Thursday, July 31, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, July 31, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces two deaths, the White House fakes-out the press, Barack's support continues to be revealing, and more.


Starting with war resistance.  Yovany Rivero ("Geo") is an Iraq War veteran who has been twice deployed to Iraq.  While serving, his faith deepened and he applied for Conscientious Objector status -- please note, CO status does not depend on religious status (a fact noted in the US military's own written guidelines -- but one those 'determining' frequently ignore).  June 14th, he received a peace prize from The Rheinland-Pfalz Peace Adovacty Group.  Early this month, John Vandiver (Stars and Stripes) reported on Rivero "who enlisted in the Army in 2001 when he was 18" and notes:


Michael Sharp, who works closely with Rivero as an adviser with the Germany-based Military Counseling Network, said the soldier wants to keep a low profile and isn't looking to bring attention to his case. In particular, Rivero doesn't want his fellow soldiers, whom he respects, to misinterpret his position as a sign of disrespect, Sharp said.        

Though Sharp also declined to discuss Rivero's case in detail, citing Rivero's desire to avoid publicity, MCN has been working closely with numerous soldiers since the start of the Iraq war.       

Perhaps the best-known case connected with MCN was that of Agustin Aguayo, a combat medic who was found guilty in 2007 of deserting the Schweinfurt, Germany-based 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division as it prepared to deploy to Iraq in 2006. Aguayo returned to California last year after serving a brief prison sentence. Others, however, have found their conscientious objector claims supported: In 2006, seven soldiers who worked with MCN had their requests approved.


Last month Courage to Resist interviewed Iraq War veteran and war resister William Shearer. Shearer enlisted at 17-years in 2002 and ended up with a non-deployable unit ("teaching units what they needed to know before they went over to a combat area, we pretty much put them through a month long simulation of combat") but that changed in 2004.  Asked about his time in Iraq, Sharer responded, "It was more of like -- There wasn't a lot of action.  It was more of -- It's hard to explain down there.  Action over there is like getting IED or maybe getting shot at a few times or a car bomb goes off.  It's not exactly what you're expecting. It's more like hunting season, you're the deer."


While serving in Iraq, Shearer faced a number of problems, "In my case I had lost a lot while I was over there.  And it just started --  The more you lose and the less they do for you the more you start to see how jacked up things really are."  The problems included his new wife having a semi-public affair "with an MP on post" and he was hearing about it from his platoon sergeant who heard about it from his wife who lived across the street from Shearer's wife.  "And the army did nothing," Shearer states.  "And there's plenty they could do.  And they just they did nothing.  I lost a lot of money, I lost my family while I was there you know  pretty much.  And when I get back, I'd lost so much, it was like I needed to start over."  He returned from Iraq "like two days later . . . I got served divorce papers".


William Shearer: And the more things that pile up, it would just start detiriorating me as a soldier.  It would make me look worse and worse It would get harder and harder.  They didn't care.  That's what I'm trying to get across.  They don't care.  And if they don't care and nobody's helping you out, you start to not care.  You start to -- you just look at everything as bad, you have no positive whatsoever coming in. And so me and the military is pretty much diminishing quick.


Courage to Resist: So you're saying that not only didn't you get support while you were in a combat zone, you didn't get any support when you were back home either?


William Shearer: No, not really.  I was checked out for PTSD.  I got -- when I got home -- They put you through all of these tests, talk to a bunch of doctors I was diagnosed with PTSD, depression and a couple like sleep disorders and other things.  And pretty much all they did was just start throwing me pills.  Kind of like to shut me up, put me in a I-don't-care vegetative state.  Pretty much just to have me there.


His PTSD 'counseling' was completely lacking in targets, goals or medical supervision.  It was pair him up with an over-sixty-years-old retired military person and 'rap.'  Someone who had not served in Iraq. 


William Shearer: They give you this idea they're going to take of you and things are just one big family you know So I was thinking to myself "Man, I got to have a reset.  I got to find a way to get myself out of this and start over -- start my life over, you know.  I have nothing to work with."  So I pretty much started going through the things, asking around 'Hey, what happened to this guy for doing this?' when he -- you know -- did he get an article 15? I was mainly not so worried about the disciplinary actions but the  discharge that's what I was really worried about.  I was asking around and AWOL was one of the things, I heard a couple of things. But the one thing that came up for me was failing the urinalysis.  I-I- I just couldn't fathom anybody you deploy with or anybody who says they care about you so much -- like your batallion commanders do -- would put you out with a bad discharge after you showing for four years all the honorable deeds you've done.  So it seemed to me that that was the best route for me.  I wasn't so sure about AWOL.  So I knew -- I knew for a fact that if I failed the urinalysis, I would be able to get out and I was pretty confident that I wouldn't get anything less than a general discharge


Courage to Resist: And your concern about the type of discharge had to do with veterans' beneifts?


William Shearer: That and how am I going to live the rest of my life, you know, how am I going to have a career?  I just -- I -- There was a lot of things going through my head. You know -- as a matter of fact -- the very reason I was worried is actually what I'm doing now. You know.  I'm not --  There's nothing I have no options really. It's survival.


Courage to Resist: So you made a decision to fail a urinalysis test, is that right?


William Shearer: When I went home on leave I was just like "This is how I'm going to do it."  Because as soon as you come back from leave you know that the very next day you're going to get a urinalysis test.


He no longer supports the war and his thoughts on it today are:


I feel like they're exploiting those healthy young bucks that are just getting out of high school or going to be getting out of high school, you know They're telling these guys all these things they want to hear about how glorious and how fun and how good the military is.  Granted, there's something that are good about it but it's not going to last forever.  It doesn't last forever.  And when you do go in everything changes and one thing I can tell you, they tell you, you know you could end up in a war zone, okay?  When you sign up, you know all this stuff.  But what they don't tell you is that you're going to be driving around and you have rules on you that the people you're fighting don't use or go against -- They don't use any of those rules.  They don't abide by any rules. So you're pretty much a pawn.  You do what they need you to do regardless of how dangerous it is, you know?  For instance, you're just driving up and down a road expecting to get blown up.  We -- we covered a mile -- a good strip of highway -- it was the most used transport highway in Iraq.  It linked the north and south together.  And that's where all the supplies went up and down while we were there.  And our job for about two weeks was to patrol that strip of highway and eliminate all threats of IEDs whether that be they be blow you up or you find them first . They just don't want IEDs there   They don't tell you that you're going to be the person that they pick to walk up to a suspected IED and give it a little nudge to see if it's a bomb, you know? They don't tell you these things.  And these aren't things that these kids are thinking about -- they don't know that this stuff's there, they don't know  it's like this.  They're thinking they're going to go into the army, they're going to get take care of, and they're going to get put into a huge combat situation when it's not.  The only people that's getting to fire anything is the enemy.


There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Yovany Rivero, William Shearer, Michael Thurman, 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).
Yesterday in headlines on Democracy Now!, Juan Gonzalez explained, "In other Iraq news, the British government has announced there will be no prosecutions over the death of journalist Terry Lloyd, despite an investigation that blamed US troops. Terry Lloyd was shot dead in Iraq in March 2003 along with a French cameraman and an Iraqi interpreter. Two years ago, a British coroner ruled that US troops should be prosecuted for the unlawful killing of Lloyd, who was a well-known foreign correspondent for the British television network ITN. The coroner ruled that Lloyd was shot in the back by Iraqi soldiers. Then, as he was being driven to a hospital in a civilian minivan, Lloyd was shot in the head by US troops."  Jenny Booth (Times of London) quotes ITN's spokesperson stating, "Coroner Andrew Walker concluded just under two years ago that Terry Lloyd was unlawfully killed by American troops and ITN has done everything it could to try and ensure Terry's killer is brought to justice.  We are disappointed that the CPS has decided they cannot take this matter further, and that despite the coroner's call on the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions to demand that the Americans bring the perpretator of a possible war crime before a British court of law, the US authorities remain unco-operative."  Meanwhile, AP reports that journalist Ali al-Mashhadani is being held by the US military at Camp Cropper. al-Mashhadani works for Reuters, BBC and NPR. Dean Yates (Reuters) reports that (as usual) no charges have been brought against Ali and quotes David Schlesinger (Reuters Editor-in-Chief) explaining, "Any accusations against a journalist should be aired publicly and dealt with fairly and swiftly, with the journalist having the right to counsel and present a defense."  From Monday's snapshot, "Sabrina Tavernise (New York Times) reported . . .  'Also on Friday, the American military acknowledged that it unintentionally killed the son of an editor for an American-financed newspaper in the northern city of Kirkuk on Thursday. The military said soldiers had been fired at from a taxi and shot back, hitting Arkan al-Naiemi, 14, in the taxi'."  Saturday, Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) wrote about Arkan at Baghdad Observer noting that he "often stayed late at his father's newsroom in Kirkuk.  The editor-in-chief of the weekly Voice of Villages, Ali Taha, treated his son as a journalist in training. . . . The teen listened to pop music and was obsessed with computer games.  He loved the weekly trips he took with his father to sites in the area.  The most recent trip was to the Dokan Dam, the primary water source in Kirkuk.  He loved to stay late into the night at the Voice of Villages newsroom, a U.S. supported weekly, and help in any way he could.  Who knows what he would've been when he grew up.  Who knows what life he would've lived.  God had other plans, his father said."
"This has been a month of encouraging news from Iraq," declared the delusional Bully Boy in DC today.  He gave his usual lies and spin.  Progress -- blah, blah, blah.  He was most transparent when declaring, " This week, the Iraqi government is launching a new offensive in parts of the Diyala province that contain some of al Qaeda's few remaining safe havens in the country. This operation is Iraqi-led; our forces are playing a supporting role."  Yes, it is a for-show effort.  But first, reporters were led to believe that today's speech from Bully Boy would include something major and that it would include news of the treaty the White House wants with their puppet, Nouri al-Maliki, in Baghdad.  Alissa J. Rubin and Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) teased out whispers and gossip of a draft treaty about to be final so much in this morning's paper, it was practically a beehive.  And they noted that the White House's "unofficial deadline for the deal has long been July 31. . . . Also, the White House announced late on Wednesday that President Bush would make a statement on Iraq on Thursday morning."  The press got played.  It was the first question in the US State Dept press briefing today (Dana Perino -- doing White House gaggles -- was peppered about a "staff wedding" -- way to work White House press corps).  It was pointed out that the agreement was wanted by July 31st which is today and there is no agreement.  State Dept spokesperson Sean McCormack immediately insisted he'd never said a deadline (no, he personally did not) and then had difficulty keeping a straight face.  Still chuckling, he referred reporters to the morning speech and finally finishing with, "In terms of negotiations, those are ongoing and I won't go into detail on those." Asked again about this topic, he referred to the White House statements.  From Iraq, Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) reports on Diyala Province.  The for-show action goes on.  Zavis goes with a number of 30,000 Iraqi troops in Diyala and yesterday, Jim Lehrer (PBS' NewsHour) worded it this way, "In Iraq today, a military offensive in Diyala province moved into a second day. Some 50,000 Iraqi troops backed by U.S. forces went door-to-door, hunting al-Qaida fighters. An Iraqi regional leader said the operation was expected to last about two weeks."  Hint, when the numbers being given out do not match, it's a hype action.  In the real world, violence continued . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 Baghdad roadside bombings that left 2 Iraqi civilians wounded and 2 Iraqi soldiers wounded, a Mosul car bombing that killed the driver as well as 3 police officers with four others wounded, 2 other Mosul car bombings that left nine wounded.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 corpses discovered in Baghdad and three corpses (women) discovered in Mosul.
Today the US military announced: "A U.S. Soldier died in a non-combat related incident while conducting operations in Ninewah Province July 31. Additionally, two other U.S. Soldiers were injured in the incident."  And they announced: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. 
Sgt. James A. McHale, 31, of Fairfield, Mont., died July 30 at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., of wounds suffered July 22 in Taji, Iraq, when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 40th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Baumholder, Germany. "



Turning to the US race for president.  January 16, 2007 Barack Obama declared his intention to run for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.  Interesting.  Before Barack told the American people he was running, months before, he met with a rapper.  Deanne Bellandi (Chicago Sun-Times) reported November 29, 2006 on Barack's meet up with "rapper Ludacris . . . Obama declined to comment after their meeting but walked with [Chris] Bridges [Ludacris' legal name] to the elevator as he left." Nearly two months before Barack would tell the American people that he had decided to run for president, he was sounding out Ludacris.  By that time Ludacris was already gutter trash with a long history of misogny.  It got him kicked from the Jackson County Fair in 2003 -- three years prior to Barack's first known 'counseling' with Ludacris.  That wouldn't stop Barack from praising him to Rolling Stone and bragging that he had Ludacris on his iPod.  Presumably the feminist manifesto "Move Bitch"?  Ludacris is in the news and a complete reflection on the gutter trash campaign Barack has run.  And Barack's praised him as among the "great talents and great businessmen."   [See Cedric's "Gutter Trash you can smell" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! THE LEADER TRIES TO CONTROL THE CULT!"]  The Guardian of London has long been in the tank for Barack.  They're a laugh and not real journalism.  It's only on this side of the ocean that they're taken seriously.  In England they're seen as the party organ for the Labour Party.  So let's see how they lie.  Ewen MacAskill 'informs' that: "Obama, seeking to become the first African-American president, was not helped by a song by the Grammy award-winning rapper Ludacris endorsing him and abusing McCain, George Bush and Clinton."  To be clear, Rev. Jesse Jackson is disrespected in the song.  In a rap song, that's not surprising.  In one attempting to help out Ludacris' lover-man Barack, it's appalling.  Way to pimp that 'unity.'  The remark about John McCain would have people screaming if anyone had said it about Barack.  But what does Ewen Pig leave out?  Hillary. 

Laura Yao (Washington Post) explained it this way, "On YouTube yesterday, rapper Ludacris released a song called 'Politics,' in which he denigrates President Bush, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) -- all in the space of about two minutes. . . In the next line, the three-time Grammy Award winner calls Clinton an 'irreleveant [slur for female]'."  It's a campaign song for Barack and it's recorded by the man Barack's not only praised but sought out for 'counsel' since November 2006.  What was Barack's response?  As usual NOT A DAMN WORD.  His campaign flack was sent out.  A detail Foon Rhee (Boston Globe) and many others fail to grasp.  Barack's not condemned a thing.  Feminist Wire Daily finally decides they can call out sexism.  Of course, they fail to connect it to Bernie Mac's sexist routine at Barack's campaign event earlier this year which led to boos and heckling -- and to Barack finding it so delightful, he had to 'joke' tooWomenCount PAC (which FWD doesn't even think to link to) "is calling for an apology as well as a blanket condemnation by the Party leadership. . . . These lyrics are outrageous, offensive, and unacceptable.  In an e-mail this afternoon to its membership, WomenCount states, 'It is another example of hateful, sexist language being used on the campaign trail, and now is our moment to make it clear: not on our watch!  The leadership of both parties must step up to condemn such hateful speech and demand apologies.  The Obama campaign has criticized the lyrics, but we call on the presumptive party nominee, who is the celebrated subject of the new song, to go even further: Publicly condemn the song.  Demand an apology on behalf of the targets.  Now."  Now?  And where our the little girls of NOW?  The same useless 'leadership' that could insist The New Yorker DESTROY copies of their magazine bound for overseas (while ignoring the Bernie Mac event) can't seem to say a DAMN THING.  Did Kim sleep in this morning?  If you're missing it, check the news coverage and note how ha-ha and 'minor' this is being treated.  CBS News online?  Could Scott Conroy explain how calling Hillary a "bitch" doesn't strike him as "harsh"?  Are our 'leaders' going to stay silent again?  Are they going to betray women again?  And when does CBS plan to public respond to what they allowed online?  As Ava and I noted in "CBS 'cares' enough to promote sexism," the network's news site shut down comments on Barack stories when they felt racist comments were being left ("too many" was actually how it was worded -- apparently CBS will accept an undefined number of racist comments) but they didn't do a damn thing about the sexism and, in fact, their online policy does not even name sexism as being off limits.  It does name comparisons to Hitler off limits (no surprise after CBS' problems with the mini-series earlier this decade) but they waived that rule repeatedly to allow Barack's gutter trash to post that Hillary was Hitler.  Feminist leaders, if they're really leaders, will get off their asses and call this out because we don't need you as leaders if you don't.  Women have been trashed -- this isn't just about Hillary -- non-stop for months now.  Leaders either show they can lead or face the threats of boycotts that are already rumbling in the grassroots.  (If a boycott is called, Ava and I will do our part to get the word out on it when we speak to women's groups.)


Ralph Nader is running for president.  Doug G. Ware (KUTV) notes that Nader speaks tonight to a group at the University of Utah and that the former mayor of Salt Lake City (and Nation magazine cover boy) Rocky Anderson will introduce him.


Team Nader notes:


We're up against it here in Ralph's home state --- Connecticut.

I'm Ken Krayeske, the state coordinator, and I promised Ralph I would get him on the ballot here.

We have only 7,000 signatures in hand. And we need to get to 15,000 in five days.

We have 30 to 40 people on the ground collecting in Connecticut and we need to pay for their gas, transportation, copying costs.

You get the picture.

To do that, we need your donations now -- $10, $20, $50, $100 -- whatever you can afford.

Why are we busting it so hard every day to get Ralph on the ballot here?

Because it's not just about Ralph.

It's about you and me and a young man named Derek O'Kanos. (Check out Derek's short video here about why he likes Ralph ---

Last Friday, Derek phoned me.

"I want to help petition," he said.

"How old are you?" I asked.

"Sixteen," he said.

"Wow! That's fantastic, but you need an adult to help you out, because you have to be a registered voter," I said. "But before we get into logistics, I don't often get calls from 16-year-olds. Can you tell me how you know about Ralph?"

"Two years ago, Mr. Nader came to my high school," Derek said.

"What school is that?" I asked.

"Enrico Fermi in Enfield," Derek said.

"No way," I said. "I helped organize that. There was a standing room only crowd. What did you think of Ralph's speech?"

"I didn't see it," Derek said. "I was a freshman, and I was in World History class, and my class didn't go. I guess they thought that Ralph didn't fit with world history."

"Bummer," I said.

"Yeah, but I've been interested in Mr. Nader since then, reading about him, and I want to help him," Derek said.

So we discussed strategies for him to convince adults in his life to go out and petition with him.

Derek recruited his uncle's girlfriend to transport him and witness signatures at grocery stores.

Next, he corralled his grandfather to drive him around neighborhoods in suburban northern Connecticut. (Above is a photo of Derek and his grandfather)

Shortly after, I got this email from Derek:

"Today was truly amazing. No more than a few days ago I felt an overwhelming feeling of worthlessness. I felt that there was nothing that I could do due to my age and transportation issue. Then we talked and I went out and did something. I truly felt like I was a part of something, that I was making history. I could have volunteered for many other political campaigns, but it was the Nader/Gonzalez campaign that truly inspired me. I can openly support every policy of the campaign and sleep at night. This is a campaign that puts national interest before personal interest. We the people -- not for sale! Gives me chills. It is truly amazing to see an entire organization of everyday people working towards one beautiful common goal and putting power back into the hands of the people."

Let's not let Ralph, Derek and all our supporters down in Connecticut.

Donate now whatever you can afford.

Hit the contribute button.

Together, we are making a difference --- in Ralph's home state and beyond.



Other news.  Republican US Senator Ted Stevens is in the news (due to his indictment).  NOW on PBS earlier probed the story of that corruptionBIll Moyers Journal have been exploring Capitol Crimes and this Friday on the program will explore the continuation of thes Capitol Crimes:


Like the largesse he spread so bountifully to members of Congress and the White House staff  -- countless fancy meals, skybox tickets to basketball games and U2 concerts, golfing sprees in Scotland -- Jack Abramoff is the gift that keeps on giving.
The notorious lobbyist and his cohorts (including conservatives Tom Delay, Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed) shook down Native American tribal councils and other clients for tens of millions of dollars, buying influence via a coalition of equally corrupt government officials and cronies dedicated to dismantling government by selling it off, making massive profits as they tore the principles of a representative democracy to shreds.





john vandiver

mcclatchy newspapers
leila fadel

 the new york times

 sabrina tavernise

 alexandra zavis
 the los angeles times
 the new york times
 alissa j. rubin
 steve myers lee