Friday, August 15, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Friday, August 15, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, Ralph Nader keeps issues on the table and more.
JEREMY HINZMAN: Well, essentially, it turns our lives upside down. We, as you said, just had a baby [daughter Megahn]. Our son [Liam]  knows nothing else aside from Canada. And if we do go back, which it's looking like, I will undoubtedly be court-martialed and serve some time in jail.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Is there any appeal process left to you yet that might delay the September 23rd deadline?

JEREMY HINZMAN: There is. It's not guaranteed that we'll be granted leave to appeal, but if my lawyer can find errors in the compassionate and humanitarian decision that the Canadian Border Services rendered, then we can--we can appeal. But there's no guarantee that the court will grant us leave.  
JUAN GONZALEZ: And what were the arguments the court used in rejecting your appeal?

JEREMY HINZMAN: Well, in a compassionate and humanitarian case, you need to show that there would be undue hardship if you returned to your country of origin, and we--and you also need to show that you've been established in Canada and can live independently. And we did that. In the decision, the officer said we've established ourselves well in Canada. We haven't been a hindrance to the social assistance programs. But he said that wasn't enough for us to stay. He said the US has a fair justice system. My First Amendment right to free speech is protected. And they also mentioned that--for whatever reason, I don't know--they mentioned George Bush's No School Left Behind program to say that our son would be able to get a good education. I found that kind of humorous.
[. . .]
JUAN GONZALEZ: Have you maintained ties with other US war resisters who are in Canada, who have gone there in recent years?

JEREMY HINZMAN: There are a number of us in Toronto, and I am acquainted with them. There's a movement called the War Resisters Support Campaign that's been active pretty much since we got here, and we have meetings, and there's been a lot of lobbying in support of us. And on June 3rd, the Canadian parliament passed a nonbinding motion by a vote of 137-to-110 saying that US war resisters should be able to remain in Canada. However, the conservative government is refusing to enact the legislation.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Now, Canada, of course, has a long history of giving refugee status to resisters from American wars. Obviously, during the Vietnam War, there were many who went there. How would you characterize the difference between this government's treatment of war resisters and what you know of past times?

JEREMY HINZMAN: Well, during the Vietnam era, of course, Pierre Trudeau, who was a liberal, was in power, and he famously stated--at least up here--that Canada should be a haven from militarism, and that kind of opened the floodgates for American soldiers to come to Canada. I think 50,000 eventually settled here.  Right now, there's a conservative minority government. Canada has a parliamentary system, and they hold the balance of power. And I wouldn't say they're lapdogs to the US, but they share many of the same values of the Bush administration and aren't really sympathetic to what we're doing.
 AP files another story where they quote Jeremy stating, "I went through all the training.  I served honorably in my unit.  I used army provisions to try become a noncombatant and remain in the army as a medic or something, but I still would be subject to going on combat missions as a medic.  I can't bring myself to shoot another person.  If people want to criticize me for that, then I'm honored to be criticized because I'm not a killer."

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 -- that's "finley.d" at "") and Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, 613.992.4211, phone; 613.941.6900, fax; e-mail -- that's "pm" at ""). Courage to Resist collected more than 10,000 letters to send before the vote. Now they've started a new letter you can use online here. The War Resisters Support Campaign's petition can be found here. Long expulsion does not change the need for action and the War Resisters Support Campaign explains: "The War Resisters Support Campaign is calling on supporters across Canada to urgently continue to put pressure on the minority conservative government to immediately cease deportation proceedings against other US war resisters and to respect the will of Canadians and their elected representatives by implementing the motion adopted by Parliament on June 3rd. Please see the take action page for what you can do."  The War Resisters Support Campaign has called an "Emergency Meeting to Stop the Deportation of Jeremy Hinzman and his family, Wednesday August 20 at 7 p.m. at the Steelworkers Hall, 25, Cecil Street" (Toronto) and encourages everyone to "Read the War Resisters Support Campaign press release and circulate it widely
James Burmeister is a US war resister.  He is the whistle blower who went to Canada and told the world (or those who would listen) about the kill teams. Last month, Dee Knight's "Army court-martials resister for blowing whistle on 'bait-and-kill'" (Workers World) offered an overview of Burmeister's court-martial providing the context and why the US military brass wanted to silence him.  Today Evan Kornfeld (US Socialist Worker) also offers a look at James court-martial (James was not deported or extradited, he returned to the US from Canada of his own accord earlier this year and was court-martialed July 16th):
The Eugene Weekly has pointed out that of the 4,698 soldiers who have been charged with desertion in 2007, only 108 have been convicted. [Erich] Burmeister, James' father, believes that his son was prosecuted as punishment for speaking out about the bait and kill teams.
After the trial, at which he testified on his son's behalf, he said, "I obviously now believe that James has been made an example to the rest of the soldiers and to the rest of those who dare think about what James did, that the punishment can be quite severe."
Courage to Resist has noted that "The PFC James Burmeister Support Campaign can be reached at" and that he can receive mail at this address:
James Burmeister 
Box A 
Fort Knox, KY 40121 
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).
Turning to Iraq.  Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports that the death toll for yesterday's bombing attack on pilgrims is 20 "and it raised the specter of more bloodshed as the pilgrimage route becomes crowded before the event Saturday." Sami al-Jumaili (Reuters) explains that "Despite the [security] precautions, Kerbala is bracing for the worst.  Local health director Alaa Hammoudi said that 40 medical units were standing by, and that extra hospital beds were made ready. Near the mosque, makeshift clinics were set up in tents and trailers.  Some pilgrims donated blood."  Campbell Robertson and Riyadh Muhammed (New York Times) quote an eye witness to yesterday's bombing, Ali, who explains, "I saw smoke, and I smelled the very bad smell of burned flesh and blood.  The reactions were a little less than at the last blast maybe because they already have been shocked."  Sudarsan Raghavan and Saad Sarhan (Washington Post) cite Iskandariyah police chief Ali al-Zahawi insisting there is "a shortage of female police officers in the town".  And why is that?  Hey, remember when women were being purged? Remember when female police officers were informed they could not carry fire arms? And remember how the pig and thug and puppet Nouri al-Maliki was pleased as punch with all of that and shocked when a few (very few reports) objections were raised? The puppet needs the illegal war to stay in power. And the White House doesn't give a damn about the rights of Iraqi women. So it was the perfect blend for pigs everywhere.  Anna Badkhen (Salon) reports that, even in the crack-downed Baghdad, "women here still feel threatened.  One can't yet see a pervasive shift in the way women dress.  They continue to wear the conservative clothing that the militias began compelling them to wear after the U.S. invasion.  Most women remain cocooned in shapeless, black abaya dresses and hijab scarves that covered their hair. . . . Before the war, Tammy says, she could walk down the streets of her hometown, the southern and heavily Shia Iraqi port city of Basra, dressed like most teenagers in the United States -- in jeans and no head scarf.  Saddam Hussein's regime was one of the world's most despotic, but it was secular and allowed Iraqi women personal rights and freedoms unparalleled in the Persian Gulf.  Women, who make up more than half of the country's populartion, could drive, travel abroad alone, serve in Iraqi security forces and work side-by-side with men.  They chose whom to marry and whether to marry at all, and were among the most educated in the region. . . .  After the U.S. invasion in 2003, conservative Muslim clerics called for Iraq to become an Islamic state.  In the name of Islamic values, they eroded the liberties women here enjoyed even under Saddam's oppressive regime.  Schools, once coed, became segregated by gender; women were afraid to go outside without a head scarf.  As sectarian violence engulfed Baghdad and other parts of the country in 2006, it brought in its wake even more constraints on women's freedoms."  And the White House didn't just let it happen, they encouraged and, in fact, still encourage it.  At a time when female bombers are said to be the biggest threat to stability in Iraq (foreign forces on the ground in Iraq are the biggest threat to the country's stability), the US military actively recruits women into their "Awakening" Councils and yet -- despite a supposed need which should be driving the market forces -- they pay these women 20% less than their male counterparts.  No one objects.  No one calls it out.  And it reinforces the message to those installed into power in Iraq (by the US) that women are not equal and that their worth is less than that of a man's.
Helen Benedict (In These Times) reports on the increased number of sexual assaults in the US military -- women serving assaulted and abused by their "comrades-in-arms" -- and notes that "the attention always focuses on the women: where they were when assaulted, their relations with the assailant, the effects on their mental health and careers, whether they are being adequately helped, and so on.  That discussion, as valuable as it is, misses a fundamental point.  To understand military sexual assault, let alone know how to stop it, we must focus on the perpetrators.  We need to ask: Why do soldiers rape?"  It's the culture of the institution (which includes looking the other way) and that institution has had a bigger impact than any other US institution in Iraq.   
Institutions, organizations.  How does the peace movement ever plan to be effective in the US with such sorry-ass 'leaders.'  Tom Hayden shows up to soil his own name at The Nation this week with "The Defunding of the Peace Movement."  He pretends to be talking straight (no doubt inflicting howls of laughter from all who know Tom-Tom) and pretends like Barack has pledged to end the illegal war.  Barack has pledged no such thing.  He might reduce the number of US forces in Iraq (to send them to Afghanistan) but he has not called for all US troops out of Iraq -- and long ago refused to promise in a televised debate that, if elected president, all US troops would be out of Iraq by 2012.  Tom-Tom's heart-heart races for Barack so he lies and lies.  The problem, as Tom-Tom sees it, is that people aren't giving money to peace organizations.  Or 527s.  527s?  No, those are not peace organizations but Tom was never a peace leader.  Not now, not back then.  He was always someone lusting after a political career and that motivated him then and does so now.  It's always been about setting Tom's end up.  He talks to Leslie Cagan of UPFJ and she's wondering what her organization could do with $100,000?  More of the same, Leslie, absolutely nothing.  Say it again.
When UPFJ (not one of the worst offenders in my opinion) had more money it didn't change the way they operated.  At best, they were silent on John Kerry.  Other orgs and 'leaders' made it their life's work to shill for his 2004 election.  If UPFJ is facing fund shortages it goes to the lousy leadership they've shown since the start of the illegal war.  Engaging in their sniping with A.N.S.W.E.R. which is fine if it's just an open debate but is not fine when it prevents actions from taking place.  There has not been a huge peace rally since January 2007.  No one's in the mood to give one damn dime to any of these useless organizations.  (IVAW remains the only organization that is working at ending the illegal war.)  They all go rushing off to "War With Iran Tomorrow!" or "Saint Bhutto Has Died!" or one hundred and one other causes while they abandon Iraq.  (Again, my opinion, UPFJ has not been the worst offender there.  CODESTINK has been the worst and the most hypocritical.  UPFJ has tended to go for silence as opposed to hawking non-peace events/candidates.)  Barack's greedy.  How surprising that people are just now grasping that.  How pathetic that Leslie's going to whine to Tom-Tom instead of taking to the UPFJ website to state, "We are an organization trying to end the illegal war.  We are not endorsing any candidate.  We are endorsing the end of the Iraq War.  If you are with us on that, we could use some donations to continue this struggle."  Tom-Tom lies as well and claims, "The Obama finance committee is under more pressure, literally, to pay Hillary Clinton's debt to Mark Penn than to fund any messages on war, recession and global warming."  Tom Hayden, you sexist pig, drop the Bash The Bitch games.  At your age, it only makes you look older, uglier and more pathetic.  Barack hasn't done a damn thing to retire Clinton's debt (and Hillary has stated that she's paying off small vendors first).  That joint-appearance where he gave the speech and 'forgot' to ask people to donate to Hillary and only returned to the stage when reporters questioned him on it?  He's done nothing to help her with her debt and shame on you, a man who'd be living on the streets were it not for his divorce settlement, for pretending otherwise and yet again trying to make it all about Hillary.  Your Lover Man has failed you Tom.  Your limp and inactive and it has nothing to do with Hillary.  You fell in love with Barack and he broke your heart.  Those are the breaks, grow the hell up before senility sets in.
Or has that already happened.  Tom-Tom was one of the signers of that ridiculous ass-kiss to Barack from The NationAs we observed at Third:
Because The Nation is run by the brain dead and the socially stunted today, they decide to copy that with an open letter. (They only know how to do what was done before, no visionaries or dreamers they.) The open letter is called "Change *We* Can Believe In" and if the starring of "We" didn't indicate to you there was a lot of ego tripping going down, you only had to read the names of those who signed on to the garbage -- including non-Democrat Frances Fox Piven (billed as Francis Piven -- what happened, she looked in a mirror?), The Ego Of Us All's Red Buddy who pimped her hard to The New York Times and did more to lie for Friedan than even she herself did, Democratic Groupie (in the worst sense of "groupie" in the rock world) Norm Solomon, Tom-Tom Hayden (still fretting about the 1969 violence we pointed out recently), Red Billy Fletcher, Take Me To My Divorce Pay Day! Jodie Evans, Emma Goldman lookalike Barbara Ehrenreich, Does-Marlo-Know-You-Signed-That-Garbage Phil Donahue, School Girl Katrina vanden Heuvel (who reportedly came up with the embarrassing phrase "the long night of greed" -- to which C.I. responded, "Oh, she's turned her hand to autobigoraphy?") and, yes, Howard Zinn.
The letter is also frankly dishonest when it says that Obama is simply moving to a more "centrist stance" In what sense "centrist"? The war is wildly unpopular and close to 70% of Americans want the U.S. out of Iraq asap. What is "centrist" about moving away from a landslide majoritarian position? And what is the "peace" candidate doing when he calls for 100,000 more active duty army and marines, when he calls for more military spending, when he calls for stepping up the war on Afghanistan, when he talks belligerently about Iran, and when he equivocates on how many tens of thousands of troops are to be left in Iraq? All these are positions that the "peace" candidate took during the primary. They are not new.
[. . .]
What is awfully irritating is that Katrina Vanden Heuval and the rest of the "liberal" elite criticize supporters of McKinney/Clemente and Nader/Gonzalez for "wishful thinking." Compared to the sentiments and views of the supplicants' letter, supporters of third party candidates are hard core realists. And it is very sad to see some of the signatories of this letter who in better times would have been men and women who put principle over "lesser evil" politics. Read the letter carefully. Look at the signatories. It may bring tears.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports pilgrims continue to be targeted with a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 (nine more wounded), a Baghdad mortar attack left two people wounded, another Baghdad roadside bombing left six people wounded, and a Salahudding car bombing that claimed 5 lives (twenty more wounded).
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an armed clash in Kirkuk that resulted in 1 death and an Al Anbar Province assassination attempt on "Sheikh Kahmees Al-Dulaimi, the Imam of one of the mosques in Falluja" who was taken to the hospital for medical care
Today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Force -- West Marine was killed Aug. 14 when his unit received small-arms fire during security operations approximately 1 km east of Fallujah." And they announced: "A Multi-National Corps-Iraq Soldier died of non-battle related causes Aug. 15 in Baghdad. An investigation into the cause of death is under way."  That brings the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4143 and the death toll for the month thus far is 16 -- which is 3 more than the July total that all the news outlets thought was news.
Neil Conan: We're talking with independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader here at the Newseum.  I'm Neil Conan along with NPR Political Junkie Ken Rudin.  If you'd like to join us, 800-989-8255 e-mail  This is Talk of the Nation from NPR News.  And let's get a question from here in the Newseum. 
Patty: Hi, good afternoon.  I'm Patty from San Francisco, California and as a retired public school principal I'd like to know your views on No Child Left Behind.  And I'd also like to know what your education platform is. 
Ralph Nader: Well the way No Child Left Behind has been implemented is not good.  First of all, there are too many tests.  It ruptures the relationship between teachers and students --  they've got to have a test Tuesday and a test Thursday.  They're the wrong kind of tests in my opinion: A, B, C, D, "None of the above."  That's not the assessment test that I think are better evaluators They make teachers teach to the test.  It's this frantic test mania.  It creates unnecessary anxiety among children.  So I'm against it. Teachers are against it too.  A lot of people think it was underfunded and I think the key thing in environmental agenda for a presidential candidate is more decent facilities -- I mean a lot of these inner-city schools are crumbling, we have gleaming stadiums funded by you the tax payer in the same cities the schools, and clinics and libraries are crumbling.  The second thing is decent pay for competent teachers.  They should be assessed too.  And the third is citizen skills, civic skills.  We should teach students connecting the classroom with their town with their community so they can learn about the history, the geography, economics, government of their town and in the process learn citizen skills.  How to use the Freedom of Information Act in your state, how to build coalitions, how to get information from City Hall.  How to do comparative price analysis of staples in supermarket.  That's what makes student learn indirectly reading, writing and arithmetic. I hope a lot of teachers will . . .  push to replace No Child Left Behind with this kind or practical and down to earth and very exciting educational process.
Neil Conan: Thanks for the question.  Let's go the phones, line six, and Mike is with us from Boca Raton in Florida.
Mike: Good morning or good afternoon.  Mister candidate, considering what's happened since the year 2000, don't you think that your candidacy creates too much of a risk of unintended consequences based on your past performance?
Ralph Nader: Well the social scientists who studied that say that [Al] Gore won the election, he won the popular vote.  The electoral college stood in his way and the press investigations and others in Florida indicate, and Gore believes this, that he won Florida but it was taken from him before, during and after election day in all kinds of tricky ways that have been subject to documentaries and investigations, to the five Republicans in the Supreme Court who selected George Bush.  I keep saying to Democrats  "Look in the mirror Go after the thieves because they might do it again and there was a lot of shenanigans in Ohio -- the swing state that left Kerry behind --
Mike: You obviously can't win.  Which of the two candidates would you prefer to be president.   The other two candidates.
Ralph Nader: The ones that are closer to the agenda of Nader - Gonzalez and we don't have time to go through a checklist but if you want to look at we have a sheet which says these are the issues on the table for Nader - Gonzalez -- like full health insurance -- and they're off the table for McCain and Obama.  It's quite remarkable how similar they are on about 15 major re-directions for country and  the reason is they've been dialing too much for corporate dollars and they're too close to these corporate interests.
Mike: Well you know, I'm all for anyone being able to run but candidly we can't stand another eight years of George Bush, McCain and that crowd.
Ralph Nader: Nor can we.  In fact if Al Gore picked up my withering criticism in detail of Bush's record in Texas when he was governor, he'd have won even over the obstacles that these Republican illegally put in his way.
Team Nader has set up  Ralph's Daily Audio  to leave audio commentaries and the one that went up today is entitled "Impeachment:"
This is Ralph Nader.  George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are the most impeachable president and vice president in the history of the United States.  The Constitution of the United States structures our democracy within the rule of law.  Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senator Barack Obama and their Republican associates are seriously subverting the rule of law by blocking the impeachment of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.  
Bill Clinton must be shaking his head in wonderment.  High Crimes and Misdemeanors are what get a president impeached.  That's in Article II, Section IV of our Constitution.  Let's consider the case of Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney.
High crimes and misdemeanor number one: The criminal war, invasion and occupation of Iraq in violation of our Constitution, federal statutes and international treaties that our country belongs to.  The second is systemic torture condoned at the top of our government. That even violates the US Army Field Manual as well as FBI procedures. High crimes and misdemeanor number three: the arrests and imprisonment of thousands of Americans without charges, denying ha beaus corpus the fundamental requirement for a restraining power to show why the liberty of a person is being restrained.  High crimes and misdemeanor number four: spying on millions of Americans without a judicial warrant.  This one violates the FISA Act which provides for a five-year jail term.  High crimes and misdemeanor number five are all those signing statements that George W. Bush declared when he signed one bill after another from Congress saying that it would be up to him to decide whether or not to obey the law. I guess one could call him King George IV.
The American Bar Association, the largest barre association in the world, quite conservative, has sent three major reports to President George W. Bush outlining his serious violations of provisions in our Constitution.  I stood in front of the White House for 45 minutes a few weeks ago and declared the reasons for the impeachment or resignation or subsequent prosecution of Bush and Cheney for the five categories of High Crimes and Misdemeanors.
If we allow rampant, recidivist criminal activity in the White House -- as Speaker Pelosi, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain have done week after week, month after month -- that'll simply set the stage for future presidents to think that they too can break the law with impunity and run our civil liberties, our civil rights, our safety, our freedoms, our status before the world into the ground.  I'm Ralph Nader.  
Friday (in most markets, check local listings), Bill Moyers sits down with Andrew Bacevich to discuss the imperial impresidency.  PBS tonight (and throughout the weekend depending on when your local station airs it) will also feature Washington Week. Janine Zacharia (Bloomberg News) will be among the guests. She's been doing a ton of research on refugees so she should be able to pull that into her topic (the positions of Barack and McCain), Todd S. Purdum (Vanity Fair) will discuss the upcoming Democratic National Convention (will Gwen or anyone mention the Nadar Super Rally that will take place in Denver August 27th?), and Jeffrey Birnbaum (Washington Post) will be among the guests (Birnbuam will be addressing campaign monies and laws). And NOW on PBS explores the US and Mexican border.