Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, July 15, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, US war resister Robin Long has reportedly been deported from Canada, England wants to stay in Iraq "long-term," Barack Obama wants to get his sticky fingers on all of Bully Boy's wars and vows Afghanistan is the fight he's going to throw down in, Bully Boy gets a message from the Baath Party, and more.


Starting with war resistance.  Chris Cook (Gorilla Radio) explained last night, "To recap if you've just tuned in, Robin Long the American war resister, who has been in Canada for some time, more than a year at least, was arrested last year in Nelson and has been going through these various court processes to avoid deportation.  His hearing was today in Vancouver where he was petitioning for an extension so he could work on an appeal to try to stay in the country because he faces arrest in the  as a deserter in the United States.  Justice Mactavish in Vancouver denied that appeal so it looks like Robin Long is on his way back to America to face what passes for American justice." The War Resisters Support Campaign - Vancouver issued a call for action last night:


Supporters of Robin Long and the War Resisters coming from both sides of the border will gather in a peaceful protest under the Peace Arch at the border at 9 am Tuesday July 15. (while the Peace Arch is neutral ground, supporters should bring appropriate identification in the unlikely event they are required to pass through Canadian Customs)
In the meantime, please take a moment to email or phone Stockwell Day, Minister of Public Safety, and ask him to immediately stop the deportation of U.S. Iraq war resister Robin Long. (The Canadian Border Services Agency falls under his ministry).

Also ask him why the federal government is refusing to respect the clearly expressed will of Canada's Parliament, that U.S. war resisters should be allowed to stay and that deportation proceedings against them should cease?In a recent Angus Reid poll, almost two-thirds of Canadians said they want U.S. Iraq war resisters to be allowed to stay in Canada. Demand to know why the Harper government is unwilling to be accountable to Canadians. 
Minister of Public Security Stockwell Day 
Email: day.s@parl.gc.ca (Ottawa office); days1@parl.gc.ca (Penticton constituency office) Phone: 613.995.1702 (Ottawa); 250.770.4480 (Penticton constituency office)
Fax: 613.995.1154 (Ottawa); 250.770.4484 (Penticton) 
Please check the War Resisters Support Campaign website for updates on Robin's status and on emergency actions. 
For more information about the campaign please visit: http://www.resisters.ca/  


October 2, 2007, Long was arrested.  October 4, 2007, he was released and Canada's CBS interviewed him (video link is on upper right hand of the page). Robin told them, "When I got arrested and was sitting in the detention cell in Nelson, I was pretty sure I was going home right away.  I was pretty sure I would be deported.  The way that the immigration officer made it sound, I would be deported Friday.  That's not quite what happened and I'm very thankful for that." He was asked how he felt "about the challenges ahead" and Robin responded, "I have at least a couple more months in Canada and hopefully something will happen in the next couple of months within the government and maybe some kind of legal action will let us stay here other than the refugee protection.  But if not I'm prepared to go back to the United States and face up to desertion.  It's better than going to Iraq."  The arrest was over documents sent but not received because he had moved for work.  That one incident triggered everything that followed for Robin Long in spite of Canadian Judge Robert Barnes decision regarding Joshua Key's claims for refugee status issued on the Fourth of July as well as the motion the House of Commons passed June 3rd.


25-year-old Robin Long is from Boise, Idaho and enlisted in July 2003.  In March 2005, he was told he'd be going to Iraq and ordered to report to Fort Carlson in April of 2005.  Instead, he self-checked out.  Long remained underground for two months and went to Canada only for a wedding (June, 2005).  While in Canada, liking what he saw, Long decided to stay.  He and his partner Renee have a son (born in Canada).  The decision to deport Robin will break up a family.  A detail not noted in the press coverage of the decision.  Nor is it noted that, by Canadian law, as the father of a Canadian citizen, Long could apply for (and be granted) citizenship.  "A good person and sort of a gentle soul" is how she's always heard Robin described, Sarah Bjorknas explained to Chris Cook last night.


Chris Cook: Is there another avenue of appeal Sarah  for Robin or is he just going to be whisked out of the country as we've seen other people that Americans want to extradite done -- John Marshall comes to mind?


Sarah Bjorknas: We understand that there are no other legal avenues.  And that indeed they have him and we don't know precisely where he is.  They don't have to tell us where and when they move him anywhere including across the border.


Bjorknas also explained that Robin was not being extradicted.  Canada doesn't (and didn't during Vietnam) have any treaty with the US that would cover military desertions.


Robert Matas (Globe and Mail) reports that Robin "was troubled by evidence of abuse of Iraqi detainees that came out in May of 2004, Mr. [Shepherd] Moss said.  Mr. Long concluded the abuse was systemic and condoned by the U.S. administration, Mr. Moss said.  After some soul-searching, Mr. Long decided he would not go to Iraq and would not participate or be complicit in what he believed were war crimes, the lawyer said."  Jeff Hodson (Metro News) explains attorney Moss "argued Long faced lengthy jail times and could even get the death penalty.  The judge ruled that a death sentence was only a 'theoretical possibility' as the last soldier sentenced to death for desertion was during the Second World War." Kim Bolan and Suzanne Ahearne (Vancouver Sun) and Brian Hutchinson (National Post) point out that Long would be the first war resister deported from Canada since the start of the illegal war.  Judge Anne L. Mactavish long career has included being the president of the Human Rights Tribunal Panel back in the nineties.  Apparently, that temporary post carried only temporary awareness.  Bob Ages, chair of the War Resisters Support Campaign - Vancouvertells The Canadian Press, "I don't think there's time to even file papers.  We're down to the wire here.  She's [Mactavish] refused us the ability to follow due process and exhaust all his legal avenues in Canada."  Catherine Elsworth (Telegraph of London) notes Mactavish "rejected his last-ditch plea for a stay of his deporation order, saying he had failed to provide convincing evidence he would suffer 'irreparable harm' if he returned to the US."  Apparently, Mactavish either didn't care about splitting up a family or wasn't informed of it.  Canada's New Democratic Party issued the following this afternoon:


NDP MP Bill Siksay (Burnaby-Douglas) is calling on the Conservative government to stop the deportation of American Iraq war resister Robin Long, scheduled for today.

"Stockwell Day, Diane Finley and Stephen Harper should respect the will of Parliament and the Canadian people and stop this deportation immediately," said Siksay. "The House of Commons has passed a motion supporting a special programme that would allow conscientious objectors who refuse to serve in the war in Iraq to remain in Canada. The government must respect this action by the House and stop deportation action against Robin Long and other Iraq war resisters."

The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration reported to the House of Commons about the need for such a programme, and on a motion moved by MPs Olivia Chow and Siksay, the House concurred in that report.

"The Canadian government and the Canadian people do not support George Bush's illegal war in Iraq. We must have the courage of those convictions and back them up by ensuring that Americans who take a stand against that war receive a welcome in Canada," noted Siksay.

"Robin Long must be allowed to stay," Siksay concluded.


UPI 'covers' the news of the judge's ruling by undercounting war resisters. Linda Nguyen (Canwest News Services) notes, "There are an estimated 200 American army deserters who have sought refugee status in Canada."  Greg Quinn (Bloomberg News), CBC, Dan Slater (Wall St. Journal), Candace Heckman (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) and AP are among the other outlets reporting on the news. Among those who have ignored it?  Democracy Now!, The Progressive ("Peace and social justice since 1909" is apparently an empty slogan), The Nation and just about every outlet in Panhandle Media.


Robin Long described his position on the Iraq War, on staying in Canada and more back in October 2007:


Because I feel the war in Iraq is an illegal war of aggression and it's an indiscriminate killing of the Arab people and I believe it's all for lies and the wrong reasons so I couldn't with good conscience take part in that conflict. . . . When I joined the army, I thought that the war in Iraq was a good thing.  I was lied to by my president. The reasons that were given, I thought they were valid. But just because I joined the army didn't mean I abdicated my ability to evolve intellectually and morally and what I saw in the independent media and even in mainstream media changed my view of what was going on over there and based on what I had learned I made a decision to desert. . . . When people coming back from Iraq were proud of what they had done, bragging about killing people and showing me pictures of their first kill with big smiles on their faces and that just didn't sit right in my stomach. So I made the decision then.  That was probably the turning point right there.


Laura Baziuk (Peace Arch News link has text and video) descibes approximately 30 people gathering at the Peace Arch this morning to show their support for Robin Long.  The group carried signs with slogans such as "ROBIN LONG BELONGS IN CANADA" and "war Resisters welcome here."  Demonstrator Carleen Pickard declared, "We believe he was deported this morning so he is already in the United States." Allan Dowd (Reuters) has just had confirmation that Long is out of Canada: "The Canada Border Services Agency confirmed Long's removal, but declined to give other details, citing privacy laws. Long's refugee claim had already been rejected and he could not appeal Monday's court ruling."


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).
While Long is ordered deported, the British aren't leaving anytime soon, aren't leaving Iraq.  The Independent of London notes Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced he will not set a time for withdrawal and "Mr Brown is due to deliver a statement on Iraq to MPs before the summer recess of Parliament on 22 July. Labour MPs said they were disappointed by his response." James Kirkup (Telegraph of London) explains, "Military commanders have told the Prime Minister that UK troops will have to remain in Iraq in significant numbers well into next year.  The need to stay in southern Iraq to support . . . the Iraqi forces has dashed any hopes ministers had of announcing a major withdrawal from Iraq this summer."  This follows Deborah Haynes (Times of London) reporting yesterday on British Maj-Gen Barney White-Spunner's declaration that the British military role in Iraq would be "long-term".  Haynes also reminded that the United Nations resolution expiring on December 31st with talk of it not being renewed means the UK must come to an agreement with Iraq for the British forces to remain.
Sunday  Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Ali Hameed (New York Times) reported that "the Anbar Provincial Council" was arguing that Al Anbar Province is not ready to be handled by its own inhabitants and no transfer should take place until after the elections. The elections are scheduled for October whether they take place or not -- this is a White House defined 'benchmark' that has long been delayed -- only time will tell. Withing the region, there is a split between the council and members of the "Awakening" Council -- it's a power struggle with the latter feeling the requested delay is nothing but a way to influence the upcoming elections. Al Anbar Province is a border province and an influx of Iraqi refugees (presumably from that province only, unless the rules for voting have been changed) from Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia could also effect the outcome -- a point the journalists didn't make.  Today Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) reports that the elections are yet again in jeopardy as a result of the Iraqi parliament being unable to reach an agreement (specifically regarding Kirkuk) and that no one is sure when the measure will come up again.  While there may or may not be elections in October, the Baath Party leader issued a statement today.  Nancy A. Youssef and Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) report that Izzat Ibrahim al Douri released a recording where he vowed "the Iraqi people will fight you [the US] until doomsday".  They note that he was vice-president under Saddam Hussein and also the nation's military commander who became the party leader once Saddam was dead.  They also noted that in today's recording Izzat Ibrahim al Douri "demanded that Bush withdraw American troops from Iraq and called on him to reveal the true U.S. troop death toll, suggesting that the American military was withholding information."
Also today, Richard A. Oppel Jr. (New York Times) reports, "Two suicide bombers posing as army recruits struck an Iraqi base just east of Baquba on Tuesday morning, killing at least 35 Iraqi recruits and wounding 63, according to the Iraqi police and medical officials in Diyala Province." BBC (link has text and video), citing Iraqi military sources, states, "The two attackers mingled with a crowd of would-be recruits at an army base in the city of Baquba and then blew themselves up".  Baquba is the capital of Diyala Province and China's Xinhau notes that the province "stretches from the eastern edges of Baghdad to the Iranian border".  United Arab Emirates' The National Newspaper is calling the bombings "one of the deadliest attacks of this year".  Nancy A. Youssef and Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) report, "After the first bomber detonated himself at around 8 a.m., the survivors began to flee. The second bomber chased them into a corner and detonated into the crowd seconds later, said a man working at the center who wanted to be identified only as Maj. Ghassan out of fears for his safety."  KUNA declares, "The second bombing targeted the crowd that rushed to rescue the victims of the first".   Camilla Hall (Bloomberg News) cites Iraqi president Jalal Talabani's message on the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan web site today stating at least 30 people were killed in the Baquba bombings while the US military insists the death toll was much lower. Going with "more than 30" dead, Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times -- link has AP video) notes, "The attack took place near a joint U.S.-Iraqi security station, but there were no reports of American casualties."   The Times of India quotes wounded eye witness Falah Ali Hussein who states, "We were about 30 people standing at the entrance.  They had just called our names when suddenly there was a big explosion." Sunday, The Gulf Times reports that "a major crackdown" on Diyala Province is about to commence.  Pakistan's The Daily Mail adds today, "The Interior Ministry has not given a date for the start of the Diyala crackdown but says U.S. forces, which have been conducting operations there since January, will take part." 

In some of today's other reported violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that wounded two, a Baghdad mortar attack that claimed 2 lives and left nine wounded, a Tikrit car bombing that wounded one police officer, a Kirkuk roadside bombing that wounded five people, a Mosul car bombing that killed the occupant of the car and 1 police officer and another Mosul car bombing that left six people wounded.  The Daily Mail counts three bombing in Mosul and states the worst "killed eight people and wounded a policeman at a police checkpoint, the U.S. military said."  AFP reports Karim Wahid, Minister of Electricity, was targeted with a Baghdad roadside bombing that he emerged from safely; however, "three of his bodyguards" were left wounded.
CBS and AP report, "Gunmen in Baghdad also killed two members of a Sunni force allied with U.S. troops, police said."  Reuters notes an armed clash in Iskandaria that resulted in 2 deaths.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad.
In news in the US presidential race, Brett Lieberman (The Patriot News) reports, "The bonus scandal stole millions from the public, but it could end up saving third-party presidential candidate Ralph Nader $81,000 in legal fees he was ordered to pay after being tossed from the Pennsylvania ballot in 2004."  Barack Obama gave a speech today.  Yawn.  Free Speech Radio News includes the nonsense and you know they never actually LISTEN.  He's promised nothing.  "Can" is the word.  "Can" is ability.  "Can" is not a vow.  That's very difficult for the insane Cult of Obama to grasp.  There was nothing new offered in his dull, lip-smacking (maybe he needs to go back to wearing lip gloss?) speech.  It's the same non-specific garbage he's said for 18 months now.  He does not give specifics on "residual" troops left in Iraq.  It's a non-plan.  And his alarmist talk about "finishing" Afghanistan sounds not all that different than the current White House occupant's yammering.  He wants to "fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban" and that's "a war that we have to win."  Remember when people were appalled by Bully Boy speaking like?  Remember when people (rightly) pointed out a 'war' on terror was like a 'war' on drugs and Americans needed to grow up and get realistic?  At this point, he's even worse than John Kerry's 2004 run.
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robin long
joshua key
robert matas
katie mercer
kim bolan
suzanne ahearne
jeff hodson
brian hutchinson

chris cook

richard a. oppel jr.
the new york times

mcclatchy newspapers

nancy a. youssef