Wednesday, July 30, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, Parliament takes their summer recess, a war resister tells his story, for-show actions continue in Iraq, a new report on waste in Iraq is released, and more.
Starting with war resistance. Alex Atamanenko is a Canadian MP from the New Democratic Party. He writes a letter to the editor of Arrow Lake News:
Tuesday, July 15th will go down as a black day in Canadian history. The first Iraqi War Resister from the American military was deported from Canada for refusing to fight in a war that Canada refused to get involved in, that the United Nations has called illegal, and that much of the world sees as an invasion of a sovereign country for oil resources.
And, of course, "draft dodgers" and "deserters" were both welcomed into Canada during Vietnam. On Robin Long, the War Resisters Support Campaign states:
Against the wishes of Canadians and Canada's Parliament, the federal government deported U.S. Iraq war resister Robin Long to the United States, where he faces punishment for refusing to participate in the Iraq War.
War resisters in Canada need your help. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org -- that's "finley.d" at "parl.gc.ca") and Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, 613.992.4211, phone; 613.941.6900, fax; e-mail email@example.com -- that's "pm" at "pm.gc.ca"). Courage to Resist collected more than 10,000 letters to send before the vote. Now they've started a new letter you can use online here. The 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."
Thank goodness for The Canadian Press. Were it not for their article, the CBC, the Welland Tribune, the Globe and Mail and the Buffalo News (among others) might have blank spaces. Instead, all work from the same TCP article to tell you that Deltona, Florida's 23-year-old Tyrone Pachauer was arrested by US Customs and Border officers as he attempted to enter the US following a self-checkout while on leave (December 19th through January 1st). He was reportedly living with relatives in Brampton, Ontario while AWOL. Precious Yutango (Toronto Star) is the only one filing a report and cites US Customs and Border Protection's Kevin Corsaro stating, "Supposedly, he had left boot camp in December for Christmas break. I guess he decided he didn't want to be in the army anymore so he fled to Brampton." Meanwhile AP reports Casey Anne Hardt (18-years-old, from Chiloquin, Oregon) was arrested in . . . Louisiana -- which may hold the record for the most arrests of AWOLs during the Iraq War. She was arrested at a traffic stop in Bossier City (right next to Shreveport). AP states she had a desertion warrant and was now awaiting "extradition to Fort Leonard Wood", MO.
Courage to Resist speaks with Michael Thurman (audio interview) about how he signed up, at seventeen-years-old, for the delayed entry program in 2005 while in high school, "I was really interested in aviation and having a career in aviation. . . . One day the air force recruiter came to school and I was talking to her about joining the military as an air force maintenance technician and eventually working to become a pilot." He described himself at that time as "indifferent," "young," "motivated by self-interests" and in "a conservative right-wing household."
In his senior year he "found some new friends" who provided him with "more of a liberal lean towards politics. So I started seeing it through those eyes and that's when I started becoming a little discontent with the war and the government. . . . But I was still ready to go."
Thurman was then sent to Lackland Air Force Base for basic training where, "I just questioned a lot of things I was being taught." In one class the training was videos of violence -- people being shot, people being blown up -- which led Thurman to questioning. As did "one of the chants was about killing people" which all indicated that "it just seemed like a really hateful, angry situation I didn't want to be in."
Michael Thurman: I didn't really want to be part of killing people but I was already in and I didn't really have a choice so I just advanced and kept telling myself it might get better. So I went through tech school with that . . . with that kind of -- I was a little bit angry about my situation and I got depressed about it a lot. And from there -- It was actually during tech school that I started studying a lot of Eastern philosophy and thought and Buddhism and Taoism and that kind of changed my perspective in a spiritual way towards humanity and towards existence. So . . . I guess I could say at that point I could say I was totally opposed to the situation I was in.
Eventually, he ended up at Beale Air Force Base:
Michael Thurman: I started working out on the flight lines. And every day I was out there I just thought of all the indirect killing I was contributing to and I just couldn't take it anymore. So one day I told my supervisor that I didn't agree with any of it and I didn't want to be in the military anymore. And I told him, if there was any way I could get out, I'd like to get out. They took me off of flight run. He's actually the one who told me about consientious objector. I actually didn't know about the term until I was introduced to it by him. So I looked into it and I read down the criteria and I thought, "Wow, yeah, this is what I am, this is what I'm going to apply for so I can get out of the military." So I applied for consientious. objector status and it took me a long time to it was a really arduous process. They put me in -- they put me in the office. They took me off of flight line and put me in an office. And I was just doing personnel work just pushing paper and filing. I was like a file clerk and that sort of stuff which I was still contributing to it. So every day that I was in, I was in constant turmoil about even the little, the little stuff -- like mopping or taking out the trash. It still contributed to this huge system that I was totally opposed to being.
Courage to Resist: So from the time you first asked to get out until you were discharged, how long was it?
Michael Thurman: It took a very long time, eight months for me to get discharged by the time I applied for conscientious objector status. What happened was, when I applied I had to write a huge paper about what I believe and how it came to be and why I couldn't contribute to war anymore. And at that point, I had to talk to a psychiatrist to make sure I was still sane. I guess they thought I might have been crazy . . . I talked to a lawyer at the legal office and she's actually the one that processed all my legal stuff and determined whether or not I was actually a cons obj and she recommended me to my base commander and it basically went up the chain of command so that's why it took a long time. Oh and I also had to talk to a chaplain and the chaplain gave me a report about my religious and spiritual beliefs. And, so yeah, from that, from those interviews it goes to legal office on base and then it just goes up the chain of command. And it went all the way up to the Secretary of the Air Force and it took eight months for that to happen.
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).
In the US today, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstuction issued a report. Stuart Bowen Jr. issued a note to the report [PDF format warning] explaining, "The United States has now appropriated more than $50 billion in taxpayer dollars for Iraq's reconstruction." The report notes its basis is "seven new audit products" between May 1st and June 30th of this year. The US has outsourced and done so badly if that's not redundant. As is well known, the US government has provided no oversight. Most recently, Dana Hedgpeth and Amit R. Paley (Washington Post) reported Monday on a finding from the Officie of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, "The U.S. government paid a California contractor $142 million to build prisons, fire stations and police facilities in Iraq that is has nver built or finished". The report released today notes these oversight problems on the part of the US government:
* Inappropriate payment of award fees.
* Insufficiently defined scope of work.
* Inadequate preparation of detailed and independent cost estimates.
* Not initiating timely action to close out task orders.
Of course a key problem was the awarding of no-bid contracts on what appears to be a crony system. Parsons is always in the news . . . when it comes to corruption. The report is not different and notes Parsons re: fire houses, "SIGIR reviewed the largest task order, Task Order 51, which called for Parsons to design and construct 21 fire stations in Anbar and Baghdad. Because of multiple delays and cost increases, the U.S. government reduced the number of stations to be constructed to 100. Later another fire station was eliminated before construction began because of land ownership issues, and a second was terminated for the convenience of the government after it was bombed twice during construction leaving nine. In 2006, Parsons completed the nine fire stations and transferred them to the GOI. The award fee paid to Parsons for wok on this tark order was $296,294 -- 23% of the total available award fee."
Parsons bills itself as "a leader in many diverse markets such as infrastructure, transportation, water, telecommunications, aviation, commerical, environmental, industrial manufacturing, education, healthcare, life scienes and homeland security." The company was formed in 1944 and moved to Pasadena in 1992 -- a move James F. McNulty instituted four years prior to be coming CEO and President of the company. McNulty is currently the Chair of the Board (and has been since 1998) and he joined Parsons upon retiring from the US army (Col.) in 1988. What a ride it's been for McNulty. Griff Witte (Washington Post) reported at the end of the 2006 that Parsons and McNulty felt under attack from Congress and McNulty was blaming others and that he "suggested the government needed to rethink its heavy dependence on the private sector for reconstruction, security and support in a combat environment. The comments are unusual for the leader of a firm that makes much of its money doing work for the government. Then again, few have been battered as badly as Parsons, an employee-owned, California-base compnay with a six-decade track record. Since the spring, when news of the stumbling health clinic program first broke, the company's preformance has been derided in the press and upt under the microscope at congressional hearings. At a hearing in September, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) spoke of a $75 million police academy that Parsons was responsible for but that wend badly awry: 'This is the lens through which Iraqis will now see America. Incompetence. Profiteering. Arrogance. And human waste oozing out of ceilings as a result'." On a June 23, 2004 broadcast of PBS' NewsHour, Waxman called it what it was: "It is looked at as profiteering. And we shouldn't have that go on a time when we've got brave. American men and women who are facing the possibility of giving their lives to help the U.S. effort." McNulty rejected that and insisted that there was no way "we are somehow taking advantage of either the Iraqi people or our government." In January of last year, KCET's Life & Times was returning to the difference of opinions between Waxman and McNulty with Waxman arguing, "I don't think anybody ought to get paid and be able to keep the money if they didn't do what they were supposed to do. Then they found that the Iraqi subcontractors didn't do the work, so why should the United States taxpayers pay for that? We should get our money back." To which McNulty responded, "There is nothing wrong with our firm having made a profit on that work that we did over there in Iraq. It was legitimately earned. It was honestly earned and none of our employees nor our firm should feel the least bit bad about that." That 'honest' work that McNulty's so proud of is best evaluated by Jackie Northam (NPR) reporting in May of 2007: "Getting a definitive answer on the number of clinics completed by Parsons is not easy. Of the original 151 promised, the construction company says it handed over 20 fully equipped, completed health-care centers. The Army Corps of Engineers disputes that number, saying it received only six completed clinics. Some of those needed additional work, the Corps says."
The SIGIR report notes that "Iraq's oil revenues will crest $70 billion by the end of the year." meanwhile approximately $40 million in US tax dollars was wasted on a prison outside Baquba (Kahn Bani Sa'ad) which was turned over to the central government in Baghdad (to finish).This prison was a Parson's 'effort'. The report notes, "About $142 million was spent on various Parsons projects that were ultimately canceled or not completed, including Kahn Bani Sa'ad. The report notes Iraq's deputy prime minister (Barham Salih) stating, "Iraq does not need financial assistance." BBC explains, "This . . . meant the government was capable of fundign reconstruction projects itself. The report also criticised the Iraqi authorities for failing to improve sewage and drainage facilities. . . . Roger Hardy, the BBC's Middle East analyst, said the report was the latest in a string of criticisms by the watchdog of the way in which American taxpayers' money is being spent in Iraq" Click here for HTML folder containing links to the -- PDF format warning -- sections of the report. Peter Spiegel (Los Angeles Times) points out, "Democratic leaders in Congress are pushing the administration to pressure the Iraqi government to fund its own infrastructure projects through rising oil revenue."
Meanwhile, the pagentry of puppety . . . Diyala Province. Campbell Robertson (New York Times) reports, "Military officers, both Iraqi and Americans, said the insurgents had probably fled the are after news media reports that the sweep was to begin soon, though officials had been saying publicly that it would be likely to begin in early August." Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) explained, "Iraqi soldiers and national police encountered no resistance as they knock in Baqubah and the town of Khan Bani Saad, about 15 miles south. But this is well-trod ground for the Iraqi forces and their U.S. counterparts, who have conducted repeated operations in the area since last year." It's a for-show effort that (a) props up the puppet Nouri al-Maliki and (b) makes the war seem 'winnable.' In the real world, Reuters reports that Moqtada al-Sadr has "called on Iraq's leaders not to sign a security deal with the United States, offering to throw his support behind the government if the talks were scrapped." Iraq's parliament is out of session now (for one month); however, Reuters reports that Parliament Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani has called a special session for Sunday to address the electoral issues.
In some of today's reported violence . . .
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left three more wounded as well as "3 policemen and 4 civilians" injured.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul and 1 judge shot (wounded not killed) in Mosul (as well as the judge's bodyguard).
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Dora.
Turning to the US presidential race, Jonathan Duckles of Team Nader notes:
Last Friday on Capitol Hill, the House Judiciary Committee weighed in on "executive power and its constitutional limits" in an inconsequential discussion of King George's imperial presidency.
There would be no vote on impeachment, no discussion of the dereliction of Congressional duty, and no Ralph Nader.
Ralph Nader, who has long championed the necessity of impeachment for W's repeated, defiant high crimes and misdemeanors, was not invited to testify at the Rayburn Building on Friday morning. Writer DC Larson summed the situation up, proclaiming that the "Democrat-led Congress are as unconcerned about political justice as is any neo-con in Rupert Murdoch's Rolodex."
The Nader campaign was there to observe, along with hundreds of other concerned citizens, but couldn't crack the guest-list, despite a run-in with Ms. Kucinich . Only 16 individuals were granted admission into the hall to observe testimony from the following witnesses:
Hon. Dennis Kucinich
Hon. Maurice Hinchey
Hon. Walter Jones
Hon. Brad Miller
Hon. Elizabeth Holtzman
Hon. Bob Barr
Hon. Ross C. "Rocky" Anderson
Jeremy A. Rabkin
Frederick A. O. Schwarz, Jr.
Said Chairman John Conyers with regard to his committee's inaction, "we are not done yet, and we do not intend to go away until we achieve the accountability that Congress is entitled to and the American people deserve."
Let's hold Congress to this.
Let's reclaim the Constitution.
Let's start now.