kuwait, were eager to spin.  Rice's most laughable claim -- in the midst of the continued assault on Sadr City -- may have been maintaining "that the Iraqi government is working now to establish the trust of all of its citizens".  Earlier this month, US Senator Chuck Hagel asked US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker about the alleged diplomatic 'surge,' what they were doing and how Rice was not looking "Kissinger-esque."  Nothing from her current trip abroad would suggest any reason to stop questioning those claims.
"At the southern entrance to Sadr City several Iraqi men on the US military's payroll are sweeping the street in the latest attempt to stop al-Mahdi Army militia from recruiting new fighters," explains Deborah Haynes (Times of London) of the realities in the Baghdad neighborhood loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr.  Just to repeat "Iraqi men on the US military's payroll".  That would be the turncoats who turned with coin was tossed at them.  As US Senator Barbara Boxer noted in the April 8th US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, "You are asking us for millions more to pay off the militias and, by the way, I have an article here that says Maliki recently told a London paper that he was concerned about half of them" out of doubts about their loyalty --- loyalty that the US pays $18 million a month, $182 milliion a year for.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing that left five people injured, a Baghdad car bombing claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers and left eighteen civilians and two soldiers wounded,  a Baghdad bombing wounded two Iraqi police officers, a Baghdad mortar attack claimed 5 lives and left eight more people injured, a Ramadi truck bombing claimed the lives of 4 people and left twenty-one injured, a Kirkuk bombing wounded a PUK party member "and three of his guards," a Mosul car bombing claimed 1 life and left ten more injured, a Mosul roadside bombing wounded a father and his daughter and a Baquba bomber killed herself "near the police station of Jalawlaa" as well as 8 others ("including five policemen") while wounding seventeen more. AFP notes, "The attack was the second by a woman in as many days in Diyala".  Reuters notes a Baghdad rocket attack that claimed 6 lives and left ten injured, ups the Mosul car bombing by 1 to two killed and the injured count to twenty.  And CBS and AP note: "In Basra, a senior aide to Iraq's top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani died on Tuesday, a week after being seriously injured in an assassination attempt. Two other al-Sistani representatives were injured in separate ambushes. The attacks came just days after a top aide of al-Sadr was killed in Najaf, suggesting the violence could be part of an internal Shiite power struggle."
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports "an employee of Baghdad municipality" was shot dead in Baghdad, a Baghdad shooting left one Iraqi soldier wounded. Reuters reports today that "Gunmen wounded a reporter and cameramn from local television station Biladi and their driver on Monday in a drive-by shooting" in Baghdad.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 corpses were discovered in Baghdad.
Today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Force -- West Marine was killed by an improvised explosive device in Basra, Iraq, April 21. Additionally, one Marine was injured in the attack."  On that death, AFP notes, "This is the first US military loss in Basra since Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki launched a crackdown against Shiite militiamen there on March 25." CBS and AP add: "AP Television News footage from Basra on Monday showed thick smoke rising from a military vehicle burning on a highway overpass."  And the US military announced: "Two Multi-National Force -- West Marines were killed when a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated at an entry control point in the vicinity of Ramadi, Iraq, at approximately 7:30 a.m. April 22.  The SVBIED attack wounded three other Marines.  Two Iraqi Police and 24 local Iraqis were also wounded in the attack."  The announced deaths bring to 4044 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.
In other US military news, Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post) reports in the increased used of moral waivers by the US army to meet recruiting goals, the increase of approximately 1/4 in the number now admitted under the waivers ("8,129 in fascal 2006 to 10,258 in fiscal 2007" for the army), "In particular, the Army accepted more than double the number of applicants with convictions for felony crimes such as burglary, grand larceny and aggravated assault, rising from 249 to 511, while the corresponding number for the Marines increased by two-thirds, from 208 to 350. The vast majority of such convictions stem from juvenile offenses. Most involved theft, but a handful involved sexual assault and terrorist threats, and there were three cases of involuntary manslaughter."
In US presidinatila campaign news, the state of Pennsylvania is voting today.  Though John McCain is considered the GOP presidential nominee, the race continues for the Democratic nomination with US Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama the last two standing and tied in a dead heat.  Fernando Suarez (CBS News) reports Hillary raised the obvious question about the media favorite Barack, if after outspending her (3 to 1 or 4 to 1) in Penn, he can't win the primary, the question on everyone's minds should be: "Why can't he close the deal?" Meanwhile CBS News' Maria Gavrilovic reports that Barack is upset that some question his patriotism and that he doesn't understand why they would?  Being close to two members of the Weather Underground -- Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dorhn -- who declared war on the US and have refused to renounce their past acts of violence might be one reason. Another might be the online face of his campaign: Sam Graham-Felsen who is the Obama's campaign official blogger and who, less than a year prior to taking that post, was publishing in a periodical that explained: "The Socialist Workers Organization was formed to advance the revolutionary Marxist political program in the United States. . . . The capitalist ruling class of the United States exercises a virtual dictatorship not only over American society, but also over the entire world. This capitalist class rule is the basic cause of the poverty, wars, and the degradation of the natural environment."  What was the vetting process in that hire?  Is it a lack of judgement?  Is Barack endorsing that point of view?  What's going on there?  Susan UnPC (No Quarter) previews how the Bambi Groupies will attempt to spin a Bambi loss.  And the Clinton campaign released this statement:
The Obama campaign is attempting to pre-spin the results from tonight's Pennsylvania primary by suggesting that Sen. Clinton should -- and will -- win.
But after the Obama campaign's "go-for-broke" Pennsylvania strategy, after their avalanche of negative ads, negative mailers and negative attacks against Sen. Clinton, after their record-breaking spending in the state, a fundamental question must be asked: Why shouldn't Sen. Obama win?
Sen. Obama's supporters -- and many pundits -- have argued that the delegate "math" makes him the prohibitive frontrunner. They have argued that Sen. Clinton's chances are slim to none. So if he's already the frontrunner, if he's had six weeks of unlimited resources to get his message out, shouldn't he be the one expected to win tonight? If not, why not?
As the phrase goes, watch what they do not what they say.
There's a reason Sen. Obama and his campaign have ratcheted up their year-long assault on Sen. Clinton's character and ended the Pennsylvania campaign with a flurry of harsh negative attacks. It's because they know that a loss in Pennsylvania will raise troubling questions about his candidacy and his ability to take on John McCain in the general election. And it's because they know that the race is neck and neck and tonight's contest is a measure of where the campaign stands.
The reality is this: both candidates need a combination of pledged and super delegates to secure the nomination -- and either candidate can reach the required number. The press and the pundits have repeatedly counted Sen. Clinton out and she has repeatedly proved them wrong. The vote in the bellwether state of Pennsylvania is another head to head measure of the two candidates and of the coalition they will put together to compete and win in November.
No amount of spin from the Obama campaign will change that -- nor will it explain away anything less than a victory by Sen. Obama.


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