Monday, June 23, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Monday, June 23, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, two US service members are shot dead in Iraq, war resistance continues, Nouri has a new target and more. 



Starting with war resistance.  Stefani E. Barner (Llewellyn Journal) notes, "When Lieutenant Ehren Watada became the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq, his cause was met with international support -- and a Court Marshall.  His case ended in a mistrial and at the last update, the Department of Defense was preparing to re-try him on charges of missing troop's movement and conduct unbecoming of an officer.  If the D.o.D. decides to pursue a retrial, Lt. Watada faces up to six years in prison for speaking out against a war that he believes violates the oath he took upon receiving his commission.  While Lt. Watada is not Pagan, his case along with those such as Agustin Aguayo and Camilo Mejia -- both of whom chose to face prosecution and serve jail time rather than participate in a war they opposed -- have inspired some Pagan service personnel to follow suit, and spurred the larger Pagan communtiy to question what role we should play when it comes to the Conscientious Objector."  Pagan resources for Pagan COs and resisters include Sacred Well Congregation, The Covenant of the Goddess, the Military Pagan Network and the Lady Liberty League of Circle Sanctuary.  Barner notes, "In Hanna v. Secretary of the Army (1st Cir., Jan. 9, 2008) the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Army's Conscientious Objector Review Board had no basis for denying CO status to an Army doctor (Capt. Mary Hanna) on the grounds that her beliefs were not gained through 'rigorous training, study, or contemplation.' Because this ruling seems to exclude the need for formal religious instruction such as would typically be obtained through religious classes or from a spiritual authority such as a rabbi or minister, and instead allows individual spiritual and moral authority to influence the decision to seek CO status, Hanna v. Secretary of the Army should be extremely useful in dealing with the confusion that the diversity of Pagan philosophies can often present to organized institutions such as the military."


Last week, outside Fort Knox, war resister James Burmeister's mother held a press conference.  James Burmeister is an Iraq War veteran wounded in the war who went to Canada and came back this year to turn himself in.  Last fall, Maria Hinojosa (NOW on PBS) interviewed him (as well as Agustin Aguayo) and noted, "During his many missions, James was caught in three road-side bombings."  Burmeister explained that after one bombing (which was captured on tape) "I had actually passed out in my room.  Passed out, just hit the floor."


Maria Hinojosa: James says that was the first sign of his post traumatic stress disoreder.  He says doctors thought he also may have sustained a traumatic brain injury, so he was sent to Germany on medical leave.  Two months later, while still on medication, he was ordered back to Iraq.


James Burmeister: They were desperate for people to get back there.  They just needed people in Baghdad.  They just need bodies to man the guns and the equipment. 


Maria Hinojosa: James saw only two options: either go back to Iraq . . . or go AWOL, Absent Without Leave, a crime punishable by jail time and even court-martial. 


James Burmeister: I got back home -- talked to my wife.  You know, I said, "I think I'm gonna leave."  It was like a 15 minute decision that I'm -- I'm gonna leave -- I'm gonna leave the army."


Saturday, Chris Kenning (Louisville Courier Journal) reported on Helen Burmeister's decision to "demonstrate outside the post [Fort Knox] . . . in hopes of persuading the military to let her take her son home" and quotes her stating, "I'm hoping to take him back to Oregon with me."  Kenning notes that "fiscal year 2007" found desertion had "risen 92 percent since 2004" in the army.


Last week, Helen Burmeister spoke and was backed up by supporters carrying signs.  One read "SHAME, SHAME ON the U.S. Army!" while some of the other signs read "I SUPPORT PFC James Burmeister & family! Let James be free!" and "Combat Troops DESERVE OUR SUPPORT -- Not Court Martials".


Helen Burmeister: I'm Helen Burmeister and I'm here today to support my son Prviate 1st Class James Burmeister.  My son is an Iraq War veteran and I'm very proud of him today.  He fought bravely in Iraq.  He followed orders.  He was wounded in a roadside bomb and he's been diagnosed with PTSD and a possible brain injury.  Our request today is that the army release James.  We want James to be able to put this traumatic experience behind him so he can begin to heal -- both emotionally and physically.  I believe my son has done his part.  Now it's time for him to be given the recognition he deserves.  Short of that, we are requesting that he be allowed to go home to Oregon.  And thank you.  Thank you to everyone for all your support today.  


Also showing support was Vietnam Veterans Against the War's Carol Rawert Trainer.


Carol Rawert Trainer: I am a Vietnam Era veteran and my husband is a retired USAF officer and Vietnam Veteran.  We belong to Lousiville Peace Action Community and Vietnam Veterans Against the War, two great organizations that work for peace and justice.  I learned of PFC James Burmeister through my involvement with the GI Rights Hotline.  We are disgusted at the way the government treats our returning war heroes and we will not sit by and watch it happen.  You hear the slogan 'Support Our Troops.'  Well that is why we have come here today.  I have personally heard too many horror stories of veterans in the Lousiville area who return from war and do not receive proper medical care or benefits or counseling for PTSD which is all too prevalent in this war.  The Army seems to care more about their retention at any cost to the soldier and family than they do about the care of the soldiers affected by this war.  Too many soldiers are battling their physical and emotional problems alone.  The suicide rates have risen dramatically.  This is obscene.  We are here today to demand that the army grant James a discharge in lieu of court-martial.  We are watching what the army is doing.  James served honorably in Iraq and carried out his duties as commanded.  He received head injuries and shrapnel in his face in the 3rd attack on his convoy.  He also has PTSD and seizures and is on many medications as a result of his experience.  When he was recuperating in the hospital in Germany he realized that what he was commanded to do -- killing innocent people, sometimes in bait-and-switch schemes, was immoral.  The army trains these troops from basic to kill, kill, kill and does not differentiate between innocent Iraqis or insurgents.  James could not, would not, do it any longer.  He had to live with himself and his actions for the rest of his life.  The army does not care about the lifelong problems these honorable soldiers face.  In fact they were going to send James back to Iraq even though he was on medications for high blood pressure, depression, sleep problems and more.  At least James is one of the lucky ones who realized he needed help before it was too late.  Going back to Iraq would be dangerous to his life as well as to those who served with him.  We are here today to support James and his family in their struggle for justice!  James' family has suffered through other family circumstances that dictate that James be home to help them.  We hope the army will grant James an immediate discharge not only for his own personal needs but for his families' needs.  Even though he would not receive medical benefits which he needs, he would be home in a safe and loving environment.  This is what is fair.  This is what is just.  James was there when the army needed him.  Now the army must be there for James and the countless other heroes who need assistance and support as they cope with their war-induced problems.



A video of the press conference can be found here.


Meanwhile US war resisters in Canada continue to fight for safe harbor.  Henry Aubin (Montreal Gazette) offered Saturday, "The federal government has ordered a deserter from the U.S. Army to return to the United States by July 10. If he doesn't leave voluntarily, the government will deport him.  Either way, Corey Glass, a former sergeant, would become the first Iraq war resister to be booted out of Canada - thereby setting a precedent for other U.S. war resisters who are seeking refuge in this country.  A majority of the House of Commons voted 137-110 two weeks ago in favour of a motion urging the government to refrain from ousting war resisters; about 100 of whom are believed to be in the Canada. All three opposition parties supported the measure, sponsored by the New Democrats' Olivia Chow. The Conservatives dissented.  Yet the motion seems futile. Nothing obliges Prime Minister Stephen Harper to respect it - it's non-binding." To pressure the Stephen Harper government to honor the House of Commons vote, 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 "").  Courage to Resist collected more than 10,000 letters to send before the vote.  Now they've started a new letter you can use online here.


In addition, War Resisters Support Campaign announces  "Rally to Stop the Deportation of Parkdale Resident Corey Glass" which is July 3rd, begins at 7:00 p.m. (with doors opening at six p.m.) at the May Robinson Building, 20 West Lodge, Toronto: "In 2002, Corey joined the Indiana National Guard.  He was told he would not have to fight on foreign shores.  But in 2005 he was sent to Iraq.  What he saw there caused him to become a conscientious objector and he came to Canada.  On May 21, 2008, he got his final order to leave Canada by July 10, 2008.  Then on June 3 Parliament passed a motion for all the war resisters to stay in Canada.  However the Harper government says it will ignore this motion."   In addition, the Vancouver branch of the War Resisters Support Campaign needs help housing war resisters in that area.  (And we'll note that in more depth -- hopefully in full -- in tomorrow's snapshot.)


Back to the US, Iraq Veterans Against the War Matthis Chiroux announced June 15th that he would not report to duty (as he'd stated he wouldn't on May 15th).  Chiroux served his time and was honorably discharged.  Then the army decided to 'recall' him and to send to Iraq.  Chiroux knows the Iraq War is an illegal war and will not take part in that.  On the 15th of this month, he explained, "Today I stand in resistance to the occupation of Iraq because I believe in our nation, its military and her people.  I resist because I swoare an oath to this nation that I would not allow it to fall into decay when I may be serving on the side of right.  . . . I stand here to make it known that my duty as a soldier is first to the higher ideals and guiding principles of this country which our leaders have failed to uphold. I stand here today in defense of the US Constitution which has known no greater enemy, foreign or domestic, than those highest in this land who are sworn to be governed by its word."  Matthis' father Robert Chiroux told The Huntsville Times, "It was tough for me to get up where the cameras could see me . . . I don't agree [with his son]" but "[i]f a man can't stand up for his son, how can he stand up for his country?"  And Ellis Eskew (WHNT, CBS) quotes Matthis explaining, "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 Iraq operation."



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.  Saturday, Haydar al-Alak and Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) reported that Moqtada al-Sadr Amara spokesperson Adnan Selawi states that Iraqi troops have committed abuses during the operation in Amara ("we found many breaches and violations") and that another member of Sadr's bloc (unnamed) stated there is stand-down order from Moqtada al-Sadr during the current crackdown on Amara.  Walter Ibrahim and Tim Cocks (Reuters) report that puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki promised today that the next to be raided would be Diyala Province.  Why Diyala Province?  Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reported Sunday that a woman detonated a bomb in Diyala Province killing herself and 16 other people.  Doug Smith (Los Angeles Times) added of the bombing, "A woman pretending to seek assistance from police detonated a suicide belt under her traditional robe today, killing 15 people in the busy civic center of Baqubah, police said."  A report earlier today (no byline on the article) noted that the woman appeared to be around 35-years-old.  Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) cited Jassim Mohammed al-Saedi (a police officer wounded in the bombing) stating that the woman "stepped out of a car, walked toward a group of police officers and detonated explosives strapped to her waist."  Richard A. Oppel Jr. (New York Times) states that violence in Diyala Province yesterday claimed "at least 25" lives.  Citing the US military, CBS and AP report that the bombing was "the 21st suicide mission carried out by a woman in Iraq this year".
Meanwhile Mohammed al Dulaimy and Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) report that Iraqi city council member Raed Mahmoud Ajil fired at US service members after they had attended "a weekly joint meeting on reconstruction" and 2 US service members died with three more "and an interpreter" left wounded.  CBS and AP quote eye witness Hussein al-Dulaimi stating, "The attacker got out of the car with an AK-47 assault rifle in his hand and he started to fire on the American soldiers until he was killed by return fire."  AP also reports 2 dead (earlier today the military was saying one dead).
In some of today's other reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded three police officers.  Reuters notes a Mosul roaside bombing left five people injured. 
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports and 1 police officer and 1 "civilian female" were shot dead in Mosul in an attack that wounded two more people.  Reuters notes another police officer was shot dead in Mosul and a college student was shot dead as well.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad.
Turning to the US race of president and moving quickly.  Barack Obama continues to lie and break promises.  Joseph (Cannonfire) explores the thinking of the Cult of Obama, their "gift for self-deception" which allows them to say the sky is blue when Barack says so and insist it is a purple when Barack changes his mind.  He does this with various examples including NAFTA.  Time permitting, we'll return to Joseph's findings tomorrow (but who knows what's going to be happening tomorrow) -- in the meantime, you can use the link to explore his writing.  The perfect book-end to that piece is Glenn Greenwald (Salon) on Barack's broken promise to fight for the Constitution and against illegal spying on American citizens and the reaction to it from the Cult of Saint Obama: "In the past 24 hours, specifically beginning with the moment Barack Obama announced that he now supports the Cheney/Rockefeller/Hoyer House bill, there have magically arisen -- in places where one would never have expected to find them -- all sorts of claims about why this FISA 'compromise' isn't really so bad after all."  This has been going on all along.  The 2007 year in review contains the following observation: "If independent media went out of their way to avoid Iraq and all Iraq related stories, what did they cover? 2007 was when the bulk of little media enlisted in the Barack Obama presidential campaign -- a Katrina coffee fetcher even went to work for it. Bambi would walk on his own and go to potty all by himself in 2008, indy media insisted, but right now he needed coaxing. And what better way to guarantee that than by lavishing him with non-stop praise.  As they crowded around the potty chair, they produced many embarrassing moments."  It's 2008 and he's still being babied.  While he's stabbing the left in the back.  People need to grow up and, for those doubters who need a reason, as LBJ was leaving the White House, Jules Feiffer looked back on what he had to offer ("LBJ in Caricature," Harper's magazine, February 1968) and included this point, "Defenders of Johnson further assert that had Kennedy lived, and made the same moves in Vietnam as his successor, he would not be subjected to the same sort of vilification.  They are undoubtedly right -- which goes to prove how fortunate, in this case, at long last to have a President whose style coincides with his content.  Kennedy could possibly have convinced us that Vietnam was a just war, and a whole generation of young people, hypnotized by charisma, could possibly have marched proudly off to napalm and defoliate knowing that their country stood firmly behind them."  No, I don't think Barack's JFK.  You can't buy charisma.  But he's something to the Cult -- denied their own Janis Joplin so going ga-ga over Miley Cyrus -- the same sort of desperation/settle for anything that leads them to Barack.  But what Jules is noting JFK could have gotten away with, the left better start realizing applies to Barack as well -- in fact, he's getting away with it right now while the left does and says nothing.
Meanwhile Ralph Nader is a candidate for president and Team Nader notes:

Watch The Nader Challenge.

Which Presidential candidate would eliminate the billions of dollars in corporate welfare we pay every year to the ethanol industry?


Wrong. (According to today's New York Times, Obama actually has very close ties to corn ethanol industry - an industry that Ralph Nader has called "a multifaceted monstrosity radiating damage in all directions of the compass.")

Many people still consider Obama the progressive candidate in the race.

He's not.

He's just another corporate candidate.

Who's the progressive in the race?

Ralph Nader.

To drive home the point, today we launch The Nader Challenge.

Check out the video here

Who favors single payer national health insurance?




Who favors cutting the bloated, wasteful military budget?




With your ongoing and generous help, we're destined to make a splash in November. 

Together, we are making a difference.


 maria hinojosa
now with david branccacio

iraq veterans against the war
matthis chiroux
corey glass
ellis eskew
chris kenning
henry aubin

mcclatchy newspapers
leila fadel
the los angeles times
doug smith

 richard a. oppel jr.
 the new york times
 the washington post
 ernesto londono