Monday, March 14, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, calls come in for Jalal Talabani to apologize or step down, Vlahos talks about how the US government is uncomfortable over the protests in Iraq, turns out Nouri's thugs beat people in Friday's demonstration in Baghdad, the Integrity Commission finds a whole lot of corruption going on, following a shoot out the Brig Gen of Nouri's Rapid Response Team is finally arrested and taken into custody, Bradley Manning issues a statement, Dennis Kucinich talks about his attempt to see the conditions Bradley is being held under, the US gears up for this Saturday's protest and more.
Scott Horton: But I want to talk about Iraq. Mostly, I especially want to talk about Iraq because apparently and maybe this is just my hyperbole, you know, I'm kind of an extremist but the way, the best I can the rest of America has decided that the Iraq invasion happened some time a hundred years ago back before World War I and nobody cares at all about Iraq anymore, just forget it, that was George Bush's thing and it might as well have been Korea or something, you know, back when TV was still in black & white. And so it seems to me that since the consequences -- even just the short terms consequences -- of America's invasion back in 2003 and the occupation that's lasted this whole time are still playing out there that we ought to pay extra attention to what's going on. So, uhm, you have this great article, it's at Antiwar.com right now, "Iraq protests make Washington squirm." And you have a very detailed write up of the very recent history of the state of Iraq and the protest movement -- Tunisia and Egyptian-inspired protest movement there --- as it has existed over the past few weeks. Why don't you give us a brief roundup there and maybe we'll save the politics 'till the second half.
Kelley B. Vlahos: Yes, sure. Before I even get started on that, I was Google-ing around on Iraq a little while ago and the story popped up about members of a Buffalo based National Guard unit headed to Iraq. And it just -- It sort of like took me back into some sort of tailspin newswise. You know, here, like you said, this is like ancient history to most Americans. We still have units, soldiers, going over to Iraq. Meanwhile the mixed messages that this war is over, that our guys and gals are home, that somehow we're not even stationed there anymore, we don't here about the troops over there anymore, where are they, what are they doing? And here I just Google "Iraq" and here's a unit going over there. Most of the guys in this particular unit, this is their first deployment. Some of them, they've been on deployment before. But it just, it kind of gives me kind of a funky feeling, you know, deja vu, but also of sadness because I realize that these deployments are still occuring and nobody cares anymore. And, like you said, with my article I try to explore what's been going on with Iraq because I haven't -- It's been really difficult to go to the mainstream media and kind of discern what's been going on there in the context of these revolutions in the Middle East right now. Iraq is having its own revolution but in a very ironic way that they're revolting against us. I mean we have been the chief puppet masters over there for the last eight years. The-the prime minister that they are railing against all throughout the country across ethnic lines -- this isn't a a Sunni/Shia thing, this is Sunni-Shia-Kurd-All revolting over there and Prime Minister Maliki is the key reason. His government has failed to bring basic services, things that we take for granted -- electricity, food, water, sewage -- in the last several years. He's been in power since 2006, he's failed to-to make good on all his pledges to reconstruct that country. We have failed on our promises to reconstruct that country. But he is basically Our Man In Baghdad. And so they are, in effect, fighting us. And when I say it's making Washington squirm, it is. It's very awkward. It's embarrassing. And official Washington has basically reacted to that by silence, is what I say. So I tried to fill in the void by providing some of the, you know, easily accessible information that's out there on the web right now about what's going on on the ground because our mainstream news is just ignoring it.
Scott Horton: Well you know it's especially ironic, I mean here America backs every dictator in the region and so the irony there where we're supposed to have the legacy of the Declaration of Independence on our side and all of that is really harsh. But in the case of Iraq, here they did this whole aggressive invasion in the name of liberating the people of Iraq and providing them a democracy so they wouldn't have to suffer under an American-backed military dictatorship anymore like the rest of Middle East and this is the government that these people are rebelling against.
Kelley B. Vlahos: Right. And when you think about it, it really isn't too much of a surprise. The military took over -- the military was responsible obviously for the invasion, but it also took over the reconstruction. It marginalized the State Dept, it marginalized the civilians in our government from going in and having a hand in there. It politicized the reconstruction so that what you have left is a military led post-invasion Iraq. And, at some point, the charade over the whole democracy and liberation was ripped off and basically we did -- our military did -- everything it could just to get out of there with some semblence of a face left. And what it did is they installed Maliki, you know, they committed to the surge, they pummeled Iraq and Maliki's enemies so they could get out of there. It became less about establishing a democracy and reconstructing that country and more about us saving face and saving Petraeus' face and putting a veener of success on it all. And this is what you're seeing, you're seeing that veneer ripped off the Potemkin village exploded and you're seeing what - what basically, the-the-the chickens come home to roost, as though they say.
Scott Horton: Yeah, well. And, you know, you're certainly right. One of the first headlines I saw about the protests was "From Mosul to Basra" -- virtually every population center in Iraq had a giant protest on the Day of Rage there.
Kelley B. Vlahos: Mm-hmm.
Scott Horton: And that was what? Last Friday?
Kelley B. Vlahos: Right, last Friday. And upwards of 29 protesters were killed. I've seen varying numbers but that's the highest number I've seen and not only protesters killed but demonstrators beaten, journalists detained and tortured in the jails there too.
Scott Horton: Well that's where we're going to pick this up when we get back, is the persectuion of the journalists and the intellectuals as a result of this, al-Maliki's post-protest crackdown. It's Kelley B. Vlahos from Antiwar.com and The American Conservative Magazine. We'll be right back [. . .] and we're talking about Iraq's Day of Rage, massive protests across that country against the American-installed government of Nouri al-Maliki and when we went out to the break we were just about to get to the crackdown that came as the result last weekend. Kelley, tell us about that.
Kelley B. Vlahos: Well people might be surprised that a democracy that we supposedly helped flourish in Iraq has responded to largely peaceful protests by sending out storm troopers. in essance, to round up journalists, round up protesters, hunt them down -- as one person had described, bringing them to detention centers, torturing them, beating them, releasing them after signing affidavits that they haven't been tortured. All in an attempt to stifle this people protest in Iraq. Something that we had bragged and boasted that we helped create, remember, with the purple finger elections, you know, starting in 2005. And now we're seeing sort-of the outgrowth of that, we're seeing that we have helped bring in an authoritarian government that is responding to people trying to exercise their rights [being met] with lethal force really. --
Scott Horton: Well it's just like -- Brent Scowcroft tried to tell George Bush that "Look, man, this is what's going to happen." You're going to topple the minority dictatorship there and the majority is going to take power." And that's what happened. The Ayatollah Sistani said, "Hey, if you believe in God go out there and demand one-man, one-vote. And demand it, say you want it, really soon." And they had no choice after that. Once you overthrow Saddam Hussein, now you're job is installing whoever Sistani and Sadr can agree on.
Kelley B. Vlahos: Yeah.
Scott Horton: And so that was that whole war, just fighting for those guys.
Kelley B. Vlahos: Right. Exactly. And like I mentioned earlier, we helped Maliki basically destroy his political enemies through systematic, sort of ethnic cleansing and superior fire power. I mean, I remember going and seeing David Petraeus talk about how we won the surge and basically it was basically unleashing the mighty forces of superior US firepower on Baghdad, unlike anything that those people have ever seen and so basically we just pummeled the crap out of Iraq, out of the Sunnis, out of Sadr City and basically brought all of Maliki's enemies to heel so that he could basically create a central government with all the powers that came with and he's become an authoritarian strongman there. And now we're seeing his real, true colors come to be through these protests. And one way this is actually a good thing is it basically tears the veneer off of everything that we've been saying about what we've done over there and trying to do. It basically shows Maliki for who he really is and what's been going on there while the media has been ignoring it these past two years.
Today's New York Times finds the editorial board offering "Mr. Maliki's Power Grab" which includes, "Instead of taking responsibility, Mr. Maliki charged that the protests were organized by 'terrorists.' He ordered the closing of the offices of two political parties that helped lead the demonstrations. His only concessions were vows not to seek a third term in 2014 and to cut his pay in half. That was not persuasive, especially given his many recent power grabs." And not persuasive given news that emerged over the weekend about Friday's protest in Baghdad. Adam Youssef, news photographer for Al Mada, is among the people David Ali (Al Mada) reported on. At the Friday protests, Adam was brutally beaten by Iraqi security forces despite repeatedly telling them he was a photographer and only present to take photos. They beat him and beat him, over and over with batons. But brave little thugs rarely only beat one person. Activst Hana Adoor and journalist Npras Mamouri were also beaten with batons by security forces who apparently were threatened by the thought of two women out in public. The Arab American News reports surrounded the protesters in large numbers:
"People will continue demonstrating until there is reform because the government has been built on a sectarian basis," said Faisal Hamid, a pensioner who walked to Tahrir Square from the nearby neighborhood of Karrada. The Iraqi government, worried the demonstrations may spiral out of control, have taken strict measures that appear designed to limit the number of demonstrators who come out. Late Thursday, they imposed a vehicle ban in the capital so many of the protesters were forced to walk for miles. Similar vehicle bans were in place in the northern cities of Mosul and Kirkuk, and the southern city of Basra. Side streets leading up to the square were blocked with security vehicles and helicopters buzzed overhead in Baghdad. Before those protests, Iraqi officials tried to discredit the demonstrations by saying they were being backed by supporters of Saddam and al-Qaeda. The warnings seemed designed to keep people away and paint those who did take part in a bad light.
Over the weekend, Nouri continued his attacks on the protesters. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Lara Jakes (AP) reported he took to state television Saturday where he verbally attacked the protesters, "Those who call for regime change are limited in number; they are weak and voices of discord. [. . .] Do they want the return of a dictatorship? Or the Revolutionary Command Council? Or a regime that marginalizes groups? We say clearly that who ask for the change of this regime are out of line with the will of the nation." True only if Nouri's desires are the will of the nation. Iraqi voters made clear Nouri was not their choice in the March 7, 2010 elections when despite his harassment, scare tactics, abuse of office and a largely compliant media he was not able to lead his political slate to victory. Abdul-zhra and Jakes note how "liar" and other words are increasingly applied to Nouri at the ongoing public demonstrations.
In other news of outrage, Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports that the practice of ministers and officials (since the start of the war) stealing Iraqi land and homes may be coming to an end. Many Iraqis have been left homeless as a result of the illegal practice and MP Safia al-Suhail is calling for the land to be returned. In other news of corruption, Inas Tariq (Al Mada) reports that while Iraqis are plagued with unemployment, the few jobs available are being doled out by ministers to their own unqualified family members and friends. Unqualified being one of the key words. Last week, New Sabah reported that the Integrity Commission has supposedly developed a plan to examine the graduate certifications and other credentials of various officials and they will be checking them out and also looking into the rumors that certain positions were purchased with large amounts of money. The Ministries of Defense and Interior are named in New Sabah's report as two ministries that will be examined. Yesterday Saad Abdul-Kadir and Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reported that there are "some 20,000 goovernment employees" under investigation of possibly forging diplomas and graduate certifications and MP Layla Hassan states, "Some of those who have fake education certificates are senior officials in the current and former government. These people should not be pardoned. Otherwise, others will do the same in the future." New Sabah reports that the chair of the Integrity Committee in the Iraqi Parliament announced that former ministers and officials have broken laws and is calling on heads of Ministries to utilize appointments correctly. The Committee was "shocked" by the corruption that has taken place and vows former officials and ministers will be brought to justice. Dar Addustour adds that today Parliament is supposed to, according the Integrity Committee vice chair Ahmed al-Jubouri, hold a workshop explaining how the commission did relatively little work in the last years due to the fact that a law was not passed giving them the needed powers.
Meanwhile Baghdad's Kassakhoon noted Friday, "After 40 sessions of Parliament iraq lawmakers approved only 2 of 280 proposed measures." New Sabah reports that the chair of the Integrity Committee in the Iraqi Parliament announced that former ministers and officials have broken laws and is calling on heads of Ministries to utilize appointments correctly. The Committee was "shocked" by the corruption that has taken place and vows former officials and ministers will be brought to justice. Dar Addustour adds that today Parliament is supposed to, according the Integrity Committee vice chair Ahmed al-Jubouri, hold a workshop explaining how the commission did relatively little work in the last years due to the fact that a law was not passed giving them the needed powers. If a law is passed this time, it will be a result of the demands of the Iraqi protesters who have loudly and repeatedly decried the corruption.
Meanwhile Aswat al-Iraq reports that Talabani spoke Monday in Sulaimaniya and declared Kurkuk to be "Kurdistan's sanctity." The problem with interpreting that comment is that (a) Talabani was before a crowd and (b) he always goes back on his statments -- especially when it comes to Kirkuk. That hasn't prevented many from attempting to decipher where Talabani is leading.
What's the deal with Kirkuk?
Kirkuk is an oil-rich region of Iraq that's long been in dispute -- even if the idiot Chris Hill publicly revealed he couldn't grasp that in his 2009 Senate confirmation hearing. The KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) argues they they have a right to it. They argue that they were kicked out. The central government or 'government' out of Baghdad argues it belongs with them. The issue is so divisive that the 2005 Constitution (which Iraq now operates under -- or is supposed to) addressed the issue. Per the Constitution, a census was supposed to be taken of the region and a referendum held. That was supposed to take place by 2007.
2007 came and went. Nouri al-Maliki was prime minister then. He became prime minister in the spring of 2006. He didn't meet the deadline. When the Democrats won control of both houses in the US Congress and began making noises about ending the war, the White House (Bush administration) came up with a list of benchmarks that Iraq would meet to show progress. If Iraq didn't meet those benchmarks, funding was supposed to cease. (US House Rep Lloyd Doggett appears to be one of the few members of Congress who grasped that then or since.) Nouri agreed to the benchmarks and then ignored them. Kirkuk was one of the benchmarks.
In the lead up to the last provincial elections, Nouri was promising the issue would be delt with (January 2009 was when those provincial elections were held). Didn't happen. Most recently, while attempting to secure the post of prime minister for more four years, Nouri was insisting that the census would be held in December 2010. Days before it was time for the census, and just a little while after he was named prime minister-designate, Nouri called off the census. It's 2011. The Constitutionally mandated census and referendum is four years overdue.
Alsumaria TV reports, "The statements of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in which he described Kirkuk as 'Jerusalem of Kurdistan' spurred wide reservation. In result, a number of Iraqi MPs gathered signatures to question President Talabani in Parliament on account of his latest statements on Kirkuk. Parliament Speaker Ousama Al Nujaifi welcomed the request and political parties called on Iraqi President to either backtrack his statements or apologize." Aswat al-Iraq cites MP Mahmoud Othman, of the Kurdistan Coalition, stating that it is legal to call Talabani before Parliament if he's violated the constitution but he doesn't see Talabani's remarks as being in violation of the Constitution noting "that when Talabani said that Kirkuk was the 'heart of Kurdistan,' he expressed his viewpoint, being the chairman of a party. . So, there is no need to gather signatures to summon him by the Parliament." In addition, they report that MP Khalid al-Assadi (with Nouri's coalition) has stated that the attempt to bring Talabani before the Parliament is the "incorrect measure." Sinan Salaheddin, Lara Jakes and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) report that hundreds gathered in Baghdad's Liberation Square (Tahrir Square) today calling for Talabani to apologize for his remarks or resign.
Today New Sabah notes that Kirkuk is "combustible again" and the columnist explains Speaker of Parliament Osama Nujaifi has made similar remarks. The columnist calls upon all sides to proceed with wisdom and open minds and remember that Kirkuk has a population of Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens with other ethnic and religious minorities as well. The leaders of both (major) Kurdish parties are called upon to use dialogue and discussion. (Goran is not a major Kurdish party.) Dar Addustour notes that the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy to Iraq Ad Melkert met with Nouri yesterday to discuss the issue of Kirkuk.
Al Rafidayn notes that Ayad Allawi -- who has taken himself out of the running for head of the (still hasn't emerged) National Council -- is seeking the nomination of Secretary General of the Arab League. In other political news, Al Sumaria TV reports, "It seems that major rows impeding the nomination of Iraqi security ministers are no longer restricted between Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki and heads of political parties. Rows have swept into political parties themselves which members are complaining about their leaders' autocracy."
Yesterday's snapshot noted: "Dar Addustour reports one of Nouri's 'finest,' the man in charge of the Rapid Response Brigade got caught by the Integrity Commission in the process of accepting a $50,000 bribe. And? He ordered the forces to attack the Integrity Commission, he ordered the forces to attack them and beat them -- beat nine of them, leaving them all wounded and three of the nine requiring hospitalization. That's Nouri al-Maliki's thugs." Saturday, New Sabah reported the latest including that Rashim Hassan Ugaili, chief judge of the Integrity Commssion, states Nouri has "ordered the arrest" of Gen Numan Dakhil, the commander of the Rapid Reaction Brigade. It lists the amount of the bribe as 60 million dinars. A shoot out ensued as attempts were made to carry out the order but Numan finally surrendered. MP Sabah al-Saadi is quoted decrying that assault on the Integrity Commission which took place Thursday when they caught Numan taking a bribe. Saturday, Muhanad Mohammed (Reuters) became the first English language outlet reporter to cover the story.
Al Rafidayn reports that a suicide truck bombing in Canaan (Diyala Province) has left 11 Iraqi soldiers dead and twenty-nine injured and a curfew has been imposed on the area. Tang Danlu (Xinhua) adds, "The attack took place in the morning when a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden vehicle into the local government compound of the Kan'an town, 20 km east of the provincial capital of Baquba, the source said on condition of anonymity." BBC News notes, "Rescue workers were trying to free victims from beneath the building's rubble, a spokeswoman for Diyala's provincial government said." Michael S. Schmidt and Duraid Adnan (New York Times) quote Iraqi soldier Mohammed Abed Anwar stating, "I fell and I heard my partners screaming for help and I could hear them moaning. I almost died and I saw my friends taking their last breaths." Alsumaria TV reports the number wounded has risen to forty (death toll remains 11). Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "Eight other people were wounded Monday when roadside bombs exploded in three Baghdad neighborhoods, the interior ministry said." Since then more have been wounded. Reuters counts eleven wounded and 1 dead from 4 Baghdad bombings today plus two wounded from one yesterday, and notes 1 police officer shot dead in Tal Afar
Sunday Xinhua reported a a Tikrit prison was the site of riot and possibly a break out today and they quote a source who states, "Riot erupted as dozens of inmates clashed in the afternoon with the prison guards and set fire to part of the building of the al-Tasfirait prison in Tikrit". Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) added that 2 prisoners are dead and seven are injured along with seven guards. AFP noted that there are conflicting reports on whether anyone escaped. September 24, 2009, there was a prison break in Tikrit with sixteen prisoners escaping.
Who needs sleep when we've got love?
Who needs keys when we've got clubs?
Who needs please when we've got guns?
Who needs peace when we've gone above
But beyond where we should have gone
We went beyond where we should have gone
-- "Sleep Through The Static" written by Jack Johnson, first appears on Johnson's Sleep Through the Static album
Jo Ann Bowman: Can we really believe that we've actually been at war for nine years, eight of which have been in Iraq? It seems insane that we've been at war that long. Friday, he appeared on KBOO's Voices from the Edge where he spoke with Jo Ann Bowman and Dave Mazza.
Wray Harris: It is insane. No nation is supposed to be at war this long. Real wars don't last this long. And you can see that it's taking a toll on our economy, it's taking a toll on our soldiers, our military. It is insane.
Jo Ann Bowman: And so this Saturday [. . .] Saturday March 19th is the next, great big anti-war gathering that will take place in Portland at Pioneer Courthouse Square [SW 6th and Yamhill]. The gathering will start at 12:30 [pm] with a 1:00 pm rally and a 1:30 march. I have noticed over these last nine years that the marches have gotten a lot smaller and why do you think that is, Wray?
Wray Harris: You know, I'm just now getting into the public activism thing so I actually wasn't around during what I hear are the glory days of 2003, 2004, 2005. I think it largely has to do with the election of a new face in the White House and a lot of the American people have just become apathetic.
Jo Ann Bowman: And so tell us about you spent time in Iraq yourself.
Wray Harris: Yes.
Jo Ann Bowman: You were stationed there.
Wray Harris: Yes, I was stationed in Baghdad for fourteen months. My unit was the first part of Gen Petraeus' troop surge for 2007 --
Jo Ann Bowman: Uh-huh.
Wray Harris: -- to quell the civil war, I guess they wanted to call it.
Jo Ann Bowman: Right.
Wray Harris: So we deployed in November 2006 and returned, my paperwork says, January 2008 but for some reason December sounds more accurate.
Jo Ann Bowman: Well, you know, federal government for you.
Wray Harris: There you go.
Jo Ann Bowman: And what was your sense as part of your unit? I mean, did you feel like you were there doing something worthy and necessary?
Wray Harris: Well when you're on the battlefield the thing is when things are happening or this or that, you're not thinking about the politics of anything, you're not thinking about the flag or freedom or glory or patriotism. All you're doing is you're thinking about the person next to you or the person behind you. And so thinking about the whole politics of the situation, we kind of knew it didn't make sense. We would sit in dark towers and we'd find ourselves sympathizing with the people we were fighting.
Jo Ann Bowman: Why so? What do you mean? Give me an example.
Wray Harris: Well in a sense that we used to say, you know, really it's a pretty cheap shot to put a bomb on the side of the road and wait for someone to drive by and blow it up. It's kind of a cheap shot. But in the next breath, one of us or somebody would always say, "Yeah, well, what's the difference between that and dropping a bomb from five feet in the air." Or a five hundred pound bomb from however far away.
Jo Ann Bowman: Right. Right.
Dave Mazza: You know, Wray, one of the things we all come from different experiences and clearly this war is much different from, say, Vietnam -- our last protracted engagement -- in that, for one, this is an all volunteer force whereas we had a draft military in Vietnam and there was certainly signs of dissension and much more organizing against the war -- both inside the military and outside the military. And I was wondering your experience in Iraq, how -- like you said -- you're thinking mostly about the guy next to you and about yourself. But, you know, what was -- Was there a sense, was there any activism going on? Was there any more open discussions about 'we really need to get out of here or get this thing over with'?
Wray Harris: We would sit all the time and say in various capacities, this is pointless, I want to go home, there's no reason, this is stupid -- much more colorful language than that.
Jo Ann Bowman: (Laughing) We appreciate your not using that particular language.
Wray Harris: No problem. No problem. Time and place. But I don't particularly remember any outspoken, outright political activist, hobbyist soldiers at all actually. Because, like you said, we're an all volunteer force in the end. We all kind of wanted to be there. On some level.
Jo Ann Bowman: I-I thank you for that. I appreciate that. I mean, you said we all wanted to be there at some level. Why --
Wray Harris: Sure.
Jo Ann Bowman: Why did you join the military? And did you join like after 9-11? What was the process that got you into the military?
Wray Harris: I kind of knew that that was what I was going to do from the time I was real young. My grandfather was a Korean War veteran. He had lost his leg. I just kind of knew for some reason that that was going to be on my plate.
Jo Ann Bowman: And was it going to be a career or was it just something you were going to do to like pass through?
Wray Harris: You know, I really wasn't sure. I didn't really think long term when I did it. It was more of a "I need to get out of my small town in central Oregon so that I don't stick around and be that guy."
Jo Ann Bowman: (Laughing) Right. Right.
Wray Harris: You know what I mean.
Jo Ann Bowman: Right. We all know that guy.
Wray Harris: We do. Yeah. There you go.
Jo Ann Bowman: So, okay, so this was like just something. You weren't moved and compelled by some incident or event. This was just like a part of -- You just assumed you'd get out of high school and you'd go into the military, right?
Wray Harris: Well September 11th gave me a little more of a motivation or whatever you want to call it.
Jo Ann Bowman: Right.
Wray Harris: And I was glued to the television. And I was playing the whole left-versus-right, war protesters versus war hawks and that whole thing. And that just doesn't get anybody anywhere.
Jo Ann Bowman: Right. Well and so here we are and I'm glad that you talked about the fact that you grew up in eastern Oregon, small town --
Wray Harris: Central Oregon.
Jo Ann Bowman: Central Oregon, sorry. Small town. Decided the military was your ticket out of the small town. And -- But for some reason, you got out. Did you get out? Or maybe I should ask that.
Wray Harris: Yeah.
Jo Ann Bowman: You did get out. So you are officially out of the military.
Wray Harris: That's what my goatee says.
Dave Mazza: So what -- what -- Was your decision, "I did my hitch and I'm ready to get out." Or was it something? Did you have a deeper feeling about wanting to separate from the military?
Wray Harris: In the end, I didn't want to go back to Iraq, honestly. There was no use. There was no point. I didn't want to have to go to a new unit and be really tight with a whole bunch of new people and redeploy and have to go through the whole thing again. There was no point. It doesn't serve anybody any purpose.
Dave Mazza: So what's the -- You know, I mean, that still seems like a, then there's a big jump here between going from that to being president of Iraq Veterans Against the War. So what happened?
Wray Harris: (Laughing) Well it's called the internet and, you know, thankfully because of the free flow of information in our society today, I was able to learn a lot of things very quickly. And I came back from Iraq and I was asking questions -- a lot of questions. You find yourself on the internet finding answers. Or the closest things you'll get to answers.
There's a great deal more to the interview (above is about seven minutes and Wray was the guest for the hour). And remember, there will be protests in the US next weekend. A.N.S.W.E.R. and March Forward! and others will be taking part in these action:
March 19 is the 8th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Iraq today remains occupied by 50,000 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of foreign mercenaries.
The war in Afghanistan is raging. The U.S. is invading and bombing Pakistan. The U.S. is financing endless atrocities against the people of Palestine, relentlessly threatening Iran and bringing Korea to the brink of a new war.
While the United States will spend $1 trillion for war, occupation and weapons in 2011, 30 million people in the United States remain unemployed or severely underemployed, and cuts in education, housing and healthcare are imposing a huge toll on the people.
Actions of civil resistance are spreading.
On Dec. 16, 2010, a veterans-led civil resistance at the White House played an important role in bringing the anti-war movement from protest to resistance. Enduring hours of heavy snow, 131 veterans and other anti-war activists lined the White House fence and were arrested. Some of those arrested will be going to trial, which will be scheduled soon in Washington, D.C.
Saturday, March 19, 2011, the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, will be an international day of action against the war machine.
Protest and resistance actions will take place in cities and towns across the United States. Scores of organizations are coming together. Demonstrations are scheduled for San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and more.
Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning has been at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key, for months. Earlier this month, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. David E. Coombs is Bradley's attorney and he provided a walk through on Article 104. Like many, Sophie Elmhirst (New Statesman) emphasized the possibility of the death penalty.
As a result of Crowley's remarks entering the Friday news cycle, Barack was finally asked a few serious questions (by one reporter). Patrick Martin (WSWS) reports:
The inquiry by Jake Tapper of ABC News was the second and subordinate part of a question that began with the Japanese earthquake and its effect on Japanese nuclear power facilities. Tapper then continued as follows: "And then, a second question -- the State Department spokesman, PJ Crowley, said the treatment of Bradley Manning by the Pentagon is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid. And I'm wondering if you agree with that. Thank you, sir." Obama answered the question about Japan, then added: "With respect to Private Manning, I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me that they are. I can't go into details about some of their concerns, but some of this has to do with Private Manning's safety as well." This answer is a cowardly example of stonewalling, undoubtedly crafted in advance after consultation with the Pentagon brass. Obama does not actually say that Manning is being treated appropriately, only that unnamed military officials "assure me that they are."
US House Rep Dennis Kucinich: That's right. I put in a request to the Secretary of Defense who referred me to the Secretary of the Army who referred me to the Secretary of the Navy who referred me to the Secretary of Defense and still not an answer on whether or not I can visit Private Manning.
Scott Horton: Unbelievable. I could see them giving the runaround like that to a reporter or something but you're a Congressman. They can't treat you that way, can they?
US House Rep Dennis Kucinich: Actually they shouldn't treat reporters that way but -- they shouldn't treat anyone that way. They should be accountable. But unfortunately, for whatever reason, the Pentagon doesn't have any accountability.
Scott Horton: Right now I'm confused though because his friend David House, for example, is able to visit him. Can he not just add you to that same list somehow?
US House Rep Dennis Kucinich: Well I don't know. I'm a member of Congress. I have to go through a different channel. The Secretary of Defense office is the appropriate channel for a member of Congress and I have to add that as a member of the Oversight Committee of Congress I'm also entitled to go and see the conditions under which Private Manning is held.