Tuesday, October 2, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, Angelina Jolie urges the world not to forget Iraqi refugees, Cindy Sheehan urges the world to neither forget nor accept these continued wars, Ehren Watada historic struggle results in a victory, and more.
The US military announced: "CAMP VICTORY, Iraq – A Multi-National Corps-Iraq Soldier was killed today in an indirect fire attack on Camp Liberty. Release of the identity of the Soldier is being withheld pending notification of the next of kin. The name of the deceased service member will be announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Web site at http://www.defenselink.mil/. The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is currently under investigation." The announcement brings to 4348 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. Sun Yunlong (Xinhua) adds, "The term 'indirect fire' in the U.S. military statements usually refers to rocket or mortar attack." Iran's Press TV notes (two hours ago) that the US military released this statement today (not Thursday as dated) and they note 127 US service members have died in Iraq so far this year. Chelsea J. Carter (AP) also notes the announcement was made Friday and that AP's count of 238 deaths for the month of September.
In other violence, Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded four people and a Baghdad sticky bombing which wounded two people. In addition, Issa notes an attack on a religious minority, Faraj Khairi Bek who is both a Yazidi prince and Zummar's chief of police. His home was blown up today in Mosul. Issa also notes an attack on a mosque in Nineveh Province which claimed the life of 1 Imam and wounded four people.
This morning on The Diane Rehm Show, Susan Page filled in as guest host and was joined for the second hour by Jonathan S. Landay (McClatchy Newspapers), David Loyn (BBC) and Barbara Slavin (Washington Times).
Susan Page: In Iraq this week, we had the prime minister announce a broad coalition for the elections in January, a little bit of a change in strategy on his part, Jonathan.
Jonathan S. Landay: Absolutely. This is a man who led a party called the Dawa Party, which was a conservative Shi'ite party, aligned with the other Shi'ite parties in Iraq. And what he seems to be doing, what al-Maliki seems to be doing, is trying to harness what is a very uh uh growing disastisfication, discontent with reglious parties in Iraq among many Iraqis who see the religious parties as being part and parcel of the violence that was unleased after the 2003 US interven -- invasion. Uh, he-he calls his new party State of Law bloc, he's casting it as being uh sectarian -- non-sectarian, secular and embracing not just uh Shi'ites but also Sunnis as well as Kurds and other minorities in Iraq. The thing though being, at this point really, it doesn't appear that there are any real major leaders from those other uh uh uh groups uh that have joined his party. Nevertheless he-he himself went up to Kurdistan to try and bring the major Kurdish parties into his coalition. Right now that may not be happening because there's still no agreement on what -- on the future of Kirkuk -- the oil-rich that the Kurds and the Arabs all claim. And-and he's also facing opposition from a conservative Shi'ite bloc that has the backing of many of Iraq's Shi'ite religious leaders.
Susan Page: Meanwhile we heard from General Odierno who's the US commander in Iraq about troop levels. Barbara, what did he say about when more Americans could come home?
Barbara Slavin: Well, he had a pretty optimistic report and one thing also is good. Apparently, civilian casualties are down for Iraq in this month. After a pretty horrific -- rather in September compared to August when there was horrific bombings. That seems to have stopped. At least for now, or at least it is less than it was. So Odierno, is saying he can bring back an additional 4,000 troops by the end of the year that he hadn't expected [C.I. note, as he said to Congress Wednesday and he declared at the Pentagon yesterday this so-called 'addtional troops' was already planned -- it was also already announced.]. There are about 124,000 troops in Iraq right now so that would still bring the US down to about 120,000.
We're stopping there on Barabra and Odierno. Where she's getting her information, I do not know. I was at the hearing and I was even at the press conference. We've reported what Odierno said. I don't make a point to disagree when we do the transcripts but she's getting her information from where? She wasn't present and she's completely heard wrong. Did Odierno give an optimistic view to the US Congress? That's a judgment call. And if you're just going by the prepared statement (prepared by him and the White House) you are correct. But if you were actually at the hearing of the House Armed Forces Committee and you heard the testimony from Odierno, you know the general did issue qualifiers. Of course for the public to know that, it would require the press cover it. There were very few members of the press at the hearing. And that number thinned significantly by 30 minutes into the hearing. I'm not calling Barbara a liar. Nor do I believe she meant to spin Odierno's testimony. But she does not know what he said. And she's as uninformed on that as anyone dependant upon the press because the press did not report on Odierno's testimony. To do that, they would have been required to have been present and if I get in a really nasty mood about this topic, I may start naming the people who had bylines on 'reports' about the hearing but they weren't actually present.
No offense to Barbara Slavin and, repeating, I am not accusing of her lying or attempting to shade or spin the truth. I am stating the press reports she's relying to be informed are inaccurate. Odierno repeatedly stressed that he did have the power to speed up . . . and he did have the power to slow down. Reporters (reporting on the hearing) intentionally lied or just heard what they wanted to. As someone who takes notes throughout any hearing (sometimes just to stay awake), I know what was said. I know his qualifiers, I know when he squirmed, I know his nervous tic when he doesn't want to answer a question fully. And anyone present for the entire hearing -- his first Congressional appearance as the top US commander in Iraq -- would know those things to. However, most of the press corp skipped it and the few that showed thinned out by the first half-hour. (Added: You can stream the entire thing online at the committee website here. I've called a staffer to make sure my impressions weren't me being off the wall. No, his qualifiers were very clear.)
Susan Page: Although 50,000 troops still is a significant presence there.
Barbara Slavin: It is, but you know, most of these people will be trainers, will be sort of working in liason capacity with Iraqis and the Iraqis are very much taking the lead now on -- on policing their own country.
Barbara's second remarks quoted in full? I don't agree with them at all. I'm not going to comment on them. She's entitled to her opinion. But the point prior to that, of cutting off her response, wasn't that I was disagreeing. It was that the observations she was offering were incorrect. They were based on the (limited) press coverage (of the first minutes of the hearing -- often due to the fact that Odierno's opening remarks were distributed to the press). The press coverage was incorrect. I am not going to allow that to appear here without noting it was wrong. I could have been at home, I could be traveling (for fun), anything. Instead, I was -- Kat, Ava, Wally and I were -- in that hearing from the start to the end. We know what happened and we know the press didn't report it accurately. If I had to waste my time, I'm not going to further waste my time by having my already wasted time further wasted by allowing a 'recounting' of events when the summary is completely incorrect. Repeating, I am not calling Barara a liar or stating she was attempting to deceive. I am stating she was wrong and her errors are from the (limited) press coverage.
She, like anyone else, has a right to expect that press coverage is accurate. It wasn't. Kat covered the hearing again last night, noting humorous exchanges -- did anyone but Kat report that Stephen Colbert was mentioned in the hearing? No. Why? Because the (limited) press had long ago left. The same reason that Carol Shea-Porter's questions about contractors -- see yesterday's snapshot -- didn't make the press. (And yesterday's snapshot stated it was October 1st -- correct -- and Monday -- incorrect. That was an error when it was typed.) For more on the hearing, Wednesday's snapshot and Kat's Wednesday post covered it last night. UPI notes that Odierno notes yesterday's press conference and notes that 50,000 by next September, according to Odierno, will result from a judgment call as that time approaches. The spin that many in the press created is not reality. It does do its part to ensure that an already weak peace movement doesn't grow any stronger -- which, after all, is the point.
Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan knows the Iraq War has not ended (despite Barack's promise to end it in 16 months and then in 10 months) and that there is an undeclared war on Pakistan and the war in Afghanistan. Cindy (Cindy's Soapbox) writes:
I know that you are only fulfilling your campaign promises to increase the violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan and I notice that not a significant amount of troops have been withdrawn from Iraq. However, even with your hostile rhetoric and promises to escalate the violence, many people voted for you because they believed you were the peace candidate.
Since the election, you have betrayed the progressive base that gave you victory on many occasions already, but the cause that keeps many of us motivated is the continued carnage in the Middle East. What bothers me even more, especially, is the fact that the so-called anti-war movement has given you a nine-month free pass and thousands of people have died, including hundreds of our own troops.
Since you took office, 125 of our irreplaceable young have been killed in what you called a "dumb war" in Iraq and 223 in what I call the "other dumb war," Afghanistan. I have been waiting for a mother of one of those needlessly killed troops to demand a meeting with you to ask you: for "What Noble Cause?" her child was sacrificed.
No such mother has come forward and since your rhetoric is eerily similar to the Bush regime and you are reportedly considering strategies for Afghanistan before you condemn more than the 21,000 troops you have already condemned, I am requesting that you meet with a contingent of the true Peace Movement that will be assembling outside your house this Monday, October 5th at noon.
Yesterday, Nouri al-Maliki, thug of the occupation and holding the honorary title of Prime Minister, announced that he was putting together his own slate of oddballs and never chosen because this slate would allow him to be prime minister if the slate was successful in elections expected to take place in January. Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) observes that "few" of those on Nouri's slate "are truly national leaders likely to lure major blocs of votes." Mohammad al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) explains, "The announcement, made from a heavily guarded Baghdad hotel and broadcast live on television, ended weeks of speculation over whether Maliki's State of Law bloc would join the Iraqi National Alliance, a more Islamist faction that includes the largest Shiite party and supporters of rebel cleric Muqtada al Sadr." Alsumaria (link has video of the speech) explains, "Al Maliki pursues efforts to join 30 new political entities and parties to 40 other entities and political figures into the State of Law Coalition that gathers prominent figures mainly first deputy speaker Sheikh Khaled Al Attiye and a number of ministers including Oil Minister Hussein Al Shahristani, and ministers of Education, Health, Tourism, Labor, Immigrants, Youth and Sports as well as Parliament affairs." Jamal Hashim (Xinhua) reports on Nouri's speech which used terms such as "historic" -- offering a window into the deep pool of vanity overlooding Nouri's psyche. Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) slaps some cold water on the fantasies, "The prime minister will face tough competition in the Shiite south. He enjoyed a surge in popularity there following a military offensive against Shiite militants in the spring of 2008. Since then, Iraqis have grown frustrated with lagging basic services, such as adequate clean water. Mr. Maliki also has been criticized for recent security lapses, including those related to the August bombings." Ben Lando (Time magazine) offers an overview:
Now, with State of Law, he must go toe-to-toe with the Iraqi National Alliance (INA) which, in the shape-shifting politics of Iraq, is the current manifestation of the coalition that Maliki rode to power in 2006. To stay in charge of Iraq, Maliki must defeat his former coalition allies in what are expected to be tough elections on January 16. [. . .]
INA is a formidable organization. Its predominant partners are the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq -- the largest Shi'ite political party now led by Ammar al-Hakim, the son of the recently departed and revered cleric Abdulaziz al-Hakim -- and the militant Moqtada al-Sadr's party, which has its pulse on the much of the country's poor and frustrated Shi'a underclass. (Read how the shoe-thrower put Maliki in a sensitive spot.)
Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) speaks with a variety of Iraqis on the street in Baghdad about Nouri's slate.
Academy Award winning actress Angelina Jolie is also the UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. Today, visiting Syria, she issued a call for the world not to forget the Iraqi refugees who have been forced to flee their own country for safety. The UNHCR notes:
Tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have returned to their country from Syria and other nearby countries over the past year, but many more are unable or unwilling to return to a country still rocked by violence. As the Iraqi story has largely disappeared from global headlines, so has the plight of the refugees.
Jolie, returning to visit Iraqi refugees in the poorest suburbs of the Syrian capital of Damascus after a 2007 visit, said these refugees still needed vital help and support. "Most Iraqi refugees cannot return to Iraq in view of the severe trauma they experienced there, the uncertainty linked to the coming Iraqi elections, the security issues and the lack of basic services. They will, therefore, be in need of continued support from the international community."
The acclaimed American actress, travelling with her partner Brad Pitt, was welcomed into the homes of two Iraqi families in the Jaramana district of southern Damascus. The first family, grouping seven people, fled to Syria in 2006, while the second family, members of a minority religious group, fled to Iraq in July this year after a son, Waleed,* was twice abducted and his mother, Hoda,* physically abused. The family patriarch, Fares,* had to pay US$25,000 in ransom the first time Waleed was abducted.
The second time, both son and mother were snatched, and Fares had to find US$40,000. The two were released, but they had suffered a terrible ordeal, including torture. "I was assaulted every day for 13 days by up to 10 men," Hoda* recalled, her voice trembling. "I wanted to kill myself and the only reason I decided not to go ahead is because of my children," she added.
On the release of Hoda and Waleed, the family fled to Syria.
RadarOnline offers photos of Angelina's visit to Syria.
This afternoon Fort Lewis's Media Relations department announced that Ehren Watada had completed his out processing and was discharged from the US military. We're going to stay with this topic for a bit because (a) it is important and (b) it is historical. 1st Lt Watada was the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. As Ann noted last night, "there are people who have no idea what a brave thing he did." Ehren Watada was informed he would be deploying to Iraq in June 2005. He had not given much thought to Iraq. To prepare for the deployment, his superior advised him to study up on the war so that he could answer any questions that might come up from those serving under him. He started researching the basics about the country itself, topography and geography and continuing through the history up to the current war. He came across the Downing Street Memos which exposed that the 'intelligence' for the Iraq War was fixed. He was now firmly convinced that the Iraq War was illegal and immoral. From eager to serve in Iraq to realizing he'd be violating his oath to the Constitution, Ehren was now confronted with a decision. He could keep his mouth shut and just do as he was told. Or he could take a stand which would risk the wrath of the military as well as a portion of the public.
Ehren's mother, Carolyn Ho, has explained what happened next many times as she's spoken to raise awareness of her son's case. WBAI's Law and Disorder shared one of her talks on their January 22, 2007 broadcast. Carolyn Ho explained it was the new year, January 2006, and her son called her. He explained that he had something to tell her, he'd decided decided he wouldn't deploy to Iraq when the time came. She was very upset and asked him if he understood what might result from his decision? Ehren told her that he had no choide, he'd taken an oath to the Constitution, this was what he had to do and he was going to inform his superiors.
Ehren didn't hestitate to inform his superiors. This was in January 2006. They at first attempted to change his mind. He could not be budged. So they stated they wanted to work something out. They brainstormed together. Ehren came up with ideas including, he could deploy to the Afghanistan War instead, he could resign (his service contract expired in December 2006). His superiors appeared to be eager to consider every possibility; however, they were just attempting to stall. They appear to have thought that if they put him off and put him off, when the day to deploy came, he'd just shrug his shoulders and deploy.
They did not know Ehren. June 7, 2006 ("the day before his 28th birthday," Carolyn Ho likes to remind), Ehren went public with his refusal to deploy. Jake Armstrong (Pasadena Weekly) notes Ehren stated to participate in the Iraq War would be participating in war crimes.
In August 2006, an Article 32 hearing was held. Watada's defense called three witnesses, Francis A. Boyle of the University of Illinois' College of Law, Champagne; Denis Halliday, the former Assistant Secretary General of the UN; and retired Colonel Ann Wright. These three witnesses addressed the issue of the war, it's legality, and the responsibilities of a service member to disobey any order that they believed was unlawful. The testimony was necessary because Watada's refusing to participate in the illegal war due to the fact that he feels it is (a) illegal and (b) immoral. Many weeks and weeks later, the finding was released: the military would proceed with a court-martial.
On Monday, February 5, 2007, Watada's court-martial began. It continued on Tuesday when the prosecution argued their case. Wednesday, Watada was to take the stand in his semi-defense. Judge Toilet (John Head) presided and when the prosecution was losing, Toilet decided to flush the lost by declaring a mistrial over defense objection in his attempt to give the prosecution a do-over. Head was insisting then that a court-martial would begin against Watada in a few weeks when no court-martial could begin.
January 4, 2007, Head oversaw a pre-trial hearing. Head also oversaw a stipulation that the prosecution prepared and Watada signed. Head waived the stipulation through. Then the court-martial begins and Ehren's clearly winning. The prosecution's own military witnesses are becoming a problem for the prosecution. It's Wednesday and Watada's finally going to take the stand. Head suddenly starts insisting there's a problem with the stipulation. Watada states he has no problem with it. Well the prosecution has a problem with it and may move to a mistrial, Judge Toilet declares.
The prosecution prepared the stipulation and they're confused by Head's actions but state they're not calling for a mistrial or lodging an objection. That's on the record. Head then keeps pushing for a mistrial and the prosecution finally gets that Head is attempting to give them a do-over, at which point, they call for a mistrial.
The case has already started. Witnesses have been heard from. Double-jeopardy has attached. The defense isn't calling for a mistrial and Head rules a mistrial over defense objection and attempts to immediately schedule a new trial. Bob Chapman (Global Research) observes, "With little fanfare the Army at Fort Lewis, Wash., accepted the resignation of the 1966 Kalari High School graduate, and he will be discharged the first week in October." With little fanfare indeed. And to those 'lefty' sites that want to smear opposition of Barack Obama's ObamaBigBusinessCare passed off as something to do with "health care"? I'd say before you accuse anyone of racism, you might take a look at your own damn ass -- which, Red or not, appears highly racist when you claim to be "anti-war" and yet 'forget' all damn week to note Ehren Watada.
And, related, like Elaine, I was disgusted that Free Speech Radio News had time for a ceremony for Glenn Beck but not time to cover Ehren Watada. Today they sort of cover him (link has audio and text):
Lt. Ehren Watada, the first US Army officer to refuse to serve in the war in Iraq, will finally be allowed to resign from the US Army today at Fort Lewis in Washington. Mark Taylor-Canfield has more from Seattle.
Spokespersons at Fort Lewis have confirmed that First Lt. Ehren Watada will be allowed to resign from the US Army. In 2003, Lt. Watada was the first US military officer to refuse to serve in Iraq, which he claims is an illegal war. In 2007 his court marshal was declared a mistrial by a civilian judge. Watada's enlistment was supposed to be up two years ago but he has not been allowed to leave the service.
According to Watada's attorney, Kenneth Kagan, he will receive a "less than honorable discharge." Watada took a leading role in the anti-war movement, speaking out publicly against the war, and criticizing President George W. Bush at the Veterans For Peace national convention in Seattle in 2006. Watada has been under a military imposed gag order since his original court marshal proceedings. Mark Taylor-Canfield, FSRN, Seattle.
Sort of? Two hours before that aired, I'd confirmed on the phone that he'd been discharged and his paper's processed but they're broadcasting, two hours later, that he is supposed to be discharged. People, it's one damn call. You pick up the phone, you call public affairs at Fort Lewis and you explain what you need. So to find people who love and people who hate Glenn Beck, FSRN can do some work. But when they finally note this historic development, they're left with nothing really to say. Not "will be," was. News. You're the ones claiming to be reporters, not me. I rejected that years ago. You're the ones begging for money, not me, I think it's incumbent upon you to do the work that makes someone feel money is well spent. (For those note catching the connection between the two -- both events, Ehren's historic day and that party for Beck took place in the Seattle region. One got an actual report and one got a brief headline. What did our 'independent' news program give us a report on? Glenn Beck's party. Look next for FSRN to woo Suzy for audio reports or possibly Cindy Adams.)
TV notes. NOW on PBS explores Afghanistan which they wrongly dub "the forgotten war." Washington Week is not airing this week. Most PBS stations will be airing The National Parks: America's Best Idea, Ken Burns' latest documentary. Washington Week will return next week. Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Linda Chavez, Kim Gandy, Tara Setmayer and Patricia Sosa to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
130 Million Tons of Waste
The Great Migration
60 Minutes, this Sunday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
the new york times
steven lee myers