Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, May , 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, 'secret surge' isn't a new flavor from Ben & Jerry, Congress demonstrates that they have mastered "roll over" and will soon learn "sit," 11 days 3 US soldiers went missing and are still missing, and more.
Democrats in Congress are falling down, falling down, falling down, Democrats in Congress are falling down, falling down, falling down . . .  After having sent out the Party Hacks in attack packs to snarl at anyone who pointed out the obvious -- the Pelosi and Reid measures did nothing -- Democrats in Congress have decided they'd like to do nothing but be upfront about it which is why Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell (Reuters) can report: "U.S. President George W. Bush won a battle over funding the Iraq war as congressional Democrats on Tuesday abandoned troop withdrawal efforts for now but pledged to fight with new legislation in July."  Translation, we failed the public yet again but give us time . . . and we'll fail some more.  House Majority Leader Stenny Hoyer lies and says that another threatened Bully Boy veto left their hands tied.  US presidential candidate John Edwards made it very clear how the Congressional Democrats should handle it: Just keep it passing it and keep sening it back to the Bully Boy.  Edwards, a former US senator and also the 2004 vice presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket, currently has a webpage featuring a petition where he asks people to "Tell Congress: END THE WAR It's up to you."  The page may set Edwards up to run as an outsider, but there is something seriously sad when a former US senator, and the second person on the party's last national ticket, has to attempt goading the Democratically controlled Congress into action.  CBS and AP report that Hoyer presents the choices Democrats had as "a standoff" or "come to an agreement" and two things bear noting there.  First, both houses of Congress did not switch to the Democratic Party in the November 2006 elections because voters wanted Democrats to "come to an agreement" with the Bully Boy -- both houses switched power because, as poll after poll demonstrates, the American people believe the country is on the wrong track.  Secondly, why is Hoyer out front with the press?  Someone needs to trim his feathers and Nancy Pelosi, who supposedly wanted to be Speaker of the House, needs to act like one, even when it means facing the public ire, by stepping out front and explaining this decision.
Tip O'Neill wouldn't have hid behind a flunky.  Pelosi needs to start acting like a leader and that includes not worrying that a woman taking center age might hurt some easily bruised feelings of a delicate male.  Only she and Harry Reid can claim to be national figures in Congress but voters knew returning power to the Democrats meant that both Pelosi and Reid would become the leaders of each house.  Voters did not do that so that Nancy Pelosi could grace a Ms. magazine cover and then go into hiding.  She wanted the job, voters either supported that desire or didn't run from the idea of the first female Speaker of the House (the GOP made an issue out of Pelosi in the 2006 elections), so she needs to start stepping up and if Steny Hoyer is so addicted to the limelight, I believe Law and Order is attempting to replace Fred Thompson currently so possibly Hoyer could audition for that role. Whatever he does, he needs to grasp that he is not Speaker of the House and reduce his face time significantly.  CBS and AP observe: "In Washington, after weeks of refusing to back down to President Bush on setting a timetable on the Iraq war, House Democratic leaders soon will be in the awkward position of explaining to members why they feel they must."  Yes, and the explanation must come from the Speaker not the flunky she was saddled with (after party 'faithful' refused to support her choice of John Murtha for the post Steny now occupies).
While the Democratic 'leadership' continues to earn the name of Do-Nothing-Dems, Bully Boy isn't planning on ending his illegal war.  Instead, he's planning on increasing the size and scope of it. Stewart M. Powell (Hearst Newspapers) reports that the Bully Boy has "quietly" moved beyond his announced figures for the so-called surge and that the escalation wil not end with approximately 160,000 US troops in Iraq and will top off (for now) at 200,000 through both deployment and extension of tours for those already in Iraq.  William Nash ("Reitred Army Maj. Gen.") tells Powell, "It doesn't surprise me that they're not talking about it.  I think they would be very happy not to have any more attention paid to this."  The "they" that Nash is referring to is the administration.  As to why the Democratic leadership in Congress isn't talking, one can only guess.
Tom Hayden (Common Dreams) suggests, "If Congress is afraid to cut funding for American troops, how about direct or indirect funding for advisers to militias and death squads.  Isn't 'no taxes for torture' a supportable benchmark?" and goes on to observe the many benchmarks that have been missed with no Congessional outcry (including the promise to hold provisional elections next month which doesn't seem on track in any way).  Meanwhile, Cindy Sheehan (BuzzFlash) points out, "With 21 Democratic Senators voting against Russ Feingold's (D-WI) bill for withdrawal and Democratic House Reps voting against Jim McGovern's (D-MA) withdrawal bill one begins to wonder if the giants work on K Street and the midgets work in Congress.  The majority could not pass the weak Feingold bill and the once strong but watered down McGovern bill, but the majority Democrats in all of their weakness don't even come close to matching the corrupt and criminal Republicans who have, in the best tradition of moral midgets and blowhard cowards, perpetrated crimes against humanity in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Shock and awe was a war crime.  The list of other crimes against humanity include but are not limited to: killing more innocent civilians in the initial invasion of Afghanistan than were killed here on 9-11; Haditha, Falluja, Sammara, Ramadi, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, FISA, Downing Street Minutes, yellow cake uranium, slam dunk, and smoking guns in the form of mushroom clouds. The entire Bush Administration has been functionally criminal: when are the majority Democrats going to hold these people accountable?"
In Iraq, today is day eleven that three US soliders have been missing, assumed captured, following an attack that killed 4 US soldiers and 1 Iraqi translator. In the New York Times this morning, Kirk Semple quoted Col. Michael Kershaw saying a lot of thing but not able to back anything up.  Translation, despite all the smoke screen of 'accomplishments,' the 3 US soldiers remain missing and the US military has no idea where they are.  CBS and AP report that, most recently, the US military raided alleged safehouses . . . that were empty and calls it "the latest in a series of frustrations for exhausted U.S. troops hunting for any sign of the missing soldiers".
In addition . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an east Baghdad bombing this morning that killed 1 person (3 more wounded), a downtown Baghdad bombing that wounded five, a Baghdad mortar attack on Ibn Al Haitham college that killed 4 college students (25 more injured), and a Baghdad car bombing killed one police officer (3 more wounded).  CBS and AP report 25 dead from a Baghdad bombing (60 wounded).  Reuters notes a Hawija roadside bombing that left one person dead and another wounded, and a Mahmudiya mortar attack that claimed one life and left five more injured.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that, along with the students who died in the Baghdad mortar attack, an attack on a mini-bus in Baghdad killed 9 students (including 2 women) and left two wounded, the US military killed a civilian "in Al Bayaa neighborhood sought Baghdad," Soltan Hairan ("member in the local council") was shot dead in Basra, and 6 members of one family were shot dead at "a fake check point near Al Ghalibiyah district" in the Diyala province. CBS and AP report that "gunmen in two cars drove through the nearby Khadra neighborhood [in Baghdad] and ambushed a civilian car carrying three plainclothes police officers from the major crimes unit, killing two and wounding the third, police said."
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 33 corpses discovered in Baghdad, 1 ("handcuffed and blindfolded") was discovered in Kirkuk, one "on Tikrit-Kirkuk main street), Reuters reports two corpses ('airport employees") were discovered in Riyadh.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "National police abducted 4 civilians in Al Risala neighborhood south west Baghdad,"  and, yesterday, "gunmen kidnapped Sheikh Mohammed Jasim Al Abbas, the sheikh of Al Ahbab tribe".
Turning to US presidential politics, Arianna Huffington (The Huffington Post) evaluates the presidential campaign efforts of US Senator Hillary Clinton when she appeared on NBC's Today yesterday, "Instead of honestly explaining her transformation from pro-war supporter to cheerleader of the war's progress to tentative opponent of the war to her current incarnation as long-term opponent of the war, Hillary skipped right over the unpleasant past and tried to talk only about the future: 'Well, you know, Matt, I think the important thing is for the Democrats to be united in trying to either persuade or require this president to change this direction now -- that's what all of us in the Senate are trying to do.' Sure, why answer the question when you can divert attention and blur the differences between you and your opponents?  Hillary also dutifully hit her talking point that she's been 'saying for a number of years' that we should bring our troops home -- trying to rhetorically paper-over the fact that for most of those years she was actually trying to have it both ways on Iraq: dipping her toe in the rising anti-war tide by voting for a phased redeployment of troops while steadfastly arguing against setting any kind of deadline for bringing our troops home (for instance, less than a year ago, in June 2006, she said she did not 'think it is smart strategy to set a date certain. I do not agree that that is in the best interest of our troops or our country').  This broad-brush, who-cares-about-details approach to Iraq is a favorite of pro-war Democrats desperately trying to align themselves with the majority of the American people, at least until the election. Are we forgetting Joe Lieberman, who claimed during his campaign against Ned Lamont, 'No one wants to end the war in Iraq more than I do'? And there he is now, Tweedle-Dee to John McCain's pro-surge Tweedle-Dum."  Meanwhile James Ridgeway (Mother Jones via Common Dreams) explores the presidential campaign of
Mike Gravel who tells Ridgeway, "What we need to do [on Iraq] is to create a constitutional confrontation between the Congress and the president.  Most people have forgotten the Congress is more powerful than the president. . . The Democrats have the votes in the House to pass it.  In the Senate, they will filibuster it.  Fine.  The Majority Leader starts a cloture vote the first day.  Fails to get cloture.  Fine.  The next day -- another vote on cloture.  And the next day, and the next day, Saturdays and Sundays, no vacation -- vote every single day.  The dynamic is that now you give people enough time to weigh in and put pressure on those voting against cloture. . . .  I would guess in 15 to 20 days you would have cloture and the bill would pass and go to the president.  He would veto it.  Wonderful.  It comes back to the House and Senate.  Normal thing is to try to override and fail.  No guts.  No leadership.  So in the House and Senate.  Normal thing is to try to override and fail.  No guts.  No leadership.  So in the House and Senate every day at noon, you have a vote to override the veto.  The Democrats are the leaders -- they control the calendar.  It only takes half an hour to have these votes."
In war resistance news, Nilanjana S Roy (India's Business Standard).reviews Joshua Key's The Deserter's Tale and concludes, "His story, blunt, unapologetic and defiant, may be the most unsettling indictment of the Iraq war to have emerged thus far."  Roy becomes another reviewer in a long line to sing the praises of Key's  The Deserter's Tale which traces his journey from a father attempting to help put food on the table and willing to believe a recruiter to a young man serving in Iraq and seeing the war was based on lies.  Key self-checks out of the military while back in the States and he, Brandi Key and their children move to Canada where the family now resides. Key concludes his book (pp. 230-231):
When I came home I told Brandi that I had seen innocent people die in Iraq.  For the longest time, that is just about all she knew.  But because she loved me that was all she needed to hear.  In fact, she did not want to hear any details.  Taking care of three young boys and me, as well as little Anna, who was soon growing in her womb, Brandi did not feel she had the strength to hear about everything I had seen and done in Iraq.  Apart from one time in Philadelphia when I got drunk and began to shout about the young girl I had seen killed outside the hospital in Ramadi, I have never spoken to her directly about all the intimate details given in this book.  She reads the information form I gave the Canadian immigration authorities when I applied for refugee status.  When she put it down, she said she never would have read it in the first place if she had known what she'd find it.  We both carry emotional wounds as a result of the war in Iraq, and I imagine that thousands of other Americans who served in Iraq have also brought their own nightmares back home.  Their families, too, will be suffering.  Ordinary Iraqis have paid very dearly for this war, and ordinary Americans are paying for it too with their lives and with their souls.    
I have never been a man to run from a challenge, and I have never fled from danger or abandoned vulenerable people.  I am neither a coward nor a traitor.  When I was being recruited in Oklahoma City in 2002, I had to sign a paper to the effect that I had read and understood a warning from the military: "Desertion in the time war means death by a firing squad."  That just about sums it up.  We could do whatever we wanted to Iraqis.  Yet if we ran from duty, there would be hell to pay.  I will never apologize for deserting the American army.  I destered an injustice and leaving was the right thing to do.  I owe one apology and one apology only, and that is to the people of Iraq.
Joshua Key is part of a growing movement of war resistance within the military that also includes Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull,  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.
Reminder, a look at another activist airs tomorrow night  The Sundance Channel:

Tuesday, May 22nd 9:30 pm e/p
Forest For The Trees (U.S. Television Premiere) -- Directed by Bernadine Mellis. Mellis follows her father, civil rights lawyer Dennis Cunningham, as he goes to federal court in 2002 on behalf of his client, the late environmental activist
Judi Bari. A leader of EarthFirst!, Bari was injured in a car bombing as she prepared for 1990's "Redwood Summer," a peaceful action protesting the logging of old-growth redwoods in Northern California.
Arrested for the crime but never charged, Bari believed she was targeted in order to discredit her organization and sued the FBI and the Oakland Police. A suspenseful chronicle of an important trial, Forest for the Trees is also a profile of a dynamic and funny woman, who earned the respect of loggers as well as environmentalists.

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