Thursday, May 07, 2009

Contractors, Ehren, Cliff

Military clinics and field hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan have supplied more than $1 million a month in health-care services to civilian contractors during the past two years without seeking reimbursement from their employers, as provided by law, according to a new audit by the Defense Department inspector general.

The above is the opening to Walter Pincus' "Contractors Using Military Clinics" (Washington Post) and, as you read it, grasp that it took Congressional Democratic leaders saying "no" to the White House to get Barack to drop the idea of making veterans use private medical insurance to cover their treatments. (The White House thought it would save the government $540 million each year.) Meanwhile yesterday's Baghdad bombing results in some reports. Timothy Williams and Atheer Kakan (New York Times) quote eye witness Abu Mustafa stating, "It was an ordinary morning. There were crowds of people buying, when all of a sudden a pickup truck that had been parked exploded. We've requested several times to the police to provide security and bomb detectors, but they never responded." They also float the Sahwa as a potential cause of the rise in violence and note that they have not been absorbed by Nouri al-Maliki into the government while ignoring the fact that the payment is still not coming from Nouri (he's supposed to be paying every one of the Sahwa now). Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) quotes Haithem Turki Abdullah stating, "It is always the simple people who are the victims. All I ask is why this is happening? Why must innocent people lose their family members?"

Campbell Robertson and Stephen Farrell's "Ambush by an Ally Chills Trust in Iraqi Units" (New York Times) explores Iraqi security forces turning on the Americans who are allegedly training them. The reporters do note Saturday's events but fail to identify Hassan Al Dulaimi as the man who shot dead Jake R. Velloza and Jeremiah P. McCleery. The report mainly focuses (in terms of specifics) on the November 25, 2008 shooting deaths of Anthony Davis and Warren A. Frank by Iraqi soldier Mohammed Saleh Hamadi. From the article:

For months, Mr. Hamadi’s case has been winding its way through the Iraqi justice system at a pace that frustrates members of the team. Two other soldiers from the battalion have been convicted for their roles in his escape.
"I guarantee you there’s a handful of these in every battalion," Captain Keneally said, adding that if justice was not swift for Mr. Hamadi, others might get ideas.

Ehren Watada is the first officer to publicly resist the Iraq War. In June 2006, he publicly refused to deploy to the illegal war. Yesterday there was some news and this morning there is no more clarity. Three charges Ehren will not be retried on. Two charges remain and the US military has not yet decided whether to pursue those two or not. William Cole (Honolulu Advertiser) explains:

More than a year and a half after he would have left the Army -- had he deployed as ordered -- the 1996 Kalani High School graduate still reports to a desk job at Fort Lewis in Washington state.
Watada is likely to continue to have to do so as the Army weighs its next move.

Courage to Resist highlights an action for another war resister:

Action alert: Ask that Cliff Cornell's sentence be reduced PDF Print E-mail


Courage to Resist. May 1, 2009

Your letter to the Commander of Fort Stewart, Georgia requesting that Iraq War resister Cliff Cornell's 12-months prison sentence be reduced is urgently requested. Cliff was convicted of desertion on April 28, 2009 after being denied sanctuary in Canada. These letters of support will be collected by Cliff's civilian lawyer James Branum and submitted to the military through the official appeals process.

Address letters to: COMMANDER, Fort Stewart and fax to 866-757-8785. Please do not send letters directly to the CG but through Cliff's lawyer at the fax number provided.

Basic guidelines for letters:

Good points to raise:

  • Cliff's good character
  • The importance of acting upon conscience
  • The severity of the sentence, especially since a 12 month sentence is a felony in the US.

Things to avoid:

  • Partisan politics
  • Any attacks on the Army itself. For example, you can say the war is bad; however, but don't say the Army is an evil institution.

Letters should include the full name and contact information of the author, including e-mail. This is requested so that Cliff's lawyer can contact you if needed.

Letters need to be received by May 31, 2009 so that they can be submitted as part of the formal appeals process.

Finally on the Iraq War, this is from Helen Benedict's "The Plight of Women Soldiers" which you can read in full at NPR:

Not many people realize the extent to which the Iraq War represents a historic change for American women soldiers. More women have fought and died in Iraq than in all the wars since World War II put together. Over 206,000 have served in the Middle East since March 2003, most of them in Iraq; and over 600 have been wounded and 104 have died in Iraq alone, according to the Department of Defense. In Iraq, one in ten troops is a woman.
Yet the military--from Pentagon to the troops on the ground--has been slow to recognize the service these women perform, or even to see them as real soldiers. Rather, it is permeated with age-old stereotypes of women as passive sex objects who have no business fighting and cannot be relied upon in battle. As Montoya said about her time as a soldier, "The only thing the guys let you be if you're a girl in the military is a bitch, a ho, or a dyke. You're a bitch if you won't sleep with them, a ho if you even have one boyfriend, and a dyke if they don't like you. So you can't win."

Non-Iraq, independent journalist David Bacon latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press). In the latest issue of Monthly Review, Michael D. Yates' "Don't Pity the Poor Immigrants, Fight Alongside Them" addresses Bacon's book and notes:

A third conclusion that flows from Bacon's book is that anti-immigration politics have little basis in fact. If we look just at undocumented immigrants, we find that they pay their own way. They add more to the national income than they take from it. They pay taxes, all sorts of taxes, including sales and excise taxes, payroll taxes, property taxes, and yes, income taxes. They get little in return for these taxes; they are much less likely than similarly-situated natives to receive health care, education, public assistance, police protection, and all other publically provided services. As noted above, they do not often compete directly with native workers for jobs. By any reasonable standard, they face harsher work regimens and enjoy fewer protections on the job than do native laborers. They commit fewer crimes than natives. What all of this means is that the crusades being waged against "illegal aliens" have ulterior motives. Lou Dobbs and Tom Tancredo know that employers will never be harshly prosecuted for hiring undocumented workers, and they do not want them to be. Rhetorical attacks on employers play well with the masses, and this is why they do it. What the hysteria they foster does accomplish is to divide working people by making part of the working class the "other," a quasi-criminal element that can be used to hide the true horrors of this economic system, one that the immigrant bashers love and profit from. Whatever divides workers makes it hard for them to form the one thing that employers and their xenophobic allies really hate-unions.

David L. Wilson also reviews it in "The Immigration System: Maybe Not So Broken" (only Wilson is available online):

Much of Bacon's answer is right there in his title: Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants. He argues that undocumented workers come here largely because of the neoliberal economic policies that the U.S. elite has vigorously pushed on our southern neighbors over the past 30 years, disrupting local economies and forcing millions to seek employment outside their countries. At the same time, he says, U.S. legislators were passing laws that tightened restrictions on immigrants from these countries. These restrictions haven't stopped immigration; instead, they've created a class of "illegals" who are forced to keep their heads down as they work for less pay in brutal conditions -- involuntarily providing downward pressure on the wages of native-born workers. In short, he shows us a system that lets U.S. corporations profit from globalization in countries like Mexico and then profit again by exploiting globalization's victims when they seek work here.

It's easy enough to document this process with statistics and academic studies, and Bacon does his share of that. But he also brings the statistics to life by providing the other element missing in the immigration debate -- he tells us about the experiences and opinions of actual immigrants.

-- Juan Gonzalez (not his real name) worked at the giant Cananea copper mine, which the Mexican government sold in 1990 for a fraction of its value to the Grupo Mexico corporation as part of a massive privatization program promoted by the United States. Gonzalez was fired in 1998 because of his role in a strike against the new owners. Blacklisted and unable to find a decent job in his home state of Sonora, he ended up becoming an "illegal" working in an Arizona warehouse.

-- Luz Dominguez and Marcela Melquiades worked for years cleaning hotel rooms in Emeryville, a small city on the San Francisco Bay. Their employers had no problems with their lack of legal status until the city council passed a living wage ordinance and some hotel employees complained their bosses weren't in compliance. Management then discovered problems with the workers' documents and fired them.

-- Edilberto Morales is the only survivor of a September 2002 accident that killed 14 immigrant forestry workers when their speeding van ran off a wooden bridge into Maine's Allagash River. The workers were employed through the U.S. government's H2 guest worker program. The U.S. Labor Department found that the employer, Evergreen Forestry Services, had failed to ensure the workers' safety and fined Evergreen $17,000 -- but the company never lost its certification for the H2 program.

Bacon brings together the system's different aspects in the person of Representative James Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin. Sensenbrenner is best known as the author of HR 4437, an ultimately unsuccessful bill that would have made felons of undocumented workers like Gonzalez, Dominguez, and Melquiades. But Sensenbrenner has other interests in the issue. His family founded the Kimberly-Clark Company in the early 1900s, and the family trust continues to be an important shareholder in the papermaking giant. Many of the workers who plant and fell the trees that ultimately become Kimberly-Clark's paper are hired through the H2 program by forestry companies like Evergreen, which employed Morales and his 14 coworkers. Kimberly-Clark's Mexican subsidiary is closely associated with Grupo México, which fired Gonzalez from the Cananea copper mine.

Democracy Now! provides today's big laugh. David Simon emerges from his bad TV (when Dave Zirin pimps your crap TV show, it's pure crap that's only being pimped for politics -- offscreen politics) to deliver a little speech about the state of journalism . . . circa 1972. He's an idiot who doesn't know what he's talking about. We never pimped the idiot or his bad TV show and it's because we're not the idiot Dave Zirin.

Normally we don't link to Reason, we are not in agreement with it politically. It is from 'across the aisle.' But since David Simon wanted to lie yesterday and Democracy Now! was stupid enough to air it (again, it's the offscreen politics, kiddies), we'll note this Reason interview and quote David Simon:

One of the sad things about contemporary journalism is that it actually matters very little. The world now is almost inured to the power of journalism. The best journalism would manage to outrage people. And people are less and less inclined to outrage.
I think if you look at what journalism has achieved in terms of parsing the events that got us into this war in Iraq, or the truth about what happened in the election -- I've become increasingly cynical about the ability of daily journalism to effect any kind of meaningful change. I was pretty dubious about it when I was a journalist, but now I think it's remarkably ineffectual.

Yeah, that's very different from David Simon's climb on the cross testimony to the Senate yesterday. The only way to treat it is with laughter. Laugh at Simon and grasp that his garbage is among the many faux news stories that prevent us from getting coverage of the War Crimes trial or of Iraq. A bad TV writer goes to Congress and we're all supposed to be spellbound.

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