Friday, July 18, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, who is harrassing IVAW co-chair Adam Kokesh, the White House issues a statement the State Dept doesn't want to touch, the US military announces another death, and more.
Starting with war resistance -- because Amy Goodman never can -- this was a busy week. Monday US war resister in Canada Robin Long was the subject of deportation of hearing. Which he lost. (Mainly because Judge Anne Mctavish doesn't know her job.) He was deported Tuesday from Canada with the Canadian government keeping everything hush-hush to try to clamp down on public shows of support for Robin. On Wednesday, US war resister James Burmeister faced a court-martial: "The court-martial of the kill-team whistle blower." He was busted in rank, given six months of time and stripped of his rights and benefits. The latter is especially shocking when you realize he has Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The government gladly shipped him to a war zone where he was injured and then they spat him this week by refusing to pay for the injuries their illegal war caused James -- life-long injuries. Amy Goodman (Democracy Sometimes!) continued the silence she's long maintained on James -- she never mentioned his name. James is the one who blew the whistle on the kill teams -- groups of US soldiers assigned to leave US property (such as cameras) out in the open in Iraq while snipers then wait for an unsuspecting Iraqi to touch them at which point, living up to the team name, they kill the Iraqis. It was big news and and Mark Larabee (The Oregonian) broke the news domestically July 16, 2007. That wasn't something to amplify. Apparently no one in Panhandle Media had slept with James or wanted to. If so, we could have seen the kind of embarrassing moment that had the 'left' recruiting talk show hosts not all that long ago. Call it The Critic and the Young Chippie or -- as they prepared to play it -- The Greatest All Time Threat to Democracy. Nothing gets a fire burning for our 'fearless' 'leaders' as much as the thought that one of their old 'lions' might finally get laid. So James, who was actual news, got ignored in 2007 and, if you missed it, got ignored Wednesday, Thursday and today. Free Speech isn't worth a damn when it's also Meaningless Speech -- and didn't so many prove just how meaningless they could be.
AP (Real Media) filed a better version of their earlier story, one that noted, "He said he was disturbed by a military tactic of planting equipment to lure Iraqis that American snipers could then kill. Burmeister said he complained to superior officers that the snipers couldn't know for sure whether the people they shot were actually insurgents, or presented any threat to U.S. forces." The Oregonian did a brief that noted, "Burmeister said he complained to superior officers that the snipers couldn't know for sure whether the people they shot were actually insurgents or presented any threat to U.S. forces. Eventually, the soldier from Cheshire, near Eugene, was injured by a roadside bomb and sent to Germany to recuperate. While there, he left his unit and went to Canada, where he campaigned against the use of the small kill teams." Kill teams. War crimes. But Panhandle Media had something else to cover. While whining about the silence from Real Media on some stories, they censored themselves. Call it Learned Pathetic. The only maturity in the story came from James himself. Ten months ago, Mina Al-Oraibi (Asharq Alawsat) quoted the then-in-Canada James Burmeister stating he did not regret self-checking out, "Because I feel it's the right thing to do -- even if I face prison or a dishonorable discharge from the army. I can't go back to the killing."
On Robin Long, Stefanie Fisher (Party for Socialsim and Liberation) provides a run-through, "On July 15, Robin Long became the first Iraq war resister to be deported from Canada back to the United States. In 2005, Long went to Canada because he would not fight in an 'illegal war of aggression.' Like thousands of young recruits, Long discovered that the Iraq war was based on lies only after he had joined the military. The court denied Long sanctuary based on a so-called 'lack of evidence' that he would face harsh treatment if he were sent back to the United States. The court was fully aware that Long would be unjustly tried as a deserter, could face prison time and be deployed to Iraq against his will. As an example to others, on July 16, James Burmeister, a resister who turned himself over to the U.S. government was sentenced to 9 months in jail and dishonorably discharged. Protests in the U.S. and Canada have demanded sanctuary for Iraq war resisters. Two-thirds of Canadians believe that war resisters should be allowed to stay in Canada." Jeremy Deutsch (Kamloops This Week) reports on NDP's Michael Crawford's reaction to the deportation and quoted him stating, "We have a government in Canada hell-bent on pleasing the American administration. . . . If we believe it's an illegal war, why should we not give some form of sancturary to people who are refusing to fight that war?" This follows NDP's Bill Siksay's earlier statements this week, prior to the deportation of Robin, "Stockwell Day, Diane Finley and Stephen Harper should respect the will of Parliament and the Canadian people and stop this deportation immediately. 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 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. Robin Long must be allowed to stay." Meanwhile Keith Jones (WSWS) examines the situation and concludes:
As for the Canadian government, in 2005 when the Liberals held office, it took the highly unusual step of intervening at [Jeremy] Hinzman's refugee hearing--the first for an Iraq war resister--to successfully urge the Immigration and Refugee Board to exclude any arguments concerning the legality of the US's invasion of Iraq. The pretext invoked by the government was that only the International Court of Justice at the Hague has the authority and jurisdiction to adjudicate on the legality of a war. (See "Canada denies asylum to US soldier who refused to serve in Iraq")
During the Vietnam War more than 50,000 US draft-dodgers and "deserters" found refuge in Canada. Today, however, the Canadian judiciary, immigration board, and government are determined to ensure that the country not become a safe haven for those in the US military who refuse to be party to the US's wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This is not just because Canada's elite does not want to rile the Bush administration and US military. The Canadian ruling class is determined to jettison the myth of Canada as a peace-keeping nation--a myth closely bound up with Pearson and Trudeau Liberal governments' attitude toward the Vietnam War and decision to allow Vietnam war resisters to apply for landed immigrant status in Canada--because they see it as cutting across their efforts to revive Canadian militarism and use the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) as a means to assert their predatory interests on the world stage.
Today, Canadian Christianity notes: "Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) Canada held a public prayer vigil July 10 on behalf of Robin Long, a US war resister who was scheduled to be deported from Canada July 15. Long joined the US military in 2003, but became disillusioned with the US war in Iraq, deserted and fled to Canada in 2005. He applied for refugee status in 2006, but his final court appeal was turned down July 14. There are about 200 US resisters of the Iraq War currently in Canada. The CPT Canada vigil, which took place in Winnipeg, drew participants from the 'People's Summit for Faithful Living,' a joint meeting of delegates from Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA."
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).
IVAW's co-chair, Adam Kokesh, has been regularly targeted by the US government for speaking out. Wednesday he wrote (Revolutionary Patriot) "The Cops Are Everywhere -- Especially Where I Am." Thursday he posted a video of one encounter. Friday, his report also included a police report (pages of the police report are clickable to make them larger to read) which reveals that one of the people who have been hassling/harassing him is an FBI agent. So what's going on? I have no idea. But Adam has been targeted before and there's no denying that an FBI agent is going out of his way to target Adam now.
Staying on IVAW, they've posted a copy members of Congress sent to the White House. The letter is signed by House Reps Yvette D. Clarke, John Conyers, Lynn Woosley, Barbara Lee, Jan Schakowsky, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Dennis Kucinich, James McGovern, Pete Stark, Edolphus Towns, Tammy Baldwin, William Jefferson, and Eleanor Holmes Norton. The letter [PDF format warning] reads:
We, the below signed Members of Congress, voice our support for current, present, and future members of the United States Armed Forces who oppose the War in Iraq and who are working to bring it to a speedy and safe conclusion. These brave men and women, who have served our nation so honorably, represent the best aspects of our democratic tradition. While we cannot condone the actions of any service members who translates their personal opposition to the war into a deliberate decision to go Absent Without Leave (AWOL), we offer our most sincere support to every service member affected by the War in Iraq. This war has placed many of armed service members, like Sergeant Matthis Chiroux, in an untenable dilemma. Sgt. Chiroux has served as an active duty service member for the last 5 years -- serving tours of duty in Afghanistan and the Philippines. In July of 2007, having served his country with distinction, the Sergeant was discharged to the Individiual Ready Reserves. As the civil war raging inside Iraq intensified, Sgt. Chiroux was moving on with his life and leaving behind a war with which he disagreed. Unfortunately for the Sergeant, the war's unpopularity has taken a heavy toll on the Army's recruitment efforts. As such, in February of this year, he was recalled to active duty and received his deployment orders for Iraq. We in the Congress oppose this type of forced redeployment, as well as the military's so-called 'stop-loss' policy. As such, we in the Congress reaffirm our support for ending the War in Iraq by all means available to us. We also reaffirm our support for all military members who speak out, advocate, and otherwise support efforts to bring the troops home.
If the letter seems a little weak, let's go to Howard Zinn who isn't campaigning for any office and, even if he was, could probably still tell the hard truths. From his "Memo to Obama, McCain: No one wins in a war" (Boston Globe):
For someone like myself, who fought in World War II, and since then has protested against war, I must ask: Have our political leaders gone mad? Have they learned nothing from recent history? Have they not learned that no one "wins" in a war, but that hundreds of thousands of humans die, most of them civilians, many of them children?
Did we "win" by going to war in Korea? The result was a stalemate, leaving things as they were before with a dictatorship in South Korea and a dictatorship in North Korea. Still, more than 2 million people - mostly civilians -- died, the United States dropped napalm on children, and 50,000 American soldiers lost their lives.
Did we "win" in Vietnam? We were forced to withdraw, but only after 2 million Vietnamese died, again mostly civilians, again leaving children burned or armless or legless, and 58,000 American soldiers dead.
This morning in Tucson, Arizona, the traveling White House press corps heard from Scott Stanzel, Deputy Press Secretary, regarding the continued treaty negotiations between the White House and its puppet in Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki. Stanzel stated, "And as the statement says, we have reached a point in Iraq where we can have these discussions about continuing to transition more control of the security situation to the Iraqi forces. . . . But these are aspirational goals, not arbitrary time lines based on political expediency. So we want to get to a point where we have sustainable security in the country, and our forces are able to come home and transition into a role there of more overwatch and training." What was Stanzel referring to? This statement issued by the White House Press Secretary:
President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki spoke yesterday in their regularly scheduled secure video conference, about a range of matters including the improving security situation and the performance of Iraqi Security Forces across Iraq, from Basra, to Maysan, Baghdad and Sadr City, and Mosul. The two leaders welcomed the recent visit of Prime Minister Erdogan to Baghdad and the successful visit of Prime Minister Maliki to the UAE. They also discussed ongoing initiatives to follow security gains with Iraqi investment in its people, infrastructure, cities, and towns, which will be aided by a $21 billion supplemental budget now before the Iraqi parliament.
In the context of these improving political, economic, and security conditions, the President and the Prime Minister discussed the ongoing negotiations to establish a normalized bilateral relationship between Iraq and the United States. The leaders agreed on a common way forward to conclude these negotiations as soon as possible, and noted in particular the progress made toward completing a broad strategic framework agreement that will build on the Declaration of Principles signed last November, and include areas of cooperation across many fields, including economics, diplomacy, health, culture, education, and security.
In the area of security cooperation, the President and the Prime Minister agreed that improving conditions should allow for the agreements now under negotiation to include a general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals -- such as the resumption of Iraqi security control in their cities and provinces and the further reduction of U.S. combat forces from Iraq. The President and Prime Minister agreed that the goals would be based on continued improving conditions on the ground and not an arbitrary date for withdrawal. The two leaders welcomed in this regard the return of the final surge brigade to the United States this month, and the ongoing transition from a primary combat role for U.S. forces to an overwatch role, which focuses on training and advising Iraqi forces, and conducting counter-terror operations in support of those forces.
This transition and the subsequent reduction in U.S. forces from Iraq is a testament to the improving capacity of Iraq's Security Forces and the success of joint operations that were initiated under the new strategy put in place by the President and the Prime Minister in January 2007.
What's it mean? Nothing. BBC may come closest to that reality when they note: "The BBC's Adam Brookes in Washington says the announcement is designed to encourage the idea that US troops are coming home, without committing to any dates." In which case, the hope would be to lull the American people into a sense that the illegal war is drawing to a close, so everybody calm down. Who is 'everybody'? Our pathetic 'peace' organizations who are focused on Iran and have forgotten Iraq? Roger Runningen and Ken Fireman (Bloomberg News) note that "White House spokesman, Gordon Johndroe, said the new statement doesn't reflect a shift in the U.S. position." At the State Dept today, spokesperson Sean McCormack attempted to play dumb. Responding to questions about the discussions between the puppet and the White House, McCormak first declared, "I think the -- well, the White House issued a statement about this." The next question was answered with, "And they -- the Iraqis -- also put out language." And then, "What am I going to add to the statement that has been issued?"
It's all very Nixonian, this 'plan' that no one can know about but everyone should know that peace is just around the corner. It echoes US Senator John McCain (presumptive GOP presidential nominee) claiming yesterday that the Iraq War could now be considered a 'win.' And, as with Nixon and his secret 'peace plan,' no one appears eager to probe McCain to explain what happens after a 'win'? Mitt Romney took to NBC's Today show this morning to speak vaugely of John McCain's 'goals' to end the illegal war to Matt Lauer but Matt was more interested in cracking resume jokes and asking about polls. Didn't even appear to note Romney's "sweet talk" jab at Barack ("I think in the final analysis that sweet talk is going to give into straight talk."). Maybe because Matt Lauer was too busy laying on the "sweet talk" ("Can I just recite your resume here?").
Today, James Risen (New York Times) reports that KBR's electrical work is even worse than thought -- and this was with it thought that only 13 US service members had died from being electrocuted in the showers due to cheap and shoddy work -- with people receiving daily shocks and Risen notes, "During just one six-month period -- August 2006 through January 2007 -- at least 283 electrical fires destroyed or damaged American military facilities in Iraq, including the military's largest dining hall in the country, documents obtained by The New York Times show. Two soldiers died in an electrical fire at their base near Tikrit in 2006, the records note, while another was injured while jumping from a burning guard tower in May 2007." Meanwhile Hurriyet reports that northern Iraq was bombed today by Turkish warplanes.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Nineveh Province car bombing that killed the driver and 3 members of the Iraqi military with seven more left wounded, an apparent assassination attempt on Laith Salih in Diyala Province -- Salih ("Awakening" Council) wasn't wounded but his brother was.
Reuters drops back to Thursday to note 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul with three more injured.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad.
Monsters and Critics reports, " The Voices of Iraq (VOI) news agency quoted a statement by the US Department of Defense saying a US soldier died of injuries after a car accident in Nineveh's capital some 400 kilometres north of Baghdad."
"Decades ago it was full of victories in the sixties and seventies," said Ralph Nader when asked about the changes in consumer advocacy. "Full of victories. You know, regulated the lack of safety in motor vehicles, flamable fabrics, Product Safety Commission, all kinds of -- going after usary interest rates for the poor and many other pieces of legislation. But now it's purely defensive. It's trying to hold the gains of the sixties and seventies and that's become a losing fight because the Democrats are not going after the Republicans on this issue, even in this campaign. The Republicans are terrible on consumer protection and the Democrats are not fighting back." Hold the line? You could apply the comments to reproductive rights (except Barack's now attacked them with his demeaning of Doe v. ). Nader was speaking to John Bachir and about the 2004 campaign (video here). But what about the consumer aspect? Yesterday the US Food and Drug Administration issued an announcement noting: "FDA is updating its warning to consumers nationwide concerning the outbreak of Salmonella serotype Saintpaul. As of today, FDA officials believe that consumers may enjoy all types of fresh tomatoes available on the domestic market, without concern of becoming infected with Salmonella Saintpaul. The agency is removing the warning that has been in place since June 7, which states that consumers should avoid certain types of fresh tomatoes due to a potential connection to the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak. Consumers may resume enjoying any type of fresh tomato, including raw red plum, raw red Roma, and raw red round tomatoes. While we are changing our consumer guidance about tomatoes, we reiterate our guidance to consumers that those in vulnerable populations (infants, the elderly, and immune-compromised people) should avoid eating jalapeno and serrano peppers as the investigation continues." In what world is that acceptable? For those who remember the earlier e-coli outbreak in spinach, in March of this year Consumer Reports' blog noted "a report recently released by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform called 'FDA and Fresh Spinach Safety.'
The findings paint a most unappetizing picture of food safety and once again underscore the need to give the Food and Drug Administration more resources to oversee the safety of the nation's food supply. The committee's investigation was prompted by the September 2006 outbreak of E. coli 0157:H7 that caused hundreds of reported injuries and several deaths—an outbreak that was ultimately traced to packaged fresh spinach. So where is the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform? June 7th was when the FDA issued their warning on tomatoes. A working Congress, a working committee would have called for public hearings immediately. But apparently the public safety takes backseat to showboating for elections so everyone has to wait until the end of July for any hearings. Jim Downing (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that "Americans have continued to get sick -- at a rate of about 20 people per day -- even after" the FDA issued their alert, even after they studied the spinach outbreak. US House Rep Diana DeGette issued a statement yesterday: "It is absolutely outrageous that we are 90 days into the salmonella outbreak and the FDA and CDC still cannot determine the source of contamination. Currently, over 1200 cases of salmonella have been reported, hundreds have been hospitalized, while the outbreak has affected 41 states, including Washington, DC and even Canada. The salmonella outbreak continues to spread, with nearly 30 cases a day, because we do not have a national, comprehensive food traceability system that would quickly track our foods from the field to the fork. . . . Now the FDA is saying that tomatoes are safe, but only because they have a short shelf life. We still don't know the source of the contamination and that is inexcusable." And it's inexcusable that Congress has done nothing but issue press statements while this has taken place. Stephen J. Hedges (Chicago Tribune) quotes a letter Senator Tom Harkin sent to Michael Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services, "It seems highly unlikely that tomatoes harvested in April would still be consumed fresh by consumers in late June." And it seems highly unlikely that an effective Congress 'addresses' this issue by sending letters instead of immediately calling hearings.
On a possibly related note, Bill Moyers and Michael Winship (PBS' Bill Moyers Journal ) point out:
But we also get into these terrible dilemmas -- where the big guys step all over everyone else and the victims are required to pay the hospital bills -- because we refuse to recognize the connection between money and politics. This is the great denial in democracy that may ultimately mean our ruin. We just don't seem able to see or accept the fact that money drives policy. It's no wonder that Congress and the White House have been looking the other way as the predators picked the pockets of unsuspecting debtors. Mega banking and investment firms have been some of the biggest providers of the cash vital to keeping incumbents in office. There isn't much appetite for biting -- or regulating -- the manicured hand that feeds them.
Meanwhile Team Nader notes:
Last week, we set a fundraising goal of $60,000 by Sunday July 20 midnight - to put Nader/Gonzalez on the ballot in a total of 15 states.
In one week, we have raised $44,000.
Now, we need your help to raise the remaining $16,000 over the next three days - by Sunday midnight.
If only 8,000 of you, our loyal supporters, donate $2 now, we will meet this goal.
Why is it important to have Ralph Nader on the ballot in November?
Without him, the plight of the Palestinian people will not be an issue in this year's election.
How do we know?
Because Obama/McCain stand with the militaristic right wing AIPAC lobby in the United States.
Nader/Gonzalez stand with the Israeli/Palestinian peace movements.
You will be hearing a lot this weekend about Obama's upcoming trip to the Middle East.
To keep Obama's trip in perspective, check out our new video - Nader on Obama/Israel - here.
Pass it around to friends and family this weekend.
It is also important to keep in mind that Obama is to the right of some Mossad Israeli hawks. (See recent Mother Jones article here.)
Even these Mossad Israeli hawks - along with the majority of the Israeli people - would open talks with Hamas.
Obama/McCain would not.
Nader/Gonzalez would reverse U.S. policy in the Middle East.
Obama/McCain would not.
We stand with the courageous Israeli and Palestinian peace movements.
We stand against the AIPAC militarists.
So, if you care about peace in the Middle East.
Please help us out today.
Together, we are making a difference.
TV: NOW on PBS will focus on "the forgotten war' Afghanistan (begins airing Friday on most PBS stations). Bill Moyers Journal (check your local listings, begins airing on PBS in most markets tonight, it also streams online -- transcript, video, audio) looks at the housing crisis and spotlights the continued decline of a once strong voice who guests on the program to talk about the 'up' of the housing crisis (for Democrats!). Gwen's fronting polls as a 'draw' for viewers of this week's Washington Week which should give everyone pause. Dan Balz is among the scheduled guests and the only one who might be able to penetrate the spin. And independent journalist David Bacon continues to explore the issue of immigration, his latest is "THE RIGHT TO STAY HOME" (New American Media). Bacon's latest book is set for release in September, Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press).