Sunday, August 03, 2008

And the war drags on . . .

If they manage to sneak in, the policy of the Harper government is to kick them back out. On the contrary, all of Canada's opposition parties voted in favour of relief but they don't control the courts and recently a federal judge ordered the removal of 25-year-old Robin Long, a U.S. Army deserter, from Canada. This means that Canada is no longer a safe haven for American soldiers who decide to evade military service at home or abroad.
Long would be the first U.S. deserter to be deported since the Iraq war began five years ago. About 200 other war resisters have sought refuge in Canada and, while some have lost their court appeals, they remain in Canada pending further deportation procedures.
About 20,000 expatriate Americans remain in Canada from the Vietnam war. The size of that number raises the stakes. Is Canada going to respond to resistance to the war in Iraq the same way that this country responded to the Vietnam war, or has there been a change in the attitudes of Canadians since the 1960s and 1970s?
Well, of course attitudes have changed about many things since those times, but we are talking about basic values in this case -- opening up our hearts and homes to people from another country even though we may not particularly like or agree with their nationality or politics.
The old standard arguments remain. Are these young men really conscientious objectors? Or are they simply cowards? Then there is, "They knew damn well what they were getting into when they signed up," versus, "Hey, these kids may have signed up to defend their country in all good conscience but they didn't expect to be fighting to line the pockets of oil barons or to put Persian art treasures in the living rooms of Bush's buddies, and some of the black kids simply bought into the message emphasized in those recruitment posters offering a career as a pilot or communications technician, not some controversial war."
No weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq and, while Osama bin Laden may be found in Afghanistan, he wasn't hiding out in Iraq, which is also not the central breeding ground for al-Qaida activities. So who was really fooling whom in those enlistment contracts?
Canada didn't buy in to the war in Iraq. The majority of the Canadian Parliament supports providing a refuge for American war resisters. Canadians, particularly the citizens of Winnipeg, have a long-standing history of opening up their hearts, their minds and their homes to young Americans in this situation.
So what is it going to be?

The above is from Don Marks' "How should Canada deal with Iraq war deserters?" (Winnipeg Free Press) and 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 -- 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 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."

In Iraq today a Baghdad bombing claimed 12 lives, the US military announced deaths, a special-session of Parliament ended with no results and Iraq's severe health crisis was happy-talked through a press conference.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war hit the 4,124 mark. And tonight? 4128. Today the US military announced: "A Coalition force Soldier was killed and one was injured a result of a vehicle accident southwest of Baghdad Aug. 2. The injured Soldier was transported to a nearby combat support hospital in Baghdad." The number should be 4129 because ICC does not currently include this announcement (and show one death for the month of the August): "A Coalition force Soldier died in the vicinity of Forward Operating Base Grizzly as a result of a non-battle death incident August 2. Two Soldiers were also injured as a result of the non-battle death incident. " Just Foreign Policy's counter estimates the number of Iraqis killed since the start of the illegal war to be 1,251,944 up from 1,245,538 last Sunday.

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that left nine people wounded, another which left two wounded, a Baghdad truck bombing that claimed 12 lives and left 24 wounded and a two more Baghdad roadside bombings that wounded five people.
Dropping back to Saturday, McClatchy's Sahar Issa reported a Diyala Province roadside bombing that claimed the lives of 4 "Awakening" Council members. Diyala is the province currently having the for-show action meant to reassure Americans that Iraq has "turned a corner." Somehow the additional presence of troops (Iraqi and US) did nothing to stop the attack on the thugs on the US payroll -- despite claims of 50,000 additional troops having entered the province last week.

Today in Baghdad a press conference took place on the state of health care in Iraq. Iraqis participating were Dr. Essan Namiq (Deputy Minister of Health for Grants and Loans) and Dr. Kahmees al-Sa'ad (Administrative Deputy Minister of Health). For some reason, a medical press conference required the participation of two American generals.

We learned that, unlike the United States, Iraq has some form of universal health care (Dr. Essame: "Frankly, Ministry of Health has a heavy weight on the budget of the state for offering free treatment inside Iraq, for sending the patients outside Iraq. Very heavy budget that's affecting the budget of the state. There is no neighboring countries, or all over the world any country . . . there is not country like us that offers free treatment." ). Diyala Province has a shortage of medications (Dr. Essam: ". . . yeah, maybe we are facing a shortage") and there is a serious issue with the limited medications in Baghdad being smuggled out of the medical environments onto the black market (Dr. Essam stated that "we expect to see such problems" and "hope" that a plan to address the problem will emerge at some point by "the end of 2008 to 2009").

In addition there have been problems with "spoiled blood" -- which Maj Gen Mohammed al-Askari (press spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense) intentionally avoided in his response. This was pinned on the people coming into Iraq. Though Iraq's borders are porous, Dr. Essam put forward the laughable claim that anyone crossing the border into Iraq is "going to be tested. This is especially in HIV. The . . . once the passport has been stamped, the person is being tested." Not only did al-Askari avoid that specific issue, he grabbed that question that was tossed to Dr. Essam.

July ended and the press gave rah-rah coverage in their end of the month reports when the reality is that the medical conditions in Iraq are a nightmare. For example, Dr. Essam admitted that they did not have the necessary prosthetics for patients who have limbs amputated. Shortages of medication, shortages of prosthetics, shortage of beds and, yes, shortage of medical staff. Dr. Essam floated the laughable claim that "many" Iraqi doctors were about to return to the country -- any day now! -- and when pressed on it, put foward the dubious claim that "more than 80% of the Iraqi doctors, and even in the deterioration of the security situation, they were here in Iraq and working. It is a fact." No, it is not. They were among the first to flee, long before there was a refugee crisis. It was part of the 'brain drain' that first hit Iraq. The number fleeing only increased when they became kidnapping targets and were also targeted with violence. Any doctors that do return will neither be housed in the Green Zone, according to Dr. Essam, nor provided with government protection because, he explained, 2008 is not like 2007.

It was revealed that nurses were selling medications and Dr. Essam wanted to remind everyone that "it is not within their job description." Asked about the huge increase in cancer rates in Basra and Najaf since the start of the illegal war, Dr. Essam claimed that was true "all over the world, the number of people afflicted with cancer is increasing." The issue of improving the hosptials (beyond exterior work) was raised (and it was noted that Shahad Adnan Hospital has over 13 floors and only two elevators as well as a bed shortage). Dr. Essam responded that, "It is good for their psychological health . . . it is good to take care of the appearance, to see the building a new, clean." Though that's of no comfort to someone climbing over 13 floors of stairs or doing without a hospital bed, Dr. Essan wanted the reporters to know, "We ourselves face problems with elevators."

On the political front, Iraq's Parliament ended their session Wednesday. They are now on summer break. Today they scheduled a special session that was to address provincial elections which were supposed to take place in October. The always postponed provincial elections ended up postponed yet again when a vote was pushed through (the Kurdish bloc walked out) that brought issues regarding oil-rich Kirkuk into the mix. The bill passed; however, it was shot down by the presidential council (made up of Iraq's president and two vice-presidents). Leila Fadel and Sahar Issa's "Battle over oil-rich city threatens to derail Iraqi elections" (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the latest:

Despite intense U.S. pressure, Iraqi legislators Sunday failed to reach an agreement to solve an increasingly bitter dispute over the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk.
Kirkuk sits on Iraq's northern oil fields and also on a fault line between the Sunni Muslim Kurds who dominate most of northern Iraq and the Sunni Arabs who occupy the center of the country. Saddam Hussein forced thousands of Kurds out of the city to make way for more Arabs, but since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the Kurds and their militia, the peshmerga, have driven many Sunni Arabs out of Kirkuk.
The parliament's inability to resolve the dispute over the city mirrors Iraqi political leaders' inability to make progress on other fronts, including constitutional amendments and the passage of a law governing the distribution of the country's oil revenues, despite the recent improvements in security.

Turning to US presidential politics, Ali Edney's "Nader Campaign Stops In Davis" (California Aggle) reports on a Nader-Gonzalez ticket's campaign stop:

The line outside of Varsity Theatre wrapped around the block Saturday night, but those waiting weren't there for a movie. They were waiting for Ralph Nader.
Nader and running mate Matt Gonzalez came to Varsity Theatre on Saturday to speak at a campaign rally, where they focused on their campaign goals and challenges.
The people in line were young and old, local and from surrounding communities, passionate Nader-supporters and undecideds checking him out. All were over-warm in the evening heat, waiting for the doors to the air-conditioned theater to open.

[. . .]
He talked about the "criminal gang in Washington," telling the audience that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had "betrayed" them by allowing spending increases in Iraq during her time as Speaker of the House, instead of cutting the Iraq War budget.

Remember that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels" went up this morning. New content at Third:

Truest statement of the week
Truest statement of the week II
A note to our readers
Editorial: Open Up The Debates
TV: Reality, Power and 'Reality'
Nader '08: Health care and dining
The Death of Panhandle Media
Captain Caveman Barack
Workin' it for Sister Baracka

Pru gets the last word. She highlights "Government ban on Iraq oil workers' union withdrawn" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

The Iraqi government has withdrawn an order banning eight key union organisers belonging to the powerful Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU).
The union leaders were ordered out of the southern city of Basra after the Western backed government of Nuri al-Maliki said they were members of “militias” and helped in the smuggling of oil.
The union denied these charges. Hassan Juma’a Awad, the head of the IFOU, called on unions around the world to rally to the oil workers.
In a statement he said, "This act is a clear evidence that the Iraqi state seeks to liquidate trade unions in this important Iraqi economic sector. It is important to note that the south is the main source of oil in Iraq."
Sabah Jawad, the spokesman for the Naftana, the organisation that campaigns for Iraqi oil rights, told Socialist Worker that the government reversed the order following mounting pressure from Iraqi unions and the international anti-war movement.
Jawad said, "We told Hussain al-Shahristani, the Iraqi oil minister, that this was not acceptable, and informed him that we were aware of the measures being taken by the oil ministry"
US and European oil multinationals are scrambling to grab Iraq's vast oil reserves. George Bush made the take-over of oil one of his key "indicators" that the "surge" is succeeding.
The return of the multinationals, 36 years after Iraq nationalised its oil, has been greeted with widespread anger.
The oil workers have been at the head of the movement resisting the hand over of the industry to western companies.
"The withdrawal of the order is a victory for international solidarity and Iraqi trade unions," Jawad said.
The following should be read alongside this article: »
US troops have Iran in their sights
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