Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, April 29, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, the refugee crisis continues, guess who got tossed under the bus, and more.
Starting with war resistance.  Iraq War veteran Agustin Aguayo is a war resister whom the US military resisted/refused to give CO status to although he clearly met the conditions for it.  Aguayo took his case to the civilian courts and it was winding through them when he was informed he was being sent back for another tour of Iraq.  Aguayo self-checked out to demonstrate how serious he was.  Though he turned himself in and did so in less than thirty days, the US military elected to court-martial him for desertion.  Aguayo is cureently appealing to the Supreme Court on his CO status.  He and his wife Helga Aguayo spoke with the International Socialist Review (no writer credited by the magazine for the article in the March/April Issue).
In it, Agustin Aguayo explains, "When I first went to prison, people started to know who I was because they had read the newspapers, but I didn't want to give myself too much importance at the time.  I was really focused on getting out.  I got a few letters from active-duty soldiers being very supportive.  One person in my unit who was recovering from health problems contacted me.  He said that he was told that he would be redeployed again soon and that he wasn't ready, so he decided to go to Canada.  I'm not going to say that I completely inspired him to make his decision, but I think he thought about what I went through."  Helga Aguayo shares, "It reached outside the peace movement.  We got letters from lieutenants saying that they too were fighting -- but they were doing it quietly.  There are a lot of soldiers, lieutenants, and captains fighting across the board.  I think the most touching one was from a wife.  She said that her husband had just had a heart attack and that they still wanted to deploy him.  And she said, 'We didn't know it was possible to resist'."   It's a very strong interview (and Helga's response to a question right after the section we excerpted is a must-read).
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 (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).
Ann Wright, with Susan Dixon, is the author of DISSENT: Voices of Conscience.  She is also retired US State Dept (she resigned over the illegal war) and retired military (Army Col.)  At ZNet, Wright explores the realities for  many women in the service: "The Department of Defense statistics are alarming -- one in three women  who join the US military will be sexually assaulted or raped by men in the military.  The warnings to women should begin above the doors of the military recruiting stations, as that is where assaults on women in the military begin -- before they are even recruited.  But, now, even more alarming, are deaths of women soldiers in Iraq and in the United States following rape.  The military has characterized each death of women who were first sexually assaulted as deaths from 'noncombat related injuries,' and then added 'suicide.'  Yet, the families of the women whom the military has declared to have committed suicide strongly dispute the findings and are calling for further investigations into the deaths of their daughters.  Specific US Army units and certain US military bases in Iraq have an inordinate number of women soldiers who have died of 'noncombat related injuries,' with several identified as 'suicides.'  Ninety-four US military women have died in Iraq or during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).  Twelve US civilian women have been killed in OIF.  . . . Of the 94 US military women who died in Iraq or in OIF, the military says 36 died from noncombat related injuries, which included vehicle accidents, illness, death by 'natural causes' and self-inflicted gunshot wounds, or suicide."
Turning to the subject of Iraqi refugees.  In Geneva today, Jennifer Pagonis, the spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee, explained the UNHCR's latest survey of Iraqi refugees living in Syria found "that 95 percent had fled their homeland because of direct threats or general insecurity and that only 4 percent currently had plans to return to Iraq. . . . The survey revealed that of all those interviewed, only 39 out of 994 people -- or four percent -- are planning to return to Iraq.  Of the 39 people, 31 percent plan to return with the next 12 months and the remainder have not set a date."  That's Syria.  IRIN notes, "A study published in March by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on the mental state of Iraqis in Jordan and Lebanon has pointed to mounting social and economic problems as the cause of increased domestic violence."  IRIN makes clear tha the half a million in Jordan are facing few job prospects which is a problem since "middle class" Iraqis were more apt to settle in Jordan and the money is gone or going.  This comes over a week after the UNCHR pointed out that Bulgaria appears to be making it more difficult for Iraqi refugees to receive status. AAP reports a problem for being granted citizenship in Australia is  a fear of "failing Australian's citizenship test test is stopping refugees from applying to become citizens" and "the fail rates" for Iraqis have been "up to 20 per cent, compared to 5 per cent fail rates overall."  The UNHCR notes there are 4.7 million Iraqi refugees -- 2 million living outside of Iraq and 2.7 million living within Iraq."  Of those outside of the country, the UN notes that 44% of them left "between 2003 and 2006, while 54 per cent left after 2006."  It should also be noted that puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki, has gone out of his way to avoid paying assistance to the neighboring countries that have taken in Iraqi refugees.  With Serbia writing off $3 billion in Iraqi debt, it'll be interesting to watch al-Maliki come up with his next excuse for not giving aid to those neighboring countries taking in Iraqi refugees.  Meanwhile England's Banner Theatre stages a multi-media musical entitled "The get free mobiles . . . don't they?"  Keith McKenna (Great Britain's Socialist Worker) reviews the musical and explains, "It is a story of refugees fleeing communities disrupted by the West, told in a series of exciting songs and humorous sketches.  These frame filmed interviews with people who have arrived in Brimingham from Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Iraq.  The show systematically demolishes the myths about asylum seekers." 
In Iraq, the assault on Sadr City continues.  Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports, "A four-hour firefight between U.S. forces and militiamen today near the Shiite militia stronghold of Sadr City left at least 28 people dead, bringing to 73 the number of gunment the U.S. military said it had killed in three days."  AFP puts the Sadr City death toll at 37 for today and notes the armed clash Susman describes, adding that four US service members were injured "in the fighting."  BBC notes, "Doctors in the area's two hospitals said on Tuesday that they had received a stream of casualties throughout the day, the BBC's Patrick Howse reported from Baghdad.  More than 50 people had been injured in the fighting, the doctors said."  CBS and AP explain, "AP Television News footage showed men helping women cross the street and children running for cover behind blast walls amid gunshots. Men helped carry several blood-soaked injured people onto stretchers to a local emergency hospital. Outside the hospital, the dead were placed inside plain wooden coffins."  Raviya H. Ismail and Shashank Bengali (McClatchy Newspapers) report: "Residents said that the American rocket attacks leveled three houses. Eyewitnesses reported seeing body parts scattered atop the smoldering rubble. Officials at Al Sadr Hospital, one of the main hospitals in the slum, said that 43 injured victims were brought in Tuesday afternoon, including six children and four women. 'In addition (there are) many victims we cannot reach because of the bad security situation,' said a hospital emergency worker who identified himself only as Mohammed. Another hospital official, who asked not to be identified because of security concerns, said that 1,190 injured victims have arrived at the hospital since March 25."
In some of today's other reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Baghdad mortar and rocket attacks claimed 2 lives and left ten people wounded, a Baquba bombing attack on the "Awakening" Council in which a woman detonated a bomb killing herself and claiming the live of 1 "Awakening" Council member and wounded five others, a Baquba roadside bombing that wounded three Iraqi soldiers, a Sadiyah bombing that wounded Samir Al Sadi ("director of Sadiyah town"), claiming the life of 1 of his bodyguards and wounded two more people, a Mosul truck bombing that claimed the life of the trucker and left and Iraqi solider wounded and a Mosul car bombing that claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left five more wounded.   AFP notes two Kirkuk bombings -- one in an Iraqi military equipment store calimed 3 lives and left seven people wounded while another claimed the life of 1 person as well as leaving eight injured.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Dheya al Jodi ("director of the projects in the ministry of labour and social affairs") was shot dead in Baghdad (3 people shot dead in Baquba). (Reuters states he did in a Baghdad roadside bombing.)
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 6 corpses discovered in to the "east of Baquba".  Reuters notes 2 corpses discovered "just outside Kirkuk".
Yesterday's snapshot included this: "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'." Today Deidre Walsh (CNN) reports that in addition to adding to the war spending bill, a timeline for withdrawal may be added: "Another Democratic aide said the House could probably pass a bill with a timeline and funding for the other domestic items, but the Senate would likely strip out most of them."  So, at best, a wash is what's being described.  Gordon Trowbridge (The Detroit News) reports on the war budget in terms of the other house of Congress, "The Pentagon will rescind part of a $610 million request for Iraq reconstruction spending that Sen. Carl Levin had described as "unacceptable," Levin's office announced Tuesday. In a letter to Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the department would withdraw a request to spend $171 million of the money on construction of Iraqi police stations. Gates said he would ask the Iraqi government to pay for the police stations."
Turning to US presidential politics.  Jeremiah Wright's publicity tour continues to draw attention.  Alessandra Stanley (New York Times) observes, "Mr. Wright's demystification process began on PBS on Friday.  Bill Moyers, the host who knows and obviously admires Mr. Wright, gave the pastor every chance to elaborate on his bona fides . . . Mostly, he gave his guest a chance to show his softer side".  Howard Kurtz (Washington Post) points out, "Moyers's question after this diatribe: 'When people saw the sound bites from it this year, they thought you were blaming America.  Did you somehow fail to communicate?' Thought he was blaming America?  Where did anyone get that idea?  'You cannot do terrorism on other people and not expect it to come back on you,' Wright said yesterday.  For good measure, he also defended Louis Farrakhan.  I sure wish Moyers had found time during his hour to ask Wright why he's pushing the lie that the government created the AID virus to kill blacks."  [Ava and I address the nonsense of Wright & Moyers here.]  Dana Milbank (Washington Post) covers Wright's speech to the National Press Club yesterday (link has text and video):
From the moment he entered the room, Wright seemed to be looking to stir controversy; he was escorted by Jamil Muhammad, a leader of the Nation of Islam, which contributed to the minister's prominent security detail. Speaking before an audience that included Marion Barry, Cornel West, the New Black Panther Party's Malik Zulu Shabazz and Nation of Islam protocol director Claudette Muhammad, Wright praised Louis Farrakhan, defended the view that Zionism is racism, accused the United States of terrorism, repeated his belief that the government created AIDS to extinguish racial minorities, and stood by his suggestion that "G** damn America."
Deliah Boyd (A Scriverner's Lament) traces the Sunday-Monday evolution of Barack Obama from some of the comments by Wright have offended him to Barack's refusal to "look reporters in the eye and defend" Wright while he spoke.  Andrea Mitchell's report on NBC's Today this morning (link is just video) demonstrates how Barack refused to make contact and spent the bulk of the time while speaking staring at the ground.  Frank James (Baltimore Sun) reminds, "The problem for Obama is that he has already said that he can't or won't disown Wright. In his race speech in Philadelphia, he essentially said he could no more break with Wright than he could African-Americans generally" -- or his own 'White grandmother' -- "After such declarative statements, Obama is pretty much stuck with a Wright who has already absolved himself of any further damage he may do to his former congregant. Wright basically was announcing his conscience will be clear."  ABC News' Jake Tapper noted this morning, "Democratic sources tell ABC News that Wright is unquestionably worrying superdelegates about Obama's electability."  And CNN's Eliott C. McLaughling explained this morning, "Wright, who performed Obama's marriage and baptized both of his children, appears unremorseful about the fiery sermons that made their way on to YouTube and led to his ouster from an advisory committee the Obama campaign."
This morning?  Barack Obama, eye on the White House, held a press conference today where he declared that was "outraged" by Wright's remarks and attempted to claim, "The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago.  His comments were not only divisive and destructive" blah blah blah.  His comments yesterday (what Milbank covered) were no different than his comments in the clips ABC's Good Morning America aired last month.  The ones that led Mr. Pretty Words to give his big speech in Philadelphia about love-love-hope-hope.  And yet now they're offensive?  He sat through those remarks for 20 years. How stupid does he think (hope?) voters are?  Larry Johnson (No Quarter) is terming it "Barack's triple back flip".  Taylor Marsh breaks it down: "So today, Obama in a press conference stated he was "shocked" about Rev. Wright's statements yesterday. Is Senator Obama really saying that he didn't realize that Wright was spewing anti-American sentiments all this time? That he was unaware of Wright's political leanings from the pulpit? It defies credibility."  VastLeft (Corrente) keeps it simple, "Welcome, Reverend Wright!" (implying Wright should join all the others Barack's thrown under the bus).
The other Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton is in the news as well.  Fernando Suarez (CBS News) notes that North Carolina Governor Mike Easley endorsed her today and stated, "I never, never thought the United States of America could get in as much trouble as we have over the last seven or eight years.  It's going to take someobdy special.  Somebody smart, somebody who understands it, somebody who has experience to get in there, turn it around immediately and she can do that."  Meanwhile Jo Mannies (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) reports that "U.S. Rep Ike Skelton, D-Lexington" has endorsed Hillary as well.  Skelton is the chair of the House Armed Services Committee.  Meanwhile Mike Glover and Beth Fouhy (AP) report:
Democrat Barack Obama dismissed his rivals' calls for national gas tax holiday as a political ploy that won't help struggling consumers. Hillary Rodham Clinton said his stance shows he's out of touch with the economic realities faced by ordinary citizens.
[. . .]
Clinton, who toured the Miller Veneers wood manufacturing company in Indianapolis, said "there are a lot of people in Indiana who would really benefit from a gas tax holiday.
"That might not mean much to my opponent, but I think it means a lot to people who are struggling here, people who commute a long way to work, farmers and truckers," Clinton said. She has called for a windfall tax on oil companies to pay for a gas tax holiday.
"Senator Obama won't provide relief, while Senator McCain won't pay for it," Clinton said. "I'm the only candidate who will provide immediate relief at the pump, with a plan."
Clinton's exactly right and it's one more sign of how Barack doesn't get rural or Small Town voters -- the bulk of whom have to drive elsewhere to work (or drive elsewhere as part of their work -- whether taking cattle to auction, driving a truck, what have you).  Hillary details her plan hereAt her campaign site, Jamie Radice interviews Jim Stammerman to find out why he's supporting Hillary:
Q: Where did you grow up?            
A: I'm from Louisville, born and raised. I grew up in a blue-collar family where politics was always discussed. I went to Bellarmine College and then University of Kentucky for graduate school. I actually ended up being Vice President of the Jefferson County Young Democratic club. One of my most prized possessions is an autograph from JFK.          
Q: So is everyone in your family interested in politics:          
A: I'm actually a third generation precinct captain. My older brother Bill was the County Co-Chairman for Hillary in Dallas County, Iowa. I actually went out to Iowa in January and helped him volunteer. My other brother Ken served 27 years in the U.S. Foreign Service.          
Q: What's the first campaign you volunteered on?          
A: Kennedy. We actually chased the Kennedy caravan down Forth Street (laughter). There was a big parade and he spoke in front of the County Courthouse to about 25,000 people. We made signs, wore JFK hats and buttons, it was exciting.    
Q: Why are you a Democratic?          
A: I think the Democratic Party does more for the common good. I think a lot of the things that are really great about America came out of the Democratic Party leadership: social security, medicare, wage protection.      
Q: Why are you supporting Hillary?          
A: I think she's a very intelligent person, a very experienced person. There is no doubt in my mind that she'll make a great leader.     
Q: What's a typical day like volunteering?        
A: There really isn't a typical day. I like meeting people so this works well for me. However, we have all sorts of things for volunteers to do, make signs, call voters, there really is something for everyone.   
Q: Why do you think the people of Kentucky should vote for Hillary?
A: Hillary shares the same values as most of the people of Kentucky. For example, Hillary is very involved in education and Kentucky needs a good education President. I worked in higher education for more than 30 years so this has always been an important issue for me.       

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