Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, January 24, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, Dahr Jamail explains the importance of war resisters, Bully Boy bombs (or, as Mike called him, "Bully Boy Butt Wipe") with his State of the Union address, the slaughter on Haifa Street continues, a Senate committee feels really proud of themselves but Russ Feingold pops their hot air, US Rep Maxine Waters speaks with Amy Goodman about this weekends demonstrations to end the war, US Rep Dennis Kucinich explains what puts him ahead of other Democratic candidates attempting to win their party's nomination for the 2008 presidential election, and Tony Blair's whimper is the whine heard round the world.
In the US, Ehren Watada is the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq and faces a court-martial on February 5th at Fort Lewis.  Last week, the 'judge' (John Head) ruled on the parameters of the case.  As Matt Hutaff (The Simon) reports the ruling amounts to "stripping the defendant of his constitutional rights.  When Watada faces prosecution on February 5, he will be unable to assert free speech in questioning the legality of the war and is forbidden from using Nurember laws as defense.  Watada's entire argument rests on the fact that troops are bound to serve honorably and follow lawful orders, and that the Iraq war is a hodepodge of neither."  Paul Rockwell (San Francisco Bay Guardian) observes, "It is a sad day in American jurisprudence when a soldier of conscience is court-martialed -- not for lying, but for telling the truth; not for breaking a covenant with the military, but for upholding the rule of law in wartime."  Eric Ruder (Socialist Worker) notes, "Activists in the Northwest and around the country are planning a February 5 day of action to show support for Watada, timed to coincide with the beginning of the Army's court-martial against him.  Defending war resisters is a critical part of ending the war, because it gives confidence to other soldiers considering their options as Bush plans a 'surge' of 21,500 more troops to Iraq."  Jim Warren (Lexington Herald-Leader) notes that among those people showing support for Watada on February 5th at Fort Lewis will be war resister Darrell Anderson who "set off on a cross-country bus tour with the Iraq Veterans Against the War organization, making stops in several cities to support war resisters."
Meanwhile, war resister Agustin Aguayo was due to be arraigned on Monday but Stars & Stripes reports that the arraingment has now been postponed until Thursday.  Aguayo served in Iraq and applied for Conscientious Objector status afterwards.  The military denied that and Aguayo has been appealing that.  On November 21, 2006, the US Court of Appeals in Washington, DC heard Aguayo's appeal.  They have not yet ruled on it.  As Aaron Glantz reported on the November 20, 2006 broadcast of The KPFA Evening News, Aguayo's case was the first of it's kind hear in "a federal court since 1971".  Despite the fact that the case was on appeal, the military had told Aguayo he had to redeploy to Iraq.  In September, Aguayo self-checked out and turned himself in the same month.  He was gone less than 30 days (September 2nd through September 26th.).  However, last week, the military announced that they would be charging him with desertion.  As Kevin Dougherty (Stars & Stripes) noted in November, 30 days, though not a rule, is "the standard benchmark."  That charge and missing movement could, if convicted on both counts, result in Aguayo serving seven years in prison.
Interviewed by Alan Maass (Socialist Worker), Dahr Jamail noted the importance of war resisters and observed: "There are between 8,000 and 10,000 people AWOL from the military, and I imagine that number has increased dramatically over just the last week.  I know it was starting to increase dramatically even before Bush made his speech.  More people than ever are heading off to Canada or going underground, so that they don't have to go to Iraq and be targets.  If anyone is seriously interested in ending this occupation and wants to do something to make it happen, people should follow the instruction of Lt. Ehren Watada.  In his speech at the Veterans for Peace national convention in August of last year, he said that the best thing people could do is adopt the family of someone who wants to become a resister, and do what they need to do to support those families, economically and morally, so that their people don't have to go to Iraq." 
Agustin AguayoEhren Watada and Darrell Anderson are part of a movement of resistance within the military that also includes Kyle Snyder, Ivan Brobeck, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Mark Wilkerson, Joshua Key, Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Jeremy Hinzman, Corey Glass, Patrick Hart, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.
In Iraq today, the Independent of London's Patrick Cockburn, speaking with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, noted the Bully Boy's laughable speech from Tuesday evening, "He talked about chaos coming to Iraq.  Well, I mean, I'm in the center of Baghdad, and it's difficult to imagine anything more chaotic.  There's heavy fighting going on in an area called Haifa Street just near the Green Zone.  I can hear mortars occasionally going off.  It's said that there is an attempt to assassinate one of the vice presidents a few streets away from here.  So we have almost total chaos in Baghad at the moment."
KUNA reports a bombing in Mosul that left a police officer and a civilian wounded. Reuters reports a bombing that killed four police officers and left three civilians wounded in Baghdad, a mortar attack in Baghdad that left one man wounded, and a mortar attack on City Hospital in Baghdad that killed two and left 20 wounded.


Reuters reports that two people wounded in an attack "on a minibus carrying Shi'ite pilgrims" in Baghdad.  The BBC reports that another educator has been killed in Iraq and describe Diya al-Meqoter as "a well-known professor and econcomist who presented a programme on Sharquiya television. . . He was known for supporting poor people needing loans to set up business, and he also headed Iraq's consumer association, a non-government agency which campaigned for fair pricing."  RTE reports an attack on the country's minister of higher education, Abd Dhiab al-Ajili, that left one of his body guard dead "and another was shot in the head and seriously wounded."

KUNA reports 52 corpses discovered in Mosul (all with"scars of torture") which comes after Borzou Daragahi (Los Angeles Times) reported that the number of corpses discovered in Baghdad was decreasing.
Meanwhile the slaughter on Haifa Street in Baghdad continues.  Ross Colvin and Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) repeat the US military's version of events ('insurgents, insurgents, insurgents') to explain the US military's air raid on high rises on the largely residential street; however, they also note: "A local journalist said he helped transport 37 wounded people to hospital, including women and children, in three ambulances that managed to get through the security cordon."  KUNA reports: "An Iraqi security source and eyewitnesses said US helicopters had been bombing the street compound since early morning today, noting the clashes were most intense near Al-Sheikh Cemetery, which witnessed similar clashes last week.  Eyewitnesses told KUNA over the phone that ambulances were rushed to the scene of the clashes."  This attack is what Patrick Cockburn was describing to Amy Goodman on today's Democracy Now!
Today the US military announced today: "One Marine assigned to 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group and one Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 died Tuesday from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province" and they announced: "Insurgent small arms fire targeting a Multi-National Division – Baghdad patrol killed one Soldier near the city’s center Jan. 24." 
The US military also announced that Adam L. Huryta was court-martialed on January 22nd "for assaulting a fellow soldier with a survival knife."  Huryta, as the release goes, disagreed with a position he was ordered to take while an Iraqi was being questioned so he repeatedly stabbed another US soldier and, having been found guilty in the court-martial held at LSA Anaconda, Huryta has received: "eight months in jail, reduction to E-1, and a bad conduct discharge."  Ponder that.  Ponder that as Ehren Watada faces six years in prison if convicted and Agustin Aguayo faces seven -- neither of whom went after another US service member with a hunting knife.
On Tuesday, Bully Boy yammered on for a little less than fity-minutes as he delivered a Constitutionally mandated State of the Union speech.  At one point he spoke of the need to find resolve -- possibly he lost it on one of his many vacations?  (If he ever had it.)  On  KPFA's The Morning Show today, Andrea Lewis and Philip Maldari addressed the speech with Elizabeth de la Vega (author of United States versus George W. Bush) and US Rep Dennis Kucinich.  de la Veage noted that "we heard almost the same exact statements about Iraq that we've heard since before 9-11 on the Middle East" and characterized it as "more of the same" talk about Iraq while noting her alarm over Bully Boy's words regarding Iran.
Kucinich noted his plan for ending the war which includes: "First that the US announced it will end the occupation, closes the bases and withdraws" -- using the existing funds to bring US troops back to the US, allow reconstruction contracts to be turned over to Iraqis, build and international peace keeping force, etc.  On the subject of impeachment, which de la Vega has written of, Kucinich stated his "focus right now is to end the war and bring the troops home" but "I don't take issue with anything that anybody's doing to hold this administration accountable."  He did note that if Bully Boy attacked Iran without Congressional authorization, he did expect there would be an impeachment.
On the issue of 'bipartisanship,' Kucinich declared, "If we have a bipartisan effort to keep the troops in Iraq, that's not the kind of bipartisanship I'm lookng for."   Andrea Lewis pointed out that Kucinich is running to become the Democratic Party's 2008 presidential nominee and asked him to explain how he stands apart from other declared candidates.  Kucinich responded that "the single most important decision anyone in the Oval Office will make is whether or not to commit America's young men and women to war" and, unlike other declared nominees, the American people know that Kucinich has opposed the illegal war from the start, from before it began while the others "all offered to vote for the war or they voted to fund the war" and, unlike the others, he never "bought George Bush's line."
Some did.  Less and less are buying it today which explains the underwhelming response to the State of the Union speech.  Al Jazeera reports that the reaction to Bully Boy's speech was 'indifference' -- Hoda Abdel Hamid: "Iraqis told me 'we don't believe in all his promises -- he's goin gto ask us to be patient, but he's not the one living under the bombs.  All Iraqis can hear this morning is explosions -- there are mortars going off and there is a heavy gun battle going on just a couple of hundred metres away.  This is what Iraqis are listening to."
In England the on-his-way-out-the-door Tony Blair continues to face strong calls to take British troops out of Iraq.  (On Tuesday, the British consulate in Basra was attacked -- as it often is -- and two British soldiers were wounded.)  The Guardian of London reports that Menzies Campbell, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, "called for the first time for a pull-out of all British forces from the country by the end of October" which Blair rejected and Campbell then went on to challenge Blair to stay for the debate.  Tony Blair whimpered, left a puddle on the floor, and scurried off quickly.
In what Andrew North (BBC) has called the "first sign of disagreement" regarding Iraq, Tony Blair's cabinet and Bully Boy's appear to be odds regarding southern Iraq.  The BBC reports that Zalmay Khalilzad, in an interview with them, voiced his belief that "UK forces . . . remain at their current levels in southern Iraq" despite the fact that at least "a partial withdrawal of British foces from Basra this year" has long been discussed publicly by Blair as well England's Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett.
Turning to the US Senate where a toothless, symbolic measure has passed through committee, Frederic J. Frommer (AP) reports that Senator Russ Feingold has declared, "My far, Mr. Chairman, is this is slow walking.  This is not a time for legislative nuancing.  This is not a time for trying to forge a compromise that everybody can be a part of.  This is a time to stop the needless deaths of American troops in Iraq.  We have a moral responsibility, as well as a responsibility to the lives of the American people, to start doing it now."  The toothless, feckless, symbolic measure, the BBC reports, passed on a 12-9 vote.
A measure so meaningless, it took three men to devise it: Carl Levin, Joe Biden, and Chuck Hagel.  The lunchtime poll reads: "It's really, really, really, really-really, really not in the best interests of the United States for Bully Boy to send more troops to Iraq and if he does so they will be really, really, really, really-really, really ticked off -- so ticked off, in fact, they might just decide to take another lunchtime poll!  Watch your step, Bully Boy!  Blah, blah, blah."  The poll was a vote on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and, CNN reports, the non-binding, toothless measure should go before the full Senate for a vote next week.
Joe Biden is of course interested in flaunting his useless nature with something far more than meaningless legislation, he also wants to run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008.  John Kerry has announced what we noted here weeks ago -- stick the fork in, he's done.  One candidate who is still in the race is US Senator Hillary Clinton.  Weighing in at Truthout, Cindy Sheehan recalls, "I, my sister Dede and another Gold Star Mother, Lynn Braddach, whose son, Travis Nall was killed in Iraq in 2003, met with Senator Clinton in DC in September of 2005.  We poured our hearts and souls out to her.  We cried as we told her of our sons and our fear for the people of Iraq and the escalating body count of our brave young people.  She sat there stone-faced and walked out and told Sarah Ferguson of the Village Voice, 'My bottom line is that I don't want their sons to die in vain. . . . I don't believe it's smart to set a date for withdrawal. . . I don't think it's the right time to withdraw.'  She may as well have slapped us in the face using Bloody George's line and using our sons' sacrifice to justify her war mongering.  On Thursday, January 18th, Senator Clinton introduced a meaningless bill to put a cap on the number of soldiers that can be in Iraq, set at January 1st levels.  It is as weak and meaningless as a nonbinding resolution -- and a politically safe move, since almost three fourts of the country oppose Bloody George.  By the time she introduced her Senate bill last Thursday, over 1000 of our young people had come home in body bags and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis had died, while she was waiting for the best political time to be semi-against the war.  How many of our troops are lying in Walter Reed with devastating injuries that could have been prevented if a Senate leader like Clinton had taken a moral stance instead of a political one?"
Which is a good time to offer the contrast: US Representative Maxine WatersAppearing on Democracy Now! today, Waters discussed the proposal she and US Reps. Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey have on the table: "No more troops going to Iraq.  Number two, to start to wind out of Iraq.  Make sure that you work with the Iraqis for a security plan that they come up with that would include the international community and those in the region and no American soldiers in that kind of security plan.  We also talk about reconstruction.  We have bombed Baghdad and other parts of Iraq to smithereens.  We owe it to them to be involved in a reconstruction plan that's real.  Thirdly, we would leave some troops over the horizon in neighboring communities, in the event the coalition forces that are put together by the Iraqis would ask for a bit of assistance at any given time."   Waters and Goodman also discussed the Saturday protest in DC and that the representative has "sent a letter to all members of Congress" encouraging them to also take part. 
Information on the demonstrations can be found at CODEPINK's Bring the Peace Mandate to D.C. on J27!  activities will also be taking place in communities around the country. Saturday, Laura Flanders will be broadcasting live from DC to cover the demonstrations on RadioNation with Laura FlandersAaron Glantz (IPS) reports on the upcoming demonstrations and notes United for Peace & Justice's Leslie Cagan stating, "The voters of this country figured out that they could use the November elections as a vehicle to voice their opposition to the war.  What happened there was that the voters gave Congress a mandate to end the war in Iraq and bring the troops home."  Glanz notes that in addition to events in DC, there are "large mobilisations planned for Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco.  In addition smaller actions are planned for more than 50 cities."  In DC, Saturday the rally will be held at the National Mall from eleven in the morning to one p.m. at which point a march will begin.  Larry Margasak (AP) notes of the DC rally and march: "Scheduled speakers include members of Congress sponsoring anti-war measures; civili rights activist Jesse Jackson; veterans against the war; actors such as Danny Glover, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon; and a voice from the . . . [pro-peace] past, Jane Fonda."
Those in DC Saturday may want to check out Anthony Arnove, author most recently of IRAQ: The Logic of Withdrawal, who will be speaking at Busboys and Poets at 5:00 pm while those in the NYC area on Sunday should check out Joan Mellen speech at 7:30 p.m.  at the 92nd Street Y (92nd Street and Lesington Avenue). Mellan, a professor at Temple University and the author of seventeen books, will be presenting a lecture on the JFK assasination . . . and beyond. Tickets are $25. Mellen's latest book is A Farewell to Justice which probes the assasination of JFK. She was a guest on Law and Disorder November 7, 2005. And the March 15, 2006 broadcast of KPFA's Guns and Butter featured her speech "How the Failure to Identify, Prosecute and Convict President Kennedy's Assassins Has Led to Today's Crisis of Democracy." You can also read a transcript of that speech here.
Again, that's Sunday, January 28th, 7:30 p.m. the 92nd Street Y in NYC.

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