Sunday, June 15, 2008

And the war drags on . . .

A month after US army reservist Matthis Chiroux publicly refused to deploy to Iraq, the former sergeant on Sunday set himself up for possible prosecution by failing to report for active duty with his unit in South Carolina.
"Tonight at midnight, I may face further action from the army for refusing to reactivate to participate in the Iraq occupation," Chiroux told reporters in Washington.
"I stand here today in defense of those who have been stripped of their voices in this occupation, the warriors of this nation...", Chiroux read from a statement as his father Rob, who had travelled to Washington from Alabama to support his son on Father's Day, stood beside him.
Last month, Chiroux rejected an order calling him back to active duty in Iraq, saying he considers the war "illegal and unconstitutional."
Chiroux served five years in the army, with tours in Afghanistan, Japan, Germany and the Philippines.

Kyle noted the above, from AFP's "US soldier refuses to report for active duty in Iraq." On May 15th Matthis Chrioux revealed that he was refusing to deploy to Iraq and Iraq Veterans Against the War carried his statements (text, video):

Good afternoon. My name is Sgt. Matthis Chiroux, and I served in the Army as a Photojournalist until being honorable discharged last summer after over four years of service in Afghanistan, Japan, Europe and the Phillipines. As an Army journalist whose job it was to collect and filter servicemember's stories, I heard many stomach-churning testimonies of the horrors and crimes taking place in Iraq. For fear of retaliation from the military, I failed to report these crimes, but never again will I allow fear to silence me. Never again will I fail to stand. In February, I received a letter from the Army ordering my return to active duty, for the purpose of mobilization for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Thanks in great part to the truths of war being fearlessly spoken by my fellow IVAW members, I stand before you today with the strength, clarity and resolve to declare to the military and the world that this Soldier will not be deploying to Iraq. This occupation is unconstitutional and illegal and I hereby lawfully refuse to participate as I will surely be a party to war crimes. Furthermore, deployment in support of illegal war violates all of my core values as a human being, but in keeping with those values, I choose to remain in the United States to defend myself from charges brought by the Army if they so wish to pursue them. I refuse to participate in the occupation of Iraq.

AFP tells you that his father Rob Chiroux is calling this a "backdoor draft." Matthis Chiroux said he wasn't going to deploy. The military said if he refused they would prosecute. Today was the day and Chiroux did not deploy. In Canada US war resisters are standing up as well. Yesterday rallies were held and Mario Cootauco reports on one in British Columnbia in "Deserters seek right to remain in Canada" (Times Colonist):

Rodney Watson signed up for the U.S. army four years ago in Kansas City. He wanted to be a cook.
One year later, he was in Iraq.
"I got sent over to Iraq searching for bombs, searching for civilians," he said. "That was just out of my job title."

After Watson's tour of duty ended in 2006, he couldn't go back.
"I didn't want any part of that," he said. "There's no need for us to be over there and I saw that first-hand. I decided I needed to get out of there. I wanted to go just to be a support. I didn't want to go kicking down doors, killing children or innocent people or getting my hands dirty or anything. I support my country, but I don't support the way we're going about it."
Watson was among the crowd at Main Street and 27th Avenue yesterday to rally support for U.S. military deserters in Canada.
"We're trying to get sanctuary for American soldiers who refuse to fight in Iraq," said Bradley Hughes of the War Resisters Support Campaign.

And that's about all that's worth quoting because, yet again, we're back to the false narrative that Canada was a haven during Vietnam to "draft dodgers." Canada was a haven to "draft dodgers" and "deserters." If you're not getting the point, read this letter to the Calgary Herald:

Re: "Canada should allow war resisters," Kevin Brooker, Opinion, June 9.
Thanks to Kevin Brooker for making a compelling, common-sense case for allowing U.S. war resisters to settle in Canada. As a Vietnam War deserter, I found it comparatively easy to immigrate to this country. I have been a proud Canadian citizen since 1975, and have done my best to make this wonderful country an even better place.
The current crop of war resisters are already contributing to Canada, working under temporary permits at jobs ranging from baker to logistics co-ordinator at an import-export firm. One resister, Joshua Key, even wrote a book,
The Deserter's Tale, that has been a bestseller in several countries.
Now that Parliament has recommended that the war resisters be allowed to stay in Canada, the Harper government has a moral obligation to make this happen. The time for inaccurate arguments about the so-called volunteer army in the U.S. is over. The Bush era is ending. Let's open our doors to the courageous and hard-working young men and women who have come here to find peace.
Lee Zaslofsky, Toronto
Lee Zaslofsky works with the
War Resisters Support Campaign.

On letters, Vince notes "We need to ensure war resisters are welcome here" (Nanaimo Daily News):

Re: 'Harper should let U.S. war resisters stay here' (Your Letters, Daily News, June 9).
I agree with the writer who urges our government to comply with the recent vote in the House of Commons, in which a motion passed allowing U.S. war resisters to stay in Canada.
Phone calls and e-mails from thousands of Canadians went a long way in achieving this first step to open our doors to these men and women. Some of them have been in Iraq and seen the horrors of war and cannot with conscience support it any longer. Our doors must also open to those who enlisted to serve their country, but who came to the realization later that they could not go through with their commitment to fight in an illegal war that continues to breach international and human rights law.
Thanks to the NDP for putting this motion forward and also to the other opposition parties for supporting the motion.
It is now up to us to keep this issue on the radar. We need to write to our prime minister, to our MPs, and to the Minister for Citizenship and Immigration and urge them to create the legislation necessary to grant a permanent haven in Canada to all U.S. war resisters.
Joan Wallace, Nanaimo

Matthis is standing up and war resisters in Canada are standing up. Where are the politicians calling for an end to the illegal war? Or is it just fun & games for them, a way to try to pump up the turnout in November? While people continue dying.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.

-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war hit the 4,094 mark. And tonight? 4099. That's one away from the 4100 mark. Just Foreign Policy's counter estimates that 1,222,013 Iraqis have died since the start of the illegal war up from 1,221,154.

In some of today's reported violence . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded three people, a second Baghdad roadside bombing wounded two more, a Mosul car bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left four more wounded, a Kirkuk bombing claimed the lives of "1 civilian and 1 Iraqi army soldier" and left two more soldiers wounded and a Salahuddin Province roadside bombing claimed the life of "1 Iraq soldier" and left three more wounded. Dropping back to Saturday, McClatchy's Laith Hammoudi reported a Baghdad bus bombing that claimed the lives of 2 people and left seven more wounded, a Diyala Province bombing wounded "[t]hree border guards," a Diyala Province roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left two people wounded, and a female bomber in Qara Taba killed herself and left thirty-nine people wounded.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a home invasion in which a "mother, father and daughter" were shot dead and a son was wounded, Weleed Saadalla ("Mosul University teacher" was shot dead at his front door and "his two young sons . . . were injured in the incident" and Adel Hussein al-Wagaa ("lawyer") was shot dead in Mosul. On Saturday, McClatchy's Laith Hammoudi reported an armed clash in Basra in which one police officer was wounded and another "on the Iraqi-Iranian border" that left a "security officer" wounded.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 corpses discovered in Baghdad

Is Moqtada al-Sadr still a force to be reckoned with? Does he still have support? His actions during the assault of Basra certainly increased his support. But to know where he stands currently, we'd have to get reports on him. Friday protests took place across Iraq, as al-Sadr's called for every Friday, in opposition to the treaty Nouri al-Maliki and the White House are trying to push through. Mike Tharp's "Sadr plots new steps to gain influence in Iraq's fall voting" (McClatchy News) reports some news of al-Sadr:

Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr, foe of the United States' presence in Iraq, announced a strategy Sunday for influencing Iraq's fall elections, including backing independents, technocrats and tribal figures.
The October provincial elections are seen by U.S. congressional leaders as an important benchmark of the country's political progress, and American officials hope they show evidence of democracy's spread from Baghdad into the 18 provinces.
Sadr's latest approach appears to be an effort to ensure that he gets some representation in provincial governments. But by not running candidates directly under the Sadr banner, he may hope to avoid blame for a poor showing.
Speaking through aides, Sadr left the meaning of his strategy ambiguous, possibly to gauge popular and governmental reaction to the electoral approaches. It's also a way to try to cast himself as a moderate leader, despite years of militancy.

In today's New York Times, Andrew E. Kramer's "Iraqi Troops Begin Operation in South, While a Cleric's Movement reorganizes" details al-Maliki ordering troops to Amara ("power base of a rival Shiite leader" -- that would be al-Sadr) and that this comes "a day after Mr. Sadr announced that he was reorganizing his movement." From the article:

In Amara, residents awoke Saturday to helicopters thudding overhead, dropping leaflets that told them to stay indoors and to cooperate with Iraqi soldiers who would be arriving shortly.

Kramer refers to unnamed experts who say that as elections approach and with al-Maliki's threat to ban militias from the process, al-Sadr is creating a militia (with apparently his written permission to carry fire arms) to distinguish it from the Sadr movement. Steven Lee Myers offers' "Bush Shows Optimism On Iraq Deal" and both run on A12. (We covered Bully Boy's optimism yesterday.) On Kramer's article, we go by the print version. Online he and Alissa J. Rubin share the byline. In print, it's just Kramer with Rubin noted in an end note. That's no disrespect to Rubin, we just go by the print version. And let me repeat, the New York Times is creating a HUGE mess. Ten years from now, how is someone supposed to cite Kramer's article if they need to? The headlines need to be the same online and in print and the bylines need to be the same in both. If this keeps up, the paper will have a lousy reputation in a decade and students won't use it for a source. They need to get their act together.

Community business quickly. First up, Blogdrive has a mind of its own. It's not just The Common Ills mirror site that's acting up. Second, Isaiah is supposed to be taking time off. Like many community members, he appreciated Hillary's amazing speech two Saturdays ago but it did not leave him happy. He frequently takes a summer break. That's not unusual for him so I suggested he take one now. However, he's done a comic. If I'd known it was in the inbox, I would have uploaded it this morning so it was here. It will go up after this does. (It's uploading as I type and sometimes Flickr moves quickly and sometimes it can take forever.) New content at Third:

Truest statement of the week
A note to our readers
Editorial: Nader's a real candidate with real stands
TV: Strength greeted with confusion, attacks & silence
Where are the demands? Where is the knowledge?
Barack and his use of racism
Cockburn's SewerHose
Things to do

The editorial should especially be kept in mind when reading the last highlight. Pru notes Alex Callinicos' "Can the US empire strike back?" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

Imagine, in a galaxy far, far away, an empire in decline. A disastrous military adventure and the rise of new powers have exposed its weakness. To cap it all, the emperor himself is generally despised as a provincial clod.
But now his successor has to be chosen. What better way to rehabilitate the empire in the eyes of others than to select as emperor an eloquent, dynamic, relatively young man -- a man who, while being utterly safe, not only belongs to the group of imperial subjects who are victims of its greatest historical injustice, but whose father comes from a foreign country and who himself spent some of his childhood in another?
Maybe this seems too cynical a view of Barack Obama’s bid for the US presidency. The success of his campaign for the Democratic nomination has been driven by a huge popular revulsion against George Bush's discredited administration and by the desire finally to heal the wound in US society caused by slavery and racism.
But the real power of the US president lies abroad. President John F Kennedy asked Richard Nixon in 1961, "It really is true that foreign affairs is the only important issue for a president to handle, isn’t it? I mean, who gives a shit if the minimum wage is $1.15 or $1.25 in comparison to something like the confrontation between the US and Cuba."
And, on foreign policy, there seems to be a big divide between the two presidential candidates. John McCain, the Republican nominee, is in favour of keeping US troops in Iraq for "maybe one hundred years".
Obama, by contrast, gained his edge on Hillary Clinton in large part thanks to his opposition to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He is officially committed to withdrawing all US combat brigades from Iraq within 16 months of becoming president.
But, in judging what Obama would actually do in the White House, it's essential to remember what presidential elections are really about. Dominated by money -- Obama's victory over Clinton was clinched by his superior fund-raising -- they are about choosing the leader who can best look after the global interests of US capitalism for the next four years.
Long before President Jimmy Carter officially proclaimed it in January 1980, a key objective of US foreign policy has been militarily and politically to dominate the Middle East. The current surge in the oil price has made securing this objective even more important.
So it's striking, as the Washington Post has pointed out, that "when Mr Obama opened his general election campaign this week with a major speech on Middle East policy, the substantive strategy he outlined was, in many respects, not very much different from that of the Bush administration -- or that of John McCain".
Obama made the speech to the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of the key pro-Israel lobbying organisations. He seems to have had two aims. The first was to ­reassure a suspicious audience that his opposition to the Iraq war did not in any way weaken his support for Israel.
"Let me be clear," Obama said. "Israel's security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable, Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided." He said he had been opposed even to letting Hamas contest the Palestinian elections in 2006 and promised Israel $30 billion US aid over the next ten years.
Secondly, Obama sought to toughen his line on Iran. He has been attacked by Bush and McCain for "appeasement" for promising to negotiate with the Islamic Republican regime in Tehran.
Not radical
Obama’s position isn't exactly radical. The December 2006 report of the Iraq Study Group, headed by Jim Baker, pillar of the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Senior, recommended negotiating with Iran as a way of getting out of the Iraq morass.
But Obama was determined not to allow McCain to outflank him. "I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," he told AIPAC.
This would include "aggressive, principled diplomacy" backed up by tougher sanctions and the ultimate sanction of force: "I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel."
This change in tone isn't just about defeating McCain in the general election. The military surge hasn’t brought peace or stability to Iraq, but it has bought the US time to pursue its long term plans for the country.
The secret draft agreement for a "strategic alliance" between the US and Iraq revealed last week in Socialist Worker and the Independent indicate what these plans are – permanent US military bases in Iraq and the right for the Pentagon to pursue its operations without the say-so of its client regime.
Democratic senators have denounced the proposal. Nevertheless, it is absolutely certain that Obama will fill what the Washington Post calls "the gap in his Middle East policy" by watering down his proposal to withdraw all US troops in Iraq.
But if president Obama would probably offer only more of the same in the Middle East, what difference would he make overall to the US empire?
After the Cold War, commentators talked about "the unipolar moment" -- about overwhelming US global power. The Iraq debacle has reminded the world instead of US relative decline – a perception reinforced by the economic rise of China and the credit squeeze engineered by Anglo-American financial speculation.
Instead of the swaggering arrogance of power symbolised by Bush, Obama would offer the world’s ruling classes a different face of the US -- one ready to negotiate and to cooperate, and in particular to address the issue of climate change rather than pretend it doesn't exist.
But this more open stance would still rest on US military power -- Obama wants to increase the size of the armed forces. He would make an attractive black emperor but he would still have his legions massed behind him.
The following should be read alongside this article: »
How shifting further to the right could scupper the Democrats
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