Thursday, July 12, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, July 12, 2007.  Chaos and violence, the American military kills two workers for Reuters in Iraq, Bully Boy lies again to sell the war (again), the US military announces another death in Iraq, the Showboat Express Derails!, and more.
Starting with war resistance.  Mark and Louise Zwick (Houston Catholic Worker via Spero News) report on the beatification of Franz Jagerstatter (October 27, 2007) by the Catholic Church.  Jagerstatter became a war resister when drafted into the Nazi army who "believed that he could not be a soldier in an unjust war sponsored by a government determined on imperialist expansionsim and slaughter of innocents, presenting itself as a substitute for religion which saw and treated his Church as the enemy." The Zwicks tie Jagerstatter's stance then to those resisting today and note the case of Camilo Mejia in detail and conclude, "Martha's concern as she had heard about this soldier's conscientious objection was that her young son not be put in such a situation.  She knew that at present there is no military draft, but that poor Hispanic youth in the United States are recruited early into ROTC Army training with the promise of assistance later with college tuition.  Martha vowed to never allow her son to participate in ROTC.  This may not be easy to achieve.  High schools in lower-income neighborhood which serve Mexican Americans and immigrant youth are saturated with the ROTC presence.  The local public school for 6th to 8th graders has ROTC as one of the electives.  When one student who stayed at Casa Juan Digo transferred in during the middle of the year, the student was placed in ROTC simply because the classes of all other electives were filled.  The irony is that the children of the undocumented, despised by many simply for being undocumented, are being sent to fight U.S. wars in foreign lands."  Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted today of Mejia, "He was the first US soldier court-martialed for desertion, was ultimately sentenced to a year in jail."  In May, Camilo Mejia's Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia (The New Press) was released allowing him to tell his story of what he observed in Iraq and how it changed him.  To the issue the Zwick's raise, Mejia was not a US citizen.  In fact, the military was supposed to release him because he had completed his eight-year contract and Senator Ben Nelson had caused noise on this issue (thanks to the concerns Camilo's mother raised with him).  The military's response was ridiculous ("We're not discharging fat people, are we?") and desperate (shoving off papers for citizenship -- which Camilo was not interested in).  While on leave in the US, Mejia attempted to figure out how to get the US military to comply with their own regulations.  First, he was told he would have to return to Iraq in order to be discharged, then he was told no discharge was happening regardless and finally he was ordered to board the plane back to Iraq.  Instead, Mejia went underground, refusing to continue fighting in an illegal war.  At the start of the illegal war, Stephen Funk refused to go to Iraq -- a very important and brave stand.  Mejia is the first known member of the military to serve in Iraq and refuse to return.  Again, he tells his story in Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia (list price $24.99) including his court-martial and what he felt and thought upon being sentenced.
The first commissioned officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq is Ehren WatadaSpeaking with E. Ethelbert Miller (Foreign Policy in Focus), David Mura (poet, playwright, critic, performance artist and soon to be novelist -- Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire) notes the No-No Boys of WWII (Japanese-American males who bravely refused to serve while their relatives and peers were interned for the 'crime' of race) and states, "I feel that the current case of Lat. Ehren K. Watada, who refused to go to Iraq because he believes it is an illegal and unjust war, ought to be seen against the backdrop of this history.  His position as a soldier and his actions of civil protest, reflect the legacy both of the 442nd and of the No-No Boys."
And in Iraq, a US service member has publicly refused to continue fighting in the illegal war.  Eric Ruder (Socialist Worker) notes, "Army Spc. Eleonai 'Eli' Israel was stationed at Camp Victory in Baghdad when he told his commanding officers June 19 that he would no longer participate in the illegal and unjust war on Iraq. 'We are now violating the people of this country in ways that we would never accept on our own soil,' said Eli."
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Ross Spears, Jared Hood and James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, 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, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Care, Kyle Huwer, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty-one 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, Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.
So today Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) did what they usually do but tried to credit The Nation for finally doing something four years and four months after the illegal war started.  Good manners must have prevented Gonzalez and Goodman from pointing out the obvious -- they've been doing -- for years -- what the overly praised article half-assed does today.  The lengthy, weak ass article by The Nation will be addressed this evening ("And the war drags on . . ."). Today, it allowed the centrist (Democratic Party cheerleader and sometime video spokesperson) to get on Democracy Now! and the utter more than fifty lines more (check the transcript) than Garett Reppenhagen who actually is worth listening to.  Reppenhagen: "So the contrast is very real, and the division, once you're there and you're being told to give these people democracy and they're shooting at you and trying to kill you, it creates a lot of tension, and the American soldiers begin to hate the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people hate the American soldiers. And the bottom line is, we're not seen as peacekeepers. US forces in Iraq are no longer seen as peacekeepers by the Iraqi people and most of the Muslim world. We're seen as occupiers and invaders, and that undermines our ability to keep the peace there, it undermines our ability to do our jobs, and it undermines our national security here at home. So right now it's a very complex situation, and the animosity is growing. And there's no cure other than removing ourselves from Iraq."  From the broadcast:
SGT. DUSTIN FLATT: Yes. The innocent deaths happened at different times, different places and different occasions. Convoys were commonplace. The only incident I have firsthand knowledge of was a convoy that was actually not our convoy. It was a convoy had just driven by us. And an Iraqi vehicle with a mother, three daughters and an older teenage son who was driving the car were following a convoy too close. It got too close, and they shot into the car. It was a warning shot, and it ended up killing the mother. And they actually pulled the car over, or the son pulled the car over right next to us, and we just happened to be near a hospital in Mosul at the time. And the mother was obviously dead, and the children were just crying and asking if they could actually get into the hospital.
AMY GOODMAN: So the mother was dead. The three little girls, what happened?
SGT. DUSTIN FLATT: Right. The three little girls, we just -- we took them and just -- the last time I saw them they were on the side of the road just crying. They had no idea what had just happened. And it was funny -- it was with another unit -- it was a unit actually that we were attached to in Mosul, and on the back of their last Humvee in the convoy, they had a sign that read, "Stay back 100 meters." And after that, we took our interpreter, our Iraqi interpreter, up to the sign to see how far away he could read it, and he had to be within about thirty or forty feet before he could read it.
[. . .]
STAFF SGT. TIMOTHY JOHN WESTPHAL: The terror that I saw on the patriarch's face, like I said, that really was the turning point for me. I imagined in my mind what he must have been thinking, understanding that he had lived under Saddam's brutal regime for many years, worried about -- you know, hearing stories about Iraqis being carried away in the middle of the night by the Iraqi secret service and so forth, to see all those lights, all those soldiers with guns, all the uniform things that we wear, as far as the helmet, the night vision goggles, very intimidating, very terrifying for the man. He screamed a very guttural cry that I can still hear it every day. You know, it was just the most awful, horrible sound I've ever heard in my life. He was so terrified and so afraid for his family. And I thought of my family at that time, and I thought to myself, boy, if I was the patriarch of a family, if soldiers came from another country, came in and did this to my family, I would be an insurgent, too.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And you say that that was a turning point for you. In what way?
STAFF SGT. TIMOTHY JOHN WESTPHAL: It was a turning point for me in the sense that -- you know, prior to going into Iraq, both Dustin and myself, we talked about this many times in the days leading up to the war. We came into Iraq after the initial invasion, so we had a chance to see a little bit of the buildup to the war, as well as the actual invasion piece. And several of us, including Dustin and myself, were very much opposed to the Iraq war. However, we chose to go, number one, out of a sense of loyalty to each other and our unit; second, because we were hoping as leaders, as combat leaders, leaders of soldiers, we would be able to influence those young men to make good decisions and not do things like kill indiscriminately or let their emotions get into their decision-making abilities. So that's why we chose to go. And again, because this is our profession, we were very proud of what we were doing, even though we opposed the mission itself, are proud to serve with our brothers and to be a part of something like that.
However, that night -- and that was about halfway through my yearlong tour -- that night I really admitted to myself -- and it was a very hard thing to do, but I admitted to myself that America is not the good guy in this thing. And, you know, if you factor in that you have these young men who most of them are high-school-educated -- some have a bit of college, some do have college degrees -- but the education level, for the most part, is high school graduates only.
Reppenhagen is the chair of the board of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Dustin Flatt and Timothy John Westphal are also with IVAW.  (The other guest?  He's with Mommy's Pantyhose.) 
Listen, watch or read today's Democracy Now! segment (nearly 50 minutes are devoted to the topic). Skip the nonsense of The Nation (it will be addressed tonight).
Staying on IVAW, Adam Kokesh's site carries the message that Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr.'s kangaroo hearing has been delayed from this month to August with Yearwood noting, "It has been incredible to hear that so many of you have made plans to come support me as I challenge the Air Force's attempt to discredit me and our work for peace.  My request for a delay has been granted so I may better prepare my case and raise funds for my legal defense.  We will publish the new date as soon as it is determined and along with our plans for action."  The kangaroo hearing is supposed to address the laughable allegation that Rev. Yearwood's actions have been "clearly inconsistent with the interest of national security" when, in fact, his work since being discharged (discharged from service, he's currently in the IRR which needs no discharge) has been on ending the illegal war including Make Hip Hop Not War.
War, war and more war, endless war, is all the Bully Boy understands which is why the White House released [PDF warning] "Initial Benchmark Assessment Report" today.  And though it won't rival the latest Harry Potter, it certainly belongs on the fiction list.  David S. Cloud and John F. Burns (New York Times) explained this morning that the report would "qualify some verdicts by saying that even when the political performance of the Iraqi government has been unsatisfactory, it is too early to make final judgements"  and that this qualification "will enable it [the White House] to present a more optimistic assessment than if it had provided the pass-fail judgement sought by Congress."  Which may be a nice way of noting that, unlike Bully Boy's No Child Left Behind, there is no standardized testing, no standardized grading and no deadlines.  The system that's good enough for his attack on America's public schools is not to be utilized when addressing his illegal war of choice.
CBS and AP report that the Bully Boy declared today, "I believe we can succed in Iraq and I know we must."  We?  But it's probably an improvement on his verbal equivalent of painting a bulls eye on the back of every US service member a few years back with the taunt of "Bring it on."  William Douglas (McClatchy Newspapers) notes that the fudged/qualified report reveals "only eight of 18 benchmarks" can be stretched enough to indicate even some progress.  Douglas also notes that Bully Boy sees the Initial Assessment as an ink blot which can be interpreted in any way depending upon where you're coming from -- proof positive that we've got a Stoner in the White House?  2008 presidential candidate and Senator Joe Biden peels off the best one liner of the day, "This progress report is like the guy's who's falling from a 100-story building and says halfway down that everything's fine."  Karen DeYoung and Peter Baker (Washington Post) update their article in this morning's paper on the report and note that the White House sees "some positive movement in eight of the 18 congressional benchmarks" while, at the same time, dispatching Stephen Hadly (US National security advisor) and Condi Rice (US Secretary of State and Anger) to Congress to role play House Minority Whip for both houses apparently. CNN's Ed Henry (text and video) observes, "The president is pleading for more patience.  He's not really oferring a new prescription to deal with the violence on the ground in Iraq.  Instead he's urging lawmakers to give him until September to see if the current troop increase will work -- but a growing number of his fellow Republicans are telling him time is running out and they want a course change sooner than September."  Which is a nice way of putting.  Patience was when he asked for it (over and over, every year of the illegal war).  The report he's pushing is more half-truths and outright lies which, if you think back to how the illegal war was sold, isn't at all surprising.  Bully Boy has come full circle: Lied to get his war, must lie to keep it.  And what's with this "Congressional benchmarks"?  Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times) rightly notes: "The Bush administration's decision to set benchmarks . . . When they began publicizing the benchmarks a year ago, addministration officials . . .  President Bush turned to benchmarks amid intensifying criticism from Congress and plummeting public support.  Benchmarks offered a way to counter congressional demands for timetables and to dampen the midterm election rage that ultimately cost his party control of Congress."  The administration, stealing from the James Baker Circle Jerk, grabbed the imposed (upon Iraqis) benchmarks and ran with them.  They own them now.
As if the region hasn't suffered enough, Nico Hines (Times of London) reports that Rice and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will visit it next month and notes several laughable statements by the Bully Boy.  "I don't think Congress ought to be running the war.  The idea of telling our military how to conduct operations, for example, or how to deal with troop strength, I don't think it makes sense today, nor do I think it's a good precedent for the future."  Well, he is uneducated.  But the Congress is not attempting to run the illegal war (though with Bully Boy's lack of leadership, someone might need to step in) it is demonstrating the civilian control.  The war is over and someone needs to be adult enough to pull the plug.  (That may or may not be Congress at this point.)  He then went on to insist that troops should not leave just "because pollsters say it'll be good politics" -- this from the man who conducted the roll out (in August! 2002) for the war to make electoral hay in the 2002 mid-terms.
In the real world, Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that 429 Iraqis have been "killed or wounded . . . at checkpoints or near patrols and convoys during the past year" and that warning shots accound for "more than" one death per day.  Also in the real world, over 3600 US service members have died in Iraq.  CBS and AP note that the illegal war "is costing the United States an estimated $10 billion a month."  With Jonathan S. Landay, Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) notes that the conclusions "of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies" in a new report (Global Security Assessment, delivered by the National Intelligence Council to Congress) which found, among other things, that "Even if the bloodletting can be contained, Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders will be 'hard pressed' to reach lasting political reconciliation".  Amazingly, while ignoring every thing else that can be spun, the White House refuses to take credit for the big bank robbery Wednesday night.  Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) reported on the heist that made off with "$282 million from the Dar Es Salaam bank" which was kept not in the Iraq currency but "in American dollars . . .  It was unclear why the bank had that much money on hand in dollars, or how the robbers managed to move such a large amount without being detected."  Surely there's some way that can be spun into a success?  Bully Boy could declare it not just the biggest heist in Iraq, but among the biggest in the world and, noting Donald the Rumsfled's "Freedom is untidy and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things" (a White House motto?), could declare the heist as a sure sign of progress.
Nancy A. Youssef also looks at the 18 benchmarks to offer an independent analysis and it's not pretty -- benchmark 16 is among the ones that can't be stretched to show even some desire for progress ("Ensuring that the rights of minority political parties in the Iraqi legislature are protected") leading Youssef to conclude: "The Iraqi government has done nothing on this benchmark."
In some of today's violence in Iraq . . .
Reuters reports that Namir Noor-Eldeen (22-year-old photographer) and Saeed Chmagh (40-year-old driver and camera assistant) were killed "in what police saidw as American military action and witnesses described as a helicopter attack" -- the victis of what is euphemistically dubbed "random American bombardment" in Baghdad.  Reporters Without Borders notes that over "60 media workers" were killed in Iraq during 2006 alone.  Reuters notes Karim Shindakh stating that, while Noor-Eldeen was taking photographs, "The aircraft began striking randomly and people were wounded.  A Kia (minivan) arrived to take them away.  They hit the Kia and killed . . . the two journalists" and that 6 "Reuters employees [have been] killed in Iraq" since the start of the illegal war. Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) notes that the 2 died along with 17 others and that of the 19 dead the US optimisticallly states nine were most likely gunmen/militants/resistance, etc.  Accepting that inflated (and non-verifable) claim means that 10 innocent Iraqis died.  Also dying today, Reuters reports, were 7 Iraqis attending a wedding when a bomber "detonated a suicide vest" in Tal Afar outside the party wounding four. Reuters also notes that five Iraqis were killed in Diwaniya from a US air strike, a Mosul car bombing that wounded 2 police officers, a Mosul car bombing that claimed 2 lives (10 more people wounded) and a police officer injured in Falluja by a bicycle bomb.  Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 4 dead from missiles launched by US helicopters in Samara.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a police officer shot dead in Baghdad
AFP reports a family four was shot dead in Karbala (with two more wounded).
Today, the US military announced: "A Task Force Marne Soldier was killed in an attack east of Baghdad."  The announcement brought the ICCC total to 32 US service members killed in Iraq this month and 3611 since the start of the illegal war. APF's count is 3612 dead since the start of the illegal war.  Reuters' count is 3611 since the start of the illegal war.
In England, Fran Yeoman (Times of London) reports that Andrew Walker (Oxfordshire Assistant Deputy Coronor) has ruled that the March 2003 death of British soldier Stephen Allbutt was a "completely avoidable tragedy" and instead pointed to person in charge at the time Walker was shot by British troops noting, "The center of this tragedy represents a serious failing and it will fall to others to question the fitness of this officer to hold command".  That would be Lt. Col. Lindsay MacDuff whose resignation Debbie Allbutt (wife of the deceased) has called for.
Finally, in US campaign news, "VOTE INSANE! VOTE JOHN MCCAIN!" -- his mind, like his campaign, had come undone.  Yesterday, Senator Crazy had a hissy fit in the Senate cloakroom (someone must have run off with his Dora the Explorer rain slicker) and began screaming about Iraq, Vietnam and Cambodia -- sounding even crazier than many feared.  Cedric and Wally provided humorous takes yesterday, Mike noted it, and Elaine, noting Cambodia, lays it out on why McCain's unfit for office.  The John McCain Showboat Express Doesn't Stop Here Anymore.

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