Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, August 28, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue,  Iraq War veteran and conscientious objector Joshua Casteel has passed away, Iraq executes 21 people (with more executions planned for tomorrow), Camp Ashraf residents are roughed up by Nouri's goons, Nouri's court finds three members of the Electoral Commission guilty, and more.
Iraq Veterans Against the War's Jose Vasquez notes that Joshua Casteel has passed away afte battling lung cancer.  In 2008, Claire Schaeffer-Duffy (National Catholic Reporter) noted Casteel was "an Evangical Christian" who became a conscientious objector and appeared in the documentary Soldiers of Conscience.  From the November 16, 2006 snapshot:
Starting with Ehren Watada -- the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq.  Last week, the US military announced they would move to court-martial Watada.  The court-martial is expected to take place early next year.  Last night, Watada appeared on CNN's Paula Zahn Now program.  Speaking to Zahn, Watada explained how, as late as September 2005, he was willing to go to Iraq (and had volunteered to deploy with any unit) but "then I began findout out some things about how possibly that our government could have misled, not only the Congress, but also the public, and the world as to the reasons why we were going to Iraq, and there were never any weapons of mass destruction, there were never any ties to al Qaeda or ties to 9/11.  And I just -- at that point, I personally felt very betrayed as a soldier, willing to put my life on the line and willing to order soldiers to do the same, that we were sent to go and fight a war were the reasons were falsified."
After Watada's appearance, Zahn had a panel discussion.  Joshua Casteel noted "the Uniform Code of Military Justice tells us two things.  One is that we have an obligation to obey all lawful orders, but we also have an obligation to disobey all unlawful orders, and -- which includes disobeying orders that are unlawful, even if they come from the President of the United States.  Article Six, Paragraph Two of the United States Constitution dictates that treaties that the United States signs on to are to be considered the laws of the land, including among them, the Hague Convention on Land Warfare of 1899, the Neruember Principles, which in 1953, the Department of Defense declared to be official policy.  And Justice Jackson, who's the chief . . ."  Zahn interrupts to ask if Watada's stand is "justified."  Castell replies, "He is one of the few examples of moral courage that we have in the midst of plenty of individuals who show physical courage to go to Iraq and sacrifice for their country.  But what we need right now are moral leaders.  And Lieutenant Watada is an example of the kind of leadership that reminds us of our better nature and the aspirations of the United States Constitution." 
Jose Vasquez notes Joshua was at his friend Ricky Clousing's side when Ricky turned himself in August 2006.  In addition to speaking up for others who took brave stands, Joshua Casteel also inspired many people like  Logan Mehl-Laituri, the author of the new book   Reborn on the Fourth of July: The Challenge of Faith, Patriotism & Conscience.  Joshua Casteel  took part in IVAW's historic Winter Soldier in March 2008 and he took part in many other truth telling events.  
Jose Vasquez points out, "Joshua believed his illness was a result of his service in Iraq where he was exposed to the toxic fumes from burn pits and had sumbitted a compensation claim with the Veterans Administration."  Veterans for Peace's Mike Wong notes, "I remember so well standing behind and to the left of Joshua and watching him as he spoke at Ricky Clousing's press conference.  He spoke the truth so clearly and without hesitation.  He accomplished so much in his short life and will be sorely missed.  Thank you, thank you for all you have given, Joshua."
Yesterday Joshua went home to meet his Heavenly father and to embrace again his earthly father.  We miss him with all of our hearts and every ounce of our beings.  We cling to the promise that we will see him again.  His body is healed and for that we rejoice. 
When we finalize plans for his memorial service and celebration of his life we will post more information.  Thank you all -- Rebekah
The Republican National Convention is underway in Tampa.  Today former US Secretary of State and former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice got a little attention today.  Mike Schneider (AP) reports CODEPINK's Medea Benjamin and other members announced they were present -- brandishing handcuffs -- to arrest Rice.  Tom Pennington (Getty Images) has a photo of CODEPINK with signs here.

Yesterday's snapshot noted War Criminal Tony Blair:
Now Tony's off to South Africa and Money Web reports a protest is planned for Johannesburg and quotes the president of the Al Jama-ah political party Ganief Hendricks stating, "The democration is being held to support a warrant of arrest to charge him for crimes against humanity relating to the invasion of Iraq which led to the killings of millions of Iraqis."  Arrest Blair For Crimes Against Peace notes his scheduled appearance in Johannesburg at the Discovery Invest Leadership Summit on Thursday and the site reminds: [. . .]
As Tony Blair prepares to speak at the Discovery Leadership Summitt in Johannesburg Thursday where the War Criminal will be pocketing a large sum of money for speaking, people prep for a protest and a possible citizen's arrest.   SAPA notes, "Attempts to arrest him have been made in China outside the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war and the European Parliament; and in Dublin, Ireland."  Whatever happens on Thursday, War Criminal Blair's impact is already being felt. 
BBC News reports, "Archbishop Desmond Tutu has pulled out of an event because he refuses to share a platform with Tony Blair.  The veteran peace campaigner said Mr Blair's support for the Iraq war was 'morally indefensible' and it would be 'inappropriate' for him to appear alongside him." Caroline Crampton (New Statesman) reports, "A spokesman for Archbishop Tutu told me that this should not be viewed as a nsap decision, saying that Tutu is 'a very prayerful man' who will have 'spent hours on his knees considering this decision'."   Free Malaysia Today quotes from the letter his office sent the ogranizers, "Ultimately, the archbishop is of the view that Mr Blair's decision to support the United States' military invasion of Iraq, on the basis of unproven allegations of the existence in Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, was morally indefensible."  His spokesperson Roger Friedman tells Reuters, "Morality and leadership are indivisible.  In this context, it would be inappropriate and untenable for the archbishop to share a platform with Mr Blair."
"Obviously Tony Blair is sorry that the Archbishop has decided to pull out now from an event that has been fixed for months and where he and the Archbishop were never actually sharing a platform.
"As far as Iraq is concerned they have always disagreed about removing Saddam by force - such disagreement is part of a healthy democracy.
"As for the morality of that decision we have recently had both the memorial of the Halabja massacre where thousands of people were murdered in one day by Saddam's use of chemical weapons; and that of the Iran-Iraq war where casualties numbered up to a million including many killed by chemical weapons.  
"So these decisions are never easy morally or politically".
I don't get into 'moral' discussions.  I don't mind discussing ethics but never with War Criminals.  You'll note that Tony Blair's office steadfastly avoided whether "these decisions" are legal or not.  For obvious reasons.

AP is calling it a "scuffle," what happened at Camp Ashraf yesterday when 20 Ashraf residents were left injured.  When the US invaded Iraq, approximately 3,400 people were at Camp Ashraf.   They were Iranian dissidents who were given asylum by Saddam Hussein decades ago.  The US government authorized the US military to negotiate with the residents.  The US military was able to get the residents to agree to disarm and they became protected persons under Geneva and under international law.

Despite that legal status and the the legal obligation on the part of the US government to protect the residents, since Barack Obama has been sworn in as US president, Nouri has ordered not one but two attacks on Camp Ashraf resulting in multiple deaths.  Let's recap.  July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observes that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."

The residents are trapped in a kind of purgatory.  Unable to leave Iraq, they're being moved to former US military base Camp Liberty.  Approximately 2,000 have been moved so far with 400 more scheduled to be moved this week.  Why can't they leave Iraq?  During Bill Clinton's administration the MEK was delcared a terrorist organization.  Ignoring a federal court order for over two years to re-examine that classification, the Obama administration has kept the MEK labeled "terrorists."  As a result of that label, countries are reluctant to take in the residents.

Matthew Russell Lee (Inner City Press) reported late yesterday:

Earlier today, after Ashrafis say they were left to wait three hours in temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, violence broke out. Photos of beaten Ashrafis, including an older man bleeding from the head, have been sent to Inner City Press.
  Inner City Press understands that the UN acknowledges that personnel of its mission, UNAMI, were present on the scene, and that some Ashrafis were hospitalized. This contradicts the claim by Gorges Bakoos, an adviser to Iraq's premier, there there was no violence, nor any injuries.
On August 28, Inner City Press went to the UN's noon briefing and asked about the incident.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq replied that the facts were "in dispute" and that the UN needed "further details."
Video here, from Minute 14:25.

Inner City Press
tweeted this response, juxtaposing it with the photo of the bleeding older man.  Subsequently the following UN response arrived by e-mail:

Subject: Answer on Camp Ashraf
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at] un.org
Date: Tue, Aug 28, 2012 at 12:42 PM
To: Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com

UNAMI's preliminary reports confirmed that yesterday, an incident between residents and Iraqi Police led to some light injuries on both sides. However the situation returned to normal. Preparations for the relocation of the next group of 400 residents to Camp Hurriya are continuing and we hope the move will soon be completed.

Turning to today's violence, All Iraq News notes 1 military officer and 1 soldier were shot dead in Baghdad while a Ramadi roadside bombing left five people injuredAl Rafidayn notes the roadside bombing was in Falluja and that eight people were left injured.  AP also notes the bombing was in Falluja with one of the wounded now dead and 4 soldiers were shot dead in Nibaie.
Today the Voice of Russia reports Iraq plans to execute "over 250 people" tomorrow.  This comes after a series of executions which took place yesterday.   All Iraq News notes that the Ministry of Justice has announced the completion of 21 death sentences with three of those being women.  Alsumaria speaks with a spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice, Haidar al-Saadi, who explains all the executions were carried out under Article IV of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2005 and with the approval of the presidency.  Xinua also notes the Ministry of Justice stating "the death sentences were carried out after the Iraqi Presidency Council approved the penalty verdicts for all those 21 convicts."

Presidency Council.  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani refuses to sign off because he's 'opposed' to the death penalty.   So he lets the vice presidents sign off.  With Tareq al-Hashemi now residing in Tukrey, that just leaves Khodair al-Khozaei.  If Talabani were truly opposed, he would prevent the sentences from being carried out.  He can do that.  Any member of the presidency council can veto an action.  That's in the Constitution.  Tareq al-Hashemi utilized that power in the fall of 2009 with regard to the election law when he didn't feel the refugee population was being properly represented.  So Talabani, if he were really against the executions, could use his veto power and that would be it.  Only one member of the council needs to lodge the objection.

AGI adds, "The executions were carried out on Monday, raising the death sentences carried out in Iraq since the beginning of the year to 91, including the 14 carried out on the 7th of February and the 17 on the 31st of January."  Emily Alpert (Los Angeles Times) reminds, "An earlier rash of executions in January was condemned by U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay as 'truly shocking' in light of grave concerns about due process and fairness in Iraqi trials."
Martin Kolber is the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq.  July 19th, he testfied to the UN Security Council on the status of Iraq and his comments included the following:
Mr. President, Iraq retains the death penalty for a large number of crimes.  I therefore reiterate the call by the Secretary-General [Ban Ki-moon] and the High Commissioner of Human Rights for the government of Iraq to establish a moratorium on all executions with a view to their abolition.  I welcome that the authorities of the Kurdistan Region continue to implement a moratorium on carrying out executions which has been in place since 2007. 
Today Parliament returned for the first session since the month of Ramadan.   Alsumaria reports that 222 MPs plus Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi attended the session.  (There are 325 members of Parliament.)  Raman Brosk (AKnews) reports 225 MPs attended the session.   All Iraq News notes that various bills were read out loud.  All Iraq News also notes the belief on the part of MPs that the long bickered over amnesty bill will be addressed on Monday.  The delay has gone on for so long that a prison in Mosul has prisoners on a hunger strike protesting the delay in passing an amnesty law.
Alsumaria notes one thing the MPs supposedly agreed upon today was to amend the provinical elections law.  Provincial elections are supposed to take place March 2013.  Earlier Nouri targeted Faraj al-Haidari and another member of the Indendent High Electoral Commission, having them arrested. 
 It's not as if Iraq wasn't already in the midst of ongoing political crisis. Now Nouri al-Maliki's really bringing things to a boiling point. Mohamad Ali Harissi (AFP) reports, "Key political factions accused the premier of moving towards a dictatorship with the arrest of Iraq's electoral commission chief, a charge the prime minister denied on Saturday." As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Tuesday found the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy Martin Kobler praising the Independent High Electoral Commission and discussing how important it was to the upcoming provincial elections next year and then the parliamentary elections scheduled for the year after. So news that Nouri's had two members of that commission arrested on Thursday, as reported in real time by Raheem Salman (ioL news), was startling and alarming. The two arrested Karim al-Tamimi and the head of the commission Faraj al-Haidari.
Al Mada reports
that Moqtada al-Sadr declared on Saturday that the arrests were indications that Nouri al-Maliki might be attempting to delay the elections or call them off all together. He makes it clear that the the arrest needs to be based on eveidence and not on some whim of Nouri's and that it shouldn't be done because Nouri desires to "postpone or call of the election." Al Rafidayn explains Nouri al-Maliki released a statement today decrying those who doubted the arrests were sound. The Baghdad court that Nouri controls made no attempt to even pretend to be impartial or about justice. This system is a nightmare and needs to be called out. It's very distressing that the Western press has refused to do so. The Supreme Judicial Council announced yesterday that Faraj al-Haidari had used UNHCR money to purchase plots of land and that he will face a seven year prison term for those actions.
AFP informs that al-Haidari and two members -- Karim al-Tamimi and Osama al-Ani -- "were found guilty of graft" they each received a "suspended one-year prison" term. 
The news outlet observes, "There is bad blood between Haidari, a Shiite Kurd, and
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law list over the aftermath of 2010
parliamentary elections, in which the premier's list came in second to the
mainly Sunni-backed Iraqiya list of Iyad Allawi."  Nouri and his kanagroo court.
Dropping back to yesterday's snapshot:
From equal playing fields to unequal ones,  Ayad al-Tamimi (Al Mada) reports the city of Kadhimiya is moving to prevent any woman from entering the city unless she is covered by a veil and that a group known as the morality police are following men and women in the city who were the hair 'differently' and that they stop women without veils and force them to put on veils -- they also force women wearing make up to remove it.  Force?  At least one woman has been beaten by the 'morality police.'  Raman Brosk (AKnews) notes that despite local press insisting this new law on the veil was passed by both the local government and the Baghdad Provincial Council, the provinice is stating, via the head of their legal committee Subbar al-Saadi, "Baghdad Provincial Council did not issue such a resolution.  A decision was issued to wear a head scarf or abaya inside the holy courtyard in the religious shrines in Kadhimiya, Najaf, Karbala or Samurra."  
Today, Al Mada reports that banners have gone up around Kadhimiya praising the annonced decision that women not wearing veils will not be allowed to enter the city.  The newspaper points out this refutes the claims made by the Baghdad Provincial Counil that this applied only to the area inside the courtyard. 
In the US,  the presidential election is underway and there are two campaigns made up of four women, two presidential tickets. The four: Jill Stein has the Green Party's presidential nomination and her running mate is Cheri Honkala and Roseanne Barr has the nomination of the Peace and Freedom Party and her running mate is Cindy Sheehan. Click here to sign a petition calling on Ms. magazine and Women's Media Center to cover her campaign and the other female candidate for president Roseanne Barr's campaignOver 250 people have signed onto the petition so far.  Some sign and leave comments and we noted some of the comments in Sunday's "Women Win When Women Run: The conversation Roseanne and Jill are inspiring" at Third -- and "women win when women run" is a theme that repeats in the comments with several people signing noting that theme or expanding on it.
As corporate lobbyists wine and dine the Republican and Democratic national committees in Tampa and Charlotte, Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala are beating at their doors.
Right now, Cheri is in the streets of Tampa with the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign and the tent city at Romneyville. Next week, Jill will arrive in Charlotte. And soon, with your help, we'll all be beating the drums of social progress together, as we launch our first major media campaign!
That's right. We may be coming to a cable channel near you. We've hired one of the most famous political advertising firms in the country. We've cut the ads. And the only question is how many millions of voters will see these ads.
We have until Thursday, September 6th, to raise at least $80,000. If we succeed in doing that, our ads will run in college town media markets from the Pacific to the Mississippi to the Atlantic. If we raise $120,000, we'll have viewership in medium sized cities of population 500,000 to 2 million. And if you help us raise $200,000, we'll be on in at least a couple major metropolitan areas.
The more money we raise, the higher chance that YOUR community will see one of these ads (you can see sneak preview pics from the shooting of these ads at right).
The timing is vital. The primary season ends on Thursday September 6th. This means that you only have until September 6th to get your contributions matched, dollar for dollar, up to $250, with federal matching funds. And this means that you only have until September 6th to donate the maximum allowable contribution of $2500.
Time is running short for another reason. We have to buy these ads now, well ahead of September 6th, so that these ads actually run in the primary season. Federal law requires that our matching funds monies be used in the primaries, by September 6th, and this means that we must reserve our cable and TV ad times right now.
See the graph below to get a sense of how many college town, medium city, and major metro media markets we can reach at each level of fundraising. And please donate right now: http://www.JillStein.org/donate
Ani Esmailian:  Roseanne Barr announces she's running for president.   Hey, everybody, this is Ani Esmailian for HollyScoop, Roseanne Barr, the same woman who wore a t-shirt with a giant chicken on it for nine years during her syndicated sitcom is officially running for president of the United States, for the Green Party, that is.  And this isn't a joke.  She actually registered with the Federal Election Committee late in January to run for the Green Party.  On Twitter, Roseanne lists some of the issues she plans to tackle forgiving student loans, kicking out the federal reserve, instituting single-payer health care, going after financial terrorists, reconfiguring American diets and fighting for gay rights.  Oh, and she also wants to legalize marijuanna.  A lot of you readers just got real political after that one.
Maybe.  But, Ani, Roseann's not running on the Green Party ticket.  Jill Stein's running on the Green Party ticket.  And, Ani, She's The Sheriff, starring Suzanne Somers, is an example of a syndicated sitcom -- a sitcom filmed for airing episodes for the first time in syndication.  Roseanne ran for 9 years on network television -- ABC, in fact -- and, like nearly every sitcom, it went into syndication with repeats of already aired episodes.