Thursday, October 02, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, October 2, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, military court-martials continue, Iraqi widows in Baghdad live in appalling conditions (provided by the government!), and more.
Starting with an update to the September 17th snapshot which noted:
BBC reports that Sgt John Hatley, Sgt 1st Class Joseph Mayo and Sgt Michael Lehy Jr. are charged with murdering four Iraqis ('blindfolded, shot and dumped in a canal in April 2007'). . . .   CBC notes, "The killings are alleged to have been retribution for casualties suffered by U.S. forces."  CBC also states that four more are being held and are under investigation (with two of the four US soldiers having been charged).  AP, however, says the four additional soldiers 'have already been charged with conspiracy in the case'."  None of those three soldiers charged with murder has entered a plea but one of the four charged with conspiracy has: Spc Belmor Ramos.  AP reports that Ramos "pleaded guilty to conspiracy to murder and was sentenced to seven months in prison Thursday in the deaths of four Iraqis, saying he stood guard from a machine-gun turret while the bound and blindfolded prisoners were shot."
BBC reports today that Spc Steven Ribodry "has been jailed for eight months after admitting playing a part in the killings of four Iraqi men in April 2007" -- accessory after the fact.  George Frey (AP) adds that Ribordy "pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of accessory to murder and was sentenced to eight months in prison" and "also will receive a bad conduct discharge". RTT News quotes Ribordy telling the court, "The reason I didn't say anything was because of loyalty to my comrades."  CBS and AP quote him also stating, "I wasn't ordered or asked in any way, shape or form to move the body.  I wanted to get it done and get out there -- I didn't want anybody getting in trouble."  Matt Millham (Stars and Stripes) explained in August that Ribordy was among the four (Staff Sgt Jess Cunnigham, Spc Belmor Ramos, Sgt Charles Quigley and Ribordy) suspected "in the alleged cover-up.  The soldiers who pulled the triggers, according to Sgt. Daniel Evoy, were 1st Sgt. John Hatley, who he called a beloved company first sergeant; Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Mayo, the company's master gunner; and Sgt. Michael Leahy, a medic." Reuters notes the "charge against" Riobordy "of conpiracy to commit premediated murder was dismissed.  As part of his guilty plea, Ribordy agreed to testify in the trials of other soldiers involved".
Staying with that theme, Tony Perry (Los Angeles Times) reports on the "pretrial hearing Wednesday at Camp Pendleton" of Sgt Ryan Weemer "charged with murder for allegedly killing a prisoner Nov. 9 [2004] in the first hours of battle" who called "Sgt. Maj. Brad Kasal as a character witness".  While Weemer testified as a character witness (and about the US actions in Falluja), Rick Rogers (San Diego Union Tribune) reports that Sgt Jermaine Nelson did not despite having immunity and being "ordered to testify.  But Nelson wouldn't talk about what transpired during a Nov. 9, 2004, battle in Fallujah.  He, Weemer and other Marines allegedly found several men during a house-to-house search, held them captive and then shot them to death after interpreting their superiors' comments over the radio as an order to kill. 'At this time, sir, I am going to continue to use my Fifth Amendment right,' Nelson said in reply to questions from the prosecutor."  Perry reports that Sgt Jose Nazario is also refusing to provide testimony and this follows Nazario's own court-martial which Weemer and Nelson refused to testify at leading to an acquittal for Nazario.  As the White House attempts to push through a treaty with the puppet government in Baghdad (while calling it a SOFA) a sticky point has been the issue of immunity for US service members whom Iraqis feel are not punished for criminal actions.  Court-martials like Weemer's do nothing to allay those fears.  (And long after the next US president is sworn in, this will still be an issue.)
In other military legal news, David Allen (Stars and Stripes) reports, "Marine Sgt. Bassa Cisse was sentenced to eight years in prison and a dishonorable discharge Wednesday for beating to death his 6-year-old daughter. . . . An Air Force psychiatrist testified that Cisse suffered from PTSD as a result of his second tour in Iraq, when a patrol vehicle he commanded almost tipped over a cliff. However, the prosecution submitted a medical report by a Navy psychologist that rejected the PTSD diagnosis."
From Iraq, Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) examines the various tensions between different factions of Iraqis and how elections might put new sections into power which "in turn means that groups currently in power would likely lose ground".  Rubin explains how many groupings (such as the "Awakening" Councils and followers of Moqtada al-Sadr) can point to the names of colleagues who were assassinated, the struggle in southern Iraq between the Dawa Party and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (both Shi'ite political parties), Al Anbar Province where there is conflict among the "Awakening" Councils and the Iraqi Islamic Party (both Sunnis) and it all comes down to who will control the resources.  In the north, it's not just resources, it's a land grab (my thoughts and words, not Rubin's).  Rubin notes "the Kurds are battling for hegemony in areas that lie along the border of their semiautonomous region.  They are competing with Turkmens and Sunni Arabs who claim primacy of ownership to some of the same territory, particularly the city of Kirkuk and its surrounding province.  Politicians have tried repeatedly since 2003 to reach a deal to resolve the disputes.  But each effort has foundered on Kurdish ambitions to expand the Kurdistan region. For much of the past five years, the situation was tense but did not explode into ethnice violence.  That changed in the last six months as attacks began on the party headquarters of different groups.  Then in August, Kurdish soldiers in Kirkuk opened fire on Turkmens after a suicide bomb; the ensuing riot killed dozens of people.  The violence spread.  In early September in Khanaqin, a predominately Kurdish city that lies in neighboring Diyala Province, Iraqi Army tanks faced off against the Kurdish pesh merga, the Kurdistan security forces."  On the issue of the Kurdish region, professional friend to the Kurdistan government, Peter W. Galbraith writes in today's New York Times, "You [Senator Joe Biden] have espoused a plan for an Iraqi confederation in which Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds could have controlled their own security forces in separate self-governing regions.  The Bush adminsitration has created the Sunni army.  Should we now encourage the Sunnis to form their own autonomous region, as allowed under Iraq's Constitution, and make the Awakening the army of that region?"  No, Galbraith can't stop pimping the splitting up of Iraq.  It's really the only topic Galbraith has.  As noted last week, Galbraith wrote of John McCain, "He has denounced the Obama-Biden plan for a decentralized state but has said nothing about how he would protect Iraq's Kurds, the only committed American allies in the country."  ["Is This a 'Victory'?" (New York Review of Books)].  It's really important for Galbraith to pretend that the "Awakening" Councils are supported by the people when that is not the case.  They are thugs placed on the US payroll -- as both US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Gen David Petraeus freely admitted to Congress last April -- to get them to stop attacking US troops.  They intimidate the people of the regions they allegedly 'protect.'  But Galbraith's concern has always been (and remains) the oil-rich Kurdistan region.
Rubin doesn't touch on the 'handover' yesterday in Iraq in her article. Jeffrey Fleishman (Los Angeles Times) reports on the tension and suspicion the 'handover' of the "Awakening" Council to the puppet government has created: "Some leaders of the Sons of Iraq feel that the transition represents a betrayal by the U.S. The government of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki also questioned the Sunni fighters loyalty to Iraqi forces and whether it can provide jobs and training for them."  NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (Morning Edition) reported Monday where "Awakening" members in Diyala Province feel they are being targeted with violence and phony arrest warrants leading some to leave Iraq including two Garcia-Navarro spoke with who moved to Syria.
Yesterday Garcia-Navarro reported on Iraqi widows for All Things Considered condemned to a trailer park in Baghdad with metal roofs that make it impossible to inhabit due to the heat and "with no electricity or running water."  (This must qualify as 'helping' to al-Maliki.)  Garcia-Navarro spoke with widow Hiba Attiyah who states, "When my husband was alive, I used to depend on him for everything.  After his death, I've been through many black days and difficult times.  My three boys did not come here to live with me in this trailer because there is not enough space.  They live now with my mom and I don't get to see them much."
Two bombings in Iraq today managed to grab some press attention.  Corrine Reilly, Sahar Issa and Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) report the bombings took place "at Baghdad mosques" this morning "as Shiites marked the first day of Eid, a three-day celebration that follows Ramadan, Islam's holy month." Mohammed Abbas and Peter Graff (Reuters) offer, "A leg and other body parts could be seen more than 100 metres from where a bomber detonated a taxi after ramming it into a police vehicle guarding a Shi'ite prayer hall in the Zafaraniya district, said a Reuters TV cameraman at the scene.  A vegetable truck used to carry away the bodies was covered in blood, and glass was shattered in surrounding buildings."  Deborah Haynes (Times of London) adds, "Severed limbs littered the bloodied streets at the site of both explosions, while ambulances wailed into action, evacuating the wounded and the dead."  Al Jazeera Magazine explains, "Security officials said a bomber blew himself up in a mosque in Jadida, a Shia district of southern Baghdad, killing 12 people and wounding 30.  In the second attack, another bomber slammed his explosives-laded car into an Iraqi military armored vehicle at a checkpoint near a mosque in the nearby district of Zafaraniyah".  CNN puts the death toll  at "at least 20".  Vanessa Gera (AP) quotes eye witness Ammar Hashim stating, "Pools of blood and the smell of burned flesh was everywhere and I saw a man of about 70 bleeding and lying on the ground from injuries."
In other reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad car bombing targeting "a U.S. military convoy" that destroyed 1 "U.S. army vehicle" and wounded two Iraqis.  CBS and AP report that four US service members were wounded in the bombing.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports  an attempted assassination of Sheikh Radhwan Izuddin in Nineveh Province which he "survived . . . with superficial injuries" and an attack on a minibus in Diyala Province in which 3 women, 1 man and 2 children were shot dead and two adults were wounded.  On the minibus attack, Ken Sury (Waco Tribune) adds, "The dead were heading to Baquoba to visit relatives"
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports  1 corpse discovered in Baghdad.
Turning to the US presidential race.  Robin Morgan has a column at Women's Media CenterViolet Socks (Reclusive Leftist) has a response.  You can also see Marcia's "" and "."  I'll address in part tonight in "I Hate The War."  Robin's column is a very bad column.  It will be addressed in part tonight because Jim's asked me to save a topic (as Kat noted Monday) for Third this weekend.  After that goes up, Robin's column will appear even more uninformed.  For now, you can read Marcia's "When feminist 'leaders' lie" and "Ralph Nader, HB Melissa, and more"  Robin is a strong voice and real feminist leader (not a 'leader') so it's a damn shame she chose to publish that column.  Again, we'll address tonight.  For now, she's elected to play a round of "Bash the Bitch."  It's not pretty.  It is embarrassing and it is deeply harmful to feminism.  And let's be really clear, no one would mistake Robin's column for a "catfight."  It is "Bash the Bitch."  Which is worse? "Bash the Bitch" is how you get women burned at the stake in earlier times.  Today, you burn them with lies, half-truths and a double standard.  My opinion, "Bash the Bitch" is much worse than a "catfight."  Robin should have known better.  Violet Socks also points out that while Governor Palin proudly defines herself as a feminist, Michelle Obama replied when asked that question, "You know, I'm not that into labels.  So probably, if you laid out a feminist agenda, I would probably agree with a large portion of it.  I wouldn't identify as a feminist just like I probably wouldn't identify as a liberal or a progressive."  Well of course she wouldn't.  Sexism is the theme of the Obama household.  Many a foolish woman has said "well he has two daughters!"  That has to be the most insane and ahistorical remark made yet.  Are we supposed to believe that women just emerged in the last few decades?  Men have always had daughters and sons.  And sexism has always thrived.  Get a grip. Your first clue was his insistence upon going along with Michelle to a job interview (Michelle's job interview).  That tells you his actual opinion of women -- their abilities and their intellect.  It would appear Robin's been bitten by the Sour Grape Girl syndrome.  Hopefully, it's a 24-hour viral sort of illness.  Semi-related, garychappelhill (The Confluence) has a post.  It has nothing to do with this topic but a comment garychappelhill left on Riverdaughter's post resulted in a number of e-mails here.  While the sour grape girls can't bring themselves to call out homophobia, a lot of people are suffering.  Gary is a gay man and wrote of the damage done to the LGBT community in Barack's campaign.  That topic will be brought up tonight but I probably won't have time to link to him and will probably focus more on lesbians than gay males so we're including a link to his post.  A number of community members e-mailed afraid that he would stop writing.  He's already written a post today.  That's an understandable fear.  Team Obama has run an ugly, disgusting campaign and the 'progressives' have refused to call it out thereby sending the message to so many people that they are unwanted.  PUMA is only one response to the ugly campaign.  There are a number of people who've been made to feel they do not fit in with the 'grand vision.'  Sadly, Robin's very bad column will only further that impression. 
Tonight Governor Sarah Palin debates Senator Joe Biden in the 'vice presidential' 'debates.'  Palin is the v.p. nominee of the Republican Party, Biden of the Democratic Party.  Today, the McCain-Palin ticket picked up an endorsement from the Lowell Sun which notes Senator John McCain's work with Senator Ted Kennedy on immigration and with Senator Russ Feingold on campaign-finance reform and calls McCain "America's true-blue, principled maverick."

History is certain to be made this election, but not by Sen. Obama and Gov. Palin, but rather by the Green Party's Presidential nominee, Cynthia McKinney - a black woman.         
Cynthia McKinney, who was previously a Democrat, expanded her political views and won over the Green Party as the nominee for the presidential candidacy.
She is a firm believer in the 2008 Green Party's Platform and a strong advocate for her "Power to the People" campaign.          
In a press release, her running mate, Rosa Clemente said, "Cynthia McKinney is a hero to me and many others across this country and around the world."
McKinney has been actively involved in politics since 1986. She was born the daughter of Georgia state representative Billy McKinney. Previously a resident of Jamaica, she ran and won a seat in the House of Representatives representing Georgia along side her father, in 1988. She was elected the first African-American woman to Congress in 1992, however, just 10 years later, she lost her seat.
Congresswoman McKinney has since been able to move forward and attempt to promote a new health care plan and eliminate weapons of mass destruction, key values set forth by the Green Party. In an International Tribunal Press Release, McKinney expressed her concern for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.        
"I am pleased to be among this tested and true group of activists who are committed to Katrina justice," McKinney said to dozens of supporters in the press release.    
Meanwhile the US Senate passed a bail out measure late yesterday.  Voting in favor of it were Senators Joe Biden, John McCain and Barack Obama.  While they were all in agreement on the need or 'need' for the measure, many other Americans were not.  Ralph Nader is the independent presidential candidate and Team Nader issued this today:

Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez vigorously oppose Bush's $700++ billion taxpayer bailout of Wall Street.  

"This is not just a bailout of Wall Street" says Nader, "It's a bailing out of the bankrupt Republican and Democratic policies that have led us to where we are today with Senators John "Deregulation" McCain and Joe "MBNA" Biden leading the way.  

Full Statement from Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez: 

"The revised bailout legislation is the same $700 billion piece of burnt toast, with some window dressing, sugar coating, and $150 billion of pork tax cuts covering everything from casinos to coal. 

But this isn't even the main course that Senate is serving up for Congress on Friday. The main course is on page 92 of the 451 page document: 

BORROWING LIMITS TEMPORARILY LIFTED. - During the period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act and ending on December 31, 2009, the Board of Directors of the Corporation may request from the Secretary, and the Secretary shall approve, a loan or loans in an amount or amounts necessary to carry out this subsection, without regard to the limitations on such borrowing under section 14(a) and 15(c) of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act (12 U.S.C. 1824(a), 1825(c)). 

Translation: Bush, McCain, and Obama want Congress to co-sign off on the mother of all blank checks, paving the way for a sinking dollar and higher interest rates. 

By bumping the FDIC's line of credit at the Treasury from $30 billion to infinity, the FDIC assumes fiat powers to bailout to its heart content, leaving the taxpayer to pay the bill. This unacceptable unlimited right to ransack taxpayers would last until 2010.  

"The bailout ignores the needs of millions of swindled families facing foreclosure, and it squanders an opportunity to bring about real regulatory change, decisive shareholder power over their companies' bosses, and authentic taxpayer equity that would prevent economic crises like this from happening again. Wall Street's wildly overpaid bosses are addicted to speculative gambling with other people's money. When a drug addict is facing overdose, you don't give them more needles.  

According to Richard W. Fisher, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas: "The seizures and convulsions we have experienced in the debt and equity markets have been the consequences of a sustained orgy of excess and reckless behavior, not a too-tight monetary policy. In the end, we're going to have to deal with the underlying stock of housing." 

"We need to protect homeowners and our neighborhoods first. That's why Nader/Gonzalez support introducing a law with a 5-year sunset clause that would provide homeowners facing foreclosure the right to rent to own their homes at fair market value.  

"Wall Street is out of control. We need to bring some sense of accountability, transparency, and law and order back to Wall Street's crooks and speculators, or they will desperately seek socialism to bail out their criminal corporate capitalism, going again and again to the taxpayer trough in Washington DC each time. That's why Nader/Gonzalez support a Wall Street speculation tax, starting on derivatives, which would make Wall Street less like Las Vegas, and generate enough funds to more than eliminate the federal tax burden on the first $50,000 of income for every working American.  

Click here for Nader's Ten Point Plan