Sunday, August 24, 2008

And the war drags on . . .

Swiping from Third, Friday US war resister Robin Long was court-martialed in Colorado. Karen Linne, Fort Carson Public Affairs Office, explained Friday afternoon that he was sentenced to 15 months behind bars, reduced in rank (to E1) and given a dishonorable discharge. Robin was held at the Criminal Justice Center in El Paso Country while awaiting the court-martial and he will receive credit for the time he has served ("about 40 days"). Jupiter Kalambakal (AHN) reports, "During the trial, Long, 25, of Boise, Idaho, said he fled when his unit was deployed to Iraq because he felt it was an illegal war, according to CBC. Prosecutors, on the other hand, said he abandoned his duty and his country." Tom Roeder (Colorado Springs Gazette via Albany Times Union) notes that Col. Debra Boudreau presided as the judge, that the prosecution called no witnesses and that the prosecution "showed a six-minute video of Long, sporting dreadlocks and a beard, telling a Canadian news reporter 'I think I was lied to by my president'." That's the October 2007 CBC interview Robin gave. The use of the video indicates Robin's civilian attorney James Branum was correct when he told Nick Kyonka (Toronto Star) immediately before the court-martial, "I think they want to prosecute him for free-speech issues without actually charging him." The New Haven Register runs a McClatchy Newspapers-Tribune Services article entitled "Deserter sentenced to prison" which notes that Boudreau wanted to give Long an even longer sentence but was prevented from doing that as a result of the plea bargain Branum negotiated and reports this on the defense:

Among the defense witnesses was celebrated anti-war activist Ann Wright, a retired Army officer and former State Department official who has racked up more than 10 arrests with her outspoken protests, including some outside President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas.
She said the war was against the law, arguing that justified Long’s fleeing to Canada.
In most court-martial sentencing hearings, defendants try to show that they’re good soldiers and lean heavily on character to mitigate their actions. Typical witnesses include family members and fellow troops.
The lone character witness called to speak for Long was Peter Haney with the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission. He had met the soldier three times while Long was awaiting trial in the El Paso County, Colo., lockup.
"I've observed Mr. Long in situations that would be trying to just about anyone," Haney said. "He seemed to me to be extremely poised and lucid."

[. . .]
In his testimony, Long talked about his life in Canada and attacked the war in Iraq.
"I feel the war on terror is a war on peace," Long testified, saying he planned to eventually move back to Canada where he has a girlfriend and a son born while he was on the run form the Army.
In Nelson, British Columbia, Long said he perfected his organic gardening skills and converted his Volkswagen to run on recycled cooking oil.
Long told the judge he wanted to serve little or no jail time, but would take a bad conduct discharge as punishment.
He wrapped up his time on the stand by telling the judge, "Peace, love and light."
Long's civilian attorney, James Branam, closed his part of the sentencing hearing by comparing Long to Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr.
"The morality of what he did should lessen the punishment," Branam told the judge.

Yesterday morning's entry included a story that mispelled James Branum's name. I provided a link in Branum's name but didn't note it because I wasn't sure it was mispelled. To be clear, Jim Branum's last name is spelled "Branum." AP reports on Robin here. Over 48 people were reported killed over the weekend.

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 4,143 was the number. And tonight? 4146. Just Foreign Policy's counter estimates the number of Iraqis killed since the start of the illegal war to be 1,252,595 . . . the same number they were using last Sunday and the Sunday before. Apparently, despite reported violence, JFP doesn't belive any Iraqi's have died in over two weeks.

Turning to some of the reported violence and starting with Saturday.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing that claimed 4 lives (fifteen wounded), a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 3 lives (and wounded five) while another Baghdad roadside bombing left two more people wounded, a Baghdad bomber blew his/herself up and claimed 21 other lives (thirty-two wounded), a Diyala Province roadsidbe boming that claimed 3 lives (five more wounded), another Diyala Province bombing that claimed the lives of 4 Iraqi soldiers (either more wounded), a Nineveh car bombing claimed the life of the person in the exploding car and the lives of 3 police officers and 1 civilian and a Mosul bombing that claimed 2 lives. Dropping back to Saturday's violence Erica Goode (New York Times) notes a Kirkuk "suicide bombing" that claimed the lives of 5 people (plus the bomber) and left seven injured in an apparent attack on "Awakening" Council member Abdul Kareem Ahmed al-Obaydi (who was among the dead). Staying with Saturday, McClatchy's Hussein Kadhim reported a Baghdad mortar attack that wounded three soldiers, a Baquba roadside bombing wounded two people and a Mansouriya roadside bombing claimed 1 life.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an armed clash that left 1 civilian and 1 police officer shot dead and four more people wounded in Baquba. Saturday McClatchy's Hussein Kadhim reported 1 person was shot dead in Arbil and (on Friday) a Basra attack on Sheik Haider Ismail that left him wounded (shot three times).


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad. Saturday McClatchy's Hussein Kadhim reported 1 corpse was discovered in Baghdad.

In the Sunday New York Times, Sabrina Tavernise tackles The Myth of the Great Return in "Fear Keeps Iraqis Out of Their Baghdad Homes" which reveals: "Out of the more than 151,000 families who had fled their houses in Baghdad, just 7,112 had returned to them by mid-July according to the Iraqi Ministry of Migration." Tavernise points out:

The reasons for the hesitation are complex, based on dangers both real and imagined. In most cases, Iraqis say they feel safe with their neighbors but are not sure about other residents. Some are afraid of the new guards on their blocks. In rarer cases, they cannot face neighbors who they suspect helped in killings.

Also in today's paper, Erica Goode's "Gunmen Kill A Top Official In Baghdad" runs on A10 (where Tavernise continues from the front page). Goode is covering the Saturday assassination of Deputy Minister Kamal Shyaa Abdullah ("high-ranking official in the Ministry of Culture") while he was headed home (his driver was also killed in the attack).

New content at The Third Estate Sunday Review:

Truest statement of the Week
Truest statement of the week
A note to our readers
Editorial: Support War Resisters
TV: Cyborgs or gasbags, which is worse?
Denver Super Rally: Putting the issues on the table
Stephanie Tubbs Jones (1949 - 2008)
vanden Heuvel doesn't do corrections
Barack's Running Bud
Barack, the little s**t

Turning to the US presidential race, Ralph Nader is the independent presidential candidate, his running mate is Matt Gonzalez. Sonya notes this from Team Nader:

Nader Team Arrives in Denver
Posted by The Nader Team on Sunday, August 24, 2008 at 05:55:00 PM
Dear Senator Obama:
The Nader Team just arrived in Denver for the DNC.
We wanted to see what all the fuss was about, so we paid a visit to Invesco Field, the site of your upcoming speech.
Ironically, it was easier for us to get in there than it was to get in one of your debates.
Here we are protesting that fact.
As you can see from this photo, we managed to inflate a huge liberty bell at Invesco Field.
You know, liberty: the freedom to speak and debate.
A liberty that third party candidates are routinely denied by the mainstream press and mainstream candidates.
We want to change that.
So we are issuing a challenge to the Commission on Presidential Debates -- liberate debates from corporate control and end the anti-democratic exclusion of third party candidates.
And we are issuing a challenge to you.
You are the candidate of hope and change.
Consequently, we hope you will change your mind and make good on your offer to debate anytime, anywhere.
Participate in the Google debates in New Orleans on September 18th and urge them to include third parties.
John McCain said he'd do it.
How about you?
Do it for hope.
Do it for change.
Give people a real choice this election.
Onward to November!
Ashley Sanders

The Nader Team

Okay, Isaiah's latest goes up right after this. Pru notes ("This article should be read after: » Imperialism’s unstable world order") Alex Callinicos' "David Miliband is playing a dangerous game" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

British politicians love playing Winston Churchill. Tory leader David Cameron was at it last week when he flew to Georgia. According to the Guardian, Georgia's president Mikheil Saakashvili invited him after he compared the situation there to "the appeasement of Hitler".
But in fact the famous conflict between Churchill and his great rival and predecessor Neville Chamberlain in the late 1930s was over whom to appease. Britain was confronted by two rising imperialist powers, Germany and the US.
Since it couldn't take both of them on, the British ruling class had to choose which one to appease and which, if necessary, to fight. Distrusting the US, Chamberlain chose to appease Hitler -- thus earning the scorn of posterity.
But in order to defeat Germany, Churchill had to throw himself at the mercy of the US. His grovelling towards the US president Franklin Roosevelt has been repeated by every subsequent British prime minister.
True to form, foreign secretary David Miliband appeared on the Today programme on Wednesday of last week to denounce Russia's "blatant aggression" against Georgia. "The sight of Russian tanks rolling into parts of a sovereign country on its neighbouring borders will have brought a chill down the spine of many people," he declared.
Actually the sight of US and British tanks rolling into Iraq in March 2003 sent a chill down the spines of hundreds, if not thousands of millions of people. Listening to Miliband, I wondered whether he was being consciously hypocritical in ignoring such an obvious comparison.
My guess is that he probably wasn't. The leaders of the Western powers genuinely believe they are the "international community" and are entitled to make up the rules as they go along. Consistency is for other weaker states that must obey their commands.
George Bush displayed the same attitude when he said last Saturday that the Russian-controlled enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia were "part of Georgia" and that they "lie within [Georgia's] internationally recognised borders". He added, "Georgia's borders should command the same respect as every other nation's."
But why aren't Serbia’s borders entitled to "the same respect"? The US and the main European powers have supported the breakaway of Kosovo from Serbia, even though this hasn’t been sanctioned by the United Nations security council.
Nevertheless in the present crisis, the European Union (EU) as a whole has been far less bullish in backing the US against Russia. At the Nato summit in Bucharest last April, France and Germany vetoed Bush's demand that Ukraine and Georgia be admitted to the alliance.
Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, brokered last week's truce between Russia and Georgia. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, flew to meet Dimitri Medvedev, the Russian president. Germany has been relatively muted in its criticisms of Russia and has stated its opposition to US talk of expelling Russia from the G8.
Of course, this attitude is connected with German and French awareness that the EU depends on natural gas imported through Russia.
While it is cynical, the stance of France and Germany is at least rational. By contrast, the debate here in Britain is dominated by a race to see who can be toughest on Russia. Gordon Brown has ordered Miliband off to Georgia in Cameron’s wake. Meanwhile the Tory leader demands that "Russia must pay a price" and that Nato offers Georgia "a clear pathway to membership".
Miliband, Cameron and company should answer a simple question. Would they be willing to go to war with Russia to defend Georgia's "internationally recognised borders"? If Georgia was a Nato member it would be entitled to expect this.
Bush has shown that even he isn't prepared to go this far. As the Washington Post bluntly put it, the US "has neither the wherewithal nor the willingness to enter into a military conflict with Russia on its territorial border". But the support Saakashvili has been getting may encourage him into more adventures. Georgia’s Western backers are playing a dangerous game.
The following should be read alongside this article: »
Imperialism’s unstable world order» Nato moves east (map)» The US and Russia: the limits of a superpower» A Georgian tragedy» Polish activists: 'We've had Moscow, we don't want Washington'» It's not Czechoslovakia 1968
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