Thursday, July 24, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, July 24, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, a 'milestone' is reached (and only CNN catches it), another reported suicide bombing in Diyala Province as a 'crackdown' approaches, Nancy Pelosi reveals she never really cared about ending the illegal war, and more.


Starting with war resistance.  Last week, US war resister Robin Long was extradited from Canada.  Nanthaniel Hoffman (Boise Weekly) reports, "Long was escorted back to his Army unit at Fort Carson, Colo., on July 18 and promptly went before a magistrate judge.  He faces charges of desertion, and is being held at the jail in Colorado Springs because there is no detention facility at Fort Carson, according to Army spokesperson Brandy Gill."  Hoffman also steers readers to Rachael Daigle's interview with Robin in 2006.  In that interview he spoke of many things including CO status, "I tried to get conscientious objector status but my first sergeant told me he couldn't find the forms to apply and he didn't feel like looking for them.  I didn't know about conscientious objector status until a month before I got orders and that was when I first tried to do it.  Shortly after that, I got orders so I never really got a chance to apply for it."  Again, Robin was extradited and became the first US war resister ejected from Canada during the Iraq War.  Others are attempting to be awarded safe harbor in Canada.  "A plea from Vietnam war resisters to let Iraq resisters stay in Canada" (Owen Sound Sun Times) is a letter where past war resisters show solidarity with today's war resisters:


Almost 40 years ago, being young and idealistic, we came to this beautiful country to escape the demands that the U. S. military and government were placing on its citizens and society.  
We knew little of the country we came to but soon learned how important it was that people in Canada cared to help U. S. conscientious objectors.   
In 1968, with the help of the Mennonite, Quaker and United Church communities, the Canadian government agreed to allow U. S. deserters and draft evaders to stay in Canada and not be forced to return. This is not true for the current illegal Iraq war, where the Americans continue to send troops.     
There are hundreds of American Iraq war resisters in Canada. In spite of the fact that a majority of Parliament voted to allow the resisters to stay, the Conservative Harper government has stated that resisters will be deported and returned to the United States to face prosecution. Only Harper's Conservatives are supporting this deportation, but they get to decide.  
While this small deportation may look unimportant to most Canadians, Vietnam era immigrants remember the feeling of arriving in a country that 
If we help them stay, they will contribute their efforts to Canada as we did then and they will remember your kindness as we do now 
cared about its citizens; a country that believed in aspiring to fairness and justice.
We know that most Canadians do not agree with Prime Minister Harper's order for deportation -- recent national polls indicate that 64 per cent of Canadians support granting permanent residency to U. S. war resisters -- and we also know that Harper is not about to change without significant pressure.       
We ask that you remember and recognize the value that Vietnam war resisters brought to this country over the last 40 years and that you recognize the same potential in these new young U. S. resisters asking for the same opportunity.     

If we help them stay, they will contribute their efforts to Canada as we did then and they will remember your kindness as we do now.  
Please contact your local MP, Prime Minister Harper, Immigration Minister Diane Finley and Public Security Minister Stockwell Day to add your voices to the many other Canadians who are saying "let war resisters stay."
Andrew Armitage, Leigh 
Tim Hill, Owen Sound
thill@bmts.comDonald Holman, Traverston,
zetlin@bmts.comRobert Hope, Owen Sound   
bob@rbhope.caTerri Hope, Owen Sound      
terri@rbhope.caTony McQuail, Lucknow       
Elizabeth Zetlin, Traverston,


Kimberly Rivera is a US war resister and Iraq War veteran in Canada -- with her husband Mario and their two children (soon to be joined by a third).  Will DiNovi wrote about her in one of those 'online exclusives' at The Nation.  (Not an insult to DiNovi.)  Link goes to CBS News. 26-year-old Kimberly Rivera is from the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas.  After serving in Iraq, she returned home for a brief leave and tells DiNovi, "I was really messed up when I got back, with feelings I'd never had before.  Sometimes I just got angry, just completely explosive."  She and her husband originally headed east with no real plan on her part (Mario had already brought up Canada) before they ended up in Canada.


Kimberly and her family were unprepared for some of the hardships they experienced in Canada, but also for the support they received. The War Resisters campaign arranged housing for the Riveras with a family in a suburb of Toronto when they first arrived, and three months later helped them move into their own apartment.  
It took eight months for Kimberly and Mario's work permits to be processed, and during that time they relied on the assistance of the War Resisters campaign and made trips to the local food bank every Thursday. Now, as refugee claimants, they can work legally and receive healthcare benefits. After a part-time stint at a photo-shop, Kimberly is working five days a week at a bakery, putting in shifts from 2 until 10 in the morning. Mario does occasional computer assembly work and is searching for part-time jobs. Though money is tight, their schedules allow them to be with their 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter at all times.          
Kimberly's experience has also made her more engaged politically. She directly petitioned her Member of Parliament to stop the food bank her family had relied on from closing down, and now regularly attends the War Resisters campaign meetings and rallies.    
"I don't like the attention," she says, but "I do it because I feel like there's a story that needs to be told."   
Kimberly will have her pre-removal risk assessment hearing on July 23 and may face deportation as early as this fall. After learning this month that she is pregnant with her third child, her desire to stay in Canada is stronger than ever.


At her own site, Kimberly often blogs about her experiences and shares her poetry.  In April, she began one post, "I guess the hardest thing for people to understand is the reason you joing the military is not the reason you leave it.  Not knowing the truth.  Your basic role as a sodlier being invalidated, finding out your job has no meaning.  No reason."  In a poem that fellow US war resister in Canada Patrick Hart should put to music, Kimberly explains:


I was fighting your kind for killing my kind.  

I was fighting to find weapons that could wipe out large populations of peace.  

I was fighting to free you from the bad men, that harmed you and your family.

I was fighting for your liberty.  

I was fighting for peace.  

I was fighting to keep my family safe from you and your family.  

But in reality I was fighting to destroy everything you know and love.   


The end of that poem is, "Canada I am here will you take the time and the heart to understand what I am now fight for, with words and not a gun." 


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 hereThe War Resisters Support Campaign's petition can be found here.  Long expulsion does not change the need for action and the War Resisters Support Campaign explains: "The War Resisters Support Campaign is calling on supporters across Canada to urgently continue to put pressure on the minority conservative government to immediately cease deportation proceedings against other US war resisters and to respect the will of Canadians and their elected representatives by implementing the motion adopted by Parliament on June 3rd. Please see the take action page for what you can do."


There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Andrei Hurancyk, Megan Bean, Chris Bean, Matthis Chiroux, Richard Droste, Michael Barnes, Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Jose Vasquez, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Logan Laituri, Jason Marek, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).
Turning to the US, last week US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi revealed that Congress could have ended the illegal war when the Democrats took control of both houses after the November 2006 elections . . . if they'd wanted to.  Though it was reported on, no one seems to have caught it.  Pelosi has offered a number of excuses ("we don't have the votes" and It's-the-Senate's fault being among her more popular ones).  Any funding measure for the illegal war could have been filibustered as former US Senator Mike Gravel repeatedly pointed out but the simple truth is that as House Speaker, anything Nancy Pelosi didn't want to come to a vote, didn't have to come to one.  Carl Hulse's report in the New York Times was buried on A15.  Maybe that's why people didn't notice?  Or maybe they were stunned by the 1987 photo of Pelosi that ran with it?  Or maybe it was Hulse violating the rules of newspaper journalism by opening with backstory (1987) instead of offering "Yesterday" in the lede or anywhere early on.  In his fifth paragraph, he finally got around to today and quoted Pelosi in paragraph six stating, "The president of the United States, with gas at $4 a gallon because of his failed energy policies, is now trying to say that is because I couldn't drill offshore.  That is not the cause, and I am not going to let him get away with it."  After which, Hulse noted, "Her voice carries considerable weight because Ms. Pelosi, who is now House speaker, can prevent a vote on expanded drilling from reaching the floor."  Yes, she could, but, no, she wouldn't.  (For the record, I'm opposed to offshore drilling and opposed to it because of the ecological damage.  Pelosi, for the record, is opposed to it because her donating base doesn't want to see their property values drop -- an ocean-front property decreases in value when the view is of a drilling rig.) The same need to take action she feels on offshore drilling never applied to the illegal war.  But Pelosi always had the power to end the illegal war by burying any funding proposal and refusing to let it come to the floor.  But she would have been up against the White House!  And Republicans in the House!  And she is now.  Somethings matter to her, somethings do not. 
As the number of dead and wounded pile up, that needs to be remembered.  Today Sabrina Tavernise and Riyadh Muhammad (New York Times) report "Arkan al-Naimi, the son of the editor in chief of the weekly newspaper Sound of Villages, was accidentally shot dead by American soldiers on Wednesday, when he failed to stop his car after a convoy of Humvees pulled out in front of him" according to Kirkuk police officer Capt Mahmou al-Bayati.  On Sunday, Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reported, "An American Special Force raided the residence of Khalaf Issa Turk in al-Asri neighbourhood, Baiji at dawn, Sunday and opened fire upon Husam Hamed Hmoud al-Qaissi, son of the Governor of Salahuddin Province while he was asleep in the guest room and also opened fire upon Auday Khalaf Issa al-Qaissi, his cousin killing them both, and detained two others without giving any explanation, said a security source in Salahuddin Province. The American military said its forces shot two armed men during a raid because they felt they had 'hostile intent'. The statement added that the forces also injured and captured an al-Qaida financer during the operation."  Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Ali Hammed (New York Times) covered the shooting noting that the death had Hamed al-Qaisi, father and uncle of the dead and governor of Salahuddin Province, making noises about resigning and that the treaty the White House wants with puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki already has a "contentious sticking point . . . an Iraqi demand that American troops no longer be immune from Iraqi criminal laws, an ultimatum that Iraqi officials say has been spurred by unwarranted attacks on civilians." There is talk in the local government of other such shootings (at least two) and the version from the governor's side is that "American Special Operation forces broke into a house at 3 a.m. and fatally shot the governor's 17-year-old son, Hussam.  Maj. Muthanna Ibrahim, a spokesman for the governor, said Hussam was shot in his head, stomach and shoulder while he slept.  Hussam's 23-year-old cousin, Uday Khalaf, awoke and tried to push open the door to Hussam's room, but he was also shot and killed by the American troops, Major Ibrahim said.  The house is owned by Hussam's aunt". 
Meanwhile, AFP reports that northern Iraq was bombed last night by Turkish planes.  BBC points out, "Wednesday's attacks, in the Zap region, were the latest in a series carried out by Turkey since it intensified operations at the end of last year."  Hurriyet asserts "13 outlawed PKK targes" were hit according to the Turkish military. AFP notes the PKK asserts they "did not suffer any losses in the bombing". 
In Diayala Province today, a Baquba bombing claimed multiple lives.  Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that a woman "wearing an explosive belt targeted an Awakening Council Commander" and blew her self up and also claimed the life of the 'commander' Naeem al-Dulaimi, 2 of his guards and 4 people with twenty more wounded.  CBS and AP report that the death toll climbed to 8 (not counting the woman wearing the explosive belt) and note that, "Last week, double suicide bombings killed 28 army recruits outside a military base in Diyala."  AFP points out, "It was in Diyala that the phenomenon of women suicide bombers first appeared."  CNN estimates, "There have been about two dozen female suicide bombings in Iraq.  The bulk of them have been in Diyala -- an ethnically mixed province." 
Tuesday's snapshot noted that the 'crackdown' (assualt and slaughter) on Diyala Province is suppoed to begin August 1st.  As Amit R. Paley (Washington Post) points out, the bill for provincial elections is now buried by the Iraqi presidential council.  That means the 'planned' and 'announced' provincial elections may not take place in October, may not take place this year.  The March 'crackdown' on Basra saw peaceful protests as well as violent ones break out across Iraq and Moqtada al-Sadr is thought to have calmed that -- and to do have done so with an eye on the then-upcoming elections.  The assualt on Diyala may see reactions similar to those that broke out during the Basra assault.  Nicholas Spangler (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Some members of the Sunni Awakening, tribesman paid by the United States to fight al Qaida Iraq, are fleeing. 'They think the security plan will target them after the insurgents,' Mulla Sh'hab Alsafi, leader of one local Awakening group, told McClatchy. Diyala, home to Kurds, Arab Sunni and Shiites, is one of the most ethnically and religiously mixed provinces in Iraq.  Rich in agriculture, it's likely to be hotly contested in the upcoming provinical elections". 
In some of today's other reported violence . . .

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Abudlrahman Mohammed Dawood ("Dawa Party member") was wounding in a roadside bombing (apparently targeting him) as were two of his bodyguards and a Mosul car bombing that killed the driver and 2 Iraqi soldiers with an additional two left wounded.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 members of the "Awakening" Council were shot dead at a checkpoint in Baghdad by unknown assailants.  Reuters notes 1 teenager was shot dead by the US military in Kirkuk and 1 US service member was wounded.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad.  Reuters notes that 2 corpses were discovered in Yusufiya and 3 corpses were discovered in Mosul.
Last week, the US Defense Department noted, "Tech. Sgt. Jackie L. Larsen, 37, of Tacoma, Wash., died of natural causes July 17 at Balad Air Base, Iraq.  She was assigned to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, Beale Air Force Base, Calif." CNN reports Larsen is the 100 female US service member to die Iraq since the start of the illegal war.  Michael Gilbert (The News Tribune) noted, according to Beale Air Force Base,  that "Larsen was from Tacoma but was originally from the Philippines.  She joined the Air Force in 1990.  At Beale she was the lead noncommissioned officer in the base legal department.  She is survived by her mother and her husband, an active-duty airman also stationed at Beale".
Staying on the topic of women in the military, Sherry Jones (WeNews) reports that a "disproportionate number" of discharges (firings) for being gay are falling on women and that: "In fiscal 2006, women made up 17 percent of the Army but 35 percent of discharges under the 'don't ask' law. One year later, women were 15 percent of Army members, yet discharges of women increased to 45 percent of the total."  And Jones' report notes that straight women are also effected and often targeted as lesbians by others who want them out of the service.  Marcia covered that aspect last month when Thom Shanker (New York Times) reported the figures for the Air Force were women making up 20% of the personnel but 49% of the dischares under Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell.  As Marcia noted then, "I should probably also point out that the ones kicked out aren't necessarily lesbians. Or even bi-sexual. It can be a straight woman just as easily. All it takes is some whispers. Which is why straight people should be against sexual closets as much as the LGBT community (or the parts of the LGBT community that have pride in themselves)."  Staying on the topic of women in the military, IVAW's Jen Hogg wrote a column for Women's Media Center about the realities for women serving in the military: "Imagine if those flashy recruiting commercials showed the real dangers a woman can face while serving in the military, living her formative years in a hazardous work environment where racism and homophobia are tolerated for the sake of 'getting by' and sexual harassment goes unreported so you don't 'ruin his career.'  All this while women work twice as hard to prove themselves as soldiers -- more than just a 'bitch,' 'dyke,' 'whore'." She covers women murdered in Iraq by men they served with such as Kamish Black and Lavena Johnson (I'm saying Lavena was murdered, to be clear, not Hogg) and the unexplained suicide of Tina Priest after she reported rape.  Hogg is a co-founder of SWAN -- Service Womens Action Network.
Turning to the US race for president.  Allison Stevens (WeNews) is wrong that Barack Obama has won the Democratic Party's nomination.  No one has.  The convention has not yet been held.  He is the 'presumptive' nominee.  Stevens quotes Hillary supporter Marj Singer (president of the Virigina chapter of NOW) explaining that this talk of Barack going with one of his 'female' 'friends' doesn't mean s**t to her, "It's not enough to say, 'Oh, whoop-de-do, we'll get somebody else with a vagina.  We were not doing this because she was a woman.  We were doing this because she was fantastic on our issues" -- and then Marj Singer points out Senator Clinton and Senator Patty Murray taking action to stop the White House's attempts to place birth control under "the definition of abortion" with Singer stating, "There's just a feeling of, 'We really put a lot of energy into this and we got a bad deal.  People are just saying, 'Maybe we just shouldn't vote this time'."  Then it's time to trot out Nancy Pelosi who (wrongly) thinks she can speak to the 'girls' and get 'em in line.  Having refused to call out sexism (by the media, by the Obama campaign and by his Cult) throughout the 2008 primary, no one gives a damn what Nancy Pelosi has to say.   As noted, Barack isn't the nominee of anything at this point.  The Denver Group is attempting to bring democracy to the DNC convention in Denver. PUMA and Just Say No Deal are two other groups that are not going to fall in line no matter how many times Nancy Pelosi thinks her tired ass has any weight at this late date.  Staying with women, Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente (McKinney is the Green party presidential nominee, Clemente is her running mate) are not the first women of color ticket in a US presidential race.  Amy Goodman repeated that nonsense on Monday (and we called it out Monday  -- and Jim did with the note he added to my morning entry) and has refused to correct it.  As noted in the July 11th snapshot and many times since: " What About Our Daughters? explains that, if McKinney is the nominee, this is the third time two women of color would be on the ticket with the first being Lenora Fulani and Maria Elizabeth Munoz in 1992 (New Alliance Party) and Monica Moorehead and Gloria La Riva (Workers World Party) in 1996."  Workers World Party confirmed to Martha this week that, yes, Moorehead and La Riva were women of color and also noted that the party's publication (Workers World) has endorsed a presidential candidate for this election: "This time we are taking the unusual step of endorsing the candidacy of Cynthia McKinney because these are unique times and this is a unique candidate.  McKinney, a courageous Black woman and former U.S. Congresswoman from Georgia, has become one of the most militant leaders and voices for the U.S. left, progressive and Black movements. Because of her militancy in the struggle against the war, the struggle to impeach Bush, as well as her struggle to expose the government's role in the displacement of survivors of Hurricane Katrina, she was branded too Black and too radical to walk the halls of Congress.  She was pushed out, not once but twice, by the leadership of the Democratic Party.  Last year, McKinney severed her ties to that party." 
Turning to Barack, Jarrett (In These Times) points out that former US Secretary of State Colin Powell is advising Barack and wonders, "Where were the rest of the media on the fact that Obama, the candidate 'who was against the war from the start,' is 'wooing' one of the worst offenders responsible for the start of the Iraq War? Why wasn't this striking hypocrisy reported far and wide, turned over, and analyzed ad nauseum? Oh, that's right, because The New Yorker published a cartoon."  Barack loves Collie! Blot and all! But that's the War Hawk Barack for you.  As Bob Feldman reminds, Barack also voted to confirm the present Sec of State, Condi Rice.
Ralph Nader is running for president as an independent candidate.  Team Nader notes:

Drop fifteen dollars now on Nader/Gonzalez.


We now enter the most difficult and challenging ballot access stretch of the campaign.

We need to get on fifteen more states in fifteen days.

Last month, we laid out an ambitious ballot access plan.

Thanks to you, we have met stages one and two on time and on schedule.

Now, on to stage three -- 15 more states, a total of 30 states, by August 10 -- on our way to 45 states by September 15.

And we need to raise $100,000 by August 10 to fuel that drive and push us over the $2 million mark for the campaign.

Why is it important to put Ralph Nader on the ballot -- and get him into the Presidential debates this fall?

For one, because Nader is the only candidate who would take the bombing of Iran "off the table."

As Obama made clear yesterday in Israel, he's keeping the military option against Iran "on the table."

As would McCain.

And if you doubt the seriousness of the situation, check out Israeli historian Benny Morris' recent Op-Ed in the New York Times in which he predicts that Israel will bomb Iran within four to seven months.

Cooler heads must prevail.

While McCain and Obama are fueling the Israeli drive to bomb Iran, even some of their own advisors are warning about the disastrous consequences of such a policy.

Yesterday, Brent Scowcroft told the Israelis to "calm down" and Obama advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski said the "all options on the table" talk was "counterproductive." Brzezinski said he would tell Israel "don't do it."

That's of course why we need the strong Nader/Gonzalez off the table voice in the debates.

And the chances improve as we continue to poll at or above five percent -- see yesterday's NBC/WSJ poll here.

This was the third major poll putting us at five percent and above. (Remember, John Anderson and Ross Perot both got into Presidential debates because they met the then threshold of five percent.)

So, please, we need 1,000 of you, our loyal supporters, to hit the button now and contribute $15 each to kick off our drive to get to 30 states.

How will your generous donations help us on the ground?

Think about the more than 50 young at heart, dedicated road trippers working 10 and 12 hours, day after day -- working through blazing hot summer afternoons, ducking under covered awnings during heavy thunderstorms, and bringing the Nader/Gonzalez message to thousands of voters state by state.

We need your $15 donation to help buy gas for their rental cars, feed them, and help pay for thousands of photo copies.

We need your $15 donation to help buy Greyhound bus tickets, Amtrak tickets and airplane tickets.

Of course, we're always looking for one or two angels willing to max out and cover the "filing fees" -- like the one in West Virginia that will cost us $2,500.

How badly and urgently do we need your help?

  • Our New Hampshire crew needs to collect 4,000 signatures in 10 days -- that's 400 a day.
  • In Maine, starting Saturday, our crew has 12 days to collect 5,000 signatures.
  • Our people in Ralph's home state of Connecticut need to collect more than 700 signatures a day over the next 13 days.
  • In South Dakota, we need 1,500 signatures 10 days.
  • In Wyoming, we need 2,000 more signatures in 10 days.
  • In Virginia, we need to collect 600 signatures a day over the next couple of weeks.
  • In the Buckeye State, our Ohio crew needs to collect 11,000 signatures in the next couple of weeks -- 350 to 400 a day.

In short, our backs are up against the wall.

And the best way you can help get us on the ballot is to donate $15 now.

Help us lift off toward the debates in November.

Thank you for your generous support.

Together, we are shaking it up.