Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, April 21, 2009.  Chaos and violence continue, Chris Hill is confirmed by the US Senate to be US Ambassador to Iraq (and the GOP's eyes twinkle with delight), a federal judge rains on Steven D. Green's defense parade, Matthis Chiroux appears before a military board, Widget spreads lies in the US, and more.
For some it is a very confusing world we live in. For example, the US State Dept which offers yesterday's press briefing by Robert Wood (link has text and video) with a breakdown of the countries discussed and what's discussed one each:
President Ahmadinejad Speech at the UN Anti-Racism Conference / Comments Were Unacceptable and Feed Racial Hatred / Rhetoric is Unhelpful and Counterproductive / Durban Declaration / Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Statement  
Want to Engage Iran Directly Through Diplomacy / Need to Engage Iran on Number of Issues / Iraq / Hezbollah   
Roxana Saberi / No Response from Aide-Memoire / Working Hard on the Case Through our Swiss Protecting Power / Accusation of Espionage is Without Foundation
As you read the above, you may think, "Hmm, that doesn't sound like Iraq."  Because it's not.  It's Iran.  And when the US State Dept doesn't know the difference between the two, be very scared.
But it's Barack Obama's time to tremble now.  Proving to be the wet-behind-the-ears checker player and not the 'master chess man,' Barack nominated and stuck with the unqualified Chris Hill to be US Ambassador to Iraq.  Today the US Senate confirmed him on  a vote of 73 in favor, 23 against.  Congratulations to the Obama administration for walking straight into the GOP trap.  Iraq is volatile and the 'center will not hold' is the conventional wisdom in DC.  The Republicans went on record in their opposition to Hill.  If (some say "when") Iraq returns to the pre-surge civil war level of violence (violence has not disappeared in Iraq), guess who the Republicans are going to blame?
You think it's Ray Odierno?  No, they're not going to blame the general.  They're going to toss the Democratic Congress members words back in their face about "political solutions."  For the last few years, Dems in Congress have repeatedly and rightly noted that there has been no progress and that the 'surge' was supposed to create breathing room for the progress to move through.  That did not happen.  (Nor was the 'surge' solely responsible for the violence.  As important was the paying off "Awakening" Council members -- as General David Petreaus and then-US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker made clear to Congress repeatedly in April of last year. Also important was the walling off neighborhoods, the refugee crisis -- which removed a number of targets and more.)   They're going to say "diplomatic solutions."  Ray Odierno is the top US commander in Iraq.  He's not part of the State Dept.  That leaves Chris Hill.
Republicans painted Hill as untrustworthy during the hearing.  Hill painted himself as completely clueless on key Iraqi issues (such as Kirkuk and the "Awakenings").  Most importantly, Chris Hill has no experience in the region.  Many people did but Barack went with the unkempt Chris Hill.  The inexperienced Chris Hill.
And it's amazing how willing to skip into the trap the administration was.  (For those still not grasping, see this April 5th entry for how the GOP will use Hill as the fall guy and use Hill to question Barack's judgment.)  Maybe Hill will surprise everyone and prove to be truly competent?  Could happen.  But there's still the fact that Iraq never goes to a turned corner.  Just because the wave of Operation Happy Talk comes from Barack and not Bully Boy Bush doesn't make it any more realistic.  It just means Barack joins a long list of
Happy Talkers like Donald Rumsfeld in hailing a turned corner when there was none.
Problems on the horizon, NPR's Peter Kenyon (Morning Edition) reported today on the continued conflicts between Iraq and Turkey and how the Kurds appear to be aligning with Turkey in anticipation of the US draw down.  This as the tensions continue to simmer.
Peter Kenyon: Iraqi Kurds are also engaged in a potentially explosive power struggle with the central government in Baghdad.  Kurdish peshmerga forces have been deployed in disputed territories south of the so-called Green Line that denotes the Kurdish north.  The area has a mixed population of Kurds, Arabs, Turkomans, Christians and others and the stakes are especially high in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
In Iraq, Deborah Haynes (Inside Iraq, Times of London) reports on cell phones.  Not in the usual useless manner in which so many male reporters have bored us with 'gadget' 'reports' that were like so many foul breathed, car stereo salesmen, but in a way that's honestly abou Iraqis and not a product.   Haynes explains that while the civil war was raging in 2007, "when it was too dangerous to step out on a date with someone you fancy, people used the mobile phone as their only form of contact."  She notes that dialing random numbers grew popular with males and females: "There are even cases of marriages blossoming from these blind-date style phone encounters."   And there was also stalking including of Deborah Haynes who has been cell phone stalked for approximately two years now by one 21-year-old Iraqi male who does not take hints -- nice ones or harsh ones.
And that may be reflective of the culture the US created by installing the fundamentalist fanatics they selected to staff the puppet government.  Amnesty International noted yesterday, "Women are faced with systematic discrimination and violence and are targeted specifically because of their gender. They are being attacked in the street by men with different political agendas, but who all want to impose veiling, gender segregation and discrimination. Islamist armed groups have said they were responsible for carrying out violent attacks on women, and have sought to justify them, for failing to abide by their interpretation of how women should behave. In addition, as in many other countries, women also suffer violence at the hands of their fathers, brothers and other relatives, particularly if they try to choose how to lead their lives."  The human rights organization notes that abuse is enshrined in the currentl law due to the fact that any man killing his wife can claim it was an 'honor' killing and be sentended to only six months in prison.  In addition: "It also effectively allows husbands to use violence against their wives. The 'exercise of a legal right' to exemption from criminal liability is permitted for: 'Disciplining a wife by her husband, the disciplining by parents and teachers of children under their authority within certain limits prescribed by Islamic law (Shari'a), by law or by custom'."  And grasp that this legislation was written and passed with US guidance.  Grasp how damn little the US government cared about Iraqi women.
Case in point, Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi.  Abeer is the 14-year-old girl who was gang-raped by US soldiers March 12, 2006 while her parents and five-year-old sister were murdered (by US soldiers) in the next room.  As the gang-rape wound down, Abeer was shot dead --  allegedly by Steven D. Green,  All the other US soldiers have either been convicted or entered guilty pleas.  They all fingered Steven D. Green as their ringleader, as part of the gang-rape, as the man who did all the killing and as the man who thought up and planned the conspiracy -- which included attempting to make it appear 'insurgents' had attacked Abeer and her family.
When the truth finally emerged that it wasn't 'insurgents' and that it appeared US soliders might be involved, the US military swung into action . . . to insist that Abeer was 24-years-old.  As if gang-rape and murder would be less appalling if the rape victim was 24-years-old?  In July of 2006, Time magazine noted:
Family members describe Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi as tall for her age, skinny, but not eye-catchingly beautiful. As one of her uncles put it, "She was an ordinary girl." So perhaps it was sheer proximity that made the 15-year-old so tantalizing. Her house was less than 1,000 ft. from a U.S. military checkpoint just outside the Iraqi town of Mahmudiyah, and soldiers manning the gate started stopping by just to look at her. Her mother, who grew concerned enough to make plans for Abeer to move in with a cousin, told relatives that whenever she caught the Americans ogling her daughter, they would give her the thumbs-up sign, point to the girl and say, "Very good, very good."   
Abeer's brother Mohammed, 13, told TIME he once watched his sister, frozen in fear, as a U.S. soldier ran his index finger down her cheek. Mohammed has since learned that soldier's name: Steven Green. Last week Green, 21, a former Army private first class who was honorably discharged because of a "personality disorder" a month before the criminal allegations came to light, pleaded not guilty to charges of raping Abeer and killing her along with her parents and 7-year-old sister. Five other soldiers have been charged, four of them for conspiring with Green and one for dereliction of duty for not reporting the crimes. The grisly March 12 slayings--in which Abeer's skull was smashed and her legs and torso set on fire--sparked the military's fifth investigation into U.S. personnel accused of murdering Iraqi civilians. But unlike the massacre in Haditha, where Marines are suspected of shooting up to 24 innocent people in November following the death of a beloved comrade, the butchering of Abeer's family does not appear to be the result of vengeance or confusion. Instead, all signs point to premeditated depravity.
Steven D. Green is the last to be tried and he will be tried in a federal court in Kentucky.  He had already been discharged before the realities began emerging about the attack on Abeer and her family. That still doesn't explain the long delay.  From the Monday, July 3, 2006 snapshot: "Green, is 21 and was with the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army. Friday [June30th] , in Asheville, North Carolina, he was arrested and charged with both the four deaths as well as the rape. According to the US government press release, if convicted on the charge of murder, 'the maximum statutory penalty . . . is death' while, if convicted on the charge of rape, 'the maxmium statutory penalty for the rape is life in prison'." They did attempt to begin last year; however, it was stopped due to a quilting fair.  Currently the trial is set to start at nine a.m. April 27th.  As Ruth noted Friday, Brette Barrouquere (AP) reported jury selection was completed last week and the witnesses for the prosectuion may include "nearly half-dozen members of the al-Janabi family". Barrouquere also noted that the court had prepared this year for "the 25th annual American Quilter's Society show in Paducah, an event that draws thousands and fills hotel rooms that were needed for trial lawyers and witnesses." Today Green's defense received a set back.  His attorneys had repeatedly made embarrassing statements to the press that it was impossible for people in Kentucky to know what it was like in war and that the jury wouldn't know warfare and blah, blah, blah embarrassing bulls**t that demonstrates just what feather-weights Green's attorneys are.  It was embarrassing and shameful.  And they couldn't stop shooting their mouths off to the press about this 'defense.'  Which led the prosecution to file a motion which the judge responded to today with an Order:
THIS CAUSE is before the Court on the United States' Motion in Limine. 
The Court having considered the Motion, and the Court being otherwise sufficiently advised, IT IS ORDERED that:
The defendant is prohibited from eleciting, offering, or commenting on the following evidence during the guilt phase of trial:
1. Evidence or argument that the United States could have, or should have, prosecuted the defendant under the Uniform Code of Military Justice;
2. Evidence or argument concerning the resonableness, wisdom, fairness, or consequences of prosecuting the defendant under Federal criminal law instead of under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
3. Evidence concerning the defendant's desire and willingness to be tried under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and his efforts to reenlist in the Army for that purpose;
4. Evidence concering differences or similarities between Federal criminal law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including with respect to available charges, criminal penalities, sentencing, and eligibility of parole; and
5. Evidence or argument that only individuals who are in the military or who have military experience, and not civilians, can or should evaluate the defendant's conduct.
The fifth one applies to the defense testing the argument that no one could 'judge' Green who hadn't been in war.  Possibly the prosecution should have let the defense present that embarrassing argument and then mused whether or not, by that logic, the jury should be composed of 12 rapists?  Is a rapist the only one qualified to judge a rapist?
The prosecution just cleaned away the defense strategy and either the defense was launching the biggest fake out and are master geniuses or they are now scrambling for a new game plan.
Let's stay with legal but move to the US, Matthis Chiroux faced a military body today.  Matthis was honorably discharged and placed in IRR and then, many months later, informed he was being pulled back into the military and sent to Iraq. He announced May 15, 2008 that he would not deploy to Iraq.  Sunday, June 15, 2008 (Father's Day), he explained his reasons in a speech which included the following:
I stand here today as a Winter Soldier. To serve our nation, its military and its people in this dark time of confusion and corruption.
I stand here to make it known that my duty as a soldier is first to the higher ideals and guiding principles of this country which our leaders have failed to uphold.
I stand here today in defense of the US Constitution which has known no greater enemy, foreign or domestic, than those highest in this land who are sworn to be governed by its word.
I stand here today in defense of those who have been stripped of their voices in this occupation for the warriors of this nation have been silenced to the people who need to start listening.
We are here to honor the memory of our fathers who more than two centuries ago brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, as Abraham Lincoln once noted.
We are here to honor the struggle of our fathers and their fathers and their fathers before them to build this nation and bring it together -- through slavery and poverty, to sexism and racism, through materialism and imperialism. They built this nation and struggled to keep it alive as we've blundered and learned and blundered again. We owe it to our fathers to stand for this nation now when a dark cloud has descended upon it in the form of an administration who is stealing the lives of us all to wage an illegal war -- conceived in lies and birthed [born] of manipulation.
As a soldier I was told it was not my place to question the orders of those appointed above me. I had that lie trained into me from my first day of basic training to my last day of active duty. But I have learned the truth, the truth that the occupation of Iraq is inherently illegal and that it is my duty as a soldier to refuse illegal orders to reactivate and deploy in support of it.
I have learned that in these times of crisis one must look deep into their own values to know the path that they must walk. I have learned that feeling and thinking and speaking and acting and keeping with courage and honesty in preservation of a righteous cause is blessed and may give a person strength to utter truths that may calm the vicious and the vengeful alike.
I believe that this nation and this military may come to know the same truth: That the rule of law has been forsaken and we must return to it or be doomed to continue disaster. I believe in the goodness of the American people and I believe that justice is not dead because we as a people believe that it is our responsibility to resist the injustices done by our government in our names. We know this truth to be self-evident that our nation can unite to oppose an illegal occupation which is killing and scarring and shattering the lives of our youth and the Iraqi people.
On this Fathers Day, know, America, that your children need you. We need you to care for us and to care for our country which we will inherit when you are finished with her. We need you to end this occupation of Iraq which has destroyed a country and scattered its people to the wind like ashes in the tempest -- a tempest that has engulfed the nation of Iraq and scrubbed any sign of peace and prosperity from the surface of a civilization older than even history itself.
Fathers, we need you to care for your children and the children of Iraq for they know not why you fight and carry no fault in the conflict.
Fathers, your sons and daughters need you now to embrace peace for though we were attacked, we have dealt in retaliation that same suffering one-thousand times over to a people who never wronged us. The nation will know little healing until first we stem off the flow of blood and human life for justice and healing will never be done by a blade or a bullet or a bomb or a torture cell.
By continuing to participate in the unjust occupation of Iraq, we, as service members, are contributing to that flow of human life and we cannot now -- nor could we ever -- call the Iraqi people an enemy in the fight against the use of terror. But terror is all we now know. We are terrified of the prospect that we have been lied to. We are terrified by the idea that we have killed for nothing. We are terrified to break the silence. We are terrified to do what we know is right.
But never again will I allow terror to silence me. Nor will I allow it to govern my actions. I refuse terror as a tactic for uniting a people around an unjust cause. I refuse to allow terror to motivate me to do violence on my fellow man especially those who never wronged me in the first place. I refuse to be terrified to stand in defense of my Constitution. And I refuse to be terrified of doing so in great adversity.
As a resister to the Iraq Occupation, I refuse to be terrified by what may come for I know those who stand against me are in terror of the truth. But I will speak my truth, and I will stand by it firmly and forever will my soul know peace. Thank you.

Phillip O'Connor (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) explained this morning, "An administrative separation board at the Army Human Resources Command could grant Chiroux a general discharge or an other-than-honorable discharge, either of which could harm his ability to receive benefits available to honorable discharged veterans."  The hearing took place today and there is no change in Matthis duty status at present.  What happens next is the board's record is complied and a legal review takes place.  Following that it's forwarded up the chain to, finally, the Commanding General of Human Resources Command.  The Commanding General will issue a determination and that should take place before the end of next month.
Back to Iraq and some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer and left three more injured and a Baghdad roadside bombing which left three Iraqi soldiers injured.  This is the the third day in a row that Iraqi soldiers have been wounded or killed in bombings.
Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report 2 shootings last night in Mosul, 1 taxi driver shot dead and 1 civilian shot dead.
In other Iraq news, Ed O'Keefe (Washington Post) notes, "Several executives from well-known high tech firms are in Iraq this week as guests of the State Department, part of an effort to boost the use of online and social media in the war-torn country." CNN adds that they represent Autmattic, Twitter, "Google, AT&T, YouTube and others." This visit follows the news that Iraq's stock exchange has gone electric.
While the greedy try to make money in Iraq, Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan attempts to use her name to get the word out on the system that supports the illegal wars.  Her latest is  Myth America: 10 Greatest Myths of the Robber Class and the Case for Revolution.  In  a must read column, Cindy explains the reality of what can be expected from the Democratically controlled White and Congress -- the same nothings the Democratically controlled Congress gave two-years-running:
I left the Democratic Party in May of 2007 because of the continued war funding and the continued lack of accountability and I was roundly, thoroughly and viciously attacked by the same "progressives" who are beginning to doubt the "hope" that they bought into, or allowed themselves to be co-opted by. Some are even calling for an "independent third party" movement here in the US to challenge the corrupt two parties!
Really? Where were these "progressives" when I was running against the Queen of the Robber Class here in SF as an independent? Their heads were buried in the sand, or they were wearing the Rose Colored Glasses of denial and now we are mired in a situation that cannot be remedied: once the Genie is out of the bottle, she can't be easily put back in. Do you think the Democrats will hold Obama to account, when they failed to hold Bush to account? I doubt it and we will continue to see the Obama-Summers-Geithner-Bernanke collapse of the economy and the continued war crimes of the Obama-Clinton-Gates occupations for profit.                                     
It's way past time to stop giving the "Two" Party Robber Class system "a chance." It's time to stop the "inside" part of an "inside-outside" strategy. We have virtually nobody on the inside who will speak for us besides a token bone thrown out of those marble cesspools and we have to stand up for our class.           
Warren Buffet, a famous Robber Class business man who loves to dabble in the Democratic part of the One-Robber Class party said: "It is a class war, and my class is winning." They are only winning because we allow them to.
Cindy Sheehan is on the road and these are the next dates listed for her Seat of Our Pants tour:

April 21: Albuquerque      
Smith Brasher Hall (CNM Campus, corner of University and Coal)       
7-9 pm and then book signing.          

April 23: Eureka Springs Arkansas    
Sweet Spring Antiques Mart        
2 Pine Street (across from P.O.)    
7-9 pm           
Eureka Springs Contact: Gerry Fonseca, geraldt7@earthlink.net      

April 26: Kansas City, Mo          
(Sponsored by KKFI and joint fundraiser with Cindy)          
3:30 - Anti-War vigil on the Plaza with Cindy Sheehan         
5:00 - Meet & Greet with Cindy          
6:30 - Music by Seed Love         
7:00 - Music by The Herrmannators       
7:30 - Cindy Sheehan speaks                
Venue: Uptown Theater - Valentine Room             
3700 Broadway                  
Contact for KCMO: Anne Pritchett, pritchett.anne@gmail.com            
Also touring the US, orbiting DC, is the laughable Wijdan Mikha'il Salim, a puppet for the puppet Nouri al-Maliki.  She holds the title "Minister of Human Rights."  She holds the title and holds the place and does nothing.  But she's on a charm offensive because it's been noted that the Foreign Ministry is heavily cast male and she's the 'spot of color' to convince Americans that Iraqi women do get to do more than be beat up, raped or killed. 
Her charm mission found her declaring Friday, at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, the laughable claim that Iraqi society needs to be educated in order for the suppression of women to cease.  Really, Wijit?  Do they just wind you up and point you towards the mike?
The stupid liar wants Americans to believe that Iraq was Afghanistan when, in fact, it was no such thing.  Prior to the 2003 invasion and the installation -- by the US -- of religious fanatics, Iraq was a sectarian society with women's rights in their contitution (gone now, thank the US for that) and a society in which women participated and held many jobs and duties.  The fanatics the US government used in an effort to scare the Iraqi people into sumbission are the ones who destroyed women's rights.  This is the woman who is the Human Rights Minister.  A puppet position granted, but one in which she could have called out the assault on Iraq's LGBT community.  (She has REFUSED to respond to the letter on this topic noted in yesterday's snapshot.)
Don't come to the US with your bulls**t propaganda and your 'my hands are tied but we will educate and in decades . . .'  Spare us all your garbage.  And spare us your repeated use of "man" for "human" when you claim to want to help Iraqi women.  You continue the sexism and don't pretend otherwise.  There's something truly appalling about anyone stating that rights will come when "we" "educate the people about the real Islam."  What does that mean? It means no wall between church and state.  Making the statement even more offensive is the fact that Widget isn't Muslim.  She's Christian.  That statement's not just a lie (she's blaming Islam for the lack of women's rights), it's also patronizing and scapegoating.