Tuesday, July 8, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the US State Dept isn't sure what talks with Iraq are determining, the US military announces another death, war resister Joshua Key explains what the recent court decision means for him, and more.
Starting with war resistance. "It's seems to be a, you know, it's sort of an uphill battle still," Joshua Key explained of the struggle US war resisters face in Canada attempting to win safe harbor status. Key was appearing on KPFA's The Morning Show, hosted by Philip Maldari and Aimee Allison. Allison, co-author of Army Of None with David Solnit, asked about Judge Robert Barnes decision regarding Joshua Key's claims for refugee status at the top of her interview.
Aimee Allison: What does it mean on the heels of this recent decision in Canada that you've won the right to at least make your case to authorities in Canada to stay permanently with your wife and four children?
Joshua Key: Well I look at it as the way things were going it was getting pretty iffy so I look at it as a big win cause it will make our steps go forward and we can keep progressing and it gives hope for here.
Aimee Allison: So tell us about the process you've been in. You've been in Canada for more than two years now and are applying for refugee status. In other words, you have to make the argument to authorities in Canada that as a refugee you have a right to apply and stay safely in that country because to return you would be to put you in danger. Talk more about this process and where you are in the process right now.
Joshua Key: We've been here for three and a half years. We've been in the refugee process since we've been here. I went to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada and was denied. Then I went to an appeals court and then I got the verdict for that and I won so now it goes back to the Immigration and Refugee Board to argue it there again. And that's where I'm at right now.
Aimee Allison: Talk to me about how your wife and four kids are doing?
Joshua Key: Well they're doing good. I mean, we -- I mean like I look at my wife honestly misses back home so does my children they miss seeing their families their grandma and grandpa and their aunts and uncles. So it's hard on that sense. On the sense of just living, it's probably like living back home to a big extent just a lot more rules here but we keep going.
Aimee Allison: And when you came to Canada, you obviously -- particularly because your book The Deserter's Tale that you co-wrote with Lawrence Hill -- talks explicitly about what you call war crimes that you witnessed in Iraq and tell us a little bit more about what you keep in your mind that keeps you fighting to stay in Canada?
Joshua Key: Well I look at it as it was an illegal and immoral war. I knew that after my time there. It took me a long time to realize what exactly were doing. But with me being in Canada it gives me an easier sense of living. I suffer with Post Traumatic Stress but I know I did the right thing by leaving and walking away and coming somewhere and then fighting not just to stay in Canada but to eventually hoping to get the Iraq War done with.
Aimee Allison: And are there other people with your same situation in Canada? How many of them? How many people are there?
Joshua Key: There's I would say thirty in my exact situation. I don't know the exact current numbers. There's presumably a lot more hiding in Canada which I've met myself. But it's -- there's a lot of us in the same boat right now that's fighting to survive, fighting to live in peace on that sense.
[. . .]
Aimee Allison: I want to talk to you a little bit about your experiences in the mililtary which have led you to take such a serious step of leaving the country and trying to stay in Canada permanently. What was it that you saw or experienced in Iraq that crystalized your opposition to war and really led you to take the step that you're taking now?
Joshua Key: There was many different occassions, many different scenarios in Iraq that made me come up with my decision. When I first went to Iraq I believed in the mission and was there for weapons of mass destruction and the evil tyrant Saddam Hussein. It took months for my mind to get changed and that was basically for our actions that we were doing -- conducting and raiding homes, traffic control points. And you know one incident really sticks with me and it was always does, nightmares and everything, but we were on a QRF mission which was like a quick reaction force for the army. We were in Ramadi, Iraq and we were called out about two o'oclock in the morning to calm down some kind of an uprising or such. We were on the banks of the Eurphrates River. We were going and we took a sharp right turn, on the leftside of our armored personel carrier, I seen four decaptiated Iraqi bodies When we parked our APC I was told to get out and see if I could find evidence of a firefight and such. When I got out there was already American forces on the ground. I don't know who they were with. To the right of me one was in the middle and he was screaming that they had lost it there. There were other soldiers around him, sort of comforting him. I looked to the lefthand side and I seen soldiers kicking one of the heads around like a soccer ball. I got inside of my APC and told my team leader I would have nothing to do with that. Nothing was said the next day I said 'Where's the mission statement? Can I see the mission statement?' add what I seen to that mission statement? And I was told that it was none of my concern and none of my business. And that's when I realized it was my concern and my business cause I was the one there doing it.
Aimee Allison: That's Joshua Key a former private first class in the US army who left in 2005 to Canada with his family and is trying to stay there and be granted refugee status. I'm also joined by Jeff Paterson, project director of Courage to Resist. Joshua, Americans, it has been said, are "fatigued" about discussion about the war. They're "fatigued." They don't want to hear about it and, in fact, the discussion about the Iraq War has been very limited even in the presidential campaign. What do Americans need to know about what's happening right now?
Joshua Key: They need to know the truth. They need to know the truth and the exact reason why Americans are dying there? Why is it? It might be a question people don't want to ask. It might be a question people avoid. It's always the truth that people avoid. But I think it needs to be there and it needs to be brought more attention exactly what's happening to American soldiers there. So.
Aimee Allison: And are you working closely with groups such as Courage to Resist from Canada who are trying to support your case and others?
Joshua Key: I work with a little bit here and there. I sort of look at myself as I'm all over the place. But any organization that is fighting for us to be here or fighting for the Iraq War to end, I try to be involved with.
Jeff Paterson will hopefully be included in a snapshot later in the week. Included meaning quoted at length. Courage to Resist is an organization we link to and note (and will note it this snapshot shortly) but so that Elaine doesn't get stuck with grabbing a topic (she handled critiquing Jeffry House's appearence on Democracy Now! yesterday brilliantly), one comment by Paterson needs to be noted today. ". . . And, like in the Vietnam war, have an amnesty program so these people can come back without military tribunals and this stockade prison time and dishonorable discharges. . . That was the first thing Jimmy Carter did when he became president. So there's a basis for that to happen again." No. People need to know what happened before so they can know what is possible (and expand beyond that). But we need to be factually correct. When we aren't, it allows the argument to be discredited. Jimmy Carter didn't grant amnesty to deserters during Vietnam on his first day in the White House. (Or ever.) What he did do was grant amnesty to draft dodgers. Gerald Ford was the president who offered a conditional clemency that applied to draft dodgers and deserters. We have been covering this at Third repeatedly because it is important. You can see "Editorial: What did happen, what can happen" (June 29th), "Editorial: What's your acceptance level?" (June 22nd), "Where are the demands? Where is the knowledge?" (June 15th), "Editorial: Know Your History! You Have The Right! " (June 8th). You'll find out about Ford's program in those. You will find about Jimmy Carter's refusal to do anything for deserters. You will find out his 'excuses' and how Tom Wicker (New York Times) and others called him out for that in real time. Mike and I have repeatedly covered what Ford did and what Carter did and have provided multiple links. Click here for Mike doing just that in May. You can go to this May 23rd snapshot and find the following:
Here's how PBS's The NewsHour (then The MacNeil/Lehrer Report) reported Carter's program on January 21, 1977 (link has text, audio and video):
"Just a day after Jimmy Carter's inaguration, he followed through on a contentious campaign promise, granting a presidential pardon to those who had avoided the draft during the Vietnam war by either not registering or traveling abroad. The pardon meant the government was giving up forever the right to prosecute what the administration said were hundreds of thousands of draft-dodgers. . . . Meanwhile, many in amnesty groups say that Carter's pardon did too little. They pointed out that the president did not include deserters -- those who served in the war and left before their tour was completed -- or soliders who received a less-than-honorable discharge. Civilian protesters, selective service employees and those who initiated any act of violence also were not covered in the pardon."
Then US House Rep Elizabeth Holtzman was among the four guests (and, in the seventies, with demands being made, there were two women and two men brought on for the report) and stated, "I'm pleased that the pardon was issued, I'm pleased that it was done on the first day and I'm pleased that President Carter kept a commitment that he made very clear to the American people. I would have liked to have seen it broader, I would like to have seen it extended to some of the people who are clearly not covered and whose families will continue to be separated from them . . . but I don't think President Carter has closed the door on this category of people."
Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford had two different programs. There's no reason to confuse the two (though one historian did just that in 2000 and that appears to be why so many are confused today). That is not a minor point. 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 had completed his tours of duty and been honorably discharged. Then he was told he was being called back in and sent to Iraq. Gil Kaufman (MTV News) does an indepth exploration of what this meant in terms of day to day life for Matthis. Chiroux left the military after being discharged and intended to go to college, "he assumed the GI Bill benefits he earned would help pay for college but was 'horrified' to learn in January that because of his salary in the Army and his stationing overseas, he was going to be denied federal and state tuition assistance. He also found out that he was not eligible for subsidized student loans because of his GI Bill benefits. In the end, his benefits as a veteran totaled around $1,000 a month, not even enough to pay for his apartment in Brooklyn. If Chiroux had not served in the military, he said he would have been eligible for Pell Grants that might have helped him pay the $7,500 he laid out in January for school." For those not familiar with the Pell Grant system, they are "grants" -- meaning no repayment. So serving in the military meant Matthis couldn't qualify for those and the GI Bill wasn't paying for his college expense. He had to take out loans for $7,500 and then was informed ("three weeks after school started") that he needed to :withdraw from classes and report to Fort Jackson on March 8." Army flack Major Nathan Banks -- in the limelight so often these days, tells MTV that Chiroux is a deserter. Actually, if Matthis is considered AWOL -- a big if -- it would take thirty days after he was considered AWOL for him to be classified as a "deserter." So someone might want to train their spokesmodels a bit more before deploying them to the press.
Iraq Veterans Against the War asks that you:
Back to Courage to Resist which is planning "July 9th actions at Canadian Consulates nationwide:"
Join a vigil and delegation to a Canadian consulate near you on Wednesday, July 9th to support war resisters! On the eve of Corey Glass' possible deportation, we will demand, "Dear Canada: Abide by the June 3rd resolution - Let U.S. war resisters stay!" More details and cities to be confirmed soon!
Washington DC - Time TBA - 501 Pennsylvania Ave NW (map). Sponsored by Veterans for Peace. Info: TBA
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).
Yesterday, puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki floated the idea that a treaty -- (popularly called "Status of Forces Agreement") needed to replace the UN mandate that provides legal cover to the occupation which expires Dec. 31st -- with the White House might need to include a withdrawal timeline. Sabrina Tavernise (New York Times) interviews "a prominent leader in Mr. Maliki's political paty" (Ali al-Adeeb) who tells her, "We think that what is suitable for withdrawal is when our soldiers are ready and well armed to take the responsibility." Meanwhile CBS and AP report that Mouwaffak al-Rubaie (Iraq's National Security Adviser) has declared, "We will not accept any memorandum of understanding that doesn't have specific dates to withdraw foreign forces from Iraq." Memo? It's the treaty. Call it a SOFA (wrongly) or a memo (the White Houe's preferred choice in recent weeks). Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) provides the basics, "The talks are focused on two accords. One would provide a framework for future diplomatic, economic and security relations. The other, known as a Status of Forces Agreement, would provide a legal basis for U.S. troops to remain in the country." US Congress members Bill Delahunt and Rose DeLauro explain the basics in the Washington Post today noting "constitutional scholars testifying before the oversight subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee have stated 'the authority to fight' that the administration seeks from Iraq does indeed require congressional approval. Requiring international legal approval of combat is what makes this agreement anything but what the administration incorrectly calls it: a 'status of forces agreement.' . . . If the U.N. mandate expires on Dec. 31, so does domestic authority for our troops to fight, along with their immunity from Iraqi prosecution. This is precisely the 'legal vacuum' that constitutional scholars Bruce Ackerman and Oona Hathway detailed in an April 5 op-ed, 'The War's Expiration Date'. . . " Delahunt and DeLauro are advocating that the UN mandate be renewed for six months which would carry it into 2009 and allow the next US president to determine what to do as opposed to Bully Boy tying the hands of everyone to follow with a treaty on his way out the door. Despite the fact that al-Maliki floated the idea of a US withdrawal being part of the treaty yesterday, White House reporters traveling with Bully Boy have not bothered to even ask about the issue. In Toyako, Japan yesterday, Dana Perino and Dan Price took questions -- no one asked about Iraq. They did so again today in Toyako and, again, no questions about Iraq. Russia and Zimbabwee were popular questions but no one could bother giving a damn long enough to ask the White House what it means when Nouri al-Maliki is floating the idea of a US withdrawal. At the US State Dept yesterday, press spokesperson Sean McCormack was asked and insisted "this falls in the categoy of ongoing negotiations. And I'm not going to talk about every single development -- every single development within the -- in the negotiations. I've seen Prime Minister Maliki's remarks. I've seen some reports about it. . . . I know our negoiators have talked about timelines. I'll let them talk about timelines. I'm not going to do it." Which should have resulted in headlines this morning of "State Department Reveals White House Talking Timelines." Today the press flack director, Gonzalo R. Gallegos, was sent out to address journalists and was asked about Iraq's National Security Advisor's remarks. "Well, I'll tell you," Gallegos responded. "You know the US Government and the Government of Iraq are in agreement that we -- the US Government -- we want to withdraw. We will withdraw. However, that decision will be conditions-based. You know [US] Ambassador [to Iraq Ryan] Crocker said before we're looking at conditions, not calendars here. We're making progress and are committed to departing as evidenced by the fact that we have transferred over half of the country's provinces to provisional Iraqi control. and we're planning on removing the fifth and final surge brigade at the end of the month here, if things go according to plan." When asked if this was statying "you're opposing any timetable in this agreement," Gallegos responded, Well I've said what I've said there." Asked about the Memorandum of Understanding and what it was about, Gallegos refused to term or name (the treaty) and instead insisted that, whatever it is, "we're working towards. I think when we reach it, we have made it very clear that we are going to be open about it and discuss and describe it to you all in great detail." In other words, after the fact, the American people can know what the White House has imposed on al-Maliki (and imposed on the US) and the Constitution and Congress will be circumvented and the law broken. If you doubt that, Gallegos clarified, "So when we get to there, when the agreement is finished, wrapped up and done, we'll be discussing it more broadly with you all." Speaking at the Fort Lewis Army base today, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates echoed McCormick from yesterday ("depends on the situation on the ground"). Meanwhile AFP reports King Abdullah II of Jordan's trip to Iraq this week has been postponed.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Bahgdad roadside bombing that wounded five people, a Salahudding roadside bombing which "targeted Tikrist police chief" resulted in 1 guard being killed and a Kirkuk roadside bombing resulted in two people being wounded. Reuters notes 4 contractors killed in a roadside bombing outside of Mosul Monday.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a group of men and women protesting the Labor Ministry over not receiving their salaries resulted in "guards of ministry of labor and social affairs" firing indiscriminately and ten people being wounded in Baghdad, Entisar Ibrahim was shot dead in Baghdad and, dropping back to Monday, Dr. Salih Abed Hassoun ("dean of college of law of Al Qadisiyah University") was shot dead. Reuters notes 2 people shot dead in "Mosul on Monday" and, also on Monday, "a member of the Sunni Arab Iraqi Islamic party" was shot dead in Tal Afar.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 corpses discovered in Baghdad.
Today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division -- Baghdad Soldier died as a result of an improvised explosive device that struck his vehicle west of Baghdad at approximately 9:30 a.m. July 8." This announcement brings the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4115.
Turning to the US presidential race. Anthony Schinella (Massachusetts' Belmont Citizen-Herald) reports on a poll the paper conducted online to determine public support for the presidential candidates (with the exception of Bob Barr and Ralph Nader, all about to be listed are the presumptive candidates -- Barr's running for the Libertarian Party and has secured the nomination, Nader is running as an independent). Who won? John McCain (GOP) with 60%. Barack Obama (DNC) won 28% of the vote. (Remember Barack lost Massachusetts to Hillary Clinton even with Governor Who, John Kerry and Ted Kennedy prosituting themselves out for Barack.) Cynthia McKinney polled at 1%. Bob Barr polled at 4% and Ralph Nader at 7%. As Ruth noted yesterday, "independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader has a rally coming up Saturday at the Virginia Holocaust Museum. They are asking for donations of $10 ($5 for students) and it will run from one in the afternoon until three." The Richmond Times Dispatch adds to call (434) 432-1611 for details. Sue Sturgis (Raleigh Eco News) notes, "An attorney who formerly served on staff at the U.S. Department of Labor, Nader founded the consumer and environmental watchdog organization Public Citizen in 1971. He went on to start dozens of other advocacy groups including the Clean Water Action Project and Multinational Monitor magazine. . . . In this race as in his past White House bids, Nader is criticizing the Democratic nominee's willingness to court the right, highlighting Sen. Barack Obama's recent flip-flopping on telecom immunity, gun control, the death penalty, campaign finance and faith-based funding. . . . Charges of pandering aside, Nader's environmental platform is much more earth-friendly than either Obama's pro-coal and pro-nuclear positions, or Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain's, which focuses solely on a market-based cap-and-trade approach to greenhouse gas emissions. Nader calls for the adoption of a carbon pollution tax, rejects nuclear power in favor of solar energy, and seeks stronger protections against toxic pollution. He also promises to work to end corporate personhood, perhaps the most fundamental challenge to abusive power in America."
Meanwhile Brian (Memoirs of a Godless Heathen) explains he's changed his support in the presidential race: "Thus, I can no longer throw in my support for Obama. He can no longer count on my vote (the very first one I will ever cast) in November. I am now supporting Ralph Nader for President. Mr. Nader is the most compatible with my sensibilites. His unyielding advocacy for freedom of the American people make him the most desirable of all the candidates. So am I wasting my vote? I don't think so. I realize that Nader will not win, but voting for the winner is not what a voter should strive for. I am voting for the person who I believe can best do the job. This November, I will have the satisfaction of voting for someone I like, rather than the lesser of the two evils. I may be just one vote, but breaking the hold of this two-party system requires people like me to make the choice to do so. Will I be helping John McCain's campaign? No, because I will not be voting for John McCain. If Ralph Nader was not my choice, I would not vote, plain and simple. Thus, I am not taking a vote away from Obama, since I wouldn't have voted for him anyway." Meanwhile Cedric's "More distance from Barack" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! TOO GOOD FOR THE PARTY!" note just how much space Barack is trying to put between himself and Democrats.