Tuesday, February 24, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, another US service member is reported dead, Barack prepares to speak to the nation and the chatter is Iraq may actually be a topic, Jack Straw says no to an informed citizenry (and yes to covering up the illegal war), measles hit Iraq, and more.
Hamid Ahmed (AP) reported this morning, "Two policemen opened fire on U.S. troops visiting an Iraqi police station in the northern city of Mosul on Tuesday, killing a U.S. soldier and an Iraqi interpreter and wounding three other Americans, officials said." Missy Ryan and Kevin Liffey (Reuters) add, "Lieutenant Colonel David Doherty, a U.S. military spokesman, said four U.S. soldiers and one interpreter were injured, and another interpreter was killed." (A US military statement can be found here on the death of the interpreter.) This brings the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4251. Today's death follows yesterday's announcement of three deaths. "Three US soldiers and their interpreter were killed in Iraq. The US military reported they died in combat in Diyala Province, north of Baghdad. For the month of February, 13 Americans have died in Iraq," Gwen Ifill informed viewers last night on The NewsHour. In informing her viewers of that news, Gwen became the only US evening anchor on broadcast TV to bother doing so (though they all had time to bore their audiences with Slumlord Milionaire). AP's Kim Gamel covered the news for papers because no newspaper with their own Iraq division or US staff could be bothered writing about yesterday's deaths apparently. There are now 14 US military deaths in Iraq announced for the month thus far -- 6 of those have been announced since Saturday. Six US military deaths in Iraq announced in four days.
And where's the coverage? CBS and the New York Times are hyping a poll of the great uninformed American electorate who can sob "It's not our fault!" but that excuse got old long ago. You get the democracy you deserve and Americans chose what passes for democracy currently. Look around, all the things so offensive under the Bully Boy are suddenly manna squeezed out of Barack's ass. CBS breathlessly gushes, "Americans are more optimistic about the situation in Iraq than they have been since 2003 [!] . . . with 63 percent saying that things are going well for the United States in the country." Don't wake them from their slumber, it might require helping them wipe away their drool or, worse, changing their 'nighttime sticky' sheets. The foolish think "it is important that troops leave the country within President Obama's timeline of 16 months". What timeline? The one he was supposed to have begun upon being sworn in? That was the promise. February will be over shortly. Still no announcement on what he 'intends' to do. A working media would damn well be demanding answers on that issue. But you don't get a working news media with a compliant, overstuffed, lazy ass public drugged out on (and hooked on) hopium. It's February, he was sworn in back in January -- he might be able to make it to November without ever addressing that campaign promise that was supposed to start on day one. That would certainly allow more Americans to make fools of themselves by refusing to grasp (at this point, it's refusing, even for the uneducated) that "combat" troops does not mean all troops. Cristin Flanagan (Bloomberg News) reports on rumors that tonight, while speaking to the nation (most PBS stations will not only carry it live but also offer analysis afterwards), he will announce his 'withdrawal' plan is beginning . . . 19-months for the withdrawal of some -- not all -- troops. Meanwhile Steven Lee Myers (New York Times' Baghdad Bureau Blog) reports that Iraqis have more questions about Barack Obama than might be known (or might be reported?): "Sheik Moyad Fadhel Hussein al-Ameri, one of three brothers who were the hosts, said he was worried. A former mayor of Mahmudiya, he has a politician's acuity. And with it, he has closely tracked President Barack Obama's early statements on Iraq. 'President Obama is always talking about change,' he said, dressed in traditional robes and headdress and seated in one of the plush arm chairs that ringed the long greeting hall. 'We would like to know what change'."
Those who would like to the live in the reality-based world 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: www.pentagonmarch.org or www.answercoalition.org.
As Barack Obama's troop escalation begins in Afghanistan and talking heads debate how many more troops the US should send, the leadership of what was once the largest antiwar organization (UFPJ) in the United States rejected a call for a unified antiwar protest on March 21st, 2009. Instead, they issued a call to go to Wall Street on April 4th, 2009 and encourage the war profiteers to move "beyond a war economy," while toning down the demand to end the wars and occupations now to a demand to merely end them. Like antiwar organizer Ashley Smith told me in an email: "(That is) something Dick Cheney could support." The implication of this call by UFPJ is that now that Barack Obama and the Democrats are in power, there is no longer any need to protest against war. Not only is this incredibly naive, it is downright dangerous for the future of the world.
As anybody who has paid the least bit of attention to the nature of the US economy over the past century, its very foundations rest on the production of war and materials for war. Also apparent to those of us who have been paying attention is that the Democrats are just as responsible for this reality as the Republicans are. Just because George Bush and his administration were personally reprehensible and their arrogance and disregard for principles most Americans hold dear was as obvious as the nose on Pinocchio's wooden face doesn't mean that the policies of the Democrats are substantially different.
Consequently, the antiwar movement would be foolish to think they have a government of allies in Washington, DC now. There may be a more personable bunch of folks ruling the country now, but the odds of those folks pulling out of Afghanistan or Iraq now instead of later without a major push from the American people insisting that they do so are about as poor as they were under the Bush administration. The time for the antiwar movement to demand that the Obama administration end the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan is now, before its political ego becomes entangled in a military exercise that is ill-advised, poorly done, and just plain wrong.
Ashley Smith, mentioned above, has covered the 'peace' movement for sometime. Smith and Eric Ruder wrote about United for Pathetic and Juvenile decision to be inactive for the next four years in the Socialist Worker back in December.
Yesterday's snapshot noted IVAW member Suzanne Swift and there should have been a link to her website. There wasn't, my apologies.
28-year-old Iraq War veteran Kristoffer Walker was noted in yesterday's snapshot as well. He is the Army Reservist who is in the news for refusing to return to Iraq. WISC reports, "Walker said Monday night his beliefs haven't changed but he's considering all his options." The Green Bay Press-Gazette editorial board doesn't want Walker to consider his options, they just want him to go back to Iraq. They want that so badly, that they fail at their job. An editorial has 'weight' because it is informed. When you don't know the basics, no one mistakes you for informed. The editorial board hides behind the words of the publicity hack (what a proud moment, "Mom, Dad, I'm in the army! What's that? I fight the word war!") Nathan Banks who insists that you get 30 days and after 30 days you will be charged with desertion. Lie, lie, lie. Hacks are worse than recruiters. Agustin Aguayo turned himself in after being gone less than 30 days. Agustin was still court-martialed for desertion. By contrast, many who have been court-martialed for going AWOL? Gone over 30 days. It is a 'rule of thumb,' it is not an actual rule. Walker could turn himself in tomorrow and face a court-martial. Something allegedly educated and informed people who sit on an editorial board damn well should have known before they wasted everyone's time in order to flaunt their ignorance.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two Baghdad roadside bombings that left 8 injured, a Mosul grenade attack on the PUK Party headquarters that left two people injured and, dropping back to Monday, a Mosul roadside bombing that left three police officers wounded.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an armed clash in Diyala Province "between a joint American and Iraqi forces and insurgents" that left 3 suspected 'insurgents' dead.
As spin continues, Tim King (Salem-News) does not agree with the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk: ". . . in spite of this rosy article from the UK, people are still dying in Iraq, and the war is anything but successful. In fact, according to recent reports, Iraq is still very dangerous. I was there over the summer just in time to see the beginning of the elimination/reduction of the 'Sons of Iraq' program which is one of the few elements of the 'Surge' that actually brought peace and stability to this country. (see: Could Removal of U.S. Support Shift Iraq's Peaceful Balance? (VIDEO)). Iraqi people told me that as soon as the U.S. pulls out, a civil war will reignite between Shiite and Sunni Muslims." He goes on to explain that, while in Iraq, the only ones he encountered who supported the US remaining there were people on the US payroll.
Independent journalist Dahr Jamail is back in Iraq. This week, he reports on the medical situation in the country:
Seventy percent of Iraq's doctors are reported to have fled the war-torn country in the face of death threats and kidnappings. Those who remain live in fear, often in conditions close to house arrest.
"I was threatened I would be killed because I was working for the Iraqi government at the Medical City," Dr. Thana Hekmaytar told IPS. Baghdad Medical City is the largest medical complex in the country.
Dr. Hekmaytar, a head and neck surgeon, has now been practising at the Saint Raphael Hospital in Baghdad for the last five years.
It is difficult now both as woman and as doctor, she says. Most women are now living in repressive conditions because the government is less secular. And that is besides the chaotic conditions around Iraq.
"It is particularly difficult for female doctors," Dr. Hekmaytar says. "Large groups in Iraq only want us to stay at home, and certainly not be professionals."
"We've had doctors kidnapped, and so many others have fled," said Khaleb, a senior manager at the hospital who requested that his last name not be used. He named several doctors who had been kidnapped. This IPS correspondent, he said, was the first media person allowed into the hospital since the U.S. invasion of March 2003.
Dahr's examination of the medical situation (he filed on the 21st) anticipates today's news from IRIN: Measle outbreaks are taking place in many provinces in Iraq "where health services had collapsed".
Turning to England where ITV reports Jack Straw, alleged 'Justice' Secretary, has blocked the release of the minutes where War Criminal Tony Blair and his cronies made the decision to break international law and go to war on Iraq. Philip Johnston (Telegraph of London) points out he predicted Straw would block the release "exactly a year ago after Richard Thomas, took the courageous decision to demand their release. Mr Thomas's opinion was subsequently upheld by the Information Tribunal to which the Government unsuccessfully appealed. Mr Straw, the artchitect of the FoI [Freedom of Information] Act, has now been forced to demolish his own edifice by exposing both the lack of teeth of the Information Commissioner and Labour's skin deep commitment to true openess." James Chapman (Daily Mail) explains, "The meetings considered the hugely controversial issue of whether the invasion was allowed under international law. In his diary, the late Foreign Secretary and leader of the Commons Robin Cook recorded details of the Cabinet discussions at which several ministers raised serious concerns about the legality of the looming conflict. But Mr Cook claimed that Mr Brown, previously sceptical about the war, delivered a 'long and passionate statement of support' of then Prime Minister Tony Blair's strategy in the days before the war." The Scottish National Party has issued a statement where they quote SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson stating, "The public feels it was lied to about the reasons for going to war in Iraq, and those responsible must not be allowed to hide from an inquiry. This Cabinet cover up is typical of the Labour government's attitude to freedom of information. We must learn the lessons from the worst UK Foreign policy decision in living memory. Our brave troops have had to pay the price of an illegal conflict forced by Tony Blair, paid for by Gordon Brown and supported by the Tories. Those responsible have never answered the most fundamental questions about why we were led into this war. The claim that the war was about weapons of mass destruction was a lie, a mere cover story unsupported by the facts, which has cost the lives of thousands of civilians and hundreds of our brave soldiers." The Liberal Democrats have also issued a statement where they quote Liberal Democrat Shadow Justice Secretary David Howarth, "The decision to go to war in Iraq was momentous, controversial and disastrous, especially for this country's repuation as an upholder of international law. There never has been a full and comprehensive public inquiry into the decision to go to war in Iraq. Jack Straw must now give his support for such an inquiry. We need to learn the lessons, and we need to learn them as quickly as possible. That is why there Cabinet minutes should be released much earlier than would normally be the case. We already know the names of the dissenters from their memoirs. All we need to know is whether there was any discussion and any challenge of any sort. That is a matter of great public importance and goes to the heart of accountability." Straw read a prepared speech to the House of Commons today and, upon arriving at his announcement not to release the minutes, cries of "disgraceful" and "that's disgraceful" could be heard from members of the House of Commons. Straw ignored the cries, refused to look up and continued reading his statement. As the outrage continues to grow, Jack Straw remains silent as his own blog or maybe he's just so proud of that post about his "Fleece-lined, steel toe-caps" boots that he wore earlier this month in London and wants to be sure everyone has a chance to catch that?
In other legal news, charges "of conspiracy to commit murder" have been dropped against US Sgt Charles Quigley regarding a 2007 death in Baghdad. Madeline Chambers and Tim Pearce (Reuters) explain, "Three soldiers have already been convicted of crimes linked to their involvement in the incident and two more -- Sergeant First Class Joseph P. Mayo and Master Sergeant John E. Hatley -- face trial in the coming months at the Rose Barracks Courthouse in Vilseck in southern Germany, the army said."
And, on politics, the Independent of London (via Information Clearing House) asks, "Obama, Tell Us The Whole Truth:"
This newspaper was not so naive as to imagine that President Obama would immediately conform to the most scrupulous interpretation of US and international law. We are pleased that he has ordered the closure within a year of Guantanamo Bay, halted military trials and restricted CIA interrogators to Army Field Manual techniques. But the refusal to grant legal rights to detainees at Bagram is disappointing.
The US Supreme Court ruling in 2004 that prisoners in Guantanamo had the right to take their cases to US courts ended the anomalous status of the prison camp in Cuba. President Bush's attempt to create a legal limbo outside the American and international legal systems had failed. But he continued to try to deny legal rights to prisoners not just in Guantanamo but in Iraq and Bagram, too.
Mr Obama's closure of Guantanamo therefore smacks more of fulfilling a symbolic pledge than following it through. The Bush administration's legal case was transparently unconvincing. It argued that detainees were "enemy combatants" being held until hostilities ceased. If so, they should have been entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions on the rights of prisoners of war. Yet President Bush resisted even that, and now President Obama represents continuity with that policy.
Indeed, Elena Kagan, Mr Obama's nominee for Solicitor General, said during her confirmation hearing that someone suspected of helping to finance al-Qa'ida should be subject to battlefield law -- indefinite detention without trial -- even if captured in the Philippines, say, rather than a battle zone.
Nor is this the first disappointment of Obama's presidency. Earlier this month, a government lawyer stuck to the Bush line in a case brought by Binyam Mohamed, the British resident expected home from Guantanamo tomorrow -- about whom Clive Stafford Smith writes today. Mohamed and others are suing a subsidiary of Boeing for arranging "extraordinary rendition" flights, by which they were taken secretly to other countries where they say they were tortured.