Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, September 26, 2006.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, War Hawk Tony Blair flutters his wing as he prepares his long descent into oscurity, a war resister learns religion's talked big in the US but the talk's not backed up (which shouldn't be a surprise to anyone as Bully Boy's own church calls for withdrawal and he ignored the call), Bully Boy says "Read my briefs" and only Peggy Noons and Chris Matthews tremble with desire, Ehren Watada's father prepares for a second speaking tour to raise awareness on his son (begins in October)
Starting in Washington, DC.  As Walter Pincus (Washington Post) reported, John D. Negroponte, Director of National Intelligence and Latin America "fun" boy, declared in a speech Monday night: Yes, the war in Iraq is fueling "a new generation of jihadist leaders and operatives" but SFW.  Negroponte is under the impression that 'terrorism' can be defeated and that will send a message.  To whom?  Dead Iraqis caught in the crossfire?  If so, his 80s role in Honduras should have been seriously explored (it wasn't).  Negroponte seems to believe that Iraq will be the horse's head left in the bed to send a message.  Such a belief demonstrates either an eagerness to lie or no political concept of the roots of terrorism.
It's as delusional and disingenuous as Bully Boy's 'Read my briefs.'  Skipping past the skid marks, of course.  AP reports that Bully Boy's decided to release the NIE, saying, "You read it for yourself."  The April NIE, composed by US intel agencies, found that the Iraq war (as Negroponte noted in last night's speech) was fueling terrorism.  (See yesterday's snapshot.)  But Americans can't read it for themselves because this assessment will not be available in full.  Instead, Bully Boy seems to see the assessment as flatware and himself as Harpo Marx in Animal Crackers -- shake him and bit will drop out with each shake.  Bully Boy wants to make his point by . . . selectively releasing portions of the report.  Maybe Pat Roberts taught him that trick?  (AFP cites an unnamed source who states the report argues against withdrawal from Iraq.  No doubt that will be among the bits and pieces served up to the people.)
Bully Boy calls the talk to the press of the report "political" (so far so good) and then goes on to insist it's done to influence the November elections.  Which either means he feels the need to wrap a lie around the few bits of truth he can manage or else Dick Cheney didn't explain it to him in full Sunday.  As Dan Froomking (Washington Post) notes: "President Bush's all-important terror-fighting credentials are taking a bruising this week."
In England, Tony Blair also takes a beating as he prepares phase one of his farewell tour meant to polish his image.  Even with Helene Mulhooland (The Guardian) providing the biggest waxing on (she speaks to Labour delegates to get their thoughts -- and low and behold, they all sing Tones' praises) her paper's done for anyone other than Joe Lieberman, the polish isn't taking.  As Steve McGookin (Financial Times via Forbes) notes, the rocky relationship between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair is public and can't be papered over.  And all the gossip over whether or not Cherie Booth (Tony Blair's wife) accused a TV-screen displayed Gordon Brown of lying can't paper over the news that Ahmad al-Matairi, as reported by the BBC, is stating that in 2003 he was beaten in Basra by British troop with "insult kicks" delivered with such relish it was "like it was Christmas" for British soldiers.  The BBC reports that, prior to the beating, al-Matairi had been a big supporter of the invasion, that British troops stole money from his safe, and that he is among nine Iraqis telling of hoodings and beatings.  This is the case in which Donald Payne has already pleaded guilty to war crimes -- the other six defendents maintain their innocence.
How badly are things going for the dwindling coalition?  The US military's most recent press release exclaims "Iraq's president says country's forces ready, willing to help secure Baghdad."  The exclamation point is, obviously implied.  Dated today and gushing over remarks made by Jalal Talabani on Sunday, not a ray of realism will penetrate this wave of Operation Happy Talk.  Were it to, a ray of realism might note that the so-called 'crackdown' started in June (14th or 15th depending upon your time zone and your reporting) and that the calander shows the current month to be September.  A ray of realism might wonder why, only three months later, the president of Iraq is claiming now-readyness?  But no time for thought, the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk got lost in the NIE talk and the Happy Talkers are ready to try it out one more time.
Especially in light of their buried news, the death of two more US soldiers, in Baghdad, today. Look for Sabrina Tavernise to turn in a forty-paragraph report to the New York Times tomorrow that notes the deaths in the final paragraph with two sentences.  Their deaths bring the total American military deaths to 2705.
And in other violence in Iraq.
Reuters notes that two Iraqi police officers are dead and American troops wounded from a car bomb in Jurf al-Sakhar; one police officer dead from a car bomb in Kirkuk; five dead from a roadside bomb in Mahmudiya; in Kirkuk a car bomb took the life of one person; a roadside bomb in Latifiya killed one employee of Iraq's Finance Ministry and left five wounded; and mortar rounds resulted in the death of a child and five people wounded in Mahmudiya.  CNN notes the Community Party was the target of a car bombing in Baghdad and four people were killed (at least 18 were wounded). Also in Baghdad, Reuters notes three dead, 21 wounded from "a car bomb and a roadside bomb exploded in quick succession"; and four police officers wounded by "[a] bomb attached to a booby-trapped body".  On the first incident noted by Reuters, AFP reports it differently and cites "the prime minister's office" as the source -- according to them, the police station was destroyed by "mortars and a car bomb" and "killed three officers and wounded several more, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said in a statement, which described the attack as having taken place in the previous 24 hours."  AFP also notes "in Diyalah province, a roadside bomb blew up an ambulance rushing to the hospital killing the driver and the medic inside on the way to the provincial capital of Baquba."
Peter Graff (Reuters) reports that three people were killed in an attack in southern Baghdad.  CNN notes: "Gunmen also attacked the convoy of a Baghdad district mayor traveling from the capital to Diyala, killing three bodyguards." Reuters reports four people were shot dead in Baquba,
CNN notes that two corpses were discovered in Baghdad -- "raising the number of bodies recovered in the capital since Sunday to 62."  Reuters raises the total corpses discovered in Baghdad today to five and notes that fifteen were discovered in Baghdad on Monday while, in Diwaniya and Baiji a corpse was discovered in each (the corpse of an Iraqi soldier and an unidentified corpse) and in Mahmudiya, twelve corpses were discovered..Of the soldier discovered in Diwaniyah, AFP notes that "A week earlier two other members of his unit were also found dead "  Finally, AP raises the total corpses found in Baghdad to thirteen.
In peace news, Agustin Aguayo self-checked out of the US military on September 2nd.  KPFA reports that he is planning to turn himself in today.  Courage to Resist, sent out an e-mail alert on Aguayo (noted here) at the start of the month. Mima Mohammed (Los Angelse Times) report, based on an interview with his wife Helga Aguayo, remains the definitive press coverage.  (For those not registered at LAT, click here.)  Those wishing to see video footage of Agustin Aguayo explaining his case can click here for his official site. Aguayo explains in his own words (text here)  Aguayo was largely a non-public war resister due to the fact that he attempted (for years) to go through channels.  His C.O. status was denied and he wasn't given a chance for appeal.  While serving in Iraq, due to his religious beliefs (the grounds for his C.O. application), he refused to load his gun.  In 2005, he and his wife switched the battle to the US civil courts.  Aguayo self-checked out when his unit, then in Germany, was preparing for redeployment to Iraq.  Kevin Dougherty (Stars and Stripes) reports that Aguayo singed up after repeated conversations with a California military recruiter convinced him he convinced that "a health care specialist" could serve the country (US) and the military, that it was only once Aguayo deployed to Iraq that he began to rethink his decision. 
For nearly three years now, Aguayo has stood by that decision.  Rejecting the idea that he could sign up (under a repeated snow job from a recruiter) and, once in Iraq, realize the mistake of his decision rejects the basic principle of many popular faiths practiced in America which are based upon the idea of awakening.  If the military or the civilian courts are going to argue that one's religious status is a fixed state, they're going to be going against the teachings of a great many churches within the US.  Aguayo's case can be summed up as someone coming from a religious environment, confronted with a real world reality that is not the one sold to him, deciding to respond to it with the teachings he was raised on.  This really is a freedom of religion case and many religious parents in the US would reject the notion, should their children offer it to them, that once they realized that a party (or an event) contained actions that they were raised to object to, they (the children) had to shut up and go along because they'd already agreed to attend the event. 
Let's use a broad example so that we can cover as many US religions as possible.  If Aguayo went to a party and the party turned out to be an orgy, his parents wouldn't accept the excuse that he had to participate because he'd agreed to attend.  It would be acknowledged that attending was a mistake but, once seeing with his own eyes what was going on, they'd expect him to observe the religious teachings he'd been brought up with. 
Aguayo went to an environment expecting one thing and was confronted with another.  When confronted with the reality, he processed his decision through his religious teachings.  That's really what's at the heart of his objection. (And hopefully others will make the case because I prefer not to talk of religion or make cases based upon religion here  -- there's no way to do that and discuss Aguayo's case which is why religion is being addressed here now).
Most religions praciticed in the US, depend upon the concept of testing.  It's there in the narratives, it's in the teachings.  Certainly, those believing in a literal rapture, believe that Christ/Lord/God/Jesus/Jehovah* will test followers and their salvation will be based upon how they respond to that test.  The claim that Aguayo signed up so therefore, religious objections should have prevented him from signing up, negates all the teachings on testing. 
[*The list isn't disrespectful or sarcastic.  Any visitor who feels it is would do better looking beyond his/her own religion before writing an e-mail on how offended they are by the categorization.]
Far from undermining Aguayo's arguments, his experiences actual reinforce what many US religions teach.  This is a freedom of religion issue and if the military is going to rule upon who is or who isn't a believer, someone might need to speak of them of what is considered "God's role" and what is considered "human's role."  Once the case made it into the civilian courts, a judge should have immediately grasped the central issues of the case and moved to release Aguayo from his military service. The whole point of religious teachings, regardless of the religion, are to prepare the person for handling new situations.  When Aguayo found himself in a new situation, the religious beliefs he was raised with became the principles for his actions and are the reason that he sought out additional religious instructions.  (And note, the warning signs were going off for Aguayo's during training which is when he first attempted to file for C.O. status.)
We don't talk religion here.  Too many members are of differening beliefs (including non-believers).  All opinions are respected.  There's no way to speak of what's at the heart of Aguayo's case without noting religion and belief so we've addressed it. (And that puts us one up on the military and the courts.)
Aguayo's story isn't that different from another war resister's, Hart Viges. As John M. Crisp (The Argus) reports, Viges enlisted (on September 12, 2001) eager to serve and then he spent "11 1/2 months" in Iraq.  Returning to the US, he began examining his beliefs, saw The Passion of the Christ, and came to conclusion that war was wrong. This processing, presented with a test & reaching a conclusion based upon your religious teachings, is the narrative of many religions in the US and the military may not like that, they may see it as a get-out-of-jail-free card, but the military is part of the US government and the government is supposed to allow for freedom of religion.   
Meanwhile, Bob Watada, father of Ehren Watada, is gearing up to go back out on the road in October.  Ehren Watada is the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq.  After an Article 32 hearing in August, he awaits word on what the chain of command will do with the findings (court-martial, discharge him, ignore the findings . . .).
Mon. 10/2 8:30 am KPFK Sonali Kolhatkur
3729 Cahuenga Bl. West, No. Hollywood
Contact: KPFK 818-985-2711 email: uprising@kpfk.org
Tues 10/3 7:00pm ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism)
1800 Argyle Ave. #400, Los Angeles
Contact: Carlos Alvarez, 323-464-1636, email: answerla@answerla.org
Wed. 10/4 12:00-2:30 pm Angela Oh's Korean American Experience Class
Life Sciences Bldg., RM 4127, UCLA Westwood Campus
Wed. 10/4 Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research
6120 S. Vermont Ave, Los Angeles
Contact: So Cal Library 323-759-6063
Thurs 10/5 5:00 pm World Can't Wait March & Rally
(March starts at noon at pershing S1/Bob speaks in front of Federal Bldg 300 N. Los Angeles St. at 5:00 pm.
Contact: Nicole Lee 323-462-4771 email: la@worldcantwait.org
Fri. 10/6 7:00 am  Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP)
Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 3300 Wilshire Bl., Los Angeles
Contact: Thalia 626-683-9004 email: incuip@pacbell.net
Fri 10/6 12:30  San Fernando Valley Japanese Community Center
SFV Japanese American Community Center, 12953 Branford St., Pacoima 91331
Contact: Phil Shigkuni 818-893-1851, cell: 818-357-7488, email pshig2000@yahoo.com.
Sat 10/7 2:00-4:00 pm Welcome Reception for Bob Watada
JACCC Garden Room, 244 S. San Pedro St., Los Angeles
Contact: NCRR 213-680-3484, email: ncrrla@yahoo.com.
Sun 10/8 2:00-5:00 pm Forum with Bob Watada
Nat'l Center for the Preservation of Democracy, 111 N. Central Ave., Los Angeles.
Contact Ellen Endo 213-629-2231 or Mo 323-371-4502
Sun 10/8 6:00-8:00 pm An Evening of Discussion and Learning hosted by Rev. Phyllis Tyler
11326 CherryLee Dr., El Monte (Rev. Tyler is Senior Pastor of Sage Granada Park United Methodist Church in Alhambra) Co-sponsored by NCRR and the National Japanese American United Methodist Church Caucus
Contact: NCRR 213-680-3484 email: ncrrla@yahoo.com
Mon 10/9 7:00pm Veterans for Peace (Chapter 112) and Citizens for Peaceful Resolution
E.P. Foster Library, Topping Rm. 651, E. Main St., Ventura
Contact: Michael Cervantes 805-486-2884 email: mcervant@mindspring.com
Wed 10/100 7:00-9:45 pm CSULB Asian American and Chicano & Latino Studies Classes
Dr. John Tsuchida and Dr. Juan Benitez
1250 Bellflower Bl, Long Beach
Thurs 10/12 6:00 pm Whittier Area Coalition for Peace & Justice, Mark Twain Club Potluck
($3 donations) Bob speaks at 7:00 pm.  First Friends Church of Whittier, 12305 E. Philadelphia St., Whittier
Contact: Robin McLaren 562-943-4051 email: mclaren@charter.net
Sat 10/14 morning Press Conference San Diego
Contact: Reiko Obata 858-483-6018 email: watada@san.rr.com for San Diego events.
Sat 10/14 6:00 pm Lt. Watada Dinner/Fundraiser San Diego (suggested donation: $15)
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Dieguito, 1036 Solano Drive, Solano Beach
Mon. 10/16 4:30-5:30 pm National Lawyers Guild of San Diego
Room 300, Thomas Jefferson Law School, 2120 San Diego Ave, San Diego
All of that can be found online but, WARNING, PDF format.  For those who can view PDF, click here.  Again, the speaking tour, Bob Watada's second, begins in October.
More information on Ehren Watada can be found at Courage to Resist and ThankYouLt.org.
In other peace news, Shepherd Bliss (Augusta Free Press) reviews Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace, a new collection edited by Maxine Hong Kingston.  Those who read Hong Kingston's The Fifth Book of Peace are familiar with the workshops she has been doing with veterans (it's in the section "EARTH" which begins, in text, on page 241).  Bliss, who contributed to the collection, concludes: "Veterans, and other Americans, have a lot to grieve about these days.  Doing such grief work can be instrumental to the creation of a lasting peace."

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