Tuesday, February 9, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Dan Choi gets some welcome news while service member Marc Hall could use some, Americans and Brits do not believe the illegal war ends in 2011, the banning of candidates continues in Iraq (and appears final) and more.
Starting in the US where Michelle Garcia (The Advocate) reports Lt Dan Choi has "rejoined his unit in Pennsylvania" having "been called back into drill duty". Choi faced a disciplinary board in June for refusing to hide in a closet and they recommended that, under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, Choi be discharged. He tells The Advocate, "It felt good to just put away a lot of the past year. Obviously there were soldiers following everything I was doing, or there were others who didn't have a clue." Lez Get Real offers, "This is an unusual event given that Lt. Choi is openly gay, and it has been recommended that he be discharged from the military for being so. Unlike Colonel Victor Fehrenbach, Choi's homosexuality was personally disclosed instead of him being outed by a third party. [. . .] Lt. Choi is an Arabic translator. His skills in the current conflicts are vital to mission success, especially given the startling fact that so many of the military's Arabic languages linguists are gay or lesbian and that many have been discharged under DADT. Lt. Choi has the full support of his commanding officer who did not push for him to be discharged from the military. Instead, the Army National Guard ultimately had to go around his commanding officer to serve Choi with his discharge notification." February 2nd the US Senate Armed Services Committee took testimony from US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the Chair of the Joint-Chiefs Adm Mike Mullen. Trina covered Mullen that day and we'll note this from his opening statement:
Mr. Chairman, speaking for myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly is the right thing to do. No matter how I look at this issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy that forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, personally, it comes down to integrity -- their's as individuals and our's as an institution. I also believe that the great young men and women of our military can and would accommodate such a change.
Staying with service members, Iraq War veteran Marc Hall is facing charges over a rap song. Free Speech Radio News filed the following story yesterday (and I've added more of the lyrics to the song than are played in the report):
Dorian Merina: Supporters of a 34-year-old Iraq war veteran say the US military will be extraditing him to Iraq to face a military trial for a song he wrote called "Stop Loss." Marc Hall spent 14 months in Iraq and was due to end his military contract at the end of this month, February. Instead, like thousands of other soldiers, he received a stop-loss order that would continue his active duty and send him back to Iraq. So Hall recorded and released this song as a form of protest, he says, and mailed it to the Pentagon.
Now this is real days
When s**t hit the airwaves
Somebody gotta say
F**k you colonels, captains, E7s and above
Think you're so much bigger than I am
I've been too good of an American
Got me chasing
If I do drugs
I'll get kicked out
But if my time is out
I can't get out
So the good die young
I heard it out your mouth
So f**k the Army
And everything you're all about
Like Obama says,
'Somebody be held responsible'
But some of y'all gonna be held in the hospitals whenever possible
To pursue my own journeys in life,
Through my own obstacles
Since I can't pinpoint the culpable
They want me cause misery loves company
I'm gonna round them all up
Walk right up peacefully
And surprise them all
Yes, yes, ya'll
Up against the wall
I gott a mother f**king magazine
With thirty rounds
On a three round burst
Ready to fire down
Still against the wall
I grab my M-4
Spray and watch
All the bodies hit the floor
I bet you never stop loss nobody no more
In your next lifetime
You don't stop till the army is the only military branch
That still got the stop loss in effect
So the only thing I gotta' say
Is prepare for the consequences
When people want to get out
Let them get out.
Dorian Merina: That song has now landed him in jail where he faces charges in violations of the Uniform Code of Military Conduct. Hall could be extradited, according to his supporters, as soon as this week. To discuss this case we're joined by attorney David Gespass, president of the National Lawyers Guild and founding member of the Military Law Task Force. Welcome to Free Speech Radio News.
David Gespass: Thank you for having me.
Dorian Merina: First, just to be clear, you have had contact with Marc Hall but you do not represent him in any official way at this point.
David Gespass: That's correct.
Dorian Merina: So what exactly are the charges that are being brought against Marc Hall by the military?
David Gespass: They are -- one charge, one additional charge is a violation of Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice -- that was also the original charges -- And they are an umber of specifications all of which have to do with communicating threats. And apparently to various and asundry people. I've seen the charge sheet but they redact the names who were allegedly threatened but the charges all have to do with communicating threats to other members of the army.
Dorian Merina: And what is the reason for moving him overseas I mean why can't he be tried in Georgia or the US, I mean, what's the reason for him being moved?
David Gespass: Well I suspect the army would make different claims about the reasons. My guess is they would say that's where all their witnesses are. From my perspective and talking with Marc briefly and talking with his military lawyer briefly, the real reasons are that it makes it more difficult for him to get witnesses because who is going to want to go to a war zone to testify? And it also separates him from his supporters. I think in essence they are taking away his right to a public trial because even though a trial over there would be public in the sense that anyone who happened to be in the neighborhood could walk in none of his supporters would be able to attend and that to me, really, seems to be the essence of why they're doing it.
Dorian Merina: Now this case also brings up the policy of stop-loss President Obama has said that stop loss should-should not be used. Secretary of Defense Gates, now didn't he say in 2009 that the policy was ending or being phased out?
David Gespass: I believe he did.
Dorian Merina: So why are we seeing this now? Is this kind of the ending of that policy or?
David Gespass: My-my feeling about it is that it's very very difficult for them to prosecute two wars without keeping people in. We've had a discussions over the years in the Military Law Task force if a draft is likely to be re-instated and my feeling has always been that it's not likely to be because the modern military requires a lot of training because there's so much technology involved in war fighting in ways that avoid actual combat, face to face, where you look your enemy in the eye. And I think that a lot of it has to do with the fact that they don't have sufficiently trained people without - without getting people who've been in for awhile. And again we're fighting two wars now.
Dorian Merina: And this policy, we're not talking about just a few people. According to Iraq Veterans Against the War the stop-loss orders have stopped about 185,000 soldiers from leaving the military since 2001. Very briefly what's the next step in the case of Marc Hall?
David Gespass: Next step would be assuming he's send over there, there will motions filed to get him back to the United States for a trial, there will be motions concerning I think the right to a public trial and then at some point the military judge is going to set a trial date Trying to get witnesses over there on his behalf if the trial is over there and trying to defend him without witnesses if they can't.
Retired US Air Force Major Robert L. Hanafin is encouraging people to use this Veterans for Peace link to "fill out the form letter to Army Public Affairs, expressing how outraged you are as an American citizen that any of our troops is being treated this way regardless what they've done." For more on Marc Hall, you can click here for IVAW providing the basics and actions to take. As for Robert Gates, he stated March 18, 2009 that stop-loss was being phased out. He stated phased out by the start of 2011. Meanwhile Tom Coghlan reports, "Budget cuts and relentless fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan have left more than half of the ships, aircraft and ground units of the Armed Forces with 'serious or critical weaknesses', MPs say today." And though many in the US may nod, Coglhlan is reporting on the British military for the Times of London.
Staying with the two countries, yesterday, Angus Reid Global Monitor released their latest poll which finds significant doubts as to any withdrawal. Barack Obama's pretty words aren't satisfying the masses. This is the uncertainty (for good reason) that Ava and I were writing of on Sunday:
The anger in America is very real. It's base is the continuing wars -- the wars the gas bag left wants to forget because Barack's the one running them now. The Iraq War was always going to have multiple effects. The most immediate one was going to be illustrating what an occupation was and driving up support for Palestinians. That's here at home. For the first time in many Americans lives, they had to confront what an occupation was. But that wasn't the only impact.
Whether the left gas bags care or not, millions of ten and twelve-year-olds saw mass protests against the Iraq War. They're now young adults. They saw those protests. They grew up knowing the Iraq War was wrong and needed to end. And though some adults can fool themselves, the youth is not fooled and will not self-deceive. On campuses across this country, their critique of Barack Obama always includes the Iraq War. The ongoing Iraq War that the gas bag left -- including Michael Moore -- have forgotten.
Whores like Amy Goodman couldn't tell you about that nor will they tell you about the new poll. Whores like Amy Goodman dance the dance their told to by their masters. They dance for those who paid them. So they waste your time with a bunch of garbage and pretend they informed you of a damned thing.
Repeatedly, those of against the Iraq War -- against the ongoing, illegal war -- have spoken out and repeatedly the whores who profit from lying -- Amy Goodman's a millionaire, she wasn't one before 2000, how do you think it happened -- have stayed silent and distracted you with a bunch of lies and a bunch of garbage. Or maybe you think a "war and peace report" spends weeks at a film festival interviewing celebrities and that somehow informs you of the world around you. Goody dances for the foundations that now put money in her pocket. It's how the woman who decried the Aspen Institute ends up promoting it on her program. Kat sounded the alarm, Ava and I echoed her. It's past time people stop pretending that Democracy Now! exists for any reason other than to turn a few bucks for a tired whore. There's a reason Amy Goodman will not reveal Democracy Now!'s foundation funding. And just the fact that she who rides the high horse on disclosures when it comes to others refuses to disclose about her own program was your first clue. Your second was her refusal to cover the Iraq Inquiry -- Clare Short was once welcomed on Goody's program. But Short gave strong testimony -- the only testimony to receive applause -- at the Inquiry last week and Short's not avoiding Amy Goodman, Short hasn't been invited on by Amy Goodman.
You're being manipulated and you're being lied to by the people like Amy Goodman who don't give a damn about the Iraq War. Amy's done what on Iraq this year? We heard from her about the genetic disorders as a result of the US weapons? No, she's not covered that. Free Speech Radio News has, KPFA's The Morning Show has but Amy Goodman doesn't have time because 'left' think tanks are really Democratic Party organs and they don't want her talking about the Iraq War so she doesn't.
While Goody and so many more are working for the clampdown, are attempting to Manufature Consent, yes, the American people are not stupid. The poll today only demonstrates what we see as we go around the country speaking. Here are the results on a US withdrawal from Iraq at the end of 2011.
71% of British citizens and 59% of Americans do not believe it's going to happen. [Margin of error is 2.2. percent for the British sample; 3.1 percent for the US sample.] Where in your Panhandle Media do you see that reflected or acknowledged? You don't. There's a Democrat in the White House and our alleged 'left' won't push back against a continued illegal war.
You cannot visit a college campus in this country and not encounter widespread disbelief in how Barack's gotten away with continuing the illegal war but try to find that reality and sentiment reflected in Panhandle Media. The Iraq War has not ended. Everyone works very, very hard to tell the people it has. For a war that's "over," a lot of people keep getting deployed to Iraq. For example, Amanda Heard (Bay City Tribune) reports on an effort in Bay City, Texas to raise money for a Texas Army National Guard unit that will be deploying to Iraq -- a unit which includes the Herman Middle School in Van Vleck's nurse Shelly Park. Chie Saito (News 8 Austin) reports, "The Austin Police Department will be working with the First Squadron of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment to prepare for an upcoming deployment to Iraq." The Daily Herald notes, "More than 3,000 soldiers in the National Guard's 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment will be dispatched overseas, affecting 45 cities from east to west Tennessee." WDAM reports there was a send-off ceremony at Camp Shelby on Friday and that the 278 lost 14 members on their earlier Iraq deployment. The war has not ended. Scott Barnett died serving in Iraq. KTVU reports (link has text and video) on yesterday's service at Concord's Saint Bonaventure Church for Barnett and quotes his friend Chris Jaurigue saying, "Scott was honestly one of the greatest men I have ever known in my life." John Simerman (Contra Costa Times) adds that Natalie Tollefson sood outside the church waiting because, "I remember feeling like I couldn't relate to anybody, so I want to be there for Nikki [Barnett, Scott's wife]." Benjamin Tollefson was Natali Tollefson's husband and he died serving in Iraq Dec. 31, 2008. Maybe it will just be one more wife or husband, maybe defying all odds, only one more US child will lose a parent in the Iraq War. Not very likely but stop lying that the Iraq War is over. It's not over for the Iraqi people. It's not over for those deploying and their families. Again,
Linda Greene (Bloominton Alternative) explains there is an upcoming action:
On Feb. 1 President Barack Obama asked Congress to approve a record $708 billion in defense spending for fiscal 2011. The budget calls for a 3.4 percent increase in the Pentagon's base budget to $549 billion, plus $159 billion to fund the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
But citizens aren't sitting by while the Pentagon's budget balloons. On March 20, just after the seventh anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, protestors will march on Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and San Francisco.
On Friday evening, March 19, at least 55 Hoosiers and Kentucky residents will board a bus bound for Washington, D.C., for the second peace march since President Obama was elected. Participants will demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan and Iraq.
Sponsored by the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (A.N.S.W.E.R.) coalition and more than 1,000 other organizations and individuals, the march has as its rallying cries, "No Colonial-type Wars and Occupations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Haiti," "No War or Sanctions Against Iran" and "No War for Empire Anywhere."
Instead of war, the protestors will demand funding for jobs, free and universal health care, decent schools and affordable housing.
Hans Blix headed the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission from March 200 through June 2003. As such, when the UN Security Council voted to send inspectors into Iraq (Resolution 1441), he was in charge of the search. He speaks with BBC News' Jonathan Charles on HARDtalk regarding Iraq and various claims floating around (link has video):
Jonathan Charles: So who's right on all of this? Jack Straw says you're applying gloss to your testimony. Tony Blair told the Inquiry his recollection of conversations with you is different from what you're now saying. You've just told us one thing. You can't both be right. Both sides can't be right here.
Hanx Blix: Well that's for history to decide. It's not for me. I'm fond of citing someone who said that 'I respect those who search for the truth and I'm a little worried about those that have the truth.' Tony Blair 'had the truth' already in August of 2002. We said there were unresolved issues. We didn't have the truth in 2003, that's true, but we were looking for it.
Jonathan Charles: But is Tony Blair -- and indeed Jack Straw, are they telling the truth then to the Inquiry when they recollect what happened?
Hans Blix: I'm puzzled about some of the things Jack Straw said -- said. Certainly about the cluster document. He also said in that [. . .] meeting of March 2002, he did not focus at all on what I had said about the increased Iraqi cooperation. He focused on that 'The Iraqis are not allowing you to interview people and they are stopping you from getting into sites.' That was not true.
Jonathan Charles: So Jack Straw was wrong.
Hans Blix: On this things they were wrong. He is wrong. Yes.
Jonathan Charles: He's not being direct with the Inquiry?
Hans Blix: I don't think that's correct what he said.
Jonathan Charles: And it's not just a mistake in recollection of events?
Hans Blix: Well that I don't know. I'm not accusing anyone of bad faith. Either him or Tony Blair.
The program is HARDtalk. Blix must mean March 2003 -- not 2002 -- because he wasn't doing Iraq inspections in March 2002. Yesterday the the Iraq Inquiry continued public hearings in London and Jack Straw appeared before the committee for the second time. Andrew Gimson (Telegraph of London) sums up Straw's entire testimony in one sentence: "In Mr Staw's evidence on Monday to the Iraq inquiry, words meant whatever he chose them to mean, or often considerably less." Bronwen Maddox (Times of London) participated in a live chat today on the subject of whether or not the Iraq War was illegal. Meanwhile the next big witness is current Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Philippe Naughton (Times of London) reports the Inquiry is raffling those tickets off -- as they did with Tony Blair. Yesterday Jack Straw was telling the Inquiry how 'grateful' and 'happy' the Iraqis were and more b.s. as he tried to justify War Crimes.
Turning to some of the reported violence today . . .
Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing left two people wounded, a second Mosul roadside bombing injured woman
Reuters notes a man was injured in a Mosul shooting, 1 civil servant was shot dead in Baghdad and his wife was injured, and, dropping back to yesterday, 1 engineer was injured in a Baghdad shooting.
Iraq is supposed to hold elections March 7th. A banning of over 500 candidates has taken place. Gabriel Gatehouse (BBC News) states, "The dispute reflects both the sectarian fault-lines within Iraq and geopolitical tensions between Washington and Tehran. [. . .] Iraq has become a key battleground for geopolitical power between the United States and Iran." The US Government's Carnegie Endowment For International Peace (those of that organization don't e-mail me disputing that credit, you're little more than state propaganda) maintains, "The saga of the banning and unbanning of alleged Baathists has cast a pall on the elections even before the campaign starts in earnest. The final ruling of the review committee will probably not put the issue to rest completely. It is bound to be highly controversial, no matter what it decides, particularly in the case of high profile candidates. Above all, a decision to maintain the ban on Saleh al-Mutlaq risks reviving threats of an election boycott by his allies in the Iraqi National Movement and by some Sunni parties. The decision to let him run would enrage Shia parties and possibly put Maliki at a disadvantage vis-a-vis his adversaries in the Iraqi National Alliance." Last week an appeals body ruled the 500 plus banned candidates could run and that the charges against them would be examined after the election. Little Nouri threw a fit. The same body rejected their own decision yesterday. Kholoud Ramzi (niqash) observes:
The Iraqi list, which suffered most from exclusions said that the outcome of the high-level meeting was a dreadful case of back-tracking. Haydar al-Mullah, the Iraqi List's spokesperson said, "What is an attempt to assassinate Iraqi democracy and the separation of powers between the different authorities. Political pressure was exerted on the Appeal Commission to issue decisions that are in harmony with the expectations of some ruling parties."
Condemning the decision, he continued: "How could the court be forced to change its decision to postpone the verdict until the end of elections?"
Meanwhile, the main Shiite coalitions welcomed the result of the meeting. They had described the Appeal Commission's previous actions as "a clear violation of the constitution which should be rectified."
They do not accept the commission's right to postpone a decision on excluded candidates, arguing that its role is limited to examining the appeals submitted before election day.
Observers fear the crisis could escalate in coming days, especially after the head of the parliament's legal committee, Baha' al-Araji, from the National Coalition, demanded the exclusion of Tareq al-Hashimi, the Vice President.
Today Suadad al-Salhy, Mohammed Abbas and Jon Boyle (Reuters) report, "Almost all the candidates who contested their ban from Iraq's upcoming parliamentary election did not submit their cases properly and lost the chance to appeal, an Iraqi legal body said on Tuesday." Meanwhile Huda al-Jasim (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) reports:
Iraqi Vice-President Tariq al-Hashimi confirmed that political parties are manufacturing "an enemy" in order to frighten the public and win votes at the forthcoming Iraqi elections. Al-Hashimi said that this was in order to push the Iraqi electorate to vote along factional or sectarian lines, which is in the electoral interests of some candidates and parties. Al-Hashimi also accused some candidates of not adhering to the principles of fair competition by employing unethical methods to win votes.
In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, al-Hashimi ridiculed those who accuse him of promoting Baathist party ideology, saying "the danger to Iraq today lies in the mentality (of manufacturing an enemy) that has been adopted by some individuals and political parties in an attempt to fixate people on this enemy. They use this to frighten the public and force them once again into sectarian and factional trenches, and this of course enables these parties to achieve electoral superiority."
We'll note this from Robert L. Hanafin's "VA Underestimating Iraq and Afghanistan Casualties" (Veterans Today):
Although the somewhat finished product looks nothing like the Mandatory Funding of the VA that most Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) flaunted as a few got too distracted from the VA with the Flag Amendment, guess what we've settled for, advanced funding, is almost there and better than nothing considering the bulk of American tax payers refuse to serve their nation or become Veterans, including members of Congress who call the shots.
That said, how come we still hear and read about a never ending chorus that the VA is not doing enough with the increase in budget VSOs fought for?
More to the point, how come it is non-traditional, non-mainstream Veterans organizations like Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) that are singing in the Choir when the VA regardless which political party is running it, does not deliver or worse yet proves to continue being incompetent. Shredder-gate comes to mind. When you think about it, the fiasco at Walter Reed Army Hospital, and shredding of VA claims have come to light due to the energetic and passionate investigation and advocacy of non-traditional Veterans groups.
TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):
Even with the recent outpouring of support for earthquake victims in
Haiti, Americans' attention span for global crises is usually very
short. But is there a way to keep American audiences from tuning out
important global issues of violence, poverty, and catastrophe far beyond
their backyards? On Friday, February 12 at 8:30 pm (check local
listings), NOW talks with filmmaker Eric Metzgar about "Reporter," his
documentary about the international reporting trips of New York Times
columnist Nicholas Kristof. In the film, Metzgar provides fascinating
insight into how Kristof breaks through and gets us to think deeply
about people and issues half a world away.