Monday, August 04, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Monday, August 4, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, provincial elections do not appear likely in October, the US military announces multiple deaths, a Sunday Baghdad press conference reveals several Iraqi medical crisis, Nader gets on the ballot in California and more.
Starting with war resistance.  26-year-old Darrell Anderson, of Lexinton, Kenutcky, is an Iraq War veteran -- and a decorated one with a Purple Heart. Serving in the Iraq War drove hom that it was an illegal war, he decided to self-checkout. He went to Canada. He married in Canada. He went through the process of attempting to receive refugee status as so many have.  Then he decided to return to the US and turn himself in at Fort Knox. He stated that his work opposing the illegal war was a way to "make up for things I did in Iraq; I feel I made up for the sins I committed in this war." Due to the fact that the process largely followed what had been outlined ahead of time, other war resisters in Canada were considering it until Kyle Snyder attempted to return shortly after and found out he was yet again lied to. After being discharged, Anderson has continued to speak out and is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. (He was present to show support for Lt. Ehren Watada in the court-martial that wasn't. Watada, all this time later, has still not been released from the service even though his service contract expired in December 2006, two months prior to his court-martial.) Anita Anderson, his mother, has also remained active and, most recently, was giving support to Helen Burmeister, mother of US war resister James Burmeister who exposed the kill-teams in IraqAs noted in the Julsy 17th snapshot, Darrell Anderson continues speaking up and supporting other war resisers:

Chris Kenning (Courier-Journal) reported on Helen Burmeister's efforts and spoke with US war resister Darrell Anderson who also went to Canada. Anderson returned September 30, 2006 to turn himself in October 3rd. Like Burmeister, he suffers from PTSD and he also lost his benefits. He told Kenning, "It wasn't the easy choice, it was the hard choice. I lost my GI Bill, my veteran's benefits . . . but I did what's right, and I've still got my pride."
Anderson has gone through it all and continues to give and share with other war resisters.  The illegal war hasn't ended and Darrell hasn't stopped fighting it.  His story would not have ended in 2006 even if he had decided to pretend the illegal war wasn't taking place.  He was already a part of history -- a high point of history -- and he's taken his experiences and his knowledge to share with others in the need.  On Saturday Freeople noted a speech he gave last year:
I joined in '03," 'cause I was broke, I needed money, but I was a young American kid, I wanted to fight in a war. I joined up. [A] month out of training I arrived in Baghdad, Iraq, January '04. Saddam's been captured. And I get there and the guys I'm serving with have been there for six months already; they were there in '03. And I go, "Well, you know what, I think it's come out that, you know, these people had nothing to do with 9/11, there was no Iraqi on those planes. We can see around here there's no Al Qaida, there's no terrorist syndicates in Baghdad, or Iraq. Saddam had stamped 'em out." And I asked my buddies, "Well, you know, we're here to find 'weapons of mass destruction'." And they laughed at me. And I said, "Well, you know, we're here to 'help the people.'" And they laughed at me. And I said, "What's our mission? What's our goal?"...They're like, "All we're trying to do is make it home alive..." [. . .]  In April, they told us, "In a crowded area, if one person shoots at you, kill everybody." [. . .] They [members of the crowd of people] are letting them [the person or persons firing at the U.S. military] attack you. They're no longer innocent if they're there at the time of the crime . . .
War resisters are doing their part to end the illegal war 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."
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).
Sunday 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."  CBS and AP offer an embarrassing (mis)report but they may be the only outlet that covered the press conference.  To read their (mis)report is to grasp that the talking point about "doctors returning!" can be teased into several paragraphs with nothing to back it up and that all the very real and serious problems (brought up by reporters at the press conference) can easily be ignored.
From health to homeless, a number of Iraqis are squatters.  This situation was encouraged/endorsed by the US government with the White House wanting to privatize everything and willing to endorse state buildings being taken over by squatters.  In addition, the Iraqi refugee situation (internal and external) has led to squatting. Today Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reports on this issue and zooms in Ghania Jassim whose family became squatters after the start of the illegal war and rents soared so they ended up "in the former Iraqi air force headquarters.  The family set up a makeshift home in the former Iraqi air force headquarters. There were no government services, sewage ran through the streets and the children's toys were scraps of metal, rubble and garbage. Times seemed grim, but now Jassim looks back on those days as carefree.  About four years ago, bandits stopped her husband and demanded his car, his most valuable possession. He refused, and he paid with his life."  She is now the sole support for her family and makes her living off the black market -- makes her living as in: barely survives.  New troubles have emerged because she and her family were "ordered" to leave.  The family now goes house to house between family and friends and Ghania "and her five children sleep in a different place almost every night."  Ghania and the many others see no improvement in their lives . . . and Nouri al-Maliki sits on millions.  Day after day.
Staying with the political front, Iraq's Parliament ended their session Wednesday. They are now on summer break. Sunday 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 (McClatchy Newspapers) report that the special session resulted in no actions: 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. . . .  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."  Sudarsan Raghavan and Qais Mizher (Washington Post) note the special session was "to vote for the second time on the elections bill, which must be approved before elections can be held in the country's 18 provinces.  But the session never convened, because Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen lawmakers were unable to reach an agreement on Kirkuk, where their respective ethnic groups are locked in a struggle for land and resources."  They also note that Bully Boy of the US got on the phone yesterday to Mahmoud al-Mashhadani (Speaker of Parliament) and Adel Abdul Mahdi (one of Iraq's two vice-presidents).  Ned Parker and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) point out, "U.S. officials believe the elections, initially scheduled for October, are necessary for Iraq's long-term stability.  Sunni Arabs, formerly the country's elite, boycotted the last such elections, in January 2005, leading to the creation of provincial councils dominated by Shiite Muslims and Kurds.  The absence of Sunni Muslims from local government helped strengthen the Sunni-led insurgency across central and northern Iraq.  . . . The stalemate emphasized the fissurges and entrenched positions among Arabs, Turkmens and Kurds in northern Iraq, which often threatens to spill over into violence." Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) notes a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and left fifteen wounded, another Baghdad roadside bombing left two police officers wounded, a Mosual car bombing that left four police officers wounded and a Mosul bombing that was "targeting the convoy of Khisro Koran, the deputy of Mosul governor" which claimed the life of 1 bodyguard and left six more injured. Reuters notes one Baghdad car bombing claimed 10 lives ("including three policemen") and left thirty-eight injured while another claimed 4 lives and left six more wounded while a Baghdad minibus bombing claimed 1 life and left seven injured, a Hilla bombing that claimed 1 life and left two people (family members of the deceased) injured.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) notes an armed clash in Nineveh Province that left 2 people dead. Reuters notes 1 person shot dead in Hawija, 1 attorney was shot dead outside of Hillar and, dropping back to Sunday, 1 police officer was shot dead in Iskandariya, while 1 civilian was shot dead in Iskandariya in a separate incident which also left his wife injured..
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) notes 2 corpses were discovered in Baghdad and 1 corpse discovered in Mosul ("female employee in the governorate office").
Sunday 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." And they made this announcement: "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."  Today the US military announced: "Two U.S. Soldiers were killed and another wounded after an improvised explosive device struck their patrol in eastern Baghdad at approximately 9:30 a.m. Aug. 4."
Turning to the US presidential race.  Barack Obama, presumed Democratic presidential nominee, has caved againNow he likes off-shore drilling and sings the joys of compromise.  His latest cave made it a busy day for Amy Goodman who returned to her duties as Chief Cover-Up Artist For Barack. Remember she only plays like she's a journalist.  Ralph Nader is the independent presidential candidate and he is now on the California ballot.  Sharat G. Lin (Bay Area Indymedia) reports he won the Peace and Freedom Party's nomination on Saturday by "a majority of the delegate votes on the first ballot in a four-way contest . . .  Nader and Gonzalez promised at the convention to use their national campaign to boost the Peace and Freedom Party in qualifying for ballots in many other states.  Nader is already said to be polling the support of 6 per cent of the nationwide electorate." Peter Hecht (The Sacramento Bee) reports that the nomination took place "in a packed, sweaty room at the Hawthorn Suites" and that Nader's speech included criticism of the "Democrats and Republicans alike for condoning sustained war, abusing workers and neglecting families. . . .  He prevailed after firing up the crowd with an indictment of the Democratic and Republican parties for supporting 'a state of perpetual war.'  He vowed to fight for a workers' bill of rights and stand up against 'systems of cruel and brutal globalization'."  John Lyon's "Nader Campaign Submits Signatures For Ballot Spot" (Arkansas' Times Record) reports that 2,000 signatures were turned into the Arkansas Secretary of State's office Friday which should get Ralph Nader's name on the ballot and quotes the Nader Team's "regional coordinator for the South," David Peyton declaring, "The people of Arkansas were exceptionally willing to participate in the Democratic process and welcomed our petitioners into their communities from Little Rock to Fayetteville."
This is a biggest ballot access week of the campaign to date for Nader/Gonzalez.
With the addition of California on Saturday, we're currently at 23 states with seven to go to meet our goal of 30 states by the end of the week -- on our way to 45 states by September 20.
This is what we need today:
We need more roadtrippers to collect signatures to put Nader/Gonzalez on the ballot.
Optimum profile for a Roadtripper for Ralph -- energetic, youthful spirit, personable, fun loving, adventure seeking, democracy warrior.
If you can commit a week or more to get Ralph on the ballot in the Mountain West, the South, the Midwest, and the East Coast, contact
This week, we'll be turning in signatures in Maryland, Kansas, South Dakota, Alaska, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Iowa -- to put us at 30 by the end of the week.
We're halfway to our goal of $100,000 by August 10 to fund this 30 state drive.
So, please, donate now whatever you can afford $20, $50, $100 -- let's get it done this week.
Finally, two more installments to the Obama Flip Flop Watch:
Number one:
On May 4, Obama told Tim Russert on Meet the Press that he was willing to debate with "any of my opponents about what this country means, what makes it great."
But on Saturday, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe backed off, saying that Obama would debate only Senator McCain and only in the three rigged debates sponsored by the two parties and paid for by major corporations.
Number two:
Prior to last week, Obama said he was opposed to offshore oil drilling.
Last week, he said he was okay with it.
As we move toward November, and as Obama reveals himself to be the corporate candidate that he is, a significant portion of the American electorate will demand an alternative.
That's why it is so important to put Nader/Gonzalez on the ballot in as many states as possible.
And that is the important ground work we are completing now.
Come September, we will be in a position to demand open debates.
And present the American people with a viable candidacy that will shift the power from the corporations back into the hands of the American people.
If we meet our goal.
So, please, donate now, whatever you can.
And help push us toward our goal of $100,000 by the end of the week.
Together, we will make a difference.
Onward to November.