Sunday, October 01, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

Darrell Anderson returned to the United States Saturday. From Jim Warren's "Army deserter returns to U.S., Kentucky home" (Lexington Herald-Leader):

Chicago lawyer Jim Fennerty, who is representing Anderson, told reporters in Canada yesterday that an officer at Fort Knox told him by phone last week that the Army has decided not to court-martial Anderson, and plans to release him within three to five days. Fennerty said the officer told him that a discharge would be mailed to Anderson within a few days after that.
Fort Knox public affairs officer Connie Schaffery said yesterday that officers had been in touch with Anderson, his lawyer and his family to "explain the process." Schaffery said she "cannot speak about what's going to happen when he gets here until he gets here."
Fennerty said the statement came from a major in charge of a special "control unit" at Fort Knox that handles the cases of AWOL soldiers. Fennerty said the information was given to him "orally" and that he had nothing on paper to confirm it.
"That's what I was told," Fennerty said. "Hopefully, this will be honored when he gets there."

Darrell Anderson served a tour of duty in Iraq where he was injured by a roadside bomb for which he was awarded a Purple Heart. Facing a second deployment, he elected to self-check out of the military and go to Canada in January 2005. Tuesday, he reports to Fort Knox to turn himself in.

Turning from news of war resistance to life on the ground in Iraq, Mia notes Ron Jacobs' review of Patrick Cockburn's new book (The Occupation). From Jacobs' "Iraq According to Cockburn" (CounterPunch):

Many have speculated as to whether the disintegration of Iraq along sectarian lines was part of Washington's intention all along. After all, isn't that what happened in Yugoslavia, thanks to US covert aid to the Bosnians and Croats, the Dayton Accords, and the 1999 bombardment of Serbia and Kosovo? Indeed, wasn't the disintegration of the Soviet Union a primary goal of the Cold War? Whether Iraq's division was a US goal or not, anybody that still believes Bush and Co. invaded Iraq to install democracy is a fool, since every Iraqi effort of that sort has been thwarted, primarily by Washington itself. There is little freedom of the press, little Iraqi control of anything in the country, and no sense of a peaceful future. Hell, even majority rule is denied the men and (few) women elected by those that voted. Cockburn does not provide much analysis as to why this is so in his book, but the situation he describes is a graphic portrait of a nation heading to its end as a physical unit. The facts speak well enough to the tragic situation and remove much of the need for analysis. So that's what Mr. Cockburn provides in a readable and eloquent manner: the facts.
As far as I'm concerned, the primary drawback to this book is the author's occasional equating the resistance's violence and motives to that of the occupiers. While the results of Salafist cells' car bombs are as repugnant and murderous as the results of a US Marine assault on a mosque or neighborhood in Fallujah or Baghdad, there is a difference in that the former would likely not have happened if the US had not invaded and occupied Iraq. This is not to say that the jihadists' are right in their murderous attacks, but merely to point out the cause and effect of the US/UK actions. It is, suggests Cockburn, a cause and effect that the occupiers either fail to see or just refuse to see. But then, since Cockburn's primary job as a reporter is to observe the events, comprehend them, and report them to his readers, that is what he does. Matter of fact, not only is that what he does, he excels at it. For that reason, this book deserves wide circulation, no matter what one thinks of the situation in Iraq.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.

-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, the American military fatality count in Iraq stood at 2702. Right now? 2715. Now remember that yesterday was the last day in September and the military has a tendency to sit on a figure or two and announce it after the press has reported the monthly tally. With that cautionary note underscored, at least 73 US troops died in Iraq during the month of September. If that figure holds, only April of this year saw more fatalilties (76).

The big news is how "little" violence there was in Baghdad on Saturday. When you put an entire city under house arrest -- banning car and foot traffic -- you can manage that -- for a day. It won't work long term (it will only increase anger and tensions) and how successful it would be if implemented again is even questionable because it was a new tactic (not a new plan, just more strategy of the failed plan) and next time it won't come from out of nowhere. It's lost its surprise value. Violence continued outside of Baghdad on Saturday. Reuters notes "a translator for U.S. troops" was killed "south of Hilla"; eight corpses were discovered in Baquba; two people died in Tal Afar from a car bomb; ten were wounded in Kirkuk from a car bomb; and, in Iskandariya, one person was killed and four left wounded from a roadside bomb. This as KUNA reports an assassination attempt on the governor of Basra that wounded three of his bodyguards but apparently did not harm Mohammad Musbeh al-Waeli who stated, "I accuse Basra's criminal department of conducting the attempt and call Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki to begin an immediate investigation". AFP reports two US troops were killed in Al-Anbar Province on Saturday and Reuters reports the shooting death of "the mayor of Saluaim Pek . . . as he had breakfast in a restaurant in Tuz Khurmatu".

And on Sunday, as the house arrest ended in Baghdad, Reuters reports that fifty corpses were discovered around the city. AFP reports that, Sunday in Baghdad, 26 people were kidnapped "from a food plant"; that the Diyla province saw the shooting deaths of a family of five ("three children") who had been traveling in their car; and that bombing claimed the lives of two and left sixteen wounded. Additional violence wounded two British soldiers in southern Iraq. Reuters reports "Safaa al-Obaidi, the director of the main teaching hospital in the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf, was shot dead by gunmen outside his house"; that the US military isn't commenting on the shooting deaths of three people in a "car close to a U.S. patrol" (shot by US troops); a car bomb in Falluja killed four and left six injured; violence in Mosul included two dead from roadside bombs, the shooting death of a police officer and seven people wounded by mortar rounds; outside of Baghdad, at least eleven corpses were discovered. Added with the corpses discovered in Baghdad and 61 corpses were reported on Sunday in Iraq.

All of this as Rumsfeld puts on drag to be Jennifer Holliday and sing, "And I am telling you, I'm not going . . ." AP reports that: "Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, coming under renewed fire for his management of the Iraq war, said Sunday he is not considering resigning and said the president had called him personally in recent days to express his continued support." The incompetence starts from the top.

A point underscored by Marcia's highlight, Ann Wright's "Bush Appointees Browbeat Senior Military Officers on Geneva Conventions" (Truthout):

As a retired US Army Reserve colonel, I am aghast at the blatant browbeating by civilian political appointees of the Bush administration of another generation of senior US military officers. In late 2002 and 2003, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld began the browbeating. He forced US Central Command commander General Tommy Franks into accepting a war plan for Iraq that Franks knew had too few military personnel for the job ahead - the invasion and occupation of Iraq. After he retired, Franks said he was worn down by Rumsfeld's never-ending complaints about too many military troops in the general's operations plan. Franks eventually decided to invade and occupy with the minimal forces that Rumsfeld demanded. We know the result: not enough troops to protect the civilian population or the civilian infrastructure (water, sewage, electrical plants); not enough troops to prevent looting; not enough troops to seal the borders from those coming in from other countries; not enough troops to fulfill the responsibilities of an occupying force as required by international law; not enough troops to protect the troops.
Now, William Haynes, the chief civilian lawyer of the Department of Defense, one of the administration's architects of torture and nominated to a life-long judgeship on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, has browbeaten the four military services' senior military lawyers, the Judge Advocate Generals (all two star officers), into signing a "do not object" letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee. The letter says that the senior military lawyers do not object to two key provisions of the Bush bill that would reinterpret US obligations under the Geneva Conventions and also would protect US intelligence agents from war crimes prosecutions. Previously the military lawyers had publicly questioned, in Congressional hearings in both the Senate and House, the reinterpreting of the Geneva Conventions. The "do not object" letter was written when, after hours of browbeating by William Haynes, the two star officers refused to sign a "letter of endorsement" of the Bush plan, but instead signed the lesser of the two options, the "do not object" statement.
According to the Washington Post (September 15, 2006), the Air Force's top lawyer, Major General Charles J. Dunlap, said that he was not forced to sign the "do not object" letter, but still had reservations about the administration's proposal, just not in the areas discussed in the letter. But, late on September 15, the Army's Judge Advocate General, Major General Scott Black, sent another letter to Senator McCain reinforcing the earlier stand of the lawyers, stating "further redefinition" of the Geneva Conventions "is unnecessary and could be seen as a weakening of our treaty obligations, rather than a reinforcement of the standards of treatment." The senior lawyers have made a noble and professional end-run around the browbeating!
Remarkably, at long last, Bush family friend, former secretary of state, and 35-year military veteran Colin Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, finally broke his silence and acknowledged a bit of conscience regarding the effects of Bush administration's policies that he was a part of. In a letter to McCain, he said that reinterpreting the Geneva Conventions would encourage other countries to "doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism." No doubt Powell's goose is cooked with the Bush family.
The Bush administration's browbeating of senior military officers is over two key provisions of the bill concerning rules governing military commissions that will put terrorism suspects on trial.

This all comes at a time (the torture-good passed both houses last week) where the American people have turned against the war and aren't that wild about the Bully Boy. Can you tell that? Lloyd notes Stacy Bannerman's "Integrity, Moral Authority, and Some Inconvenient Truths" (Truthout):

At last tally, about 63% of Americans said they don't support the war in Iraq, but are nonetheless (a) pathetically condoning it by refusing to engage democracy, failing to vote, to protest, and to mobilize. I spoke with one of them this summer, when I spent six weeks in Washington, DC, meeting with congressmen and senators, and conducting Operation House Call, a project of Military Families Speak Out. One day, when the heat index soared to 110 degrees, hot enough to melt the tar between the steps in front of the Russell Senate Building, a family passed by our vigil of empty combat boots. The distraught mother of two talked about how upset she was about the war, and asked why more people weren't doing something.
When I asked her what she was doing, she replied, "Me? Nothing. I've got responsibilities. I'm on vacation."
You do your children no favors by taking them on a tour of the political house of horror that Capitol Hill has become while being an absentee citizen yourself.
If we really cared about children, if we were truly a nation immersed in family values, we would recognize that when we consent to torture, we create a standard of legalized brutality that flies in the face of everything we've ever told our kids about who we are, and who they should become. We would know that when we tacitly agree to keep sending soldiers to fight in a war we don't support - an unnecessary, illegal, and immoral war, according to the overwhelming, condemning evidence - then we, too, are culpable, and damned.
We have hawked our moral compass for the illusion of Homeland Security. We have become a nation that easily excuses violations of law, democracy, and morality, invoking the free pass that we purchased with World War II, and guaranteed with the Marshall Plan and the Good Neighbor policy. For decades, though, we've made payments drawn from the account of power and privilege.
With the profligate spending of the politically insolvent Bush administration, and the war in Iraq, this nation is on the verge of moral bankruptcy. And now Congress is moving to ratify the revisions to Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, along with the Wiretapping bill. This would change the War Crimes Act of 1996 to provide retroactive immunity from prosecution for wrongdoing, thereby giving President Bush and his administration a personal "get out of jail free" card.
We have no moral basis whatsoever to congratulate ourselves for what we're doing to win the unwinnable war on terror. Of course the world is "beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism." The only question is: Why aren't we?,

When reality breaks through, spin comes running. Micah's highlight reminds us that Operation Happy Talks always gears up in response to reality. Warning us of what's to come, Mike Whintey with "The Breaking Point" (CounterPunch):

It was another bad week in Iraq. While bodies were piling up in the Baghdad morgue and the militia fighting steadily intensified, the Bush administration was hit with a rash of PR scandals that are bound to erode public support for the war. The worst of these is the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) which was leaked to the New York Times and which stated that "the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the 9-11 attacks."
The NIE carries great weight because it represents the unanimous judgment of all 16 of the American intelligence agencies. The document's findings cast doubt on the central tenet of the war on terror, that is, that terror originates from a radical ideology (Islamo-fascism) which fosters an irrational hatred for modernity, western-style democracy, and personal freedom. The NIE proves that the Bush-Blair theory of terror is hopelessly flawed and that violent jihad is actually fueled by occupation and injustice. Terrorism is a reaction to foreign policy. It has nothing to do with "hating our freedoms". The NIE confirms this simple truism.
The long-term effects of the report are impossible to calculate. The Bush agenda is predicated on the "Big Lie", that we are under attack and that "We must fight them there, if we don't want to fight them here."The administration has manipulated the "perception of a threat" to justify its endless "preemptive" wars, curtailed civil liberties and enhanced powers of the executive. The NIE shows that the war on terror is a sham that only generates more violent extremism.
The administration will now have to counter the report's conclusions if it wants to revive support for the war on terror and continue its ongoing consolidation of power. We should anticipate another Karl Rove public relations campaign to reengage the public and perpetuate the global onslaught.

Pru gets the last highlight. Abour War Hawk Down Tony Blair, "An unrepentant Blair says the party's not for turning" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

In his final conference speech as Labour Party leader, Tony Blair passed a poisoned chalice to Gordon Brown - pledging that Britain will remain "America's strongest ally".
There was not a word of remorse over the war on Iraq nor any hint of apology for the lies Blair told to justify that war.
He even denied claims that the invasion of Iraq had been planned prior to the 9/11 attacks.
In fact within hours of those attacks, US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld had handed George Bush the invasion plans, which had been prepared well in advance.
Blair's speech promised us a continuing "war against terrorism" that would be "a struggle that would last a generation or more" - with no retreat from the occupations of Afghanistan or Iraq.
Criticising those demanding the withdrawal of British troops, he claimed, "We would not be safer. We would be putting our security in desperate peril."
In truth Blair's policies have made this country a prime target - and placed the security of millions of Iraqis and Afghanis in "desperate peril".
Between now and the day he quits Downing Street, Blair pledged that he would be "dedicating himself to advancing peace between Israel and Palestine".
This comes from a prime minister who refused to ­condemn Israel when it rained down bombs on Lebanon, and who refused to call for an end to its murderous assault on that country.
Blair's sign-off message was that Labour needs to go even further down the modernisers road.
On a day when delegates had voted to defend and extend council housing, he expressed his regret that Labour had not taken the lead in selling off council homes in the 1980s.
Looking further back he argued that Harold Wilson's Labour government of the late 1960s should have done more to face down the trade unions.
Along with defending introducing identity cards he promised a "radical" energy policy that would include building a new generation of nuclear power stations.
In the week that workers struck against the privatisation of NHS Logistics, which supplies hospitals across England, we were assured that the NHS was being "rebuilt, not privatised".
He went on to promise "radical" welfare reform. That included forcing single parents and those on invalidity and disability benefit back to work.
The fact that he was applauded so loudly and for so long by all his cabinet colleagues shows how we will need to continue the fight against his legacy.
The following should be read alongside this article:

» Labour Party conference delegates vote for council housing - for third time
Labour Party conference: bursts of anger, but much silence
Labour leadership move to block delegates’ democracy
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