Saturday, August 05, 2006

NYT: Rendering Abeer Qasim Hamza invisible again

On March 13, a group of American soldiers sitting at a checkpoint south of Baghdad were asked to look into a horrible crime: a 14-year-old Iraqi girl had been raped, then killed along with her family in their house nearby in Mahmudiya. The soldiers knew the house. They had been there only the day before, military prosecutors now say, committing the crime.
Those soldiers, along with others from their checkpoint, walked over and took detailed forensic photographs of the charred and bullet-riddled bodies, as if it were a routine investigation of an insurgent attack, according to a defense official who spoke on conditions of anonymity.
Now those photographs are likely to serve as evidence in the military's prosecution of the case, which opens a new chapter tomorrow when an Article 32 hearing, the rough equivalent of a grand jury proceeding, begins in Baghdad for five soldiers accused in the crime.

The above is from Robert F. Worth and Carolyn Marshall's "G.I. Crime Photos May Be Evidence" in this morning's New York Times (actually makes the front page). First, as they note, Anthony W. Yribe is accused of failure to report the incident, not participating in it. Those accused of participating are Steven D. Green, James P. Baker, Jesse V. Spielman, Bryan L. Howard and Paul E. Cortez ("rape, murder and arson").

Now let's address the "as if it were a routine investigation of an insurgent attack" -- that's what it was reported as. Including in the Times, in real time. Only due to the climate could this have been reported as such without questioning on the part of the media. Only after some people began talking (months later) did another investigation begin (prior to some opening up about, among other things, the blood covered clothes, the incident was an "insurgent" attack). That needs to be noted. It's not in the article. We hear how the leadership was away (one was on "environmental recupriation"), how the troops aren't being rotated from their posts as they're supposed to be and a whole lot more.

We don't hear about the 14-year-old. We don't even get her name. Abeer Qasim Hamza. That's her name. It was a struggle just to get her age reported accurately. She's gone from adult to child. Do you really think the military, by the time they arrested Green, didn't know the young girl's age?

Worth and Marshall went to a lot of trouble hunting down sources who could give them the mind frame (or alleged mind frame) of the ones involved and their company. When do we get the serious story about Abeer Qasim Hamza and her family? When is that story going to be told?

The 14-year-old had noticed and been made nervous by the way those alleged to have raped her (it seems crazy to say "alleged" to have killed -- she's dead, she was a fourteen-year-old girl, she was killed, no alleged). Her family was about to send her to another home for her own safety.

If Worth and Marshall want to chart the decay of the military company, might they take a moment to wonder what sort of leadership existed that adult males sent by the US to Iraq were able to leer at (and comment on?) a fourteen-year-old girl? So much so that she and others noticed it. Who didn't notice it? And why didn't they notice it?

This nonsense of the leadership was under pressure and one of them needed to leave his command to get his head together isn't cutting it. But as long as the story is driven by the "pressure" (rape as an outlet for pressure? murder as an outlet for pressure?), a lot of questions about leadership (and training and who gets admitted) aren't being answered.

With Green it's already been reported that he had run ins with the law. When he was under age (which I'm not interested in -- others can be, that's their business) but also right before the military took him. Green's one person alleged to have been involved. Worth and Marshall report that there are now doubts that he was the "ringleader" as the press has billed him.

So who got in and how? And what was the training? What was the supervision?

Someone's quoted (anonymous) saying "none of that would have happened if he was around -- John Goodwin ("commander of Company B"). None of what? The murders, the rape? What about the days where Abeer Qasim Hamza was the object of attention that grown men know better of? At one point, the press (I don't believe the Times did this) made a big deal out of the age (I think it was when they'd finally downgraded to 16) and how in 'that culture' the girl is a woman. Adult males raised in the United States damn well know they don't have sex with a 14-year-old. Long before they raped her, Abeer Qasim Hamza was aware of enough going on to know that they were making her uncomfortable. Her family was aware of that as well -- which is why they were attempting to send her to another home for her own protection.

Now Worth and Marshall can quote a whiner about how everyone in Iraq hates them and you don't know who your friends are or who they aren't. They can quote that until the paper it's printed on decays to dust. That's not the issue. This isn't just murder or just rape (bad enough), this is a sexual assault on a child.

Had it been consensual (which it wasn't), it would have landed them behind bars in the United States. They know that. They knew that growing up.

All the crap in the world about how everybody hates them and they act like they're your friend to your face but the whole time they're plotting against you, is just crap. It's nothing more than crap.

Abeer Qasim Hamza was fourteen-years-old and she was raped. By US adult males. Someone shooting the wrong person because they thought they were under attack -- tragic but it happens. Someone raping a fourteen-year-old girl? Pressure is offered throughout the article. The pressure they were under.

Is the insanity defense going to be used because they'd have to be at least temporarily insane to think rape was okay (one they plotted for some time allegedly). And the rape victim was a fourteen-year-old girl. That's disgusting and the fact that the paper of record can't name her, can't try to report on her story from her angle is disgusting.

Iraqis are rendered invisible day after day in the press reports. Apparently, we have time to track down anonymice who can tell us about the pressure but that pressure never will include what it was like for a fourteen-year-old girl, in her own neighborhood, to be made uncomfortable by what was obvious sexual attention from adult males supposedly their for her neighborhood's protecticion.

Apparently that story's not going to be told and the same sadness that cloaks the end of her life now cloaks the reporting of what happened.

Walkon, From Carolyn Marshall's "6 Marines Are Charged In Assault:"

According to the charge sheet, the six marines attacked the Iraqi civilian [Khalid Hamad Daham]near Patrol Base Bushido in Iraq on April 10, "striking him on the face, head and torso with a force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm." One of the marines [Lawrence G. Hutchins III] is also charged with assaults on two other men. He was accused of choking one civilian [Hassam Hamza Fayall] and placing a loaded pistol in the mouth of another [Ali Haraj Rbashby].

That has to do with the incident we noted Thursday. We'll move on to another study in what gets told and what doesn't. Paul von Zielbauer looks at the Friday events in the military hearing into the deaths of three Iraqi civilians. This is the May 9th incident in which Raymond L. Girouard, William B. Hunsaker, Corey R. Clagett and Juston R. Braber are accused of detaining the three men (including using plastic handcuffs) and then releasing them with the intent to kill them (defense lawyers and witnesses have argued that the four were told "kill them all"). von Zielbauer's article is entitled "Prosecutor Calls Accused G.I.'s War Criminals:"

A military prosecutor called four American infantrymen "war criminals" on Friday for killing three Iraqi men in a raid in May after handcuffing them, "cutting them loose, telling them to run and shooting them."

von Zeilbauer includes (next paragraph) a defense argument that the three killed Iraqis "got exactly what they deserved." He forgets to include the prosecutor's statement addressing that (AP):

"U.S. soldiers must follow the laws of war. That's what makes us better than the terrorists, what sets us apart from the thugs and the hitmen. These soldiers did just the opposite. They cut them loose and murdered them in cold blood."

He also forgets to include the fact that the four (and their 'infamous' superior) elected not to testify in the hearing to avoid self-incrimanation. Key point.

Or to offer this (Reuters):

At the military hearing into the deaths, Corporal Brandon Helton said he saw the detainees, some with their blindfolds down, fleeing at full sprint when the soldiers opened fire.

It's a curious sort of coverage in the Times today and one that doesn't even bother to recount yesterday's events (bombings, shootings, corpses or kidnappings). The events in Mosul? Forget it, the paper's not interested this morning. The problem, and it's not limited to the Times, may be that, as John McCain pointed out on the 'strategy' with the troops, the reporters are playing
whack-a-mole or their editors are. "Tavernise! We need you over here! Forget Iraq!" Though no fan of John McCain by any means, yesterday's events in Iraq (if they were reported) demonstrate the point he was making. (Again, we differ on what the point says: I say it means bring the troops home, McCain generally says it means send more troops.) Feeding more troops into the "crackdown" in Baghdad doesn't result in any real changes -- the violence continues it just may move to another area. ("May" -- the 'crackdown' has not been a success. Only a surprise to those who think more troops means more "safety" -- all it means is more tension and more violence.) I truly dislike John McCain. But his point (Thursday on the Senate Armed Forces Committee) is demonstrated in real time and the apparent response to that is for our major dailies to avoid commenting on the violence in Iraq yesterday.

To focus on the New York Times, they're more concerned with how Hillary Clinton's call for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation may mean she's seen as less a War Hawk. As though only the left would be appalled at the way the illegal war has been carried out? Jerking off over strategy? That's a trait of the War Hawks and the military pornographers (Anne Kornblut can check in with Michael R. Gordon about his fave pleasure inducing fantasies). McCain's remarks didn't get a great deal of attention on Friday. Now that the validity to them (though, again, we disagree with the conclusion to draw from it) has been demonstrated, his remarks still aren't getting a great deal of attention. Such is the sad state of the press that helped cheerlead this war and still wants to avoid addressing it.

The AP's most recent trumpets:

U.S. reinforcements sent to Baghdad to help quell sectarian violence and clamp down on other attacks took up positions in a restive neighborhood Saturday, while two bombs at a market northeast of the city wounded eight people.

And even manages to then note:

The 3,700 soldiers of the Army's 172nd Stryker Brigade moved in from the northern city of Mosul to bolster U.S. and Iraqi security forces already in the city.

But somehow forgets to note what happened in Mosul yesterday. Maybe if we just all close our eyes, it will go away? That appears to be the "thinking" in a piece that lists a few violent incidents but avoids any in Mosul.

The following community members have posted since yesterday morning:

Betty (of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man) continues substituting for Rebecca at Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills);
Mike of Mikey Likes It!;
Trina of Trina's Kitchen;
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz ;
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix;
and Wally of The Daily Jot

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Friday, August 04, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Chaos and violence continue in Iraq today, August 4, 2006 and one of the locations is only a surprise to those not paying attention to yesterday's (US) Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. There was a key section that was apparently missed by several. Mosul's one of today's hot spots so let's draw back to this exchange from yesterday's hearing:

Senator John McCain: So, General Abizaid, we're moving 7,500 troops into Baghdad, is that correct?

General John Abizaid: The number is closer to 3,500.

[. . .]

McCain: And where are these troops coming from?

Abizaid: Uh, the troops, the Styker Brigade, is coming down from Mosul.

McCain: From Mosul? Is the situation under control in Ramadi?

Abizaid: Uh, the situation in Ramadi, is better than it was two months ago.

McCain: Is the situation under control in Ramadi?

Abizaid: I think the situation in Ramadi is workable.

McCain: And the troops from Ramadi came from Falluja, isn't that correct?

Abizaid: I can't say senator, I know that --

McCain: Well that's my information. What I' worry about is we're playing a game of whack-a-mole here. We move troops from -- It flares up, we move troops there. Everybody knows we've got big problems in Ramadi and I said, "Where you gonna get the troops?" 'Well we're going to have to move them from Falluja.' Now we're going to have to move troops into Baghdad from someplace else. It's very disturbing.

A transcript of this (Congressional Quarterly) can be found at the Washington Post. For audio of the above (most), check out Leigh Ann Caldwell's report which aired on Thursday's The KPFA Evening News and Free Speech Radio News.

Mosul? That's where the 172nd Stryker Brigade (scheduled to be back home before their year deployment got four additional months added to is) was pulled from, Abizaid testified. Reuters is reporting: "Heavily armed insurgents battled U.S. and Iraqi troops in the restive northern city of Mosul on Friday where at least four policemen, including a top officer and four militants were reported killed."

That is the "strategy" (being generous) and it's the very point McCain was making yesterday. (McCain generally uses that type of observation to support adding more troops to the slaughter, I believe the troops themselves add to the conflict.) The exchange was not heavily stressed in most reporting but McCain was outlining what currently passes for "strategy" in Iraq -- a "strategy" that once again (always) blew up in the military geniuses' (and the administration's) faces.

BBC notes that the US announced last week the withdrawal of 5,000 troops "to re-deploy them in the capital, Baghdad". AP places the figure at 3,500. China's Xinhua notes that "Mosul, some 400 km north of Baghdad, has been a bastion of insurgency against U.S. and Iraqi forces since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003." Reuters reports that, in Mosul, "authorities have ordered everyone off the streets until Saturday and closed the city's bridges across the Tigris river."

AFP notes that, today, "Mosul woke to a dawn blitz of six bombs and a hail of mortars which killed at least nine police officers and triggered a six-hour gunbattle in which an unknown number of insurgents were killed." One bomb, Reuters notes, resulted in the deaths of "police Colonel Jassim Muhammad Bilal and two bodyguards". The Times of London estimates that, in Mosul alone, 24 people died today from car bombs of various kind.


AFP reports a man was shot dead in Amara. The Associated Press reports that two police officers were shot dead in Falluja and describes one of the incidents: "armed men attacked several government buildings and police patrols in central Fallujah at about 8:30 s.m. (0430 GMT), leaving a policeman dead and two others wounded".


AFP notes that a couple enroute to a hospital in Baquba for the impending birth of their child were killed by a roadside bomb (cab driver and mother-to-be's sister were wounded) and that, in Baghdad, a civilian was killed by a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol. Reuters reports that a bombing in Hadhar, during a football game, resulted in 10 dead and 12 wounded. A police officer described the attack ("suicide car bomber") to the AFP: "He drove into the police guarding the pitch, and blew up." KUNA notes of the attack on the football game: "the football field was for the use of Hadhar policemen and police department staff only."


CBS and AP notes one corpse was discovered (in the country). AFP notes the interior ministry declared twelve corpses were discovered in Baghdad. The AP notes that six corpses were found in Kut with "four of them decapitated".

In court news, prosecutor/Captain Joseph Mackey delivered his closing argument in the Article 32 hearing of Corey Clagett, William Hunsaker, Raymond Girouard and Juston Graber, who stand accused in the May 9th deaths of three Iraqis. Mackey argued that the three Iraqis were not killed while trying to escape but had, instead, been released by the four US troops and then killed by them, "For this they are not war heroes, they are war criminals. And justice states that they face trial." As Reuters notes, all four accused elected not to provide testimony to hearing (the military equivalent of a grand jury).

In Australia, the inquiry into the April 21st Baghdad death of Jake Kovco continues. Eleanor Hall and Conor Duffy discussed the latest development's on The World Today (Australia's ABC) noting that "military standing orders" were not followed with the transportation of Jake Kovco's body (contractors with Kenyon International were used instead) and that, while the Australian government alleges this was for speed, Jake Kovco's roommates say it was due "to cost and they told the inquiry that they thought that if it had been a foreign dignitary or even a more senior officer, that military aircraft and US military morgue would have been used throughout the whole procedure."

For anyone arriving late to this story and wondering why Kovco's destination back to Australia matters, Kovco's body was somehow switched and the body of Bosnian Juso Sinanovic was sent to Australia while Kovco's body remained at the motuary. AAP notes that Alastar Adams ("first secretary at the Australian Embassy in Kuwait") testified that "he had not checked the photo against the corpse of a Bosnian carpenter . . . he had taken a quick look . . . told the mortuary staff they could close the coffin and stamp it with the embassy's official seal."

The AAP also notes the following which appears to back up Kovco's roommates' judgement: ". . . air force warrant officer Chris Hunter told the inquiry he believed the body mix-up could have been prevented if the civilian morgue had not been used. He said Pte Kovco's body was transferred from a professional and clean mortuary facility in Baghdad run by US troops to a rund-down morgue remsembling 'a third world country hospital'. WO Hunter stopped eight of PTE Kovco's soldier mates, who had accompanied the boday as a bearer party, from entering the morgue, fearing they might start a riot upon noticing its condition."

In court news in the United States, the Justice Department is announcing that Faheem Mousa Salam "has pleaded guilty to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by offering to bribe an Iraqi police official" at the start of this year by offering "approximately $60,000 in exchange for . . . [help] facilitating the sale of approximately 1,000 armored vests and a sophisticated map printer for approximately $1 million." Though the Justice Department fails to note it, he was then employed by Titan Corporation.

In peace news, Phil Runkel is in "a federal courtroom in Alexandria" today facing "a maximum of six months in jail and a fine of $5,000 for his war protest last March" reports Dennis Shook for Runkel and other peace activists (51 in total) were arrested March 20th in front of the Pentagon. Brian Huber (GM Today) notes that the activists were wanting to meet with Donald Rumsfeld and that some climbed or went "under a temporary fence that Runkel said was erected to stop them, resulting in their arrests."

Activists on the CODEPINK and Global Exchange sponsored trip to Amman, Jordan --including Cindy Sheehan, Ann Wright, Medea Benjamin, Tom Hayden and Diane Wilson -- have arrived in Amman. Cindy Sheehan (Truth Out) reports: "The most horrifying testimony of the day was when we met with "Dr. Nada," an Iraqi doctor who stayed in Baghdad to help her people during the sanctions and the invasion. She didn't abandon her country, or sell it out like many privileged people who exited during the Baathist regime (like Iyad Allawi or Ahmed Chalabi) or the sanctions ... which she, as a supervisory physician at a major Baghdad hospital, said killed two million children. The children died of pollution and sicknesses from depleted uranium during the first gulf mistake of George the First. The babies died because of the war, but also because there is no medicine and very limited medical facilities to treat them. Dr. Nada brought the daughter of a friend, three-year-old Farrah, who had short brown hair and big brown eyes. There were so many young children playing in Queen airport yesterday when I got here and dozens running around the hotel. My heart almost bursts with sorrow when I think of all of the children in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan who have had such horrible lives and had many of their lives cut short by the evil war machine that seems to be running our world."

The Troops Home Fast continues ("We will keep the fast going until September 21, International Peace Day, when there will be a week of mass actions against the war")
with at least 4,350 people participating from around the world on the 32nd day since the action began. Some are fasting long-term, some are grabbing a one-day, one-time fast, some are grabbing a one-day fast each week. More information can be found at Troops Home Fast.

Finally, Michelle Tan (Army Times) reports that Ehren Watada will likely face an Article 32 hearing August 17th because Eric Seitz's pretrial offer of a "reprimand, fine and reduction of rank" has not yet been accepted. As noted before, this offer was twice refused. Courage to Resist and are calling for a "National Day of Education" on August 16th, the day before Ehren Watada would be due to "face a pre-trial hearing for refusing to deploy to Iraq." ThankYouLt.Org notes: "On August 16, the day prior to the hearing, The Friends and Family of Lt. Ehren Watada are calling for a 'National Day of Education' to pose the question, 'Is the war illegal?' This day can also serve to anchor a 'week of outreach' leading up to the pre-trial hearing."

Groups are talking. We´re listening. Check out the handy changes to Yahoo! Groups.

NYT: "U.S. General Says Iraq Could Slide Into a Civil War" (Thom Shanker)

The commander of American forces in the Middle East bluntly warned a Senate committee on Thursday that sectarian violence in Iraq, especially in the capital, Baghdad, had grown so severe that the nation could slide toward civil war.
[. . .]
The harshest criticism of Mr. Rumsfeld and the administration's war-fighting policy came from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, who said: "Yes, we hear a lot of happy talk and rosy scenarios, but because of the administration’s strategic blunders and, frankly, the record of incompetence in executing, you are presiding over a failed policy.
"Given your track record, Secretary Rumsfeld, why should we believe your assurances now?"
Mr. Rumsfeld responded with a trademark colloquialism. "My goodness," he said.

[. . .]
After a subsequent closed-door session for members of Congress with the defense secretary and the two generals, Senator Clinton for the first time called on President Bush to accept Mr. Rumsfeld's resignation.

The above is from Thom Shanker's "U.S. General Says Iraq Could Slide Into a Civil War" in this morning's New York Times which we've noted already but we'll provide as a recap. We may touch on it in the snapshot later today because there's something that's not discussed or noted in Shanker's article. It's touched on in Martha's highlight, Dana Priest and Mary Jordan's "Iraq at Risk Of Civil War, Top Generals Tell Senators" (Washington Post):

Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said the administration may need to seek new authorization from Congress to allow U.S. troops to fight in a civil war. Originally, the forces were authorized to topple Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party.
[. . .]
Recent pledges from Bush that the United States might be able to begin reducing the number of U.S. troops in Iraq were upended when the Pentagon announced recently that 3,700 troops who had been planning to return home over the next two weeks will be sent to Baghdad for as long as four months.
[. . .]
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) accused the Pentagon of "playing a game of whack-a-mole," moving U.S. troops from one unstable area to the next. Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) sparred with Rumsfeld and Pace over Pentagon reports that two-thirds of Army brigades are not at an adequate level of combat readiness.
[. . .]
The day's most riveting moment came when Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) read a list of policy blunders she said had led to the current Iraq crisis, and she accused Rumsfeld of incompetence. "Given your track record," she asked, "why should we believe your assurances now?"
After a long pause, Rumsfeld responded: "My goodness."

[. . .]
Later, in an interview with the Associated Press, Clinton called on Rumsfeld to resign.

From the Times, all one needs from Kirk Semple's article on US troops firing on a convoy of
Moktada al-Sadr's followers is this:

While details remained murky late Thursday, the American military command said in a statement that the occupants of the van had first fired at the watchtower of an American military base near the town of Mahmudiya.

"Details remained murky" is the key point.

A visitor notes an AP story about three charged (with a fourth expected to be charged later) in an assault on an Iraqi, April 10th in Hamdania. Three names are given but that story's now out of date because there are three more charged. From Thomas Watkins' "Six Marines Charged in Iraq Assault" (Associated Press):

Charged Thursday were Lance Cpl. Saul H. Lopezromo, Pfc. Derek I. Lewis, Lance Cpl. Henry D. Lever, Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, Cpl. Trent D. Thomas and Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr., officials said.
Hutchins, Thomas and Shumate were among eight servicemen previously charged in the April 26 slaying of 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad, an Iraqi civilian, officials said.
All six Marines in the assault case were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division while in Iraq. They are currently assigned to the Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton.

April 10 in Hamdania [charged with assault" Lance Cpl. Saul H. Lopezromo, Pfc. Derek I. Lewis and Lance Cpl. Henry D. Lever. The nature of the assault was not described. A fourth marine, an officer, is expected to be charged next week, said Lt. Col. Colby Vokey, the Marine Corps’ defense coordinator for the western United States.

[It's so out of date that all six were noted last night: "How about the fact that AP is reporting that 'Lance Cpl. Saul H. Lopezromo, Pfc. Derek I. Lewis, Lance Cpl. Henry D. Lever, Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, Cpl. Trent D. Thomas and Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr' have been charged in the April 26th kidnapping and death of Hashim Ibrahim Awad in Hamdania."]

Brad had a highlight that I'm ignoring because it's, frankly, not true. Events happen but the reason given in the article is incorrect and, in fact, were addressed in the Senate committee meeting yesterday. It's an on the ground look (in Iraq) and for that and the writing it would be worth noting but the conclusion or reason it offers (via a military official saying that's why it's happening) is incorrect and, again, it was dealt with in the Senate committee meeting yesterday.
(Which the reporter didn't hear or watch most likely -- nor should the reporter have been required to -- but an editior should have caught it.)

Martha notes Andy Mosher's "Insurgents Set Sights On Fallujah" (Washington Post):

Posting proclamations in mosques and schools, the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq vowed Thursday to take back the volatile western city of Fallujah, declaring that it had united local armed factions into a cohesive force to fight the U.S. and Iraqi troops who now control its streets.
The declaration came as U.S. military commanders in Washington testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that Iraq's relentless sectarian violence, if unstopped, could push the country into civil war. Meanwhile, Baghdad was rocked by more violence Thursday, as a motorcycle bomb killed a dozen people in a central shopping district of the capital. The U.S. military also reported that two Marines were killed in separate incidents in the western province of Anbar, where Fallujah is located.

In the Times, Mark Mazzetti writes of the finger pointing senator (Pat Roberts) who, feeling the heat and pressure over the fact that the intelligence committee still hasn't produced the report promised to be delivered right after the 2004 election, points fingers at the White House. This is Roberts' battle and we're not providing cover for him. He now wants to paint a portrait of non-stop interference. He's the chair of committee, he needs to act like one (and stop whining to ease the criticism over his inactivity). If he wants the report out, it would be out already.

Today, on the ground in Iraq, the AFP is reporting: "A suicide car bomber ploughed into a police post protecting a football match in northern Iraq, killing three officers and seven civilians." And, in another AFP report, that "Insurgent fighters have killed at least 21 Iraqis, most of them police officers, in a wave of bombings across the country, after US generals warned the country could slip into civil war."

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

How widespread is opposition to the war in Iraq among the military?
We can't quantify how many soldiers are opposed to the war. We can find some, and some of them are spotlighting themselves and saying, "I am against the war." But they're telling me that they had all kinds of buddies in the service who were against the war, but who decided to just mark their time and try to get out in one piece. But unless you could survey all the members of the armed forces, there’s no way to know how many are against the war. One of the motivations I had in writing this book was to bring these stories together and show that there is a critical mass, even if we don't know how many there are. If you remember from Vietnam, this was slow-building. And the soldiers opposed to the war were a critical aspect of the antiwar movement. And this thing has not been going on nearly as long as Vietnam and, unfortunately, it seems it’s going to be going on for a while.
It struck me as I was reading your book that the issues raised by the conscientious objectors are not just the immorality of wars in general or of killing in general, but specifically the illegality of this war that's been based on lies.

There certainly are soldiers who are opposed to the Iraq war who are not opposed to military action per se or are not opposed to war. A really good example is Lt. [Ehren] Watada, who is the first officer to be spotlighted [in the book] as refusing to deploy to Iraq. This case just came up recently. He has said he would have no problem deploying to Afghanistan, but he believes the Iraq war is immoral and illegal.
How many conscientious-objector applications have been approved and how many denied?

It seems about half of the applicants are receiving CO status, but these are numbers from the Pentagon and I believe it really is important when numbers from this particular administration are looked at to be skeptical. This is an administration that not only has shown that it lies, it’s an administration that has announced that it will lie in order to further its policies. So when we see numbers that come from the government such as the number of soldiers who are AWOL, the numbers of deserters or the numbers of CO applications that are granted, I don’t think we should look at those figures as necessarily accurate.

The above is from Jill Kramer's "Why We Won't Fight" which is an interview with Peter Laufer about his new book Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq. (Where's the link to Kramer's article. It appears in the July 28, 2006 issue of Pacific Sun. Click on Pacific Sun and then click on "STORY ARCHIVES." This was Ellie's highlight by the way.)

Our focus is Iraq these days. Brenda found a highlight and wondered if it could be worked on? We're working it under the premise that wars, all wars, don't end as a result of silence. That's silence from the news media absolutely but there are others who are silent (for whatever reason) at any time. Silence equals death. With that in mind, Ruani Seneviarante Freeman's "I Am Deafend By Your Silence, Eli" (Common Dreams):

What however are American progressives doing for the innocents of the world?
Here’s what: support for Israel’s current onslaught (codenamed ‘Summer of Rain’) from all but eight members of the House; biased coverage from National Public Radio; which gave David Horowitz (Jerusalem Post) a voice, but no airtime for Palestinian journalists on the Lebanon issue; silence from MoveOn, the most efficient, well-oiled liberal machine in action, capable of galvanizing progressives from coast to coast to the tune of millions in a single day over its causes. As for the Democratic Party itself? Does it exist?
I have often consoled myself with that old saying that something is better than nothing at all, and there have been times where indeed I was grateful that I had been spared greater harm. But there comes a time when one is forced to take stock of all those “better than nothing” compromises.
That day has already dawned twice in my adult life. First, in 2000, then in 2004 when I could have fought harder for Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich, or Howard Dean and instead acquiesced to the will of the Democratic Party. During these years, I also threw my support behind organizations that I felt were keeping the wolf from my door, or the feds from my phones. MoveOn topped that list. I wrote the petitions, I signed the checks, I attended the parties, I voted for the ads. I did these things because I believed that MoveOn – and by extension the Democratic Party -- was, by being better than nothing, quite possibly speaking for me.
I was wrong.
MoveOn, no less than the Democratic Party, has an agenda that conceals its racism and Judae-centrism under a veil of supposed commitment to egalitarianism.
MoveOn had, as a source of alternative analysis of US policies -- one would have to be a political neophyte to imagine that American foreign policy is separate from its domestic policy, and Eli Pariser is no neophyte – the obligation to use its power to move the masses of American progressives (who form the bulwark of its membership, may I add), to speak out against the war-fuelled hegemony of Israel.

Just as what gets said matters, it also matters what goes unsaid. The US administration and their lackeys grasped that. That's why they bullied and tried to do a clampdown on dissent. That's why the Dixie Chicks were Dixie Chicked. It's why, for instance, an idiot working for a "family company" could go on air and suggest Susan Sarandon needed to die. Her crime? Speaking out against the war. He still has his job and still schills for the adminsitration (does employment and schilling go hand-in-hand -- it seems that way for many in the "news" media).
During Vietnam, they tried to clamp down on dissent as well but it couldn't be clamped down on forever. Hopefully, we're getting to that point now. With a highlight that addresses how that period's protest is visible today, Liang notes Nicole Sperling's "'War Is Over Billboards Promote Lennon Film" (Reuters):

LOS ANGELES - In an effort to tap into anti-war sentiment, billboards will appear in New York and Los Angeles this month declaring "War Is Over! If You Want It."
The statement is not so much political as commercial: independent film distributor Lionsgate is using them to promote its documentary "The U.S. vs. John Lennon," set to open September 15 in both cities.
The billboards are a reproduction of those created and posted by Lennon and wife Yoko Ono in 11 cities in 1969 as a protest against the Vietnam War.
The documentary from filmmakers David Leaf and John Scheinfeld is a chronicle of Lennon's transformation from musician to anti-war activist and how the U.S. government sought to silence him, in the view of the filmmakers. Leaf, Scheinfeld and Lionsgate marketing executives spent a lot of time with Ono preparing the campaign.
"It's unfortunate that the world is at war" again, Leaf said. "I think a story about John Lennon, who was fearless in his campaign for peace, is particularly relevant in a time when fear seems to rule."

Fear has ruled and ruled for far too long. Take away the fear card and all Bully Boy has is his empty bluster. Reality seems to have stripped a great deal of power from Bully Boy's fear card.
America has grown weary of the illegal war, of the deaths and of the lack of accountability.

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 Thursday, the American troop fatality stood at 2570. Tonight? 2585. That includes six this month so far. And as the illegal war and the death toll fail to lead to mass enlistments, USA Today notes the US military's decision to up the age of enlistment to 42. How many Iraqis? Ask the Bully Boy since the US is keeping a body count. What is known? How about the fact that AP is reporting that "Lance Cpl. Saul H. Lopezromo, Pfc. Derek I. Lewis, Lance Cpl. Henry D. Lever, Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, Cpl. Trent D. Thomas and Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr" have been charged in the April 26th kidnapping and death of Hashim Ibrahim Awad in Hamdania. Add that in to the general non-hearts and minds, non-liberation campaign that is Iraq. How bad is it? So bad that even War Hawk Hillary Clinton (whose latest polling demonstrate that she needs to come out against the illegal war) confronted Donald Rumsfeld today over "presiding over a failed policy" to which he could only reply "My goodness" and go autopilot. Clinton is saying Rumsfeld should resign but there's no accountability in the Bully Boy's cabinet. But at the thought of facing Cindy Sheehan, we do get "Bully on the Run."

Not everyone pays a price. (They never do.) For instance, some are paid and some are paid off. Heath notes Katrina vanden Heuvel's "Sticky Situations with Tony Blair" (Editor's Cut, The Nation) which offers one example of the financial rewards a poodle can reap:

Reports are that Rupert Murdoch plans to offer Tony Blair a prominent position in his media empire when Bush's poodle steps down as prime minister or Gordon Brown finally stages a coup. Now that's a Fox and Friends episode I'd like to catch.
Just imagine the possibilities…Murdoch could give Tony his own show.
Given the PM's involvement in the quagmire in Iraq, Fox News should call it: Sticky Situations with Tony Blair. Its focus: public figures who need to wriggle out of a mess of their own making. There would be no shortage of guests.

One example of the rewards that await some . . . while others pay with limbs and life. It happens now, it happened before. For a historical perspective, Jonah notes Judith Coburn's "How Not to Vietnamize Iraq" ( via Common Dreams):

Through a scrim of red, dry-season dust, the sign appeared like an apparition hanging low over the no-man's land of the South Vietnamese-Lao border: "Warning! No US Personnel Beyond This Point." Its big, white expanse was already festooned with grunt graffiti, both American and Vietnamese. It was February, 1971, the afternoon before the invasion of Laos, and the sign but the latest bizarre development in the Pentagon's campaign to "Vietnamize" the war in Vietnam. The journalists who had hoofed it all the way to the border found the sign so grimly funny that we lined up for a group photo in front of it.
It all started in late 1969, when President Richard Nixon announced the first withdrawal of American soldiers from South Vietnam and their replacement by South Vietnamese troops. The new policy was dubbed "Vietnamization" by Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird and hailed as the beginning of the end of America's war in that land. But the North Vietnamese leadership in Hanoi wasn't fooled for a minute. The communists believed Vietnamization was only intended to de-Americanize the war, not to end it.
Hanoi was right -- more right than anybody at the time could have imagined. In the five-plus years of war that followed, more than 20,000 American soldiers would still die; Nixon would actually widen the war by invasions of both Cambodia and Laos; and brutal American bombing campaigns would kill over a million more Indochinese. In fact, more Indochinese and Americans would be killed or wounded during the Vietnamization years than in the war before 1970.
While comparisons to Vietnam and terms from that era like "quagmire," "hearts and minds," and "body counts" swamped the media the moment the invasion of Iraq began in March 2003, "Vietnamization" didn't make it into the mix until that November. Then, the White House, which initially shied off anything linked to Vietnam, launched a media campaign to roll out what they were calling "Iraqification," perhaps as an answer to critics who doubted the "mission" had actually been "accomplished" and feared that there was no "light at the end of the [Iraqi] tunnel." But the term was quickly dropped. Perhaps it resurrected too many baby-boomer memories of Vietnamese clinging to the skids of choppers fleeing the fruits of Vietnamization.
It seems, however, that there is no way of keeping failed Washington policies in their graves, once the dead of night strikes. I was amazed, when, in 2005, in
Foreign Affairs magazine, Melvin Laird resurrected a claim that his "Vietnamization" policy had actually worked and plugged for "Iraqification" of the war there. Soon after, journalist Seymour Hersh, famed for his reportage on the Vietnam-era My Lai massacre (and the Iraq-era Abu Ghraib abuses), reported in the New Yorker that the Vietnamization policy of the Nixon era was indeed being reclothed and returned to us -- with similarly planned American drawdowns of ground troops and a ramping up of American air power -- and I wondered if we could be suffering a moment of mass post-traumatic stress syndrome.
When General George William Casey, Jr. --
whose father, a major general, died in Vietnam in July 1970 -- announced in June 2006 that the Pentagon might soon begin the first American troop withdrawals from Iraq, I couldn't help wondering where the Iraqi version of that sign might eventually go up. In the desert? On the Iranian or the Syrian border? (The "withdrawals" were, however, rescinded before even being put into effect in the face of an all-out civil war in Baghdad.)
However it feels to anyone else, it's distinctly been flashback city for me ever since. One of the great, failed, unspeakably cynical, blood-drenched policies of the Vietnam era, whose carnage I witnessed as a reporter in Cambodia and Vietnam, was being dusted off for our latest disaster of an imperial war. Some kind of brutal regression was upon us. It was the return of the repressed or reverse evolution. It was enough to drive a war-worn journalist to new heights of despair.

Stopping that war required people leaving their comfort zones. We need to see more of that today. "Upping the ante" as Ann Wright has stated. That could come by taking part in the Troops Home Fast action. It could come by speaking out. Callie notes an article on those speaking out, from Herb Jackson's "Braving Heat to Protest the War" (

Accuweather said it felt like 97 degrees by 10 a.m. Tuesday, and it was only getting hotter.
But two moms visiting Washington from Bergen County were not heeding warnings to stay inside: They were under the sun near the Capitol, arranging rows of army boots. Each pair symbolized a soldier killed in Iraq since the House reaffirmed its support for the war in June.
Wearing T-shirts identifying them as part of Military Families Speak Out, they were joining Operation House Call, through which relatives of soldiers from around the country stand vigil and visit members of Congress to argue for an immediate end to the war.
"My son is in an illegal war that's based on lies," said Joann Sohl, a printer from Palisades Park. "He joined the Army before the war to protect the United States of America, but he's been lied to. So I have to be here to protect my son."
Sohl and Paula Rogovin, a first-grade teacher from Teaneck whose son is a Marine scheduled for deployment to Iraq soon, stood with a handful of other protesters outside the Russell Senate Office Building before heading to meetings with Sens. Robert Menendez and Frank R. Lautenberg, both D-N.J.
Lautenberg and Menendez were among just 13 senators who voted for a resolution last month calling for troops to be pulled out of Iraq over the next year. Rogovin said later that the meetings had gone well.

Military Families Speak Out (and Gold Star Families for Peace held their news conference today. But before we get to that, Keesha notes Military Families Speak Out's "172nd Stryker Brigade Tour of Duty in Iraq Extended;Family Members Speak Out Against the War:"

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Members of the 172nd Stryker Brigade were returning home, and Jennifer Davis, a member of Military Families Speak Out from Anchorage, Alaska, was preparing for her husband’s homecoming. He had served almost one year in Iraq. She just received a call she never expected. "My husband called to let me know in the best way that he knew how, that the Army was extending his deployment four more months, mere hours before he was to board a flight home," said Ms. Davis. "I am totally frustrated, disappointed and heart broken. Just when I thought we were going to be able to resume a ‘normal’ life. Just when I thought the nightmare was over, it was extended..... This war should never have started, and now I'm left wondering if it will ever end. My husband and all of the troops should be brought home now. "
Kathy Knowles, a member of Military Families Speak Out from Shorewood, Illinois was preparing to celebrate her son's 25th birthday next week with him after his deployment in Iraq with the 172nd Stryker Brigade – and she too received the call that he would not be coming home. "I am devastated -- I was so excited that he was returning to our soil and we could celebrate the victory that he had survived the hell of this war," said Ms. Knowles. "The President and Congress have truly let us down -- returning my son and so many others to combat in a war that should never have happened."
The 172nd Stryker Brigade is one of the units scheduled to return to the United States, but is instead being extended and kept in Iraq for several more months under orders from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Despite numerous promises of progress being made and milestones being accomplished, the war in Iraq is once again about "taking Baghdad." As the violence continues to escalate, fueled by the on-going U.S. military occupation, the burden of the failures of this Administration is again falling on the troops who have given so much and the families back home who love them.
Ms. Davis and Ms. Knowles are available for interview, to speak about the damage to families and to the troops that is being done by the war in Iraq and by the unscheduled extensions of service.

Leigh Ann Caldwell reported on today's news conference of Military Families Speak Out and Gold Star Families for Peace on The KPFA Evening News and Free Speech Radio News noting that, as Congress members return to their home districts during this Congressional break, so do activists, after a month long demostartion in DC, to continue to keep pressure on them. Caldwell also reported that John Warner (senator) indicated "Congress might not fund" a civil war in Iraq. (Cedric has more on Leigh Ann Caldwell's report -- specifically pertaining to John McCain.) Also reporting on the families opposed to the war was Wendell Harper on The KPFA Evening News. "Whose names are you willing to add to the growing list of casualities?" is the question. Stacy Bannerman stated: "Our argument is that the best way to support the troops is to make sure that when they're sent into combat, when they're sent into harms way, it is for a legitimate war, for actual, factual reasons and that there is a clear and compelling link between the threat to this nation and the evidence that is being presented to the American public."

More from Stacy Bannerman can be found (noted by Jill) in her "Fly the Flag, Forget the Dead" (Truth Out):

Carlos Arredondo spends most of his days traveling up and down the East Coast with a flag-draped coffin. He takes it to parades and protests, schools and state fairs. Today it's in front of the Russell Senate Building, next to 78 pair of combat boots representing the number of US troops killed since June 15, when Congress voted to "stay the course" in Iraq. One week later, Military Families Speak Out launched Operation House Call on the front steps of the Cannon House Building.
This week we moved to the Senate side, where two Capitol Hill police have spent the past twenty minutes going over our event permit and making calls to headquarters. The flag-draped coffin passed the security checkpoints on the National Mall, and got an initial "OK." Now that it has come to rest at the entry of the building where Senator John Warner (R-Va.), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has his office, the casket is a problem.
Ten military family members, including three Gold Star parents, are gathered around the coffin, which has a photo of Carlos's son, Alex, on the lid. Alex was killed in Iraq in August of 2004. We watch as Carlos methodically removes his boy's boots from the lid and hangs his son's uniform, bedecked with the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, on the crossbars of the Operation House Call sign.

Additional lyric excerpt for this entry comes via Charlie who reminds that Elaine and Susan were paying attention to "Goodbye Blue Skies" from Pink Floyd's The Wall:

Did-did-did-did you see the frightened ones?
Did-did-did-did you hear the falling bombs?
Did-did-did-did you ever wonder
Why we had to run for shelter
When the promise of a brave new world
Unfurled beneath the clear blue sky?

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Iraq snapshot

Chaos and violence continue on the ground in Iraq today, Thursday, August 3rd, Donald Rumsfeld speaks like an excited child, Bully Boy plots a getaway from a vacation getaway, and peace activists and members of Iraq's parliament prepare for their face to face meeting to address reality.

Among the peace activists that will be taking part in the Friday and Saturday meetings in Jordan are Cindy Sheehan, Tom Hayden, Medea Benjamin, Ann Wright and Diane Wilson. Katy Hillenmeyer (Santa Rosa Press Democrat) takes a look at another activist making the journey, 72-year-old, retired nurse Barbara Briggs-Leston. Barbara Briggs-Leston explains the peace summit: "We're trying to call attention to the Iraqi's own plan, as opposed to the United States' plan. Let's let the Iraqis decide what happens to them. We've been deciding, and we've done an appalling job."

CODEPINK and Global Exchange are co-sponsoring the trip which stems from the attention the Troops Home Fast actions garnered "after 28 days of fasting." The fast is continuing: "We will keep the fast going until September 21, International Peace Day, when there will be a week of mass actions against the war" and today at least 4,350 people are fasting around the world.

As some advocate for peace, others say more of the same. Such as Donald Rumsfeld's latest remarks (reported by Kristin Roberts and Vicki Allen, Reuters): "If we left Iraq prematurely as the terrorists demand, the enemy would tell us to leave Afghanistan. And if we left the Middle East, they'd order us and all those who don't share their militant ideology to leave what they call the occupied Muslim lands from Spain to the Philippines.And then we would face not only the evil ideology of these extremists, but an enemy that will have grown accustomed to succeeding in telling free people everywhere what to do." And . . . and . . . and . . . What might be cute in a five-year-old child just makes Rumsfeld appear he needs to call time for a pee break.

He certainly needs to learn how to make a non-circular argument but, at this late date, even the War Hawks find it difficult to call their weak excuses for US troops remaining in Iraq "logic."

His circular statements, to the Senate Armed Services Committee, come a day after he struggled to define what the meaning of "is" is in a Defense Department press conference. After noting that "Sunnis are killing Shia; Shia are killing Sunnis," Rumsfeld went on to muse, "Does that constitute a civil war? I guess you can decide for your yourself. And we can all go to the dictionary and decide what you want to call something. But it seems to me that it is not a classic civil war at this stage. It certainly isn't like our Civil War. It isn't like the civil war in a number of other countries. Is it a high level of sectarian violence? Yes, it is. And are people being killed? Yes."

It was all so far from reality, he came off like Jalal Talabani (Iraq's president) claiming yesterday that by the end of this year (that would be four months from now), Iraq security forces will be in control of all 18 provinces. Rumsfeld's performance yesterday was refuted by the BBC report of William Patey (England's "outgoing ambassador in Baghdad) warning Tony Blair (poodle and prime minister) that civil war, not democracy, awaits Iraq. The BBC's Paul Wood characterized the document as "a devastating official assessment of the prospect for a peaceful Iraq, and stands in stark contrast to public rhetoric."

In the United States, John Abizaid (head of Centcom) testified to the Senate Armed Service Committee. Abizaid offered that "the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it. And that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move toward civil war" (CNN). Reuters notes that Abizaid stated that a year ago this time, he never would have predicted the possibility of a civil war.

Looking at the Patey memo, Ewen MacAskill (Guardian of London) concludes "whatever happens, the vision set out for Iraq by George Bush before the invasion in 2003 of a beacon of democracy for the Middle East is not going to happen."

And in Iraq? The BBC's Paul Wood probably best sums up life in Iraq post-invasion:
"An Iraqi man, Ahmed Muktar, told me a typical story of these times. His family fled sectarian violence in the suburb of Dora. But his brother-in-law returned to check on his house. He was kidnapped. The police, the hospitals, the morgues - none had any official record of the missing man. So his family went to the dumping ground for bodies on the edge of Dora. There they found him, amid a pile of 50 corpses, hands tied behind his back, shot in the head. They had to recover him while under constant automatic fire, the police and troops nearby too scared to help."


Reuters reports that a new US target is apparently the followers of Moqtada al-Sadr:
"U.S. troops opened fir on a convoy carrying supporters of radical Shi'ite cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr . . . wounding at least 16 people." CNN notes a Wednesday home invasion that led to four dead in Wajihiya. Reuters notes that it was the home of a police officer (apparently not home) and the dead were three women and one man (not the police officer).


The worst known took place in Baghad. AP reports that "at least 12 people" are dead and 29 wounded from a bomb "hidden in a parked motorcycle." The BBC notes that the explosion "set ablaze" surrounding shops.

Reuters reports two police officers wounded from a roadside bomb in Latifiya; three Iraqi soldiers wounded by a roadside bomb in Balad;


Reuters notes a corpse discovered in Samarra, one in Kut, one in Numaniya, and three in Dujail.


In Latifiya, two passengers of a car were injured and the car and driver "snatched" by assailants in an attack, Reuters reports, while, in Isahqi, a "food contractor for the Iraqi army" was kidnapped.

In legal news, AFP reports that the "[f]our US soldiers accused of killing three Iraqi prisoners refused to give evidence as a military hearing heard that one of the captives' brains were blown out as he lay injured." This is the May 9th incident in which US soldiers allegedly killed three Iraqis who had been detained and handcuffed. The AFP observes: "The troops followed the lead of several of their superior officers Thursday, invoking their right not to incriminate themselves before a legal panel set up at their unit's base camp in the central Iraqi city of Tikrit." The four accused who are refusing to testify are: William B. Hunsaker, Raymond L. Girouard, Corey R. Clagett and Juston R. Graber.

In Australia, the most recent news from the inquiry into the April 21st death in Baghdad of Jake Kovco is that Alastar Adams will give testimony from Kuwait, "via a video link," as to how the coffin shipped back to Australia supposedly containing the body of Jake Kovco instead contained the body of Bosnian carpenter Juso Sinanovic.

Some would argue Bully Boy ran from the National Guard -- some might agree he's running from Cindy Sheehan. The AP reports that Bully Boy, the vacationing leader, will have far less than his usual weeks and weeks of summer vacation, and has instead reduced it to "nine days" based at his ranchette in Crawford. Bully Boy plans to return to DC August 13th. Camp Casey, on land Sheehan now owns in Crawford, will open on August 6th this month. Camp Casey will be open from August 6th through Septemeber 2nd. On the importance of Camp Casey, Sheehan writes: "Camp Casey in Crawford is more important than ever, now. Not only has this administration, with the eager approval of Congress, committed genocide on a massive scale, they are taking away our civil rights and our right to be heard and counted. We cannot allow these same leaders who accuse the peace movement of a political agenda to use our soldiers and the babies of Iraq as political game pieces in the folly of elections when there is so much overwhelming evidence that our elections have been compromised, and while election after election is stolen, no one does anything about it. It is up to us all, nobody else."

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Other Items

At least 12 people were killed and 14 wounded, most of them children, when two bombs in gym bags exploded Wednesday near the bleachers of a soccer field in a Shiite area of western Baghdad, the authorities said.
Two unidentified men hid the explosives among other bags near a bench packed with children watching a match between neighborhood teams, said the lead investigator in the case, who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to discuss it. At halftime, around 8 p.m., when the players sat down to rest, the bombs exploded simultaneously.
The athletes killed were no older than 25, the police said; the children were as young as 11.

The above is from Damien Cave's "2 Bombs at a Soccer Field Kill 12, Mostly Children" in this morning's New York Times. Life on the ground in Iraq. And it doesn't get better. The body count may dip and raise from day to day, but there is no "better." (And dopes and fools with their hands out to create their "task forces" -- see previous entry -- don't address the realities.)
Cave notes that by evening time, fifteen more corpses were discovered in Baghdad. Cave notes that Iraq's president and and interior minister (interior minister for now, again rumors swirl that he'll be replaced) "suggested that army and Interior Ministry troops who had been reportedly seen robbing armored cars and kidnapping dozens were not representative of the force."

That's a good transition to Cave's other piece in the Times, "In Iraq, It’s Hard to Trust Anyone in Uniform:"

The camouflaged Iraqi commandos who kidnapped 20 people from a pair of central Baghdad offices this week used Interior Ministry vehicles and left little trace of their true identities.
Were they legitimate officers? Members of a Shiite or Sunni death squad? Or criminals in counterfeit uniforms bought at the market?
Majid Hamid, 41, a Sunni human rights worker whose brother was kidnapped and killed by men in uniform four months ago, said he doubted that the answer would ever be known. Now, he said, the authorities normally trusted to investigate may be responsible for the crime.
"Whenever I see uniforms now, I figure they must be militias," Mr. Hamid said in a recent interview. "I immediately try to avoid them. If I have my gun, I know I need to be ready to use it."
Such is the attitude of Iraqis in this capital shellshocked and made fearful by violence that seems to be committed almost daily by men dressed as those who are supposed to protect and serve.

That's life on the ground in Iraq. Where the children are targeted, where uniforms raise doubts. Over three years later that's the reality of the so-called liberation. David Stringer's "Report from British ambassador warns Iraq" (Associated Press) provides some more reality (to any paying attention):

A confidential report from Britain's outgoing ambassador to
Iraq warned the country is sliding toward civil war and is likely to divide eventually along ethnic lines, according to a news report Thursday.

William Patey, who left his diplomatic post in Baghdad last week, predicted in the document that the situation in Iraq could remain volatile for the next decade, the British Broadcasting Corp. said.
"The prospect of a low-intensity civil war and a de facto division of Iraq is probably more likely at this stage than a successful and substantial transition to a stable democracy," the BBC quoted Patey's memo as saying.
"Even the lowered expectation of
President Bush for Iraq -- a government that can sustain itself, defend itself and govern itself and is an ally in the war on terror -- must remain in doubt."
Patey's diplomatic cable claims that Iraq's "position is not hopeless," but warns that the country is likely to remain "messy and difficult" for the next five to 10 years, the BBC said.

And life on the ground for War Hawks in America? Lloyd notes Matthew Rothschild's "Davenport Police Confiscate Little Flagsticks to Protect Cheney, They Say" (McCarthyism Watch, The Progressive):

Cathy Berta is a retired elementary schoolteacher. At 66, she’s also a member of Progressive Action for the Common Good of the Quad Cities.
When she heard that Vice President Cheney was coming to Davenport, Iowa, on July 17, she decided to heed the group’s protest call.
"I knew it was going to be extremely hot that day, but I said I’m going to take a stand," she recalls. She joined about 120 people along River Road next to the Mississippi, and they marched part way toward the home where Cheney was doing a fundraiser for the Republican House candidate, Mike Whalen.

Berta was carrying a sign that said: "No, You Can't Have My Rights, I’m Still Using Them."
And she was also holding a little American flag on a stick.
But the police wouldn’t let her, or anyone else, carry the flags.
"I'm going to have to take your stick," one officer told her, she says.

Pair that up with Cindy's highlight, where Marie Cocco is commenting on Guantanamo and its domestic applications in "Bush is After Our Rights" (Boulder Daily Camera via Common Dreams):

That is, effectively, what the administration's draft of new rules for the military detention and trial of terrorism suspects would do. News and human rights organizations that have obtained the document, marked "deliberative draft -- close hold," have criticized the way in which it would obliterate the Supreme Court's ruling. It seeks to have Congress write into law essentially the same procedures for military trials that the high court just said were illegal. That is, terrorism suspects still could be excluded from the courtroom, evidence could be withheld from the defense, and the Geneva Conventions -- which the Supreme Court explicitly said must apply, would be circumvented.
More chilling is that the draft makes clear that the president wishes to impose these conditions upon any American citizen he calls an "enemy combatant."
A copy of the draft made public by The Washington Post shows that, while an initial version anticipated military trials only for "alien" enemy combatants, the word "alien" is subsequently crossed out. Instead, the document refers time and again to "persons" who are detainees. A "person," under this draft, could be an American seized at a shopping mall, or in a suburban backyard.
Here, then, is how the government could treat American citizens if this draft were to become law: A citizen could be designated an "enemy combatant" (a term the administration has never clearly defined) and held in a military prison. There, the citizen would have no right to a speedy trial. Any trials, the draft says, could occur "at any time without limitations."
Once the citizen is tried under rules that mock the constitutional protections he would receive in a federal court, or in a U.S. military court-martial, the outcome would mean little. An acquittal would not necessarily free the detainee. Neither would a sentence imposed, say, for two or three years and served in full. "An acquittal or conviction under this act does not preclude the United States, in accordance with the law of war, to detain enemy combatants until the cessation of hostilities as a means to prevent their return to the fight."

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NYT: "Study Urges Reserve Rebuilding Forces for Cases Like Iraq" (James Glanz)

We're going to start with James Glanz' "Study Urges Reserve Rebuilding Force for Cases Like Iraq" in the New York Times for a number of reasons including it's a straight forward report but also because common sense seems to be in short supply:

The United States should create a "deployable reserve" of contracting experts for emergency reconstruction efforts like the one in Iraq and should change federal law to remove the legal straitjackets that have helped slow the effort there, the first official history of the Iraq rebuilding effort has concluded.
The 140-page history, based on dozens of inspections and audits of construction sites, interviews with participants and input from a panel of government, academic and industry officials, recounts a tale of woe as the rebuilding effort stumbled from bureaucratic confusion to problems with security and understaffing.
[. . .]
Because the United States cannot count on quickly recruiting enough people familiar with the details of contracting when a crisis comes, Mr. Bowen's history recommended creating a "deployable reserve" of experts in advance. The history also called for revisions to the sometimes conflicting federal regulations on contracting that "caused inconsistencies and inefficiencies that inhibited management and oversight."

Katrina's mentioned briefly in the report. Let's dismiss with it first. The problems with Hurricane Katrina could have been prevented ahead of time. Reconstruction "issues" had nothing to do with a lack of "experts" -- it had to do with fat cats getting rich and a "plan" being pushed (at the expense of the true residents of New Orleans).

So let's deal with Iraq quickly. You can't examine the "problem" without examing the issues of why the US illegally invaded the country. This is misidentifying the problem and insisting on a solution (see Ava and my TV commentary on a similar misidentifying). The solution lies not with a "deployable reserve" of experts -- all that "solution" does is encourage more Iraqs. We noted another nonsense group of "experts" yesterday. It's funny, their concern wasn't with the pay that leaves so many military families vulnerable (to put it mildly), it wasn't with the people serving, their supposed concern was over this: "There is not a single non-deployed Army Brigade Combat Team in the United States that is ready to deploy." Oh goodness, you mean we couldn't add on another war now?

The truth is we can. We always can. This is just more pork from a gang of pigs who'll eat their own. War Hawks want more funding for the military -- not for medical issues, not to raise the living standard, but more contracts, more 'fire power,' more pork.

The problems in Iraq with reconstruction don't result from a lack of experts -- they had their experts, they put into place their "plan" (read Naomi Klein's "Baghdad Year Zero" if you're lost). Creating a standing resource to be utilized means it will be utilizied. If any of the standing guidelines had been followed (including opening the contracts up to bidding), the situation might be somewhat different today. But for a real difference? Don't start an illegal war. Don't start a war on lies.

Pretending that the root cause of the problem isn't there doesn't allow real solutions to emerge. And creating a standing force of "experts" is the most ridiculous idea -- not only does such a creation mean that we will see more Iraqs, it also ignores the actual problem. But it's pork time for the piggies. Time for them to take more money from the American people. Now it may not be surprising that Mad Maddie doesn't have better ways to spend her time but Sandy Berger needs to lose this notion that he had a little misstep. He pleaded guilty to an action that was a betrayal of the people. He doesn't need to be in government anymore unless he can win an election. He has betrayed the trust of the American citizens. This isn't about the people, you or me, this is about the same useless fools that get us into one war after another and have no accountability only now they're screaming, "Give more money."

Nelson Hernandez offers a look at James W. Higgins Jr. (Washington Post) who died Thursday in Iraq -- the problem-solvers noted by Glanz and the AFP have no interest in Higgins' story, they're only interested in paving the way for many more Higgings. Don't mistake their cries for money as "solutions."

They're not interested in the Article 32 going on now either, or how the events happened. Their "solutions" don't go to that. Martha notes Andy Mosher's "Soldier Testifies About Comrades' Threats: Hearing May Lead to Court-Martial for Four Accused of Murdering Iraqi Detainees" (Washington Post):

An American soldier testified Wednesday that comrades threatened to kill him if he disclosed their roles in the slaying of three Iraqi detainees in May in northern Iraq.
Pfc. Bradley L. Mason, 20, said at a military hearing in Tikrit that Staff Sgt. Raymond L. Girouard threatened him on May 10, the day after the Iraqis were shot dead in a raid on a suspected base of the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq near Samarra, about 65 miles north of Baghdad.

[. . .]
Mason testified that, during the May 9 raid, Girouard told his squad that Clagett and Hunsaker were going to kill three detainees who had been handcuffed.
Clagett and Hunsaker "just smiled," said Mason, who said he objected to Girouard. "I told him I'm not down with it. It's murder," he said.

Back to the Times for more on that, from Paul von Zielbauer's "G.I.’s Say Officers Ordered Killing of Young Iraqi Men:"

The four soldiers' accounts on Wednesday varied slightly, about what the orders for engaging the enemy were, or who issued them. Taken together, though, they reinforced accusations that ranking officers had approved broad use of deadly force.
"We are now talking about the possibility of command responsibility, not just unlawful orders and simple murder," said Gary D. Solis, a former military judge and prosecutor who teaches the law of war at Georgetown University.
Colonel Steele, who led the 1993 mission in Somalia later made famous in the book and film "Black Hawk Down," has a reputation for aggressive measures. In Iraq, as a commander involved in harrowing assaults against insurgents, he inspired the use of "kill boards" to track how many Iraqis each soldier had killed over time.
On the bottom of Company C's kill board, Private Mason said, was a phrase to inspire soldiers in combat: "Let the bodies hit the floor."

Silly 'problem-solvers' interested in grabbing monies don't address that. And dropping back to the start of this entry, I think Mia's highlight fits, from Winslow T. Wheeler's "Congress and the Pentagon: Co-Abusers of the War Budget" (CounterPunch):

The Bush administration has circumvented a significant law, passed by Congress in 2004. The legislation required the president to report by January 2005 on the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the future years, 2006 to 2011. On May 13, 2005, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) reported that such a report was impossible to write for any fiscal year more than one year in advance.
However, testimony at a July 18 hearing of Congressman Chris Shays', R-Conn., Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee revealed that no one ever asked the responsible official in the Defense Department to estimate the likely costs of the war: neither before the war was begun (when senior officials were dismissing others' estimates), nor in response to the statutory requirement.
There is a reasonable claim that costs for any future event is full of uncertainties, however, many have dealt with them in an analytically straightforward fashion. Using clearly articulated criteria for two different scenarios, CBO estimated the costs of future operations in Iraq.
One scenario assumed U.S. military personnel in the Persian Gulf region would be reduced to 140,000 in 2007, and the deployments would end in 2009. The additional costs for that scenario came to $202 billion.The second scenario would reduce forces to 170,000 in 2007 and 40,000 in 2010; U.S. deployments would end in 2016. Costs would be $406 billion, above the amounts already spent.
What the Bush administration was unable, rather unwilling, to reveal - CBO has analyzed.

Note that Mike's "All the words are going to bleed from me" addresses the 'problem solvers' in case anyone missed that yesterday.

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