Monday, April 28, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Monday, April 28, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, the assault on Sadr City continues, and more. 
Starting with war resisters.  On Friday Leif Kamunen was arrested.  Who?  The Kamunen brothers first show in the June 4th 2007 snapshot.  Randy Furst (Minneapolis Star Tribune) reported on Luke Kamunen who "began to wonder if he'd made a mistake the moment he arrived for basic training" as did his brother Leif and "Jan. 2, the twins, age 21, and their brother Leo, 20, went AWOL from the Army.  All three failed to return to basic training after Christmas break in northern Minnesota."  Luke had been arrested, "jailed in Carlton Country for a week and then flown to Fort Knox, KY., where he was given an 'other than honorable discharge'."  Joel Bleifuss (In These Times) observed then, "For the Kamunens, blood is thicker than oil.  And they are not alone in knowing that living at home beats dying in Iraq." From the June 13th snapshot:
Kim Johnson, Duluth's WDIO, reports on Luke Kamunen who, like his two twin brothers Leo and Leif, self-checked out of the US military on the Christmas break and notes, "The brothers' story is not an isolated one.  In fact, the Department of Defense reports desertions have risen 35 percent in the past two years -- from more than 2,400 in 2004 to about 3,300 in 2006" and notes that Luke Kamunen "was surprised" to encounter many others who had done the same "when he was detained by the military".
Now you may be noting MSM outlets plus Joel Bleifuss and that's correct.  Dropping back to the November 9, 2007 snapshot:
It's also worth noting that many other resisters went public in the wake of Watada: Darrell Anderson, Agustin Augyo, Kyle Snyder, Mark Wilcox, Ricky Clousing and . . . stop there.  Stop there and don't continue because that's how All Things Media Big and Small, with every few exceptions, have treated 2007's crop of war resisters.  Despite the fact that 2007 is set to be a record year -- according to the military's own official numbers -- for war resistance, emerging war resisters fell off the media map.  James Burmeister was the strongest example.  Either you followed Canadian media or you caught NOW with David Brancaccio  or you didn't have a clue.  Too bad for everyone because the last week of September "kill teams" (US service members setting out equpiment as traps to shoot Iraqis) would become a huge story but Burmeister was telling the story when he went public in June of 2007.  Eli Israel would remain "Eli Who?" to All Things Media Big and Small despite the fact that he became the first war resister resisting publicly while stationed in Iraq.  The Kamunen brothers?  In These Times could find them when no one else in independent media could or would.  The mainstream media showed some interest because three brothers -- Leo, Leif and Luke -- all electing to self-checkout over the same Christmas 2006 holiday was news . . . to some.
That was true then and it's true now.  War resisters going public in 2007 (Class of 2007) were completely ignored by Panhandle Media and that hasn't changed a bit -- not even when they try to sell a really bad 'book' (just out this month, and already stinking up shelves) that claims how much they care about "standing up" and covering war resisters.  Yeah, we're talking Amy Goodman and today's program continues her long, long silence on the Kamunen brothers.  Will the silence be unbroken, Amy, will the silence be unbroken?  It takes a lot of nerve to hype your cut and paste 'book' on the backs of war resisters when you refused to cover anyone emerging in months.  (It starts with Ivan Brobeck -- see "The Full Brobeck" -- who turned himself in on election day 2006 and Goody had no time for her.  She would later interview Kyle Snyder -- on the run at the time -- but Snyder had already been discussed on the program, by an attorney, before The Full Brobeck.)  Since November 2006, Amy Goodman has not introduced any new war resister to her audience (and, let's be clear, that's not due to the fact that she's been chatting non-stop with Ehren Watada -- she's not been.  In fact, she 'covered' Watada's Feb. 2007 court-martial by broadcasting a video report made by Truthout and posted at Truthout.  Goody's had other things to do.  So she misses Eli Israel (the first service member to publicly resist while stationed in Iraq), James Burmeister (who remember has turned himself in), Skylar James, Ross Spears, Brad McCall . . .  It's a long, long list.  War resistance didn't stop -- only the coverage did.
Over the weekend (Friday, 11:29 p.m.), Randy Furst (Minnesota Star Tribune) reported that
 Leif was arrested "when he and his girlfriend pulled out of the Cartlon driveway on Friday morning in her grandfather's red Tacoma pickup truck.  His girlfriend, Angela Martini, said that Leif, 22, had gotten wind the military was after him and was planning to turn himself in to an Army office in Duluth after being AWOL for nearly 16 months." AP notes: "Leif Kamunen's girlfriend, Angela Martini, told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis on Friday that Leif had assumed that the Army would not have him arrested. She said he had spoken with someone in the Army last year who told him there was nothing in the Army computer about him and he should just go about living his life."
Meanwhile, in Canada, many US war resisters are currently hoping to be granted safe harbor status and 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).
In Iraq, the assault on Sadr City continues.  CNN notes 8 deaths and twenty-eight injured from Friday night to Saturday morning.  CNN notes the US military claims 7 Iraqis killed from Saturday night to Sunday morning. Today Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) reports that the US military states ("since Sunday") they have killed 38 people in Sadr city while officials in Sadr City state "they have received 24 dead and more than 100 wounded since 8 a.m. Sunday.  The victims included women and children, they said."  AFP notes the number dead has risen to 45.  CNN notes that Sadiq al-Rikabi ("adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki") has stated the assault on Sadr City will continue: "the militias must hand in all heavy and medium weapons; hand over people wanted for arrest; and keep out of the affairs of Iraqi security forces, government institutions and reconstruction projects."  Alissa J. Rubin and Erica Goode (New York Times) report that Qassim Atta ("an aide to Mr. Sadr in Najaf") stated the central government in Baghdad was attempting "to resolve political differences by force."  Sunday saw people power and natural forces.  On the latter, Sholnn Freeman (Washington Post) reported "a sandstorm blanketed Baghdad on Sunday" and, despite US claims that attacks on the Green Zone were "nearly eliminated," the cover of the sandstorm allowed mulitple mortar attacks to be launched on the Green Zone while Slobodan Lekic (AP) observes, "The near-daily shelling of the Green Zone has become acutely embarrassing for both Iraqi authorities and the U.S. military." . On the former, Hussein Kadhim and Raviya H. Ismail (McClatchy Newspapers) reported, "About 50 leaders representing a variety of Iraqi political blocs took to Baghdad's Sadr City on Sunday, a stronghold of firey religious leader Muqtada al Sadr, to protest the U.S.-led siege of that area" and quoted Nassar al Rubaie explaining, "We have a delegation meeting with Maliki to let him know the real situation going on in the city.  We have lawmakers from different blocs and parties to come and watch the situation on the ground."   Rubin and Goode quote Azzad Barbani ("a member of Parliament from the Kurdistan Democratic Party") explaining, "What is different about this delegation is that it is composed of all kinds of Iraqis" and the reporters note, "At stake is the outcome of October provincial elections in which other Shiite parties in the government stand to lose seats to Mr. Sadr's supporters."  And that wasn't the only gathering taking place on Sunday.  Farah Stockman (Boston Globe) reports that, in Helsinki, behind closed doors, "a group of rival members of Iraq's parliament and tribale leaders" met throughout the weekend "for the first time for a futher round of talks that they hope will lay the foundation for peace in their troubled country." Reuters notes the following participants at the Helsinki meeting: "Minister of Dialogue and National Reconciliation Akram al-Hakim, chairman of the Constitutional Review Committee Sheikh Humam Hamoudi, Fouad Maasoom of the Kurdistan Patriotic Union (PUK), Shi'ite Dawa Party parliamentary leader Ali al-Adeeb and Osama al-Tikriti from the Sunni Arab Iraqi Islamic Party".  Colin O'Carroll (Belfast News Letter) explains that the group was "advised on peace-making by former sworn enemies Jeffrey Donaldson and Martin McGuinness." 
Another continue action is the fighting between the PKK in northern Iraq and the Turkish military.  Reuters notes, "Turkish air strikes on Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq are 'unfortunate' and will do little to address Ankara's concerns about security, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih said on Monday."  Hurriyet reports, "Turkey expects an increase in the contacts with the Kurdish administration of northern Iraq in the coming days, Turkey's foreign minister said on Monday.  Foreign Minister Ali Babacan added such contacts could occur at various diplomatic levels and are important for fighting terrorists and for Iraq as a whole.  Babacan's remarks signalled a softening of the Turkish stance towards Iraqi Kurds."  AFP points out how long the Turkish military's attacks have been going on and notes tensions lowered following Jalal Talabani (Iraq's President) visiting Ankara and stating he would join Turkey in rooting out the PKK, "But Turkey's ties with the administration of northern Iraq, led by Massud Barzamo, remain chilly and the United States has often called on both sides to mend fences.  The PKK has been fighting for self-rule in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast since 1984.  The conflict has claimed more than 37,000 lives."  In the midst of this ("amid Iraq's highest mountains between the Iranian and Turkish borders"), Sam Dagher (Christian Science Monitor) reports on Kurdish Taha Barwari ["minister of sports and youth for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)"] who hopes the creation of "33 recreational centers around the region" will ease some of the tensions within the Kurdish region of northern Iraq.  Ghassan Charbel (Dar Al Hayat) offers this analysis of Turkey's interests: "Turkey looks at the region and becomes anxious.  Its Iraqi neighbor wallows in the midst of a bloody storm; occupation, terrorism, resistance and sectarian conflict.  Any permanent disintegration in Iraq would carry the Kurdish fires into the Turkish house.  Iraq's unity controls the liminits of federalism and curbs Iran's ability to pull the strings in Iraq.  This is why Turkey has an interest in a united and democratic Iraq with no room on its territories for a small independent Kurdish state or for the tiny state of al-Zawahiri."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Baghdad mortar attacks wounded ten people today, a US air bombing in Baghdad that wounded two people, a Baghdad motor cycle bombing that claimed 1 life and left three people wounded, 3 Baghdad raodside bombings that wounded ten people. 
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an armed clash in Diyala Province that claimed the lives of 5 "Awakening" Council members while "a Sadrist leader" was shot dead in Basra and his wife was wounded.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 6 corpses discovered in Baghdad.
 is no longer available online.  Today the US military notes that the corpses of 2 Iraqi police officers "were discovered in Tikrit, April 27.  The two policemen were reportedly off-duty traveling in a privately-owned vehicle when they were fired upon by another vehicle."   Aseel Kami (The Scotscman) reports 50 corpses were discovered in Diyala Province Sunday.
CBS and AP report: "The U.S. military says three American soldiers have been killed in a rocket or mortar attack in eastern Baghdad." AP adds, "A fourth U.S. soldier was killed by a shell in western Baghdad, the military said."  That brings the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4056 with 44 for the month so far making it the deadiest month for US service members since last September.
Turning to the US, Zachary Coile (San Francisco Chronicle) reports that House Democrats are tacking on items to the Iraq war spending bill which would indicate there's not going to be an effort to cut off funding.  Colie notes it "is expected to fund the war through the end of the Bush presidency and for nearly six months into the next president's term."  Noting press reports, Team Nader writes, "Nader-Gonzalez would set a six-month deadline to get out of Iraq.  McCain/Clinton/Obama would not.  This past weekend, Ralph Nader toured Hillary Clinton's home state of New York.  From Buffalo to Syracuse to the north country, Nader made the point -- time to get out of Iraq. Nader is in Connecticut today, and then on to Vermont.  As Ralph Nader continues his 50-state peace campaign, our supporters are working to get Nader-Gonzalez on ballots all across this country.  From Maine to California, and Florida to Alaska.  Come November, we hope to give the citizens of the United States a choice." At the end of March, Team Nader took on independent media.  They have also taken to task others including Medea Benjamin who chose to respond  and Nader's 2004 running mate Peter Camejo has responded to Benjamin:
I was stunned to see Medea Benjamin complaining to the Nader/Gonzalez campaign because the campaign had used the word "shameful" in referring to "progressive" Democrats who had supported the pro-war, pro-Patriot Act, anti-labor, and anti-environmental candidate John Kerry in 2004.
I have great personal admiration for Medea Benjamin for many of the stands and actions she has taken through the years. But her capitulation to the Democratic Party has been truly disappointing.
Medea Benjamin eventually joined the "progressive" Democrats and has become an active supporter of the Democratic Party.
Without the Democratic Party's support, Bush's war policies could never have been implemented. The Democrats voted in Congress a resolution that included the phrase, "unequivocal support for George Bush's conduct of the war in Iraq."
Turning to an idiot.  Natalee Holloway (not the idiot) is a young woman who disappeared in Aruba and has never been found.  Her parents are hopeful that she'll be found.  Keep that in mind while you read this: "One 18-year-old white girl from Alabama gets drunk on a graduation trip to Aruba, goess off and 'gives it up' while in a foreign country, and that stays in the news for months! Maybe I am missing something!" The brains to butt the hell out of a tragedy instead of using it for your own cheap gain, instead of talking smutty and thinking you're cute.  That trash being quoted?  Jeremiah Wright.  He is trash and he owes the Holloway family a public apology.  And Barack Obama needs to condemn very loudly this nonsense.  But he won't.  He never does.  It's why he keeps being asked about Wright.  Bill Moyers was happy to gloss over facts while sitting down with Wright last week.  As Ava and I noted, Natalee's name wasn't once raised by Bill Moyers. "Garlic noses" wasn't raised by Bill either. Nor did Moyers explore Wright's claim that AIDS was a government plot to destroy African-Americans.  We did get to find out that Wright and Moyers are both idiots who believe the Jewish faith includes the New Testament.  We did get to hear Wright express disgust of sodomy.  We got to hear the allegedly 'educated' man reject a slogan that doesn't exist ("My government right or wrong" -- he meant "My country right or wrong"), It was all a lot of nonsense.  Joan Walsh (Salon) addresses the damning of America here as well as Wright's comparing the attacks on 9-11 to a slave rebellion.  On the program and in the near constant press since, Wright's described himself as lynched, crucified, and just about everything you can think of.  To buy any of that, you'd have to believe the greatest victim of Wright's trashy and hateful mouth is Jeremiah Wright.  William Branigin (Washington Post) reports that Wright appears to now be questioning Dick Cheney's patriotism.  While the president of vice is greedy, questioning his patriotism hardly seems the way to win people over to your side.  Dana Milbank (Washington Post) evaluates today's performance at the National Press Club, "It seemed as if Wright, jokingly offering himself as Obama's vice president, was actually trying to doom Obama; a member of the head table, American Urban Radio's April Ryan, confirmed that Wright's security was provided by bodyguards from Farrakhan's Nation of Islam" and Milbank picks that performance as the one people may point back to "months from now" if Obama's campaign tanks. Milbank also notes that Wright "renewed his belief that the government created AIDS as a means of genocide against people of color".  Larry Johnson (No Quarter) weighs in on Wright here.  Obama has his other problems including stabbing every supporter in the back on Fox "News" yesterday.  The best take on that is also the funniest, VastLeft (Corrente) has transcribed the conversation with editorial comments.
Former President Bill Clinton is on the campaign trail of Senator Hillary Clinton.  Scott Zumwalt ( notes Bill Clinton's trip to Oregon resulted in over 10,000 Oregonians turning out.  Toby Harnden (Telegraph of London) quotes Bill Clinton on why Barack Obama refuses to debate her, "I think I know the answer to the question why only one candidate wants to debate, because I saw the debate in Pennsylvania.  And afterwards, 41 per cent of the voters watched it, and by 52 per cent to 22 per cent they said Hillary won." Lexi Cribbs has a photo essay of Hillary campaigning in Jacksonville, North Carolina.  We'll close with this from Howard Wolfson's "MEMO: Economic Leadership = Jobs, Jobs, Jobs:"
Hillary Clinton's economic leadership has been key to her victories in Ohio and Pennsylvania and will be the focus of her campaign in the run-up to the Indiana and North Carolina primaries.
As today's New York Times reports, Senator Clinton is demonstrating her leadership on core economic issues by laying out the boldest and most specific plan to help create jobs of any candidate in this race -- and she is the only candidate with comprehensive proposals to reduce our dependence on foreign fuels in the long run and provide relief for consumers in the short term.
Today, she will unveil a plan to suspend the gas tax paid for out of oil company profits in order to give drivers price relief during the upcoming peak driving months of summer.  Unlike Senator McCain, Senator Clinton's plan is paid for and will not raid the highway trust fund. Senator Clinton also has the most detailed, comprehensive trade agenda to ensure that trade is not a race to the bottom and has a bold housing agenda that would freeze foreclosures and create a moratorium on subprime resets.  And she would take away $55 billion in special interest tax breaks and put that money back in the pockets of middle class Americans.
While Senator Obama retools his stump speech to reach middle and working class voters, Senator Clinton is going to continue doing what she has successfully done in Ohio and Pennsylvania -- reach out to those Americans who work hard for a living and need a champion in the White House to help them in this difficult economy.
Actually, one more thing.  NOW on PBS has won the 3008 Edward R. Murrow Award for Best TV Documentary for their investigative report "Child Brides: Stolen Lives" which was reported by Senior Correspondent Maria Hinojosa.  The episode can be viewed online here.  So congratulations to NOW on PBS, Hinojosa and everyone else working on the half-hour program which airs on Friday nights on most PBS stations (check local listings).

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