Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Democracy Now: Dahr Jamail, Greg Palast, Gareth Peirce

US, Iraqi Forces Launch Massive Baghdad Crackdown
US and Iraqi forces have launched what is being described as the biggest security crackdown Baghdad has seen since the start of the war. Up to 75,000 troops will be deployed around the city. The troops will man increased numbers of checkpoints, launch raids, and call in air strikes.

US Military Deaths Approach 2500
The number of US military fatalities is approaching twenty-five hundred. According to the Associated Press, 2,498 members of the US military have lost their lives since the invasion of April 2003.

GOP Rep: Wife in DC At "Greater Risk" Than Iraq Civilians
Meanwhile, a Republican Congressmember is coming under criticism for making comments downplaying the dangers of life in Iraq. Speaking Monday on the House floor, Iowa Republican Steve King said: "My wife lives here with me, and I can tell you -- she's at far greater risk being a civilian in Washington, D.C. than an average civilian in Iraq."

Video Shows Marine Singing About Killing Iraqis
And finally in Iraq, the US military is facing a new scandal over the conduct of its soldiers. A video has been released showing a man who appears to be a Marine performing to applauding troops. He sings a song about killing Iraqis. The undated video comes at a time the US military is dealing with the fallout over allegations it massacred civilians in Haditha and Ishaqi. The Pentagon says it's investigating. Human rights groups condemned the video Tuesday.
  • Ibrahim Cooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations: "What's offensive in this video, once it's verified that it is a true piece, is the offensive language, the psychology, the attitudes towards Iraqi civilians that there is no regard for human life and there is no differentiation between military people and young children who have nothing to do with the war."
Police Raid Closes South Central Farm
Here in the United States, hundreds of police officers shut down the fourteen-acre South Central Farm in Los Angeles Tuesday. More than 40 protesters were arrested as they staged an encampment to resist removal from what is considered the largest urban farm in the United States. It took authorities nearly eight hours to forcibly clear the farm. Police bulldozed vegetable gardens and used bolt cutters to remove the protesters who had chained themselves to trees and picnic tables on the property. Since an eviction order last month, occupants have staged an encampment to resist removal from the land they've tended for over a decade.

AMA Opposes Medical Involvement in Prison Interrogation
Meanwhile, the American Medical Association has come out against the direct involvement of doctors in prisoner interrogation. In a policy adopted at the group's annual meeting Monday, the AMA says: "Physicians in all circumstances must never be involved in activities that are physically or mentally coercive. If physicians engage in such activities, the whole profession is tainted." The issue was raised amid concerns over the role of doctors in the treatment of detainees at the Guantanomo Bay prison and elsewhere.

The above six items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Brenda, Denise, Markus, Lyle, Carl and Pam. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for June 14, 2006

- US, Iraqi Forces Launch Massive Baghdad Crackdown
- President Bush Makes Surprise Iraq Visit
- More Than 1,000 Protest Bush in Baghdad
- Video Shows Marine Singing About Killing Iraqis
- Israeli Probe Clears Army of Gaza Bombing
- US To Launch Large-Scale Attack in Afghanistan
- Chinese Dam Opponent Reportedly Left Paralyzed in Assault
- Police Raid Closes South Central Farm
- Poll Shows Decline in Global Support for US Policies

Another Cover-Up? U.S. Troops Kill Two Iraqi Women, One of Them Pregnant, in Samarra

On May 30th, US troops shot and killed two Iraqi women -- one of whom was pregnant. Nabiha Nisaif Jassim and her cousin Saliha Mohammed Hassan were in a car going to Samarra General hospital where Nabiha was about to give birth. We speak with independent journalist Dahr Jamail about the incident and how the US military may have tried to cover it up.
AMY GOODMAN: And what is the military saying at this point?
DAHR JAMAIL: The military claims that it was a clearly-marked area. That there were then shots fired in warning, audible and visual alerts given to these people to warn them that they were in a clearly-marked area, which was prohibited and near a so-called observation post. But again, these were claims that were disputed both Redam, who was driving the car, as well as two other people who were interviewed by the human rights investigator nearby the scene, who saw the event occur. And all of them saying that this was basically false -- the U.S. military's statement was false -- that there were no signs, there was no way that anyone in Samarra could have told that this was a prohibited area.
AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to independent journalist Dahr Jamail. The reason it seems that Haditha is being taken so seriously right now, that the military has opened these investigations, is because the videotape has surfaced. That's hard to deny. Are there any photos like that or videotape of what you're describing in Samarra?
DAHR JAMAIL: Not that I know of, so far, other than there have been some photos taken just after the event occurred. But it's nothing quite as damning as what surfaced after Haditha. At least not yet.
AMY GOODMAN: Dahr, you have also written about Ramadi, talking about a repeat of Fallujah. What do you understand is happening in Ramadi right now?
DAHR JAMAIL: I've very recently spoken with the emergency coordinator for an Italian NGO that's based out of Amman, Jordan. It's called the Italian Consortium of Solidarity. And the emergency coordinator, Maurizio Mattia, has told me, along with a source I have who has been in Ramadi for the last few days, that Ramadi is basically sealed off by U.S. forces. It's not completely sealed off, because simply it's too big for them to do that. Keep in mind, that Ramadi, while it's about 400,000 residents -- not too much bigger than Fallujah -- it's about twice the size geographically of Fallujah. And it's about a 15-minute car ride from Fallujah as well. So they're very close together. But that makes Ramadi quite difficult for them to seal off completely.
So instead, U.S. soldiers have sealed -- there's an east and west bridge out of Ramadi, so that is sealed. And then they're going neighborhood by neighborhood, district by district right now, fighting, trying to clear neighborhoods, according to the U.S. military. They're using snipers very, very heavily and have been for several weeks inside of Ramadi, taking over people's homes, putting snipers either in bedrooms or on the rooftops to shoot into the city. People have been complaining about this for weeks, if not months. now. And they're using helicopters and ground troops to siege the city. The emergency coordinator told me that he estimates over 3,000 families have left Ramadi. And they've become IDP's, or internally-displaced people. And 30% of these, he estimates, went to Baghdad. Many of them have gone to Fallujah. He said the rest of the people are literally "wandering around in al-Anbar province."

The Front Lines of the Class War from 1927 to Today

Investigative journalist Greg Palast discusses the disenfranchising of black voters from the voters rolls and what he calls "other dispatches front lines of the class war." Palast is author of the book, Armed Madhouse.

Two excerpts. First excerpt from the segment:

AMY GOODMAN: Now, explain how the challenge works?
GREG PALAST: Very simple. Anyone can challenge another voter. In other words, Amy Goodman can say, "Greg Palast shouldn't vote."
AMY GOODMAN: I can at the poll and saying, "I challenge his --
GREG PALAST: You can be at the poll. There's two ways to do it. One, you give to elections officials evidence that this is a voter, who if their absentee ballot comes in, should not be counted. And you have to understand; 3.6 million votes were cast and not counted, mass challenges all over the swing states.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you know if I've challenged your vote, if you're an absentee voter?
GREG PALAST: No, and so --
AMY GOODMAN: You don't know if your vote has counted?
GREG PALAST: No, unless you're standing -- unless it's a challenge right there and you're standing there, but even -- by the way, this is the other evil -- even if you're standing there and you're challenged, in the 2004 election, three million people, if they were challenged, were not given real ballots, they were given what's called "provisional" ballots, and those provisional ballots, of the three million ballots cast, 1.1 million were never counted, 88% of those, black voters, by the way, and Hispanic voters.
AMY GOODMAN: You mean, if I was standing at the poll challenging you, then they would give you a provisional ballot, and they would decide whether they would count that ballot later.
GREG PALAST: That's right, and it went two ways. In the case of the black soldiers, what was particularly evil -- see, in the felon case, they could make some type of claim, 'Oh, we didn't know that we had a bad list; we didn't know that these were innocent people.' Like, in fact, in 2004, Bernice Kines, she was convicted of a felony. Right on their list it says -- and we had thousands of these -- "Bernice Kines, convicted on July 31, 2009." I said -- when we confront the state is -- what about, you know, I mean, this is quite a master criminal that, you know, she can commit a crime in the future. You didn't know that this was a false name? Ok. They had an excuse, though. They said, 'we didn't know, it's an error.'

Now, an excerpt from the book Armed Madhouse , pp.55-56:

It was nothing like State's three-day quickie. The neo-con's 101-page confidential document goes boldly where no invasion plan had gone before: the complete rewrite of the conquered state's "policies, laws and regulations." Here's a sample:
* Pages 8 & 21: A big income tax cut for Iraq's wealthiest and complete elimination of taxes on business revenues.
* Pages 35 & 73: The quick sale of Iraq's banks, bridges and water companies to foreign operators.
* Page 45: The application for Iraq to join the World Trade Organization, indly ghostwritten by U.S. government contractors."
* Page 28: A "market-friendly" customs law -- a kind of super-NAFTA -- aiming for a complete wipeout of tarrifs that had protected Iraq's industry from cheap foreign imports.
* Page 44: New copyright laws protecting foreign (i.e., American) software, music and drug companies.
Odd to attach to an invasion plan. It was more like a corporate takeover, except with Abrams tanks instead of junk bonds. There wasn't a whole lot of thinking going on about strengthening the borders against insurgents, disarming private armies or securing Baghdad from looters; and not a thing about elections or "democracy." Instead, there was much about securing a "market-friendly regulatory environment" and "strengthening property rights-related legislation, corporate and contract law."
The draft that came my way, in February 2003, just as our tanks were about to cross Iraq's border, has a pleasant title: "Moving the Iraqi Economy from Recovery to Sustainable Growth."
What would get "moved"? Selling off banks and bridges was just the beginning. The would-be conquistadors left nothing to chance -- or to the Iraqis. At page 74, the plan's authors required Iraq to "privatize" (i.e. sell off) "all state-owned companies." In Iraq, that's just about everything worth having.
And it would all be open to foreign ownership. That would be convenient for Anglo-American bidders. Post-invasion, Iraqis with their just-about-worthless Saddam dinars would have nothing to bid with anyway.
All this-- from the big asset sell-off to the World Trade application -- would have to take longer than the State Department's three-days-slam-bam invasion plan. According to Annex D of the plan, the schedule, economic conquest would take 270 to 360 days. Logically, that would require 270 to 360 days of American boots on the ground, a year of full-scale occupation before Iraq could be given back to the Iraqis.
And certainly, this full year of occupation would be needed for the big prize targeted on page 73:
. . . privatization, asset sales, concessions, leases and management contracts, especially those in the oil and supporting industries.
Especially the oil: complete and total sell-off of Iraq's oil assets from the pipes to the pumps to the crude in the ground.
The Plan makes it clear to me, that, even if we didn't go into Iraq for the oil, we sure as hell weren't leaving without it.

Police Forcibly Shut Down South Central L.A. Urban Farm, 40+ Protesters Arrested

Hundreds of police officers in riot gear shut down a fourteen-acre urban farm in South Central Los Angeles on Tuesday. More than 40 protesters, including actor Darryl Hannah were arrested as they staged an encampment to resist removal from what is considered the largest urban farm in the United States.

British Muslim Shot and Arrested With Brother by London Police Released After One Week Without Charge

Twelve days ago, two hundred fifty British police officers raided an East London home at 4am. Two brothers of Bangladeshi origin were arrested. Police shot one of them in chest. The men were jailed for over a week, accused of being involved in a biological terror plot. Then they were released without charge. We speak with British human rights attorney, Gareth Peirce.

Iraq snapshot.

In the United States, following the actions of the so-called Take Back America leadership to silence the activist organization CODEPINK from registering their objections to war monger Hillary Clinton, Clinton's opponent in the primary, Jonathan Tasini, has issued his own comments at The Huffington Post where he wonders: "So, the question to real progressives through the country -- and funders who enable the organizations that want to stifle debate -- is simple: how are the progressives different than Republicans and pro-war Democrats if they suppress debate about the centeral electoral issue, the Iraq war?"

Hillary Clinton, though protected, was still booed. As was George Bush Snr. in Harrogate Friday. The protests are not going away which is why the Granny Peace Brigade was back in Times Square last Saturday and why they have "announced [that] they are taking their anti-war tour to Washington."

Something that won't be taking place in Baghdad anytime soon is the Arab League conference which has been postponed again. The conference has been postponed, again, due to the instability in Iraq (that would be the continued chaos and violence). As Amy Goodman noted today, a recent Pew Research Center poll has found a decline in support for US Policies. As Al Jazeera has noted, the poll finds that the US involvement in Iraq "is the biggest threat to Middle East stability."

A feeling that was shared by the protestors that rallied against the Bully Boy when he visited Tuesday. As Sandra Lupien noted on KPFA's The Morning Show today, "some 2,000 protested" chanting slogans such as "Iraq is for Iraqis!" and calling for an end to the occupation. Today, as RTE News noted, protestors also made their presence felt at the Iranian consulate in Basra. Gulf News reports that they attacked the embassy and "set fire to a reception area of the building" as a result of a broadcast on "Iranian satellite station which they said had insulted a Shiite cleric in Iraq."

Meanwhile the photo-op sucked up a great deal of news space but few found the time to note that Bully Boy managed to grab time to lean on Nouri al-Maliki, occupation puppet, about Iran. Whether 'rebels' were discussed or not, the Turkish Press reports that al-Maliki desires "a dialogue with rebel groups." Roula Khalaf (Finanical Times of London) reports that "a national reconcilliation initiative that could include a conditional amnesty offer and negotiations with some some armed insurgent groups" is being prepared.

While al-Maliki's "crackdown" takes place in Baghdad, the usual violence occurs. Ceerwan Aziz offers an eyewitness account of one bombing for Reuters: "

The blast sent shrapnel flying in all directions as huge balls of flames moved skyward. People fled the scene screaming and crying. The charred body of a dead man sat upright, engulfed by huge flames. A teenage boy was also on fire. He managed to grab a rod extended to him, and was pulled out of the inferno. I counted four bodies, but couldn't tell if they were dead or seriously wounded.

The Associated Press also reports four dead from the car bomb in Baghdad. Reuters notes two other car bombs in Baghdad today (this during the "crackdown"), one that claimed the lives of at least two (wounded at least seven) and another that wounded at least one person. The AP notes that a man driving his car in Baghdad was shot and killed while a roadside bomb (not covered by Reuters) took the life of one "police commando." This during the "crackdown," when, as the AFP points out, over "50,000 Iraqi and US troops patrolled the streets of Baghdad".

Outside Baghdad, CNN reports that four were killed, in Baquba, during a gunfire attack on "electronic stores" and that a skirmish of some form occurred in Diyala with officials reporting five dead and three wounded. In Mosul, the AP notes a roadside bomb that wounded four police officers. In Najaf, Reuters notes that "a construction contractor . . . working for the Iraqi government" was killed by "gunmen."

Meanwhile the WRA (Women's Rights Association) is reporting "a massive increase in reported cases of sexual abuse in Iraq." The report has found, among other things, that "nearly 60 women have been raped in Baghdad since February, while another 80 were abused in other ways." Note, that is in Baghdad only. That is reported rapes only. And that is only since February.

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