Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, August 5, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, the stalemate in Parliament continues, Turkey continues to be worried, the Guardian of London continues to reveal that a political party's newsletter (New Labour) doesn't make for journalism, news of Robin Long, Ralph Nader and -- gasp -- the Undead Speaks -- meaning we should all keep a close eye on Yorba Linda. 
Starting with war resistance.  US war resister Robin Long's civilian attorney James Branum has a YouTube video where he explains some of the basics of Long's case.  Branum is a member of the National Lawyers Guild (and co-chair -- with Kathleen Gilberd -- of their Military Law Task Force).
James Branum: What's happening in Robin's case, Robin Long was an American soldier.  And when he was recruited to join the US military, his recruiter and him were talking and Robin told the recruiter, said, "I'm okay with being in the army but I don't want to go to Iraq. I don't believe in it."  Recruiter said, "Don't worry about it. You won't have to go to Iraq.  I can make sure you won't.  In fact, you'll be stationed at Fort Knox here in Kentucky.  So Robin thought, "Okay, I can live with that."  So he did that, he joined.  Turned out the recruiter was honest about one point.   Yes, he was stationed at Fort Knox [. . .] however he was told very quickly, "Yes, you're going to Iraq and you're going to be sent to Fort Carson, trained to go to Iraq and then, after that, you're going to be sent there."  So Robin, what he ended up doing was, he ended up going to Canada and there's a lot there that I can't go into about his story but to make a real long story short it was an issue of conscience at the end of the day.  He had to do what he felt was right.  He couldn't do something that he felt wasn't right.  And he couldn't go.  That's what it comes down to.  So when he got to Canada, he was living his life.  He applied for aslyum status so he could stay there.  And he was working.  And as an asylum seeker, he was able to get a work permit and what-not.  He also had a son while he was there who's now about two-years-old.  And he had his life very well established.  He did a lot of different jobs.  All kinds of different stuff.  For awhile, he was a fruit picker.  He worked in different orchards.  In fact, that's kind of what got him into trouble cause when he was working as a fruit picker, he was a seasonal migrant worker, you know?  And so he was, for awhile, out in British Columbia.  And he was previously in Ontario and there was a misunderstanding [. . .] from Canadian immigration about where he was supposed to check in to.  And Robin thought he had checked in like he was supposed to.  The immigration authorities say he didn't.  There's a misunderstanding there.  But to make a really long story short, even though Robin was fighting this in the Canadian courts, the Canadian officials pulled a sneaky manuever -- basically, they were able to fast-track him through deportation within four days so that he or his lawyer did not have time to respond appropriately in the Canadian system.  And so he was trapped and he was sent to the US. 
And what happened was he was held in jail for a few days in Canada and then he was handed over to US officials at the border.  And actually, the Canadian officials even told the US officials, "Here's your deserter."  Handed him off.  And so from there, the immigration officials transferred him to a local jail and he was held in two different local jails for awhile before the military came and picked him up and transferred him to Fort Carson, Colorado.  And at that point, at 11:30 at night, they had a hearing to decide whether he would remain in what is called pre-trial confinement.  Because in the military, you don't get bail.    Basically, you either are released before your trial or you wait in pre-trial confinement. 
So they had a hearing late at night.  Robin was put into jail. And since that point, he has been held here in Colarado Springs in the Criminal Justice Center in El Paso County -- basically just a regular old county jail with all kinds of people, dangerous criminals many of them, and it's a difficult place to be.  But Robin's in good spirits and we're now dealing with the consequences of his action in the military courts here.
Robin Long was extradited.  He was not deported.  If that wasn't obvious before, it should be from the description above.  Judge Anne Mctavish needs to be held accountable for her actions.  The extradition process in Canada would have immediately opened up other avenues of appeal for Robin.  That's why she didn't want to call it "extradition."  Calling it "deportation" allowed her to act with NO OVERSIGHT.  It wasn't deportation and -- repeating again -- as the father of a young Canadian child, the immigration laws in Canada are very clear about Robin's rights to stay in the country.  It would be politically beneficial to the New Democratic Party, the Liberal Party and Bloc Quebecois to call for Parliament to hold an investigation into how Haper's government and Mctavish allowed Long to be extradited while telling the people of Canada he was being deported.
I would like to thank Mr. Moore for his letter of July 18 in response to my earlier letter on conscientious objectors. Although I disagree with Moore's opinion on the legality of the Iraq war, I truly welcome honest public debate on important matters such as this one. 
The unsanctioned invasion of Iraq occurred March 18, 2003, a full seven months before the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1511 to ensure the "restoration of stability and security" in response to the chaos caused by the invasion. The resolution does not and could not provide retroactive exoneration. The fact remains, Stephen Harper would have committed Canada to this illegal war if he were Prime Minister at the time.  
As for Afghanistan, I would much prefer that Canada was there with our original intention of peace-keeping and reconstruction. However, our troops deserve our full support in this new, combative role, which is sanctioned by the UN. 
The point of my letter was that the Conservative government must respect the motion on conscientious objectors passed by Parliament. Harper himself said the government has a moral responsibility to respect such motions. This motion is based on an issue of fundamental human rights, and it is downright callous to ignore it.  
According to an Angus Reid poll conducted June 6 and 7, 2008, after Parliament passed the motion calling on the government to make a provision to allow war resisters to stay in Canada and to cease all deportation and removal proceedings, two-thirds of Canadians want Canada to grant permanent residence status to U. S. Iraq war resisters.  
The Harper Conservatives are afraid of raising the ire of their ideological cousins in the Republican administration but, ignoring the democratic will of Parliament and the views of the large majority of Canadians will only raise the fury of Canadian voters who want a more progressive government that reflects Canadian values.  
Steve Clarke, Federal Liberal candidate for Simcoe North
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 finley.d@parl.gc.ca -- that's "finley.d" at "parl.gc.ca") and Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, 613.992.4211, phone; 613.941.6900, fax; e-mail pm@pm.gc.ca -- 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."
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 at the US State Dept, Gonzalo R. Gallegos (the department's "acting deputy" spokesperson) declared, "My understanding -- that the Iraiq parliament did not convene on Sunday.  However, it has not yet recessed and lawmakers remain ready to reconvene once a new bill is ready for them to consider.  The Iraqi political leaders are continuing to discuss the elections law.  Ambassador Crocker and [US] Embassy officials continue to encourage Iraqis to work towards compromise and consensus, and to develop an elections law that will allow for provincial elections this year."  Provincial elections.  Long postponed.  Long said to take place in 2008.  Said for most of the year to take place in October.  Fell apart last month as the Kirkuk issue split Parliament and led the Kurdish bloc to walk out.  Campbell Robertson (New York Times) notes the United Nations is yet again proposing that the issue of oil-rich Kirkuk be tabled.  As Robertson appears to explain it, not only would the issue of whether Kirkuk remained with the central government or split off into the Kurdish region be tabled, also tabled would be Kirkuk participating in provincial elections.  Conspiracy!  That's what AFP reports the Kurdish region's president, Massud Barzani, has called some efforts and quotes him stating, "After the long talks we held it was clear for us that what happened on July 22 was a big conspiracy and very dangerous for the democratic and constitutional process of Iraq, in particular against the Kurds."  From the July 22nd snapshot:
Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) reports today on "a walkout by Kurdish lawmakers over how to deal with the disputed oil city of Kirkuk" with regards to the supposedly upcoming provincial elections and quotes Khalid al-Attiya (Deputy Parliamentary Speaker) stating, "We cannot have a vote with an absence of a whole faction.  The vote is useless.  It will be rejected by the represenatives of this bloc and by the presidency council."  CNN notes the makeup of the presidency council: Jalal Talabani (President, Kurd), Tariq al-Hsahimi (Vice President, Sunni) and Adel Abdul Mahdi (Vice President, Shi'ite) and adds, "Many observers believe Talabani would stand with his Kurdish compatriots and vote against the measure, bringing it back to square one."  Kurdish MP Mahmoud Othman is quoted by AP stating, "The draft of the provinical elections law will be referred to the presidential council, which will definitely not approve it.  So the elections will be postponed until next year."
If the president of the Kurdish region is upset, you can take that to mean the issue is far from resolved. So it should come as no surprise that today's meeting resulted in nothing.  The Iraqi Parliament closed session for the summer last Wednesday (yes, they did Campbell Roberston).  They scheduled one special session for Sunday.  At that session, nothing was accomplished.  Nothing was accomplished yesterday and nothing was accomplished today.  Hurriyet notes of Sunday: "A vote had been planned for Sunday but it was scrapped when lawmakers failed to agree on how the elections would affect Kirkuk, which minority Kurds want to make part of their semi-autonomous northern region.  Turkey's Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli called on the country's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in a written statement to warn Iraqi Kurdish groups in Kirkuk more openly and take the necessary measures in order to protect Turkmen's rights.  Turkey, who has historical ties with Kirkuk, has been monitoring the situation very closely and calls on all parties to reach consensus for a solution."  At the US State Dept yesterday, Gallegos was asked about Recep Erdogan (Turkey's Prime Minister) speaking to Jalal Talabani (Iraq's President) to express concern over Kirkuk being annexed into the Kurdish region and Gallegos responded, "I think we said something about that last week, I believe.  And our position is that we believe that this -- now is not the time to be making such a decision.  We believe that the parties need to leave themselves open to all appropriate or -- all options in order to come to an understanding so that they can proceed with provincial elections this fall."
Strange wasn't it?  How the United Nations pitched to Iraq just what the US favored?  As Hurriyet noted, "Iraqi political leaders reached a tentative compromise on Monday" and were due to debate it again today.  UPI explains, "The Iraqi Parliament adjourned its Tuesday session without reaching an agreement on provisions in the election law regarding the status of the city of Kirkuk.  Shahied al-Jaberi with the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance said lawmakers opted to postpone the issue until the Wednesday session because lawmakers could not agree on the Kirkuk issue, Voices of Iraq reported."  They also note Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, Parliamentary Speaker, even arranged for the time alloted for debate to be extended but that resulted in nothing as well.  Iran's Press TV reveals that, should the measure pass, "Elections in Kirkuk would also be postponed until no later than December 2009."  BBC reports that "a Turkmen representative, said a delay [in Kirkuk voting] was unacceptable."  China's Xinhua quotes Parliament's Deputy Speaker Khalid al-Attiyah, "The parliament session to approve the provincial election law has been delayed until tomorrow."  Ned Parker Said Riifai (Los Angeles Times) point out, "The deadlock also prevented a vote by parliament on a $21-billion supplemental budget.  The crisis has marked the first time that elements of one of the most prominent Shiite Muslim parties, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, have broken with the Kurds, their traditional allies."
Meanwhile Bully Boy faces a fresh onslaught of charges that he lied the world into an illegal war.  Tim Reid and Sam Coates (Times of London) report that Ron Suskind's latest book (The Way of the World) includes details such as
* British intelligence (specifically M16) was informed that Iraq had no WMD in January 2003, that then Prime Minister Tony Blair was informed of that and that Poodle Blair passed it on to Bully Boy.
*That the CIA was ordered by the White House to create a forgery "from the head of Iraqi intelligence to Saddam Huseein" in order to falsely tie Iraq to 9-11.
Bill Plante (CBS News -- link has text and video) reports: "The book alleges that Habbush, Saddam's intelligence chief, was in CIA protective custody after the 2003 invasion, that the White House ordered CIA officials to have [Tahir Jalil] Habbush  [al-Tikriti] write and backdate the letter, and paid him $5 million. The author quotes two former CIA officials who claim to have seen a draft of the letter on White House stationery."  Interestingly (but not surprisingly) the Guardian of London is AVOIDING this story.  That's only a surprise for anyone that confuses that RAT-TRAP with actual journalism.  The Guardian sold the illegal war in England.  When the Times of London exposed the Downing Street Memos, the Guardian refused to cover it. The Guardian is the DLC party organ in England.  It is not journalism, it is not a newspaper.  You have MPs in England saying that there needs to be an investigation and you have . . . silence from the Guardian.  Never confuse that outlet with journalism.
Ali al-Mashhadani is a real journalist practicing real journalism.  As noted in the July 31st snapshot, he is being imprisoned by the US military with no charges against him.  The Committee to Protect Journalists has released a statement:

U.S. military authorities should present charges against a Reuters cameraman detained since last Tuesday, or they should release him immediately, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.  
[. . .]  
A spokeswoman for the Multi-National Forces-Iraq told CPJ that al-Mashhadani was detained because he posed a security risk and that his case would be reviewed within a seven-day period that began on July 29.  
"This is the third time U.S. forces have detained Ali al-Mashhadani without charge," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. "The military has never substantiated any wrongdoing by him. The authorities must make evidence against him public or release him immediately." 
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 Baghdad roadside bombings that left five people wounded.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an attack on "Awakening" Council members in Kirkuk that left 3 of them dead.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes a corpse was found in Mosul today.
For those keeping score (and you should be) the deaths of 2 US soldiers from a Baghdad bombing Monday was covered in print by Ned Parker and Said Rifai's "Roadside bomb kills 2 U.S. soldiers in Baghdad" (Los Angeles Times) and Sudarsan Raghavan's "Two U.S. Soldiers Killed in Baghdad Bombings" (Washington Post).  The New York Times did not think it was news. That's five since Saturday according to ICCC.
Turning to the Undead -- it's got to be the only reason he's still around.  Aging  boy-toy Hank Kissinger shows up in the Khaleej Times to dish -- and with nary a starlet around.  Kissinger who sold and re-sold an earlier illegal war sometimes makes sense -- sometimes that's insane sense, sometimes . . .  Today he declares of withdrawals from Iraq, "Under the fixed withdrawal scheme, combat troops are to be withdrawn, but sufficient forces are to remain to protect the American Embassy, fight a resumption of Al Qaeda and contribute to the defence against outside intervention. But such tasks require combat, not support forces, and the foreseeable controversy about the elusive distinction will distract from the overall diplomatic goal."  Yes, he has noted the problem.  Those are combat troops whether you call them "combat" or something else.  Where he's wrong is when he claims that there's no need for a fixed withdrawal.  (Mass killings are and have always been Viagra for Hank.)  But that's the reality of Barack's plan that supposed 'peace' 'leaders' don't want to face.  It's not withdrawal.  It was never withdrawal.  Maybe with Kissinger pointing it out, it will finally register.  In other news of presumed Democratic presidential nominee and presumed narcissist Barack Obama, US News & World Reports offers an exhuastive round-up of the reaction to his latest cave
 A widely-distributed AP story also says Obama's proposal "includes two significant reversals of positions he has taken in the past," noting that "as recently as last month" he "argued against tapping into the petroleum reserve," while USA Today reports Obama's proposals include "two reversals of positions he has taken in the past." A widely-syndicated McClatchy pieces is titled, "In Another Switch, Obama Calls For Tapping U.S. Oil Reserve," and says "Obama's revised position on a key energy issue was his second shift in three days." Likewise, the New York Times titles its piece, "Obama, In Shift, Urges Tapping Oil From U.S. Reserve."
However, the Wall Street Journal reports that Obama aides defended the move, saying Obama "had met with economic advisers and business leaders in Washington last week, and they had advised him to call for tapping the government reserve." The New York Daily News adds, "Team Obama cast the proposal as a 'refinement,' rather than a flip-flop, on Obama's previous opposition to tapping the 770-million barrel reserve."
In an editorial, the San Francisco Chronicle says that Sen. Obama's "energy policy is offering more flip flops than a Lake Tahoe souvenir stand." The New York Post editorializes, "One more week, one more Barack Obama reversal on a key issue. Actually, make that two reversals. ... So much for principles."
Turning to independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader.  As Ruth pointed out yesterday, "AP reports today that Mr. Nader's campaign will turn in signatures tomorrow to qualify for South Dakota's ballot. Lebanon Daily News reports that Mr. Nader should be on Pennsylvania's ballot because the campaign has collected 24,666 signatures (the deadline is Friday). Jesse A. Hamilton (Hartford Courant) reports that the Nader-Gonzalez ticket picked up the nomination of California's Peace and Freedom Party ('carrying with it an automatic slot on the California election ballot') and contains this statement from the Nader campaign, 'There can no longer be any justification -- if there ever was -- for Ralph Nader not being included in every national poll'."  Foon Rhee (Boston Globe) noted the Nader campaign's plans for the week includes garnering "the November ballots of seven states".  Tim Carpenter (Capitol-Journal) reports that "Kansas is the 22nd state in which Nader's forces filed papers since his campaign began in February."  Richard Winger (Ballot Access News) reports Nader is now on the ballot in Michigan. AP notes the campaign plans to file for the ballot today in South Dakota. Meanwhile John Geluardi (San Francisco Weekly) covers the College of Marin campaign stop Sunday by Nader and running mate Matt Gonzalez with Gonzalez asking the large crowd assembled, "How is he [Barack] going to 'change' the culture of Washington if he can't stand up to those corporations?"  Nader's remarks included, "We now grow up corporate.  When you start looking at ads when you're two, three, four years old, pretty soon the world is Madison Avenue.  Then in college it's computer skills, computer skill, computer skills.  What about civic skills?  Young people think they live in a Democracy because they can vote for American Idol."
Finally, from Team Nader:
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