Wednesday, February 11, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, officials continue to be targeted in Iraq, Iraqis seeking asylum in the US are asked 'interesting' questions, and more.
Starting with war resistance. Michael Amsel (Asbury Park Press) reports on Daniel Marble who was been AWOL from the US army for two years starting in July of 2006 and turned himself in at Fort Knox February 2nd. Amsel reveals that he began rethinking things while on leave, "That was my first chance to really reflect on what my actual job would be in combat, which is to kill people. You go through this vigorous daily training shooting targets and human silhouettes and you become a machine to some point. You don't have clear thoughts about what you are doing. Once I seriously thought about killing people, I was not comfortable with it. I couldn't bring myself to go back." Instead of being discharged, Danile's been sent to Fort Bragg and his lawyer, Larry Hildes, believes he will most likely be ordered to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan. Asbury Park Press has set up a forum where readers can discuss Daniel Marble's decisions. Yesterday US war resister Cliff Cornell turned himself in. Frenchi Jones (Coastal Courier) reports, "Arkansas native Cliff Cornell stood outside the gates of Fort Stewart Tuesday afternoon trying to stop the tears streaming down his un-shaven face." Jones quotes Cliff's attorney James Branum explaining, "He was tired of looking over his shoulder. . . . He just wanted it to be over. We're going to go for less than six months. He stood up for what he believed in. Cliff might have broken the law, but in the end he did the right thing. The truth of the matter is, he's really a sweet guy, someone who was scared and probably should have never been in the military." Darrell Bellaart (Nanaimo Daily News) quotes Cliff's adopted mother Annie Nichols stating, "He just called us from the base about five minutes ago. He's doing OK. Of course they have their pressures -- they're the military. He's only being charged with being AWOL which is a good thing. And we'll know more later as the process goes along." Cliff's attorney states that the AWOL charge is standard ("basically it's a form letter") at this point and does not reflect whether or not additional charges will follow. Lyndell Nelson (WSAV) reports, "When asked if he would do it all over again, Cornell said, 'Yeah, because I am not over there taking part in this illegal war, I'm not over there killing innocent people or taking part in the torturing that is goin on'." Dee Knight (Workers World) reports US war resister Chris Teske, who -- like Cliff -- was facing a deporation from Canada, "crossed the British Columbia-Washington state boarder unassisted on Jan. 22 at an undisclosed location." Susan Lazaruk (The Province) quotes Chris declaring the day before he left, "I'm completely shocked that this is happening. I hope everything goes well when I cross the border tomorrow."
A.N.S.W.E.R., Iraq Veterns Against the War and other groups are gearing up for an action next month on the sixth anniversary of the start of the illegal war. A.N.S.W.E.R. explains:
We are organizing a Mass March on the Pentagon on Saturday, March 21, and it is important that you and your family, friends, co-workers and fellow students put on your marching shoes that day. People are coming from all over the country. Simultaneous demonstrations are taking place in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Why are we still marching even after the war criminal George W. Bush has left office? Because the people must speak out for what is right. More than 1 million Iraqis have died and tens of thousands of U.S. troops have been wounded or killed.
The Iraq and Afghanistan war will drag on for years unless we act now. The cost in lives and resources is criminal regardless of whether the Democrats or Republicans are in charge of the government.
[. . .]
If Bush's war and occupation of Iraq was an illegal action of aggression -- and it was -- how can the new government say that it can only gradually end the war over a number of years? The Iraqis don't want foreign military forces running their country. No one would!
The Pentagon has employed 200,000 foreign contractors (mercenaries) and 150,000 U.S. troops to maintain the occupation of Iraq. They have no right to be there. A few thousand are being brought out of Iraq only to be redeployed to occupy Afghanistan, and the fools in the media proclaim "the war is winding down." That is not true.
President Obama decided to keep the Pentagon just as it was under Bush. He even selected Bush appointee Robert Gates to keep his position as chief of the Pentagon. Gates announced that the new administration would double the number of troops sent to Afghanistan. That is certainly not the "change" most people though was coming following the end of Bush's tenure.
Meanwhile United for Playgrounds and Naptime wants you to tell . . . Congress to end the illegal war. Yeah, you tell Congress because Leslie Cagan won't let you tell Barack to end it. Someone tell Leslie no cookies and punch when she gets off her mat at the end of naptime. Wide awake and not hiding is IVAW's Matthis Chiroux who offers' "I Have a Date With the Army!" (World Can't Wait):
March 12, I'll attend a board hearing in St. Louis, Missouri, to determine what the nature of my discharge from the Individual Ready Reserve will be. The Army has alleged "misconduct" and they're shooting for a "general discharge," but I'm pushing for "honorable," as my refusal to deploy was not an act of misconduct.
I will attend this hearing in uniform as ordered, but only for the purpose of these administrative proceeding. I'm not contesting the fact that I did
not report as ordered to deploy to Iraq. However, I intend to paint a clear picture of my convictions to the military, and I seek to corroborate them with first hand accounts of occupation.
No person is bound to act against the dictates of conscience, let alone their understanding of the law. I know the occupation of Iraq and further, the Global War on Terror, to be an illegitimate and ultimately murderous campaign waged for economic gain, fueled by misinformation and greed. I know it to be in violation of not only international law, but the U.S. Constitution. Far more importantly, it is against the dictates of my own conscience, and never again will I compromise my humanity to support or ignore the crimes of my government.
I will be working closely with Iraq Veterans Against the War to plan what we hope will reflect a Winter Soldier event in the form of our members testifying under oath to the military about their experiences in the Global War on Terror.
I seek only truth to be heard and considered by the military. If reconciliation is possible, I seek that, as well.
[. . .]
We are continuing to gather funds needed to cover travel expenses and accommodation for those who will be testifying. I hope anywhere from 15 to 30 veterans, military family members, Iraqi civilians and constitutional experts will appear before my board. Please consider making a donation to my defense campaign either through my website, matthisresists.us, or through ivaw.org.
In Iraq, Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal's Baghdad Life) reports on the process Iraqis applying for refugee admittance into the United States go through which includes some "ridiculous and strange" questions: "Friends of mine have been asked whether they would try to instigate a coup d'etat or a revolution if they moved to the U.S. A sampling of other eyebrow-raising questions are as follows: Are you a member of al Qaeda? Would you think about financing al Qaeda if you moved to the U.S.? Are you a member of Mahdi Army (the militia linked to anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtdad al-Sadr)? Would you be willing to work as a spy? For America or al Qaeda? My friends were bewildered by these queries. Even if their answer was 'yes,' did the people asking the questions really believe they would get honest answers?" Earlier this month the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported on the Iraqi refugees in Egypt, Syria and Jordan: "While many Iraqi refugees have been following the provincial elections closely, some people are either not interested or pessimistic, seeing no real benefit in the exercise." An Iraqi man in Damascus says, "The elections carry no significance. The country is destroyed and people care only for their personal gains, positions." An Iraqi women in Cario states, "Most of my family members have either been killed, kidnapped or are now refugees scattered across the globe. I am not going to return to Iraq. . . . Do you think it matters to me who will win the provincial elections? It does not matter, at least to me."
Meanwhile in Iraq, attacks on various ethnic and religious minorities continue to add to the refugee crisis. Marc Santora and Alan Cowell (New York Times) report a Christian woman was shot dead in Mosul. Last fall's assault on Iraqi Christians in Mosul resulted in a mas exodus for many weeks. Assyria Times reports the Assyrian Universal Alliance has written US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden about the plight of Iraqi Christians. This is the text of their letter to Barack:
On behalf of the Assyrian Universal Alliance and its affiliates worldwide, it gives me great pleasure to extend my warmest congratulations on your historical inauguration as President of the United States of America. At the same time, I would like to take the opportunity to thank you and Vice President Joseph Biden for your continuing support of the Assyrian people; however, our work is not finished and our nation urgently needs your help.
We recognize the significance of your election and take this opportunity to equally congratulate the American people for ushering in a bright new chapter in the progress of civil liberties for U.S. citizens. We rejoice with all those who have struggled for a very long time to bring this significant era to fruition. Although the road has been long and difficult, they have kept the dream alive. As a nation that has been in a similar struggle for many centuries, we Assyrians feel a special sense of the joy, relief, and accomplishment that your election carries. As we fight for our survival, we hope that our cry for help will be heard by someone who intimately understands the predicament we face as a nation.
As you know, the situation of Assyrians in Iraq is dire and the recent news from Mosul, the heart of Assyrian ancestral lands, points to alarming deterioration of our nation's status. With so many Assyrians having fled Iraq, the very survival of the Assyrian nation hangs in the balance. Our numbers are dwindling and our communities are being shattered. Should this continue, the world will witness the demise of one of its most ancient and historically significant nations.
We appeal to you to urge the Iraqi government to agree to the essential institution of an Assyrian Autonomous Region in the historical and ancestral Assyrian lands in Northern Iraq as part of modern day Iraq. This newly-formalized Assyrian region which will be administrated and protected by Assyrians under the jurisdiction of Iraq's central government is crucial to the security and survival of our nation and will encourage Assyrian refugees, whether those internally displaced in Iraq or those scattered in Diaspora, to return.
We eagerly await your leadership in promoting the establishment of this Assyrian Autonomous Region and thank you again for your continuing campaign to ensure the survival of one of world's most ancient nations. We look forward to meeting with you to further discuss our situation and implement strategies to secure the future of our people.
Meanwhile Marc Santora and Alan Cowell (New York Times) report on puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki's attention-seeking stunt in the midst of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's visit to Iraq and they laughably assert puppet Nouri al-Maliki is attempting to go from client-state to equal partner with the US -- and doing so by insulting US vice president Joe Biden (see yesterday's snapshot). Hilarious. Are your sides aching yet? The reporters strive for stand-up with this one-liner: "Mr. Maliki also contended Tuesday that his government had fixed the missteps of the Americans after the invasion, like the American decision to dismantle the pre-war Iraqi Army."
The Baathists? What has al-Maliki done? Not a damn thing. The White House benchmarks were signed off on by al-Maliki personally. He has had over two years to do something. One of them was about the Baathists. Paul Bremer (with the White House signing off -- including Colin Powell who now loves to whisper to reporters that it was all Bremer) disbanded the Iraqi military and did so as part of his Baathist purge. There was no reason for that and it was a mistake. It has been seen as a mistake by most for many years now. One of the benchmarks was to fix Bremer's de-Baathification policy (which would be de-de-Baathification). Though al-Maliki finally got around to pointing at a law, it's never been implemented and it had no checks or balances. And when rumors surfaced at the start of the week that al-Maliki was in talks with former Baathists to bring them into the government, what did he say? (This was specifically Baath officials from Saddam's regime who are now exiles -- and, no, no domestic outlet bothered to report on these rumors or al-Maliki's on-the-record response.) al-Maliki stated it wasn't true and it couldn't be true because the Iraqi Constitution would have to be changed first.
The Iraqi Constitution would have to be changed first? And he wants to claim he's fixed US mistakes? The puppet was installed by the US. The puppet sits on billions while Iraqis suffer. Biting the hand that's fed him is never a trait to strive for and for those who missed the reports of Nouri Talking To Baathists, here's one example. Ma'ad Fayad's "Iraqi Dawa Party Official: No dialogue with Armed Groups" (Asharq Alawsat) and al-Ibadi is Haydar al-Ibadi who is spokesperson for Dawa (Nouri's party):
Al-Ibadi categorically denied that any official in the state spoke to Baathist leaders whether inside Iraq or abroad. He explained: "The Iraqi constitution does not allow this. Besides, the public' general mood does not support the Baath Party because it committed a lot of crimes during and after the rule of the [former] regime."
He added: "The Baathists have committed a lot of crimes and killed a large number of Iraqis since 2003 to date. It is they who allowed the Al-Qaeda Organization to enter the country and who were involved in the killing of hundreds of Iraqis." He asked: "So, how can such a party rejoin the political process?"
However, Al-Ibadi noted: "There are Baathists who returned to their jobs and who live a normal life without any problems. But they did so as Iraqis, not as members of the Baath Party, which is known for being a conspiratorial military party that does not believe in democracy and does not allow the establishment of a democratic rule."
He added: "Permission for the return of the Baath Party to political action needs a constitutional amendment, and I very much rule out the possibility of such a move."
Progress! cried Nouri yesterday. But Michael Christie (Reuters) reports the US will turn over all Iraqi prisoners at some point in 2010. This would be the prisoners that were supposed to be turned over to Iraq on January 1st of this year. And staying with Nouri's laughable claims yesterday of all the 'progress,' James Denselow (Guardian) observes, "While no state in the Middle East has a particularly exemplary record of governance, the Iraqi state is still the most dangerous, fragile, deeply divided and incapable. Maliki's government still cannot deliver event he most basic of services (electricity and clean water supply or a safe environment for refugees to return.)" As further proof of how Nouri can't deliver, look at some of today's violence. McClatchy's Laith Hammoudi reports the driver for Brig Gen Sabah (national police) was wounded in a roadside bomb attack, Raghad Abdul Hussein's car was targeted in Baghdad with a sticky bombing (a civilian was wounded -- Hussein works in a government ministry) and in Diyala Province a home invasion was launched on police Capt Sallal al Timimi's house with one guard being killed and a roadside bombing leaving a police officer arriving in the area dead.
Reuters notes two were killed in the home invasion as well as the polic officer -- by the bombing -- when he arrived to provide assistance and that Raghad Abdul Hussein (Raad Hussein Abdullah, in their report) was murded in the Baghdad attack.
That's far from today's only reported violence but those are officials targeted -- all in one day -- and Nouri's not been able to 'fix' that either.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 Baghdad car bombings (one after the other) that claimed 16 lives and left forty-three people wounded, a Baghdad roadside bombing that left 1 person dead and four more wounded, three other Baghdad roadside bombings that left 1 person dead and seventeen wounded, a Babil roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 2 police officers (three more wounded), a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed 1 life, a second Mosul roadside bombing that wounded one person, a Mosul grenade attack that wounded one person. On the double bombing, Monte Morin and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) explain it was a bus station and quote eye witness Ammar Hussein, stating, "I lost consciousness, and when I woke up I saw that my left leg was bleeding, I was taken to a hospital and was crying the whole time because I don't know what happened to my friend." In addition, Xinhua reports a Mosul 'suicide' car bombing that has claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier with five additional people left wounded and a police source tells Xinhua, "A suicide bomber drove his explosive-laden car into a joint U.S. and Iraqi Army patrol in the Hadbaa neighborhood in northern Mosul."
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 "Awakening" Council members wounded in a Baghdad shooting, 1 "Awakeing" Council member wounded in another Baghdad shooting and 3 police officers shot dead in Mosul.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Mosul.
In the US, Katharine Q. Seelye (New York Times) reports that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates suggested today that he was open to allowing the media to photograph the flag-draped coffins of fallen soldiers as their bodies and remains are returned to the United States" and that "he was ordering a review of the military policy that bars photographers from taking pictures of the return of the coffins". Mike noted Reuters report last night: "U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday ordered the Pentagon to review its ban against news media photos of the flag-draped coffins of U.S. military dead returning from combat zones overseas." For those who missed Monday's press conference:
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. You've promised to send more troops to Afghanistan. And since you've been very clear about a time table to withdraw our combat troops from Iraq within 16 months, I wonder what's your time table to withdraw troops eventually from Afghanistan? And related to that, there's a Pentagon policy that bans media coverage of the flag-draped coffins from coming into Dover Air Force Base. And back in 2004, then-Senator Joe Biden said that it was shameful for dead soldiers to be, quote, snuck back into the country under the cover of night. You've promised unprecedented transparency, openness in your government. Will you overturn that policy, so the American people can see the full human cost of war?
MR. OBAMA: [. . .] Now with respect to the policy of opening up media to loved ones being brought back home, we are in the process of reviewing those policies in conversations with the Department of Defense. So I don't want to give you an answer now, before I've evaluated that review and understand all the implications involved.
CNN's Ed Henry asked him about the coffins and above was Barack's response on that. He LIED. We are in the process of reviewing those polices? There was no review going on until Gates ordered one yesterday unless every news outlet mangled the story. Barack stood before the nation and lied claiming there was already a review in process. When might Barack have moved on that issue? An issue that should have been addressed before he ever took office? He's been called on to change the policy since before he was sworn in. Rebecca noted Paul Bedard and Nikki Schwab's "Lautenberg to Obama: Don't Hide Our Fallen Troops at Dover Air Force Base" (US News & World Reports):
President Obama is under more pressure this week to let media cameras cover the arrival of war dead at Dover Air Force Base. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, in a letter to Obama provided to Whispers, said, "I respectfully urge you to work to bring an end to the misguided policies of the past that seek to hide the sacrifice of our soldiers and the public recognition and pride that should accompany it." The policy is controversial on all sides: Some claim the government wants to soften the impact of many coffins being pictured at once; others say taking pictures is disrespectful. Lautenberg has been outspoken on the issue for several years and pushed for a reversal of the policy in 2004, in the middle of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Officials say that Lautenberg, a Democrat from New Jersey, and the administration have been discussing the policy. "Throughout our nation's history, it has been a tradition for our nation to honor fallen military men and women when their flag-draped caskets are flown home from war operations overseas. Seeing these returning caskets prompts a national sense of shared pain and sacrifice, as well as gratitude and pride," the senator said in the letter.
We are in the process of reviewing -- that's what he said. Not we're going to start a review. He said the review was under way. It was not. Liar. And don't say, "We'll he meant he was reviewing whether or not to review . . ." He deliberately misled. It was a lie. Like a student who didn't do his homework, stalling for time, Barack lied. Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post) notes:
Critics of the Pentagon policy view it as a means for blocking images that underscore the human cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as preventing coverage that honors those killed. Obama was asked about the issue in Monday's news conference and said, "We are in the process of reviewing those policies in conversations with the Department of Defense, so I don't want to give you an answer now before I've evaluated that review and understand all the implications involved."
Noting Barack's non-democratic, non-change policies (including continuing torture, rendetion, etc.), Margaret Kimberley (Black Agenda Report) wonders:
So, when do we march? We have an administration that has officially upheld the lawlessness of the previous administration. The same people who took to the streets or at the very least engaged in righteous indignation over Bush administration actions should not silently sit by and allow Obama to do the same things.
It isn't too soon to protest. He told us right away that there is no change we can believe in. We don't have to wait for bombs to fall on Iran or for more prisoners to be denied their human rights.
It is not only acceptable but imperative that we speak up now. We must say that Iran has the right to have nuclear power or nuclear weapons or satellites or anything else it wants without being threatened by the United States. We must say that the continuation of Bush administration human rights abuses will not be excused under the guise of giving Obama one hundred magical days to learn his new job.
It is time to take not only Obama to task, but faux progressives to task as well. They are the Obamites who claimed they would hold his feet to the fire if we would just shut up and let him get elected. It is time to protest against them too and call them out for being the hypocrites they are.
That means a lot of protesting needs to be done. Why waste time when Obama isn't wasting any. We must get started now.
In music news, Mike noted a new album, The Good Things, in his entry last night. It's Schuyler Fisk's new album and you can find out more info at her MySpace page. She's immensely talented and I know her mother. We'll note her debut album and MySpace page which provides you with an opportunity to hear some of the album's new tracks. The album is available for downloading at Amazon and iTunes.
And finally, in honor of Betty's much missed magazine Movieline, today we offer Guess Who Don't Sue. 1) _____ currently runs a CIA cut-out and poses as a 'progressive' but is bothering the Agency as she attempts to grab some headlines in her advanced years (poor dear, doesn't have a great deal of time left to find fame) by jabbering away about topics that have rightly raised eyebrows in the last few days. She spent two decades outside the US sleeping -- for the US government -- with a variety of men and she and her husband were paid back with cushy 'progressive' covers in the US for their 'golden years'. But fame can be a . . . Well, a CIA agent. Too bad for her, payback can be as well. And she's the talk of the DC. Not in a good way.
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