Friday, June 13, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, SOFA talks break off (or do they?), Laura Bush sees a mending, al-Sadr issues instructions to resistance fighters, and more.
Starting with war resistance. As Dusti Fansler (Wellington Daily News) explains, "Soldiers strained by six years at war are deserting their posts at the highest rate since 1980, with the number of Army deserters this year showing an 80 percent increase since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. While the totals are still far lower than they were during the Vietnam War, when the draft was in effect, they show a steady increase over the past four years and a 42 percent jump since last year." Sunday Matthis Chiroux is order to deploy to Iraq. This despite the fact that he was discharged and is in the IRR.
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.
Courage to Resist has posted an interview with him (audio only). At the end of last month, California's New University weighed in on the issue, "Whether you have signed up for the military, are currently enlisted, are open to the idea or are violently opposed to serving, what remains clear is that if you are tapped to serve in Iraq, just don't go. First, the conflict has proven to be aimless, as little has gone smoothly since the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003. Second, because so many individuals are already unwilling to serve in Iraq, the U.S. army is ready to send just about anyone, whether they are prepared or not. Lastly, make no mistake that Iraq is a war zone. Despite the invasion being invalid, this illegal war can have the same effect on its soldiers as any credible conflict. . . . Over the years, the objectives of the war in Iraq have changed from toppling a dictator to finding harmful weapons to flat-out nation-building. As such, the Baush administration or its successor may attempt to shift the aim of the conflict again, to something that is anybody's guess. Still, know that the war in Iraq is an illegal and aimless conflicts and that soldiers such as Chioux should be applauded for their refusal to support it." May 23rd, he explained to Leia Petty (US Socialist Worker), "I didn't like the war from the start. I always thought it smelled fishy, but I knew at the time, the Army owned my ass for at least the next four-and-a-half years. So I got in line like most soldiers, and prayed night and day that I could trust American civilians to end the war. I was so disappointed when my prayers went unaswered. . . . I do want to be clear though that I did not make this decision to benefit any movement or serve anyone's agenda. I made this decision for myself, based on an intense personal conviction that what I am doing is not only right, but the only decision possible for me as a person and a veteran."
Two years ago this month, Ehren Watada became the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. He cited the illegality of the Iraq War. In August 2006, an Article 32 hearing was held. In February 2007, a kangaroo court-martial took place. Over defense objection, Judge Toilet (John Head) ruled a mistrial. Toilet insisted that a new court-martial would take place immediately (March 2007 was when Head said it would take place). It has never
taken place. The Constitution forbids double jeopardy and the US military has been trying
to get around the Constitution but were stopped last November by US District Judge Benjamin Settle. Tara McKelvey (American Prospect) reports:
Watada, 30, is an unlikely icon of war resistance. At 5 feet 7 inches, he is unimposing and even shy, dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and sandals, with his dark hair cut Army-short and his ears sticking out. He was raised in Honolulu, where his father, Bob, worked for decades in campaign-finance reform, and his mother, Carolyn Ho, was a high school guidance counselor. Watada, an Eagle Scout,
joined the Army in March 2003, his senior year at Hawaii Pacific University and,
like everyone who enlists, pledged an oath that members of the U.S. military have taken since 1789. "It doesn't say, 'I, Ehren Watada, will do as I'm told.' It says I will protect the Constitution," Watada says. He supports war in principle and is not a conscientious objector--in fact, he offered to go to Afghanistan (his commanders turned him down). "I'm against the Iraq War," he says. "By law, the war is
Pacific Citizen Staff reminds: "It was seven months ago that a federal judge blocked the U.S. Army from conducting a second court-martial of Watada for refusing to deploy to Iraq with his unit in June of 2006. U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle ruled that a second
trial would violate Watada's constitutional rights, essentially agreeing with the officer's attorneys who argued double jeopardy -- that a person could not be tried twice for the
same crime." And Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) spoke with one of Watada's two civilian attorneys, Ken Kagan, and reports that Kagan believes "federal judge Benjamin Settle in Tacoma will probably take up the matter early this fall. . . . Kagan said he expects the case to eventually go before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals where it may take up to three years before a decision is rendered."
May 21st was when Corey Glass was told he would be deported. Iraq War vet and a US war resister Corey Glass was to be deported yesterday, however he's been 'extended' through July 10th. June 3rd Canada's House of Commons voted (non-binding motion) in favor of Canada being a safe harbor for war resisters. The Laval News quotes War Resisters Support Campaign's Lee Zaslofksy stating, "This is a great victory for the courageous men and women who have come to Canada because they refuse to take part in the illegal, immoral Iraq War, and for the many organizations and individuals who have supported this campaign over the past four years." In the US, the press has played mute with few exceptions. Already noted last week were Bloomberg News and the Los Angeles Times which did report the historic vote. Sunday, Jim Fox (Tampa Bay Times) included it in news roundup. Liam Lahey (Ontario Mirror Guardian) profiled Corey Glass this week noting, "Glass, who arrived in Canada in August 2007 and resides in a modest apartment in Parkdale, hails from Fiarmount, Ind. He voluntarily joined the National Guard in 2004 believing he could help in disaster zoen scenarious or to defend American soil should the country fall under an enemy attack and quotes Glass explaining, "It got to me one day after something that happened and I can't go into that detail but I had to quit. I didn't feel (the war) was the right thing to do from the beginning and I definitely didn't feel we should be doing this to the Iraqis." Dan Glaister (Guardian of London) notes, "A former US national guardsman will learn next month whether he can remain in Canada, where he has sought refuge from military service in Iraq." Mary MacCarthy (FRANCE 24) reports, "Corey joined the National Guard hoping to do humanitarian work, but ended up being sent to Iraq to work in military intelligence."
To keep the pressure on, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org -- that's "finley.d" at "parl.gc.ca") and Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, 613.992.4211, phone; 613.941.6900, fax; e-mail email@example.com -- that's "pm" at "pm.gc.ca").
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).
Turning to Iraq. The White House wants to push through a treaty with Iraq (the UN authorization expires at the end of this year). Steve Negus and Harvey Morris (Financial Times of London) report that the puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki, declares talks over a Status Of Forces Agreement is at a "dead end" and they noted the White House attempts to play down the news: "Zalmay Khalilzad, US envoy to the UN, told the Financial Times the Bush administration remained optimistic that a bilateral aggreement would be reached." At the US State Dept, they were spinning yesterday as well with press flack Gonzalo R. Gallegos insisted on denying to reporters that there was in prolbem in negotiations on the SOFA and declared, "I think that the UN mandate does run through the end of the year, we've got about six more months to get to that point. I believe that we had Ambassador [Ryan] Crocker up here last week. He spoke very clearly about his concerns that this be done -- more important to him, this be done right, be done correctly than quickly. There's time left. We're continuing with our discussions with the government of Iraq. It's important to us that this be done correctly and we will see where we got with that."
In Brussels today US Secretary of State Robert Gates was caught by surprise when confronted with the "dead end" remarks declaring, "I had not heard that and I'm not quite sure what the exact circumstances are. So I will have to, when I get home, find out what the status of those negotiations is, and whether there's a difference between what's actually going on in negotiations and the public posture. I just don't know the answer at this point." Which actually might be a wise position to take. Patrick Worsnip (Reuters) reports Hoshiyar Zebari (Foreign Minister of Iraq) states the talks are still ongoing.
Meanwhile AP reports Moqtada al-Sadr issued a statement today declaring that resistance fighters battling the illegal occupation of Iraq "should be limited to a select group" (AP not al-Sadr quoted) and (al-Sadr quoted) "weapons will be in the hands of this group exclusively and will only be directed at the occupier." Mike Tharp (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Sadr's statement was issued to his Mahdi Army militia and is the latest evidence that he is reacting to pressure from the U.S. and Iraqi military to disarm his followers, estimated at some 60,000. In August last year, he called for a cease-fire by his supporters, which was renewed in February for six months."
In the United States, Ben Pershing (Washington Post) documents that the war between Nancy Pelosi (Speaker of the House) and Harry Reid (Senate Majority Leader) continues well after she trashed the Senate to the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board. At issue? The supplemental spending for the illegal war. Despite the fact that continuing to fund the illegal war continues the killing and Pelosi's Show Dancing of Opposition to the Iraq War, she insists that Congress must send Bully Boy something before July 4th: "I have made clear to the White House ... that we want to pass a bill that will be signed by the president, and that will happen before we leave for the 4th of July. I feel confident that will happen. . . . . We don't have that much time left. There are two and a half weeks left until the recess, and we will have a bill sent to the president by then, and it will have to be a bill that will pass in the House and the Senate." However, Pershing notes that US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid states there's no rush, "They [the Pentagon] have enough money till the end of July, so we're not really that panicked about it."
Today US First Lady Laura Bush gave the press conference on Air Force One while it headed to France. During the press conference, she spoke warmly of France, Italy and Slovenia (but didn't cite Germany by name -- read the transcript of the press conference, I'm being kind) before agreeing with a reporter that the relationship between the US and Europe is mending ("I think it -- yes, I think it's on the mend, and --" at which point someone told Laura Bush the conference was over). If Germany was frosty, Sunday doesn't appear to be shaping into a church social either. UK's Socialist Worker gets instructive with, "Tell George Bush: 'Go to hell!'" and notes, "He will land in Britain this Sunday 15 June and his final stop will be Belfast. Since he stole the US elections in 2000, Bush has brought untold disaster on the world. He has launched wars without end, run a worldwide regime of kidnapping and torture, and brought death and ruin to every corner of the world." And they also note:
Socialist Worker is calling on anti-war activists to defy a police ban on the George Bush Not Welcome Here demonstration.
A Stop the War Coalition (StWC) statement says, "We are calling on those who care for our democratic rights to come to Parliament Square at 5pm on Sunday 15 June. Some of those who signed statements accusing Bush of war crimes will be leading this protest."
StWC convenor Lindsey German said, "George Bush has been dictating British foreign policy for many years. Now it appears his security services are determining our rights of protest. This is a disgrace and we will challenge the ban."
Playwright Harold Pinter commented, "The ban on the Stop The War Coalition march in protest at the visit of President Bush to this country is a totalitarian act. In what is supposed to be a free country the Coalition has every right to express its views peacefully and openly. This ban is outrageous and makes the term 'democracy' laughable."
Turning to some of what Bully Boy (and Dems who refuse to stand up to him) have brought Iraq . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that claimed 1 life and left three injured and a Baiji roadside bombing wounded a police officer.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the male in charge of an "Awakening" council in Uthaim was shot dead as were his 2 guards. CBS and AP report: "U.S. troops killed five suspected Shiite gunmen and detained two others Friday in a raid south of Baghdad, according to the U.S. military, and Iraqi police said two civilians were killed when they were caught in the crossfire."
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad.
Turning to the US political race for president, will sexism ever be seriously examined? Let's not even consult Magic 8ball, it's too depressing. But Katharine Q. Seelye and Julie Bowman offer "Critics and News Executives Split Over Sexism in Clinton Coverage" today on the primary season. Women's Media Center -- not mentioned in the article -- is holding a panel on this topic Tuesday in NYC, free and open to the public. From nine in the morning until noon at The Paley Center for Media (25 West 52nd Street, NYC) and participants will include Juan Gonzalez, Christiane Amanpour, Sue Carroll, Courtney Martin, Celinda Lake, Mika Brzezinski, Catalina Camia, Geneva Overholser, Ron Wlaters, Dr. Kathy and Patricia Williams. "Sponsored by The White House Project, The Women's Media Center and the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, the forum is free of charge and open to the press and the public." Click here for the announcement and for information on registering.
Staying with the US political race, Team Nader issues the following:
2008 Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader discusses a remark made to him by a fellow alumnus at a recent Princeton reunion. Watch the video here, read the transcript below.
Do you think Ralph Nader should run? If so, let him know now with your contribution. (Your contribution could be doubled. Public campaign financing may match your contribution total up to $250.) - The Nader Team
I was at my Princeton reunion the other day, and a young alumnus came up to me - he was very kind - and he said "You know, I really like what you're doing - I like what you did - but please don't run."
I said "Do you realize what you are saying?"
And he said "Yes, I said please don't run."
I said "You're telling me not to use my First Amendment rights of speech, assembly, and petition inside the electoral arena. You're telling me to shut up. Are you aware of what you're saying?"
He said "I understand, I understand, I like what you're doing, but please don't run."
So I went through and I said "Well, would you tell those voters instead of trying to determine which one was worse between the Democrats and the Whigs, the two major parties in the 19th century, and instead cut out and voted for the Liberty Party, which was the anti-slavery party - would you say to those candidates, 'Don't run'?"
And he sort of paused.
And I said "How about the people who refused to go least-worst between the Republicans and Democrats on women's suffrage? Would you tell those candidates 'don't run'? What do you say to that?"
And he paused.
And I took it up to date and I said "Would you tell Buchanan not to run?"
And he said "I understand what you are saying, but please don't run."
And I said "You know, unwittingly, you are engaging in a politically bigoted statement. Because you can oppose, and you can support, any candidates you want. But when you are saying to someone 'don't run' you are saying to someone 'do not speak, do not petition, do not assemble inside the electoral arena.'"
Now I'm saying this because I'm sure you've had these conversations with people. Look at the word spoiler. Spoiler is a contemptuous word of political bigotry. They do not accuse George W. Bush of being the spoiler in 2000, and last I heard he got more votes than I did, vis-a-vis Al Gore. It's only the independent and third parties that are called spoilers.
And think of the hubris here - these two parties have spoiled our elections, they've spoiled our government, they've spoiled our politics - and to have the temerity to say to someone who wants to reform the process that they are spoilers - they have no sense of humor - I mean, how do you satire satire?
- Ralph Nader, New York City, May 31, 2008 - Watch the video
"Ralph Nader should run for President so we all have a better choice in November. Please accept my support!"