Friday, September 11, 2009

Camp Ashraf

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has written to the United States Ambassador in London to add his voice to protests outside the US embassy.
Iranian and British Iranian pro­testers are on hunger strike, in an effort to persuade the US to protect their relatives and friends in Camp Ashraf, a "protected persons" camp in Iraq, after they were attacked by the Iraq army in July (News, 14, 21 August). A spokeswoman confirmed the sending of the letter on Wednesday. "The Archbishop takes the pastoral care of the families involved in the protest very seriously. He is also concerned for the well-being of Iranians and Iranian Christians living in England." A letter has also been sent to Canon Mark Oakley, Priest-in-Charge of Grosvenor Chapel, Mayfair, where the pro­testers have attended prayer services on Saturdays during their protest. Canon Oakley said on Wednes­day that he had not yet received the letter. The beds lined up outside the embassy looked like a "morgue", he said. One hunger striker had suffered a heart attack. "When the hunger strikers get really sick, they are taken off by ambulance and given fluids."

The above is from Bill Bowder's "Williams expresses Ashraf concerns" (UK's Church Times). Camp Ashraf has been under attack since July 28th. Camp Ashraf is made up of Iranian dissidents belonging to the MEK who were given sanctuary by Saddam Hussein and have remained in Iraq for decades. Following the US invasion, the US military provided security for them and the US government labeled them "protected persons" under Geneva. Though Nouri 'promised' he wouldn't move against Camp Ashraf, in July he did just that. The issue popped up yesterday during US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill's Congressional appearances. John Hughes offers "U.S. decision on dissidents will affect relationship with Iran" (Deseret News):

An Iraqi judge ruled that the 36 dissidents, who went on a hunger strike in captivity, should be released. But Iraqi Interior Ministry officials, using new tactics, have argued that the dissidents entered the country illegally and should be expelled -- obviously to Iran. If this tactic is successful, it could be applied to the 3,400 or so PMOI members remaining in Camp Ashraf.

So the Iraqi court rules that prisoners should be released and the Iraqi government decides they don't have to listen. Maybe from the US. After all the US military grabbed Reuters reporter Ibrahim Jassim in September 2008 and refuse to release him. In November 2008, Iraqi courts decided Ibrahim should be set free but the US ignored the court order and has continued to imprison Ibrahim.

Six US service members have died in Iraq so far this month. Steve Timko (Reno Gazette-Journal) reports Jeanne Flint's son Thomas F. Lyons died in Iraq Tuesday in the rocket attack in Baji and that his survivors also include a wife Devlin who is currently serving and their four-month-old son. His mother states, "He was just trying to find his niche. And I think he found it as an M.P. He wanted to be a police officer. He finally had a goal in his life." Along with Lyons, Shannon M. Smith and Zachary T. Myers were killed in the attack. James Halpin (McClatchy Newspapers' Anchorage Daily News) reports: " The soldiers were part of a deployment of about 175 soldiers from the 545th Military Police Company who went to Iraq for a year in May. Their job is to provide security as well as police training to the Iraqi army. According to Army officials, Smith joined the service in September 1997. He served at Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; and in Afghanistan, Iraq and Bosnia before arriving in Alaska in April 2008. Myers joined the Army in February 2008 and arrived in Alaska in August 2008. Their families asked for privacy Thursday." Also Tuesday, a Baghdad bombing claimed the life of Joseph D. Helton. Roger Nielsen (Athens Banner-Herald)notes Helton was the 11th graduate from the US Air Force Academy to die in Iraq and "the first Athens-area serviceman killed in fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan in more than a year. Army Staff Sgt. Shaun Whitehead, 24, a Commerce was killed April 24, 2008, by an IED while he was on foot patrol in Iskandariyah, south of Baghdad."

Jordan Shay died last week in Iraq (his passing is noted at the start of last Friday's snapshot) Michaela Stanelun (Boston Globe) reports this morning, "Calling hours will be from 2 to 8 p.m. today at Twomey Leblanc and Conte Funeral Home, located in Newburyport. A funeral Mass will be held tomorrow at Holy Family Parish in Amesbury." Laura Crimaldi (Boston Herald) also reports on the calling hours and the funeral. (And thanks to Mike's Dad -- Trina's husband -- for catching both Boston items.)

Meanwhile Carol Ann Alaimo (Arizona Daily Star) reports on Nathan Spangenberg, who returned earlier this year from Iraq where he served a 15-month tour, was discovered "in his room at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii on Tuesday," dead at the age of 21. His death is under investigation. Aleisa Krug, his girlfriend, states, "You worry so much while they're gone and then he comes home and you think you can stop worrying. And now this." And Mike Gonzalez (The Monitor) reports that the Texas Army National Guard sent 500 soldiers to Fort Hood yesterday for training before their deployment (October 4th) to Iraq.

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends