Monday, March 26, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Monday, March 27, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, KPFK Lila Garrett (Connect the Dots) and, on WBAI's Law and Disorder, guest Anthony Arnove note that the Pelosi measure that pass Friday is full of holes (on KPFA the myth that all US troops will be brought home continues to be broadcast -- again, Charlie Gibon's not the only one who needs someone to do on air corrections for his 'news' delivered), Zalmay gets a good-bye farewell from the Iraqi resistance, and, for news on Iran, stick with Patrick Cockburn.
On KPFK's Connect the Dots with Lila Garrett today, Garrett spoke with US House Reps Barbara Lee and Dennis Kuckinich -- both of whom voted against the Pelosi measure and Dennis Kucinich is also running to be the Democratic Presidential nominee in 2008.
Garrett: What is good in this bill?
Lee: Just having the House of Representatives establishing a timeline is good.  Whether you agree or disagree with the timeline, whether it's enforceable is another question.. . .
Garrett: Barbara Lee, we want to know what's enforceable?  Is the banning of permanent bases enforceable?  Is the banning of torture enforceable? 
Lee: It's enforceable if the Bush administration wants to follow the law.  But, remember now, he's going to veto this bill and, remember, the only enforceability that you can require on a supplemental bill is taking him to court -- Congress can take the Bush administration to court.  But how many times have you seen the Congress take the  administration to court?
Lee went on to note the things in the bill such as its attempt to address avian flu and other non-bird related and, certainly, non-Iraq related issues.
Garrett: You have a lot of good things here but my question is how much of it is enforceable and what you're telling us is that really, basically, none of it is enforceable  because he has the option should he decide that the circumstances warrant it  not to follow this bill, isn't that true?
Lee: Yeah, that's the waiver positon but also remember he's going to veto it . . .
For those who missed it, the answer to Lila Garrett's question, which she asked more than once, is that the Pelosi measure cannot be enforced -- or as Garrett noted near the end of the interview, "The bill forces him to do nothing."  (Contractors and a number of other issues -- including Iran were discussed.  Jeremy Scahill also was on the program to discuss his book on the mercenary company BlackWater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army which is a BuzzFlash premium -- those unable to listen to Garrett's interview can also check out BuzzFlash for their interview with Scahill.)  Garrett then spoke with Kucinich in an interview taped right after Friday's vote.
Kucinich: I voted against it and I voted against it because it will continue to fund the war through the end of the president's term.  That President Bush is talking about vetoing it is no small comfort. The Democrats essentially bought the war and now President Bush is saying even that isn't enough.
Garrett: The bill has contained with in it, some people will argue, and some of the Democrats argued, some very positive things.  The president wanted 93 billion dollars to continue the war and he got it, but there were 25 billion dollars worth of things, some of which were very worthwhile, 1.7 billion for the health care for the veterans, there was money for child and spousal abuse, there was money for contractor control, there was money that banned permanent bases, banned torture, that provided troop readyness.  What's your response to the so-called positives in this bill?
Kucinich:  Are you kidding?  The war's going to keep going through the end of President Bush's term.  No amount of attempt to sweeten this is going to make it anything but a mess.  We need to get out of Iraq, the Democrats have the power to do it. Why they chose not to excercise it today is beyond me but I will tell you this that the American people are going to have a rising demand for peace, they're fed up with this war, they're fed up with the Democratic party not standing up for the people,  And frankly the idea that somehow we can end the war somehow we can end this war if we just give it a little more time?  Baloney.  You end the war by ending a war you don't end the war by letting it go for another year or two.  And it's the same kind of thinking that got us into Iraq -- says, "Well, you know, we don't have any other alternative to go and attack Iraq and now we're saying we don't have any other alternative but to keep the war going for a year or two until we figure out what to do with it. We got to stop this war and I voted against it.
Kucinich and Garrett then discussed the reality of Iraq today ("bombed their country to smitheerens") and the nonsense behind the attitude that demandes "benchmarks" from an occupied, puppet government.  Kucinich then spoke of  "making the administration accountable for their actions."  Kucinich propsed a national discussion on impeachment.  To be clear for those who didn't hear or won't be able to listen, he's proposing a discussion of the topic -- he's not (or not yet) proposing introducing a bill in the House.  On why he's now bringing up this issue, Kucinich stated, "I didn't talk about it as long as there was a chance that we could stop this war but with Congress determined to give the president the money he wants to keep the war going, it appears that the war is going to just keep going no matter what and so I think, at this point, we need to get back to how we got into war.  We got into war because President Bush and Vice President Cheney lied to the American people.  You know what?  There's got to be consquences for that.  And I think it's time for us to have a discussion so I'd like to hear from your listeners, I'd like to hear from others as to whether or not this is the time to start talking about impeachement and the time to start drawing up resolutions of impeachment.
Garrett brought up a conversation she had with US Senator Ted Kennedy about impeachment where he asked her if she would like President Dick Cheney and Kucinich responded, "When you talk about resolutions you need to use the plural 'resolutions'."  To repeat, Kucinich is proposing a dialogue on this issue and, from that, other steps would or would not be taken.
On WBAI's Law and Disorder today, Michael Ratner noted that Anthony Arnove's latest book was IRAQ: The Logic of Withdrawal and asked him about the Congressional measure and what's been proposed by US Senators and presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Barack Obama.
Anthony Arnove: In terms of the proposal that's now in Congress about withdrawal it has about 8 million loopsholes.  First of all it refers to combat troops even those combat troops that it talks about setting a timetable for removing from Iraq -- that timetables is based on conditions so in other words at any point along the line they can say "well the conditions require us to continue as an occupying force".  Then, of course, it's not calling for a complete withdrawal of troops.  It's not talking about the mercenaries that the US is sponsoring in Iraq.
Ratner: Which are probably almost the equivalent of the US soldiers, right? It's over 100,000.
Arnove: Well there are more than 100,000 private contractors.  We don't know if all of those are involved as actual mercenaries  but certainly the second largest contigent of military force in Iraq is private contractors, not England -- which is what you hear about in the media.  But also the plans say nothing about removing US military bases.  They don't address the fact that today the US is building the largest embassy it has in the world in Baghdad.
Ratner: It's 300,000 square feet, right?
Arnove: It's just this enormous compound.  And it's very clear that they're going to stay that they want to establish military bases, that they want to establish a client regime in Iraq, they want to continue a presence in Iraq and they want to be able to not only control events in Iraq and, of course, control the oil in Iraq. but They want to be able to use Iraq as a staging ground to protect their power in the region particularly vis a vi Iran but also Syria and other countries.
Ranter and Arnove then discussed Antonia Juhasz' op-ed that ran in the New York Times regarding the oil privatization and how the issue was about the control -- who will get it, who won't, a weapon against other countries whose oil needs are growing such as China.  Michael Ratner is one of the co-hosts of Law and Disorder (Daliah Hashad, Michael Smith and Heidi Boghosian are also co-hosts) and that's the segment I heard but the firend who phoned (and held up the phone so I could hear) also wanted me to note that today's program features, in music between segments, a very strong acoustic performance of "People Have The Power" by Patti Smith.
I believe everything we dream
Can come to pass through our union
We can turn the world around
We can turn the earth's revolution
We have the power
People have the power . . .
"People Have The Power," written by Patti Smith, originally on her Dream of Life
Which also acts as segue to Howard Zinn who wrote (in The Progressive): "As I write this, Congress is debating timetables for withdrawal from Iraq.  In response to the Bush Administration's 'surge' of troops, and the Republicans' refusal to limit our occupation, the Democrats are behaving with their customary timidity, proposing withdrawal, but only after a year, or eighteen months.  And it seems they expect the anti-war movement to support them.  That was suggested in a recent message from MoveOn, which polled its members on the Democrat proposal saying that progressives in Congress, 'like many of us, don't think the bill goes far enough, but see it as the first concrete step to ending the war.'  Ironically, and shockingly, the same bill appropriates $124 billion in more funds to carry the war.  It's as if, before the Civil War, abolitionists agreed to postpone the emancipation of the slaves for a year, or two years, or five years, and coupled this iwth an appropriation of funds to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act.  When a social movement adopts the compromises of legislators, it has forgotten its role, which is to push and challenge the politicians, not to fall meekly behind them."
Also weighing in is Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan (via -- against the weak measure and against MoveOn while noting, "In 2002 the Democrats authorized Bush to invade Iraq (or any other country he deemed to support terrorism, for example Iran) in hope he would become involved in an unpopular war which would produce a Democratic White House.  The Democrats 2007 policy is equally political, and may have the paradoxical effect of producing Republican victories in 2008.  The prolongation of the occupation is now opposed by two-thirds of all Americans; we want our troops safely home by this Christmas, not politically chicanery.  As a consequence Americans now think even more poorly of Congress than ever; the failure to withdraw from Iraq dropped Democratic support of Congress from 44% to 33% according to the latest Gallup poll.  The Democrats failue to stem what has become a Democrats war will be a factor in the 2008 elections."
"Busy week here on the Hill, and I'm sure you know that the 110th Congress just bought the war in Iraq. On Monday, the 19th, the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, Military Families Speak Out held a press conference on the steps of the Cannon House building. We unveiled the Certificate of Ownership, complete with warranty -- the brainchild of MFSO member Tammara Rosenleaf, who stayed with me and is planning to return in April. (You can download the certificate at Military Families Speak Out) Iraq War veterans also spoke, taking a break from Operation First Casualty, which had them in uniform "patrolling and occupying" the streets of D.C. and Capitol Hill (Photos are available at ). After the press conference, the veterans went deep into enemy territory i.e. the White House, and several dozen military family members and supporters went to Congresswoman Pelosi's office to pepper the staff with questions, and make another seemingly futile request for a meeting with the Speaker. Military family members spent several hours canvassing Congressional offices with the Certificates, appealing to Representatives to stop the supplemental and end the war."
Another source for the conversation that media -- big and small -- largely seems determined to avoid is CounterPunch where World Can't Wait's Sunsara Taylor (CounterPunch) observes, "Anyway you slice it, yesterday's vote is no 'victory' for the people of this country, of Iraq, or of the world, all of whom overwhelmingly oppose the Iraq war and are aching for it to be stopped.  Instead it means that after four years of war crimes, massacres, rapes, torture and what can only be called a colonial occupation that has cost more than half a million deaths and led to the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world, the Iraqi people must now brace themselves for more!"  John V. Walsh (CounterPunch) speaks for many when he writes, "And so it was basically a bill to make the Democrats look good without terminating the war."  In his interview with Lila Garrett, Dennis Kucinich speaks of how Congress is using the same excuses and offering the same rationalizations for voting in favor of the Pelosi measure that they did in supporting the bill which Bully Boy used to go to war on Iraq.  Equally true is that the same 'logic' defending the current support was heard over and over (from the same party flacks and hacks) following the 2002 vote. 
Turning to news of war resistance, Ehren Watada became the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq in June of 2006 and, in February 2007, the first to be court-martialed.  That court-martial ended when Judge Toilet (Lt. Col. Head) ruled it a mistrial.  In making that ruling (over the objection of the defense, legal experts have argued, double jeopardy was immediately attached which would mean Watada cannot be court-martialed again for the same charges.  ThankYouLt.Watada has prepared a "Mistrial Synopsis" to walk people through the events and singles out the stipulation (the agreement that Watada wouldn't dispute reported accounts which meant there was no need to call journalists as witnesses) which was signed a week prior (an agreement between the prosecution and the defense) and those reviewing and signing off were "the Prosecution, the Staff Judge Advocate (the legal advisor to Lt. Gen Dubik), Lt. Gen Dubik, the Defense, Judge Head and Lt. Watada.  All parties should have known what they were signing.  In addition: "Judge Head had already questioned Lt. Watada throughoutly about his understand of the Stipulation of Facts, when the court martial opened and before the Panel was sworn in." This was the agreement that, on day three of the court-martial, Judge Toilet was suddenly 'concerned' about and ended up throwing the case out over.  Currently, despite double jeopardy, the US military has scheduled the pretrial for May 20th through 21st with the court-martial to begin July 16th.
Ehren Watada is a part of a movement of resistance within the military that also includes  Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Joshua Key, 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.
Meanwhile, Ian Herbert (Independent of London) reports today that: "Thousands of British soldiers have gone absent without leave since 2003 because the Army is unwilling to accept the gravity of mental problems caused by their tours in Iraq.  The Ministry of Defence estimates there have been 10,000 Awol incidents since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and 1,100 servicemen are currently 'on the run' from the Army."  This follows Paul von Zeilbauer's (New York Times) report last Friday on revealing that the US army was undercounting their figures and that the "new figures also show a faster acceleration in the rate of desertions over the previous two fiscal years than the Army had disclosed.  In 2006, for instance, desertions rose by 27 percent, not 17 percent, as the Army previously said, and Army spokesman said."
Meanwhile Joshua Key's The Deserter's Tale  continues to receive praise.  In the book, Key explains what he saw while serving in Iraq, how it transformed him, and how that led to him to self-check out and move to Canada with his wife (Brandi Key) and his children.   John Freeman (Louisville Courier-Journal) reviews the book and concludes "as a chronicle of the experiences that led one soldier to this irrevocable step, Key's is a grim and necessary book."
In Iraq today?
In No-It-isn't-An-Acid-Flashback news, Reuters reports that "hours after outgoing U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters that he was cautiously optomistic about the future in Iraq" "[a] rocket lnaded in Baghdad's heavily fortified international Green Zone . . . rocking the U.S. embassy".  If it seems strangely familiar, last Thursday United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon had just declared "improvement in the situation on the ground" when he was suddenly very close to the ground as he crouched, "flinched" and "ducked" in the face of a mortar attack. 
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad mortar attack that left 1 person dead and wounded three ("from the same family"), a downtown Baghdad car bombing that killed 2 people and left 4 wounded, a Baghdad rocket attack that wounded 4 ("from one family"), a south west Baghdad bombing that injured two people, and a west Baghdad bombing that killed 1 person; a Tikrit bombing that killed a police officer (3 wounded), a bombing in Baquba that injured a family (five members) and "The spokesman of Basra police said that 4 mortar shells fell on the British consulate downtown Basra city without referring to any casualties." Reuters reports two people died in Iskandariya from a mortar attack.  CNN notes it was "at least two" (five were wounded) and also "Insurgents detonated exposives . . . beneath a crude oil pipeline near Baiji in northern Iraq, a police official said.  The attack ignited a massive oil fire that burned for several hours.  No one was injured, police said."
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a police commando was shot dead and two more were wounded in Baghdad, a person was shot dead in north Baquba,
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 15 corpses were discovered in the capital today, 2 corpses in Tirkit,
In terms of Iran, Patrick Cockburn (CounterPunch) reports the events on Friday:  "The Iranians pick up 15 British servicemen searching ships in the Shatt al Arab.  The cold war between Iran and the US, with Britain trotting along behind, is getting colder.  The confrontation with Iran is very much Bush's doing and once again Blair has given him a blank check with no sign that he gets any influence over Washington's policies in return."; and on Saturday: "The 15 British servicemen have been taken to Tehran.  It was foolish to have them searching vessels in disputed waters off the Shatt al-Arab as friction with Iran increased this year."   The 15 are apparently being questioned by mainstream reports.  Considering some of the details to 'emerge' this weekend, we'll be very careful about who we cited on this story.  We'll miss out on beyond belief stories of eye witnessing, unnamed fishermen who suddenly emerge (such as this past weekend) but we can all do without that nonsense.
Finally, today Edward Wong (New York Times) verifies Tom Hayden's reporting from November about the government's secret talks with Iraqi resistance.

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