Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, April 3, 2007. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, a US war resister receives conscientious objector status, the puppet gets his strings pulled tighter and the lies that led to illegal war.

Starting with news of war resistance, Robert Zabala has received his conscientious objector status. Tony Parry (Los Angeles Times) reports that the C.O. status was granted, not by the military, but instead by U.S. District Judge James Ware who "ordered the Marine Corps to discharge Zabala within 15 days." Zabala's long journey is outlined in Peter Laufer's Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq. Zabala comes from a military family, finished boot camp "at the top of his class"
as he grew more and more sure that he could not participate in warfare.

Zarbala tells Sandra Gonzales (San Jose Mercury News) that 'motivational' shorts (music videos) and seeing the swapping of photos picturing dead Iraqis made him sent him on his journey and that, although "evaluated by a pshychologist and chaplains who believe he was qualified" for c.o. status, "the commandant of the Marine Corps" thought otherwise. Henry K. Lee (San Francisco Chronicle) reports a 2004 excahnge "with a fellow Marine" which prompted even more contemplation -- Zabala, "I began to think about the thousands of people who died in the past year in war, who didn't die due to just one soldier or suicide bomber, but largely by an organization. This organization trains to kill human life."

Zabala tells Peter Laufer that about discovering the classification of C.O., "You ever heard that song 'Pina Colada'? The singer is reading off that description and he realizes, 'Hey, this is my wife!' I was reading the CO description and I realized -- hey, this is me! I wanted my conscientious objector discharge. If they put me in a nonfighting job, I still saw myself as a cog in the Marine Corps machine." In 2003, Robert Zabala completed his C.O. paperwork ("I will no longer participate in an organization that sustains war.") Zabala told Laufer, "I will get my conscientious objector discharge. I will make the Marine Corps see me as a conscientious objector regardless of what anybody says. If they reject my claim I'm going to appeal." It took the federal court system's help but Robert Zabala was awarded C.O. status.

Peter Laufer's book is Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq and it provides an overview of various war resisters and peace efforts. Norman Solomon provides the foreward and the list price (US) is fourteen dollars.

Zabala is a part of a movement of resistance within the military that also includes Ehren Watada, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder , Joshua Key, Corey Glass, Ricky Clousing, Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo, Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, 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.

Moving to the lies of an illegal war, last Thursday, on Flashpoints, Dennis Bernstein interviewed Peter Eisner -- deputy foreign editor of the Washington Post and co-auther with Knut Royce of The Italian Letter: How the Bush Administration Used a Fake Letter to Build the Case for War in Iraq. As Rebecca noted last week, Bernstein and Eisner discussed the false claim by the Bully Boy that Saddam Hussein was seeking yellow cake from Niger. To back and give the briefest overview, one of the lies the US administration used to scare a nation into war was the repeated use of "mushroom cloud" (Condi, Bully) and the claims that Saddam Hussein was reconstituting nuclear programs, biological weaponry, WMDs, blah, blah, blah. In 2004, Joe Wilson began discussing his earlier trip to Niger. He was sent by the CIA to check the validity of a claim coming from Italian intelligence that Hussein was attempting to purchase yellow cake uranium (which would then be used in nukes -- according to the lie). Wilson went, found no proof of the claim. (The claim was false from the start.) As the falsehood continued to be repeated, Wilson spoke with Nicholas Kristof (New York Times) who penned a column. Eventually, Wilson would write "What I Didn't Find In Africa" for the New York Times. Elements in the White House became nervous as Wilson was speaking the truth and an effort was made to send a message. Hence the floating of Valerie Plame's name. Plame is married to Wilson, she was a covert CIA agent. The US administration elected to out her as part of their petty war on the truth. To be clear, that is my summary of the events. For Eisner's thoughts and summary of the events, listen to the interview. (Community members who signed up for Hilda's Brew can read a transcript of it by checking their inboxes.)

Two points from the interview that we'll note here:

1) On the chances that the steps to the illegal war can be unraveled publicly

Peter Eisner: And there are lower ranking people that have stepped foward, many other are bureacrats that . . . fear for their jobs or fear that their lives would be made difficult by stepping forward. But even someone like [former CIA director] George Tenent, interesting case, he's also about to come out with a book. His book has been stopped up in CIA vetting for months and one would think maybe that at the end of the vetting process, he might be toning down some of the other things that he might otherwise be able to say about the Bush administration's march towards war. He, because of CIA rules, he can't speak out openly without getting CIA approval on what he says in his book. So there are many people that are capable of speaking and will speak especially if they're placed under subpoena and required to speak. Remember that during the Iran-Contra period people were called before Congress and ended up, as you and I well remember, talking about an off the shelf operation which basically was an extra-Constitutional to try to do . . . what needed to be done to win support for the Contras and deal with Iran at the same time. Some of the same players are still in place. Cheney among them. So there are chances to get people to speak, Royce and I didn't have the ability to go beyond those who were brave enough to speak, but under subpoena more people would speak.

2) On press coverage.

Dennis Bernstein: There was a huge publicity campaign at a lot of levels, not only to support the information, get the United States into a war, but also to attack the credibility of those calling into question who knew best about it, like Joe Wilson, calling into question what this information was about, whether it was real and whether the Bush administration was misusing it? And among the things that occurred was an extraordinary disinformation campaign against Joe Wilson which, for instance, found its way into the pages of your newspaper the Washington Post. And your, I guess, op-ed director was willing to stomp all over Wilson to go with the information. So tell us about the selling of this story and how that occurred that anybody who tried to resist got nailed.

Peter Eisner: Uh, the news, fortunately I can say that the news pages of the Washington Post were, uh, skeptical all along about the information. Not only about the purchase of uranium but overall of the concept of Iraq trying to restart its nuclear program. There was another item that included the so-called reconditioning of aluminum tubes that Iraq had purchased for the creation of centrifuges that would spin down lightly processed uranium into
bomb grade uranium and that material was also being bandied, uh, about in the fall of 2002, populary reported in September 2002 by the New York Times --

By Michael Gordon and Judith Miller only one of which no longer works for the New York Times. (I'm cutting it off there. Every community member knows it wasn't just Miller -- or just Miller and Gordon.) Today in the Washington Post, Peter Eisner probes the subject of the false claim further.

Staying with Flashpoints, US Senator and presidential candiate John McCain's antics were addressed by Robert Knight on yesterday's program:

In tonight's Knight Report, more turmoil in Somolia and Iraq as John McCain celebrates April Fool's Day in Baghdad. I'm Robert Knight in New York. . . . And finally there was yet another major American deployment Sunday in a Baghdad market where Senator John McCain engaged on a walking tour to promote the Bush administration's current escalation in Iraq. McCain, in defiance of various independent reports that Iraq's daily death toll actually increased last month, nevertheless declared that the so-called 'surge' was "making progress" and that Americans were "not getting the full picture of what is happening in Iraq"; however a zoom out from McCain's photo op shows that he was actually surounded by orbiting F16 fighter planes, three Black Hawk attack helicopters, 2 Apache gun ships, more than 100 US troops, snipers and armed vehicles, a flak jacket and personal body armour. The presidential contender and Congressional comedian concluded his celebration of April Fool's Day by declaring with a straight face that "There are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods today. These and other indicators and reasons for cautious optimism about the effects of the new strategy." And that's some of the news for Monday, April 2, 2007. From exile in New York, I'm Robert Knight.

[Correction Note: "Flak" jacket, not "flap" jacket.]
Also noting the realities of Crazy John McCain and The John McCain Showboat Express trip to Baghdad on Sunday is Kirk Semple (New York Times) who notes that the stroll through the market required "more than 100 soldiers in armored Humvees -- the equivalent of an entire company -- and attack helicopters circled overhead, a senior American military . . . The soldiers redirected traffic from the area and restricted access to the Americans, witnesses said, and sharpshooters were posted on the roofs. The congressmen wore bulletproof vests throughout their hourlong visit." Semple also quotes Ali Jassim Faiyad ("owner of an electrical appliances shop in the market") on the just-an-average-stroll-according-to-McCain visit, "The security procedures were abnormal! They paralyzed the market when they came. This was only for the media. This will not change anything." CBS and AP report Iraqis residing in Baghdad have called McCain's visit "propaganda" and quote Jaafar Moussa Thamir who states, "They were just making fun of us and paid this visit just for their own interests. Do they think that when they come and speak few Arabic words in a very bad manner it will make us love them? This country and its society have been destroyed because of then and I hope that they realized that during their visit." Michael Luo (New York Times) notes that "365 members of Congress . . . visited the country since May 2003, when Mr. Bush declared the end of major combat operations. But it is unclear just how illuminating the trips have been. The duration and scope of Congressional visits are tightly controlled. Lawmakers from opposing parties often travel together, but draw opposite conclusions from the same trip on the war's progress."

In Iraq today there is news of kidnappings. CNN reports Jalal Sharafi, Iranian diplomat, was released by kidnappers today after have been kidnapped on February 4th. He should not be confused with the Iranian diplomats the US is holding after storming their consulate and abducting them; however, the Iranian Foreign Ministry sees a pattern between the kidnappings and argues that the US was responsible for the kidnapping of Sharafi. Laura King (Los Angeles Times) reports that video of Hannelore Krause and Sinan Krause (mother and son) has surfaced with a demand that if Germany does not "withdraw troops from Afghanistan" in ten days, the two, kidnapped February 6th, will be killed. Finally, on the subject of kidnapping, Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspaper) notes the kidnapping of Sheikh Wisam Sadoon ("iman of Al Salam mosque") along with a bodyguard following "the afternoon prayers". Turning to other violence . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports: "Two young men (students in the college of pharmacy) were killed in an IED explosions" and that 3 people were killed (2 wounded) in a south Baghdad explosion. DPA reports a US air attack in Falluja that killed six people.


Laith Hammoud (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that a police officer was shot dead in Tikrit, a person was shot dead on his way to work in Karkuk, another man was shot dead in Baquba (with two more wounded) and, in Baghdad, a police officer was shot dead. Reuters notes two police officers were shot dead in Latifiya, a guard of a gaas station was shot dead in Kut (one more wounded),


CNN reports the discovery of an eleven-year-old's corpse and Reuters notes the discovery took place in Taji. Laith Hammoud (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 10 corpses were discovered in Baghdad and 5 in Hibhib.Reuters notes 5 corpses discovered near Ramadi and 7 corpses discovered in Baquba.

Today the US military announced: "A Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West died April 2 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province." And they announced: "A large truck bomb exploded at a police station in Kirkuk, Monday, killing two Iraqi police officers and 10 local nationals. Three coalition Soldiers were injured by the blast and one later died of wounds." And they announced today: "An MNC-I Soldier died at approximately 4:00 pm Monday. The Soldier was wounded earlier in the day when a vehicle-born bomb exploded near his location in Kirkuk." The last two announcements cover the same death.

On the subject of Kirkuk, as Robert Knight (Flashpoints) noted yesterday, "Kirkuk has become a hotbed of tribal conflict due to the US installed occupation's regime's policy of ethnic cleansing whereby Arabs are now being intimidated or offered payment to move out of Kirkuk" as a result of an "initiative . . .intended to reverse the Baath party's policy of integrating the Kurdish enclave with Arab residents and to stack the voter rolls prior to a referendum over ceding the city to . . . the northern province of Kurdistan." Bassem Mrolie and Wassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) report that puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki had the decision "forced on him" at the threat of Kurd walking "out of his ruling coalition" which would "bring down the government".

Finally, noting US Senator Barack Obama's decision to tell AP that the Bully Boy supplemental would go through regardless (see yesterday's snapshot), Robert Naiman (Common Dreams) observes: "The question here is not just what one predicts will be the outcome of the confrontation between Congress and President Bush. Obama, as a member of the Senate and as a leading Democratic presidential candidate, is a key protagonist in the confrontation. What kind of organizer confides to the media that when push comes to shove, his side is going to back down?"

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