Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, May 20, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, Sadr City invaded, guess who says they have more oil, Kentucky and Oregon primary results due this evening, and more.
Starting with war resistance.  Great Britian's Socialist Worker notes Matthis Chiroux refusal to deploy to Iraq in June and quotes him stating: "My decision is based on my desire to no longer continue violating my core values to support an illegal and unconstitutional occupation."  Meanwhile Courage to Resist notes that Robert Weiss, conscientious objector, has been "sentenced to seven months confinement during a court martial Tuesday [of last week] at Rose Barracks in Vilsek, Germany.  Weiss pled guilty to charges of desertion and missing movement, which reduced the court martial's proceedings mostly to the sentencing phase." Back in July of 2007, Adam Kokesh posted an e-mail from Weiss where Weiss explained he had "informed my chain of command that the only way I will go to Iraq is if they tranquilize me, cuff me, and throw me on a plane. That being the case I won't perform any duties or wear a uniform anyways. I don't plan on letting the situation progress that far. I am hopeful that I will be placed on rear detachment until the decision on my application comes in. When it becomes apparent that they won't do this I will simply refuse to follow any orders given to me or wear a uniform. This will surely result in some jail time but that doesn't deter me one bit. It makes more sense to me to resist the military now rather than in Iraq where the situation would be much more difficult."  Courage to Resist explains: "Though this agreement carried a prison sentence of eight months, Judge [Peter] Masters issued a seven-month sentence, to be served at the U.S. Military Detention Facility Europe at Coleman Barracks in Mannheim, Germany."
Some war resisters are in Canada and they 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 (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.  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 Matthis Chiroux, Richard Droste, Michael Barnes, 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).
Turning to Iraq where Sadr City remains in the news.  BBC toys at news and insists that "Iraqi government troops" went into Sadr City to "clear mines". Alexandra Zavis and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) provide far less spin: "Iraqi security forces moved deep into Sadr City today to wrest control of the vast Baghdad district from militiamen loyal to radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada Sadr.  Columns of Iraqi armored Humvees and tkans, backed by helicopters, lumbered down the slum's main arteries, while soldiers fanned out over the roof tops and into narrow allies.  Others set up checkpoints, searching vehicles for weapons and fighters."  Of course the helicopters are US helicopters as are most of the vehicles listed.  UPI notes that the purpose of the raid includes "confiscating weapons."  AFP cites one of their reporters "in Sadr City said residents were welcoming the Iraqi soldiers who began spreading out across the district while US soldiers remained deployed outside."  Great Britain's Socialist Worker points out, "The US military and its Iraqi allies have abandoned the siege of Sadr City, the poor Shia slum of Baghdad, after failing to disarm the Mehdi army -- a resistance organisation led by rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.  The humilitating climbdown is a heavy blow to the 'surge' strategy launched by George Bush that had the central aim of crushing all major resistance to the occupation."  CBS and AP note: "The move is the strongest attempt yet by the government to impose control over the district, which has long been the unquestioned bastion of the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to al-Sadr. Iraqi and U.S. troops have in the past largely stayed on the neighborhood's edges" and their photo demonstrates that the illegal occupation of Iraq includes the US dictating military fashion since the uniforms Iraqis are wearing are the same as the US.
AFP alone notes, "Much of the fighting had centred around a huge concrete wall that the US military has been building to cut off one third of the Sadr City in a bid to prevent the flow of heavy weapons to the rest of Baghdad.  Work on the wall became a key issue for the militiamen who repeatedly attacked those constructing it under tight US protection."  Meawhile, as Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) noted last week, over "8,500 families" -- not individuals, "families" -- were forced to flee since the assault on Sadr City began in March.  Ali Hamdani and Deborah Haynes (Times of London) quote Iraqi military spokesperson Qassim Abdul Raheem stating, "The opeartion will continue to tomorrow.  We expect to be controlling all parts of Sadr City by tomorrow morning."
The assault on Sadr City began as an off-shoot of the assault on Basra.  Damien McElroy (Telegraph of London) reports that, following the failed efforts by puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki, "British soldiers have re-established a permanent presence in the city of Basra, patrolling with Iraqi forces in 'no-go' areas they were driven from months ago by Shia militants."
In some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded two people, another Baghdad bombing claimed the life of 1 civilian wounding four, a Balad Ruz mortar attack claimed 2 lives and left nine wounded and a Diyala Province bomber who killed themselves, wounded four civilians and claimed the life of 1 five-year-old girl.  Reuters notes: "A woman suicide bomber attacked the house of Sheikh Mutlib al-Nidawi, the head of the U.S.-backed neighbourhood police of Mandili, killing his niece and wounding him as well as two of his guards, police said."
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an armed clash in Sulaimaniyah that left three people wounded and that 1 "of the gunmen is a captain in the armed forces and has been handed over to the military authorities for disciplining" and 4 "Awakening" Council members were shot dead in Salahuddin Province.  China's Xinhau reports an attack on a minibus outside of Mosul that resulted in 11 police recruits being shot to death.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad.
Anna Badkhen continues filing reports from Iraq for Salon.  In her latest, she opens with: "The most important man on Twenty Third Street in Baghdad's southwestern neighborhood of Risala is Haidar Majli Finjan, a bony, balding man in his 30s who likes to dress in a dirty T-shirt, plastic flip-flops and gym pants he rolls up to his knees.  Finjan gives local residents what no one else apparently can: electricity."
In other Iraq news, Sonia Verma (Times of London) reports that "Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister told The Times that new exploration showed that his country has the world's largest proven oil reserves, with as much as 350 billion barrels. The figure is triple the country's present proven reserves and exceeds that of Saudi Arabia's estimated 264 billion barrels of oil. Barham Salih said that the new estimate had been based on recent geological surveys and seismic data compiled by 'reputable, international oil companies ... This is a serious figure from credible sources'."  Verma also notes that Iraq's Minister of Foreign Affairs Hoshyar Zebari is calling for an investigation into "sexual abuse and harrassment of Iraqi workers" at the British embassy in Baghdad: "This is something the Foreign Office needs to investigate.  The embassy has to conduct some investigation.  The Foreign Office needs to be involved."  Verman notes that this comes after allegations of Iraq abuse by KBR were investigated by . . . KBR which cleared itself of all wrong doing. 
In the US, Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that yesterday's announcement by the Defense Department that 39,000 US servicemembers are being ordered to Iraq has a talking point from the Pentagon: "The deployments, which would indicate a plan to keep 15 combat brigades, or rougly 140,000 troops, in Iraq through 2009, don't mean that there won't be a reduction in troops before then, said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman." Pentagon spin. It's a Nixon type maneuver on the part of the White House: Pump up in the number in a foreign land so that, close to the election, you can announce "X number will be returning!" and the crowd cheers. After the election, they grasp that the numbers never really fell but the hope is you already influenced the election.
Turning to US politics where the Democratic primary contest continues [and will continue to the August convention unless (a) one candidate drops out or (b) the rules are thrown out].  A9 of today's New York Times is a full page ad entitled "not so fast . . . Hillary's voice is OUR voice and she's speaking for all of us" taken out by WomenCount PAC.  (A version of the ad can be seen at Tennesse Guerilla Women from when it ran in USA Today earlier this month.)  The text of the ad concludes: "Women risked all they held dear to make this country great.  They put their lives on the line in all our quests for justice -- from Abigail Adams to Sojourner Truth to Susan B. Anthony to Eleanor Roosevelt to Fannie Lous Hamer to Barbara Jordan to Ann Richards to Dolores Huerta.  And now, Hillary.  We know that when women vote, Democrats win.  Now is it the responsibility of our party to hear our voices and count all of our votes.  We want Hillary to stay in this race until every vote is cast, every vote is counted, and we know that our voices are heard."  (For more information on WomenCount, their e-mail address is womencountpac@gmail.comWilliam Branigin (Washington Post) notes the advertisement today, that Kentucky and Oregon's primaries take place today (Oregonians have until 8:00 p.m. their time to turn in their ballots if they did not mail them in) and that Puerto Rico (June 1st), Montana (June 3rd) and South Dakota (June 3rd) will be the final three primaries.  Brian Montopoli (CBS News) notes: "There has been speculation that Hillary Clinton might drop out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination following today's primaries in Kentucky and Oregon, even as Clinton herself has insisted that she will fight on. Now her campaign has released a new ad in South Dakota, where voters don't have their say until June 3rd. It's a signal that Clinton has no plans to leave the race anytime soon -- one that the campaign underlines in its press release touting the ad, which notes that the spot 'comes two weeks before South Dakota voters head to the polls'."  [The link has the text to the video as well as the video itself.]  Howard Kurtz (Washington Post) weighs in with "Women are pretty ticket off these days."  You think?  Carolyn Lochhead (San Francisco Chronicle) reposts an e-mail which includes this: "I will not vote for Barack Obama. I will not stay home. I will go to the polls and proudly write on my ballot, HILLARY CLINTON. I want the DNC to count my vote as a protest vote. I want them to know I am tired of being a second-class citizen in my own country. This isn't about Barack Obama or John McCain. This isn't about Iraq or Iran. This is about a war, a war for our voice, our dignity, and our selves...I hope you will join me."  A number will.  Clinton Democrats note the latest poll of New Jersy Democratic voters finds "Only Sixty-five percent (65%) of Democratic Primary voters in New Jersy say they are at least somewhat likely to vote for Barack Obama against John McCain in November.  Note that this is not just Hillary supporters, but ALL primary voters."  A lot of people got tossed under the bus by the Obama campaign.  A lot of Democrats still don't buy that he has 'experience' or 'leadership.'  Lois Romano (Washington Post) reports: "Women of all ages and nationalities push against the rope line carrying books and T-shirts, posters and stuffed animals -- anything for her to autograph. They tote huge signs that shout 'Hillary Cares About Me'-- and they tearfully grab her hand to implore her to stick it out, to take her trailing campaign all the way to the Democratic convention in Denver." Romano quotes Hillary: ""I believe this campaign has been a groundbreaker in a lot of ways. But it certainly has been challenging given some of the attitudes in the press, and I regret that, because I think it's been really not worthy of the seriousness of the campaign and the historical nature of the two candidacies we have here."  Link also contains video to Hillary speaking.
The groundswell is becoming so big it made the networks this morning when Geraldine Ferraro and Rachel Maddow appeared on NBC's Today this morningAva and I have covered the backstabbing 'Maddow The Mad Cow' (as MSNBC refers to her). This morning, she was selling it for Barack.  While Geraldine Ferraro provided examples of sexism (even noting at one point that she was giving specific examples), Maddow played her usual wrothless role.  Maddow is a lesbian and it needs to be remember that when Time produced that awful Ann Coulter cover story, Maddow refused to call it out.  That was because the author of the Time piece (a man drooling over how 'sexy' Coulter allegedly was) was a friend of Rachel's and -- as she explained off-air at Air America, part of "the community" meaning the gay community.  (John Cloud is out, he's not being outed in this.)  So then she wanted to show solidarity. (Although she refused to tell listeners of her radio show that she knew the man -- she did, they're very good friends and he often uses the term "angel" to describe her.)  But Maddow has never called out Barack's use of homophobia in South Carolina.  When Maddow starts babbling on about "racism and sexism" and trying to play like she's a feminist, she needs to be stopped and asked point-blank: "Do you support homophobia?  Then why is it okay for Barack to use homophobia and for you to stay silent?" For the record, homophobia is unacceptable in the feminist world.  Rachel avoids that.  When Ferraro brought up the brush of the shoulders being disrespectful, Rachel dismissed it (he also did a stabbing motion and flipped Hillary the bird in that same speech, Rachel didn't weigh in on those) and said she "saw this as his referencing" a music video by Jay-Z.  Someone should ask Rachel to quote those lyrics on broadcast TV.  It's highly unlikely that she could get approval to do so and there's something in those lyrics to offend everyone ("Middle finger to the Lord" might get the most complaints).  Rachel was on to provide cover from a very real discussion and that's all she did.
Donna Darko posts various statements by women who've had enough of Barack's sexist campaign and don't intend to vote for him and we'll note this woman:
The sexism has been beyond belief. IMHO it began when Obama threw Gays and Lesbians under the bus last fall. Outside GL and Feminist groups there was very little understanding or concern. If someone wants to test how mysogeny will play out, first try it on gays. If you get away with it, then women are fair game. And you will probably get away with it.
Those who are responsible for putting Democrats in the broken place we are in right now with regard to Barack Obama had better own it to the end. Leave those bumper stickers on and wear those campaign pins until the bitter end folks because YOU OWN IT. And people are going to want to know whose to blame.   
And as for the superdelegates, just an FYI, we have the list with your names, you will be held accountable on Election Day and beyond, too. This time around, everybody's going to be looking for accountability.  
Flash forward to Election Day 08. Can you imagine the backpedaling going on when it comes to explaining how Barack Obama -- the Democratic nominee by math not by sensibility -- loses key states? What will those pundits say? Can they turn to history and defend themselves by saying that Obama won Ohio in the primary? Pennsylvania? Florida? And what about West Virginia? No Democrat has won the WH since 1916 without winning West Virginia and we all know what happened yesterday. What will they use as their rationale as to why they reasonably expected Obama to win those states in the general? Will they be driven mad with their math and just keep repeating that it wasn't their fault -- it was math's fault? (Or will they fall back on the usual suspect and blame it on Hillary?)