Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, March 21, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue; Kristin M. Hall covers the latest on "one of the worst atrocities in the Iraq war" and she and co-workers at AP are some of the few who can hold their heads high because most everyone took a pass; but the key thing about today is that it's the day after March 20th and we're seeing what Rebecca long ago termed the "Baby cried the day the circus came to town" coverage:  It settles, then it picks ups and leaves.
We'll open by noting something worthy.  Pacifica Radio deserves praise for a program, which originated at WBAI, noting the 4th anniversary with a two hour special program American War in Iraq: The Fraud, the Folly, the Failure featuring speeches, interviews and discussions.  Daniel Ellsberg spoke of the opposition during the Vietnam era and the importance of the opposition.  "They say it will take a lot more courage than we've seen," Ellsberg said, "to end this war." Bernard White hosted the two-hour program with David Occhiuto.  Howard Zinn shared, "It's just about four years since the United States invaded and attacked Iraq with an enormous arsenel of weaponry . . .  what was called 'shock and awe'.  And so we've had four years to evaluate what  we have accomplished.  Have we brought democracy or freedom to Iraq in these four years?  Have we brought peace or security to Iraq?  I think it's quite clear -- we've brought the opposite.  We've brought choas and death and misery to Iraq."   He also noted the US Congress' comedy of ineptitude as they debate "timetables for withdrawal" when each day brings more of our soldiers will be dead, more amputees, more Iraqi children dead, more Iraqi families forced from their homes, more of those shameful scenes that we've seen of US soldiers breaking down the doors of an Iraq family.  There's something absurd about a timetable for withdrawal  given what we are doing.  If someone broke into your home, smashed everything, terrorized your children, would you give them a timetable to leave?  No. . . . They say, and this to me has always been ridiculous, if we withdrawal we will create chaos and violence. Well what do we have there  now?"
We'll note a few more of the voices featured. 
Elizabeth de la Vega: "I think it's critical that we address the legal and political terrain that led up to the war because it's never really been addressed. . . .  What we know, based on public information, now is  that various members of the Bush administration. including the president. set about -- at least starting openly in September 2002 -- to persuade Congress by doing this marketing campaign aimed at both Congress and the public.  Which, of course,  if they had been truthful (in stating their grounds for war and so forth),  there would be no fraud but there is really overwhelming evidence  that the administration was deceitful in almost every regard about whether that had in fact decided to go to war, what their reasons were in a more general sense, but also the details they offered in support of their arguments for example that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted nuclear weapons, and that he had chemical weapons and so forth.  Virutally every area of the marketing campaign involved both general deceits and very specific deceits that were made over and over again.
Dahlia S. Wasfi: "In the spirit that all human lives carries equal, immeasurable  worth, we need to stop our practice of seperate bodycounts.  There are at least 4,000 American dead.  The Pentagon's tally counts only those service men and women who die in the sands of Iraq.  There are at least 4,000 American dead.  But this was the death toll of Iraq after the first few hours of our campaigns to shock and awe them.  I'm quite sure that a report estimating 655,000 Americans dead due to our bloody occupation would mandate an end to the slaughter.  Why do we value Iraqi blood less?  And with all do respect, it is a discriminatory practice to identify dead Americans as husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters, and not do the same for Iraqis.  They are all human beings.  The difference is that the Americans followed illegal orders and are guilty of the Nuremberg crime against peace.  Iraqis, 7,000 miles away, are guilty of being born Iraqi.  The death toll we need to mark is the human toll, 659,000 and counting.  The  civilians at the other end of our weapons don't have a choice but  American soldiers have choices. And we know the truth, our soldiers don't sacrifice for duty, honor, country, they sacrifice for Kellogg Brown and Root.  Our soldiers, they don't fight for America, they fight for their lives and their buddies beside them because they are in a war zone.  They're not defending our freedoms.  They're laying the foundation for fourteen permanent military bases to defend the freedoms of Exxon Mobile and British Petroleum.  They're not establishing democracy.  They're establishing the basis for an economic occupation to continue after the military occupation has ended.  I recently received this message from a friend in Baghdad who found my Congressional testimony on the internet. "Dear Dahlia, I have tried to write you back but I have been so busy with moving my mother and two brothers out of Baghdad.  They are now living with my relatives in another city I am still in Baghdad as I can't leave my job. My father was kidnapped on December 16th of 2006 couple of blocks away from my family's house.  He was taken by men who were using Glock pistols. The same pistols used by the new police force we are training" so don't talk to me about civil war  "We have paid the ransom money but it has been over a month and there has been no word. As dangerous as it is I still have to go to the Baghdad morgue every week searching for the man who I owe him all my life. Just imagine the kind of mentality you have when you go there and expect to see your father on the widescreen they have displaying the bodies  I am too afraid to go to the house where  I was raised.  The house has probably been taken by gang or militia the usual thing in Baghdad today.  We are moving towards a dead end.  There is no way out, no fire escape, no exit.  We Iraqis are all registered on the very long list of  death and nobody is exempted.  Do not let your courageous voice stop."  We must dare to speak out in support of the Iraqi people who resist and endure the horrific existance we brought upon them through our blood thirsty imperial crusade.  We must dare to speak out in support of those American soldiers the real heroes who uphold their oath to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, including those inside the Beltway.  As Lt. Watada said, and you've heard it before, To stop an illegal and unjust war the soldiers can choose to stop fighting it.  The organization Iraq Veterans Against the War is comprised of young men and women with a wisdom, courage and conviction of those well beyond their years.  It is these veterans, like Vietnam veterans against the war before them who know the ground truth and they are demanding that Congress support the troops by cutting the funding.  That is they are demanding that Congress support the troops by cutting the funding to mandate their immediate, unconditional withdrawal.  I close with a quote from Frederick Douglas: "Power concedes nothing without a demand.  It never has and it never will."  Everyone of us must keep demanding, keep fighting, keep speaking, keep struggling until justice is served.
No justice, no peace.
White and Occhiuto had a discussion with Iraq Veterans Against the War's Michael Harmon, Demond Mullins and Jason LeMieux and here's a sample of some of the discussion:
Jason: In my experience, it's largely counter-productive.  At best, it's completely worthless because in the process of doing the sweeps, you supposedly cordon off an area and the troops form just one long line, however big the area is that's going to be sweeped, and they go through and search every home. Now generally speaking in the process of cordoning off the area they give whoever is in there plenty of time to either hide whatever evidence they have of resistance activity or to get out, to just exiltrate out just  put down your weapons, just walk away.  In my three tours we hardly ever found anything, hardly ever found any weapons, and those that we did, when we did find them, would usually be much less than we were expecting in the area and at the same time when the troops are going through and they're searching, they're usually acting in a very oppresive manner to the civilians because I mean you're in a -- you're searching peoples' homes.  You know?  People don't understand that.  When we talk about fighting the insurgency and fighting the enemy this is in people's homes, it's in their neighorhoods it's actually people who live there that we're fighting.  So troops go through and they talk directly to women, sometimes they'll actually physically touch them and push them to get them all into a room and this is all just a horribly, horribly dishonest thing to do to these people.  And all it's doing is fueling the insugency.  It's just creating more anger and resistance for us and making people want to fight us more. So at best it's useless and at worst, it's completely counter-productive. 
Demond Mullins: Your whole life you have your parents teaching you what is right and what is wrong.  What is the right way to treat people and what is the wrong way to treat people and then you're put into a situation where you have to behave violently towards people, you have to be oppressive towards people.  And it's totally a mob mentality, you know?  You get into character.  I completely . . . I can say there were times when I was in Iraq and I was in tough situations where I completely lost myself and who I was as a person and who my parents raised me to be.  And those are the moments that I look back now on, those are the moments that in retrospect  I am the most embarrassed about because it was as if I was a different person and it was as if it was a whole lifetime ago that I behaved in that manner.  And to be honest with myself I can't forgive myself for the way that I behaved towards people
when I was in Iraq and that's partially the reason why I'm doing the work that I'm doing.
Michael Harmon: I signed up as a "health care specialist," as the Army calls it, which turns out to be a combat medic.  So I didn't sign up to really rush people's homes, I signed up to help the injured and the sick.  But Geneva Conventions says they're not allowed to use medical vehicles and medical personnel for those type of activities but that was out the window over there. I used my M113 which is, our medical vehicle, it's a slightly, lightly armored, maybe like a tank, like a PC, and we smashed down gates with it.  When infranty couldn't kick it in, if there was locks behind the gate, one of those bolt locks.  And I was used also, like Jason was saying, to sweep areas.   And it was . . . It wasn't what I signed up . . . I saw the fear on people's faces.  The Americans get upset when tele-marketers call them at dinner time.  Imagine if we kicked in your door and cornored you off in a little corner and rummaged through your stuff.  I mean, this is not -- we're violating the rights of people.  George says 'Oh, yeah, we want to give them their freedom and democracy' but yet we're not showing them that.  We're showing them Nazi-ism really, that's what it comes down to.
Veronica Jarret Mackey: For me my personal experiences, I was there when the war originally broke out and also I was there in 2005 but from my personal experience, especially the first time there,  my mission was to transport fuel from one military installation to another installation that was the only thing we did.  We didn't enforce anything, we didn't build anything.  We were just picking up fuel from one military base to another base and that was my whole mission the whole time I was there.  And is it worth it?  No.  Is it worth just taking up something to bring it to somewhere else?  No.  There was no growth, no anything.  So that was my personal experience.  . . .  When I did my mission, I had this thought in my head, "Oh my goodness I might be going out today and not coming back.  I might never see my family again, I might never see my husband again, I might never see my buddy that's riding in the truck with me."  We were targeted.  We were hit with IEDs, small arms fire, RPGs, name it, we were hit with it on our convoys, so of course anxiety, everything mixed up together, going out not, knowing if we were going to come back."
There were other guests, other conversations.  If you missed the special, you can listen to it at the WBAI archives -- Monday, 9:00 p.m., filed under "Home Fries" (the program it aired in place of) or you can listen to it at the Pacifica Radio main page.
On the special, Howard Zinn noted, "Soldiers like Ehren Watada are refusing to fight in Iraq and when more and more do that, well, maybe the war will come to an end."  Elaine Pasquini (WRMEA) notes that the speaking out and opposition to the war includes the war resisters and notes how Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder and others have taken the issue to the people. 
Watada, Anderson and Snyder are part of a movement of resistance within the military that also includes Dean Walcott, 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.
In Iraq today, two events compete for attention.  One is a desire for a dialogue.  In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Iraq's Sunni vice president, Tareq al-Hashemi stated that talks needed to begin with all Iraqis including so-called 'insurgents' because they are "just part of the Iraqi communities."  The other?  First some of today's violence.
CNN reports that a roadside bomb in Baghdad killed a police officer and left three more wounded and another roadside bomb in Baghdad that killed two people and also injured three police officers.  Reuters notes that a bombing aimed "at the headquaters of a Kurdish party" in Mosul left five dead and 40 wounded. CBS and AP note a mortar attack in Madain that claimed three lives and left ten wounded. AFP notes that the number dead from the mortar attack in al-Madain is 8 with 18 injured.  Reuters notes that an attempt by Iraqi police to dispose of "a huge truck bomb near the Finance Ministry in Baghdad" resulted in 12 people being injured and "collapsed part of the main highway linking the north and south of the capital."  Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports that at least one person died in the Iraqi police's attempt to dispose of the truck bomb.  AFP notes a bombing in Mosul that killed three people and one in Kirkuk that killed one person.
Reuters reports that "a former army brigadier and a friend" were shot dead in Falluja.
CBS and AP report the corpses of two police officer were discovered in Diwaniyah. Reuters notes three corpses discovered in Kut ("Shi'ite Mehdi Army militia members").  AFP reports: "On Wednesday, officials reported . . . another 33 corpses found shot and dumped in the capital."
Staying on the topic of violence, Kristin M. Hall (AP) reports on the latest regarding "one of the worst atrocities in the Iraq war" -- and she can use that language, anyone at AP can because they actually covered the story -- then and now. Yes, we're talking Abeer -- gang raped by US soldiers while her parents and five-year-old sister were murdered and then she was murdered as well.  Paul Cortez and James P. Barker have already confessed in court (and been sentenced) to the part in the war crimes.  Hall was reporting on Bryan Howard's trial which started today.  He is thought to have been a "look out" who knew what was planned.  After Howard, the next military trial will be Jesse Spielman's "scheduled for April 2."  Steven D. Green, whom Cortez and Barker have portrayed as the ringleader, will be tried in a civilian court due to the fact that he had been discharged back when the story was still that 'insurgents' had attacked Abeer's home.  In an update, Hall reports that Bryan Howard "pleaded guilty Wednesday to being an accessory to the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl and the slaying of her family" and "also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice by lying to his superior officers".  We'll again note the words of Captain Alex Pickands in the August Article 32 hearing into the death of Abeer and her family: "Murder, not war. Rape, not war. That's what we're here talking about today. Not all that business about cold food, checkpoints, personnel assignments. Cold food didn't kill that family. Personnel assignments didn't rape and murder that 14-year-old little girl."
The news of another guilty plea comes at a time when Lucinda Marshall (CounterPunch) rightly notes that "issues such as the violence against women that occur as a result of militarism become all but invisble at events such as the March on the Pentagon." Marshall recommends that everyone read "Statement of Conscience: A Feminist Vision for Peace" by the Feminist Peace Network.
With all the press al-Sadr has received recently, one big topic may be why al-Maliki -- supposedly standing up to al-Sadr (yeah, right) -- did him a solid?  CNN notes Moqtada al-Sadr's "top aide" -- Ahmed Shibani -- was released from jail after two years behind bars on the orders of Nouri al-Maliki.  Mariam Karouny (Reuters) reports, "Shibani's release is likely to boost the standing of Maliki, a Shi'ite Islamist who relies on Sadr for political support, with the Sadrist movement which holds a quarter of the parliamentary seats in the ruling Shi'ite Alliance."
Turning to  Australia, John Howard, who, try as he may, never managed to nudge ahead of Tony Blair, still remains a Bully Boy poodle.  Patrick Walters (The Australian) reports that Howard, desperate to be re-elected, bellowed and blustered with statements about "The staes are extraordinarily high" and "I believe strongly that to signal our departure now would be against Australia's national interest."  He's referring to Iraq.  It's in Australia's national interest to be in Iraq?  Well that must mean that they have 100,000 troops there.  No?  50,000?  No?  25,000?  No?  About 1,400.  If it was truly important to the security of Australia, shouldn't that figure be higher?  Well, he's trying hard to hold on to his office as prime minister and behind in the polls.  Rod McGuirk (AP) reports that Howard "conceded Wednesday that keeping Australian troops in Iraq could cost him re-election"  As Australia's ABC notes, Kevin Rudd and the Labor party support a withdrawal of Australian troops from Iraq.  And AP notes that a recent poll found that 68% found Howard "arrogant" (29% found Rudd "arrogant").
Turning to the US, House Rep and 2008 presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich has stated, "This week, we have the power to cut off the funding for the war and bring our troops home.  If we continue to fund the war, our troops will continue to remain in harm's way.  . . . How much more time are we going to give this misguided quagmire of a war?  More than 3,200 of our brave men and women have perished in a needless, selfless war that does not have an end in sight.  I have a real plan in place, HR 1234, that actually has the power to bring the troops home while transitioning to an international security and peacekeeping force.  The people of the United States are way ahead of Congress in wanting to get out of Iraq.  We need to listen to the mandate given to us by the American people on November 7, and act now to use the money that is in the pipeline to bring the troops home."  The office of US House Rep Lynn Woolsey notes, "While the Congress debates a $120 billion supplemental that would continue the occupation of Iraq through 2008, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (CA) today laid out her plan for a 6-month withdrawal from Iraq before the House Foreign Affairs Committee." That's HR 508 which provides for a six-month withdrawal, cancels Bully Boy's War Powers Act (that he's used to abuse the Constitution and the world ever since), say "NO" to US bases in Iraq, "return all oil licenses back to the Iraqi people . . . and establish a commission to investigate the run-up to the war."
As the Pelosi measure attracts a lot of people and organizations who never accomplished anything (there's a personal "ouch" in there for someone), Kevin Zeese (Democracy Rising) notes that Gallup has polled and -- guess what -- Congress's numbers are falling -- approval numbers -- "and the pollster speculates that the Democrats failure to 'do anything substantive' on Iraq is the likely reason why."  WalkOn has supported the measure and Democracy Rising features Howard Zinn's reply: "I'm disappointed in MoveOn.  We are not politicians, we are citizens.  Let the politicians advocate half-way measures if they choose, but only after they have felt the full force of citizens who speak for what is right, not what is winnable in a shameful timorous Congress."  And David Lindorff (This Can't Be Happening)notes: "If Democrats wanted to end the war, they could do so immediately by refusing to pass a supplemental funding measure to support it, but they don't want to do this.  It's not that they fear being called unpatriotic -- hell, with 70 percent of the public wanting the war to end immediately, nobody would fault Congress for pulling the plug. . . .  But ending the war would leave the Democrats without their best issue going into the 2008 national election: Bush's war.  So instead of ending the war, they vote to oppose it, but then continue to fund it."
And finally, Tom Hayden takes a look back to yesterday to find meaning for today.  Writing at The Huffington Post, Hayden notes: "Yes, history repeats and these days, increasingly so. For those fighting over Iraq funding today, I believe history offers useful lessons in the role of patient political organizing." 

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