Thursday, June 05, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, June 5, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces a death, the Senate releases a report and more. 


Starting with war resistance.  On Tuesday, Canada's House of Commons passed a motion to grant safe harbor status to US war resisters in Canada.  Aaron Wherry ( observes, "Liberal Jim Karygiannis and New Democrat Olivia Chow put together a motion and got it to a vote." Ontario Now notes that the Tory party was against the motiong but they "were outvoted by the other three opposition parties, 1137-110 in the vote" and quotes MP Olivia Chow explaining, "There is a lot of support by ordinary citizens to allow U.S. war deserters the right to stay in Canada."  Travis Lupik (The Straight) speaks with US war resister Brad McCall: "Reacting to the news, McCall told the Straight that he planned to celebrate, and then field interviews and prepare for the next battle.  McCall said that he was hopeful that the Conservative government will abide by the House's recommendation, but cautioned that the war resisters had not won yet. 'I think they [the Conservatives] will probably just ignore it and see if anybody notices,' he said."  [For previous coverage of McCall from The Straight click here and here.]  Elliot Robins (Kootenay Western Star) speaks with US war resister Ryan Johnson who states, "We're pretty excited.  It's a big step for war resisters here in Canada.  We have a direct show of support from Parliament and it could be a very important thing to help end this [Iraq] war. . . .  It's pretty hard to start your life based on the hope that a country that you've never been to before will suddenly decide to change its entire law around something to allow me to stay here.  My life has been dramatically changed by our [Johnson and his wife, Jenna] decision to come to Canada, but even if I was deported, I wouldn't take back my decision to have come here." 


Meanwhile Chris Cook (Pacific Free Press) takes a look at media in Canada (such as the CBC) and finds it lacking as it works hard to ignore the news about Tuesday's vote.  What of so-called 'independent' media in the US?  What's Panhandle Media in the US doing?  As usual, not a damn thing.  The Nation hasn't done a story on it or even a blog post (they have at least nine blogs supposedly updated regularly).  It's not news to our 'friends' at The Nation.  (Ask Katrina what happened on Wife Swap last night and she'll write you an essay.)  The Progressive?  Matty Rothschild and company are far too busy.  CounterPunch -- the allegedly non-electoral hokum Counterpunch?  At least 20 articles published today and yesterday.  Number on war resisters?  Zero.  Cost of publicly pretending to give a damn about ending the illegal war?  Priceless.  Amy Goodman, apparently putting down her copy of Hu**ler magazine for a moment or two, surfaced yesterday morning with four sentences on the ruling.  And still managed to do severe damages.  "As many as 200 U.S. war resisters are currently living in Canada," she gushed.  As many as?  200 was surpassed in 2006.  But Goody hasn't sat down with one since November of 2006 so we can't expect up to date info from her.  Mike addressed trashy Amy Goodman last night (including linking to the piece on Hu**ler that we can't here due to being 'work safe' for all readers).  14 days and she still hasn't found it worth informing her listeners that US war resister Corey Glass was ordered to leave Canada.   May 21st, US war resisters and Iraq War veteran Glass was informed that he had until June 12th to leave Canada or he would be deported. Apparently that's not news and not important to Panhandle Media. 


Laughably, a Panhandle Media 'conference' takes place this weekend to talk up the importance of a . . . useless echo chamber?  We're supposed to strengthen something that already refuses to deliver the news we need?  We're supposed to give a damn about Panhandle Media?  It's really past time to stop rewarding bad behavior.  Now if we didn't have so many in Panhandle Media who were stupid, uncaring or damaged from intensive drug use, we might be able to end the illegal war.  We might have ended it some time ago.  But to do that, we'd need to be informed of two things (1) what is actually happening and (2) our own history.


Panhandle Media will never save one person, let alone the world.  So let's save ourselves while they stay useless.  In 1969, a member of the US Congress went to Canada to speak with war resisters.  His name? Ed Koch.  Better known today as the former mayor of NYC.  Between then and the end of 1974, Kokch introduced how many amnesty bills in the US House of Representatives?  Four.  Now if we know that, we can ask why none of our 'friends' in Congress have yet to make that trip?  Dennis Kucinich, Canada is calling.  Where are our bills in Congress calling for amnesty for war resisters?  Forget "laws" -- which are bills that have been passed -- where are our bills arguing for amnesty.  By the end of 1974, because of the work by people like Koch, a Republican would step forward in the Senate with a bill for war resisters (only one group of them).  Who was that Republican?  Ask Panhandle Media.  Remember they care sooo much and they are soooo informed and they have all the information to give you . . . right after the never ending pledge drive cycles.


In the real world, Gerry Condon, War Resisters Support Campaign and Courage to Resist all encourage contacting the Diane Finley (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration -- 613.996.4974, phone; 613.996.9749, fax; e-mail -- that's "finley.d" at "") and Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, 613.992.4211, phone; 613.941.6900, fax; e-mail -- that's "pm" at "").



There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Megan Bean, Chris Bean,  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).
In today's New York Times, Andrew E. Kramer reports, "American airstrikes in Hilla, the city once known as Babylon, wounded five people on Wednesday, according to the local police, who said the Americans were responding to a mortar attack on the American Consulate."  So five people wounded in another 'precision' air strike.  File it under 'helping' along with the topic Elaine examined last night (Iraqi women).  Also in today's papers is Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London) stating that the White House and the puppet of the occupation (Nouri al-Maliki) are putting together "[a] secret deal" which would allow permanent US bases, the US to "conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilise Iraq's position in the Middle East and lay the basis for the unending conflict in their country."  Cockburn was off the mark when attempting to predict US reaction (he thought it would be explosive, Amy Goodman buried the news in a fleeting headline today).  What else was he right or wrong about?  Sue Pleming (Reuters) quotes Ryan Crocker, the US Amabassador to Iraq, declaring that the White House doesn't want permanent bases and were not putting together anything that would extend in the "long-term."  So Cockburn was way off the mark?
No.  These statements were repeated in April as well and, to any watching, weren't at all believable.  Dropping back to the April 9th snapshot, US House Rep Susan Davis was asking about and echoing US Senator Hillary Clinton's April 8th questions (to Crocker and Petraeus) as to why the US Congress was being cut out of the process.  Davis: "That strikes people in our districts as strange.  I wonder if you could talk on that" and how such an agreement might or might not "be used as leverage?"
"I also asked Ambassador Crocker if the United States Congress would have the same opportunity as the Iraqi Parliament will have to review any agreement or long-term security pact that President Bush is negotiating with the Iraqis. Ambassador Crocker said that the Congress, your representatives, would not have that chance.   I have two requests of President Bush for his speech on Thursday. First, I call on the President to answer the question that General Petraeus did not. What is our end game in Iraq given the failure of surge to achieve the objective that the president outlined for it? Second, I call on President Bush to pledge to the American people, who have sacrificed greatly for this effort that the United States Congress will have the chance to review and vote on any long-term security agreement he has negotiated with the Iraqis."        
It was also an issue in Congress April 10th when the US Senate's Committee on Foreign Relations heard testimony from the State Dept's David Satterfield and the Defense Dept's Mary Beth Long.  The chair of the committee outlined the topics of interest in his opening statements.
Senator Joe Biden: We will hear today about the two agreements that the Administration is negotiating with Iraq which were anticipated in the November Declaration. On Tuesday, Ambassador Crocker told us that these agreements would set forth the "vision" -- his phrase -- of our bilateral relationship with Iraq.  One agreement is a "strategic framework agreement" that will include the economic, political and security issues outlined in the Declaration of Principles. The document might be better titled "What the United States will do for Iraq," because it consists mostly of a series of promises that flow in one direction -- promises by the United States to a sectarian government that has thus far failed to reach the political compromises necessary to have a stable country.  We're told that the reason why we're not continuing under the UN umbrella is because the Iraqis say they have a sovereign country. But they don't want a Status of Forces Agreement because that flows two ways. The Administration tells us it's not binding, but the Iraqi parliament is going to think it is. The second agreement is what Administration officials call a "standard" Status of Forces Agreement, which will govern the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq, including their entry into the country and the immunities to be granted to them under Iraqi law. Unlike most SOFAs, however, it would permit U.S. forces -- for the purposes of Iraqi law -- to engage in combat operations and detain insurgents. In other words, to detain people that we think are bad guys. I don't know any of the other nearly 90 Status of Forces Agreements that would allow a U.S. commander to arrest anyone he believes is a bad guy.

Meanwhile in the White House today, spokesperson Dana Perino faced some semi-tough questioning and se danced away from every one of them with statements such as "I would say that the issue of pre-war intelligence on Iraq has been thoroughly reviewed over the years by the Congress, as well as by the independent WMD Commission."  What was Perino avoiding?  The latest report on Iraq from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.  The chair, Senator Jay Rockefeller, stated today, "Before taking the country to war, this Administration owed it to the American people to give them a 100 percent accurate picture of the threat we faced.  Unfortunately, our Committee has concluded that the Administration made significant claims that were not supported by intelligence.  In making the case for war, the Administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even non-existent.  As a result, the American people were led to believe the threat from Iraq was much greater than actuall existed."


Key points from the report summarized by Rockefeller include:


* Statements and implications by the President and Secretary of State suggesting that Iraq and al-Qa'ida had a partnership, or that Iraq had provided al-Qa'ida with weapons training, were not substantiated by the intelligence.  

*     Statements by the President and the Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information. 

*      Statements by President Bush and Vice President Cheney regarding the postwar situation in Iraq, in terms of the political, security, and economic, did not reflect the concerns and uncertainties expressed in the intelligence products.   

*      Statements by the President and Vice President prior to the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iraq's chemical weapons production capability and activities did not reflect the intelligence community's uncertainties as to whether such production was ongoing.  

*      The Secretary of Defense's statement that the Iraqi government operated underground WMD facilities that were not vulnerable to conventional airstrikes because they were underground and deeply buried was not substantiated by available intelligence information.  

*      The Intelligence Community did not confirm that Muhammad Atta met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in 2001 as the Vice President repeatedly claimed


In a press conference today (here for audio or video), Rockefeller declared, "It has often been said that truth is the first casualty of war and today the Senate Intelligence Committee reports in detail that this was the case in the Bush administration's march to war in Iraq.  You don't get to tell the truth just some of the time when going to war.  The American people expect their government to tell the truth all the time, that being 100% of the time. Let's be clear as far too many of our own country men and their families know this is a very deadly serious matter Making the case for war is categorically different than any other approach to public policy.  There is nothing more serious in public life than the decision to go to war.  There is a fundamental difference between relying on incorrect intelligence and deliberatly painting a picture to the American people that you know is not fully supported by intelligence. The bottom line is this, we owed it to the troops and the American people to tell the truth about how we got there.  These reports are about holding our government accountable and making sure that these mistakes never happen again."  PDF format warning, the first report is on public statements (and runs 171 pages), also PDF, the second report focuses on the Counterrorism Evaluation Group and Office of Special Plans within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (and is 56 pages).


Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .




Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing killed 1 Iraqi soldier and a Kirkuk roadside bombing wounded seven people.




Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad today.


Today the US military announced: "A Coalition force Soldier was killed by small arms fire June 4 during a patrol south of Baghdad."


Meanwhile John Stauber (PR Watch) observes, "Eight thousand pages of documents related to the Pentagon's illegal propaganda campaign, known as the Pentagon military analyst program, are now online for the world to see, although in a format that makes it impossible to easily search them and therefore difficult to read and dissect. This trove includes the documents pried out of the Pentagon by David Barstow and used as the basis for his stunning investigation that appeared in the New York Times on April 20, 2008." Stauber explains that "every major commercial TV network has failed to report this story, covering up their complicity and keeping the existence of this scandal from their audience."


May 22nd we noted Lavena Johnson who died while serving Iraq and whose parents do not buy the official 'explanation' of Lavena's death.  As KMOV reported (link has text and video) last year, "Lavena was apparently abused" and it was impossible for her to have used the gun she's said to have killed herself with.  Veterans For Peace notes "After viewing the black and white copies of crime scene photos, viewing multiple bruises on her body, and speaking to different military personnel as they prepared for her burial, her father and uncles realized that LeVena had been murdered.  Eight days before her twenthieth birthday, LaVena was beaten, raped, set on fire, shot, and left in a contractor's tent in Iraq.  Her family has been fighting for justice for LaVena for over two years now."  They are asking you to help Dr. John Johnson (LaVena's father) find out what really happened to his daughter in Iraq by calling 202.225.2876 which is Ike Skelton's number, Skelton is the chair of the House Armed Service Committee. This will be picked up tomorrow and be a regular part of the snapshots.


Turning to the US political race, Allison Stevens (Women's eNews) reports on Hillary Clinton's primary campaign: "And Clinton's candidacy shined a high beam on stubborn strains of sexism, said Clare Giesen, executive director of the National Women's Political Caucus, a group in Washington, D.C., that works to elect pro-choice women to office. 'This campaign has unveiled sexism as none of us thought existed," she said. "It's like some feral object; it's just out of control.'  The depth of sexist attitudes became apparent in national news media coverage of Clinton, Giesen said. A Feb. 1 media study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs in Washington, D.C., showed that from Dec. 16 through Jan. 27, five out of six on-air evaluations of Obama were favorable but only half of Clinton were.

Giesen said sexist comments in the media serve as a rallying cry for women's rights advocates. 'There is a definite second act that comes after this election. Even if she got the nomination, what we have looked at is a real resistance to women in power, and a fear. And we've got to do a lot to educate people'."  Froma Harrop (Rasmussen Reports) observes, "What's dangerous for the Democratic Party is that, for many women, the eye of the storm has moved beyond Hillary or anything she does at this point. The offense has turned personal. They are now in their own orbit, having abandoned popular Democratic Websites that reveled in crude anti-Hillary outpourings -- and established new ones on which they trade stories of the Obama people's nastiness. But worse than the online malice has been the affronts to their faces."  Rev. Renita J. Weems (Something Within) compiles a list of what the campaign season taught her: "Fourth, now I know what I always suspected, namely that while racism is a sin, sexism is perfectly acceptable and tolerated in this country. Women are the worst culprits. The outright woman-hating jibes, the prejudice against Clinton as a middle-age woman, the physical mockery, and the anti-white woman rage have not been easy to witness. Clinton has not run a faultless campaign-- far from it. (Her surrogates need to be fired!) But Hillary Clinton the woman and the politician did not deserve the venom, the acrimony, the hatred, and the name-calling commentators and the public heaped on her throughout this race."


 aaron wherry
 travis lupick
brad mccall
chris cook
ryan johnson
elliot robins

 patrick cockburn
 andrew e. kramer
 the new york times