Monday, August 18, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Monday, August 18, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, Jeffry House still doesn't grasp what Justice Robert Barnes wrote in his ruling, Blackwater mercenaries are made to sweat, Ralph Nader fights for democracy and open debates and Cynthia McKinney makes it clear that she will not be intimidated by some 'supporters' who wanted her to cancel an appearance.
Starting with war resistance. Last Wednesday, US war resister Jeremy Hinzman was informed he had to leave Canada by September 32rd.  He and his family (wife Nga Nguyen, son Liam and daughter Meghan) have taped a video at the  War Resisters Support Campaign where Jeremy speaks to Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada:
Jeremy Hinzman: Hello, Mr. Harper.  This is my family Nga, Liam and Meghan.  We've been in Canada for the last four and a 1/2 years.  I was a specialist in the 82nd Air borne division of the United States Army and served honorably in Afghanistan.  In 2004, my family and I came to Canada because we would not participate in the Iraqi War, a war which Canada also refused to participate in because it was condemned by the international community.  One of your predecessors, Pierre Trudeau, once said that Canada should be have from militarism and we took him at this word.  On June 3, 2008, the Canadian Parliament passed a motion saying that United States war resisters should be able to remain in Canada.  We're asking you to abide by this motion and allow us to stay in Canada.  Thank you.
Title Card: On September 23rd, the Harper government plans to deport the Hinzman family back to the United States.
Title Card: Hinzman faces a court martial and up to 5 years in military prison for opposing the Iraq war and coming to Canada.
Title Card: War Resisters Support Campaign (Canada):
In These Times has an article by Peter Kavanagh and I'm going to take huge exception with a viewpoint offered by Jeffry House who really needs to start getting to know the facts.  Facts are your friend, Jeffry.  House represents Joshua Key (and many others) and maybe he thinks making ridiculous statements about the Barnes decision is to Josh's benefit?  I don't know.  But he was wrong when the decision was released and he's STILL wrong.  He tells Kavanagh, "The Key decision is of use to soldiers who have their boots on the ground and are ordered to commit acts [that] violate their consciences, and also violate international norms."  House is wrong.  Alyssa makes similar statements and I let it slide.  I cringe but let it slide.  She didn't live through the time period, House did.  Judge Barnes, PAY ATTENTION, found the Board to be in error by proclaiming "that refugee protection for military deserters and evaders is only available where the conduct objected to amounts to a war crime, a crime against peace or a crime against humanity."
Let me explain what NOT noting that is akin to: Finding out that your dream house has a closet painted the wrong color and saying, "Oh, forget it."  That sentence -- which escapes Allyson, shouldn't escape House.  Key words: MILITARY DESERTERS AND EVADERS.  Same words from Vietnam. Barnes is using those terms today.  Who's what?  Deserters are those who served in Iraq and then checked out.  Evaders would be those ordered to go to Iraq who checked out before deploying.  Barnes knows his terminology and he knows his history.  His decision is a very carefully constructed finding. By mentioning the category of military evaders he means who?  Jeremy Hinzman, Brandon Hughey and all others who checked out instead of deploying to Iraq.  Kyle Snyder, Joshua Key, Patrick Hart, etc would qualify as military deserters in the eyes of the court.
This isn't the first time Jeffry House has made public statements that have missed the boat (and, worse, damaged the cases of others).  I'm not going to sit here and smile and pretend it didn't just happen again.  He is WRONG.  Justice Robert Barnes' decision is a long one.  House was commenting on it without even reading it earlier.  It was obvious from the press that he hadn't even bothered to read it.  He may have read a summary but he didn't read the 23 pages.  Barnes is careful, considered and meticulous in his ruling.  He is specifically addressing Joshua Key's case but what he ruled provides openings for many war resisters -- regardless of whether they fall into the category of "military deserter" or "military evader."  The latter term, during Vietnam, was used to described those who were evading the draft.  The "evader" has always been the one who has not been on the battlefield.  Barnes is using that term today and Jeffry House should have caught that and should have understood its significance.  It's been over a month since that ruling was issued.  There's no longer an excuse for not being familiar with it.  We'll try to note Kavanagh's article again later in the week -- really note it -- but this is exactly the nonsense (House's -- I'm not referring to Kavanagh) that keeps hurting war resistance.  It is exactly why Mactavish was able to dismiss concerns as "speculation."  (And, hello, we pointed the dangers of that 'strategy' out here at the start of July.  Long before Mactavish offered that ruling.  And noted it would be dismissed as "speculation."  As it was.)  I'm sure House and others are overworked but there are too many basic points of law that are repeatedly being missed.  The ruling is 23 pages long.  All representing war resisters in Canada need to read over the ruling (read it again if they already have).  Don't take House's summary as gospel because this is the second time he's spoken of it publicly and been wrong.  Not only do you need to read it for what it says (such as "military deserters and evaders"), you need to read it while thinking how it directly effects your client's case and how YOU CAN TRY TO EXPAND IT to do so.  That is building on the ruling.  And, one more thing, Barnes mentions Jeremy Hinzman in his ruling.  He didn't have to.  The fact that Hinzman is mentioned in the ruling makes the ruling especially significant to Jeremy's case.  More so than any other war resister except Josh.  Equally true, Barnes' statement that, "Officially condoned military misconduct falling well short of a war crime may a support a claim to refugee protection" is a statement that applies to all, not just those who had their boots on the ground.  If only those whose boots were on the ground could make that assessment, Barnes couldn't make it himself.  He's dependent upon testimony and findings (including the International Red Cross).  The same testimony and findings he depended upon to make his ruling may have had impact on the decision of a US war resister currently in Canada who did not go to Iraq.
Irwin Loy (24 Hours Vancouver) reported over the weekend on Michael Beyers who is running for the Canadian Parliament and declared, "I believe in a Canada that grants asylum to principled young Americans that said no to an illegal war."  Byers is an NDP candidate and the NDP has a long history of supporting war resisters.  Just as Oliva Chow is among those leading the charge today, NDP-ers like Ed Broadbent led it during Vietnam.  Back then, Broadbent was regularly pointing out Canada's long history as a place for sanctuary such as when he noted, "Our tradition of welcoming those who are essentially political refugees goes back to the United Empire Loyalists."  Broadbent would go on to take the NDP to new heights in the immediate post-Vietnam period.  There is no political fallout for Canadian office holders on this issue.  [Click here for CBC coverage of Broadbent.]  This is the press release issued by Oliva Chow's office on the decision to deport Jeremy:
The August 13 decision by Harper's Conservative government to deport war resister Jeremy Hinzman is mean-spirited and anti-democratic.  
"Harper's mean-spirited decision to allow this deportation is sad," said NDP Citizenship and Immigration Critic MP Olivia Chow.  "Jeremy has called Canada his home for the past five years and has just recently celebrated the birth of his second child.  If there was ever a case to grant refugee status on compassionate and humanitarian grounds, this is it."  
With today's negative ruling on Jeremy Hinzman's Pre-removal Risk Assessment and Humanitarian and Compassionate consideration, there is an urgent need for the people of Canada to express their outrage against the Conservative government's refusal to act on the will of Parliament.   
On June 3rd, Olivia Chow saw her motion to halt all deporations against US Iraq war resisters passed by Parliament by a vote of 137-110.  
"Ordinary Canadians have already said 'yes' to Jeremy Hinzman and to his family," said Chow.  "They have spoken through their Parliament, they want to let Mr. Hinzman and other U.S. Iraq War Resisters stay in Canada."  
Jeremy Hinzman is schedule to be deported on Tuesday, September 23.  Hinzman is the first war resister who filed a refugee claim to stay in Canada.
Courage to Resist alerts, "Supporters are calling on Hon. Diane Finley, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, to intervene. Phone 613.996.4974 or email,"Iraq Veterans Against the War also encourages people to take action, "To support Jeremy, call or email Hon. Diane Finley, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, and ask her to intervene in this case. Phone: 613.996.4974 email:" In addition to that, Canada's War Resisters Support Campaign is staging an emergency meeting this week (August 20th, Wednesday, 7:00 pm, Steelworkers Hall at 25 Cecil St.) and planning a day of action (September 13th) where "[a]ctions, demonstrations and pickets will take place in cities and towns all across Canada."
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 where Shi'ite pilgrims became the focus of attacks last week and it continued over the weekend.  AFP reports that from Thursday through Saturday "at least 36" lost their lives (and notes that Thursday's Iskandariyah attack claimed 22 lives with seventy-three injured). Sunday, Stephen Farrell (New York Times) reported on the 6 deaths of pilgrims in a bombing and that, "Three hours after the early-morning blast, shopkeepers, residents and survivors were still pulling charred goods and debris from damaged roadside stores, and sweeping ashes and wreckage into the gutter."  [Friday's bombing attack on pilgrims claimed 9 lives.] Yesterday Hussein Kadhim (McCatchy Newspapers) reports a Sunday  Baghdad bomber on bicylce that claimed his/her own life as well as 5 other people (thirteen wounded).  As the death toll increased, Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) reported that 7 were dead from the "suicide bomber on a bicycle" with thirteen injured.  Erica Goode and Ali Hameed (New York Times) report the bombing took place "in front of Baghdad's famous Abu Hanifa mosque," claimed 15 lives (twenty-nine injured) and: "Witnesses said that the bomber, a man, may have been riding a motorcycle that was parked about 65 feet from a traffic light on the street."  Ned Parker and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) explain, "There were contradictory accounts of the incident. One police officer said the bomber was disguised as a woman and arrived on foot; another said the attacker was not disguised and arrived on a bike."  The US military maintains it was a man and that he walked up to "an SOI control check point near the Abu Hamifa Mosque wearing a personal borne improvised-explosive device and self-detonated."  "SOI" is "Sons of Iraq" aka "Awakening" Councils (or Sahwa).  AP disagrees on the gender of the bomber (they say it was a woman) but do agree that 6 "bodyguards of Farooq al-Obeidi, deputy leader of the 'awakening council' in Baghdad's Azamiyah district, also died in the blast, which occurred as they were seated on chairs near a checkpoint near the Abu Hanifa mosque". 
Sunday Del Quentin Wilber and Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) reported that six mercenaries working for Blackwater who had been in Iraq "working as security contractors for the State Department, assigned to protect U.S. diplomats and other non-military officials in Iraq" that they are targets in a criminal investigation.  If it seems familiar you may be remembering the real-time article by Sabrina Tavernise and James Glanz ("Security Firm Faces Criminal Charges in Iraq," New York Times). Dropping back to the September 17th snapshot:
Turning to the issue of violence, Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reported Sunday [Sept. 16th] that  a Baghdad shooting (by private contractors) killed 9 Iraqi civilians and left fifteen more wounded. Later on Sunday, CNN reported, "In the Baghdad gun battle, which was between security forces and unidentified gunmen, eight people were killed and 14 wounded, most of them civilians, an Interior Ministry official said. Details were sketchy, but the official said witnesses told police that the security forces involved appeared to be Westerners driving sport utility vehicles, which are usually used by Western companies. The clash occurred near Nisoor square, in western Baghdad.  CBS and AP report that Abdul-Karim Khalaf, spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, announced "it was pulling the license of an American security firm allegedly involved in the fatal shooting of civilians during an attack on a U.S. State Department motorcade in Baghdad," that "it would prosecute any foreign contractors found to have used excessive force" in the slaughter (eight dead, 13 wounded) and they "have canceled the liscense of Blcakwater and prevented them from working all over Iraqi territory." 
The number killed continued to mount.  James Bone (Times of London) notes today that 17 Iraqi civilians were slaughtered in that incident and reminds that, "In negotiations on a new bilateral security agreement, the Iraqi government has pressed for all foreign personnel to be subject to Iraqi law."  Meanwhile, the US military has good news yesterday! "Attacks down except roadside bombs, rigged houses"! So attacks are down . . . if you eliminate some of the attacks. The opening sentence: "The numbers of houses rigged with explosives and roadside bombs have increased since the beginning of the Iraqi offensive in Diyala, while other attack trends have been decreasing." Guess this wave of Operation Happy Talk should be dubbed "win some, lose some." M-NF also announced 37 women "attended the first day of a four-week course at the Kirkuk Police Academy outside of Kirkuk city" Saturday. Reuters reported the Turkish military says they bombed northern Iraq on Sunday ("no details of casualties"). And that "police fired on demonstrators" Sunday in Arbil killing one.
In news of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that left five people wounded, while another Baghdad roadside bombing left three people wounded and a Baghdad IED bombing left nine people wounded. Reuters notes a Ramadi car bombing that claimed the lives of  5 police officers dead (seven wounded) and a Mosul roadside bombing that resulted in three being injured.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that Faris Jabir Thair ("a member in Shaheed al Mihrab organization") was shot dead (machine gunned while in his car) in a Baghdad attack that left his wife wounded, while 2 people were shot dead in Basra ("director of an election center and his deputy") with another wounded and "Awakening" Council leader Raheem Thyab al Bayati was shot dead in Kirkuk.  On the Basra shooting of election officials, Reuters notes Ma'ath Wahab was the name of the director who was shot dead (the other killed and the one wounded are not named).
Turning to the US presidential race.  Last Monday, independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader was in Toronto.  Hentry Martinuk (Rabble News) reports today that Ralph attracted a crowd of 200 and: "There are several other issues where Nader differs from Obama and McCain: impeachment of Bush and Cheney; withdrawal from Iraq; restoring civil liberties; repealing anti-union laws; supporting industrial hemp; and cutting the wasteful military budget. According to Nader, Obama and McCain 'never met a weapons system they didn't like'."  Third Party Watch notes, "Zogby International reports that more than half of likely voters nationwide -- 55% -- want Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr to participate in the presidential debates this fall, while nearly half -- 46% -- also said they think Ralph Nader should be allowed into the debates."  Which is a good time to note, from Ralph's Daily Audio, "Join Our Super Rallies for Open Debates:"

Good morning, this is Ralph Nader. As you know, Nader/Gonzalez is being blocked from the presidential debates. The corporate controlled so-called Commission on Presidential Debates will not let any independent candidate in unless they show 15% in a series of polls in September. That's no surprise. What is surprising is the failure of other debates to fill the vacuum. Part of this is due to Senator Obama's reluctance to engage his opponents.   
On May 4th, Obama told Tim Russert on Meet The Press that he was willing to debate with "any of my opponents about what this country means, what makes it great." But earlier this month, Obama's campaign manager backed off, saying that Obama would debate only Senator McCain and only in the three rigged debates that's sponsored by the two parties and paid for by corporations.  
Senator Obama's also refused to participate in a number of other debates including the Google debate in New Orleans, the Texas Ft. Hood debate that is being organized by veterans groups and the series of ten townhall meetings proposed by Senator McCain. Senator Obama's refusal to participate is a mistake and is costing him in the polls. Just yesterday, the Gallup tracking polls put McCain and Obama tied at 44% each. If Obama doesn't agree to more debates he could end up at the end of a sentence that starts out "Mondale, Dukakis, Gore and Kerry.
With only McCain and Obama on the stage , there will be no debate of key issues and redirections important to the American people . Just go down the partial list. Single-payer Medicare for all healthcare, supported by the majority of the American people, the majority of doctors and nurses, and just recently, unanimously, by the US conference of mayors? Obama says "no," McCain says "no." Reversing US policy in the Middle East? Obama says "no," McCain says "no." Cut the bloated, wasteful, redundant military budget? Obama says "no," McCain says "no." They want a bigger military budget. Empty the prisons of drug possessors and fill 'em up with corporate criminals? Obama says "no," McCain says "no." Nader-Gonzalez says "yes" to each. 
The only way to change this systemic exclusion is for millions of Americans to become engaged now. If you can, please join with us at our two Super Rallies-- on August 27th in Denver at the University of Denver Magness Arena or September 4th in Minneapolis at Orchestra Hall. And help us raise the banner for all to see: "OPEN THE DEBATES." 
If you are not able to attend, please go to and donate now whatever you can up to the legal maximum of $4,600 to help fund our Open The Debates Campaign. Our goal is to raise $50,000 by Wednesday night. Last night, we were close to $14,000 in less than three days, but we have a ways to go. So join with us in Denver and Minneapolis if you can. We're planning to have some prominent activists and musicians with us. Stay tuned for more information on that. And we have some surprise, giant, inflatable visuals that should be a lot of fun, that will travel with us as we move from Denver to Minneapolis and then, hopefully, will bring attention to our Super Rallies from the press.  
Thank you for your ongoing and considered support to our campaign. Together we are making a difference. Onward to November. I'm Ralph Nader.  
Chuck Baldwin, Bob Barr, Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader are presidential candidates.  There is no need for "presumptive" to be used as a preface.  They are presidential candidates.  They get very little coverage.  The debates need to be opened and click here for Third addressing that yesterday and this was left out in the rush to type (Jim added it this morning -- thank you to community member Lynda), wo we'll include that section in full here:
The campaign is keeping issues on the table. Thursday, Jess spoke with Junue Millan at the newly opened Nader-Gonzalez Denver Headquarters.   
The headquarters intends to be open not just business hours Monday through Friday, but from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. That's due to the fact that not only are they a campaign headquarters with all that entails, they're also gearing up for the
Denver Super Rally August 27th. They are expecting between 5,000 and 7,000 people at the University of Denver's Magness Arena.   
And they need volunteers. If you're in the Denver area and interested in helping, you can e-mail Junue Millan at as well as call the office (303) 832-2509 or walk in.   
The Denver Super Rally will feature Ralph and running mate Matt Gonzalez as well as many guest speakers such as artist, activist and rocker
Jello Biafra. Junue Millan described the mood to Jess as very up and noted that five outlets (including Univision) had sent reporters Thursday to cover the opening of the Denver headquarters. Millan was able to quickly -- without pausing -- tick off the issues that the Nader-Gonzalez campaign were raising and intended to keep on the table. None of that, "Check Saint Barack's website for issues, I am just here to talk about how groovy Barack is and how, when he cries, the heavens rain. I first came to Barack . . . a street junkie who had run away from home and was turning tricks on the side, selling a little blow and scamming this old lady at the homeless shelter, but Saint Barack has changed my life and cured my irritable bowel syndrome. Praise be, St. Barack." Instead, Millan was informed and a total pro which says a great deal the Nader-Gonzalez campaign.
Steven Argue (Dissident Voice) reports that Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney (and running mate Rosa Clemente) will be participating in Recreate '68 in Denver in spite of the fact that "the Green Party of Colorado has issued false statements to the press and all over the internet claiming that Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia MiKinney will not be participating in the Recreate '68 events."  We don't have room in the snapshot for Cynthia's statement in full (it'll go in one of tomorrow's morning entries) but here is the opening (and for space, paragraphs are going to run together):
As the United States activated Navy ships and the Air Force to begin an airlift of non-specified goods into the former Soviet state of Georgia, and military exercises began in the Persian Gulf near Iran, I received communications from certain individuals among the Colorado Greens who were organizing campaign support events there, suggesting that I not participate in an anti-war program being organized by other individuals in Colorado.  Perplexed, I began to do my research to understand the nature of the fissure that I seemed to be placing myself in the middle of.  The communications to me about not participating in one of the scheduled events became more and more shrill.  The events ran through August 26th.  When the lineup of speakers, including Rosa and me, was announced for the events in question, I received multiple communications stating in various ways that the sender from the Green Party of Colorado, was on the verge of desperation over the latter.
At this point Cynthia states that some Colorado Greens threatened her with stopping the ballot access efforts in Wyoming if she didn't agree not to appear and she was told, basically, 'We supported Elaine Brown and not you anyway, nah-nah-nah.' She then lists some of the people participating who have stood up regularly for what was needed before concluding:
Rosa and I have not been given any rational, ideological, or strategically-acceptable reason by the Green Party of Colorado to dissociate ourselves from the movement that this country so desperately needs and that these individuals and organizations participating represent, as we all attempt to hold the Democratic Party accountable for its complicity in all of the crimes of the Bush Administration.  Therefore Rosa and I will keep our appointments in Denver and we hope that the members of the Green Party of Colorado will attend our sessions and listen to what we have to say.  I have faith that by taking principled stands against war and occupation, human rights abuse, the prison-industrial complex, and in support of freedom for political prisoners, the Green Party will emerge stronger.
Finally, from Ralph's Daily Audio, here's today's "The Bloated Defense Budget:"
This is Ralph Nader.  Remember reading or hearing the farewell address of President Dwight Eisenhower? 1960, when he warned Americans about what he called "the military industrial complex."  Well, just a few words about where we are in the military budget.  It's now 1/2 of the entire federal government's operating expenditures.  It's way over $700 billion and that's not counting the money for helping our veterans.  Both Obama and McCain want to increase the military budget.  The Government Accountability Office yearly describes the gigantic Pentagon contracting budget unaduitable.  Just imagine, half of what the federal government spends in operating expenditures can't even be audited.  For example, people inside the Defense Department think that the F-22 should never have been contract for, built wasn't necessary. The Osprey helicopter -- defective, killed quite a few marines in test flights, shouldn't have been built in their judgment. Hundreds of billions of dollars are in the pipeline for weapons systems that were designed for the Soviet Union-era of hostility. They no longer have any strategic value and many of them are redundant.  We've got to cut the waste out of the huge military budget and put that money back into repairing America's public works and cities, towns and rural areas all over the country.  If we cut out the expenditures of keeping our soldiers out of Japan and Western Europe -- 60-plus years after WWII -- a portion of that money could give free education to all students in public universities in the United States. Think about it.  Think about who stands for a lean defense -- not a wasteful defense; who stands for respecting your tax payer dollar and returning it to you to improve the public facilities, schools and clinics, libraries, drinking water systems, sewage stream and plant upgrades among some of the deferred maintenance that's reducing the facilities that are necessary for a thriving community.