Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, February 20, 2007. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq as the crackdown (yet again) cracks up, AP examines which US communities are most directly effected by the US death toll, an Iraqi woman states that she was raped and US media carry the puppet's denial but somehow miss the statements about what the hospital examine actually indicated, the efforts to privatize Iraq's oil continue, and Hillary Clinton demonstrates that she is not her husband, that she is not interested in your vote, and that she is not scripted.

Today on Democracy Now! the topic the New York Times runs from was addressed. Amy Goodman noted that, early on in the illegal war, Gallup polling found that 43% of Iraqis thought the illegal war was about robbing Iraq of its oil. This was the introduction for a discussion of the privatization of the Iraqi oil industry that the US administration has attempted to push through repeatedly. Raed Jarrar has obtained a copy of the latest version of the proposed law and translated it. He emphasized three points: 1) Unfair, long-term contracts that can run for "thirty-five years and cause the loss of hundreds of billions of dollars from Iraqis"; 2) Since Iraq will not be allowed to set production limits it "cannot be a part of OPEC anymore" but its production levels would instead by set by "the Federal Oil and Gas Council, that will have represantives from the foreign oil companies on the board of it, so representatives from, let's say, ExxonMobil and Shell and British Petroleum will be on the federal board of Iraq approving their own contracts"; 3) By bypassing the centeral government and giving authority to the provinces, it makes possible "splitting Iraq into three regions or even maybe three states in the very near future."

Also participating in the discussion was Antonia Juhasz who noted that "at the very basic level," this law will "turn Iraq's nationalized oil system, the model that 90% of the world's oil is governed by, take its nationalized oil system and turn it into a commercial system fully open to foreign corporate investment on terms as of yet to be decided. . . . And, as Raed said, it introduces this very unique model, which is that ultimate decision making on the contracts rests with a new council to be set up in Iraq, and sitting on that council will be representatives, executives, in fact, of oil companies, both foreign and domestic." Goodman questioned whether the claims that such measures were needed in order "to kick-start" Iraq's oil development and Juhasz responded that, before the start of the illegal war, Iraq was producing "2.5 million barrels of oil a day" and that, since the start of the war, the figure has been roughly "2.2 million barrels of oil a day". The tiny difference can be attributed to the unrest going on in the war torn country and underscores that there is no "kick-start" needed.

Goodman and Juhasz then discussed the three countries with the largest oil reserves, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran. Juhasz: "Oil is about profit and it's about the money that the oil interests in the United States -- which, of course, also include members of the Bush adminstration -- can get. But controlling the second and third largest oil reserves in the world also has a tremendous amount to do with imperial power and global power that the Bush administration wants. Controlling that oil denies it to other countries that want it, like China and India, countries that the Bush adminsitration now sees itself in rivalry to."

Staying on the topic of Iran, BBC reports that the US administration has plans for air strikes on Iraq and that they "would target Iranian air bases, navel bases, missile facilities and command -and-control centres" which would be triggered by one of two things: 1) Confirmation that a nuclear weapon is being developed or 2) "[A] high-casualty attack on US forces in neighbouring Iraq could also trigger a bombing campaign if it were traced directly back to Tehran." The latter may explain the fixation on baseless, undocumented claims that the US administration continues to make about Iran and, should Bully Boy get his own Gulf of Tonkin, you can be sure little Mikey Gordon will be there to rah-rah it from the front page of the New York Times.

Turning to news of war resistance, Agustin Aguayo faces a March 6th court-martial in Germany. As noted Monday on Democracy Now!, Aguayo's civilian court appeal has been rejected. Matt Apuzzo (AP) reported that the US Court of Appeals rejected the request "to overturn the detention" of Aguayo who now faces up to seven years in prison if convicted of all counts (desertion and missing movement) in his court-martial next month. Meanwhile, AP reports, Susana Aguayo, Agustin's mother, is asking the Mexican government to assist her son: "In an open letter to Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa, Susan Aguayo
asked for 'consular assistance.' 'It is urgently necessary that the Mesican Ambassador in Berlin, Jorge Castro Valle, provide a lawyer to give him legal aid . . . before it's too late,' the letter said." Agustin Aguayo holds dual citizenship in the US and Mexico.

Meanwhile, Monica Benderman, wife of Kevin Benderman, wonders "America, Where Are You Now?" In Friday's snapshot, while noting Ehren Watada, the following appeared: "John Catalinotto (Socialist Worker) observes: 'Watada's military defense lawyer -- appointed by the Army -- Capt. Mark Kim, said that he agreed with Seitz's interpretation of military law'." That was incorrect. John Catalinotto's article appeared in Workers' World, not Socialist Worker, my apologies. Matthew Cookson (Socialist Worker -- honest) examines war resistance in Canada and focuses on Patrick Hart who self-checked out of the US military after serving in Iraq and went to Canada who states: "If your government is going to put troops in harm's way, you better have a damn good reason. We have already lost too many British and American youth, as well as the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, which our government calls 'collateral damage'. Don't be a part of it." Another war resister in Canada is Jeremy Hinzman and Edward C. Corrigan's (Media Monitors Network) explains where his case currently stands: "Jeremy Hinzman lost his 'conscientious objection' refugee case at the IRB. He then applied to the Federal Court for a judicial review of the Immigration and Refugee Board decision rejecting his claim. However, the Federal Court upheld the negative decision but the case has been referred to the Federal Court of Appeal. The key issue is whether or not the legality of the war is a relevant issue to the claim for protection. It will be interesting to see the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal. This legal question may ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court of Canada."

Aguayo, Watada, Benderman, Hart and Hinzman are a part of a movement of resistance with the military that includes others such as Kyle Snyder, Darrell Anderson, Ivan Brobeck, Mark Wilkerson, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Joshua Key, Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Corey Glass, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, and Tim Richard. 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, the news trickles out slowly but the crackdown that was praised at the end of the last business week is no longer the be-all, end-all so many had pinned their hopes on. In fact, the crackdown has yet again cracked up.


BBC reports that a man killed himself and seven others at a funeral in Baghdad while leaving 20 more people injured while two car bombings in Baghdad killed 8 people and left 31 wounded. Claudia Parson (Reuters) reports: "A bomb destroyed a truck carrying chlorine north of Baghdad on Tuesday, killing five people and spewing out toxic fumes that sickened nearly 140 others, Iraqi police said." And Reuters notes: "An oil installation guard was wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near his patrol in the town of Hawija, 70 km (40 miles) southwest of Kirkuk, police said.

On Monday, a coordinated attack took place. CNN reports: "an attack by three suicide car bombers near a U.S.-Iraqi outpost killed two American soldiers and eight Iraqi police officers, Iraqi officials told CNN. The U.S. military confirmed the American deaths and said 17 U.S. troops were wounded in the "coordinated attack" north of Baghdad, but it did not reveal the strike's exact location. Iraqi officials said the insurgents targeted Iraqi police headquarters in Tarmiya -- about 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of Baghdad -- which also houses U.S. troops. After a series of three suicide car bombings, 50 gunmen opened fire on the outpost, the Iraqi officials said. Insurgents fired small arms and threw grenades after an initial car bombing, a U.S. military official said."

Today, the US military announced: "On Feb. 19, an MND-B unit was conducting a combat security patrol southwest of the Iraqi capital when an improvised explosive device detonated, killing three Soldiers and wounding two others." And they announced: "A Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldier died Feb. 18 due to a nonbattle related cause."

Staying on the topic of US service members, "Soldiers Face Neglect, Frustration At Army's Top Medical Facility," "The Hotel Aftermath" and "Army Fixing Patients' Housing" make up a three part look at the shambles that is Walter Reed which has been allowed to decay out of the public eye -- Dana Priest and Anne Hull wrote the (now) three-part series for the Washington Post. The series comes as Kimberly Hefling (AP) reports on which communities in America are most directly effected by the US military death toll in Iraq -- almost half of the dead are "from towns . . . where fewer than 25,000 people live" and that "nearly three quarters of those killed in Iraq came from towns where the per capita income was below the national average. More than half came from towns where the percentage of people living in poverty topped the national average." Hefling also notes: "While support for the war in rural areas initially was high, there has been a sharp decline in the past three years. AP-Ipsos polls show that those in rural areas who said it was the right decision to go to war dropped from 73 percent in April 2004 to 39 percent now. In urban areas, support declined from 43 percent in 2004 to 30 percent now."

Returning to Iraq, an Iraqi woman (whose real name has not been given in press reports) has stated she was raped by Shia military forces in Baghdad on Sunday. Though promising a full investigation, the puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki, quickly backed off that promise and took to issuing an official statement claiming that there was no evidence of rape. The BBC reports: "But an aide of Vice President Tariq Hashimi, a Sunni, said the prime minister's office had acted in haste, and doctors had in fact confirmed rape had taken place." As Al Jazeera notes, the stigma attached to rape in Iraq could allow for the rape victim to be killed ("honor killing") by her own (male) relatives (that's noted for those, like al-Maliki, who immediately want to scream that the charges were made up). Al Jazeera quotes Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, speaker of the Iraqi parliment, stating of the puppet: "By God, if you don't bring justice to this Muslim Iraqi woman, whom you should view as your sister or daughter . . . history will curse us with eternal disgrace." AFP quotes the woman's statements: "One of them hit me. I fell and my head hit the ground. One of them raped me. Then another came and raped, and a third. I was screaming, crying and begging them, but he held my mouth so no-one could hear. Someone came and said to them, 'Are you done? Can we come and take our turn?' But one of them said, 'No, there's an American patrol coming'." AFP also notes that when US troops did discover the woman, they transferred her to a hospital in the Green Zone and quotes Omar Jaburi ("Vice President Tareq al Hashemi's adviser on human rights") stating: "The initial hospital report confirmed what she has said. A panel of medical experts is reviewing the evidence, we expect them to report tonight."

In other rape news, CBS and AP report: "A soldier from Fort Campbell's 101st Airborne was expected to plead guilty Tuesday to rape and murder charges in the death of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and her family last year. Sergeant Paul Cortez of Barstow, California reached a plea agreement with prosecutors. The plea means he will no longer face the death penalty." That "14-year-old Iraqi girl" had a name: Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi. And she wasn't just raped, she was gang raped. Cortez follows James P. Barker's lead in admitting to his role in it (and both have also fingered Steven D. Green as participating in the gang rape and as being the one who then killed Abeer -- Green has denied charges and faces a trial in a civilian court).

Meanwhile, famine may be the new danger to Iraq. Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) examine the food situation in Iraq and find many problems including the shut-out on local growers, the Bremer laws that allow foreign businesses to make a 'killing' while punishing local producers, John Howard's Australia businesses which 'enhanced' the wheat they sold to Iraq with steel wire, and much more. Jamail and al-Fadhily observe: "The majority of Iraqis still remain dependent on the monthly food ration, a programme set up during the economic sanctions period in the 1990s after the first Gulf war. But a growing number of Iraqis no longer receive their monthly ration due to corruption or sectarian favouritism in the distribution channel." It bears noting that Paul Bremer tried to do away with the ration program but was unable to and that, for almost a year, the malnutrition issue has been ignored. In May of last year, UNICEF found malnutrition to be at "alarming levels" in Iraq noting: "Children are... major victims of food insecurity,"

In US political news, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has underscored that, although politically active for many years, she has held public office for far too few. As Amy Goodman noted on Monday's Democracy Now!, Clinton, speaking in New Hampshire, not only continued to refuse to term her vote supporting the invasion of Iraq "a mistake," she went further by stating: "If the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast that vote or has said his [or her] vote was a mistake, then there are others to choose from." Indeed there are and it takes an arrogance born of campaign stupidity to make such a public declaration. We'll also note that "[or her]" was added here to be inclusive -- something that Hillary Clinton once could have take care of all on her own. But who would have ever guessed she'd waste the opening weeks of her campaign refusing to say something as simple as "I made a mistake"? Probably the same people who would have guessed that a candidate who cannot count on peeling off Republican voters, who may or may not have a hard time with swing voters, would thumb her nose at the Democratic base with one of the most idiotic statements made on the campaign trail. When you are campaigning for a national office, the last thing you need to do is to tell voters "there are others to choose from." Despite rumors to the contrary, Clinton's not scripted but New Hampshire may demonstrate that she needs to be. In one decade, we've gone from Bill Clinton's "I feel your pain" to what passes for "Piss off" from Hillary Clinton. (Which may remind many of the health care debacle which went from universal to some managed care option when, as Robin Toner pointed out, Clinton got cozy in the backrooms.)

Finally, Sharon Murphy (The La Crosse Tribune) draws a line between the bravery of Watada and the cowardice of Congress: "Ehren Watada doesn't have the power and clout of the freshest freshman senator or representative. Yet he had the courage to stand up and speak the truth. He knew he was up against the power of the military and faced rejection, prison and professional disgrace. But he stood up. Neither Senate nor House is willing to stand, as Watada did, and speak the truth." For those who missed it, the Senate was unable, this weekend, to pass even a toothless, non-binding, symbolic measure on Iraq.

ehren watada
amy goodman
democracy now
antonia juhasz
raed jarrar
agustin aguayo
kimberly wilder
dana priest
jeremy hinzman
sharon murphy
dahr jamailali al-fadhily