Monday, March 21, 2011

Iraq snapshot

Monday, March 21, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces a death, protests take place around the US over the weekend, though covered by the many segments of the press they are largely ignored by 'listener supported' and 'independent' media, Nouri and his lackeys pursue talks with the US about the US military remaining in Iraq past 2011, and more.
Another US soldier has died in Barack Obama's Iraq War.  AP reports the military released a statement informing "the soldier died from wounds sustained from a roadside bomb attack during operations in southern Iraq."  August 31, 2010 US President Barack Obama -- in his best little Son of a Bush style -- pranced around declared an end to combat operations -- it so echoed Bush's "major combat operations have ended" May 1, 2003 speech.  And, like the earlier speech, it didn't reflect reality.  Aaron Liu (Neon Tommy) observes:
But in declaring an end to "combat operations," the U.S. may be drawing superficial lines. While U.S. casualties have dropped drastically since the military's shift in strategy, a handful of soldiers still find themselves involved in the operation far beyond an advisory/auxiliary role. Since September, approximately 21 servicemen have died, nine of them "in combat." Furthermore, under the U.S. status of forces agreement (SOFA) with Iraq, the U.S. military retains the "inherent right to self-defense and are authorized to take necessary action to prevent terrorist activities in order to protect themselves or the people of Iraq" -- further skewing the notion that combat endeavors are indeed a thing of the past. 
"Honestly, there are still combat missions," wrote the soldier, in reference to Obama's declaration. "In my opinion, if you are getting blown up and/or shot at, you are in a combat zone."
Maybe antiwar organizers assumed that they had elected the man who would stop the war. After all, Barack Obama rose to power on the basis of his early opposition to the Iraq war and his promise to end it. But after two years in the White House he has made both of George Bush's wars his wars.
In October 2007, Obama proclaimed, "I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank." Speaking of Iraq in February 2008, candidate Barack Obama said, "I opposed this war in 2002. I will bring this war to an end in 2009. It is time to bring our troops home." The following month, under fire from Hillary Clinton, he reiterated, "I was opposed to this war in 2002….I have been against it in 2002, 2003, 2004, 5, 6, 7, 8 and I will bring this war to an end in 2009. So don't be confused."
Indeed, in his famous "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow" speech on the night he clinched the Democratic nomination, he also proclaimed, "I am absolutely certain that generations from now we will be able to look back and tell our children that . . . this was the moment when we ended a war."
Today, however, he has tripled President Bush's troop levels in Afghanistan, and we have been fighting there for more than nine years. The Pentagon has declared "the official end to Operation Iraqi Freedom and combat operations by United States forces in Iraq," but we still have 50,000 troops there, hardly what Senator Obama promised.
Al Mada reports today that Nouri al-Maliki and other Iraqi officials are discussing with US officials the possibility of the US military keeping around 20,000 US troops in Iraq after December 31, 2011. The report notes that the officials, military figures and analysts in both countries fear that "withdrawal could threaten the fragile stability in Iraq" and US Maj Gen Edward Cardon is quoted citing the long (continued) delay of Nouri forming a government and saying that there was no prime minister for so long and everything slowed down as a result. The report also references AP and I'm guessing it's this report by Lara Jakes. Meanwhile, Dar Addustour reports that 200 Iraqis demonstrated Saturday in Mosul demanding that US troops leave the country.
Saturday was the 8th anniversary of the Iraq War.  And what took place on Saturday?  To hear Amy  Goodman (Democracy Now!) tell it, not much: "In Washington, D.C., more than 100 antiwar activists were arrested outside the White House on Saturday during a protest to mark the eighth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq." (She provides a second sentence about a Sunday protest not against the Iraq War.  She provides a third sentence where she notes Daniel Ellsberg was arrested at both.)   Ava and I explored how pathetic Democracy Now! and KPFA were this weekendAmy Goodman's bound and determined to prove us right.  Protests took place across the country on Saturday.  DC wasn't even the largest protest, Los Angeles was.  But Goody's not interested in the Iraq War as she's demonstrated over and over (in fact, I don't believe her audience has even been told that US troops may remain in Iraq past 2011).  Nor is KPFA.  They provided 3 minutes on Iraq in a 2 hour "Iraq War special" Saturday.  Here's how they describe in the archives (it doesn't show up on Saturday's archive, you have to click here to find it):
On the 8th Anniversary of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, many organizations coordinated by the ANSWER Coalition will hold a march and rally from UN Plaza in San Francisco. KPFA will cover the event in a joint production of Flashpoints, La Onda Bajita and Voices of the Mideast and North Africa and Hard Knock Radio.
Despite billing it as they did above (for how they billed it on air, see Ava and my piece), only 3 minutes were on Iraq.  Apparently those three minutes exhausted them because today KPFA couldn't find the protests when they returned to work.  The Morning Mix had an hour but nothing on the protests (and Tara was co-hosting the 2 hour special), Letters to Washington had an hour and nothing on the protests, Brian Edwards-Tiekert was laid off by KPFA and used that time to whine that without him on the air there wouldn't be any Iraq coverage but he filled in as host of Against The Grain today and, in a full hour, couldn't find the protests. Remember that the next time some of our left leaders whine about the MSM giving the Tea Party attention.  Faux radical Sonali and her so-called Uprising Radio had nothing on the protests in their hour today because Sonali's the establishment, despite her public claim to be "subversive."  That a program called Uprising -- with a grandstanding host -- can ignore the protests says a great deal.
Not everyone was silent.  Today on WBAI's Wake Up Call, Esther Armah noted Saturday's protests took place as a suicide bomber attacked the Iraqi military and 10 Iraqi soldiers were killed with thirty people left injured. (Saturday Reuters noted 9 other deaths and 24 wounded -- plus 2 deaths from Friday.)  Esther played statements from various participants.  We'll note Pledge of Resistance's Maria Allwine who took part in the DC protest and explained, "Certainly the peace movement suffered a huge blow with Obama's campaign, election and then betrayal of all of us.  So for me seeing these new groups or rather these groups all involved again in this type of action  does give me hope and I've felt pretty hopeless for some time but I think we're seeing a resurgence." That was in the first hour of Wake Up Call and you have 89 days left to hear it in the WBAI Archives.
Matthew Duss (Foreign Policy) observes, "Looking back eight years later the US war in Iraq should teach policymakers of the very clear limitations of American military and political power and the consequences of utilizing US military force with uncertain political objectives. It was a humbling lesson that American leaders learned after Vietnam and informed foreign policy and national security decision-making for decades afterward. But none of this is happening today. The Iraq catastrophe has not led to the sort of national soul-searching that one saw after Vietnam -- or that one might expect after a war that so disastrously undermined US national security."  However, The Progressive has nothing today on the protests, nor does The Nation, nor does ZNet.  Again, when they whine about the MSM next, remember that ahead of the protests they couldn't get the word out and after they had nothing to say.  As noted in the editorial at Third, the protests succeeded in spit of these outlets.
I am asking everything you have to give
I am asking everything you have to give
We will never give up
We will never give up
We will never give in
We will never give in
We will never give up
We will never give up
We will never give in
We will never give in
You will lose your youth, your sleep, your arches, your strength, your patience, your sense of humor
And occasionally, the love and support of people you love very much.

But we will never give up
We will never give up
We will never give in
We will never give in
-- "We Will Never Give In" music and lyrics by Kristin Lem appears on her Equality Road album and I think it first appeared on a Broadside Magazine recording.
Not everyone was silent.  And the protests took place across the country.  So let's do the work people paid to do couldn't and note many of the protest.  Gloria Tatum (Atlanta Progressive News) reports, "[. . .] Saturday, March 19, 2011, on
the 8th anniversary of the criminal US 'shock and awe' attack on Iraq, 160 Atlantans marched in Midtown to bring awareness that the US still has troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that these continued occupations will cost Georgia taxpayers five billion dollars in 2011." Some protests were big, some were small, but around the country
people turned out to stand up against the wars and say "ENOUGH!"  Josh O'Leary (Iowa City Press-Citizen) reports, "Marking the eighth anniversary of the war in Iraq, about 40 protesters gathered Saturday on the steps of the Johnson County Courthouse and marched through downtown Iowa City to call for an end of U.S. occupations overseas." Iowa City wasn't the only municipality in the state protesting. . Clark Kauffman (Des Moines Register) counts over 100 protesting in downtown Des Moines and notes signs included "Bring The Iowa Guard Home" and "Enough Already." ABC 5 WOI-DT adds that the Des Moines participants included army veteran Ed Flaherty who stated, "If you ask people on the street, I think the war on Iraq has gone to the recess of peoples minds but we still have fifty thousand U.S. troops there and people are dying on all sides."
Like Iowa, Oregon also had multiple protests taking place across the state. Emily Gilliespie (Corvallis Gazette Times) notes, "Nearly 100 anti-war demonstrators marked the eighth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq on Saturday by walking about a mile from Central Park to the National Guard Armory on Kings Boulevard in Corvallis. They carried flags, signs bearing messages such as 'Stop the war' and mock coffins in remembrance of the casualties of the war. Bagpipes played but the group otherwise was silent." Michael Stone (Portland Progressive Examiner) notes Portland's protest, "Saturday hundreds gathered in Oregon at Portland's Pioneer Courthouse square to rally for peace on the 8 year anniversary of America's invasion of Iraq. Oregonians rallied in the city square in solidarity and protest of America's foreign adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan." Bobby Allyn (The Oregonian) adds of the Portland protest:

A pack of war protesters from Oak Grove, who assemble every weekend near the Fred Meyer on McLoughlin Boulevard just south of Milwaukie, demonstrated there a half-hour early Saturday so they could march with the protesters in Portland.
"We keep doing it because people forget," said JoAnn Weaver, 71, of Oak Grove, holding a sign that read: Fund health care, not war. "People keep getting sick and the resources aren't there."

KGW offers a video report of the Portland protest. Still in Oregon, Chris McKee (KMTR) reports an estimated one hundred marched in dowtown Eugene and quotes marcher Doublas Bovee stating, "War is not inevitable, war is an option. And we can resolve conflict in much more effective ways to save humanity."
Tim Elliott (NBC 15 -- link has text and video) reported on the Madison, Wisconsin protest, "For the sixth Saturday in a row, protesters showed up in full force at the capitol. The difference: Saturday's demonstration was led by veterans. On the eighth anniversary of the U.S. led invasion of Iraq, anti-war veterans led thousands of protesters in a march and rally on the capitol steps." James Ewinger (Plain Dealer) reports on "dozens" showed up in Cleveland to protest including Greg Coleridge who "said he regretted that the rally marked the eighth anniversary of the war's commencement, instead of its ending." The Kansas City Star reports on Kansas City's protest and notes, "An organizer, Ira Harritt, said the rally was held to protest the war, but also to remind Americans that the death toll continues to mount." Kyle Jarvis (Sentinel) reports approximately 80 people turned out in Keene, New Hampshire to protest and Jarvis quotes Iraq War veteran Paul J, Krautmann stating of the war, "It makes me very, very angry that this thing just goes on and on. I never dreamed that when I came home in 2005 (from Iraq) that this would still be going on." KRQE (link has text and video) reports on Albuquerque's protest and quotes marcher Marie Ellis stating, "We went into a country where we weren't invited. We went because we were given false information. Eight years later, we're still there, we still don't have the money, but yet in our own country we're in a crisis situation."  M.E. Broderick (Democracy for New Mexico -- link has text and video) reports approximately 300 people took part in the Albuquerque protest and "The main theme: bring the troops home now. Start using the $2 BILLION a week and more we spend on the wars to create jobs and support community and human needs."

The protest getting the most media attention was the one in DC.  Remember, that one got a whole sentence from Amy Goodman who rendered everyone else invisible.  Oh-la-la.  Emily Babay (Washington Examiner) notes, 113 marchers were arrested. Catherine Finn (DCist) notes Pentagon Papers whistle blower Daniel Ellsberg was among the arrested. AP adds:

Hundreds of protesters attended the rally and marched around the White House, but the crowd - which included many military veterans - thinned considerably as the U.S. Park Police warned that they'd be arrested if they didn't move. As officers moved in with handcuffs, one protester who clutched the gates outside the White House shouted, "Don't arrest them! Arrest Obama!" and "You're arresting veterans, not war criminals!"

Joana Godinho (CNN) counts, "About 1,000 people from various antiwar groups, including Veterans For Peace, Iraq Veterans Against War and Code Pink, marched around Lafayette Park to make three demands of the Obama administration: stop the war, expose the lies and free Bradley Manning." The Argus-Press National runs a photo from the DC protest by AP's Jacquelyn Martin.  For video, you can check War Is A Crime for this and this and this -- all video reports of the DC protest filed by BillyClub. And we noted other protests last night in this entry. In addition, World Can't Wait is posting numerous reports to their Facebook Page.
Those are amazing numbers all over the country and if there was one true surprise -- and disappointment -- Saturday, it was Madison Wisconsin. Gayle Worland (Wisconsin State Journal) reports, "Though their numbers were dwarfed by the estimated 100,000 people who gathered there a week earlier, more than 1,000 demonstrators against Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget and his efforts to end most collective bargaining rights for public workers returned to Capitol Square on Saturday, unified by what they said they had in common: Staying power." IVAW really tried to get the word out for that but they were up against a 'left' and 'independent' press that didn't care. You can go to any of those outlets (I'm being kind and not naming but I heard all about it last week while IVAW was trying to get the word out) that promoted the other Wisconsin protests but weren't interested in this one. And in terms of the peace crowd, the event was billed as a labor event with some war tacked on. I wasn't there, I don't know how it went off but the various small press radicals who promoted other actions weren't interested and the peace and justice crowd wasn't courted. Madison was expected to be the huge protest of Saturday because of all the huge protests that have happened one right after another in Madison. Instead, for Madison, they had a meager turnout. A lot of that can be traced to the fact that there was no word of mouth generated by the independent media -- or so-called independent media.

Chicago had less people working behind the scenes but managed to pull out significant numbers and that's in part because their local media (not corporate media) did work to get the word out ahead of time and generate some excitement. Fight Back! News reports on Chicago's action:

1000 people rallied and marched here March 19 to mark the eighth anniversary of the war in Iraq. A large contingent was organized by the Committee Against Political Repression (CAPR), which included many of the 23 persons subpoenaed to a grand jury for because of their anti-war and international solidarity efforts. Chants and signs carried the message that activism is not a crime. Seven of those subpoenaed are Palestinians. A large group of youth, mostly Arabs, carried a 60-foot long Palestinian flag behind the CAPR banner to show the unity of the Arab and Muslim communities with the fight to resist FBI and grand jury repression.
Stephanie Weiner, whose home was raided by 25 agents last fall, was the first speaker at the rally at the end of the march. She thanked the anti-war movement for six months of support for the targeted activists, calling out, "Courage, courage, courage," as the watchword for those standing up to the repression. She made it clear that she and the other 22 people will continue to stand on the side of the people suffering through U.S. wars and occupations.

Evelyn Holmes (WLS -- link has text and video) reports the crowd was 1,500 strong and quotes marcher Julie Harley stating, "We cannot continue to spend billions of dollars on war." NBC Chicago (link has text and video) adds that the chants included, "We need money for jobs, not the war. We need money for schools, not the war. We need money for health care, not the war." To no one's surprise the pro-war and right-wing Chicago Tribune underestimates the turnout by approximately 10%. No link to their nonsense.

Actions took place in New York as well. Stacey Sager (WABC) reports on the NYC protest and notes "U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel joined the protesters. He said he's undecided on whether the military action against Libya is justified. But he is angry that Congress was not consulted beforehand." Chris Hawley (AP) reports the Raging Grannies were among the 80 or so participating. As Jim notes in "Roundtable," " I went to take part in the NYC protest -- the one Joan Wile, founder of Grandmothers Against the War and author of Grandmothers Against the War: Getting Off Our Fannies and Standing Up for Peace was getting the word out on and was one of the organizers of [. . .]" We noted it in two Iraq snapshots last week, running Joan's announcement of the event, and did so twice because I realized they weren't getting any attention from media that should have been supportive. In addition, for some stupid reason, the Left Forum decided to counter-program against the Iraq War protest. Joan and the other organizers worked very, very hard and deserve to be congratulated for their work and for the turnout.  For an audio report of  the NYC protest, click on this page and scroll down to the audio option for Sophia Hall's WCBS report.

I was at the Los Angeles protest. It actually got LA media attention ahead of the protest. KPKF was the media sponsor of the event and worked to get the word out. Which may be why Los Angeles may have had the largest turnout. If CNN's numbers are correct, LA was the biggest turnout across the country. I'd estimate we were approximatley five thousand. A.N.S.W.E.R. which, along with March Forward!, sponsored the LA rally (and many other ones across the country) notes the protests around the country but we'll quote them on the LA rally:

Thousands of people hit the streets in Los Angeles in a spirited, youthful demonstration to stop the wars. Led by Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, including active-duty soldiers and marines, the march of well over 4,000 people chanted, "Money for jobs and education, not for wars and occupation!"

A huge student contingent from high schools and community colleges in Long Beach, Orange County and L.A. participated, along with large numbers from the Muslim community. Speakers included Vietnam Veteran Ron Kovic, students, teachers, union leaders and anti-war activists. Chris Shiflet, the lead guitarist for the Foo Fighters, spoke and played a song.

The ANSWER Coalition initiated the March 19 protest in Los Angeles. Over 100 additional community and progressive organizations endorsed the action.


Dan Bluemel (LA Activist) reports that 11 people were arrested in LA for civil disobedience as they sat holding photos of fallen soldiers, "Ed Garza, the Orange County chapter leader of Military Families Speak Out, was one of those arrested. Garza is a Vietnam War veteran who was awarded the Purple Heart. He spoke last week at the Mothers March rally in MacArthur Park. In his speech, Garza spoke of his two friends and fellow veterans, Max and Felix, who both died from complications arising from Agent Orange exposure. Max had died only a few weeks prior."  Lisa Brenner (LAist) offers a photo essay of the protestPress TV has a nice photo of the LA rally and they also observe:

Nominally, the U.S. is required under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to leave Iraq by the end of the year, but all indications are that this won't happen. Indeed, reports are that a mostly behind-the-scenes debate is ongoing not on if the U.S. occupation will continue, but how big it will be. Antiwar
The White House proposed on February 14, 2011 to spend $671 billion on the U.S. military next year. Reuters
The Obama administration's budget proposal for fiscal 2012 includes $118 billion for the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, on top of the base budget of $553 billion.

In an article on the Iraq War, Alexandra Messick-Kopel (Palo Alto Patch) makes time to note Iraq War resister Camilo Mejia.
In 2003, Camilo Mejia was four months away from completing his eight-year obligation to the military when his commander informed him that he was stop-lossed -- a military term for the involuntary extension of active duty -- and that his service was required until the year 2031.
Mejia was shipped to Iraq, where his first mission was to torture civilians so they would be "softened" for interrogation, he said. From there he went to Ar Ramadi, an urban city.
"We were working with a civilian population, where the only thing that separated a civilian from a combatant is that a civilian had a gun and was shooting at you, so when the combatant put the rifle down, there was no way to tell a combatant away from a civilian," he said. "Given the the inability to pinpoint the enemy, or a uniformed enemy, we ended up killing a lot of non-armed civilians."
Although Mejia began to resist some orders, he was afraid of being perceived as unpatriotic or "soft."  "Between the fear of dying, peer pressure, the heat and fatigue, it was very difficult to make decisions based on morality or my conscious," he said. "Decisions were made with the one purpose of getting out of there alive."
When Mejia was given an opportunity to go home halfway through his tour, he decided he could not in good conscious continue to be part of the occupation. He wrote up a "conscientious objector" claim, went public with his opposition to the war and surrendered to a military base. A few months later, he was court-marshaled with desertion and was declared a "prisoner of conscience" by Amnesty International.
Camilo Mejia is the first Iraq War veteran to publicly resist the war.  Others who came before him resisted deployments but he was the first to resist while serving.  He is the author of Road from Ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia.
We noted Kristin Lem 's "We Will Never Give In" above  and you can see her at the start of next month, Saturday April 2nd, performing live:

Kristin Lems unplugged! - 7 - 9 pm
4116 Dempster St. (at Karlov)
Skokie Illinois 60076
Price: freewill donation

Enjoy Kristin without a p.a. system ~ singing your favorites and hers too, whilst you sip on coffee and whatever else Starbucks offers. Tip jar pays the fees!

Turning to Iraq,
Al Mada notes press reports that Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani has stated he will step down if political reforms do not take place in the KRG. Barzani easily won re-election in 2009. If the reports are true, Barzani may be attempting to reposition himself as an 'agent of change' which would be difficult to do if he were to remain president.
'Those reports weren't true!' That's what Dar Addoustor reports the office of Parliament's Speaker Osama al-Najafi is saying regarding the report that Parliament has suspended sessions until March 27th. Of course, the denial only comes after the massive protests on Saturday by Iraqis outraged that Parliament was taking a break when they were supposed to be addressing the problems Iraqi face. Saturday protests continued in Iraq.  Aswat al-Iraq reports protesters in Rawa called for "the release of detainees, employment and public services."  Alsumaria TV reported Baghdad protesters affirmed they would continue protesting until goals were met, Ramadi protesters "called for the topple of Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki's government.  Demonstrators accused Iraqi Parliament of focusing on the sitaution in Bahrain and neglecting people's demands in Iraq."
Following the protests calling out the Parliament's announcement of a ten day break "in solidarity," the people of Iraq began rejecting that call publicly which is why the denial of a break was issued by the Speaker's office today.  Though the office has denied it, there are no sessions of Parliament currently scheduled for the week and, though the article doesn't mention it, al-Najafi's not even in Iraq. He's in Kuwait. If his office was worried about angry Iraqis, it probably wasn't a good idea to try lying to them. Alsumaria TV notes today that the decision to "suspended its sessions and delayed the ratification of laws was not well received by Iraqis who believe these stands are made to divert the people and shy away from demonstrators' demands. "

Meanwhile Iraq's prodigal son Moqtada al-Sadr, Al Mada reports, was confronted about the assaults on journalists by Iraqi forces including by some of his people and Moqtada declared it's not within him to attack journalists and urged reporters to get the words correct when reporting -- apparently that's why they're being beaten. So Moqtada doesn't think they're getting the words right or he is in talks with other figures who do not think the press is getting the words right? Interestingly and tellingly, he didn't condemn the attacks on journalists. But he wouldn't, now would he?
Reuters notes a Kirkuk grenade explosion injured a boy, a Hawija landmine explosion wounded one shepherd, a Mosul roadside bombing injured three people, a Karma sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left two more injured and, dropping back to Sunday, a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed 1 person's life and left three  more injured.

Reuters notes 1 Ministry of Agriculture official was shot dead in Baghdad's Sadr City, 1 Sahwa was shot dead in Kirkuk, an attack on a Najaf gold shop killed 1 person and left the store's owner injured, 1 Oil Ministry employee was wounded in a Baghdad attack in which his wife was killed and his son wounded and dropping back to Sunday for the rest, Ministry of the Interior's Col Ali Jabar was shot dead in Baghdad, Ministry of the Interior Col Emad Chyad was injured in a Baghdad shooting and police Lt Ali Ramiz was wounded in a Baghdad shooting.