Monday, December 04, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Monday, December 4, 2006.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, another marker is passed -- 2900 US troops dead, the US Defense Department notes (in a whisper) that someone did die last week and wasn't "missing," a US war resister finds inspiration from a relative, and Mark Danner (New York Review of Books) suggests: "Anyone wanting to answer the question of 'how we began' in Iraq has to confront the monumental fact that the United States, the most powerful country in the world, invaded Iraq with no particular and specific idea of what it was going to do there, and then must try to explain how this could have happened."
Starting with peace news: (202) 224-3121.  What is that?  The phone number to the Congressional Switchboard.  Today, as CODEPINK notes, is " National Call in Day to hold Congress accountable to the Mandate for Peace!"  The action asks that those in the United States call the number and ask  their US House Representative and their two US Senators to "bring the troops home now."
On Sunday, weighing in on Iraq's civil war,  Kofi Annan (Secretary General of the United Nations) told the BBC that conditions in Iraq are "much worse".  Edward Wong (New York Times) notes Annan joins others such as Colin Powell (former US Secretary of State) and Ayad Allawi (former prime minister of Iraq) in making that call.  Amy Goodman writes (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) that the hair splitting over whether to use the term or not has stopped "the harangues that the media are not covering the 'positive stories' or the 'good news' -- there simply is no good news in Iraq."  Goodman notes it "is definitely in a civil war.  A civil war started by the U.S. invasion and fueled by the U.S. occupation."
Meanwhile, in a step usually reserved for couples in the world of entertainment, Zalmay Khalilzad and George Casey release a joint press statement.  No, they're not dispelling rumors of a break up.  They are announcing that, "Together we will bring peace to all Iraqis and restore dignity and security to this great nation."  Well then, one-two-three-four-five-sis-seven-eight . . . Schlemeel, schlemazel, hasenfeffer incorporated.  They're going do it!
Or maybe not. 
Reuters notes a car bomber in Mosul killed himself and left five civillians wounded.
AFP reports seven people were shot dead in Baquba today -- "including four employees of the department of agriculture of the Diyala province". Reuters reports four police officers were shot dead in Mosul.  CBS and AP report two shooting deaths in Khalis.
CNN reports that a total of 84 corpses have been discovered in Baghdad alone in the last two days. Reuters reports that seven corpses were turned over to a hospital in Mosul and a corpses was found in Mahaweel.
AFP notes that almost "150 Iraqis have died over the last two days alone in sectarian and insurgent attacks."  That number doesn't include unreported deaths or corpses discovered.
So, for instance, Hidaib Mejhoul's corpse isn't in the count.  Mejhoul's body was discovered Saturday, he was kidnapped Thursday.
In addition, yesterday ICCC noted that the total number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war had reached 2900.  This follows Saturday's announcement that "One Soldier assigned to 1st Battalion, 1st Armored Division died Dec. 1 from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province." And Sunday's many announcements (from "And the war drags on . . ."): "Earlier today, the US military announces today: 'A Multi-National Corps -- Iraq Soldier died from injuries sustained when the convoy he was traveling in struck an improvised explosive device near Taji, Iraq, at approximately 8:30 a.m. Saturday' and 'Two Soldiers assigned to the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) were killed by an improvised explosive device while conducting a security patrol in the Al Anbar province of Iraq Dec 2.' Since then, they've also announced: 'Baghdad Soldier was killed during combat operations in the Iraqi capital Dec. 3."
and they've announced: 'Two Soldiers assigned to 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group and one Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 died Saturday from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province.' 
Today?  The US military announced: "Two Task Force Lightning Soldiers, assigned to 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, were killed and two others were wounded from an explosion near their vehicle that occurred while they were conducting operations in Multi-National Division -- North, Dec. 3."  They also announced one death in the emergency landing  of a helicopter on a lake in in Iraq.  CBS and AP note that the count from that crash has now risen to four marines dead (16 were reported to be onboard). CNN notes: "It was not clear if the Marine chopper went down in a lake or a river."  The US military notes only that it took place in Al-Anbar province.  Al Jazeera cites witness in Haditha who "said it came down in a lake, which was sealed off by US forces" while Reuters says it's Lake Qadisiya.
The military is maintaining the helicopter was not hit or even shot at.  On that note, Troy Gilbert was piloting the F-16 that crashed last week.  Residents who witnessed the crash stated he had died.  For some reason, the US military listed him as "missing."  On Sunday, the Defense Department released the following: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of an airman deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Maj. Troy L. Gilbert, 34, of Litchfield Park, Ariz, died Nov. 27 when his F-16C fighter crashed 20 miles northwest of Baghdad, Iraq."  He died, according to DoD, November 27th and was identified via DNA.  Which calls into the question the more than 48 hours the US military pushed that Gilbert was missing to the press while his wife (Ginger Gilbert) waited for answers.  (The couple have five children.)
2900 and counting is among the costs of the war.  Over 655,000 is another number -- estimate of the number of Iraqis killed since the start of the illegal war.  The injured, the frightened (those living in a war zone), the ones who mourn, all part of the cost of Bully Boy's illegal war of choice.  And currently, the estimated financial cost of the war is $348,000,000,000" (via the counter on Tom Hayden's website).  This comes at a time when James K. Galbraith (writing for the Guardian of London) observes: "The US economy is going soft faster than the inflation hawks and growth optimists thought. . . . The US trade deficit is near all-time records. . . .  That is partly why Economists for Peace and Security -- a group I chair -- opposed the Iraq war from the beginning. As far back as 2002, we understood - as the economically illiterate neo-imperialists did not - that a world system very favourable to America was on the line. And it was not, as they seemed to think, just a matter of military might. We knew that if the war undermined confidence in the power, good faith and common sense of the United States, that could lead toward disastrous changes on the financial front. Four years in and with no end in sight, that risk may finally be catching up to the almighty dollar."
In other financial costs, Julian Borger and David Pallister (Guardian of London) report that Iraq faces a less noted danger -- "being brought down by the wholesale smuggling of the nation's oil and other forms of corruption that together represent a 'second insurgency'".  Borger and Pallister note that the US Special Inspector General for the Iraq Reconstruction, Stuart Bowen, has "referred 25 cases of fraud to the justice department for criminal investigations, four of which have led to conviction, and about 90 more are under investigation." 
Not much 'imagination,' just a lot of crooked behaivors.  Addressing the lies and myths that led the US into an illegal war of Bully Boy's choice, Mark Danner (New York Review of Books) theorizes: "[T]he War of Imagination draped all the complications and contradictions of the history and politics of a war-torn, brutalized society in an ideologically driven vision of a perfect future.  Small wonder that its creators, faced with grim reality, have been so loathe to part with it.  Since the first thrilling night of shock and awe, reported with breathless enthusiasm by the American television networks, the Iraq war has had at least two histories, that of the war itself and that of the American percention of it."
Exploring the British media's response to the illegal war,  Dr. Piers Robinson (Great Britain's Socialist Worker) reports on a study conducted by social scientists at three universities on the pre-war and earliest days coverage -- the study "found that stories dealing with the justifications for war 'overwhelmingly reflected the official line,' with over 80 percent of stories mirroring the government position and less than 12 percent challegning it."
In the United States, Bully Boy is meeting with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim.  Guy Dinmore (Financial Times of London)  first met with Condi Rice and that the trip to DC has "fuelled the perception of an administration that is seeking a new direction in Iraq while tacitly admitting it is not winning the war."  Or maybe the US administration is just auditioning the next puppet to be installed?  The BBC notes that their correspondent, Sarah Morris, "says the meeting has attracted controversy since Mr Hakim has ties to Iran and is thought by many to have links to a militia group."
If Nouri al-Maliki, current puppet is replaced, chances are the next installed will also move only when strings are pulled.  Raed Jarrar (CounterPunch) notes that al-Maliki made the decision to seek a renewal of the United Nations Security Council's occupation mandate without consulting the Iraqi parliament beforehand or advising them of what he'd done which, if it matters, is probably a violation of the Iraqi constitution.  If it matters?  Without US backing and stroking al-Maliki wouldn't be the current puppet, he missed the Constitutional deadline for naming his cabinet (as well as the extra-Constitutional extension he gave himself).  Jarrar speaks with various members of the Iraqi parliament and Sale al-Mutlaq's comments may sum up the consensus:  "This is totally unexpected.  It is another example of the Prime Minister dismissing the views of the parliament and monopolizing all power."
(Jarrar discuseed this with Sandra Lupien on the November 29th broadcast of  The KPFA Evening News for anyone who would like audio or additional information.)
Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) report that, "Disquiet is arising all around because the present Iraqi government is losing support -- and so is the United States in its occupation of Iraq" and that al-Maliki's seen as a failure because, as one Iraqi shares, "He and other Dawa party leaders did not keep the promises made to the Sadr movement before the elections.  . . . People are complaining that this government is not paying any attention to them and their ruined city despite the huge contracts signed for reconstruction."   
Monopolizing all power includes attacking free speech which is what al-Maliki has done from early on.  He has closed TV stations, implemented rules that there will be a 30 minute delay when broadcasting live from the parliament, had a laughable (and failed) "four-part" "plan" whose third part was nothing but censorship.  Today, People's Daily Online reports that Nabil Ibrahim al-Dulaimi, a journalist, "was killed in front of his house while he was heading to work".  On Thursday, Editor & Publisher explored some of the other issues including that "Iraq's Interior Ministry . . . formed a special unit to monitor news coverage and vowed to take legal action against journalists who failed to correct stories the ministry deemed to be incorrect."  The attempts to curb the press continue.
Meanwhile, in the US, war resistor Mark Wilkerson finds inspiration and support from the past -- specifically from his great-grandfather.  Writing at his website, Red, White & Blurry: My Life As An AWOL Soldier, Wilkerson explains that his grandmother passed on a letter to him, one that his great-grandfather wrote then-US-president Calvin Coolidge when his son (John F. Hemphill) died in Nicaragua.  Wilkerson reproduces the letter as his site and notes:
"When I read this for the first time, I couldn't help but crying. Because through this letter, I can't help but feel that my great-grandfather would be proud of what I'm going through, and could relate with me on many levels. I feel that reading this somehow connected me again to a part of my family that I haven't been close to much lately, and I'm thankful for that. I also feel more now, than ever, that as a veteran, it is my obligation to speak out when I feel that an injustice is being done in our country today through this so-called War on Terrorism."
Mark Wilkerson self-checked out of the US military for approximately eighteen months before, August 31st, announcing at Camp Casey III that he would be turning himself in.  Speaking with Dennis Bernstein on KPFA's  Flashpoints  the same day, Wilkerson explain that he had applied for c.o. status but been denied and told that he could not begin the rebuttal process until after he completed his second deployment in Iraq. 
Wilkerson is part of a movement within the military of war resistance that also includes
Kyle Snyder, Ehren Watada, Joshua Key, Ivan Brobeck, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing,  Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Jeremy Hinzman, Corey Glass, Joshua Casteel, Clifford Cornell, Agustin Aguayo, Patrick Hart, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, and Kevin Benderman. Those are only some of the names of those resisting who have gone public.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, Soldier Say No!, the War Resisters Support Campaign, Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans For Peace. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.
Their actions are helping to end to the war as are the actions of others demanding an end to the illegal war.  Today on WBAI's Law and Disorder, co-host Michael Ratner spoke with Marjorie Cohn (president of the National Lawyers Guild) about the need to press Congress but also the need to do much more.  Cohn agreed and noted that the advances of the Civil Rights era weren't a gift that a generous Congress just decided to offer, they resulted from demands, protests and activism.  Mike will be addressing the broadcast later today at his site Mikey Likes It!  (The four hosts of the program are Ratner, Dalia Hashad, Heidi Boghosian and Michael Smith.) 
And finally, tomorrow on  KPFA (airwaves and online):
KPFA Special Broadcast: Robert Gates Confirmation Hearing
Tuesday, December 5th, 06:00am
Live, gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Robert Gates Secretary of Defense confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill. With Larry Bensky, Aaron Glantz and our guest experts.


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