Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Iraq snapshot

March 20, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, protests continued, the state and meaning of the illegal war continues to be debated and Iraqis speak in their own voices, on their own terms.
Today on KPFA's The Morning Show, Andrea Lewis and Philip Maldari spoke with Tom Hayden and Frances Fox Piven about Iraq (Hayden has a book on Ending the Iraq War due out in June and professor Piven authored The War At Home.).   Frances Fox Piven noted that it was time to "begin withdrawal immediately and we also should push for an interim authority in the area made up of other national representatives that's either nations in the area or UN authority that tries to surpress violence while we are withdrawing.  We should withdraw as fast as we can.  The Democrats are as timid as they are not because they don't have the support of the American people for withdrawal but because they have their eye on the 2008 election and they want to avoid any circumstancing which they can be attacked, including attacked for 'exposing the troops' or . . .  adding to the 'losing' of the war, or whatever, politicans are always going to be cautious, especially in a two-party system where there is no alternative to the left of the Democratic Party so they can position themselves very moderately and still hope to gain electorally."  Hayden noted that Bully Boy "wants to put the issue to the test in the 2008 presidential election as well.  He wants to push it on. It's not unusual for presidents, leaders of the state, the establishment, to want to avoid losing at all costs and escalation is always the answer to losing, you just pass it along so you can say that you finished your term without losing any honor blah, blah, blah."  Maldari brought up 1968 and Nixon's secret plan for getting out of Vietnam (apparently the secret plan was the threat of his own impeachment).
Piven: Certainly one of the factors leading to the pull out from South Vietnam was the military themselves who were in --
Hayden: In revolt.
Piven: . . . the GI anti-war movement was escalating, really, beginning in 1970, the prospect of losing control of the military, the prospect of this kind of international disaster certainly had a lot to do with the ultimate pull out from Vietnam. It also had a lot to do with the reluctance of the American military to go to war on that scale again.  Instead we had a lot of small wars.
Hayden spoke of the importance of setting a deadline and planning for an orderly departure. 
and observed, "No one in the media has ever called for the withdrawal of American troops or setting the deadline for withdrawal."  Which is a good time to drop back to the start of the month when John R. MacArthur (writing for the Providence Journal) noted that withdrawal of US troops also means planning who gets withdrawn -- as in Vietnam, there are many who've aided US troops and who among them will be allowed (most have already been promised that they will be) to leave with the US military.  The issue of the financial costs for the illegal war was addressed and how the losses were more complex than some might realize.
Piven: I think that the official figures bring the costs of the wars in Afgahnistan and Iraq up to around 400 billion at this point and yes they are cutting Medicad and Medicare.  And they stopped building low-cost housing.  There's a very long list of domestic needs that are going unmet.  I think it's a little more complicated than that.  All that's true but at the same time I think it's also true that their motives for going into war in the first place had a lot to do with the way war and war time enthusiasm would allow them, at least for a time, to manipulate the American public.  They depicted a great menace overseas.  They evoked all kind of foreign dragons that nobody could asses in terms of their own experience or their own perceptions,  And they created a lot of war like enthusiasm in the United States.  And then they used that enthusiasm not only to get themselves elected -- their majority increased in 2002, to get re-elected in 2004 -- but they also used that kind of enthusiasm, and the domination of all branches of government that it gave them, to slash taxes on the very rich and to do that again and again and again.  And Tom DeLay said 'nothing is more important in a time of war than cutting taxes'.  And they used the war time enthusiasm to push through subsidies for the pharmaceutical companies, for the energy corporations.  So . . . the domestic costs to the war are truly profound.  They go beyond the simple arithmetic of 'we could have spent the money that went for Iraq on what our children need'.  That's true but the war also corrupted democracy to an extent that one can choke on and also allowed them to engage in this very predatory behavior in domestic politics.
Hayden noted the polling of Iraqis and how they want troops out.  (A point made in the segment, was also that it's up to the people to educate one another on what withdrawal means as opposed to what it's sometimes portrayed as.  He wrote about this last week at The Huffington Post.)  As time ran out, one of the most important points was made.  Hayden stated, "The Baghdad government is a sectarian police state that's based on militias and death squads and that's the issue for funding should funding tax dollars go continually to that regime?  That was a big issue in '73.  It's a big issue today."
And that is who is being supported and the support needs to be questioned.  Earlier this month, Joseph Forrest (Socialist Appeal) interviewed US war resister Darrell Anderson and asked Anderson if he thought the Democrats would be ending the war anytime soon?  "No, no," Darrell Anderson replied.  "If anything the Democrats will go into Iran or have a draft of something.  I have no belief in Hillary Clinton or any of them, because they're all politicians.  They're not going to stop the war."  Anderson, who self-checked out after serving in Iraq and receiving the Purple Heart, returned from Canada last year to turn himself in and he discussed with Forrest how that went, "I went to turn myself in at Fort Knox and I found the Generals at Fort Knox, and they had the choice to either Court Marshall me or not, and I told them that they're going to have to put my uniform on me and pin my medals to my chest, put me on Court Martial, and that my whole defense is going to be talking about all the war crimes we committed, all the friends I've seen beating prisoners to death, all the times we killed innocent civilians.  They told me I was going to go to jail for one to five years, and when I got to the base they started to break, saying, 'Come in quietly and we'll let you go.'  I told them no.  I was gonna keep talking, and I got to the base and three days later I was sent away with discharge papers, because the soldiers on the base were really reacting to me being there.  They were like, 'What the hell is going on?  This guy against the war and he has a purple heart.'  So they released me.  I guess they felt the longer I was at the base, the more trouble I was going to cause, the more soldiers would have gotten on my side, and they felt it was better for the military to get rid of me basically."
Also speaking out was US war resister Dean Walcott who is attempting to be granted refugee status in Canada.  Melanie Patten (The Canadian Press) reports on his participation at the rally in Hallifax where he was received by a "cheering crowd" and declared that, "I'm not a politician I don't know the ins and outs of political theory but I do know that there's got be a better way for a nation to be free whether than us putting a gun in their face and demanding it of them."
Anderson and Walcott are part of a movement of resistance within the military that also includes Ehren Watada, Kyle Snyder, Joshua Key, Agustin Aguayo, Mark Wilkerson, Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, 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, Hart Viges, Michael Blake 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.
Protests have been going on since Friday to demonstrate opposition to the illegal war.  Yesterday, Karen Miller (Free Speech Radio News) reported on Saturday's march on the Pentagon and noted this from a speech given by Cindy Sheehan: "We're only part of the world.  We're only 5% of the population and we use up to 40% of the resources.  It's gotta stop.  We have to share with our brothers and sisters around the world.  We have to start saying, 'We have enough, do you want to have enough too?'   We have to stop demonizing other people to allow our leaders to send our young people off to kill them, to send our young people off -- like my son Casey -- to die for nothing, to die for the war machine."  Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted Monday's protests at the New York Stock Exchange on Monday where 44 protesters were arrested and quoted Margio Farr stating, "If people sit down and they refuse to move and they create a dent in the effectivity of the market today, hopefully that will send a message to government officials that this war needs to end and that corporations have to stop profiting off of people's lives."
In the Bay Area yesterday, many actions took placeFlashpoints Nora Barrows- Friedman spoke with Antonia Juhasz who was at the San Ramon Chevron headquarters and explained, "I have been locked into two barrels since about seven o'clock this morning.  We have been blockading the entrance to Cheveron's world  headquaters.  We've got about a 150 people and we successfully and significantly not only disrupted their business day but definately gave every employee at Cheveron a conversation piece for the day with a full protest against not only their involvement in the war but their advancement of climate chaos and a very successful action. . . .   We had a funeral for the last cube of ice that just finished.  We also had a tug of war between the Bush administration and Chevron oil executives and the people . . .  and we're just now finishing that up. . . .  We're here to talk in particular about Chevron's role in trying to steal Iraq's oil through the war and the passage of a new Iraqi oil law . . " 
Brian Edwards-Tiekert reported from the protests for yesterday's The KPFA Evening News
("It felt like a carnival at the gates to Chevron's world headquarters") and spoke with Antonia Juhasz who explained the proposed Iraqi oil legislation, "The law changes Iraq from an oil system closed to US oil companies into an oil system in which . . . American oil companies including Chevron could own and control at least two-thirds of Iraq's oil for a generation or more."
The KPFA Evening News yesterday noted actions by the Declaration of Peace at Senator Dianne Feinstein's office in San Francisco that then became a street action with at least 57 people being arrested as well as actions at Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco offices by CODEPINK and others including Sean O'Neill:
O'Neill (president of the Berkeley chapter Iraq Veterans Against the War):  "I speak for the men in my platoon who do not have the opportunity to because they were killed in this pointless military adventure that we call 'Operation Iraqi Freedom.'  There's the courage of those like Ehren Watada who stand on a principled, moral ground and with decency say that they will not participate in this mockery of the military and American values.  But there are others who, like myself were not quite the same moral fabric, were not as strong as they are, and we went knowing that this was wrong, knowing that this was completely ineffective.  We are trying to provide our experiences to you the public  so that you know you are right because you are.  This war is a travesty."
David Montgomery (Washington Post) reports on DC actions by Iraq Veterans Against the War where thirteen members dressed in "desert camo" as they marched "from Union Station to Arlingotn National Cementary" and "carried imaginary assault rifles, barked commands, roughly 'detained' suspected hostiles with flex cuffs and hoods -- and generally shocked frightened and delighted tourists and office workers."  Operation First Casualty was the name of the action and it "aims to bring the story of the war to the American people."
As these and other actions take place (remember Darrell Anderson's quote), the leadership in the US House of Representatives promotes a weak measure.  As Robert Knight noted in his Knight Report on KPFA's Flashpoints yesterday, the Democratic leadership  "angling to extend the Republican launched war until the eve of the 2008 presidential election while running out the clock with do nothing resolutions in the House and Senate that impose no budgetary restraints or mandatory withdrawals."
Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber (Center for Media and Democracy) walk everyone through how MoveOn's recent 'polling' (of 'members'), how the 'poll' severly limited options and how the organization's leaders refuse to support  US House Reps Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey and Maxine Waters' bill (HR 508).  Rampton and Stauber write: "Politically, the Lee amendment cannot pass; fewer than 100 members of Congress are expected to vote for it.  However, the same thing is true of weaker legislation that MoveOn is currently supporting, in league with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, John Murtha and David Obey.  The Pelosi bill merely establishes 'benchmarks' of progress in Iraq, so that all Bush has to do is certify that he is making progress on those goals to keep funding flowing for the war.  Instead of withdrawing troops this year, the Pelosi bill talks about beginning to withdraw them in March 2008.  Even so, it faces united Republican opposition and is not expected to pass the U.S. Senate, even if it is approved by the House of Representatives.  And even if it does pass, Bash has already said he will veto it.  So why was the Democratic Party leadership so determined to prevent the Lee amendment from even coming to the floor -- and why has MoveOn.org avoided even mentioning the Lee proposal to its members?"  Another question is why MoveOn is called a "liberal" organization?  The organization began 'reformist' (at best), or "appeasement" (at worst and that's the label many in the Clinton White House tagged it with).   The story of MoveOn is told in it's beginnings.  It was an organization that came about when there was talk of impeaching then US president Bill Clinton.  There were impeachment petitions gathering signatures.   The people never supported impeachment and a truly liberal organization might have started a petition entitled "Nobody's Damn Business! Back The Hell Off!"  Instead, MoveOn took what the Republicans were pushing for (which had a minority of public support) and said, "Censure! Don't Impeach! And Move On!"  If there was a time to fight, that was it.  Instead of fighting, MoveOn appeased Republican leadership and provided cover for impeachment by allowing right-wingers to claim that even 'liberals' supported some action by pointing to MoveOn's call for censure.  If you found the impeachment circus ridiculous, and many Americans did, remember that the efforts were aided by some 'liberal' groups. It's worth remembering that as we find another situation where the American people (the majority) want real action on Iraq, want a timeline, want troops home.  Again, MoveOn is appeasing elected leaders and MovingOn away from their supposed membership. 
Military Families Speak Out, Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans For Peace are among the groups who have come out against the measure backed by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.  And this is a good place to note Robert Parry's (Consortium News) observation, "George W. Bush and Dick Cheney may deserve the most blame for the Iraq war, but a core reality shouldn't be missed: the four-year-old conflict resulted from a systemic failure in Washingtonn -- from the White House, to congressional Republicans and Democrats, to an insular  national news media, to Inside-the-Beltway think tanks."
Ron Jacobs (CounterPunch) raises another issue for the peace movment to consider, debate and discuss: whether a new umbrella organization is needed "that would emcompass the two current supposedly umbrella antiwar organizations: UFPJ and ANSWER"?  It's a conversation worth having whatever your position.  (The community's position is reflected in this roundtable for The Third Estate Sunday ReviewUnited for Peace and Justice, A.N.S.W.E.R.have done wonderful work and deserve praise.  New groups emerging are not a threat, they further the message and promote even more action.  As for a larger umbrellas group, it's something to consider and hopefully Jacobs will return to that topic in the future.)
Providing Iraqis the chance to speak for themselves, Hilba Dawood (Free Speech Radio News) got the views of two Iraqis yesterday.  A 44-year-old "businessman" in Baghdad offered that: "Americans have turned Iraq into a guinnea pig.  They have tried everything in hand until they have turned Iraq into chaos.  They created this chaos waiting to see who was the strongest to be in power.  This is not going to work without a good plan." A 35-year-old teacher in Karbala shared, "No one is optimistic.  Our people are scared.  Though the bombs are a bit less frequent now.   The people of Iraq are tired of the situation -- which was a lot better during Saddam's times.  No one wants him back but we need security.  We don't want the Americans to stay.  No single side in Iraq wants them to stay." 
Meanwhile the BBC reports that Iraqi police chief Abdul Hussein Al Saffe ("head of policing in Dhi Qhar province") has stated "that many of his officers were disloyal.  They could not be sacked because they had political protection" and "Brigadier General Ghalib al Jaza'aere, said he had been forced to hire 300-4000 officers who were completely illiterate."  This comes as Karin Brulliard (Washington Post) reports on events in Duluiyah yesterday ("45 miles north of Baghdad") where people with machine guns surrounded the police station and were told "Repent or die" -- at which point they quit the police force on the spot after which the police station was blown up.
CBS and AP note 5 deaths and 18 wounded in a car bombing at a bus station in Baghdad,
Reuters notes a mortar attack in southern Baghdad that claimed at least 7 lives and left 20 injured. The BBC notes that the wounded included "women and children."  CNN reports, "second car bomb ripped through a commercial district in the capital's Karrada neighborhood, killing two people and wounding at least seven others.  Karrada is a predominatly Shiite area in central Baghdad."  Reuters notes a bombing "near a mosque" that took one life and left three wounded, while a bombing near a police station left five dead and 17 wounded.
Reuters notes a police officer was shot dead just outside of Kirkuk and that 39 people were killed (suspected of . . . something) by "[p]olice and tribal fighters" in Amiriya.
Reuters notes that a corpse was discovered in Kirkuk, one corpse was discovered in Falluja,
Today the US military announced: "Two MND-B Soldiers died when an improvised explosive device struck the unit's vehicle during a combat security patrol in a souther section of the Iraqi capital, wounding another."
This as Atef Hassan (Reuters) reports, "British troops in Iraq's southern Basra oil port pulled out of their heavily attacked base in the heart of the city on Tuesday, the first to be handed to Iraqi forces who are slowly taking control of security."  Today, PTI reports that a new poll of British sentiment found that only 29% of respondents felt the illegal war was "justified" and that "nearly 60 per cent" felt it wasn't.
Yesterday, at Inside Iraq, Laith blogged: "Now and while I'm writing these words, the American troops are attacking a part of my neighborhood west Baghdad.  At the same time, I got a call from my nephew that some insurgents are attacking her neighborhood south west Baghdad.  I'm sure the American army knows about the insurgents but I'm sure they ignore them or let me say they allow them to do everything they want. . . . A question just jumped in my mind, Shouldn't the American go to the place where the insurgents are attacking the civilians?  Shouldn't they do their duty as they say to protect Iraqis and fight terror?  It looks that the American government and Mr. President Bush don't care about anything except for his own capital friends' interest.  The strategy the US army follows in Iraq is not more than another lie to cheat us both Iraqis and Americans and we all, Iraqis and Americans pay the price. . . . I just hope that someone reads these words and tell the poor Americans that your soldiers are not fighting Al Qaida or the terrorists in Iraq as the military commanders claim.  They are here to do their role of killing the innocents and to complete the play the politicians started since the American administration decided to get [rid] of its crazy fool agent Saddam Hussein."
Heads up -- Tomorrow on Democracy Now!, Jeremy Scahill and Naomi Klein are scheduled guests.  (Scahill was on today's show as well.)

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