Thursday, June 26, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, June 26, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces multiple deaths, the treaty the White House wants encounters more public Republican opposition,  withdrawal and play-withdrawal are discussed, and more.
Starting with war resistance.  Corey Glass held a press conference yesterday.  May 21st was when Corey Glass was told he would be deported. Corey Glass is an Iraq War veteran and a US war resister. He went to Canada seeking asylum -- the kind of welcoming Canada provided to war resisters ("draft dodgers" and "deserters") during Vietnam. After being told he was being deported, 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. Brett Clarkson (Toronto Sun) explains Olivia Chow (NDP MP), Maurizio Bevilacqua (Liberal Party MP), Michelle Robidoux (War Resisters Support Campaign) and Gloria Nafziger (Amnesty International) joined the press conference and Glass is quoted declaring of the Iraq War, "It's blatantly illegal.  I don't care, they can give me a death sentence.  I'd rather be put to death than have to do that war.  It's wrong."
Canada's War Resisters Support Campaign will hold a "Rally to Stop the Deportation of Parkdale Resident Corey Glass" 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."  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.
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).
Jean Fievet (ABC News) reports, "Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, commander of U.S. forces in northern Iraq, sounds very upbeat these days about the future of Iraq."  Mark your calendars, that and the following statement (by Hertling) are the kinds of things that haunt you, "The people who had at one time oposed Maliki suddenly said, 'Hey, this guy's getting it done,' Hertling said. 'So I think he's turned a lot of the Iraqi people'."  Of course, we may not need to mark anything down to remember that claim (which goes against James Warden's Stars and Stripes article published Tuesday, by the way).  For example, yesterday the US military announced: "Three Multi-National Division – North Soldiers and an interpreter were killed in an improvised explosive device attack in Ninewah Province at 10:45 p.m., June 24."  Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London) observes, "US forces are now coming under regular attack in Shia as well as Sunni areas of Iraq with wide differences within the US government about the extent to which Iraqi security forces can operate without American assistance."  Cockburn points out that the 'success' "at the end of the fighting with the Medhi Army came largely because neither Mr Sadr nor the Iranian government wanted a confrontation at this time." 
Meanwhile the White House continues to hammer out a treaty with puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki.   The Toledo Blade notes that US Senator George Voinovich (Republican) has sent a letter to the White House requesting that Bully Boy shelve any longterm plans and instead focus on a stop-gap measure that would not bind anyone's hands: "Top Democrats and Republicans also have been complaining that the President is rushing the negotiations - senior U.S. officials insist the talks be completed by July 31 - to seal a strategic framework for protecting Iraq that could make it difficult for the next president to withdraw U.S. forces from the country."  Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports that yesterday's meeting between Iraqi President Jalil Talibani and the Bully Boy was in part to talk about the "agreement for the stationing of US forces in Iraq."  Really?  Briefing the press yesterday afternoon White House flack Dana Perino was asked if Talabani and Bully Boy got "into the details of it" and she responded, "No, I don't think -- no, I don't -- the negotiators are getting into the details."  Today Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) reports, "Crucial differences remain between Iraq and the U.S. over a security pact, known as a Status of Forces Agreement, which will determine the scope of the U.S. troop presence in Iraq for the coming years.  Because a comprehensive deal may not come in time for a July 31 deadline, both sides are now considering temporary measures for the U.S. military's operation in Iraq as they continue to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement."  Meanwhile David Lerman (Daily Press) reports that US House Rep J. Randy Forbes (Republican) is aruging that if something is not worked out that provides "security and legal protections for American forces," US troops should be withdrawn "by year''s end".  Fouad Ajami (US News & World Reports) explains, "As it stands, the American occupation now rests on a United Nations mandate under Chapter 7 of its charter that sanctions Iraq as a threat to peace and abridges its sovereignty.  That mandate expires by the end of the year, and the Bush administration is keen to give the American presence the status of a bilateral security arrangement."  Seumas Milne (Guardian of London) asserts, "The last thing on anyone's mind, we were told when the tanks rolled in, was permanent US control, let alone the recolonisation of Iraq. This was about the Iraqis finally getting a chance to run their own affairs in freedom. But five years on, George Bush and Dick Cheney are putting the screws on their Green Zone government to sign a secret deal for indefinite military occupation, which would effectively reduce Iraq to a long-term vassal state."  This as James Rainey (Los Angeles Times) presents allegedly informed people but somehow they missed Barack Obama's CNN interview with Candy Crowley June 5th, the one where he explained his 'position'(s) on Iraq:
Well, you know, I'd never say there's 'nothing' or 'never' or 'no way' in which I'd change my mind." Obviously, I'm open to the facts and to reason. And there's no doubt that we've seen significant improvements in security on the ground in Iraq. And our troops, and Gen. Petraeus, deserve enormous credit for that. I have to look at this issue from a broader perspective, though.
If it sounds familiar, you're probably think of what Obama advisor Samantha Power told the BBC last spring:

Stephen Sackur: You said that he'll revisit it [the decision to pull troops] when he goes to the White House. So what the American public thinks is a commitment to get combat forces out within sixteen months, isn't a commitment is it?

Samantha Power: You can't make a commitment in whatever month we're in now, in March of 2008 about what circumstances are going to be like in January 2009. We can'te ven tell what Bush is up to in terms of troops pauses and so forth. He will of course not rely upon some plan that he's crafted as a presidential candidate or as a US Senator.
And Council on/of/for Foreign Relations Lionel Beehner takes to Aging Socialite's Cat Litter Box to provide Barack with even more cover by offering five ways Barack "Can Fix Iraq, Short of Withdrawing U.S.  Forces."  The popping noise you hear is millions of Americans sticking their fingers in their ears, unable to face the reality that the Christ-child has no intention to leave Iraq and more than willing to provide cover for the War Hawk Barack.
The Project on Defense Alternatives released [PDF format warning] "Quickly, Carefully, and Generously: The Necessary Steps for a Responsible Withdrawl from Iraq".  In the preface to the report, US House Rep Jim McGovern writes, "I have long thought the United States needs to withdraw its military forces and presence from Iraq.  During many debates in the US Congress, I put forward and supported proposals for a withdrawl of our forces that would take place in a safe and orderly manner.  The 23-page report (not counting preface, acknowledgements, etc.) is built around this premise:
The President has announced that a complete military withdrawal from Iraq will take place over the next 12-18 months.  What concrete policy steps can the US government take, immediately and during the withdrawal, to encourage peace and stability in Iraq?
So, apparently, the Project on Defense Alternatives is expecting the next president to be Bob Barr, Cynthia McKinney or Ralph Nader since those are the only ones promising to end the illegal war.  A variety of proposals are offered as they attempt "to specify what can and should be done to minimize violence in Iraq and soothe regional tensions as the United States leaves."  The report undercuts itself throughout and the reason is probably best summed up on page 9: "The departure of US troops does not -- and must not -- mean the United States abandons its responsibility to Iraq.  National interest and morality demand that the United States do everything in its power to contribute to the alleviation of suffering and the advancement of stability and peace in the country.  The idea that an open-ended, military deployment can bring progess in Iraq is an illusion."  So is the idea that an open-ended 'diplomatic' deployment could bring progress in Iraq.  Only Iraqis can bring progress to Iraq.  The US has no "responsilibility" to Iraq.  There are financial debts owed (and the report acknowledges this) but the very idea of using "responsibility" as though the US - Iraq relationship was that of a parent - child is the same "We know best" patronizing attitude that allowed so many (including left 'interventionists' like Samantha Power) to jump on board with the illegal war before it started.  By the same token, 'morality'?  Unless you're in church or wear a collar, try sticking to ethics.  The report laments that a US departure will mean less US impact (". . . the ability of the United States to affect what happens in Iraq will diminish upon withdrawal.  Yet withdrawal also opens up possiblities . . .").  The strong aspects of the report largely revolve around realizing the financial debts to be paid.  The weak aspects of the report are in the arrogance that wafts off each page.  An illegal war of choice taught no humility.  The message seems to be, "We can still be overbearing!  Only this time, will smother them with kindness!"   How about the US just leaves.  How about they leave, grasp that Iraqis are adults and let Iraqis sort out their own country?  The arrogance to be found on page after page (not surprising considering some of the ones participating in this report) would lead to armed conflict in a peaceful region. 
If McCain wins the White House, he's not going to give a damn about this report.  I can't imagine that Nader or McKinney would be impressed either (for different reasons than McCain).  Barack?  He'd love this report.  His public promise (already revealed to be a lie)  is to remove "combat" troops.  But even when he was pushing that lie hard, it wasn't convincing.  "Combat" troops will be classified -- as will all troops -- by the US president.  Meaning you can leave "combat" troops in Iraq but call thems something else.  Second, as he revealed to the New York Times before the primaries started, if things began to crumble in Iraq, he'd send troops back in. 
So this nonsense report that ties the future of Iraq to America (the US goes from Mommy to Nanny) is a recipe for disaster and does nothing to guarantee the end of the illegal war.  If the Iraqi people are listened to right now (or at any time over the last few years), they want US troops out of their country.  Where is that acknowledged in the report?  Where is it acknowledged that Iraq becomes an independent country?  Independent means the US stops pulling strings.  Independent means the US pays the debts its incurred for this illegal war, it does not mean it gets to determine what course Iraq decides to steer.  The report frets about other countries.  Those would be Iraq's immediate neighbors and, Bremer Walls or not, Iraq will have to get along with its neighbors.  The US is not an immediate neighbor and has no business butting in like some overzealous nanny on a playground.
But that's the sort of crap ("Play nice!  Play nice or I'm going to separate you!") this report offers.  For example: "Support the establishment, as part of the existing International Compact with Iraq, of an International Support Group comprising the five permanent Security Council members, Iraq's six neighbors, and a represenative fo the UN Secretary General."  Oh, how sweet: a playdate!  First off, there is never equality in any group that includes permanent members of the UN Security Council (they have veto power on the Security Council and that would shape any group they served with -- the threat).  Second off, it takes a lot of nerve for the same government that destroyed Iraq (the US government) to now decide who will be on the group ensuring Iraq's future.  Does no one get how damn patronizing this report is?  The lame report is nothing but cover for Barack (produced when they thought he would need it -- published long after it's clear he won't need it).  It's supposed to read, "See, it's not 'just withdrawal,' it's a plan!"  No, it's an insult.  The US needs to leave Iraq.  And it doesn't need to tie Iraq into groups and interactions that Iraqis do not choose for themselves.  The report's an embarrassment.
In other news, the War Resisters League releases a new report entitled "Listening Process" and the contents are below (those with links have excerpts). 
Conclusions: Where to From Here? 
IVAW's co-founder Kelly Dougherty explains, "IVAW's three goals are: immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces from Iraq, full veterans benefits, and reparations for the Iraqi people.  Our strategy to end the war is to withdraw military support from the war."  It's a real shame the Project on Defense Alternatives couldn't have had the sense to adopt a policy that is both simple and shows the acknowledgement that Iraq is its own country and demonstrates respect for Iraq.  The report sales for four dollars a copy (not including postage) and can be ordered online or for orders of ten copies or more, you can call (212) 228-0450.  More information can be found here.
Today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldier was killed as a result of an explosively formed projectile attack at approximately 9 a.m., June 25, in eastern Baghdad." And they announced: "Three Multi-National Force -- West Marines and two interpreters were killed in action against an enemy force in Anbar Province June 26." Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that the bombing took place "at a meeting of tribal sheiks in Anbar province" and that, "The attack came just days before the United States was to turn Anbar security over to Iraqis.  That plan is now on hold, American officials said."  CBS and AP add, "Two policemen said the bomber was able to penetrate security because he was a wearing camouflage uniform of the Iraqi police commandos. Both policemen spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons." Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) explains, "U.S. officials were meeting with sheiks, or local leaders, when a suicide bomber detonated a vest packed with explosives. One of the sheiks who survived the attack said at least 20 people were killed."  AFP reports a Mosul car bombing that claimed the lives of 17 Iraqis and left eighty more injured.  Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) explains it appears to have been the latest in an attempt to target officials -- in this instance the Govenor Laith Kashmula and Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) notes that the death count reached 18 (but has the wounded at sixty-one). Issa and Allem note that witnesses and police state first came the roadside bombing (apparently targeting the governor) which was then followed by a car bombing (also apparently targeting the governor).  The govenor survived both explosions.  The roadside bombing wounded some security detail; however the car bombing took place next to a market and accounted for deaths and many more injured.
In other reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Diyala Province roadside bombing that wounded three shepherds, and a Falluja mortar attack that claimed 1 life and left a police officer wounded.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports three students were wounded when fired on by Iraqi 'security' at Baghdad's Saba Abkar center for exams.  Reuters notes a woman shot dead in her Mosul home and 1 Iraqi soldier shot dead in an armed clash in Tuz Khurmato.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad.
Dropping back to yesterday and the topic of Iraqi civilians killed by the US military.  Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) noted the 4 family members killed in the US air assault Wednesday and quotes police captain Ahmed al-Azwawi explaining this took place at night, that the man "sold propane gas for a living" and "was afraid thieves were in the vicinity."  Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Riyadh Muhammad (New York Times) explain that the man, Afar Ahmed Zidan, heard prowlers and fired at them in the dark -- turned out it was the US military and an airstrike on the man's home was called killing "Zidan, his wife and three children, all under 10 years old".  Yesterday, 3 bank employees on the way to their jobs drove past the Baghdad International Airport (which is near the bank) and were shot dead by the US military.  Oppel and Muhammad name the three: Hafed Abudl Mahdi, Surur Shadid Ahmed and Maha Adnan Yunis.
Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) was on Democracy Now! today.  We'll try to note it tomorrow.  Instead of hearing that program, most Pacifica listeners heard the embarrassing Congressional hearing. The House Judiciary Committee made a complete ass out of themselves.  Keith Ellison and Debbie Wasserman Schultz yelled and snarled which would have been great if they'd had anything backing them up.  David Addington was far from the only offensive witness but one moment early on captured the nonsense (and Congress being willing to tolerate it as well as unprepared).   A Washington Post article was quoted to him and he was asked "is that correct?"  He responded by asking, "That the Washington Post reported that?"  No, the part about him.  To which, pay attention, Addington replied, "Could you repeat that?  I'd have to listen closely."
And he got away with that.  That is one of the most insulting moments in the US Congress this year.  A member of Congress is asking him a question and he admits, after the question was asked, that he wasn't listening closely.  The disdain was shown by the refusal to provide prepared opening statements.  Staying on Addington, he worked hard on his opening statement -- he pulled a series of quotes he wanted to read and -- get this -- he thought he could quote himself.  The vanity.  But the point is, he prepared a statement.  He just didn't submit it to Congress.  It was one more way to spit on them as well as make sure they wouldn't be able to examine anything he might say.  He stalled.  John Yoo stalled (and his behind legal wording and classified status).  It was a joke, it was an embarrassment.  Addington and Yoo should be ashmed of themselves for the disrespect they showed Congress -- which does represent "We the People" -- and members of the Judiciary Committee should be ashamed that (a) they weren't prepared and (b) they let the witnesses make a mockery of them.
Senator Obama said earlier today that I haven't been paying attention to his campaign.
Actually, I have.
And it's clear from Senator Obama's campaign that he is not willing to tackle the white power structure - whether in the form of the corporate power structure or many of the super-rich - who are taking advantage of 100 million low income Americans who are suffering in poverty or near poverty.
Senator Obama is opposed to single payer national health insurance.
Because he favors the health insurance giants over the millions of Americans in poverty or near poverty who are uninsured or under-insured. Eighteen thousand Americans die every year because they cannot afford health insurance, according to the Institute of Medicine.
Senator Obama wants to expand the military budget which is loaded with waste, fraud and abuse - instead of cutting it and investing the long ignored peace dividend in the inner cities with good jobs and public works - including schools, clinics, and libraries.
Because he fears and favors those thousands of lobbyists in charge of enlarging the military industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us against.
Senator Obama says he favors a living wage. But he doesn't say he would immediately increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour, which is the equivalent of the 1968 minimum wage adjusted for inflation - because by doing so he would offend the big corporations who exploit labor in places like Wal-Mart and fast food chains. (The minimum wage needs to be increased immediately, not phased in over a number of years, as Senator Obama would have it.)
So Senator Obama, let's get specific.
We're looking for deeds, not, as Shakespeare put it, words, words, mere words.
Your public career, which I have also been paying attention to, is long on words, and short on action when it comes to consumer protection, cracking down on corporate crime, curbing the violence of toxic environmental racism, and extending clean, affordable public transit, among other issues.
For the purposes of the here and now, three things:
One, why don't you support single payer national health insurance, which is supported by a majority of doctors and the American people?
Two, why do you favor expanding the military budget which is replete with waste, fraud and abuse?
And three, why don't you come out and support an immediate increase of the minimum wage to $10 an hour?
When can we expect the authenticity of hope and change?