Wednesday, August 13, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, Miss Iraq calls out the sex trade, Jeremy Hinzman is told he's leaving, the US military announces another death leading August's death toll so far to surpass July's, and more.
Starting with war resistance. CNN notes US war resister Jeremy Hinzman has been told to leave Canada. Jeremy Hinzman, his wife Nga Nguyen and their son Liam went to Canada in January 2004. He became the first Iraq War resister to publicly go to Canada. He and Brandon Hughey were the first war resisters to attempt to be granted safe harbor in Canada. The Immigration and Refugee 'board' (it's one person deciding) declined to grant status. Both then began appealing to the courts. In May of 2007, the Federal Court of Appeals sided with the board and the Federal court. In November 2007, Canada's Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal. June 3rd Canada's House of Commons voted (non-binding motion) in favor of Canada being a safe harbor for war resisters. Despite that vote, Judge Anne Mactavish saw fit to extradite Robin Long in July and to call it 'deportation.' In Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq, Peter Laufer writes:
Yet the arrival of Iraq War soldiers seeking refuge in Canada didn't sit well with officials. Army Specialist Jeremy Hinzman's case was the first to be adjudicated, after he became the first U.S. war resister ever to apply for refugee status in Canada. The Immigriation and Refugee Board denied his claim; appeals may drag on for years. While his case is pending, Canada allows him to stay in the country and provides him with a temporary work permit. The ruling from the Refugee Protection Division of CIC insists Hinzman failed to mmake a case that the Iraq War was illegal: "He has not shown that the U.S. has either as a matter of deliberate policy or official indiffernce, required or allowed its combatants to engage in widespread actions in violation of humanitarian law."
A veteran of the U.S. action in Afghanistan, Hinzman took his wife and baby to Canada when he received orders at Fort Bragg for a tour of duty in Iraq. "No matter how much I wanted to, I could not convince myself that killing someone was right," he said once he surfaced in Toronto. Hinzman had applied to be discharged as a conscientious objector, requested noncombat duties, and spent much of his time in Afghanistan performing kitchen chores. His CO application was rejected after a hearing in Afghanistan. Back in the States, when his orders for Iraq came, Hinzman felt he had only two choices: disobey tem and risk prison, or flee the country.
Prison was not an option. "I have already missed a large chunk of my young son's life and I was willing to sacrifice any more lost time with him, especially during his formative years," he said. Canada looked like a good bet, given its policies toward deserters during the Vietnam War. Hinzman expressed no regrets about his decision and is convince the Iraq War is illegal.
"I object to the Iraqi war," he announced, "because it is an act of aggression with no defensive basis. It has been supported by pretenses that cannot withstand even elementary scrutiny. First, before the U.S. dropped the first bomb, it was quite evident that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Second, the Bush administration had the gall to exploit the American public's fear of terrorists by making the absurd assertion that a secular Batthist government was working with a fundamentalist terrorist group. There was nevery any intelligence to substantiate this. Third, the notion that the U.S. wants to export democracy to Iraq is laughable. Democracy is by the people, not an appointed puppet theater."
Peter Laufer's book was published in 2006 and you might think the shelves have filled up in the time since but you'd be wrong. A few war resisters have movingly told their stories in book form and you have Aimee Allison and David Solnit's wonderful Army Of None but that's really about all. Jeremy became a news topic in May 2004. May 26, 2004 was when CBS News noted, "A U.S. soldier who deserted his Iraq-bound regiment and sought asylum in Canada said the U.S. war in Iraq was illegal and he accused the United States of committing war crimes. Pfc. Jeremy Hinzman, 25, is believed to be the first U.S. soldier to apply for refugee status in Canada after refusing combat duty in Iraq." In December of 2004, Jeremy told Scott Pelley (60 Minutes II, CBS), "I was told in basic training that, if I'm given an illegal or immoral order, it is my duty to disobey it." As to the myth of 'freedom' being fought for in Iraq, Hinzman declared, "Whether a country lives under freedom or tyranny or whatever else, that's the collective responsibility of the people of that country."
The day started with Michael Futch (Fayetteville Observer) reporting that a decision was expected in Jeremy's status and that Fayetteville Quaker House director Chuck Fager was at work make signs for a planned demonstration supporting Hinzman -- "Shame, Canada, shame!" if the news was bad or "Thanks Canada! Jeremy Hinzman: Soldier of Conscience" if the news was good. Futch quotes Fager this afternoon explaining, "This is a very disappointing decision. It puts Canada more fully in complicity with an illegal and immoral war. Jeremy will probably end up back here at Fort Bragg. That's usually what happens." Futch also notes Hinzman and Nga added a daughter to their family in July, "Megan, who has Canadian citizenship."
The War Resisters Support Campaign issued this statement today:
U.S. Iraq war resister Jeremy Hinzman was told today that his family's application to stay in Canada has been rejected. Hinzman was told that he does not qualify under Canada's Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) program following a review by a Citizenship and Immigration department officer.
Jeremy, his wife Nga Nguyen and their son Liam were the first Iraq War resisters to come to Canada to seek sanctuary. On July 21, their second child was born in Toronto. If deported, they would be the first family sent to the U.S. to face punishment.
On July 15, the Canadian government deported U.S. war resister Robin Long who is currently awaiting court martial at Fort Carson, Colorado.
Hinzman served a tour in Afghanistan in a non-combat role after applying for conscientious objector status. When his unit, the 82 Airborne Division, was to be deployed to Iraq Hinzman and his family decided to come to Canada.
"I applied for Conscientious Objector Status in the U.S. Army because I realized that I cannot kill a fellow humna being. But my application was denied. I knew that in Iraq I would be ordered to take part in combat operations, or other actions that are against my principles," said Hinzman. "Nga and I knew Canada had welcomed many Americans like us during the Vietnam War, and we knew Canada had refused to join the invasion of Iraq."
"Sending Jeremy and his family back to the U.S., where he would face harsh punishment, would be cruel," said Lee Zaslofsky, coordinator of the War Resisters Support Campaign. "It would fly in the face of the motion adopted by the House of Commons on June 3, which called on the Harper government to stop all deportation proceedings against these conscientious objectors."
Recent Federal Court of Canada decisions in the case of U.S. war resisters Joshua Key and Corey Glass have indicated that the refugee process which failed to grant protection to the Hinzman family may have been seriously flawed.
The War Resisters Support Campaign is calling on the federal government and the Hon. Diane Finley, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, to intervene to prevent the Hinzman family from being sent to the U.S. to be punished.
Nick Kyonka (Toronto Star) reports, "Jeremy Hinzman, 29, had filed for a pre-removal risk assessment and permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds with Citizenship and Immigration Canada in January after several prior failed attempts to gain refugee status. Today he was told that both of those applications had been rejected and he must leave the country by Sept. 23." Kyonka quotes Jeremy stating, "Obviously we're disappointed but life goes on and we'll make the most of it wherever we end up." AP quotes him stating, "I'm disappointed but I think that every soldier that has refused to fight in Iraq has done a good thing and I'm not ashamed." Meagan Fitzpatrick (Canwest News Service) adds that War Resisters Support Campaign's Michelle "Robidoux said Hinzman, who lives in Toronto with his wife and two children, plans to take a close look at the decisions before deciding how to proceed." The Canadian Press notes: "Federal NDP Citizenship and Immigration Critic Olivia Chow, who put foward the June [3rd Parliament] motion, called the decision [to expell Jeremy] 'mean spirited.' She called on Citizenship and Immigration Minister Diane Finley to hald the deporation of Hinzman and other resisters immediately."
Jeremy Hinzman and other 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).
Crispin Thorold (BBC News) notes King Abdullah II of Jordan's brief ("symoblic") visit to Iraq on Monday and notes an estimated 750,000 Iraqi refugees in Jordan and that "these refugees have an uncertain status. They are referred to as guests, not refugees and year-long residency permits are hard to obtain. The vast majority were granted short stays in the country, which since 2005 have become virtually impossible to renew. Without official paperwork the refugees are not allowed to work." Meanwhile Suki Falconberg (Women's Space) reports on Iraqi female refugees in Syrica "are being sold for sex. There is a large sex trade in young Iraqi girls in the nighclubs of Damascus. Fourteen-and fifteen-year-olds -- literally girls -- not even women yet, and even children, are being sold" and quotes Myra Adel, Miss Iraq, explaining why her pagaent days are done, "They have been great to me but I will no longer be involved with the Pageant, due to the fact that I really couldn't take it when I saw all those refugees in Syria being mistreated . . . seing these people suffer made me ashamed. . . . I don't deserve to live in a classy apartment while other women are selling themselves. . . . What kind of sick demented human being would want to have sex with a 10-year-old?" Falconberg notes:
She says that the "annual government budget in Iraq exceeds 70 billion US dollars. Where is that money going? Power cuts are long, people get electricity for only an hour or two a day...water is cut off as well." She would like to see some of the money going to fund the Iraqi women and girls in Syria who are so desperate they must sell themselves to survive. Ms. Adel brings up a great question--to repeat it--where is the money in Iraq going? Is US and Iraqi corruption, combined, so overwhelming that a few are getting enormously rich and the majority of Iraqis are suffering terrible hardships, and in the case of the subject of this article, the women in prostitution, those hardships mean bodies and lives that will be nightmares forever from this degradation.
Where does the money go? Why is the puppet allowed to sit on so much money? He can spend it on weapons (and does). Today Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) covers the efforts to build Iraq's air force and notes, "U.S. lawmakers appropriated $8.5 billion to train and equip Iraq's security forces in 2007 and 2008. Of that sum, roughly $457 million went to the Iraqi air force." So the US is tossing out more money to prop up the brutal puppet regime they installed. And who is helping the Iraqi peole?
Myra Adel places blame at the United Nations High Commission for Refugees as well. Meanwhile Bernd Debusmann (Reuters) reports that the tiny US target of accepting 12,000 Iraqi refugees for 2008 will be met by September 30 (end of fiscal year) but "[t]he bad news is that 12,000 people represent a tiny fraction of the vast exodus of Iraqis driven from their homes by the violence and ethnic cleansing unleashed by the 2003 U.S. invasion. Estimates of their number vary. The widely used figure of 5 million is about one in five. To get that into context: relative to the size of the population, it would equal the forced displacement of almost 60 million Americans." This comes as Zvi Bare'el (Haaretz) reports that Europe is no longer welcoming Iraqi refugees, "At the end of July, European countries decided to halt the processing of accepting new refugees and to postpone until September discussions about those who submitted their requests for refugee status. The decision does not stem only from concern over the growth in the number of Iraqis in Europe and an increase in the 'Muslim element' on the continent, but primarily against the backdrop of Iraqi Preime Minister Nuri al-Mliki's request to stop absorbing refugees. Al-Maliki explained to European heads of state and interior ministers he met with that the situation in Iraq has improved and Iraq needs its refugees in order to rebuild the state." What the puppet of the occupation, Nouri, really means is that the refugee crisis makes it so very hard to sell that "turned corner" nonsense and launch another wave of Operation Happy Talk. In November, he preyed on the helpless -- helpless due to his own actions and his own inactions -- and tried (with the help of the US government) to jump-start The Myth of the Great Return. Those refugees were not thrilled and eager to return to Iraq. They had run out of money, they were bussed in and, upon arriving in Baghdad, a number immediately were confronted with physical threats. Using the same techniques as then, this week 250 Iraqis returned. al-Maliki begged and whined to the Egyptian government that these pesky refugees were just making him look so very, very bad. Couldn't they do Nouri a solid? Help a puppet out? The refugees were near broke and that combined with pressure from the Egyptian government created the 'returnees'. Possibly due to the strong work of Damien Cave and Cara Buckley (New York Times) when the Myth of the Great Return was still going on previously, the press was far less eager to hop on boogie board and ride the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk. Equally true is that NGOs continue to state that Iraq is not a safe region for refugees to return to.
Near Kirkuk today there's been an assassination attempt. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "The district commissioner of al Multaqa district abdul Kareem Ali Nasif and three of his guards were wounded by a suicide car bomb that targeted the convoy of Nasif while he was going to his office district in al Multaqa district west of Kirkuk early morning." This continues a long line of attacks on officials. It also continues a long line of attacks on US collaborators. Aws Qusay (Reuters) reports that "Abdul Karim al-Jubouri . . . also leads pro-U.S. security vonteer forces in the area, was wounded along with three bodyguards." Most recently, yesterday, Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reported 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). Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports that Monday's bomber was "a man dressed as a woman" and she quotes Raad Tamimi (the governor) explaining that, "He tried to head towards us but we were careful, because suicidal attackers are common in Diyala."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life, a Nineveh car bombing claimed 2 lives (seven people wounded), a Mosul bombing left two people wounded, another Mosul bombing ("suicide bomb") claimed the life of the bomber and the lives of 2 Iraqi service members (sixteen people were wounded), a Diyala Province roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 woman and left two more wounded, and another Diyala Province bombing claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi police officers ("national police").
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports one police officer was wounded in a Baghdad shooting,
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad
Today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldier and an Iraqi interpreter were killed when the vehicle they were riding in was struck by an improvised-explosive device in northwest Baghdad at approximately 10:10 a.m. Aug. 13." With that announced death, the month of August (not even half over) has already passed the month of July for most US fatalities. The monthly toll thus far is 14 with 4141 the number killed since the start of the illegal war.
Non Iraq related but also on the topic of immigration and refugees and the way governments mistreat those most in need of help. Independent journalist David Bacon reports. "Maria Rosala Mejia Mqarroquin and Anacleta Tajtaj, Guatemalan immigrants, were arrested in an immigration raid at the agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville on May 12. The raid was the largest workplace raid in a single worksite in recent history. Both were released to care of their children, but now have to wear ankle bracelets to monitor their movments. They and 46 other women cannot work or travel, and have been waiting for weeks for a hearing which would result in their deporation. Most have husbands or brothers now in Federal prison, forced to plead guilty to misusing a Social Security number, as a result of the raid." David Bacon's latest book comes out next month, Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press).
Turning to the US presidential election, Maureen Hoch (PBS' NewsHour) gets credit for attempting to be inclusive: "Both the DNC and the RNC will have to contend with counter rallies during their conventions. Green Party candidate Ralph Nader is planning events in both Denver and St. Paul. Ron Paul supporters are organizing a mini-convention in St. Paul to coincide with the second day of McCain's GOP event." A nice attempt at being inclusive but, to be clear, Cynthia McKinney is the Green Party's presidential candidate. Ralph Nader is running as an independent (and Bob Barr is the Libertarian Party candidate). As Hoch notes, Nader is holding super rallies. Along with super rallies, there is also the issue of the debates. As he notes in an audio campaign message:
This is 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 debaters prepped to look like a couple of game show contestants. We don't need show business, we need serious debate.
A 2000 Zogby poll showed that nearly 52% of the people wanted other candidates in the debates. In 2004, another Zogby poll showed 57% of likely voters wanted the debates opened up. A July 2008 poll by Zogby found that 44% of the public agreed that the American system is broken and cannot be repaired by the traditional two party politics and election. Another poll had 61% of the people saying both parties are failing.
It's time to open up the debates to third party candidates. I'm running for president because our democracy has been the target of an accelerating hostile corporate takeover. Control of our government by large corporations results in huge corporate welfare payouts, mega-fraud by military contractors, a pay or die system of health insurance, continued man-made global climate change and a collapsing financial system being propped up by the day on the backs of the American taxpayer with no restrictions, guarantees or return on investment. This and much more has happened with the craven complicity of both major political parties and politicians in Washington.
Friends, as things stand, the three debates run by the two parties through the private Commission on Presidential Debates, a corporation, will exclude critical discussion of the control of our democracy by large corporations We need honest talk in this campaign. It's time to respect the will of the American people, to expand their access to arguments and facts that address issues central to their daily lives. It's time for the American people to take control of the political system. We can begin by opening up the presidential debates. I'm Ralph Nader.
Ralph Nader was on NPR's Talk of the Nation today (audio available shortly). With more on the super rallies, Team Nader notes:
Are you ready to rumble?
If yes, make a contribution now to help fund our protest rallies in Denver (August 27) and Minneapolis (September 4).
Thousands of Americans will be in Denver and Minneapolis to protest the pro-war corporate controlled Democrats and Republicans.
Nader/Gonzalez has rented arenas in both cities to rally Americans opposed to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and corporate control over all aspects of our lives.
And to lay down one simple demand - open the Presidential debates.
As Ralph put it the other day, if we are allowed into the debates - and reach tens of millions of Americans with our message - it will be a three-way race.
Thanks to your help, we are on track to be on 45 states ballots by September 20 (Currently, we are on 31.)
If we get into the debates, our six percent in the polls will jump to 15 percent or more.
And the American people will sense a three-way race.
Then everything is possible.
But first, we have to pay for our up front costs in Denver and Minneapolis.
And we need to raise $50,000 before August 20.
To pay for sound, lights, office, arena, phone lines, staff, lodging, 100,000 handbills.
We've taken some of our best road-trippers and flown them into Denver to promote the rally. We have also opened an office in downtown Denver. (See today's Denver Post article here.)
Our staff is lining everything up to make them memorable rallies.
But we've got bills to pay now.
So, drop $10, $20, $50, $100 or whatever you can -- give to your heart's content -- but not more than the legal limit of $4,600.
Then watch your name go up in lights on our new super rallies widget.
And see us move toward our goal of $50,000.
Let's crank it up.
And get it done.
Thank you in advance.
See you in Denver and Minneapolis.
Onward to November