Monday, March 16, 2009

Iraq snapshot

Monday, March 16, 2009.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military floats an 'event' out slowly, who's teaching Iraqi journalists, a soccer player is shot dead in Iraq, the president of Iraq says he won't run again, the president of Iraq states there will be no independent Kurdish state, and more.
Today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier died March 16 from combat related injuries while conducting a patrol in Baghdad.  The Soldier's name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by Department of Defense.  The incident is currently under investigation." The announcement brings the number of US service members killed in Iraq to 4259.  The numbers pile up.
So do the stories.  Kristoffer Walker is one story.  The 28-year-old Iraq War veteran is refusing to return to Iraq.  At his site, he provides [PDF format warning] a fact sheet which goes over the timeline of events and other basics such as the e-mail he sent the military February 20th:
This email is to inform you that I am not returning to Iraq.  I have made the decision to stay in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  I have intentioonally missed my flight out of Green Bay and I will not be making any effort to return to Iraq.  It is my firm belief that you all understand why I have done this.  If you need to contact me, I can be reached via my wife's cell phone.  The phone number is 920-***-**** [number blocked out by K. Walker] I will not be fleeing my hometown, so I can be found at my home.   
Additionally, I am still under orders to be on active duty, and although I will not be at my appointed duty station, I will contact a local Army Reserve unit (432nd Civil Affairs) to see if they need me to work there until one of two things happen:
1. The orders placing me on active duty  are rescinded and I am transferred to a reserve unit in or around Green Bay, or
2. I am arrested.  
If you need me to contact the 353rd's rear-deatchment/full-time staff in Buffalo, Minnesota I will do that, I would need a POC for that however.
Finally, just so you are aware, I have contacted the local media outlets (newspaper and television) as well as a handful of national news outlets, in order to make others aware of this situation.  I am not going to hide.  I know fully what I am doing.         
The die is cast.
SPC Kristoffer Walker
At his website, Kristoffer highlights a quote from Thomas Jefferson: "In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock."  
Last month, Kristoffer told WEAU13, "Operation Iraqi Freedom and the war in Iraq, is -- it's an immoral operation and it's also being poorly managed."  He told 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."  Speaking to Tony Walters (Appleton Post Crescent), he explained, "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. . . . I signed up to defend the Constitution and defend the country against foreign enemies.  But I'm not going to do something immoral and contrary to the contract I signed up for.  It's really quite sad."
Kristoffer Walker joins many others in saying "no" to the illegal war. Camilo Mejia is the author of Road from Ar Ramadi.  He is an Iraq War veteran.  He is a conscientious objector.  He stood up to the full power of the US military and he survived and then some.  He is the chair of Iraq Veterans Against the war.  All of that, before you even get into the adventures of his father and mother, is more than worth hearing about and those makes him someone worth hearing.  Those in South Bend and Goshen Indiana have the opportunity to hear him next week.  Monday, he will be speaking at 7:00 pm on the Indiana University South Bend's campus and Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. he will be speaking in Goshen at Iglesia Menonita Del Buen Pastor.  Both events are free and open to the public and more information can be found here.  Mejia is among the early resisters and his actions are noted by Michael J. Mooney (Broward Palm Beach) who explains the struggle war resister Aslan Lamarche is currently undergoing.  He joined the military at the age of 18, he then self-checked out and went to Canada.  His attempt to be granted refugee status in Canada was denied. His parents (from Trinidad and Cuba) remain in Flordia and Aslan states, "It's sad.  My parents came to the U.S. for a better way of life.  And now, their oldest son had to leave that same country for the same reason."  He is taking classes in Toronto and hoping for some good news. He says, "It's hard to be 20 years old and be hated by two governments.  And Canada is a very strange country in a lot of ways.  They just have this blind trust that their government will do the right thing.  The majority of Canadians want us to stay.  They say, 'Don't worry.  Everything will be fine.' But at the end of the day, none of them are willing to fight for us." [The previous sentences on Camilo's speaking engagements have appeared in the Thursday snapshot and since and will continue to show up until Tuesday evening.]  While Aslan remains in Canada and hopes for some sort of refugee status, Robin Long was extradited last year.  Yesterday Robin had two visitors from Canada.  Tony Perry (Los Angeles Times) reports Canadian MPs Olivia Chow and Borys Wrezesnewsky were at San Diego's Miramar Marine Corps Air Station to visit with Robin who was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment. Perry notes New Democratic Party MP Olvia Chow will "speak Monday night at a rally of anti-war activisits, 7 p.m. at the Joyce Beers Community Center, 4065 Vermont Street, San Diego."   AP reports that although Chow and Wrzesnewskj were allowed to speak with him, they "were not allowed to take notes or record the interview". Chow is quoted stating, "My heart sank, it was very heavy. I was angry that Canada deported him."
Many other war resisters in Canada are at risk of deportation (if they file for refugee status -- many resisters go to Canada and skip that process -- a process that no one has yet won in this era).   Friday's snapshot noted Megan Feldman's "Gimme Shelter" (Dallas Observer) which reported on US war resisters in Canada.  The article opens with Kimberly Rivera who is from the Dallas - Fort Worth area. From the article:

Take Joshua Key, who grew up in a trailer in the tiny town of Guthrie, Oklahoma.  A burly welder with tattooed arms, Key, 30, grew up admiring his grandfather who fought in the Korean War.  By age 12, he was shooting snakes with AK-47s and Glocks, and 10 years later he joined the Army after struggling to support his wife and children on his earnings from KFC.  A country boy who recalls his wife saying, "You get 'em, Josh, before they get you.  Even if it's a kid.  They're terrorists too," Key never dreamed that after a tour in Iraq he'd be living in self-imposed exile, the author of a book titled The Deserter's Tale.  
Ryan Johnson, a slight, beareded, 25-year-old from California's Central Valley who looks more like an organic famrer than a soldier, says he enlisted because he was tired of working factory jobs at places like Frito Lay and couldn't afford college.  His mother, a homemaker, and his stepfather, a UPS driver, kept yellow ribbon bumper stickers on their cars and voted Republican.
Dale Landry, a 23-year-old from the Dallas area who deserted in 2007, joined the Air Force his senior year of high school.  Besides the fact that it would enable him to go to college, he figured the military could be a good path out of low-income, red-state America and into a career in Democratic politics.  His mother was a waitress who raised him alone except for a series of husbands who came and went, and he wanted his life to look as different from hers as possible.  
Those are just a few stories -- both from Feldman's article and from the ongoing, illegal war.  People's lives are being destroyed by the Iraq War.  The bulk of the Iraqi lives destroyed are stories that will never be told outside of Iraq (and many won't even be told there).  But the destruction doesn't end until the war does.  As long as it drags on -- with 146,000 US troops or with 28,000 US troops -- the destruction continues.  This week marks the sixth anniversary of the start of the illegal war.  Actions will take place.  Some people are working overtime to prevent you from knowing that.  John Walsh (CounterPunch) notes the silence and offers:
Now some in UPFJ have characterized A.N.S.W.E.R. as loony lefties because a leading member is a group calling itself "Marxist-Leninist."  Zowie, kids!  That is really scary!  I remind such people that Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King were not deterred from allying with "Marxist-Leninists," nor were any of those who joined in the fight against Nazism and Colonialism.  What is the big deal?  If A.N.S.W.E.R. is the only group willing to organize a loud and clear street opposition to the Obama version of war and empire, I for one will not be deterred from joining in by a pathetic bit of redbaiting.  And if only those who call themselves "Marxists-Leninists" are willing to call such an action, then perhaps there is something in the wisdom of Marx, and Lenin, that remains of value.
To be clear, UPFJ is staffed with Communists.  The difference is they are closet Communists.  Leslie Cagan, Judith LeBlanc (although she is an office holder in the Communist Party), Carl Davidson and many more -- that's just their 'board.'  They smear A.N.S.W.E.R. because if you're a member of that organization and you are a Communist, you're not asked or expected to hide in a political closet.  They use A.N.S.W.E.R. to make themselves look 'viable' and 'palatable.'  And the real untold story of McCarthyism is how this same action taking place right now took place in the 1940s.  UPFJ does their little whisper campaign against A.N.S.W.E.R. turning that organization into a bloodied shark so that everyone's attention goes there, they all feed off A.N.S.W.E.R. and, in the meantime, UPFJ looks 'innocent.'  There's nothing wrong with being a Socialist, Communist, Republican, Democrat, Green, whatever.  There's something very wrong about hiding it.  UPFJ hides what they are.  A.N.S.W.E.R. welcomes any and all members from all political walks of life.  They don't ask that a Republican pass themselves off as a Democrat or that a Communist pretend to be a Green.  By contrast, UPFJ are the exact same cowards John Reed fought against, they are the cowards in every era of history. 
Back to Walsh: "So the question really is, Which side are you on?  That of the Obamanation and the Democrat Party version of war and empire? Or on the side of public, mass opposition to the war/  I hope that as many as possible choose the latter course -- in D.C., L.A. or S.F."  The the six year mark is this Thursday and World Can't Wait offers a list of other cities holding demonstrations. Saturday, those wanting to call out the illegal war can join with groups such as The National Assembly to End the Wars, the ANSWER coalition, World Can't Wait and Iraq Veterans Against the War -- all are taking part in a real action. Iraq Veterans Against the War explains:

IVAW's Afghanistan Resolution and National Mobilization March 21st       
As 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
Those wishin' and hopin' that the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement is going to end the war (that would be the treaty done by the Bush White House -- the same White House that said there were Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq) better resort to some stronger sleeping aids or wake the hell up.  The SOFA 'guarantees' US troops out of Iraqi cities in months.  However, that's not what will happen.  AP interviewed Nouri al-Maliki, puppet of the occupation, over the weekend as he finished his visit to Australia:
Nouri al-Maliki said in an interview with The Associated Press that he had told President Barack Obama and other top U.S. officials that any withdrawals "must be done with our approval" and in coordination with the Iraqi government.  
"I do not want any withdrawals except in areas considered 100 percent secure and under control," al-Maliki said during his flight from Australia to Baghdad at the end of a five-day visit.
Get it?  There's nothing really to enforce in that treaty.  The treaty is a joke and, increasingly, so are the fools who still believe in it.  Friday's snapshot opened quoting IRAQ: The Logic of Withdrawal author Anthony Arnove from his "Moved on from the struggle" (Socialist Worker). It's probably a good time to quote one section again:

WE KNOW that Iraq will remain under occupation until at least the end of 2011, but there is very good reason to believe that between now and then, the Iraqi government, which owes its survival to Washington, will cut a deal to allow U.S. forces to remain longer. Such an agreement would also likely give the U.S. long-term access to military bases and access to Iraqi air space.
Heidar Kazem will not see the end of the illegal war.  He died today. reports he was shot dead while playing in a soccer game: "Reports indicate that the player had just scored and had begun to celebrate before a shot was fired from the crowd. It is believed a rival fan brought out the gun as he was angry his side went down. With no regard for anyone, the fan took aim and pulled the trigger.AP reports the game was in Hillah and a suspect was arrested at the game.
In some of the other reported violence today . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which left thee people wounded (one was an "Awakening" Council member).  Reuters notes the following Sunday night incidents: a Kirkuk grenade attack which left a doctor injured, a Mosul sticky bombing which left one personw ounded and a Baghdad grenade attack which resulted in 1 death and three people injured.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that Sunday night saw 1 Iraqi soldier shot dead in Mosul. Reuters notes a Sunday US and Iraqi forces raid in Mosul in which 1 woman was shot dead.
Saturday  Khalid al-Ansary, Tim Cocks, Waleed Ibrahim, Tim Cocks and Janet Lawrence (Reuters) reported Jalal Talabani has announced when his term as Iraq's president ends with this year, when he'll be 76-years-old and, of course, there is his history of heart problems. He refused to follow doctors' orders regarding what to eat. Refused the orders mere hours after leaving the hospital, wasn't even on the flight back to Iraq yet. Collapsed in a US bookstore and had to be escorted out. And that was one year before he had to come back to the US for heart surgery. Translation, the news isn't at all surprising.  Presumably, Talabani's stepping down in December is dependent upon elections being held then (as they are currently supposed to be).  Should they be delayed (and aren't they always in Iraq?), Talabani would presumably stay on his presidential post until they were held.  Alsumaria reports Talabani is in Turkey today for a conference on water and has already "met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the presence of South Korean Prime Minister." AFP notes the conference is held every three years and is more 'timely' this year following the United Nation's report (published last week) declaring a "global water crisis". AFP states approximately "20,000 people are expecte for the Fifth World Water Forum" while is a week-long conference. DPA adds, "In addition to discussions on how to stop Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) militants from using their bases in mountainous northern Iraq from where they launch attacks on Turkey proper, Talabani and Erdogan also discussed bilateral economic issues and the Middle East peace process." Meanwhile Hurriyet reports:

Talabani told a Turkish newspaper in an interview published on Monday that it would not be realistic to believe that an independent Kurdish state could survive as it is likely that neighboring countries Turkey , Iran and Syria would close their borders.          

"I tell my Turkish brothers not to fear that Kurds will declare independence. It is an advantage for Kurds to stay within the borders of Iraq in terms of their economic, cultural, social and political interests," he told in the interview.

Sabah got the interview and they quote Talabani stating, "Iraq will not be separated and the civil war is over" and "The ideal of a united Kurdistan is just a dream written in poetry. I do not deny that there are poems devoted to the notion of a united Kurdistan. But we can not continue to dream." If accurate, Talabani's remarks will spark anger among some Kurds. And it may be a great deal of anger and it may be among many Iraqi Kurds.
Last Thursday, the British embraced another revelation as government e-mails further supporting the theory that pre-war intel was fixed were released.  Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reports 72% of respondents in a new BBC survey support an inquiry into the Iraq War.  BBC explains that the 18-24 years-old group supports an inquiry by 81%.  What the British want -- the "vast majority," as Reuters notes -- is an inquiry; however, "Prime Minister Gordon Brown has ruled out holding an inquiry until all British troops have left the country. The remaining 4,000 or so soldiers, based near the southern city of Basra, are due to start pulling out at the end of May."
Friday, Rebecca moderated a community roundtable -- "Iraq," "Iraq roundtable," "The Iraq roundtable," "iraq roundtable," "Iraq," "Iraq in the Kitchen," "Talking Iraq," "Iraq around the table," "Roundtable on Iraq," "The roundtable," "Roundtable," "Friday roundtable" and "Iraq roundtable" -- and we'll note this section of the roundtable:
Rebecca: Okay, a new topic.  C.I. slid this over to me.  Stars and Stripes notes there are reports emerging that the US shot down an Iranian drone flying over Iraq in February.  Any thoughts?
Ruth: This is the first I'm hearing of it and, if it is true, my first question would be why that is?  Seems to me the public should have known about this last month if it was true.  The Iraq War is not supposed to be hidden from the public.  A drone shot down would be news that the public should have.  What is the purpose in hiding that?  The fact that it was hidden makes me think that it is a false story.
Betty: I would agree with Ruth on that.  How many times have we heard, "Iran's causing trouble!  Iran's training fighters! Iran's supplying weapons!"  Over and over.  And now we're supposed to believe that the US has information and has sat on it for a month?  I don't buy it.  I'm with Ruth.  And, excuse me, C.I. didn't they brag about their drone capabilities last month?  The military.
C.I.: The US military did brag about a drone.  A US drone was used as an assault weapon on February 23rd, the US military announced it March 2nd, it was in the March 3rd snapshot.  It was an "unmanned drone" and it shot off a missile.  It killed some people and the US military was thrilled and issued their announcement.  That was seven days later. 
Elaine: So seven days to announce 'good news.'  Certainly, as Betty pointed out, past remarks by the US military would indicate they would see an Iranian drone as "good news."  If seven days is the standard to announce good news, we should have heard of an Iranian drone no later than March 7th, right?
Kat: Right.  If not sooner.  Because they could argue that in the first case, "National security! We must not let the 'enemies' know about our capabilities right away!'"  I'm with Ruth, Betty and Elaine on this, I don't buy it.  Even if the US government comes out and confirms the reports, I'm not sure that I will buy it.
This morning the US military trotted an Iraqi out to the press to verify the claim they still wouldn't comment on.  When that didn't get them the attention they wanted, they had to make the statment themselves.  CNN reports they issued a statement today which read: "This was not an accident on the part of the Iranians.  The [drone] was in Iraqi airspace for nearly one hour and 10 minutes and well inside Iraqi territory before it was engaged."  No one's supposed to ask why they didn't issue a statement sooner.  No one's supposed to ask why they trickled this out starting Friday evening.  No one's supposed to ask why the Iraqi military was speaking to the press before the US military did.  No one's supposed to ask a lot of questions.  In fact, it appears for the 'news' to be considered valid, no one can ask questions.  It's very strange.
And the news just got stranger.  No offense to Richard Tomkins personally, but his employer is not the most trusted in the world: the Moonie owned Washington Times, UPI and Middle East Times.  So why is M-NF announcing that Tomkins is teaching Iraqi journalists about journalism?  Is the lesson find a crazy who fancies himself to be a charasmatic and your institution can stay in business regardless of whether anyone reads it or not?  If so, staff from Moonie-owned periodicals are the perfect people to teach journalism.