Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, April 30, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, figures for April refute claims of a slow-down in violence, Robert Gates tries to happy talk it, and more.
Starting with war resistance.  Iraq War resister Ehren Watada will be the topic Friday at Carleton College (1 North College Street, Northfield, MN).  Esther Pak (Carleton News) reports:
Dr. Vijay Prashad will present a convocation entitled "Watada's Election: Asian Americans and These Asian Wars" on Friday, May 2 at 10:50 a.m. in the Skinner Memorial Chapel. Prashad's presentation will examine Asian Americans, the Iraq War, and the upcoming election, with reference to Hawaii-born First Lieutenant Ehren Watada, who was the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse deployment to the Iraq War and occupation. Following the convocation, Prashad will sign copies of his books, which will also be available for purchase at the event at a 15% discount. Prashad's appearance is free and open to the public.
The presentation is scheduled to last one hour.  In February 2007, Watada was court-martialed and Judge Toilet (aka John Head) ruled a mistrial over defense objection as the defense was about to present their side (Watada was taking the stand and suddenly Head felt a stipulation both the defense and the prosecution had agreed to, one Head has not only signed off on but explained to the jury, was 'prolbematic,' Watada was prepared to testify, Head stopped the trial).  Due to Judge Toilet's ruling, the Constitution's provision against double-jeopardy should have kicked in.  Judge Toilet immediately announced a new court-martial would take place in March (2007) but, of course, it didn't.  A civilian court found (in November) the double-jeopardy argument compelling and Watada's legal status is currently in limbo.  He continues to report for duty on base despite the fact that his service contract expired in December 2006.  It's long past time for the military to stop their persecution of Watada and discharge him.
While he waits, so do US war resisters in Canada who are 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, a Baghdad neighborhood, continues.  AFP reports that the central (puppet) government in Baghdad is pleased: "'There were 925 martyrs in Sadr City and 2,605 others have been wounded,' in the firefights that began on March 25 and are still continuing, said Tehseen Sheikhly, a spokesman for the government's Baghdad security plan."  Prior to the press conference, outlets, such as the BBC, were going with 400 for the death toll. CBS and AP note: "Previous Interior Ministry casualty figures for the past month had indicated that less than 400 people had perished. It was not immediately possible to reconcile the conflicting figures. Officials at the Baghdad military operations center said they could not confirm al-Sheikhly's count."  Al Jazeera notees Sadr City residents testimonies that they were attacked by an air assault today and the US military's claim that "only rockets" were used because "a sandstorm had grounded US helicopters."  For those who've forgotten the assault on Sadr City was supposed to be the sideshow.  The main story was supposed to be the assault on Basra and the world was supposed to watch in awe of the awesome powers of Nouri al-Maliki -- the puppet installed by the US as prime minister in the spring of 2006 who has done nothing to ease tensions (let alone violence) in Iraq.  al-Maliki was seen as puppet and an ineffective one at that having failed to offer up anything save for the never-ending "crackdowns" that began in June of 2006 when the Green Zone was almost breached.  As two years of 'leadership' was being reached, the assault on Basra was supposed to be a for-show measure that would instill global faith in al-Maliki. 
It was Easter Weekend -- Bully Boy declared in March 22nd radio address that it was a "special and holy time" -- and what better way to 'celebrate' than beef up the assault on civilians?  Monday, March 24th, at the White House, Dana Perino, White House flack, was insisting that the "vast majority" of relatives who'd lost loved ones were insisting that the White House continue the Iraq War and, with the 4,000 mark having been passed, that wasn't going down as easy with the press as it had before.  Helen Thomas had questioned that assertion and asked how Perino could make that claim "with certainty?" Perino's answer was that the Bully Boy had "said that repeatedly" so, apparently, it must be true.Thomas then asked if "he takes responsibility for a war that he started without provocation that led to 4,000 deaths and 30,000 dramatically injured for life?"  Perinos shoved that question aside and, pressed by Thomas, stated, "I think that he knew that the war was going to require sacrifices and that --"
Helen Thomas: By who?
Dana Perino: Well, of course by our soldiers.
Helen Thomas: There's nobody in his family or this administration in this war.
Dana Perino: Helen, these are all questions we have dealt with before.  I've given you an answer in the President's reaction to the 4,000 and I'm going to move on.
While Perino was 'moving on,' al-Maliki was making headlines for going to Basra in a for-show role that was supposed to convince the world that he was leading the assault on Basra.  Basra, like Sadr City, is seen as a strong-hold of support for cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and many believe that the assaults were also intended to prevent al-Sadr's bloc from coming to power in the (currently) scheduled elections on October 1st.  As al-Maliki has seen his support within the Iraqi Parliament crumble, al-Sadr's support has appeared to increase.  If it wasn't increasing, the assault certainly made sure it did as al-Sadr became the public voice in Iraq against the assault on Iraqi civilians.  It was a disaster in every way for the US puppet, it was a disaster in lives lost, it was a disaster in the attempts to build up al-Maliki's image and it made al-Sadr (who had been laying low and had renewed a cease-fire/truce with the US) even more popular.
On April 8th, The Petraeus and Crocker Variety Hour began their two days of testimony to the US Congress. They opened at the US Armed Services Committee where chair Carl Levin was asking serious questions about Basra, including whether it was correct that US was not informed ahead of time about the planned assault on Basra (which led to uprising in Sadr City, hence the assault on Sadr City)?  "It is, Senator," Petraeus had declared, "We had a Friday night heads up."  That would be Friday, March 21st.  Petraeus went on to state that they were informed more of the assault (that would begin Sunday) at a meeting on Saturday. Levin: "It was not something that you recommended?"  "No," Petraeus had replied.  He went on to speak of concerns he stated he had about utilizing resources and appeared to indicate that there was a US plan for Basra but that al-Maliki had jumped the gun.
US Senator Hillary Clinton noted, "In response to a question by Senator Levin regarding when you knew of Prime Minister Maliki's plan to go into Basra, and I was struck by it so I wrote it down."  Clinton was referring to the fact that Basra had been under British control until recently and that Petraeus' comments were vague.  "What did you mean," she asked, "by the resources you were planning to deploy and over what length of time?"  Petraeus' remarks cleared up any ambiguity on the subject.  "A plan was being developed," he admitted, but instead of waiting to develop it, al-Malik was "moving up the time table and compressing . . . the resources."
This was April 8th and already the illusion that al-Maliki was leading the assault and that Iraqi troops were on the front lines had falled apart.  Senator Susan Collins questioned "why should America combat troops continue to take the lead" considering all the time and money already provided since March of 2003?  Petraeus tried to manuever his response by noting that the "US didn't take the lead in Basra."  No, al-Maliki did.  And al-Maliki failed.  And Iraqi troops defected and deserted (two different categories) so US troops who were supposed to be present in only a supportive role were now on the front lines.  The same was true of Sadr City and has only become more true.
Taking Petraeus at his guarded word, al-Maliki basically grabbed a US plan, ignored the timeline, rushed it into operation, did so when Iraqi troops were far from ready, hustled down to Basra for what he hoped would be his defining photo-ops and all this was done to shore up his weak image as an ineffective puppet.  As a result of al-Maliki's actions, the US is now on the front lines backing up what his big mouth couldn't.  Amit R. Paley (Washington Post) reported today that US forces and Sadr City residents engaged in "[a] four-hour battle" yesterday that resulted in the deaths of "28 Iraqis" leading to "one of the bloodiest days in a month of sustained street fighting.  The clashes underscored how deeply U.S. forces have been drawn into heavy combat in the huge Shiite district since Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki unexpectedly launched an offensive in southern Iraq last month against Shiite militias, primarily the Mahdi Army of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.  Until Maliki's push into the southern city of Basra, U.S. troops were not intensely engaged in Sadr City, a Baghdad neighborhood of roughly 3 million people that was among the most treacherous areas for U.S. forces early in the war."  Today's assault on Sadr City, risking the lives of so many Iraqis and so many US service members, is nothing but the result of al-Maliki's photo-op that backfired.  His attempts to prove he wasn't 'weak' is why the dying in Sadr City continues.  In the April 8th hearing, Clinton noted that among al-Maliki's critics were General David Petraeus himself and referenced Cameron W. Barr's "Petraeus: Iraqi Leaders Not Making 'Sufficient Progress'" (Washington Post).  In the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the same day (April 8th), chair Joe Biden would note that the 'surge' was not working and had not been working (a point that many senators and representatives would make throughout the two days of testimony from Petraeus and Crocker) and he raised the issue of how there was no government and what was happening was the US was 'taking sides' -- supporting the 'leadership' of al-Maliki.  That's a lot of deaths for one person's 'leadership' --- consider the puppet to be just like his puppet master in the White House.  As Howard La Franchi (Christian Science Monitor) observes, "The American military's participation in the war declared by Iraqi authorities on Moqtada al-Sadr's Shiite militia -- a fight that in recent weeks has been carried out through intense street battles -- has led to an uptick in US deaths."  Along with shoring up the puppet, the assault was also supposed to shore up the Bully Boy and his plans for continued war.  The assault was timed to take place before the for-show testimonies to Congress by Petraeus and Crocker that were supposed to convince the American public that the so-called 'surge' was working and deserved more time. Mark Kukis and Abigail Hauslohner (Time magazine) report, "The shell-shocked Shi'ite neighborhood of Sadr City in east Baghdad epitomizes the tragedy and terror that continue to grip Iraq five years after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Around 2 million people cluster in homes often shared by as many as six families, caught in the crossfire of an ongoing confrontation between the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr and U.S. and Iraqi forces, streets cluttered with garbage and the rubble of recent battles." They also note that people are fleeing their homes (which will increase the number of Iraqis who are internally and externally displaced). 
It's the end of the month and a number of outlets will be looking back.  CNN notes: "The number of Iraqi civilians killed and wounded nationwide continued to increase during April. According to Iraq's Interior Ministry, 969 civilians died and 1,750 were wounded during April. In March, the total was 923 civilians killed and 1,358 wounded -- a sharp increase over February, when 633 died and 701 were wounded." Those are the puppet government's official figures and the actual figures are probably much higher.  Meanwhile, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is in spin mode.  Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on Tuesday acknowledged that a seven-month lull in U.S. troops deaths in Iraq has come to an end and blamed the bloodshed on Shiite Muslim militiamen who have bombarded the Green Zone and key parts of Baghdad with rockets and mortar rounds."  Gates was speaking in Mexico, transcript here. Gates rejected the notion that things were "getting worse" in Iraq. He claimed that the "spectacular act" always catches attention.  Apparently nothing -- including losing an illegal war -- catches the White House's attention.  Asked about the US being drawn into the middle of a war of "two Shi'a factions," Gates responded that the conflict was "between the Iraqi government and lawless elements" -- echoing al-Maliki's line -- and further claimed that the 'elements' did not want to be "part of the political process."  That would be "part of the puppet process."  He stated that it has been "made clear" that al-Sadr's supporters are welcome in the political process and that's a falsehood because al-Maliki has threatened them with being barred from participating in the October elections.  Further spinning, Gates claimed al-Maliki had "the vocal support of virtually all elements of the government."  While he has the support of those on his payroll, his own cabinet is not full and members of the Iraqi Parliament participated in Sunday demonstratrations against the continued assault in Sadr City.  Gates ignored that in his reply.  He claimed that assaulting Iraqi civilians (that's what's happening in Sadr City) was creating "an Iraqi government more unified".  He claimed al Qaeda in Iraq and the Sadrists were the enemies and it was pointed out to him that the White House continues to say that al Qaeda in Iraq is weaker.  [al Qaeda in Iraq is largely non-existant.]  Gates noted al-Sadr's cease-fire but avoided noting that al-Maliki's actions had overturned it.  He began gas bagging at length -- and couldn't get his dates correct ("you will probably recall in either early March or late February, sometime in there") -- and stayed with the issue of al-Sadr.  He never addressed the issue of why the White House continues to say al Qaeda in Iraq is a threat and responsible for the violence while also stating that al Qaeda in Iraq is on the decrease.  Confronted with that inconsistency, Gates elected to ignore it.  He did state that al-Maliki would make decisions regarding Sadr City which is suprising since it is US forces patrolling -- US troops held hostage by policy was a point senators made throughout Crocker and Petraeus' testimonies earlier this month and Gates, unwittingly, appears to be validating their point.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a mortar attack on the Green Zone, a Baghdad mortar attacks that wounded eight people, a Diyala Province roadside bombing wounded six women and a Hawija roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and left two more wounded (all Iraqi security forces).
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the "[p]ronounced presence of gunmen in al-Amin and al-Mashtal . . . forced the schools to send the students home."  Reuters notes a home invasion in Kut that claimed the life of 1 woman.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 4 corpses discovered in Baghdad today (2 found in Tikrit last night).
Today the US military announces: "A Multi-National Division -- Baghdad Soldier was killed from wounds sustained when he was attacked with small-arms fire by insurgents at approximately 8:50 p.m. April 29 in northwestern Baghdad." And they announced: "A Multi-National Division -- Baghdad Soldier was killed after the vehicle he was riding in was struck by an improvised explosive device at approximately 10:15 p.m. in northwestern Baghdad April 29." And,  PDF format warning, they announced: "A  Multi-National Division - North Soldier was killed as a result of an explosion occurring near the Soldier's patrol in Ninewah Province, April 30." And they announced: "Two Multi-National Division - Baghdad soldiers were killed when their patrol was struck by an improvised explosive device in southern Baghdad at approximately 4:15 p.m. April 30."  And they announced: "A Multi-National Division – Baghdad soldier was killed from wounds sustained by an improvised explosive device during a dismounted patrol in northern Baghdad at approximately 1 a.m. April 30."
The number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war is 4063, the number of deaths announced this month so far is  51 which makes April the deadliest month since September when 65 deaths were announced. More deaths for April may or may not be noted over the next few days. 
Turning to the US presidential race, this morning on NBC's Today Show, Andrea Mitchell reported  on Barack Obama's speech and remarks yesterday on his mentor, friend, and pastor of 20 years Jeremiah Wright.  Mitchell noted the changes in tone throughout Obama's remarks on Wright since Barack declared his intent to run for the Democratic presidential nomination and noted, "Critis say he should known better" regarding Wright.  On CBS' The Early Show, Bob Schieffer explained, "The question now is will people him?" Him is Barack. Schieffer listed the questions people would be asking such as, "Why didn't he know about all this before? Why didn't he stop going to the church?"; and wondered, "Will this be enough?" Meanwhile Carol Marin (Chicago Sun-Times) noted of Barack, "And he still had nothing new to say, just what he'd said before, that some of Wright's comments 'offended me, and I understand why they have offended the American people'."  Marin observed:

This isn't the first time the campaign has waited out a problem, declining to take a controversy by the horns.  
It took a relentless chorus of Chicago media almost a year to finally get Obama and his people to deliver long-asked-for documents and answer what were, at best, incompletely answered questions about his former friend and now-indicted fund-raiser, Tony Rezko. He finally did so in March.  
There are judgment questions, fair ones, to be asked about Obama's past dealings with controversial people.  

Barack spoke out against Wright only because he was tanking in the polls over Wright and because he was offended by what Wright said of him:
What I had heard was that he had given a performance. And I thought at the time that it would be sufficient simply to reiterate what I had said in Philadelphia. Upon watching it, what became clear to me was that it was more than just a -- it was more than just him defending himself. What became clear to me was that he was presenting a world view that -- that -- that contradicts who I am and what I stand for. And what I think particularly angered me was his suggestion somehow that my previous denunciation of his remarks were somehow political posturing. Anybody who knows me and anybody who knows what I'm about knows that -- that I am about trying to bridge gaps and that I see the -- the commonality in all people.
Desperado (Houston Chronicle) notes that unanswered questions and the "many different versions of answer" that Barack has provided, before declaring: "A focal point is Wright being "uninvited" to the announcement of Obama's presidential candidacy. In an interview with the New York Times, Wright had this recollection of the disinvitation, from RealClearPolitics:
'Mr. Wright said that in the phone conversation in which Mr. Obama disinvited him from a role in the announcement, Mr. Obama cited an article in Rolling Stone, "The Radical Roots of Barack Obama."  According to the pastor, Mr. Obama then told him, 'You can get kind of rough in the sermons, so what we've decided is that it's best for you not to be out there in public'." The Rolling Stone article was from the February 22. 2007 issue and was entitled 'The Radical Roots of Barack Obama', a title later changed to 'Destiny's Child'".  Dan Balz (Washington Post, link has text and video) notes that US Senator Evan Bayh (Hillary supporter) has warned that the Republicans would try to make an issue of Wright in the general election.  Of course they will.  Last week North Carolina's GOP began running ads on Wright.  John McCain, the presumed GOP nominee, may or may not call for the ads to cease but North Carolina ignored him (as is their right) and others will as well.  The damage isn't just to the top of the ticket if Obama is the Democratic nominee.  The North Carolina GOP targeted Obama supporters.  That will take place across the country in a general election should Obama be the nominee.  The people he has brought in from outside the Democratic Party have proven repeatedly that at least 30% of them are unwilling to vote in other Democratic races -- they show up, vote for him and leave the rest of the ballot blank. That's bad news for every Democratic race in November 2008.  That's before others are smeared for Barack's lack of proper judgement.  (To put it mildly.)  He is a drag on the entire ticket, he runs off the base and his nomination risks the Democratic control of Congress and Democratic state and local offices across the country.  A new CBS News - New York Times poll finds Obama's negatives on the rise and Hillary faring better in a match-up against John McCain.  In 2004, Dems just knew they'd reclaim the White House.  They didn't.  Having reclaimed control of both houses of Congress in 2006, they party needs to smarten up and realize what a drag on the ticket Barack will be.  Wright is not going away, not during the Democratic primary and not, were Barack the nominee, during the primary.  The only way to put the matter to rest is to back the candidate Democrats are overwhelming backing, Hillary Clinton.  CBS and AP report (text and video):
Clinton also reiterated her previous remarks about Wright that she would not have stayed in the church after hearing the comments. She said it was up to voters to decide how the controversy over Wright impacts the campaign.  
O'Reilly asked Clinton to describe how she felt "when you hear a fellow American citizen say that kind of stuff about America."  
"Well, I take offense," Clinton said. "I think it's offensive and outrageous. I'm going to express my opinion, others can express theirs. It is part of just, you know, an atmosphere we're in today."  
Meanwhile, Obama was scrambling on Wednesday to put his presidential bid back on track a day after a public denouncing of Wright and both Democratic candidates pushed onward in a nomination struggle that appears to be dividing the party.

Here's Howard Wolfson's "HUBdate: Making Trade Work" (
Previewing Today: This morning, Hillary commuted to work with a sheet metal worker, stopping to fill up at a South Bend gas station. Later today, she highlights her trade agenda at events throughout Indiana.
Easley for Hillary: Yesterday, "North Carolina Gov. [Mike] Easley endorse[d] Clinton for president"...."'There's a lot of 'yes, we can' and 'yes, we should' going around' Easley said. 'Hillary Clinton is ready to deliver. That's the difference. She's ready to deliver today. Immediately.'" Read more and more.
Superdelegate Watch: Superdelegate and Representative Ike Skelton of Missouri endorsed Hillary yesterday "because of her support in rural America, her commitment to national security, and her dedication to U.S. troops." Read more.
By the Numbers: A new Gallup poll shows Hillary now leading Sen. Obama nationally (47-46). "This situation marks a loss for Obama, who had generally been in the lead over [Hillary] for the last month." Read more.
Real Solutions for Fort Bragg: The front page of the Fayetteville Observer reports that Hillary is calling for a congressional hearing into reports of poor living conditions at Fort Bragg. "Something went terribly wrong here…We've asked these young soldiers to risk their lives and bear brutal living conditions... and when they return home, the least we can do is offer them decent, clean living conditions." Read more.
Gas Tax Holiday: Yesterday, Hillary "toured the Miller Veneers wood manufacturing company in Indianapolis and said a lot of people in Indiana would benefit from a gas tax holiday...Clinton said it may not mean much to Obama, but it means a lot to people who are struggling." Read more.
On the Air: In a new Indiana ad, Hillary tells viewers, "My father served in the Navy and ran a small business. My mother taught Sunday school and took care of us... I carry with me not just their dreams but the dreams of people like them all across our county, people who embrace hard work and opportunity... who never stop believing in the promise of America. It's a promise I intend to keep." Watch here and Read more.
"Hillary Thrills Hobart" Last night, Hillary met with Johnnie Parker, "an organizer with the Sheetmetal Workers Union Local 20, and his family for a hourlong kitchen table discussion on the economy." Parker called Hillary "down-to-earth and upfront about economic issues facing Americans." Read more.
"Where's Our Debate?" In the past five days, over 5,000 Oregonians have signed an online petition calling on Sen. Obama to join Hillary in Oregon for a debate. "Sen. Obama is currently spending millions of television ads across our state. Certainly he can spare a day or two to let Oregonians know what he believes beyond his 30-second ads." 6,200 North Carolinians have signed a similar petition for a debate in their state. Read more.
On Tap: Tomorrow, Hillary holds a town hall in Jeffersonville, IN and a rally in Terre Haute, IN.
If You Watch One Thing Today: Clinton appears on Bill O'Reilly's "The O'Reilly Factor" tonight.

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