Friday, September 01, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Friday, September 1, 2006.  Violence and chaos continue in Iraq, the Pentagon gets into a slap-fight with Nouri al-Maliki, Reuters schills for Operation Happy Talkers, an AWOL officer who returned finds himself charged with desertion, and AFP estimates that "nearly 400" Iraqis have died in the last "five-day bloodbath".
On August 11th, Ricky Clousing was the subject of press coverage for his decision to turn himself in after self-checking out of the military following his return from Iraq in 2005.  Clousing turned himself in at Fort Lewis and, on August 18th, he was at Fort Bragg.  The Associated Press is reporting that Ricky Clousing's attorney states his client "will face a desertion charge". 
As Mark Wilkerson noted during an interview with Dennis Bernstein on KPFA's  Flashpoints yesterday, desertion is a charge that, if found guilty of, people have been executed for.  Wilkerson turned himself in yesterday after a year and half of being AWOL.  Wilkerson discussed returning from Iraq and attempting to get a c.o. status.  He was denied.  Following the denial he prepared a rebuttal contesting it and then came the news that his unit was being redeployed to Iraq.  Wilkerson was told that that his rebuttal wouldn't even be considered until he returned from his second deployment to Iraq.
As Steve Morse noted to Willie Monro (San Francisco's ABC 7), "There's increasing numbers of people who have been to Iraq more than once.  They're coming back with post traumatic stress disorder.  Some of them refuse to go back, will not go back. . .  [And, due to the intentionally difficult hurdles imposed by the military] [m]any people just give up and go AWOL."
Also interviewed by Bernstein on yesterday's  Flashpoints  was Ann Wright who was at Camp Casey III in Crawford, Texas.  Wright explained why she left the State Department in 2003 and how her decision carried no legal consequences because she was a civilian by that point.  (Wright is also a retired Army Col.)  She said that she had great respect for those who feel that the war is illegal, weigh the consequences and are still willing to take a stand.  Responding to a question from Bernstein about the verbal attacks on Americans by the administration in recent days, Wright stated: ". . . the traitors are the ones that get our country into a war of choice."  On the subject of Alberto Gonzales' morally challenged confused state over what is and isn't torture, Wright suggested that he ask people to do the acts "to him and he can figure out what torture is."
Wright, of course, was a witness at Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing, Thursday August 17th.  Ehren Watada is the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. Lt. Col. Keith's recommendation (he was the presiding officer in the Article 32 hearing) recommended court-martial and the recommendation is now working its way through the system. 
As Lisa Albers (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) notes, "Watada is not a conscientious objector, he is not against war itself" but he believes that the Iraq was is illegal and "that his participation in the Iraq war would make him party to war crimes".  Which is the point his father Bob Watada made, as Marilyn Bechtel (People's Weekly World) notes, while he was speaking in the San Francisco Bay Area: "Calling the war a violation of the U.S. Constitution as well as international law, Bob Watada said his son was acting to uphold the Constitution, including his rights to free speech."
In Nichei Bei Times, former WWII Chaplain George Aki writes: "Lt. Watada has taken a position asserting a higher loyalty than to patriotism, which right is the guarantee of our Constitution.  He deserves to do his patriotic duty but defines his loyalty to the principles which are truly the foundation of our democracy."  Mei Nakano writes (Nichi Bei Times): "If Lt. Watada succeeds in his purpose, we, the public should be better informed about the Iraq war, might be moved to protest further unprovoked preemptive strikes against a sovereign nation -- and illegality, and strive to get the U.S. out of Iraq where the wanton killing of thousands of civilians surges upward daily.  This, not to mention the 2,700 U.S. troops who have already died in the name of this debacle."
More information can be found at Courage to Resist and and Cedric (Cedric's Big Mix) is advising those calling Donald Rumsfeld (703-545-6700) or mailing him (1000 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301-1000) to say: "Hands off Ehren Watada! Let him go." Billie advises that you can use to e-mail the Pentagon. She suggests "Re: Ehren Watada" or "ATTN: DONALD RUMSFELD."
Independent journalist Sarah Olson interviewed Watada and others while covering the story and the military is making noises that she should be compelled to testify.  Olson reports (Truthout) that the Bully Boy is "making an end run around government checks and balances" to push through Divine Strike -- "a 700-ton explosive experiment" that was due to be tested in Nevada back in June but met with objection.  Now Bully Boy has his eyes on "early 2007."
Turning from mutally assured self-destruction to the slap fight involving the Pentagon and puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki, Reuters reports that the Pentagon has issued a report today stating that: "Conditions the could lead to civil war exist in Iraq."  Always one to see the glass half-full, the the third-degree burn as not a fifth-degree one, the report also states: "Nevertheless, the current violence is not a civil war, and movement toward a civil war can be prevented."  Even heavily dosed/laced with optimism, the report stands in contrast to al-Maliki's claim Sunday on CNN's Late Edition: "In Iraq, we'll never be in civil war."
This as the death toll on Thursday night's attacks in Baghdad continue to mount.  As Amit R. Paley (Washington Post) reported, the attacks began "around 6:30 p.m." and "[w]itnesses and police" report the use "of rockets, mortars and car bombs."  Edward Wong (New York Times), early on, put the death toll at 43. Reuters reported it was seven rockets and that 50 were killed.  As Friday progressed, the death toll climbed to 67 (BBC) while Rebecca Santana (AP) reports that "more than 286" were wounded.  CNN reports that "[t]he blasts destroyed six residential buildings in five neighborhoods".
The final toll probably won't be known until the rubble has been searched (and it's true that some wounded will not survive).  On the topic of the death toll, Reuters notes that the ministries (Health, Defense and Interior) "consistently provide lower figures than the numbers released by the morgue" so why, with only "partial figures" given them by the ministries, are they headlining a piece, "Violent deaths in Iraq drop in August - govt stats"?  If they "consistently provide lower figures" and if, on top of that, you've been provided with only "partial figures" why would you believe that the figure has dropped from July's 1065?  (The partial figure is 769.) 
Associated Press reports an oil pipeline near Musayyib was bombed. Reuters notes that a roadside bomb in Baghdad left three Iraqi police officers dead, while one in Kirkuk left three wounded, while mortar shells in Mahmudiya resulted in the death of "one child" and wounded three people.
Reuters reports a home invasion in Numaniya that killed the home owner (police officer).  The AP notes that, in Ramadi, a police officer was shot dead in a drive-by.
Reuters reports that three corpses were discovered in Kerbala ("blindfolded and handcuffed") and Rebecca Santana (AP) reports that, in Kut, Kamil Shateb's corpse was discovered a day after the "former intelligence officer during Saddam's regime" was kidnapped.
Finally, in the United States, Camp Democracy open September 5th on the National Mall in DC.  The day prior Greg Palast and Gael Murphy will host a fundraiser.  For details on that and the schedule of other events, click here.

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