Thursday, May 17, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, May 17, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, 3 US soldiers remain missing, protests take place in Baghdad, Chatham House issues another report (one the domestic mainstream will probably get behind this time), recruiters caught lying on tape and more.
This morning, ICCC was reporting that the total number of US service members who have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war reached 3400.  Today the US military announced: "Three Soldiers were killed and one was wounded when their patrol was struck by a roadside bomb south of Baghdady May 17."   So the 3400 marker has been surpassed --  3403 is the current total. Michael Munk (Democracy Rising) calculates that the US military has seen "at least 55,471 casualties" during the same period.  Meanwhile, for the sixth day, 3 US soldiers remain missing following a Saturday attack.  Tina Susman and Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) report: "Evidence indicated that the attackers used grenades and other hand-held explosives, and converged from several directions . . .  Drag marks leading to tire tracks showed that the missing men were pulled from the area to vehicles about 45 away.  The military is trying to determine whether the two Humvees were sufficient to guarantee the troops' protection and whether the patrol had taken necessary precautions.  Those precautions would include not being positioned at a spot previously used by U.S. troops".   As CNN noted yesterday, "Caldwell said the division headquarters is 'looking very carefully at the whole tactical situation to see if there's something they need to do better."  And possibly, a year from now we may know one way or another if the 7 US soldiers and 1 Iraqi were sitting ducks (4 of the 7 US soldiers and the Iraqi translator are dead) and who's responsible for that?
Almost a year ago a similar abductiion happened in the same region (and the ones claiming credit for the kidnapping also cited the gang-rape and murder of 14-year-old Abeer).  In that case, the 3 US soldiers were killed.  CBS and AP report: "Three U.S. soldiers slaughtered in a grisly kidnapping-murder plot south of Baghdad last June were not properly protected during a mission that was not well planned or executed, a military investigation has concluded.  Two military officers have been relieved of their commands as a result of the litany of mistakes, but neither faced criminal charges, a military official familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press on Wednesday."  Yet despite that reality, the New York Times is not only not interested in front-paging the story (the story has never made the front page), they also aren't interested in pursuing how it happened. Just like they aren't interested in Abeer, war resisters . . .
Democracy Now! has regularly explored is war resisters and today Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez spoke with Agustin Aguayo who explained where his status currently stands: "Technically, I'm still in the military, because I have the right to an automatic appeal to the court-martial.  And that is a long process.  It could be up to two years.  I have a rehearing in the courts in my civil suit against the Army in D.C., and I would like to be reddemed and I would like to be recognized . . .  I'm challenging that I was wrongfully denied conscientious objector status.  And so, I'm still essentially in the military.  However, I don't have to report to any duty station. So I'm essentially free to live my life.  And from here, I would like to share with others my experience.  I think it's vital, it's crucial that people understand from a different perspective what is actually taking place, what I saw, what my conclusions were and why I couldn't return."
Aguayo joined Pablo Paredes, Camilo Mejia and Robert Zabala in the speaking out tour to raise awareness on the realities of the illegal war and the need to stand up against it which has two more scheduled date remaining:

Thursday May 17 - Oakland
4pm youth event and 7pm program at the Humanist Hall, 411 28th St, Oakland. Featuring Camilo Mejia, Pablo Paredes and the Alternatives to War through Education (A.W.E.) Youth Action Team. Sponsored by Veteran's for Peace Chp. 69, Courage to Resist, Central Committee for Conscientious Objector's (CCCO) and AWE Youth Action Team.

Friday May 18 - Berkeley
7pm at St. Joseph the Worker featuring Camilo Mejia.

US war resisters are part of a growing movement of war resistance within the military: Camilo Mejia, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Joshua Key, Augstin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty 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.
Iraq Veterans Against the War bring truth with them whenever they speak (and they are available for speaking engagements if you have a group or organization that would like to hear from them).
Always speaking truth to power, Iraq Veterans Against the War.  In March, a group spoke at
Different Drummer Cafe. Eric Ruder (ISR) provides a transcript and we'll note Adrienne Kinne
Since leaving the military and now that I've finished my degree in psychology, I've been working in VA (Veterans Adminstration) hospitals.  I've worked at VA hospitals in Georgia and Virginia and now in Vermont and I've seen so many different soldiers.  For the first time our VA hospitals are seeing active-duty soldiers because our Department of Defense hospitals cannot keep up with demand.  I've seen a lot of people come back from Iraq and Afghanistan with serious injuries and a lot of serious things going on with their health.  And it really makes me mad -- and I'm not here speaking as a VA employee, but I'm certainly allowed to speak about my experiences there.  Not in any official capacity, but it makes me mad when I hear veteran after veteran telling me the difficulties they have getting their services.  It makes me embarrassed to work for the VA and I don't want to feel that way because I actually want to work in the VA to help our veterans.  It's just so frustrating.
There are so many things that are tied together.  I saw one soldier who was stationed overseas and he was an MP and he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because he saw our government do things to people that no person should ever have to see our government do.  He said that he couldn't go into details because it's all classified, but he still felt that he was bound to military doctrine where you can't tell anything to anyone.  But he has nightmares every night because he saw us tortuing people.  He was at one of our secret, non-existent prisons and he saw people tortured and he cannot cope with what he has seen. 
Turning to today's violence . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 dead from 4 Baghdad mortar attacks (8 wounded) and a police officer died from a Baladroz bombing (one more was left wounded).  Reuters reports the death of a police officer from a grenade hurled into his Hilla home (three members of his family were injured) and a Baghdad bridge bombing that left two dead and five injured.  AFP reports "in Najaf a street cleaner was killed when he lifted a bag of trash and set off a hand grenade."  Thomas Wagner (AP) reports that Thursday saw the third day in a row of attacks on the heavily fortified Green Zone: "Terrified pedestrians raced for the safety of concrete bunkers.  Motorists abandoned their cars and sprinted for cover.  Sirens wailed and loudspeakers warned people to seek safety."
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two police officers shot dead in Baghdad (1 wounded), a seucirty worker for a clinic was shot dead in the Diyala province, an electrical engineer was shot dead in Basra, and an Iraqi police officer was shot dead in Salahuddi.  Reuters notes a "police major" who was shot dead (so was his son) in Basra.  AFP notes a police officer shot dead in Baiji and an Iraqi soldier shot dead in Kirkuk.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 30 corpses discovered in Baghdad, the corpses of Emad Ahmed Shareef was found in Kirkuk and 3 corpses in Baquba (one of which was a woman -- all "were shot many times in the head"). Reuters reports 2 corpses discovered in Latifiya.  AFP reports the corpse count on Baquba has risen to 9.
On the heels of their previous report castigating Tony Blair for putting the interests of the US ahead of England, Chatham House issues another report.  This one is entiteld (PDF format warning) "Accepting Realities in Iraq."  Chief points include that a series of civil wars is taking place in Iraq, that US political leaders (including the White House) have repeatedly lowered expectations on Iraq in the last year, that regional neighbors (Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey) have more influence than does the US, that there is no "military solution," that power brokers must be reached out to and that Iraq is facing the possibility of collapse.  "Muqtada al-Sadr cannot be ignored" is the heading of one section and before Bully Boy thinks Chatham House is on board with him there, they argue instead that efforts must be made to reach out to al-Sadr and that it is foolish to ignore his base, popularity and influence (they also argue that the Jaish al-Mahdi would continue with or without al-Sadr as its leader).  Elsewhere in the paper, they argue for the Joe Biden option (splitting Iraq up into three regions and calling it a federation).  At nine pages-plus of text, they make many recommendations and it's largely what one would expect from Brookings or any other centrist think tank in the US.  They ignore serious realities and, it needs to be noted, they need to learn to source properly.  The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune are owned by the same company and IHT has a stronger European presence (than does the Times) so it may make sense to source to IHT over the Times; however, Sudarsan Raghavan and Karin Brulliard work for the Washington Post, not the Boston Globe.  Iraqi popular will is not merely discounted, it's ignored which either suggests Gareth Stansfield (author of the report) is unfamiliar with it or that he has no interest in what the people of Iraq might want for themselves.  This is the attitude throughout in spite of the occassional sentence such as this: "In effect, Iraqi solutions will need to be found to Iraqi problems."  Most alarming is that Stansfield seems completely unaware of the issues for Iraqi women. 
Yifat Susskind (MADRE), at CounterPunch, observes the attacks on women and their rights in Iraq and notes: "The US has empowered Islamist political parties whose clerics promote 'honor killing' as a religious duty.  The US has empowered Islamist political parties whose clerics promote 'honor killing' as a religious duty. . .  The US also destroyed the Iraqi state, including much of the judicial system, leaving people more reliant on conservative tribal authorities to settle disputes and on unofficial 'religious courts' to mete out sentencing, including 'honor killings'."  To repeat, Chatham House says nothing about that which doesn't seem to demonstrate "Accepting Realities in Iraq."  The BBC's James Robbins characterizes the report as "unremittingly bleak."  Imagine how much more so if it had really expored realities? 
On the subject of the oil law, Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) covered it Sunday noting that it "was in serious trouble among Iraqi lawmakers" despite the "vital" importance the US government has placed on it. Andy Rowell (Oil Change) notes that London, Wednesday, was the site for a protest "oustide the Shell AGM".
In activism news, Matthew Rotchschild (The Progressive) reports on Tim and Yvette Coil (husband and wife) who, in March, happened upon military recruiters attempting to enlist at their public library (Slow-Munroe Falls Public Library, Ohio) and, after getting permission from libary employees, began leaving cards warning people from enlisting.  The military recruiters -- apparently never have been taught about freedom of speech -- made a scene, dragged in the library director and Tim Coil (Gulf War Veteran) was arrested.  The case goes to trial June 5th. (Contact info can be found here.) 
Also on the topic of recruiting, David Swanson (AfterDowningStreet) notes Nashville's WTVF report (audio-video here) of recruiters asking a local man, Jay Mallard, to lie about being on Zolfoft (the man signed up, lied and killed himself) which led WTVF's news team to set up three cameras: "In each case, our undercover producer told recruiters that he was put on Zoloft by a physician for depression.  Asked whether he could function without it, he said he wasn't sure.  And there, inside those Army recruiting stations, we got the same advice described by Private Mallard's family. . . . Over and over, the recruiters tell us that it's OK to lie."

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