Wednesday August 6, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, a war resistance anniversary approaches, 6 US service members have died in Iraq since Saturday, the Iraqi provincial elections seem unlikely this year, the puppet al-Maliki sits on millions and spends very little, and more.
Starting with war resistance. In June 2006, Ehren Watada became the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. That decision followed much research on his part and the decision at the end of 2005 that he could not participate in an illegal war. For months prior to going public, Watada attempted to work with the US military which gave him every indication that they wanted to work with him on this issue. But no alternative was ever accepted. Instead he was repeatedly told that something would happen, some decision would be reached. His command was attempting to run out the clock because June 22, 2006 would be when he would deploy to Iraq and they thought if they strung him along he would have no choice but to deploy. Instead, Watada went public. Almost two years ago, his Article 32 hearing was held (August 17, 2006). The Article 32 hearing allowed Watada to call witnesses such as retired Army Col Ann Wright and former UN under-secretary Denis Halliday. Lt Col Mark Keith oversaw the Article 32 hearing. In February 2007, Judge Toilet (aka John Head) presided over the court-martial. Judge Toilet had his own idea of 'justice' which included refusing to allow Watada's defense to explain why he decided to refuse to deploy. He could admit (or not) that he refused to deploy, but Judge Toilet wouldn't allow his reasons to be explained to the military jury. Judge Toilet also refused to allow Watada's attorney to call various witnesses. It was 'justice' in name-only. Despite that, Watada's case was presented strongly. So strongly that, on the third day, when Watada was due to take the witness stand, Judge Toilet suddenly found fault with a stipulation that he himself had explained to the jury and that he himself had overseen. Judge Toilet 'suggested' the prosecution move for a mistrial and the prosecution did not immediately take the hint or grasp that Toilet was handing them a do-over. When they did grasp it, they made the motion and Judge Toilet ruled the court-martial a mistrial over defense objection. The Constitution prohibits double-jeopardy -- one of those pesky laws Judge Toilet never grasped. Toilet said the second court-martial would take place in March of 2007. It did not. It has not taken place. Last November US District Court Judge Benjamin Settle ruled that the Constitutional issue had to be resolved. It still hasn't been resolved.
In December 2006, Watada's service contract expired. The first court-martial took place despite that fact. All this time later, Watada remains in the service and reports for duty on base while he waits for the US military to figure out their next move. The military had their chance to court-martial him but when Judge Toilet realized Watada might walk, he threw the justice system out the window and declared a mistrial. As a result, the military really has no 'follow up' at this point. They need to release Watada from the army immediately. His service contract expired nearly two years ago and his Article 32 took place almost two years ago.
War resisters in Canada need support as well. 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 email@example.com -- that's "finley.d" at "parl.gc.ca") and Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, 613.992.4211, phone; 613.941.6900, fax; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org -- 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).
In Iraq, there is still no movement on provincial elections. Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, " After weeks of late-night negotiations and under intense U.S. pressure, Iraqi lawmakers failed to pass a much-debated provincial elections law Wednesday before adjourning for the month. The failure to pass the law, which would govern elections in provinces across the country, may push the elections into next year. If elections don't happen by the end of this year, it could be July before the balloting could be carried out, U.N. spokesman Said Arikat said." UPI reports that, citing Kurdish MP Fouad Massoum, there is the possibility of "a special session of Parliament sometime during the recess, which ends Sept. 9," to again try to address the issue of elections. Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) notes the "days of intense negotiations and heavy pressure from the U.S., the United Nations and Britain" and how Kirkuk continued to be a stalling issue. Most reports do. Leila Fadel offers another theory among Iraqis, that those currently holding office aren't willing to risk losing office if new elections are called. Walter Ibrahim (Reuters) gets a non-official US response, quoting someone at the US embassy in Iraq who refused to be named but did declare, "The United States regrets that the Iraqi parliament today adjourned without finishing its work on a local elections law."
On the other big news of Iraq today, a new report finds that Nouri al-Maliki, puppet of the occupation, is refusing to spend the many millions on reconstruction still. White House press secretary Dana Perino declared, "It's interesting -- what I find interesting about this report, as well, is when you're looking at these two countries, Iraq and Afghanistan, seeing how vastly different Iraq is from Afghanistan in terms of the natural resources that they have. Afghanistan is a very poor country, one of the poorest in the world. Iraq will come back much faster, given that they had some semblance of infrastructure, as crumbling as it was, but something to work from. Afghanistan is being built from scratch. And so I thought that was something worth taking away." What's interesting is that someone tasked with speaking to the press on behalf of the White House appears to have only just realized the differences between Afghanistan and oil-rich Iraq. It does not speak well of Perino -- even as spin, it should produce laughter. Perino was speaking on board Air Force One as the Bully Boy traveled to Thailand and repeatedly referred reporters' questions to the US State Dept implying that she hadn't seen the latest report. Later, after Air Force One landed in Thailand, Bully Boy would hold a public event with Thailand's Prime Minister Samak but took no questions. Apparently, like Perino, he was unfamiliar with the report. Perino: "I saw the report -- I saw the reports about the report -- so I'd refer you back to the State Department, just to -- as they wake up this moring -- just to make sure that they've looked at it, because I don't know all the details." A rather shocking admission for someone tasked with being the public face of the White House. Plenty of egg on the face to go around because, in DC this afternoon, the State Dept's Gonzalo R. Gallegos (Acting Deputy Spokesperson) held the daily press briefing and was asked about Iraq . . . never. Not once. Macedonia, Mexico and many other topics. Gallegos didn't arrive with a prepared statement and tossed immediately to questions. Not one reporter asked about Iraq. How very sad and very telling.
If you're feeling a sense of deja vu, you may be thinking back to last Wednesday when the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstuction issued a report. Stuart Bowen Jr. issued a note to the report [PDF format warning] explaining, "The United States has now appropriated more than $50 billion in taxpayer dollars for Iraq's reconstruction." The report notes its basis is "seven new audit products" between May 1st and June 30th of this year. You may be thinking of the silence that greeted that report as the press focused instead on the gossip and whispers that the White House was putting out declaring Bully Boy would speak Thursday morning and deliver a 'major' statement on Iraq that everyone just knew was going to be about the treaty between the White House and the puppet. The treaty, the White House had promised, would be wrapped up by July 31st. Bully Boy gave his statement, no word about a treaty. The dealine passed. And the government report on reconstruction was lost and forgotten.
For some context on the latest report, let's drop back to April when Gen David Petraeus and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker did their song and dance before the US Congress. From the April 8th snapshot, where US Senator Barbara Boxer is questioning Crocker:
She wanted to know about the training, all the training, that had gone on and then on again. "We've done a lot for the Iraqis just in terms of the numbers themselves," Boxer declared. "I'll tell you what concerns me and most of my constituents, you said -- many times -- the gains in Iraq are fragile and reversable. . . . So my constituents and I believe that" after all the deaths, all the money, "you have to wonder why the best that you can say is that the gains are fragile and reversable." Noting the lack of military success and Hagel's points, Boxer pointed out that nothing was being done diplomatically "and I listened carefully to Senator Hagel and Ambassador Crocker -- from the answer you gave him, I don't get the" feeling that the White House has given anything, it's still "the status quo. She then turned to the issue of monies and the militias, "You are asking us for millions more to pay off the militias and, by the way, I have an article here that says Maliki recently told a London paper that he was concerned about half of them" and wouldn't put them into the forces because he doubts their loyalty. She noted that $182 million a year was being paid, $18 million a month, to these "Awakening" Council members and "why don't you ask the Iraqis to pay the entire cost of that progam" because as Senator Lugar pointed out, "It could be an opportunity" for the Iraqi government "to turn it into something more long term." This is a point, she declared, that she intends to bring up when it's time to vote on the next spending supplamental. Crocker tried to split hairs.
Boxer: I asked you why they couldn't pay for it. . . . I don't want to argue a point. . . I'm just asking you why we would object to asking them to pay for that entire program giving all that we are giving them in blood and everything else?
Today Karen De Young (Washington Post) reports that the US Government Accountability Office has found that while "Iraq's oil income will more than double this year . . . Baghdad continues to spend only a small percentage of its own money on reconstruction and services while it banks billions in surplus funds" and that, "Between 2005 and 2007, only 10 percent of Iraq's expenditures went toward reconstruction, with just 1 percent spent on maintaining U.S. and Iraqi-funded investments in roads, water, electricity and weapons, according to a report released yesterday by the Government Accountability Office. Even when Baghdad has allocated larger sums, the report said, it has spent only a small portion of the budgeted money." Kevin Hall (McClatchy Newspapers) points out that the report "left little doubt that Iraq, which racked up $32.9 billion in oil earnings from January through June, can afford to pay more for its own reconstruction." Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers' Baghdad Observer) takes the topic from the abstract to the concrete: "Driving through Iraq you feel the neglect here. In Basra the city is rivers of sewage, destroyed buildings and bridges from war after war after war. Every day I pass by the same buildings destroyed years ago during the U.S. led invasion in my neighborhood in Baghdad. Every day they look exactly the same, a pile of rubble. The electricity problem seems to be getting worse; Iraqis have an average of about four hours of electricity a day. While there is talk of reconstruction, a bridge here, flowers planted there the people don't feel a change."
In her brief remarks on Air Force One, Dana Perino offered a laughable example of how the puppet al-Maliki is helping Iraqis declaring that, "One thing that's very important is how they are spending their money, which is distributing it evenly amongst the --- around the country, but amongst the different sects as well, so Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds. It's something that they're going to have to continue to work out. We want them to take on more of their own responsibilities just from a security standpoint, but also reconstruction.
Also, if you remember, Prime Minister Maliki went into Sadr City, Basra and Mosul, he offered immediate financial assistance to people who were living there under those terrible conditions." The assaults on the people in those areas? The turn-over-your-guns-and-I'll-toss-a-few-coins-your-way is 'relief'? In what world?
Reality came via Sunday's press conference in Baghdad: hospitals that hide bed shortages, lack of supplies and more via a paint job. And we saw that justified by the Deputy Minister of Health for Grants and Loans who declared, "It is good for their psychological health . . . it is good to take care of the appearance, to see the building a new, clean." Spoiled blood, lack of medicine, lack of beds, lack of prosthetics, etc. are just minor details, after all, what matters is the hospital slapped on a new coat of paint outside. Or that's what matters to the Ministry of Health. Reality comes via Dalia al-Achi and Carole Laleve's UNHCR report Sunday on how the UNHCR and Syrian Arab Red Crescent was aiding Iraqi refugees in Syria by distributing "school kits to Iraqi refugee children . . . distribution of uniforms, shoes and school materials . . . and is expected to outfit 30,000 children from Damascus and Rural Damascus before the start of the Syrian School year on Sept. 7. Last year, UNHCR's distribution reached 20,000 Iraqi children." And what's al-Maliki done besides sit on millions? Not a damn thing.
But there was Perino on Air Force One this morning delcaring, " It's really important that they figure out a way to quickly get that money to those people directly. I think they've made a lot of progress on that, but they needed to do more." al-Maliki's done nothing for the people. But he has managed to go on spending sprees for items he wants. From last Friday's snapshot:
It's been a busy week for the puppet -- a regular spending spree. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency started the week with the announcement that they "notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of Armored Security Vehicles as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $206 milliion." Wednesday included "The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of Light Armored Vehicles as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $3 billion" and "The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of technical assistance for construction of facilities and infrastructure as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $1.6 billiion" and "The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of Helicopters and related munitions as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $2.4 billion." Thursday brought this announcement, "The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of M1A1 and Upgrade to M1A1M Abrams Tanks as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $2.16 billion."
Staying on the topic of violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that left two police officers wounded, a Baghdad bombing ("targeting . . . one of the Iraqi security companies") left four people injured, a Ninevah car bombing that killed the driver, 1 civilian, 1 Iraqi service member and left nine other people wounded and a Basra roadside bombing that wounded one civilian. Reuters notes a Mosul car bombing that claimed 3 lives (plus driver of the car) and left fourteen injured.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 "Awakening" Council members shot dead in Baghdad.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes 2 corpses discovered in Mosul and 16 corpses discovered in Diyala Province.
Last Thursday morning, the Bully Boy held court at the White House and said nothing. The press corps acted as though something had been said. "This has been a month of encouraging news from Iraq," he spun and the press took their marching orders. They're still following those 'turned corner' marching orders despite the fact that there is no treaty, despite the fact that there will most likely be no October provincial elections, despite the fact that al-Maliki is spending next to nothing on reconstruction and despite the fact that violence is again up in Iraq. Much was made all last week of "Only 13 US soldiers dead in Iraq for the month of July!" As if 'only 13' dead from an illegal war was something to go wild over.
Specialist Jonathan Menke
Sergeant Gary Henry
Sergeant Brian K. Miller
Private 1st Class Jennifer L. Cole
Specialist Kevin R. Dickson
Specialist Ronald Andrew Schmidt
All six US service members have died since Saturday morning. Somehow that hasn't resulted in the 'coverage' that 13 for the month of July resulted in coverage last week.
Turning to the US presidential race. Ron Jacobs (Dissident Voice) notes just how much it is costing the peace movement (and how willing 'leaders' are to table objection to the illegal war):
Just look at the major national antiwar organization United For Peace and Justice (UFPJ) and their public stance regarding the desire of organizers of the protests at the upcoming Democratic convention to stage a large antiwar march at the convention. According to a recent press release from some organizers of the march, Leslie Cagan of UFPJ told some Denver organizers, "We don't think it makes sense to plan for a mass march that might not end up being all that mass!" In other words, UFPJ is refusing to help build support for the march.
There can only be one reason for UFPJ's stance. That reason is UFPJ's allegiance to the Democratic Party. This allegiance is not an allegiance found among the grassroots of UFPJ but at the top. It involves a political misunderstanding of the Democrats' role in maintaining the US empire and a fear of losing funding from elements of UFPJ that are tied to the Democratic Party. Ignoring the fact that it is the Democratic Congress that has kept the Empire's wars going, UFPJ continues to call the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "Bush's Wars." Besides the attempts to silence the antiwar voice in the streets, there are also ongoing attempts by Democratic Party manipulators to keep antiwar language out of the Party's platform. This is in spite of a statement signed by the progressive wing of the party demanding that the language be included. If 2004 is any indication, there will be no antiwar language in the 2008 Democratic Party platform.
We saw this happen in 2004 and the peace movement was in disarray until the summer of 2005 (Cindy Sheehan resparked the movement). That cannot happen again but it is happening as too many see their 'peace' role as "cheerleader for Barack." Presumed Democratic Party nominee Barack Obama continues to run the most embarrassing campaign in recent memory. Today's big news is that another campaign staffer (volunteer!) has been outed. Perry Bacon Jr. (Washington Post) reports that the volunteer was Chicago's own Mazen Asbahi who held the title of "Muslim outreach coordinator" until the Wall St. Journal did the job the campaign should have and found ties to Jamal Said and the North American Islamic Trust. True or false doesn't matter and will not be known for some time. In a campaign perception matters. The Obama campaign has already telegraphed that they see Asbahi as someone to wash their hands of and it's one more sign of how inept that campaign is that they didn't do the vetting that a paper did. Though Asbahi will most likely be found to have no links or ties to terrorists and be nothing but a dedicated volunteer who believed in a candidate and wanted to work for the candidate's election, the campaign continues to demonstrate just how unskilled and unknowledgable they are. This is the campaign that drummed up over a week's worth of mock outrage over a satirical cover of The New Yorker which lampooned the notion that, among other things, some may see Barack as a terrorist. If they put half that energy into vetting their staff, they wouldn't be in the news on this today. Asbahi joined the campaign July 25th, after the mock outrage. The campaign damn well took offense at satire but apparently lacked the intelligence to do the basic vetting of any high-profile spot. Asbahi joined the campaign with a high-minded/self-serving statement and now leaves the campaign with a cloud over himself and one over the campaign. He does so with the usual nonsense statement about how his departure is "to avoid distracting from Barack Obama's message of change" but the real message the campaign has again sent is that they do not know how to run a campaign including the most basic procedure of vetting anyone in a profile role.
Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader is for a real withdrawal (not a partial redeployment to Afghanistan masked as a 'withdrawal'). Nader continues to pursue ballot access and will hold a press conference in Iowa tomorrow morning at 9:30:
Nader/Gonzalez Campaign and the Iowa Peace and Freedom Party Wednesday Will Submit more than Double the Required Signatures for Ballot Qualification
Supporters of Independent Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader and the Iowa Peace and Freedom Party will submit petitions to place Mr. Nader and running-mate Matt Gonzalez on the November 2008 election ballot, Thursday, Aug. 7, to the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. Mr. Nader will be on the ballot as the Iowa Peace and Freedom Party nominee, and if he gains more than 2 percent of the vote in the state, the party will become a ballot-qualified political group.
Iowa will be the 26th state in which the Nader/Gonzalez Campaign has filed for a ballot line since the celebrated consumer advocate announced his intent to run during a February 24 appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press." To qualify to appear on Iowa's ballot, state law requires submission of the signatures of 1,500 registered voters.
The Nader/Gonzalez campaign will submit more than 3,000 signatures.
Scott Knight, the Nader/Gonzalez Iowa State coordinator, will be joined by Iowa supporters of Nader/Gonzalez 2008 and the Peace and Freedom Party at 9:30 a.m. for a news conference at Capitol West Steps, West Mall area, Capitol Building, Des Moines, IA.
Iowans have been hit recently with massive floods and with the greed of large corporations, like Whirlpool Corp., which in July filed a federal lawsuit aiming to slash the medical benefits of thousands of retired Maytag workers after having bought out that company. The Nader/Gonzalez Campaign offers solutions instead of excuses. Mr. Nader would rein in corporate greed, waste and abuse and respond to natural emergencies with preventative public investments and rapid response to those disasters. As president, Mr. Nader would rebuild the Mid-West instead of tearing down the Mid-East.
WHO: Iowa Supporters of Nader/Gonzalez 2008 Campaign and the Peace and Freedom Party
WHAT: News Conference and turn-in of nominating petitions
WHEN: Thursday, Aug 7, 2008, 9:30 a.m.
WHERE: Capitol West Steps, West Mall area, Capitol Building, Des Moines, IA
About Ralph Nader
Celebrated attorney, author, and consumer advocate Ralph Nader has been named by Time Magazine one of the "100 Most Influential Americans in the 20th Century." For more than four decades he has exposed problems and organized millions of citizens into more than 100 public interest groups advocating solutions. He led the movement to establish the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and enact the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and countless other pieces of important consumer legislation. Because of Ralph Nader we drive safer cars, eat healthier food, breathe better air, drink cleaner water, and work in safer environments. Nader graduated from Princeton University and received an LL.B from Harvard Law School.
About Matt Gonzalez
Matt Gonzalez was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 2000 representing San Francisco's fifth council district. From 2003 to 2005, he served as Board of Supervisors President. A former public defender, Gonzalez is managing partner of Gonzalez & Leigh, a 7-attorney practice in San Francisco that represents individuals and organizations in mediation, arbitration, and administrative proceedings before state and federal regulatory bodies. Gonzalez graduated from Columbia University and received a JD from Stanford Law School.
About the Nader/Gonzalez Campaign
According to a CNN-Opinion Research Corp. poll conducted from July 27-29, Ralph Nader is at 6 percent nationally, higher than his highest major poll numbers during the same time period in 2000 and approaching the 10 percent threshold required for eligibility to participate in "America's Presidential Debate in New Orleans," a Google-sponsored event scheduled for September 18. In the key swing state of Michigan -- whose voters were partially disenfranchised by the Democratic National Committee -- an EPIC-MRA poll found Nader at 8-10 percent.