Thursday, May 15, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, May 15, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, IVAW appears before Congress, Hillary leads in the popular vote, and more.
Passion and empathy: Why is it that it takes a harsh reality to kick in your own front door, grab you by the scruff of your own all too relaxed neck, before you really cry again.  Maybe its cancer, a hurricane, a drunk driver, somebody gone crazy with a gun on campus, in a shopping center, on the job, on the freeway, or maybe a kid with a gun in a war, a soldier, your kid, like mine PFC James Burmeister.  
He is not a kid anymore.  When he joined the army, he was a typical poor kid, naive kid, painted himself in a corner kid.  A typical young man high on testosterone low on common sense, he brought the recruiter's line of crap and fine-print flim flaw, and was coached on how to assure his induction despite medical conditions that would have disqualified him.  
So the army trained him how to kill efficiently in urban warfare situations and shipped his naive butt over to Baghdad to carry out the orders of his commander and chief, the Warrior Prince Bush, our president, brave military veteran of Vietnam.  So my son was forced to take part in and was witness to acts of human cruelty beyond his wildest imagination.  He killed other young men just like him.  In another place in another time, they could have been friends, they could have worked side by side and shared their dreams, now their ghosts will haunt his dreams, like the dreams of this brand new generation of "winter soldiers".  For the matter of a few feet, or maybe even a few inches, my son's brains would have been spilled out on a Baghdad street.  My nightmare of a soldier's dad, of cradling my son's blown up head in my lap while I try to put it back together, it would have become reality like the nightmares of the families of those soldiers who have already died, and those who will die next week, next month, and next year.  
So now my son sits in Army custody, brain injured by a roadside bomb and struggling mightly with PTSD while he awaits court-martial for desertion, because he refused redepolyment to combat in Iraq in May 2007 in protest over the war crimes he was ordered to engage in.  He married a fifty-caliber machine gun atop a hummer providing perimeter security for one of the now infamous small kill teams.       
With the help of war resistance groups in Canada, on the eve of his re-deployment, he went AWOL and has lived in Canada until March 4th of this year when his worsening mental and physical condition, his homesickness and his family responsibilities left him little choice but to turn himself in to the Army at Fort Knox Kentucky.   
Maria Hinojosa interviewed James Burmesiter and Agustin Aguayo for NOW on PBS (here for a/v, here for text).  And while we're noting NOW on PBS and Hinojosa, their "Child Brides: Stolen Lives" report  won the 2008 Edward R. Murrow Award for Best TV Documentary and the episode can be viewed online here.  As Hinojosa's report explained, after being injured by a bombing resulting in PTSD, Burmeister was placed on medication and ordered to serve another tour of duty in Iraq. Burmeister explained his reaction: "I got back home -- talked to my wife.  You know, I said, 'I think I'm gonna leave.'   It was like a 15 minute decision that I'm -- I'm gonna leave -- I'm gonna leave the army." 
Now he awaits word on what the military is going to do?  Are they going to court-martial a wounded veteran, on medication, who they were trying to redeploy to Iraq for another tour?  No one knows.  But his Erich Burmeister is asking for people to "Drop my son a card of encouragement!" and the address is: PFC James Burmeister, HHC Bldg 298, Gold Vault Rd, Fort Knox, KY 40121. 
Those war resisters who are in Canada need support as well as they wait to see if the motion for safe harbor is going to come to the Parliament floor.  You can utilize the following e-mails to show your support: 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.  In addition Jack Layton, NDP leader, has a contact form and they would like to hear from people as well. A few more addresses 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. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).
Today the House of Representatives were talking about Iraq.  Mainly in the hearing held by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, chaired by Lynn Woolsey, Maxine Waters and Barbara Lee, and featured veterans offering testimony -- Iraq Veterans Against the War.  If you missed the hearing, along with being broadcast on CSPAN, it was broadcast by KPFA (click here for KPFA's archived broadcast) and at Aaron Glantz' website The War Comes Home.  Earlier (in March)  Iraq Veterans Against the War held their Winter Soldier Investigation and it was broadcast at War Comes Home, at KPFK, at the Pacifica Radio homepage and at KPFA, here for Friday, here for Saturday, here for Sunday with Aimee Allison (co-host of the station's The Morning Show and co-author with David Solnit of Army Of None) and Aaron Glantz anchoring Pacifica's live coverage.  (It was also broadcast at the IVAW site.)  Allison and Glantz also hosted a live report on KPFA about the lawsuit against the VA on April 22nd.
US House Rep Lynn Woolsey: You know around here in recent months, we've heard from General David Petraeus, we've heard from Ambassador Ryan Crocker, we've heard from the White House over and over again.  And they're all armed with PowerPoint presentations, they're armed with colorful posters, and all the language trying to convince us after five years we are finally making progress in Iraq.  Well we know that's not so and what makes this morning so unique is that we now have an opportunity to hear from -- not the military's top brass, but directly from you, the very soldiers who put your lives on the line to carry out this president's failed policies.  Today's event actually is a continuation of the Winter Soldier hearings that were organized by the Iraq Veterans Against the War earlier this year at the National Labor Council in Silver Spring, Maryland. Over three days, dozens of veterans shared their personal stories, testified about their own experiences on the ground, in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.  These weren't pundits.  They weren't analysts talking about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the abstract.  These were the stories -- the stories we're going to hear today and the testimonies of the men and women who have experienced the horrors of war up close and personal. 
As noted the supplemental was being voted on today as well.  Co-chair Barbara Lee explained some of the basics of that proposal.
US House Rep Barbara Lee:  It's really ironic that we will debate and vote on three amendments to the Iraq supplemental appropriations bill.  Of course I plan and I know Congress women Woolsey and Waters plan to vote against the amendment providing an additional -- can you believe this -- $183 billion?  More money to fund this occupation and war through . . . June of 2009.  We have long advocated that funding be appropriated only for the limited purpose of fully funding the safe and responsible redeployment of American troops and contractors from Iraq.  No more funds for combat operations. We offered an amendment last night that would do just that.  Regrettably, my amendment was not accepted so once again, once again.  I intend to vote against funding this war and occupation.  Now second amendment to the supplemental contains two restrictions that we have championed.  First is the prohibition against the establishment of permanent military bases in Iraq.  We need to, once again, make sure the president understands that is what the American people want.   It's been passed and signed into law at least eight times and actually the president has issued a signing statement saying basically he's not going to comply with the law.   So once again, we're going to do it again.  The second condition that we have championed will prohibit the president from negotiating, entering into or implementing any agreement with the government of Iraq that includes security assurances for mutual defense unless the agreement is in the form of a treaty requiring ratification by the Senate or is specifically authorized by law.  Today's proceedings are historic because it has been 37 years since the the first Winter  Soldiers convened in Detroit in 1971 to speak out against the Vietnam war.   
US House Reps Sheila Jackson Lee, Keith Ellison, were among the Congress members present at today's hearings.  IVAW executive director Kelly Dougherty explained
Sgt. Kelly Dougherty: Two moths ago over 200 members of IVAW gathered in Silver Spring, Maryland to submit, listen to and offer their eye-witness accounts of the occuaptions of Iraq and Afghanistan and their first-hand experience in the American military. . . . We continue our duty to our country and our fellow human beings by offering our testimony to Congress members today.  The stories you are about to hear will not be easy to listen to but, believe me, they are much harder to relive.   We have witnessed first-hand the ultimate violence, chaos, fear and suffering of war and occupation and are intimately familiar with the indelible mark that it has left on our lives. These nine Iraq veterans that are here today are going to relive memories that they probably would rather forget but they won't because they know that the people need to hear their stories in order to understand the way that war impacts people, their families and their communities. 
Along with Kelly Dougherty, there were other members of IVAW appearing before Congress including Adam Kokesh (IVAW co-chair), Matthis Chiroux (who made news after the hearing), Jason Lemieux, Scott Ewing, Geoffrey Millard, Vincent Emanuele, Kristofer Goldsmith, James Gilligan.  We'll focus on some of the testimonies today and some in tomorrow's snapshot. 
Sgt. Jason Lemieux: The written testimony I submitted today illuminates how unit loyalty and camaraderie, psychological trauma, lack of strategic guidance, command complicity and our national insistance on minimizing short-term casualty rates all lead to widespread destruction of civilian life and property in Iraq and make rules of engagement, for all practical purposes unenforcable. 
Lemieux spoke of his three tours and how they were encouraged to shoot any Iraq and not worry because the leadership would "take care of us" -- meaning protect them. Protection also came in orders to falsify reports to minimize casualties.  Scott Ewing followed and he spoke mainly about his time serving in Tal Afar. He referenced civilian casulaties, detainess and house searches.
Scott Ewing: I also saw more innocent civlians injured or killed by American forces than by the enemy.  One particularly memorable incident occured after we raided two houses and found no one there. Everyone thought we were going home but a vehicle stopped again and we were told to get out and go to a nearby house.  I assumed that we were going to search it but when we went in through the front gate I noticed that there were already other American soldiers there -- a mortar platoon from our troop -- there were six Iraqi men against the wall and, as I rounded the car that was in the drive-way, we saw several middle-aged women sprawled out on the cement covered in blood. It looked like someone had opened up on them with a machine gun.  What we found out, shortly thereafter, was that one of our Apache helicopters had shot high explosive rounds into their front yard. . . .  And so we started treating them with bandages.  The first woman I got to had shrapnel had pentetrated her head.  She was still alive but she died shortly there after.  The other women were very badly wounded. . . . We got medical supplies from the Bradleys and tried to bandage their wounds. [exhales] . . .  Two of the injured women were laying next to each other over in the back of the Bradley and a little boy about 9-years-old came up to me and pointed to his chest and  there was a blood spot on it so I kind of looked and -and listened to his breathing to see if his lungs had been punctured and they hadn't so I sat him back in the back of the Bradley next to the two women and they were all taken to an aid station  which was just outside the city.  There were numerous other events, incidents, that involve civilian casualties, I don't have time to go into them all but this incident illustrates the first serious difference between what I saw in Iraq and what is seen back home. There's been virtually no explicit reporting by the mainstream media of civilian casualties caused by US troops in Iraq.  Anytime a suicide bomber kills civilians, it is highly publicized.  But from my personal experience, in Tal Afar, the number of Iraqis killed or injured by our forces far outnumbers those killed by insurgents or suicide bombers. 
These are highlights.  Geoffrey Millard stated "thank you for listening" and thanked the co-chairs as did everyone offering testimony.  Millard observed that every day in Iraq seems to repeat "over and over and over again," endlessly. 
Geoffrey Millard: One day there was a briefing that was briefed for the General that there was a traffic control point shooting.  In it, a young private saw a vehicle speeding at his traffic control point and made a split-second decision and put more than 200 rounds into this vehicle as it sped towards them putting it to a stop and killing all of its inhabitants.  He then watched as the mother, father and two children were dragged from that car.  That evening as it was briefed to the general -- and I flipped the slide for that briefing -- Col. [William] Rochelle from the 42nd Infantry Division [Support Command] . . .  and I have to apologize for a little vulgarity here but I feel it's intricate for my testimony.  He turned and stared to an entire division level staff and said, and I quote [not broadcast]. I was set back by that.  I expected more out of high ranking officers coming from a line unit.  I expected a lot more and as I looked around at the officers and high ranking NCOs in the room -- Non Commissioned Officers -- I found no dissenting facial expressions or body language, just nodding of the heads as if to say, "Yep, if these f-ing Ha**s learned to drive this wouldn't happen."
In Saturday's panels on Racism and War: the Dehumanization of the Enemy, Geoff Millard would testify that not only was the h-word used by the brass in Iraq, they also would declare that the checkpoint killings were the result of h-words not knowing how to drive.  Hurd and Kokesh's testimonies provided reasons for the deaths that have received little attention.
In a news release, Rep Woolsey notes Kristofer Goldmsith's testimony:
As we were preparing to leave Iraq, we were given a mental screening test, which was supposed to identify possible mental ailments.  But we were warned by the medical staff issuing the test that "should you come up positive for mental problems, you could be forced to stay in [Iraq] for three to four more months before you can go home."  Most lied while completing the test because they wanted to get home as soon as possible.  No one was held in Iraq any longer due to this test, but in hindsight, it is clear that verbal warning was used to prevent the inconvenience to the Army of having Soldiers that needed medical attention.
Again, we'll come back to the hearing tomorrow and on Monday.  If time runs out, Trina will most likely grab Adam Kokesh for her site this weekend and we'll note him in the snapshot on Monday.  The above doesn't even cover the first hour of the hearing.  After the hearing, a new development.  From IVAW:
Sgt. Matthis Chiroux, who served in the Army until being honorably discharged last summer after over four years of service in Afghanistan, Japan, Europe and the Phillipines, today publicly announced his intention to refuse orders to deploy to Iraq.    
Sgt. Chiroux made made his announcement in the Cannon House Office Building Rotunda after members of Iraq Veterans Against the War testified before the Congressional Progressive Caucus during Winter Soldier on the Hill.        
To donate to IVAW's Legal Fund to support Matthis and other servicemembers who are refusing to support the occupation of Iraq, use our online donation form and select "Legal Fund" under special projects.         
If you would like to send a message of support to Sgt Matthis Chiroux, email         
On the House floor today, the supplemental was voted on.  Leading the Republican objection to it was Rep David Drier (who attempted to engage Rep David Obey who complained that he should not have to yield his time).  Drier repeatedly cited "small businesses" as his concern.  On the Democratic side, Rep Jan Schakowsky spoke passionately in her brief time (time limits appeared to be enforced on Schakowsky though other members of both parties were allowed to exceed them) who noted that the only funding Congress should be considering was funding that would "bring our troops home" and also raised the issue of the indiscriminate killins by the mercenaries of Blackwater Worldwide.  Richard Cowan (Reuters) notes, "The U.S. House of Represenatives, in a surprise and largely symbolic move, defeated legislation on Thursday to fund the war in Iraq for another year.  But it also sent the Senate a controversial troop-withdrawal paln that will give that chambe an opportunity to restore the money for waging the conflict, which is deeply unpopular with the public.  With a large group of anti-war Democrats voting against the Pentagon $162.5 billion to keep fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through mid-2009, the House defeated the measure by a vote of 149-141."  Christopher Stern and Laura Litvan (Bloomberg News) note: "Some anti-war Democrats cheered, shouting, 'The war is over."  They also point out that US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office states there is "enough money to pay for the war through July under the current law".  Jonathan Weisman (Washington Post) credits the failure of the bill to a coalition: "An unusual coalition of antiwar Democrats and angry Republicans in the House today torpedoed" the bill but the House "voted to demand troop withdrawals from Iraq, force the Iraqi government to shoulder more war costs and greatly expand the education benefits for returning veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflict." Deidre Walsh (CNN) also gives credit to the Republicans and describes the outcome as "a surprising defeat to Democrats who had expected to pass the measure." As do Mike Soraghan, Susan Crabtree and Jared Allen (The Hill): "House Republicans knocked the carefully choreographed Iraq war funding process into chaos Thursday when they declined to vote for" the bill.  NPR's Brian Naylor (All Things Considered) offers an audio report on the G.I. Bill aspect of it.
Funded today or not, the illegal war drags on.  In some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 Baghdad roadside bombings that claimed 2 lives and left ten wounded. 

Tim Cocks (Reuters) reports 3 Iranian embassy workers were wounded by gunfire (as was their driver) in Baghdad today.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports "3 prominent doctors . . . kidnapped by gunmen on the way between Tikrit and Baiji".
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 corpses discovered in Baghdad.
Turning to US presidential nominations.  Rick Klein (ABC News) reports on Hillary supporters who state they will boycott if Barack Obama is the nominee and not Hillary Clinton.  A surprise to the MSM perhaps but this community decided last week that if Hillary doesn't get the nomination, Ralph Nader gets the vote in the November.  Klein notes that the nonsense group of crybabies making up NARAL (include Kate in that, I still laugh at Kate's crying in the Senate -- still and always) deciding to endorse Barack yesterday has had a reaction: "Emily's List is furious.  Anad Martha Burke" expresses "It feels like they are abandoning a known ally for a less committed candidate because they want to jump on a bandwagon.  I think the pro-choice community should stick by a woman who has stuck by them."  Taylor Marsh points out that local NARAL chapters are saying (basically), 'Don't blame us, the national leadership kept us in the dark and didn't even consult us." Jo Mannies (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) quotes the Missouri chapter's president, Pamela Sumners stating, "In our membership demographic, a lot of longtime women's rights supporters are strong supporters of Hillary Clinton.  If we had been consulted, we would have said, 'Let this play out'."  Plus don't support a man who regularly insults women.  Klein earlier noted that a woman finally got an apology from Obama for his referring to her as "sweetie" ("Hold on one second, sweetie . . .") but then, she's a reporter.  He's called women "sweetie"s over and over.  "Little Miss" is probably next. Delilah Boyd (A Scriverner's Lament) compiles a list of men who could call her "sweetie" and Obama's not on it. As Michael Regunberg (Boston Globe) noted yesterday, "When the history of the 2008 presidential campaign is written, we may find that Gloria Steinem was right.  In a column in The New York Times that appeared between the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary she wrote, 'Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life, whether the question is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the White House.'  Fast forward six months and Steinem looks downright prescient.  We didn't know then just how biased the media would be against Hillary Clinton, a woman running for president.  But the 'boys on the bus' (and a good number of women as well) have had a tough time with Clinton and criticized everything from her pantsuits to her laugh, things they would not excoriate a man for.  What's worse, they get away with it . . . they use her as a punchline."  Punchline?  That would includes 'cracks' made by self-loathing lesbian Laura Flanders (be sure to read Marcia's "Laura Flanders the self-hating, disrespecting lesbian") who felt Gloria and Robin Morgan were missing the point.  What point was that, Laura?  That you're a semi-closeted lesbian or a Brit playing Democrat when you were raised a Communist?  That is, after all, why you do NOT vote Democratic.  Step out of your closets, self-loather. You could write about all the Communists mentioned in this article because your family was tight with all of them.  (Self-loathing lesbian Laura especially took offense at Robin's  "Goodbye To All That (#2)."  Probably the notion of saying goodbye to illusions scared the sexually and politically closeted Flanders.) 
Gene Lyons (Arkansas Democratic Gazette) is far kinder than I am, he calls them "progressives."  Yeah, they tried to hide behind that label before as well.  There's no reason for a Communist to be in the closet today (and young ones are not) unless you're trying to trick and decieve.  The way Flanders did the night/early morning of the 2004 election when she pretended she understood the anger and upset, when she pretended she'd voted Democratic.  Maybe all these 'progressives' wouldn't have so much influence if the Democrats they're trying to steer knew how many of them weren't Democrats.  It's not "red-baiting."  It goes to honesty.  Lyons:
There's no denying that her candidacy has encountered what a friend calls a "perfect storm" of progressive idealists merging with Clinton-hating celebrity courtiers in the "mainstream" media. And yet she keeps chugging along like the Little Engine That Could, defying increasingly shrill demands to quit.         
Weeks before the Indiana primary, Obama described it as the potential tiebreaker. Then he went out and lost it. Nevertheless, all but openly gloating, NBC's Tim Russert took it upon himself to announce, "We now know who the Democratic nominee's going to be, and no one's going to dispute it." Reaction among some Obama supporters was less polite.
Maybe Marie Cocco (same column as yesterday but link goes to the Washington Post) had those types in mind when she wrote: "I won't miss reading another treatise by a man or woman, of the left or right, who says that sexism has had not even a teeny-weeny bit of influence on the course of the Democratic campaign." Meanwhile snippy little Ryan Corsaro (CBS News) declares of Hillary leading in the popular vote: "Clinton only leads in the popular vote if Michigan and Florida's primary votes count, which they currently do not, because of Democratic Party rules."  As Ava and I noted in March:
One offered, "She's thousands behind! If you don't count Florida and Michigan." Thanks for the add-on but shouldn't a press be aware that a presidential election in November will take place in all fifty states? Shouldn't a press not be concerned with the talking points of the Obama campaign and report the facts which is Hillary isn't behind due to Florida and Michigan?       

If there's a re-vote, by all means, replace the votes. But there was a vote in both states and Hillary won both primaries. While it may not be in the Obama campaign's best interest to include those totals, the press is supposed to report what happened and what happened in those states' primaries was that Hillary won. "If you don't count"? Why wouldn't the press count them? They took place, millions voted. More people voted in the Florida primary, for example, than took part in all the primaries and caucuses before Florida combined. If you're the press, not the Obama campaign, and you're talking about the popular vote, there's no reason not to include Florida and Michigan. The press reports what happened. What happened is that Florida and Michigan voted. The delegates may be in dispute but there's no question that voters in both states showed up at the polls and no question about who won.
The popular vote is the popular vote. Primaries took place in Florida and Michigan. Whether the DNC seats, or doesn't, the delegates, the primaries took place and news outlets shouldn't pretend otherwise. Reporters are supposed to report what took place and, fact, primaries took place in both states and Hillary won.  
John Dickerson -- whose outlet created a Hillary Death Watch and likened it to their Saddam-Meter, so therefore really shouldn't be invited on to comment on the Hillary campaign -- was whining that "the arithmetic we were taught in school" didn't allow for including the primaries. Actually, John, it did. Math exercises had you count apples and oranges. You weren't allowed to determine whether a national grocer would carry those apples and oranges before you were expected to count them. You were told there were X number and you added them. The same way that the primaries in Michigan and Florida are part of the popular vote.
The race isn't over.  Yesterday Hillary received the endorsements of former governors of Kentucky Wendell Ford, Paul Patton, John Brown and Julian Carroll.  Guessing they matter a bit more to Kentucky then John Edwards' nonsense.  The race isn't over and, unless one of them drops out, goes to the convention floor.