Thursday, February 22, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, February 22, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, the media obsesses over royalty (Harry in Iraq in May!  Or June! OMG), the puppet learns rape doesn't just go away, the military still hasn't refiled charges against Ehren Watada, Mark Wilkerson faces his court-martial at Fort Hood, and activism and calls for it abound.
Starting with the issue of rape. Riverbend (Baghdad Burning) offers a breakdown for those who still can't get it:
No Iraqi woman under the circumstances -- under any circumstances -- would publicly, falsely claim she was raped.  There are just too many risks.  There is the risk of being shunned socially.  There is the risk of beginning an endless chain of retaliations and revenge killings between tribes.  There is the shame of coming out publicly and talking about a subject so taboo, she and her husband are not only risking their reputations by telling this story, they are risking their lives.          
No one would lie about something like this simply to undermine the Baghdad security operation.  That can be done simply by calculating the dozens of dead this last week.  Or by writing about the mass detentions of innocents, or how people are once again burying their valuables so that Iraqi and American troops don't steal them.                    
It was less than 14 hours between Sabrine's claims and Maliki's rewarding the people she accused.  In 14 hours, Maliki not only established their innocence, but turned them into his own personal heroes.  I wonder if Maliki would entrust the safety his own wife and daughter to these men.
Riverbend is writing of the 20-year-old woman who came forward Monday stating she had been raped.  al-Maliki promised an investigation and . . . didn't follow through.  What he did do was release something -- a second page of a three page report on someone -- that he said was proof that the woman wasn't raped.
It wasn't proof of anything.  And it doesn't even prove that whatever woman the report is on wasn't raped.  Richard Mauer (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that rape experts who have looked at the page say it "didn't disprove the woman's allegations, . . . and it indicated that the woman suffered extensive injuries, including at least eight bruises on the front of her thighs consistent with a sexual assualt."  Christian Berthelsen (Los Angeles Times) offers a timeline of many of the generally known details; however, he leaves out the fact that the woman was taken to a US medical facility by US forces.  That detail was left out of the official version by the Giddiest Gabor in the Green Zone, Willie Caldwell -- despite being previously reported.  Among the experts Mauer cites are Dr. Karen Simmons of the Rape Treatment Center in Miami ("They did a CT scan of the head, the pelvis, and the neck.  These tests would not have shown if someone was sexually assaulted, so there had to have been some kind of other trauma that they found.") and Josuah Weintraub ("It shows that she was brought into a trauma unit in bad shape.").
Marc Santora (New York Times) notes that news conferences were called by Sunni and Shi'ites "to condemn one aonther" with Abdul Nasir al-Janabi stating that "the government was covering up many rapes of Iraqi women by the security forces" and al-Maliki issuing a statement proclaiming: "We expected this fabricated propaganda.  The purpose of this is to obstruct and distort the law enforcing plan."
Earlier Oren Dorell (USA Today) reported: "The U.S. military said Wednesday that it will launch its own investigation into an alleged rape that has created a furor among Iraq's Sunnis and bitterly split the country's government."  However, Hamza Hendawi (AP) corrected that, "But [Willie] Caldwell clarified his remarks Thursday, saying the U.S. military was not conducting an independent probe.  He said Petraeus has ordered that any evidence pertinent to the case be secured and preserved 'so that it may be provided to the appropriate Iraqi judicial official in accordance with U.S. policy'."
While the US military refuses to live up to its obligations as an occupying power, the reports have already had some impact.  One response to the public charges "and the Iraqi government's dismissive response" was, CNN reports, to lead another rape victim to come forward -- a 45-year-old Sunni woman was raped and her daughters were almost raped in Tal Afar by four Iraqi soldiers.  A fifth Iraqi soldier arrived in the midst of the crimes and ordered the four to leave but that was apparently to be 'justice' because nothing else was done until the woman came forward. AP is going with fifty-years-old for the woman but CNN notes where their confirmation for the details come from (mayor of Tal Afar).  (BBC pins her age at 40.)  The BBC quotes the woman stating: "They threatened me that if I did not co-operate they would . . . cause me a scandal. . . . Who do I complian to?  No one allows us to complain." 
In other rape news, the New York Times manages to run Andrea Hopkins (Reuters) report on Paul Cortez' confession to taking part in the gang rape of  Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi.  Yet it's a selectively edited version of Hopkins report, one that somehow manages to leave out  Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi thereby continuing the not-so-proud tradition of the New York Times of rendering Abeer invisible.  While this scrubbed version of a Reuters appears on A8 and never manages to mention the victim's name, flip to A14 and a story on a death sentence and you'll see both murder victims named.  Some victims matter more to the paper than other victims and, as Carolyn Marshall and Robert F. Worth demonstrated early on, the paper's goal was to sell 'no crimes took place but, if anything did happen, it was just due to stress.'  Credit to Kristin M. Hall of AP who reported it for what it was "gang rape."
You say it's so women in Iraq can vote     
from the privacy of their graves.
-- Connie Wanek, "You Say," Poets Against The War, p. 245
Turning to the United States, war resister Mark Wilkerson's court-martial took place todayat Fort Hood in Texas.  Shelton Green (Austin's KVUE) reports that Wilkerson spent his last night with his wife and family.  Thursday, August 31st, Wilkerson spoke at Camp Casey III --  a press conference -- where he announced his intent to turn himself in after having self-checked out a year and a half ago.  Angela K. Brown (AP) reported, "Wilkerson said his views of the war changed and he realized he could no longer stay in the military, so he applied for conscientious objector status. But his request was denied a month before his unit was to return to Iraq. He said he was told his appeal would not be considered until after he came back. So Wilkerson then decided not to return from the two weeks of approved leave before the January 2005 deployment."
Also on August 31st, As Mark Wilkerson was interviewed by Dennis Bernstein for KPFA's  Flashpoints, discussing the expected charge of desertion, a charge that, if found guilty of, people have been executed for.  Wilkerson discussed serving in Iraq and how his views changed from those he'd held at 17-years-old.  He attempted to receive c.o. status but his was denied.  He attempted to prepare for the rebuttal process but was informed he'd be redeploying to Iraq and any rebuttal would have to wait until his second deployment ended.
Wilkerson, in that interview, emphasized how difficult it could be to have access to news becuase not everyone has internet access and, for many, Stars & Stripes is basically it.  Bernstein asked him if he regretted his decision to self-check out?  Wilkerson responded, "I completely stand by my decision.  For me, this was a time in my life when I decided I had to make a stand regardless of whether [it meant] prison or death".
Wilkerson wrote (last October): "Before I deployed to Iraq during OIF1, I was full of optimism for what we could do to help the people of Iraq.  One of our missions, after all, was to 'win the hearts and the minds of the Iraqi people.'  And in this reagard, we have failed miserably.  In the year I was in Iraq, I saw kids waving American flags in the first month.  Then they threw rocks.  Then they planeted IEDs.  Then they blew themselves and others up in city squares full of people.  The only conclusion I can come up with as to why this has happened is the way the American troops have treated the Iraqi people as a whole.  From random raids of whole city blocks, to checkpoints that interrupted the daily lives of the Iraqis, to incidents of torture and even massacres, a majority of Iraqis now feel as that the American soliders, once hailed as heroes and saviors, are now seen as conquerors.  Civil was has erupted in the streets, and Americans are caught in the crossfire."
Earlier this month, Dick Foster (Rocky Mountain News) reported on the plea agreement that had been reached which would guarantee no "more than 10 months in prison.  But he also faces a possible dishorable or bad conduct discharge and a felony conviction on his record."
Today, Wilkerson had to enter his plea and later face sentencing.  Jim Bergramo (KVUE) reports: "The military judge, who is hearing the case, accepted Wilkerson's guilty plea.  Wiklerson told the judge he quit the Army and made his decision with a clear mind.  He also said he planned to leave his unit, and changed his address, phone number and email address so no one in his unit could find him."  Angela K. Brown (AP) reports that the prosecution called no witnesses but Wilkerson's relatives "testified on his behalf . . . and more witnesses were expected later in the afternoon at the sentecing."  Jim Bergamo (KVUE) quotes Iraq Veterans Against the War Kelly Dougherty stating: "For those in the military who see the war in Iraq as immoral and wrong, I think it takes a lot of courage . . . because this is not what they signed up for.  The military stresses that when you're given an illegal order, it's your duty to refuse it, so I think they see it as their duty to refuse it." [Sentenced to 7 months.  See last sentence in snapshot.]
War resister Agustin Aguayo faces a court-martail on March 6th in Germany.  Ehren Watada is someone the US military would love to court-martial again; however, the double-jeopardy clause may prevent that.  Iraq Veterans Against the War's Ryan Elsey writes (Foreign Policy in Focus) that "Lt. Watada's lawyer is hoping to invoke the principle of double jeopardy to argue that a second trial cannot lawfully take place.  Just as many members of Iraq Veterans Against the War stood by Lt. Watada as he spoke before the Veterans for Peace convention, the organization stands by him now. Even though everyone in uniform is a volunteer, it is absurd to think that a contract can relinquish a human being
of the responsibility to act in a just way. It is equally abominable to claim that service members should lack the right to free speech. Those who give up so much--time, energy, blood, sweat, and even their lives--to serve deserve the right to free speech more than anyone; service members have clearly given the most to earn free speech.  Service members of all ranks have the right to contribute to the public debate on any war and to provide a tempering voice when issues of war are discussed. They have perspectives that are vastly more valuable than armchair punditry. And when they are ordered to carry out unjust acts and fight in immoral wars, if they choose to resist, they at the very least have
the right to a fair defense.  Yet, the Army is still attempting to prosecute Lt. Watada for speaking out about the Iraq War and for refusing orders. The silent majority of Americans opposed to the Iraq War must stand up and support Lt. Watada. Now is the time to praise the war's objectors as equally as we have praised the heroes who have fought and died. If we all had Lt. Watada's courage, we could finally facilitate an end to this war and steer our country toward a foreign policy based on cooperation, diplomacy, and a respect for international law."
Meanwhile, Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) reports that Eric Seitz, Watada's civilian attorney, doesn't expect a court-martial to even be possible before summer due to scheduling issues and that the military hasn't even refiled the charges for the March 19th date that Judge Toilet (John Head) was tossing around when he declared a mistrial.
Wilkerson, Aguayo and Watada are a part of a movement of resistance with the military that includes others such as Kyle Snyder, Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Joshua Key, Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Corey Glass, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard 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.
Turning to US politics, Kevin Zeese (CounterPunch) reports on Democratic presidential candidate Mike Gravel who didn't cower while serving in the Senate during the days of Tricky Dick and who has said "that anyone who voted for the use of force resolution that allowed President Bush to invade Iraq has shown they do not have the judgment to serve as prsident of the United States.  Gravel, during the build-up to the war, publicly opposed the invasion.  In an interview on MSNBC he insisted that intelligence showed there were indeed no weapons of mass destruction, Iraq posed no threat to the United States and that invading Iraq was against America's national interests."
Meanwhile, the Green Party (US), this week, reissued their call for Congress to "address the war as a criminal act of military aggression.  Greens called on Democrats and Republicans in Congress who claim to oppose the war to interrupt President Bush's agenda in Iraq by cutting off funding for the U.S. occupation."
This as NOW asks that you "Surge for Peace": "It's time for Congress to excercise their oversight authority and pass BINDING legislation to deal with the costly and deadly situation in Iraq.  After last week's pros-and-cons marathon in the House, they finally passed the "non-binding" resolution opposing the troops surge by a vote of 246 to 182.  Now it's time to get serious.  We must urge, no demand, that our Representatives cosponsor H.R. 508, introduced by Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif), a comprehensive plan to disengage from Iraq within 6 months after enactment and make reparations for the damages that our invasion and occupation have caused to Iraq's people and infrastructure. Take Action NOW"
The Illinois Students Against The War protested Democratic presidential candidate (and US senator) Barack Obama's speech two Sundays ago and explain why at CounterPunch: "Many have felt that we interrupted the rally one to many times.  Our plan was to drop the banner and chant once during a pause to make our presence noticed -- which we did.  But because we were being roughed up and 'escorted' out of the pavilion by security we felt it necessary to again make our point.  It was then that we started a second chant; 'No justice, no peace -- U.S. out of the Middle East.' Later in his speech, Obama acknowledged our concerns.  'I'm glad they were there,' he told the crowd.  'They feel a sense of urgency about a war that should have never been authorized and a war that should have never been fought.'  But Obama added that he doesn't want to cut funding for the war.  'We need to bring this war to an end,' he said, 'but we need to do it in a way that makes our troops safe.'  In reality, the longer the troops stay in Iraq -- the more unsafe they are."  In addition, it needs to be noted that evicting protestors is something Democrats act appalled by when Republicans do it.  The whole thing has a shade of 'protest pens' that so disgraced the 2004 DNC convention in Boston.
Also taking action were four activists who staged a sit-in at US Rep Marcy Kaptur's office in Toledo, Ohio. AP reports 17 participated and 4 were arrested.
Meanwhile, while everyone obsessed over Mr. Tony's announcement, Free Speech Radio News reported yesterday that Denmark "will completely withdraw its troops from Iraq by August."  On Mr. Tony's announcement, Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London) reports: "It is an admission of defeat.  Iraq is turning into one of the world's bloodiest battlefields in which nobody is safe.  Blind to this reality, Tony Blair said yesterday that Britain could safely cut its forces in Iraq because the apparatus of the Iraqi government is growing stronger.  In fact the civil war is getting worse by the day.  Food is short in parts of the country.  A quarter of the population would starve without government rations.  Many Iraqis are ill because their only drinking water comes from the highly polluted Tigris and Euphrates rivers.  Nowhere in Mr Blair's statement was any admission of regret for reducing Iraq to a wasteland from which 2 million people have fled and 1.5 million are displaced internally."
Germany's Spiegel, high on something, offers: "The allies have had very different Iraq Wars since the invasion and overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003. While the British control the Shiite-dominated southern part of the country, which has been relatively calm, the United States has become bogged down in Sunni-dominated central Iraq, and in the capital Baghdad -- home to both Sunnis and Shiites. Blair acknowledged this difference during his speech, saying 'the situation in Basra is very different from Baghdad -- there is no Sunni insurgency, no al-Qaida base, little Sunni on Shia violence,' adding that it was nothing like the 'challenge of Baghdad'."  Apparently, we're all supposed to pretend that sourthern Iraq is patrolled?  We're supposed to pretend that the British didn't abandon one base in August -- with no notice -- that was stripped down by the resistance in a matter of hours?  We're supposed to pretend that the Basra base wasn't under daily attack?  In fact, let's pretend that Al Jazeera didn't just report: "The two British bases, located in central Basra and in the city's Shat al-Arab hotel, were bombed on Wednesday night and early Thursday morning".
In other violence in Iraq . . .
CBS and AP report a mortar attack in Baghdad that left 4 wounded. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a woman was wounded by an IED in Baghdad, two other civilians were wounded by an IED earlier today (10:00 am), a mortar attack left one person dead and three wounded (this was two hours after the mortar attack CBS and AP note) and, in Slah ad Din, "A source in the Iraqi police said that two policemen were killed and other 9 were wounded in an attack launched by insurgents on Hay Al Tamim police station in Biji city north of Baghdad. The source added that Iraqi security forces imposed a curfew in the city after the incident. It's to be mentioned that the insurgents blew up a communication tower belonging to Asia Cell phone company which stopped the communication inside the city."
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two Iraqi police officers were wounded in Baghdad.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports ten corpses were discovered in Baghdad.
And AP is reporting that Mark Wilkerson was "sentenced to seven months in military prison . . . also given a bad conduct discharge".

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