Thursday, June 19, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, Matthis Chiroux gets attention from Big Media, Barack finds a new left belief to sell out, and more.
Starting with war resistance. Matthis Chiroux announced May 15th that he would not deploy to Iraq. Chiroux had served in the army and been honorably discharged. Then came the 'recall.' The day he was due to report was June 15th and he did not deploy and explained why in a public statement. Ben Evans (AP) covers Chiroux story today and gives the backstory of being raised in Auburn, Alabama, getting his diploma from Auburn High School, signing up with the army. Evans reports that the military has not yet contacted Chiroux for refusing to deploy and he quotes Chiroux explaining, "I have just come to the point where I have the strength to stand for what I know is right. I feel like it's my responsibility as a soldier and keeping with the higher values of this nation to oppose this . . . I'm not going anywhere. They know where to find me."
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).
The refugee crisis. Today on KPFA's The Morning Show, co-host Aimee Allison spoke with Sarnata Reynolds of Amnesty International and Joshua van Praag (director of Iraqis In Egypt) about the Iraqis who have been internally and externally displaced as a result of the illegal war. "Most Iraqis are in an urban setting," Reynolds explained of external refugees. "They've actually gone into communities and gone into cities" making it more difficult for relief to be provided from one central location.
Aimee Allison: Is there any historical precedent for this number of people being moved around and what did history teach us about what can be done, what should be done in order to deal with this crisis?
Sarnata Reynolds: The scale of this crisis, as Joshua's pointed out too, it's incredible significant historically. We have seen other huge refugee crisis emerge -- or displacement crisis. Afghanistan actually -- right now -- another country where the US has involvement, has a huge displacement crisis. The difference with this one though is that the amount of people who have left and are really struggling with nothing -- either inside Iraq or outside Iraq and the failure of the international community to respond really at all. Or the primary response of apathy which is really just basically they don't care is shameful. And so what we know from the past and what we know right now is that refugee crisis require international responsiblity and that they require the sharing of the responsiblity.
Aimee Allison: I mean, what's going to happen long term if the international community -- all the countries in that region as well as the United States don't step up with some solutions, some money, to help these people?
Sarnata Reynolds: Well what we're going to see again is people living inside Iraq or outside Iraq without homes, growing more and more desperate, without access to education, perhaps without access -- or right now anyway -- without access to work, without access to health care and people will become more and more destitute. Without any -- Hope will decline, of course it will decline, hope is already declining and so -- It's hard to say what will happen. What we know for sure is that more and more people will become destitute and how they will be treated by host states right now, we don't know. As time goes on, we don't know what will happen if more people aren't resettled out of the region and into countries where they can begin to restart their lives and build their family structure again. . . . In terms of historically the scale of this it's hard to predict because it's a huge massive amount of people what we know is that the vast majority of them can't go home right now, probably won't be able to go home for many years and some of them will never be able to go home.
Allison is co-author, with David Solnit, of Army Of None. Reynolds was discussing Amnesty International's new reports on the Iraqi refugee crisis (text, photos, videos). Yesterday we started noting Amnesty's Iraq: Rhetoric and Reality: The Iraqi Refugee Crisis (here for HTML and here for PDF) with sections two and three and ended with some of section four (the myth of the great return). Majid is a father of seven and a widower who had to return to Iraq: "Majid had fled Iraq in February 2008 after two of his nephews, Mansour and Sami, aged 17 and 19, were beheaded by members of an armed group in a rural area north of Baghdad. The young men's mother, Rasha, was reportedly present when in December 2007 armed men in civilian clothes knocked at the door and took away Mansour and Sami. Rasha went to Baghdad and informed Majid about the incident. In the evening a photographer informed the family that the heads of Mansour and Sami had been found on the banks of the Tigris river." In Syria, Majid was unable to be granted residency and the savings were quickly gone : "Weeping, he explained to Amnesty International that he had no alternative but to return to Iraq."
The reality of the small return (as opposed to The Myth of the Great Return), Amnesty finds, is that Majid's experience is the norm with 46% of those who returned also citing the money issue and another 25.6% citing the visa issue. That left 14.1% who returned. Willingly? No. They weren't informed, they were misinformed by a media quick to repeat the propaganda as news. The 14.1% returned after hearing "that the security situation had improved." That never happened. [And credit to the New York Times' Damien Cave and Cara Buckley one more time for telling the truth when it still mattered.] Amnesty points out that the issue of the returns also includes "duration" and that no one had bothered to collect information on that. Amnesty's research indicated that the bulk of returns are planned as "temporary stays".
Looking outside the MidEast, Amnesty finds other obstacles facing refugees. The UK cuts off support services after 21 days if your application for asylum is rejected, the Netheralands do the same after four weeks of the second appeal. Belgium also cuts off most assistance following a rejection and reducing rights (and designates you an "illegal immigrant"), while Denmark pulls most of your rights (such as employment). Germany's especially 'creative.' They're in the midst of taking refugee status away from Iraqis they granted it to previously -- granted while Saddam Hussein was ruling Iraq. Let's repeat that: Iraqis who entered Germany and applied for refugee status, prior to the start of the Iraq War, were recognized as refugees. These same people ("approximately 18,000 Iraqis") are now being informed that they are no longer refugees. Apparently, the government believes Iraq is now safe. It takes a lot of nerve to remove a refugee status after you've granted it -- especially when you're expecting them to return to a war zone.
From this section we'll note the following:
At present, Amnesty International believes that the time is not right for returns of any kind to Iraq, whether they are explicitly forcible or effectively forcible but disguised as "voluntary". In addition to obligations not to forcibly return Iraqis in a direct manner as discussed below, Amnesty International believes that all states must ensure Iraqi refugees are not forced into a situation where they have no real option but to return, so indirectly forcing them to return.
Amnesty International also believes that voluntary returns should not be promoted at present. This view is shared by UNHCR, which does not regard the conditions as conducive to return in safety and dignity as required by international standards. Amnesty International opposes all forms of encouragement of voluntary returns, including indirect and coercive means such as restricting assistance and forcing people into destitution. Amnesty International believes that such policies not only impact on the enjoyment and fulfilment of economic, social and cultural rights, but may also put the state in a position where it is in breach of the principle of non-refoulement.
It's too violent for returnees. Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad car bombing ("adhesive bomb stuck to a civilian car") that claimed 1 life and left two people wounded.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports "Mahmoud al-Dwadi was kidnapped by gunmen yesterday" in Diayal Province and that his corpse was discovered by police.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad and lat last night ("11:30 p.m.") Sadiq Ismail's corpse was found in Albu Sabah. Reuters notes a corpse discovered in Tuz Khurmato.
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera magazine reports, "Iraqi police and soldiers swept house to house through the southern city of Amara and surrounding Maysan province" today. Aref Mohammed (Reuters) estimates 250,000 people inhabit Amara. CBS and AP report that the region's deputy governer (Rafia Abdul-Jabbar) "has been arrested" or 'arrested' by Iraqi troops.
Turning to the peace movement in the United States. The good? Retired Col. Ann Wright continues traveling to speak to groups. Samantha Fex (Molokai Times) reports on Wright's visit to Hawaii: "Col. Wright also provides information about the realities of military enlistment because she wants people to be able to make the most informed decision possible when joining the military" and quotes Wright stating, "It's wonderful to be able to come to a place like Molokai. Small towns and small communities in our country seem to be the places where most of our military enlistees come from. So, it's important to come to a community like this to acknowledge what's going on." The bad? Eric Ruder (Dissident Voice) nails it in his recent piece where he notes no major demonstration since January 27, 2007, a failure to connect with the ones opposed to the illegal war, a desire to repeatedly water down arguments to reach those who still haven't made up their minds, moderate demands (or 'demands') and the cow-towing to the November elections: "The problem is that an electoral calculation without a genuinely antiwar candidate runs smack up against the need to build an antiwar movement capable of forcing whoever ends up in the White House to bring the troops home now."
What does our 'vital' and 'living' peace movement have to show for it? Nicholas Johnston and James Rowley (Bloomberg News) report that the Congress voted yesterday to give Bully Boy all the Iraq War funding he wanted. No conditions, no timelines. That would be the Democratically controlled Congress. Democrats control the House and the Senate. The November 2006 elections were supposed to bring 'change' and they brought nothing. All the Democratic 'leadership' has done is create a back-and-forth over funding the illegal war. It has not stopped funding it. It indicates it will or might. Then it goes ahead and does it anyway. So you get some griping before American tax payer moneys are handed over and that's really all you get for handing control of both houses over to the Democrats. The Iraq War is dropped as an issue by activists and the Democratic Party makes a few noises about Iraq in an attempt to drive up votes in November. And the illegal war drags on. As Mike observed last night, "It's time for CODESTINK and all the other groups that can't focus on Iraq to leave the stage. Just go away, no one will miss you."
Wall Street: $19,103,119; Big Energy $1,102,918; Pharmaceutical Co.'s $696,063. That's Barack Obama's "donation" totals and can be found in this Ralph Nader video. Those numbers explain why Barack broke his pledge regarding public financing. Sam Youngman (The Hill) reports that Barack declared today "that he will not accept public financing for the general election". As Brian Edwards-Tiekert worded it on the seven a.m. news break on KPFA (first segment of The Morning Show), Barack is "abandoning an earlier committment to use public financing if his Republican rival did as well" and "Today's announcement marks the first time that a presidential candidate has opted out of the public financing system for a general election since that system was created in 1974." Back in February, Jeff Zeleny and Steven Greenhouse (New York Times) quoted Barack declaring, "If I am the nominee, I will make sure our people talk to John McCain's people to find out if we are willing to abide by the same rules and regulations with respect to the general election going forward. It would be presumptuous of me to start saying now that I am locking into something when I don't even know if the other side will agree to it." At the LA Times' political blog, trash Amina Khan is an embarrassment -- but that was clear when we said "LA Times' political blog," wasn't it? And they wonder why so many are about to lose jobs? At the grown ups table, Perry Bacon Jr. (Washington Post) quotes John McCain (presumptive GOP presidential nominee) declaring, "Senator Obama's reversal on public financing is one of a number of reversals that he has taken. He said he would stick to the agreement. He didn't. This is a big, big deal. He has completely reversed himself and gone back, not on his word to me, but the commitment he made to the American people." Jonathan D. Salant (Bloomberg News) quotes Barack explaining, "The public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who have become masters at gaming this broken system." How interesting, go back to the February New York Times link and you won't find any of those 'concerns.' They appear to have sprouted overnight. No talk of 527s. This is appalling and you need to see how Panhandle Media plays it because early indication appears to be that our 'left' media outlets are rushing to justify it and, in fact, celebrate the decision. One more belief tossed on the bonfire for the Cult of Saint Bambi. Public financing came about for a reason and, while it does need fixing, Barack's not proposed fixing it. (Like his Iraq War 'plan,' "Details to come later!") He's never voiced concerns for the system. Now he wants to pretend that anything other than greed is at play here. And what's Panhandle Media going to do? Go ga-ga again at the dollar signs? Do they have even an ounce of integrity left at this point or have they sold it all off as an in-kind-contribution to St. Bambi?
Democracy 21 is very disappointed that Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) has decided not to accept public financing for his presidential general election campaign.
We had hoped and expected that Senator Obama would stick with the public pledge he made to accept public financing and spending limits for the presidential general election, if he was nominated, and if his Republican opponent also agreed to accept public financing and spending limits for the general election. These conditions have been met.
We do not agree with Senator Obama's rationale for opting out of the system. Senator Obama knew the circumstances surrounding the presidential general election when he made his public pledge to use the system.
With his decision, Senator Obama will become the first major party presidential nominee to reject public financing for his general election campaign, since the public financing system was established in 1974.
Senator Obama's decision to opt out of the general election public financing system makes it all the more important for Senator Obama to personally make clear to the public in no uncertain terms that if he is elected, one of the early priorities for his Administration will be enacting legislation to repair the presidential public financing system.
In the current Congress, Senator Obama is one of the three lead Senate sponsors of the Presidential Funding Act of 2007 (S.2412), legislation to fix the presidential public financing system, particularly the system for presidential primaries. The other lead Senate sponsors of this bipartisan legislation are Senators Russell Feingold (D-WI) and Susan Collins (R-ME).
Revitalizing the presidential public financing system is essential to protecting the integrity and credibility of the presidency and the interests of citizens in fair government decisions.
It needs to be called out. But watch everyone hope and pray that their past words on the buying of elections is forgotten. Which is why the really embarrassing trot out an American Enterprise Institute type to praise Barack's decision. AEI? That's who the left takes its cues from? They also made time to slam and slime Ralph Nader. How very 'left' of them. Ralph Nader is running for president. Ballot Access notes Indiana's restrictive laws and that "Indiana is one of only five states in which Ralph Nader has never appeared on the ballot." They noted yesterday that Nader will be on Arizona's ballot. Bitchier Than Thou is asking North Carolina residents to sign the petition so that Nader can make the state's ballot. And Team Nader issued this press release earlier this week from Ralph Nader:
Meanwhile Iraqi oil production is not suffering. They're at record levels. But Big Oil wants Iraq and Andrew E. Kramer (New York Times) reports they've got it, via no-bid contracts. Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP all have contracts -- not via the Iraqi Parliament which refuses to legalize the theft of Iraqi oil but via Iraq's Oil Ministry. Andy Rowell (Oil Change) observes, "The long wait may finally be over to claim the last great prize left for the oil industry. But not, importantly, how the oil industry, or the Bush administration wanted it to."
AP states: "The deals, once signed, are something of a stopgap measure to help Iraq begin to increase production until the country is able to approve a new national oil law - now held up by political squabbles among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds."