Tuesday, August 12, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the refugee crisis continues (though we're supposed to forget), the US military announces another death, and more.
Starting with war resistance. Rich Droste is a US war resister in Canada. Law is Cool interviewed Droste for their podcast Friday.
Rich Droste: My name is Richard Drew Droste, the second. I'm age 22. I've lived in Canada since March 7th
Law is Cool: What brings you to Canada?
Rich Droste: It's a long, long. long journey and a long and winding and road that led me to Canada. I joined the army at the age of 17 for many reasons -- mostly to escape the lifestyle I was living, the promise of education, the pursuit of something more grand than what I was living. I was homeless at the time, living in my car for the previous two years, still trying to get my own education and just maintain a working lifestyle. They provided me with so many benefits of what I now know is half-truths obviously but didn't at the time. And at the age of 17, I was able to make that one decision to give my life for the country that I barely knew anything about but you're not old to make any other adult decision in the US at that age, right? So I joined as a combat engineer time at this time, believing that there was this huge terrorist threat on our nation, believing that America could not wrong type mentality, you know, I followed CNN and Fox 'News' pretty much for my whole life and, you know, if you don't look for an outside source you're not going to find it. And if you're happy in your bubble why burst it, right? So the further I get into the military I become more educated with what's really going on all across the world and not just in Iraq or just Afghanistan but also the human trafficking and prostitution rings around military institutions across the world. The fact that we're standing up for human rights and freedom to me and seeing these things happen in Korea while I was stationed there was my first big question against the military and I basically got told to shut and try not to fix anything that your pay grade can't handle, you know. They say they don't support it if you ask them and they'll be quoted saying they don't support it but during the day there's regulations and only US soldiers and citizens can go inside these clubs and these bars that contain all this human trafficking and prostitution. All of their money for those rings are coming from soldiers' pockets. It shows that there may not be verbal support but there's definitely financial support, right? And that was my first big problem. Around my second year in the military I became a Conscientious Objector the war in Iraq because of the illegalities, the unhumane activities that are happening there. The just unusual behavior -- the way we treat men, the way we treat women.
Law is Cool: What does it mean to be a Conscientious Objector for those of us who don't know?
Rich Droste: Within the military, there's a system so if you want to be a non-combatant, this is supposed to be a legal thing. You can file this Conscientious Objector packet which states that you are against the dualities of the war that the efforts working for and then you can work as a noncombatant inside the US military such as a cook, a medic, an X-ray technician, whatever it may be, there's numerous jobs and there supposed to supply you with that. Well around a year after I filled out that paperwork, it was mysteriously lost. And I was told this with a wink from the person I was asking. So it just goes to show they weren't trying to put that much effort into helping me with this Conscientious Objector packet. Around my third year, six month, which meant I only had about six months left on my original contract, I found out I was getting stop-lossed and sent to Iraq. By this time I had already stated I was an objector and I would have no part in this war, if anything I would like to end this war -- you know what I mean -- I'm not going to fight in it. And they said you go to this war, you go jail, your only other option is to re-enlist , signing on a new contract, and get a non-combatant job, right? So those are my options. I decide through friends and people that were looking out for me honestly that had no role over what happens to me they advised me to re-enlist for a different job and I did. I thought it was a smart thing to do. So I re-enlist to be a computer networker, well a systems operator analyst, it's all computer networking, IP configuration, connecting servers, routers and such.
Law is Cool: What was your reason for choosing that kind of a job?
Rich Droste: It was -- it was mostly just maintaining networks for the generals and superiors that are going over there anyway. Which I didn't know when I signed up for the job. The reason I signed up for the job was because I thought it was a communication job. So I could communicate.
Law is Cool: But you probably wouldn't be in the front lines with something like that?
Rich Droste: Absolutely. And by my understanding, I wouldn't be participating in any combatant side of the military. Well my last week of training, I'm about to graduate this new course, and I find out that I'm going to 4th RTB which stands for Ranger Training Battalion. So not only am I training combatants, I'm training elite combatants to go fight in this war and I told them I wouldn't have any part of it. So there I got to try to fill out another Conscientious Objector packet. It's denied because I don't meet the quote-unquote "criteria." I ask them what the criteria is, they can't give me an answer. Then I go to mental health and explain my reasoning behind all this. They try to put me on sleeping aids and anti-depressants saying I'll get over it, I just need rest, and to lighten up. And I was told to "suck it up and drive on." And that was their cure-all answer for that. And then I went to a chaplain which is a preacher, a priest, and he finds your religious denomination. At this time, I was still very much agnostic which is I believe in a higher power but I think there's too much out there for the human mind to comprehend really. And I'm talking to him and he tried to explain to me that God justified this war and wouldn't harm us or call us sinners for our wrong doings to the Iraqi people -- civilian and terrorist alike because humans are humans, regardless of their decisions, right? And uh, so that's what he tried to convince me. I talked to him numerous occasions and I couldn't get anything out of him or any help. After I went up and down the chain of command and tried to get this non-combatant job and after so much so much dedication I actually went AWOL four days after my original ETS date -- so I fulfilled my original contract and I came to Canada.
Law is Cool: Now why Canada? Why not Mexico?
Rich Droste: There we go, yeah. That's a great question and that's something I wish more potential resisters would know is when I was going through this I was looking for other instances where soldiers experienced similar grounds, same thing that happened to me, because I knew it was happening all across the military . So I looked up online. What better source, right? So I find there's all these soldiers and there's so many thousands living in the States and there was anywhere from 200 to 500 living in Canada. I found that there was about 50 that applied for refugee status in Canada. And the things that they were doing, the political aspects, the education . . . I didn't come here to hide. I came here very well knowing that I could be deported and sentenced in the United States for my 'wrong doing' and that's -- I'm fine with that. I accept that. I came here to educate the people. I came here to open people's views and even if they don't understand it, even if they disagree, at least they're not ignorant to the matter.
War resisters in Canada need support and 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 firstname.lastname@example.org -- that's "finley.d" at "parl.gc.ca") and Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, 613.992.4211, phone; 613.941.6900, fax; e-mail email@example.com -- 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).
King Abudllah II of Jordan made an unnannounced visit to Baghdad yesterday. Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) observes, "The visit is the latest in a eries of moves by Arab states that Iraqi and U.S. officials say could improve security and counter the influence of Shiite-led Iran, a player here in economic, diplomatic and security matters." Lelia Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Iraq had planned to give the monarch a state welcome but instead the king arrived and left with no fanfare. The announcement of his visit came as he boarded a plane to leave Iraq." AP notes that "U.S. officials had been urging King Abdullah to visit Iraq to bolster ties between the two countries as part of Washington's campaign to shore up support for the Iraqi government as a counterweight to Iranian influence." Deutsche Welle points out, "Jordan hosts about 500,000 Iraqi refugees who have fled violence in their war-torn country, and Amman has estimated the costs of sheltering them so far at more than 1.3 billion euros ($2 billion)."
Dominique Soquel (WeNews) reports on the Iraqi refugees in Syria where "women [are] barely eking out a living from low-income jobs, international aid and sex work. Women such as Mohamed Ali, whose husbands are dead, missing or disabled, were hit hardest." Soquel provides the stories of a number of women such as "Sajida Baha Al Deen, . . . from Mansour, Baghdad, and has been in Damascus for 16 months. She turned to sex work to provide for herself and her two children. 'What matters is that I am still standing on my feet,' she said after a short storm of tears came and went. 'Something in your sould gets numb.' One year after her husband's death, Shiite militias sprayed her hairdressing salon with bullets and looted the remains. In September 2006, at 2 a.m., 12 masked men barged through her bedroom door threatening to end her life and that of her two Sunni-named Boys, Bakar, now age 9, and Omar, age 10, because her husband was an American collaborating traitor." The twelve men gang raped her, forced to sign over her home and car to one of them and finally departed her home. The Iraq War has resulted in an estimated 4 million refugees (internally and externally displaced). Yesterday it was time for a big press to-do over 250 Iraqi refugees 'returning' from Egypt. Reality was provided today by IRIN: "At the airport, some of the returnees said they were returning because their savings had run out; others said they had been ill-treated and had no rights in the host countries." Last Friday, Refugees International issued a statement which included:
Refugees and IDPs know from their contact with friends and family that it is not safe to go home. Violence is still widespread, and basic services such as access to healthcare, clean water or adequate shelter are unavailable in many parts of the country. As the situation in Iraq evolves, it is essential the US Government, the Government of Iraq and other countries in the region do not encourage returns to Iraq until conditions are met for a voluntary, safe and sustainable return process. A rushed premature return process would have disastrous consequences both for the displaced and for the stability of Iraq.
And what is anyone returning to? Earlier this week, Lara Logan (CBS Evening News) reported on the realities for autistic children in Iraq: No medical care providers. Logan notes, "Incredibly, the only doctor who did treat it, who founded a medical center in the name of his own autistic son, has fled the country. He left behind some social workers who try their best to help, but even they haven't been paid in four months." Rahna Abdul is the only parent for her son Alli and she has no doctors she can turn to and what happens to him if something happens to her?
Rahna Abdul: Who will take care of him if I die for example? Maybe I go in the street and there is a bomb in my way, and I'll die.
Lara Logan: Especially now?
Rahna Abdul: Especially in these situations, so who would take care of him? In his situation who would take care of him?"
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that wounded three, a Diyala Province assassination attempt on the Governor via a bomber who took his/her own life apparently as well the lives of 3 civilians (seven people were left wounded). The Governor was unscathed and, Reuters notes, a curfew is in place until tomorrow morning.
Reuters notes 6 family members were shot dead outside of Ramadi.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad.
Today, the US military announced: "A Multi-National Force - West Marine was killed when his unit was attacked by an enemy force in Anbar Province Aug. 10." The death was in Tirkrit and two more marines were wounded. That means 12 US service members have died in Iraq so far this month. (ICCC says eleven but hasn't noted this death yet.) Reuters notes 4,139 US service members have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war (one more than ICCC's current count).
Turning to the US presidential race. To The Contrary's Bonnie Erbe (writing at US News & World Reports) notes that of the Democratic Party's proposed platform that people are saying "the Clinton camp is quite happy with the platform's including of language to the effect that Clinton placed 18 million 'cracks' in the glass ceiling (an allusion to her winning 18 million votes during the primaries)" and notes JustSayNoDeal's Diane Mantouvalos believes Barack still can't close the deal "because a large chunk of Clinton's 18 million supporters are upset that the Obama campaign has not been more gracious toward Senator Clinton and has done little to reach out to her former supporters." And possibly it also has something to do with what Erbe notes today, "More evidence of a candidate faux pas. 'O-Force One' as CBS' Allison O'Keefe describes Obama's campaign plane, contains a luxurious section for the candidate more reminiscent of an airborne corporate executive suite than a presidential candidate who has to appeal to working class American voters." It probably doesn't help that Barack's on yet another vacation -- his third since March -- and that has the Limp Noodle Women Haters ready to scream for Cokie Roberts' head. On ABC's This Week Sunday, Roberts noted (here for video) that Barack's still "tied in the polls" and yet he's on a "vacation in Hawaii" which "does not make any sense whatsoever." Limp Noodles think they're offering 'analysis' with non-pith such as "She knows Hawaii's a state!" They really are pathetic. Roberts is noting that candidates don't campaign in Hawaii. (And Barack's not campaigning there.) No presidential nominee of one of the two primaries has since Richard Nixon (in the run he lost to JFK). [Ralph Nader campaigned there last month.] That's not new and it's not news but the Limp Noodles work real hard to act like Cokie's said something crazy. Hawaii is seen as a Democratic state. It's not a place where the party thinks their presidential nominee needs to campaign (and Barack is not campaigning there). Residents in Hawaii feel differently (as they should). But Cokie's pointing out that, "He should be in Myrtle Beach and, you know, if he's going to take a vacation at this time. And I just think this is not the time to do that." Where is Myrtle Beach? South Carolina. Now why might Cokie make that statement? Hmmm. American Research Group's polling found Barack to have a 5% lead in South Carolina (plus/minus 4%) in June which is not a lead. In July? They found McCain to be at 47% to Barack's 45%. McCain had increased by 3% in their polling while Barack had dropped by 4% and undecided had increased by 1%. That's one of the better polls for Barack (of reputable pollsters, don't include the hack Zogby). Rasmussen Reports' June poll found McCain at 48% and Barack at 39% in South Carolina. Public Policy Polls survey last month found McCain at 45% and Barack at 39%. Now why might Cokie Roberts have said Barack -- if he was going to vacation -- would be better off in Myrtle Beach? You can dispute her conclusions, you just can't pretend you have no idea why she 'went there' unless you're really eager to show how uninformed you are. It really is amazing when you grasp how damn few women are even invited into the conversation in print or on TV but how, week after damn week, the little Limp Noodles manage to savage women. They do it over and over. King Limp Noodle probably exhausted himself today since he rips into Cokie, Maureen Dowd (as always) and Emily Bazelon. For those needing audio, Roberts also discussed the race on NPR. We've called out Cokie before here and will do so again. That's not the issue. The issue is the Limp Noodles who have to rip apart a woman in order to get it up. Buy Viagra, you dirty, old men. No man ever faces the same type of wrath from the Limp Noodles as does every woman. We've noted that before and they are again eager to play Bash the Bitch again. It's getting real damn old.
Nothing wrong with holding a woman accountable -- and 'tone' doesn't matter as long as it's applied in the same way (zeal) towards both men and women. Watch as we go after a woman right now. Her name is Holley Simmons and she graduated college in 2007 and is now, for all intents and purposes, NPR's acting ombudsperson. Shocking as that alone is, let's add that she has no journalism degree that, until being hired as an intern by NPR, had no journalism experience. Yet now she 'handles' listeners complaints in e-mails and at blog posts at the ombudsperson's website. Consider it fraud. Completely unqualified to get a job as a reporter, she now 'explains' NPR's journalistic decisions (as she sees them) to listeners. An English lit major with a sociology minor and no journalsim training. She 'explained' (justified) NPR's sorry record of covering candidates this year. NPR is failing and having some untrained idiot excuse their failures doesn't make it look any better. In her laughable blog post, she writes about being told that as the candidates make news, they will be covered. Barack's on vacation. His campaign got two stories on Morning Edition today (one on how he'd like to win Virginia -- I'm sure any presidential candidate would like to win Virginia -- I'm not sure how that ever qualifies as news?). Bob Barr, Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader are being shut out of the coverage on what is supposed to be National Public Radio. (We'll get to Pacifica, hold on.) At Minnesota's MPR, Tom Scheck manages to post on a Ron Paul event and on Ralph Nader's September 4th super rally in Minneapolis. Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader is planning super rallies. Foon Rhee (Boston Globe) notes the August 27th one in Denver and Nader's call for the opening of the debates. Sam Youngman (The Hill) also saw the super rallies as news. As did Jesse A. Hamilton (Hartford Courant). Ralph is scheduled to be a guest on NPR's Talk of the Nation tomorrow (which will broadcast live from the Newseum in DC). But Nader was in Canada last night and that's not news to NPR and the super rallies aren't news and . . . Go down the list. NPR decides what it wants to emphasize and calls it news. Barr, McKinney and Nader are being shut out. At a pretty much Democratic geared website, Jeralyn (TalkLeft) noted Ralph's trip to Canada and the comments included some surprisingly supportive remarks.
You should also check out Elaine later tonight. If she decides to respond to the ridiculous e-mail from a 'journalist,' it should make for interesting reading. But Queen Norman Approximately. Yeah, he was lying again. Yeah, it was embarrassing. For now, Ava and I will note, Norm was spraying the drapes today and he's never been housebroken, somebody get him to the vet already. We'll tackle that garbage Sunday. If you suffered through Queen Norman today and need some reality, check out Katiebird's post (The Confluence).
Ralph Nader: The only time when tens of millions of Americans tune in for a couple of hours and pay attention to politics is during the prime time presidential debates. For our democracy to survive, prevail and thrive, we must have an open debate about the challenges we face and the solutions that we must apply. We really don't need two-candidate debates that sound like canned interviews. We don't need debates prepped to look like a couple of game show contestants. We don't need show business, we need serious debate.
We are launching a new feature on votenader.org.
It's a daily audio message from Ralph Nader.
Anyone who has traveled with Ralph marvels at his encyclopedic knowledge of the workings, failings, and potential of our democracy, from the marketplace to the workplace to liaisons between corporations and government to the courageous stands politicians used to take once in a while.
From now until Election Day, five days a week, we will feature new, short audio recordings from Ralph.
It starts with a message on opening the debates.
You can download the podcast, or listen at your computer.
Unlike the corporate candidates who stick to a narrow message until their handlers allow them to take a half-step, Ralph expresses himself freely on issues that affect you each day.
So, listen in.
It'll be like traveling the road with Ralph.
Tell your friends about it.
And look for future recordings from Matt Gonzalez as well.
Thanks for checking in.
Onward to November.