Monday, February 23, 2009

Iraq snapshot

Monday, February 23, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces 5 deaths in Iraq since Friday (3 today), Iraq War veteran Kristoffer Walker says "no more" to the Iraq War, Iraq War veteran Suzanne Swift shares the stories of her harassment and command rape while serving in the military, Baghdad's museum re-opens . . . kind of, and more.
Starting with 28-year-old Kristoffer Walker who is saying no to returning to Iraq.  Sarah Rasmussen (WEAU13 -- link has text and video) reports:
Sarah Rasmussen: Good evening, I'm Sarah Rasmussen and after serving after part of a duty in Iraq, the soldier in Wisconsin has decided not to rejoin his unit and faces possible arrest for that decision. We first told you about Specialist Kristoffer Walker [last] night on WEAU13 News at Six. He's serving with the 353rd transportation company that was supposed to ship out yesterday morning to return to Iraq after a two week leave; however, after his request for a transfer went unanswered by his superiors Walker opted not to return to Iraq for moral reasons Walker, who enlisted in the Army Reserve shortly after September 11, says after six years the US is still fighting a war they should have never been involved with.

Kristoffer Walker: Operation Iraqi Freedom and the war in Iraq, is -- it's an immoral operation and it's also being poorly managed.

Sarah Rasmussen: According to the United States Military, Specialist Walker has 30 days to report. After that he'll be considered a deserter and the military will issue a warrant for his arrest.
Kristoffer explained to Lou Hillman (Fox 11), "My beliefs haven't changed and nothing has changed between Friday and now in Iraq.  I am not a pacifist.  There is an absolute need for our armed forces" but Kristoffer believes the Iraq War is wrong.  As for his opposition and how he should oppose, Kristoffer told Tony Walter (Appleton Post Crescent), "The Army's definition is a little different than mine.  The Army's definition is that you have to be opposed to war and all its forms.  That's not me.  I absolutely support using military force to respond or retaliate to attack.  By their standards, you're not allowed to object to one conflict over another." Adam Aaro (WBAY -- link has text video, quote is from video and is correct, text quote is inaccurate) visited with Kristoffer and Sierra Walker and Kristoffer told him, "And I figured if I were to go back to Iraq and do something again that's contrary to my belief structure, I wouldn't be able to really live with myself. . . . Obviously there's a little bit of nervousness there because it's a very real possibility, but what are the other consequences on the flip side if I decide to go back to Iraq and do something that's immoral?"  Laura Smith (Fox 11) explains, "Walker says he is receiving suppot from friends and family -- that includes soldiers he served with in Iraq.  US Army officials have said Walker still has time to change his mind but would likely face some internal consequences for not reporting."  James A. Carlson (AP) reports Kristoffer sees the Iraq War as "an illegitimate, unnecessary campaign."   He told WEAU13 that, "Operation Iraqi Freedom and the war in Iraq, is an immoral operation and it's also being poorly managed."
Kristoffer is standing up right now.  He knows the Iraq War didn't end.  He's not fooling himself into believing it ends tomorrow -- Oh, Blessed Day. Patrick Martin (WSWS) observes, "Meanwhile, there has been no action on Obama's election-year promises to pull out US combat troops from Iraq.  Within weeks of the November 4 vote, Obama signaled his intention to maintain the US occupation by retaining Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the architect of the Bush administration's 'surge' policy in Iraq.  No US troops have been withdrawn, and US military officers, including the overall commander in Iraq, General Raymond Odierno have dismissed as unviable Obama's pledge to withdraw all combat troops in 16 months."  Those in the reality-based world who would like to stand up should know that next month, many people will be standing against the war and organizations participating include The National Assembly to End the Wars, the ANSWER coalition, World Can't Wait and Iraq Veterans Against the War. Here's IVAW's announcement of the March action:

IVAW's Afghanistan Resolution and National Mobilization March 21stAs an organization of service men and women who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, stateside, and around the world, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War have seen the impact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had on the people of these occupied countries and our fellow service members and veterans, as well as the cost of the wars at home and abroad. In recognition that our struggle to withdraw troops from Iraq and demand reparations for the Iraqi people is only part of the struggle to right the wrongs being committed in our name, Iraq Veterans Against the War has voted to adopt an official resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and reparations for the Afghan people. (To read the full resolution, click here.)                      
To that end, Iraq Veterans Against the War will be joining a national coalition which is being mobilized to march on the Pentagon, March 21st, to demand the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and further our mission and goals in solidarity with the national anti-war movement. This demonstration will be the first opportunity to show President Obama and the new administration that our struggle was not only against the Bush administration - and that we will not sit around and hope that troops are removed under his rule, but that we will demand they be removed immediately.For more information on the March 21st March on the Pentagon, and additional events being organized in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Orlando, to include transportation, meetings, and how you can get involved, please visit: or
The illegal war is not ending on its own -- no matter how much time you waste "Wishin' & Hopin'".  News of US soldiers dying in Iraq continues -- because the illegal war continues and pretending it ended with an election (in the US or Iraq) is something only a Crazy Ass Cockburn would do.  Saturday the US miltary announced: "BAGHDAD -- A Multi-National Division--Baghdad Soldier died Feb. 21 while conducting a combat patrol near Baghdad. The Soldier's name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The incident is currently under investigation." Making that announcement was so tiring for M-NF that they allowed the Dept of Defense to make the other one yesterday, "The Department of Defense announced the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. PFC Cwislyn K. Walter, 19, of Honolulu died Feb. 19 in Kuwait City, Kuwait, of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident. She was assigned to the 29th Special Troops Battalion, 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Hawaii National Guard. The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation." Today the US military announced: "TIKRIT, Iraq -- Three U.S. Coalition Soldiers and an interpreter died as a result of combat operations in Diyala Province, Iraq, Feb. 23." The announcements bring the number of deaths of US service members in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4250.
While 4250 US service members and approximately 1.6 million Iraqis have died, many more people have been injured.  Some wounds are physical, some are mental wounds -- all are serious.  One woman who fought back against command rape recently discussed that ordeal and the effects she carries with her today.  Back in January, we noted IVAW's Suzanne Swift had finally been discharged.  Courage to Resist interviewed her (link is audio only) earlier this month about her experiences and this is an excerpt:
Courage to Resist: Suzanne Swift joined the US Army in 2003 having been assured by her recruiter that she would not be deployed to Iraq.  But almost immediately after her military police training, Swift's unit was ordered to deploy.  Soon after she arrived in the Middle East, Suzanne began having to deal with the sexual advances of superiors.  One of those superiors coerced her into a sexual relationship.  After she returned to the states, Swift was due to deploy again but she chose to go AWOL instead. Eventually she was arrested and court-martialed and in early 2009, she was discharged from the military.  She is talking with us today on the phone from her home in Oregon.  Suzanne, thanks so much for speaking with Courage to Resist today.  [. . .]  Listen, let's go back to 2003, when you decided to join up.  Tell me why you enlisted in the first place?
Suzanne Swift: I . . . I don't know.  Honestly, it just had a really good recruiting pitch and I didn't have anything else to do and they'd give me a job where they said I wouldn't have to deploy to Iraq which I thought was a really good thing.
Courage to Resist: And the job was in the military police, right?
Suzanne Swift: Right.  Military police, one of the most deployed MOSs [Military Occupation Specialties] in the US Army.
Courage to Resist: So would you say they misled you?
Suzanne Swift: Yeah, definitely.
Courage to Resist:  So you went to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri for basic training and for MP training, is that right?
Suzanne Swift: Right.

Courage to Resist: And where was your duty station after that?
Suzanne Swift: I was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington.
Courage to Resist: How long were you there before you went to Iraq?
Suzanne Swift: I would say about three, maybe four weeks. 
Courage to Resist: Oh my goodness, that was fast. 
Suzanne Swift: Yeah, it sure was.  Kind of a whirlwind.
Courage to Resist: Did you have any troubles during basic or MP training or at Fort Lewis with other soldiers?
Suzanne Swift: No, not really.  I had, at Fort Lewis, one squad leader who -- whose intentions were not -- I don't even know how to say that. 
Courage to Resist: He - he- he didn't have honorable intentions?
Suzanne Swift: Yeah, exactly  -- but that we find out later.  Not at Fort Lewis, at Fort Leonard Wood.
Courage to Resist: Oh, that was at Fort Leonard Wood?  But he never actually physically assaulted you or anything?
Suzanne Swift: No, not until we got to Iraq. 
Courage to Resist: So -- so then you got to Iraq.  Now tell me, when did the difficulties start? 
Suzanne Swift: Almost immediately.  We weren't even too Iraq yet.  We were still staging in Kuwait and I had a platoon sergeant proposition me basically for sex and I was just completely in shock because, you know, these people are supposed to be like your parents -- especially when you're brand new, or like a brand new, young soldier.  It's really appalling that someone would do that.
Courage to Resist: And how did you respond?
Suzanne Swift: Oh I told him no and then I told a couple of other people what had happened and kind of just like put it out there to see if he'd get any advice back.  And I ended up talking to the Equal Opportunity Representative about it and he said that he would -- he would talk to the commander and that he would figure out what to do about it and then nothing ever came of that.  Ever.
Courage to Resist: Nothing ever came of it? And did the propositions continue?
Suzanne Swift: Not from that particular person but from another person -- yeah, it sure did. 
Courage to Resist: So you went from Kuwait to Iraq and where were you stationed in Iraq? 
Suzanne Swift: Karbala, Iraq.
Courage to Resist: And that's where your more serious troubles began, is that right?
Suzanne Swift: Yeah.
Courage to Resist: Do you want to talk about some of that?
Suzanne Swift: Um.  I -- it's kind of hard to talk about.  I guess I've done it before though.  I was basically coerced into a -- into a sexual relationship with -- with my superior.  And when I tried to end it -- it went on for a few months -- when I tried to end it, he used every -- every resource he had available to make my life miserable -- to punish me for it.
Courage to Resist: And tell me the ways that he punished you.
Suzanne Swift: He would just -- he would tell me the wrong times to be at somewhere and then punish me for being late or not being at the right place and just do little things that would make me look bad.  And he'd like spread rumors about -- about me and then like, I don't know.  He just made me look bad in every possible way.  And then would punish me for making me look bad.
Courage to Resist: Now what was his position in your unit?
Suzanne Swift: Uh, he was a squad leader.  He was in a staff sergeant position but he was as a sergeant as an E-5.
Courage to Resist: So he was your squad leader and as your superior he did everything he could to make your life miserable when you refused to continue the relationship he had coerced you into?
Suzanne Swift: Right.
Courage to Resist: And what did you do about that?
Suzanne Swift: Nothing, honestly, you know, I just kept my head down and tried to stay out of trouble.
Courage to Resist: Did he continue his sexual pursuit of you? 
Suzanne Swift: Not once the punishment started, no.
Courage to Resist: Did you ever try to report this?
Suzanne Swift: I told a bunch of people.  Look, everybody knew what was going on.  Just nobody wanted to fix it and plus what was the point?  That was my frame of mind then.  And he had -- he had also made it like -- with the way he was treating me -- he made it look like I was just a bad soldier.  So even if I had reported it, he could have just told them like, "Oh, she's just not -- because I punish her, she's making it all up." 
Courage to Resist: So he really had you in a bind.
Suzanne Swift: Yeah.  I mean, I could have reported it but it probably wouldn't have come of anything even if it did, I also would have got in trouble, so what was the point?
Courage to Resist: And this continued all the time you were there? 
Suzanne Swift: Mmm-hmm.  It stopped right before we were heading back to the States and then he just pretended I wasn't there.
Courage to Resist: Were there any other incidents with your other superiors or was that it?

Suzanne Swift: Yeah, once we got back to the States I moved to a new unit that was standing up and I had a squad leader who -- he didn't proposition me for sex, he would just say little nasty things to me
Courage to Resist: Did you have the sense that he knew about the other situation?
Suzanne Swift: No, I never really thought about it.
Courage to Resist: And the things he said to you, were they sexual innuendos?
Suzanne Swift: Right, he would -- yeah.  He was my team leader and he would -- he would just say, he'd call me at night and be like, "What are you wearing?" And like he'd call me for work-related stuff and be like, "Oh, what color of panties do you have on?" Like, "What are you doing right now?  Oh, you just got out of the shower?  So you're naked right now?"
Courage to Resist: Oh my goodness.
Suzanne Swift: Yeah, he was just a pervy, little guy.
Courage to Resist: Did you report this guy?
Suzanne Swift: I absolutely did.  I was in the States and I had been -- I had just been through enough that I was like, "You know what? This guy is not getting away with it."
Courage to Resist: And who'd you report him to?
Suzanne Swift: I reported it to the Equal Opportunity Representative and he did his job for once and took it up higher to the commander.
Courage to Resist: What did the commander do?
Suzanne Swift: They did an investigation during which they accused me of sleeping with him and gave me a class from my commander on how to prevent sexual harassment from happening to me.
Courage to Resist: And they did nothing to the guy that was harassing you?

Suzanne Swift: He got -- he got a very harshly worded letter of reprimand.  But that was it.
Courage to Resist: That was it and you were seen as colluding in his sexual aggression.  You were treated the way many women are when the victim of sexual aggression is blamed.
Suzanne Swift: Yeah.  'Okay, let me figure out really quick how to prevent sexual harassment -- cause it's my fault when it happens, right?'
The way the military treated Suzanne Swift is appalling and inexcusable; however, it needs to be noted that this is typical and for those who doubt it, zoom in on a class to 'teach' women how not to be sexually harassed which goes to the problems with the military.  The person who needs instruction is not the victim.  By pushing the burden off on the victim, the military is stating that harassment has two willing parties -- the harasser and the harasseree.  As long as they're allowed to push that lie, don't ever expect the culture to improve.  And there's no improvement for women in Iraq.  Timothy Williams (New York Times) reports 23-year-old Nachman Jaleel Kadhim is a widow who also lost her twin sisters to the illegal war, one of her own five-month twins and now barely surived in a trailer park with "her remaining daughter." Williams notes she's "one of the lucky ones" underscoring how horrible things are for Iraqi widows.  Williams tells you the Iraqi economy is hurting but leaves out the puppet government's big-money purchases.  Multi-National Forces noted Valentine's Day (their idea of candy and flowers?), "To this end, the Government of Iraq has spent more than $5 billion to buy military equipment, supplies and training from the U.S. through the Foreign Military Sales program." And they're putting in a new pier for the Iraqi navy (yes, that is laughable -- Iraqi navy) which will cost $53 million.
Equally hilarious is to hear the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs managing director (not minister) Leila Kadhim insist that it's impossible to help everyone. Wait, al-Maliki's puppet government cut the meager budget for the Interior of Women's Affairs from $7,500 a month to $1,000 and another ministry wants to whine? That's hilarious.

Williams informs you that Iraqi women (ages fifteen to eighty) are widows in a 1 to 11 ratio. It's a growth industry for Iraqi women. Williams notes some widows end up "coerced" into marriage -- but forgets to note that one of al-Maliki's puppets -- a woman at that, Phyllis Schlafly's spiritual sister? -- has proposed governmental programs to force widows into marriages. This one especially should provide laughter, "The Iraqi military estimates that the number of widows who have become suicide bombers may be in the dozens." Which is it? The female suicide bombers -- less than 40 last year -- are young virgins who were raped or they're widows? Pick a narrative, New York Times, because you've insisted both this month.  Amazing and typical, Williams report starts talking about raising the profile of women in Iraq and includes the widows mark during the one-two shoe toss and songs sang during the provincial elections but forgets Nawal al Samurrai who resigned (but is reconsidering) this month as the Minister of Women's Affairs when the meager budget for her ministry was cut from $7,500 a month to 1,500 a month.  Tina Susman and Caser Ahmed (Los Angeles Times), Corey Flintoff (NPR), To The Contrary's Bonnie Erbe at US News & World Reports, Feminist Wire Daily, wowOwow and Kim Gamel (AP) have covered Nawal. It's only the New York Times -- with all their reporters in Iraq -- who've never managed to file a story on her. wowOwow zooms in on the nonsense Mazin al-Shihan (Baghdad Displacement Committee) gives Timothy Williams (for paying men to marry widows, "If we give the money to the widows, they will spend it unwisely because they are uneducated and they don't know about budgeting. But if we find her a husband, there will be a person in charge of her and her chilrden for the rest of their lives."  wowOwow observes, "No wonder the state's not doing enough for women."
No wonder.  But a power struggle that took up a great deal of time for the puppet government has been resolved.  Wednesday's snapshot noted:  "Monday, Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) covered the power struggle between the Ministry for Tourism and Antiquities and the Culture Ministry as to whether or not the museum will open next Monday. The Culture Ministry's Jabir al-Jabiri is stating that the museum is not opening and his ministry is over the Ministry for Tourism and Antiquties while MfTaA's Baha al-Mayahi states yes, they are opening next Monday. Aseel Kami (Reuters) explains today that nothing's changed.  MfTaA's maintains that the museum will open Monday and Jaber al-Jaberi continues to insist that it won't and that 'is the official and final position.'  Kami observes, 'The feud illustrates some of the challenges facing Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government as it seeks to capitalise on a drop in violence and unify a country shattered by war'." Today Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports, "Iraq's restored National Museum was formally dedicated on Monday, nearly six years after looters carried away priceless antiquities and treasures in the chaos following the U.S.-led invasion."  CNN notes that post-war looting resulted in "15,000 irreplaceable artifacts" being lost with "only about 6,000 . . . recovered."  Nouri al-Maliki attended the grand opening -- wearing yet another of those tired blue ties he so favors.  BBC offers a photo essay on the reopening of the museum. Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal's Baghdad Life) offers this description, "
The museum includes halls displaying items delivered or returned by Iraqi citizens or regained from other nations. There is also an Assyrian room, a hall of Manuscripts showing ancient books of the Quran and an Islamic Hall. Magnificent wall-size stone carvings and statues, ancient coins and glazed pottery were among the antiquities on display.  However, a room that had displayed ancient gold jewelry only showed pictures of the treasures. The jewelry had been on display during the early part of the Coalition Provisional Authority, which governed Iraq after the U.S. invasion in 2003. But the museum feared that the gold jewelry may tempt thieves so the pieces are now kept in a vault."  Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) explains how the power struggle was resolved, ". . . a compromise: The museum will reopen Monday for the first time in six years.  But only eight of the museum's 26 galleries will be accessible, and for only a few hours".  The Los Angeles Times' Babylon & Beyond blog informs, "As for when the rest of Iraq will be able to see the museum, that's unclear. Iraqi guards Monday afternoon told journalists it would be a couple of months."
On Iraq's prison-industrial-complex, Dona and Jim observed last night: "More prisons means Iraq needs more prisoners and Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports that Sunni member of Parliament, Mohammed Daini, has been fingered publicly by al-Maliki's puppet government as responsible for an April 2007 bombing of Parliament and many 'other crimes'. As usual, no evidence was produced to back up these assertions though they did whine that the alleged criminal would remain free because member of Parliament have immunity. Immunity apparently also extends to al-Maliki's officials who make charges in public which they cannot back up."  Mohammed al Dyni is another spelling.  Trenton Daniels (McClatchy Newspapers) quotes the MP responding to the charges today by declaring, "The injustice against us is because of our national positions.  We knew that were were going to pay a price for that."  He maintains that the confessions the government is trumpeting are false because his bodyguards "were tortured heavily.  These confessions need proof."  Newsday reports, "As the videos were played, forces surrounded al-Dayni's home in western Baghdad and confiscated weapons, explosives and other items, including the passport of former Sunni lawmaker Abdul Nasser al-Janabi, who was forced out of parliament in 2007 after declaring he would join insurgents. Al-Dayni was at a hotel in the Green Zone, where he was effectively placed under house arrest."  Meanwhile Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) reports on at least 12 Shi'ite police officers being arrested today on violence charges.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing "near the Technology University" which left seven people injured, another Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed 2 lives and left four people injured and a Mosul sticky bombing attack on "a candidate of the National Iraqi list" which left the candidate injured.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 people shot dead in Baghdad with eight more injured.
The Academy Awards ceremony was held last night and Academy Award nominee (for 1979's Starting Over) Candice Bergen live-blogged them for wowOwow.  Staying with film, David Zeiger, the director of the amazing Sir! No Sir!, notes that the long suppressed documentary FTA --  directed by Francine Parker and featuring Jane Fonda (back on Broadway in 33 Variations at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre through May 24th -- with Samantha Mathis, Colin Hanks), Donald Sutherland, Holly Near, Rita Martinson, the late Peter Boyle and Paul Mooney among others -- airs tonight on the Sundance Channel (9:00 pm EST).  The film Tricky Dick Nixon never wanted America to see not only airs tonight, it can be ordered on DVD.
In US politics, Kimberly Wilder (On the Wilder Side) continues exploring her place in the political landscape, "I still have hopes for the Green Party. But, not patience for them now. As for Cynthia McKinney...I will follow her almost anywhere. And, I intend to help her with her next campaign for any office, with a party I admire, or just dedicated to her and her message."
Lastly  Kat's "Kat's Korner: The art of india.arie" went up Sunday as did Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Al Distraction" and Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Domestic Arts Czar" went up this morning.   Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts -- he started his site Thursday.