Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, September 11, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, Petraeus continues to spin, the Democratic debate at the start of the week apparently requires the press to use White-Anglos to 'explain' what happened and why, and more.
Starting with war resisters, John Catalinotto (Workers World) takes a look at war resistance and observes, "Recruiting is way down among African Americans and contested throughout Puerto Rico. The military is drawing from an ever narrower base--small-town USA and immigrants desperate for a quicker road to legal status. Army, Marine and National Guard troops are sent for multiple and longer tours to Iraq and Afghanistan.  Meanwhile, organizers of the GI anti-war movement gathered in St. Louis from Aug. 15 to 19 for conventions of Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). During the IVAW convention, IVAW elected a new board, and this board in turn selected by consensus one of the first war resisters, former Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia, as its new chair-elect."  Catalinotto then leads a dialogue with Different Drummer's Paul Foley, Appeal for Redress' Jonathan Hutto, and IVAW's Mejia, Margaret Stevens, Liam Madden and Phil Aliff.  Stevens, who became the new treasurer for IVAW, points out, "It has political significance that Mejia is popular in the organization and respected as a war resister. It says a lot about what people think is the right way to challenge the problem. Camilo said three years ago: 'I won't participate. It is a bad military and I won't help participate.' It is a very courageous stand. He earned his stripes."  Camilo Mejia tells the story of his stand and how he came to the decision in Road from Ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia published last May.
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Zamesha Dominique, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko,Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, 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 The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters.
Turning to violence in Iraq, Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) examines the violence being conducted by the rival Shia sects which "have spread across southern Iraq and Baghdad" and observes, "Many Iraqis are outraged at the government's inability to contain the crisis.  They also say the government is making misleading statements."  Meanwhile Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London via CounterPunch) points out a key factor missing in the 'Petraeus' 'report': "The truest indicator of the level of violence in Iraq is the number of people fleeing their homes because they are terrified that they will be murdered.  According to the UN High Commission for Refugees the number of refugees has risen from 50,000 to 60,000 a month and none are returning.  Iraqi society is breaking down.  It is no longer possible to get medical treatment for many ailments because 75 per cent of doctors, pharmacists have left their jobs in the hospitals, clinics and universities.  The majority of these have fled abroad to join the 2.2 million Iraqis outside the country."  Today on Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman interviewed Rick Rowley and broadcast his documentary on the realities of  the 'model' province, Al Anbar:
AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about General Petraeus's report, we're joined by filmmaker and journalist Rick Rowley of Big Noise Films. He has just returned from Iraq, where he closely tracked the situation in Anbar province. In a few minutes we'll broadcast a report that Rick shot in Anbar province, but first your comments on the testimony of Ambassador Crocker, Rick, and General Petraeus.
RICK ROWLEY: Well, when General Petraeus says that they're merely applauding these tribes from the sidelines, he's lying. I mean, while we were embedded with the Americans, we saw American military commanders hand wads of cash to tribal militias. And when he says that they are facilitating their integration into the country's security forces, what he means is they're pressuring Iraq's government to incorporate these militias wholesale into the police forces. In fact, that's one of the promises that these tribes are given, that after working with the Americans for a few months, they'll become Iraqi police, be armed by the Iraqi state and be put on regular payroll. So it's completely disingenuous, what he's saying.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain who these militias are in Anbar province that the US troops are working with.
RICK ROWLEY: Well, it's been widely reported that these are former insurgents who were fighting Americans in the past. And that, you know, is troubling for American soldiers. But the far more troubling issue for Iraq is that many of these groups are war criminals who are responsible for sectarian cleansing in the region.
We spent a month and a half in the country, and we crisscrossed Iraq. I was traveling with David Enders and met with the production support of Hiba Dawood, and we found entire communities of refugees who had been displaced by exactly the same tribes that the US had been working with in other parts of the country.
So, you know, it's one thing for Americans to call this a reconciliation process and say that, you know, we're fine with working with people who used to be fighting with us, but it's an entirely different thing for them to be funding groups who are already responsible for sectarian cleansing and are arming themselves for a sectarian civil war.
Remember, DN! offers audio, video and transcripts, watch, listen or read the exclusive report. In some of today's reported violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad mortar attack that left seven people wounded, a Baghdad car bombing that claimed 1 life and left five more wounded.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an attack in Diyala that left 2 police officers shot dead, twelve police officers wounded, and 10 assailants dead.  Reuters notes six police officers dead from a checkpoint appointment outside Qaiyara, an Iraqi "security officer" was shot dead in Riyadh while "an Iraqi army officer" was shot dead in Kirkuk.  And, dropping back to yesterday, Robert H. Reid (AP) reports, "Also Monday, U.S. and Iraqi troops killed three civilians during a raid in Sadr City, police and residents said. Bleichwehl, the military spokesman, said the raid targeted a suspected Shiite extremist who eluded capture. He said there were no reports of civilian or military casualties. But residents showed AP Television News the coffins of the people they said were killed in the raid - a woman and her two daughters. A police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons, confirmed they were killed in the firefight."
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a student was kidnapped in the "village of Taxa (south Kirkuk)."
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 12 corpses were discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes a corpse was discovered in Abbasi.
Meanwhile, in DC, the circus goes on as Gen. David Petraeus maintains he wrote his own report -- and apparently dyed his own hair -- while repeating every bit of spin the Bully Boy's handlers could dream up.  Cindy Sheehan observes of the US Congress' refusal to end the illegal war (observes at Common Dreams):
How do I know that Congress is playing politics with human hearts? All one has to do is observe the lack of action on the part of the red and blue pigs to come to this sad but inevitable conclusion. Apparently, MAJORITY Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV) has spent more time over his summer recess trying to convince red pigs to go against George's war plan than he spent trying to coalesce his blue caucus into something that would not resemble the red pigs so closely that the blur becomes purple. He and Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) have already decided that they do not have enough votes to end the occupation just as they decided that impeachment was "off the table" even before they were elected! So they will happily hand over to George more of your tax money and China's money to continue the killing fields in Iraq. Why are they so miserly with democracy, but generous with our treasury and with our dear human treasure?        
I got two very overt answers to this question one day in Congress this past spring when I was on the Hill. In one of my meetings with Congressman Conyers, he told me that it was more important to put a Democrat back in the White House in '08 than it was to "end the war." After I recovered from my shock, I knew it was confirmed that partisan politics is exactly what is killing our children and the innocent civilians in Iraq. My next stop was in a Congresswoman's office who has always been 100% correct about the war. She is a lovely woman with a lovely heart and does not in anyway qualify (and there are a few dozen others who do not) as a blue pig. She had tears in her eyes when she told me: "Cindy, when I go to Speaker's meetings and we talk about the war, all the talk is about politics and not one of them mentions the heartbreak that will occur if we don't pull our troops out, now." People are dying for two diverse but equally deadly political agendas. The red pigs want to keep the war going because they feed out of the trough of carnage and the blue pigs want to keep it going for votes! Either way is reprehensible.
Just Foreign Policy's Robert Naiman notes (at Common Dreams) of the Democrats' purchasing of the illegal war before their summer break, "It's true that under current Senate rules, on a free-standing bill, 60 votes would be needed on an Iraq bill to overcome a filibuster threat. (Why we tolerate that only 51 Senate votes are needed to confirm nominees to the Supreme Court who oppose fundamental civil rights protections for all Americans, but 60 Senate votes are needed to pass free-standing legislation to end the Iraq war, is a question that deserves a great deal of further scrutiny.) But as we saw on the fight over the supplemental, only 51 votes are needed to attach withdrawal language to legislation that continues to fund the war. With less than 60 votes, the Senate attached a timetable for withdrawal. The President, as expected, vetoed the legislation. Then the Senate backed down. There was no legal or constitutional reason for the Senate to back down. It was a political decision. As a legal matter, the outcome of a confrontation where the Senate and the President agree to fund something, but don't agree on the legislative language to go along with the funding, is undetermined. It's just a question of who blinks first. The Senate could have agreed to continue funding on a temporary basis while the confrontation continued -- that's what the House did -- but 51 Senators didn't have the stomach for that either."  He goes on to explain that with Tim Johnson back in the Senate and Republican Senators indicating (such as Chuck Hagel again today) a break with the White House over Iraq, leadership could round up 51 votes.  It's also true, as Ruth reminded us over the weekend, Mike Gravel laid out another way to get legislation through when he was a guest for the August 8, 2007 broadcast of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show:
Real simple. You see, they do a cloture vote. Oh one cloture vote, two, can't do it. Stop. Or an override veto. Can't do it? Stop. That's ridiculous. The rules permit to have a vote on cloture every single day, seven days a week, and all the way through this August recess which they're all taking -- and then when the bill comes back vetoed they can repeat it every single day and, I promise you, Diane, that in twenty, forty days we will have a law on the books to withdraw the troops from Iraq. Now time is fleeting. This could have been done by Labor Day and all, I mean all the troops, would come home by Christmas.
Grasping what Congressional 'leadership' refuses to, Gwen Van Veldhuizen lays out very clearly in her letter to The Modesto Bee: "The time has come for our healthy young Americans to be pulled out of Iraq.  They are in harm's way.  They are in the middle of a civil war.  A recent documentary has shown that if Iraqis run away from American troops, our troops are instructed to shoot.  My niece, who is in the Army, confirms this. [. . . ] The troops who have changed their hearts and minds about their mission in Iraq have goen absent without leave.  They have seen fathers killed while their children cry.  Soldiers don't go AWOL on a whim.  A lot of serious consequences follow such a decision.  Amid all this turmoil, I hear that President Bush's daughter is getting married . . . how sweet."
Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted that at yesterday's Petraeus scripted performance, along with Cindy Sheehan, CODEPINK's Medea Benjamin was among those arrested.  CODEPINK's blog offers more details.  This week's actions lead up to September 15th (see ANSWER for more information) and the mass protest taking place in DC and IVAW will lead a "die-in". This will be part of a several days of action lasting from the 15th through the 18th. September 17th IVAW will kick off Truth in Recruiting. CODEPINK will be conducting a Peoples March Inside Congress (along with other groups and individuals) on September 17th. United for Peace & Justice (along with others) will begin Iraq Moratorium on September 21st and follow it every third Friday of the month as people across the country are encouraged to wear and distribute black ribbons and armbands, purchase no gas on those Fridays, conduct vigils, pickets, teach-ins and rallies, etc.
In DC, more of the same today from Petraeus.  On Petraeus, Nancy A. Youssef and Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) note many things left out of yesterday's scripted, oral report including, "While Petraeus stressed that civilian casualties were down over the last five weeks, he drew no connection between that statement and a chart he displayed that showed that the number of attacks rose during at least one of those weeks."
Today on KPFK's Uprising Norman Solomon explained how the press presented the avenues for Congress as much more limited than they are and how they reduce Iraq to whether or not the escalation is working while repeatedly avoiding the issue of the legality of the Iraq War.  On the press he noted they avoid certain topics (such as the legality of the Iraq War) because "the news media can't tell us what to think but they can tell us what to think about."  The distraction process that so many practice to maxium effect.  Later today, you could see the perfect example of it as various outlets are running with the supposed news that the escalation number, Bully Boy's indicating!, can drop this summer!  A) Short of a draft (or mass enlistment), the escalation cannot go past April 2008 (we've covered that and covered that).  B) This isn't a "withdrawal," it's merely dropping down to pre-escalation levels.
Solomon spoke of the air war ongoing in Iraq with little effort being made by outlets to report on it and the continued under-representation of Iraqis in their own stories.
Turning to political races.  On Sunday, the Democrats running for their party's 2008 presidential nomination were supposed to hold another one of those 'discussions' that's supposed to pass for a 'debate.'  Joe Biden decided to bail on the Miami event which was intend to target/court Latino voters in the United States. The discussion was hailed as a historic first.  Madeline Baro Diaz (South Florida Sun-Sentinel) noted it was "the first Spanish-language presidential debate".  Jennifer Parker (ABC News) explained the process: "Questions will be asked and answered in English, and then tranlsated into spanish for the network's TV radio andd online platforms."  Parker also felt the need to quote Slimey Rosenberg who -- for the record -- is not Latino.  In fact, the press coverage of this event -- before and after -- demonstrates yet again the limitations of the news media as they repeatedly went to White men (in this case White Anglo) men to apparently explain the 'exotic' out of some fear that news consumers in the US (which is a varied mix of demographics) would be lost without a White man to 'translate' what was happening.
billed as the first of it's kind broadcast in the Spanish language. Krissah Williams (Washington Post) actually put Latinos front and center by making the angle of her coverage the reactions of one family (Oliva Diaz, parents Alejandra and Gilberto Diaz, and two of Oliva's sisters) to the televised discussion.  Williams also observes "New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is the only Latino in the race -- and he loudly protested Sunday that he was not allowed to answer questions in Spanish".  As he should.  It takes a great deal of nerve to allegedly promote diversity and be the education party (which the Dems are) while at the same time refusing to allow someone to demonstrate the benefits of being bi or multi-lingual. US Senator Chris Dodd should have joined Richardson in protesting since he's also fluent in Spanish.  Michael Bender and John Lantigua (Palm Beach Post) report Richardson responding after he was asked a question, "Puedo contestar en espanol?", being informed "no" and Richardson declaring, "I'm disappointed today that 43 million Latinos in this country, for them not to hear one of their own speak Spanish".  Here's the longer response by Richardson:
You know, language is important, but you know, Latinos are always asked these questions.  Latinos care about civil rights and immigration, but we care about all issues.  We care about health care, about the war in Iraq.  We're mainstream.  And I do want to say at this point that I was under the impression that in this debate Spanish was going to be permitted because I've always supported Univision all my career, but I'm disappointed today that 43 million Latinos in this country, for them not to hear one of their own speak Spanish is unfortunate.  In other words, Univision has promoted English only in this debate.
Meanwhile, Dodd not only refused to protest publicly but then wanted to get credit for offering statements such as this (to should Spanish be the US' second national language), "Certainly promoting greater understanding in language in this country -- it's, I think, a source of some collective embarrassment that we Americans don't speak enough languages, that we always think the rest of the world has to understand English."  That's all undercut by his refusal to stand with Richardson.
The nonsense of building a fence on the border between the US and Mexico was raised (Dodd, US Senator Barack Obama and US Senator Hillary Clinton support the fence) and Obama, apparently still lashing out at his own father, replied, "We can't have hundreds of thousands of people coming into this country without knowing who they are."  Richardson (rightly) noted, "This is a terrible symbol of America."  Williams (Washington Post) noted that when Clinton continued to support a physical wall between Mexico and the US (and apparently, Canada as well "I do favor much more border patrolling and much more technology on both of our borderds"), Olivia Diaz' response was, "A wall won't solve the problem."  The discussion was moderated by Univision Network's news anchors Maria Elena Salinas and Jorge Ramos and carried on Univision TV, online at Univision.com, and over the airwaves on RadioCadena Univision.  After Obama served up his usual Chicken Sop for the Soul, the next  to speak was Clinton and Mike Gravel, going after her, became the first candidate to mention Iraq declaring to loud applause, "But I do want to take my time to give my condolences to the Soriano family.  Armando Soriano was recently killed in Iraq, and his father is about to be deported.  I think there's something basically wrong with that situation."
Citing the Pew Hispanic Center finding "that two of three Hispanics believe that the U.S. should withdraw from Iraq," US House Rep Dennis Kucinich was asked about withdrawal from Iraq. 
Dennis Kucinich: Our troops need to be brought home now, and I have submitted a plan to do just that.  Remember, I'm the only one on this stage who actually voted against the war and who voted a hundred percent of the time against funding the war and who presented a plan four years ago to get out of Iraq.  We need to -- here's the plan.  Number one, we have to end the occupation, bring the troops home, bring the contractors home.  We have to have a simultaneous plan where we reach out to the nations, like Syria and Iran, to form a multinational international peacekeeping force that moves in as our troops leave so there's no vacuum.  And also, we have to have a program of reconstruction and rehabilitation and reconciliation, and we have to stop trying to steal Iraq's oil.  This is the way that we can take steps towards trying to achieve peace -- bring those troops home now, and I'm the only one up here who four years ago shoed the judgment that was necessary, that people expect of a first executive, in not going to war based on lies.
Kucinich's statements received cheers and applause.  Sadly for Obama, he had to go after and stuck to his tired (and only partially true) song of being against the illegal war before it started.  He leaves out the part where, after he started, he was all for the war and opposed to withdrawal.  Oprah's latest product didn't get nearly the response Kucinich did indicating both that the bloom may be coming off the rose and the fact that Obama's real "support" has always been in the press corps.  Best moment for Univision?  Telling Obama, "Your time is up."  In other forums, he gets his hands held while he struggles to walk on his own like a big boy.  Former US Senator (and 2004 Democratic vice presidential candidate) John Edwards was asked about withdrawal and the Petraues snow job (which is now ongoing in DC).
John Edwards: I'm absolutely in favor of America leaving Iraq.  What I'm concerned about, about the Petraues report, is that it will be basically a sales job by the White House, that it'll be a PR document because that's what we've continually gotten from this administration, throughout the course of the war.  And it will be focused on this benchmark or that benchmark than whether some minor progress has been made on one particular benchmark.  The underlying question that has existed the entire time that we've been in Iraq is, have the Sunni and Shi'a moved toward some sort of serious political compromise?  Because without that compromise, there cannot be peace or stability in Iraq.  It cannot happen.  And I think we know the answer to that right now.  The answer to that question is there has been no political progress.  In fact, the Iraqi parliament went on vacation for three or four weeks while American men and women were putting their lives on the line in Iraq.  Here's what I believe.  I believe no political progress means no funding without a timetable for withdrawal.  And if the president vetoes a bill that has a timetable for withdrawal, the Congress should send him another bill with a timetable for withdrawal and continue to do it until he's forced to start withdrawing troops.
Obviously, the US Congress went on vacation during the same time and there should be several other "obviously"s members can add.  We're going to note the rest of the responses in full.  Obama?  Why bother?  It's not just the dishonesty, it's the fact that he says the same thing over and over "I was against it before it started".  Five years ago.  You have your gold star.  The truth is you were against it before it started but you were on board after it began.  Go peddle your nonsense somewhere else and, hopefully, at some point other candidates on the stage will stop hinting about this (it's been hinted at in three debates) and someone will make the point straight out.  If that ends up being Clinton, it will probably be the knock out blow to Obama's campaign. 
Hillary Clinton: I was against the surge when it was first proposed.  And I believe that nothing which General Petraues or Ambassador Crocker or anyone else coming before the Congress will say next week will in any way underline the basic problem: There is no military solution.  That has been said for years now.  And that is why I believe we should start bringing our troops home.  That however does not in any way suggest that our young men and women in uniform have not performed magnificently and heroically, because they have.  They were asked to do what they do best, which is to try to provide some amount of stability or security to give the Iraqi government the time and space to do what the Iraqis must do.  Unfortunately despite the heroism of our American forces, the Iraqi government has not reached any kind of political reconciliation.  Therefore we need to quit refereeing their civil war and bring our troops home as soon as possible.
Bill Richardson declared, "What I would do with the troops is I would bring them all home -- every one of them.  And you know, there's a fundamental difference that I raised in the last debate with Senator Obama, Senator Clinton, Senator Edwards.  Under their plans, under their website, they leave either 25 or 50 or 75 troops behind.  I'd bring them all home within a period of time of six to eight months, because our troops have become targets.  You can't bring reconciliation to Iraq, or an all-Muslim peacekeeping force or a partition, without getting all our troops out.  Our kids are becoming targets.  They are dying -- the last three months, the highest total.  Iraqis are dying.  And I -- there is a basic difference between all of us here that I mentioned, involving, what do we do about leaving troops behind?  Some say they want to leave combat troops behind.  They don't want to leave them [moderator interrupts].  I'd like an answer, because this is a fundamental issue about the conduct of Amerian foreign policy in Iraq."
This is a topic Richardson has been pointing out.  On Saturday, the Washington Post published a column by Bill Richardson which began, "Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards have suggested that there is little difference among us on Iraq. This is not true: I am the only leading Democratic candidate committed to getting all our troops out and doing so quickly. In the most recent debate, I asked the other candidates how many troops they would leave in Iraq and for what purposes. I got no answers. The American people need answers. If we elect a president who thinks that troops should stay in Iraq for years, they will stay for years -- a tragic mistake."  Richardson also has a petition noting stating his "position on ending the war is clear.  From the beginning of the campaign he has been calling for complete withdrawal of ALL troops.  No excuses.  No delays.  No troops left behind.  In the most recent debate, he asked the other major candidates a clear question: how many troops would you leave behind and for how long?  We have yet to hear an answer."   The petition calls for other candidates to explain what their plans or 'plans' will do.  For example, Clinton's plan is a far cry from the words she offered in the debate.

And that was the portion focusing on Iraq. AP reports the discussion outranked "earlier presidential debates held this year on ABC, CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC" and brought in 4.6 million viewers -- that's the TV audience only -- the radio audience and the web audience aren't included in that count. Rebecca and Kat will be addressing other portions of the debate tonight at their sites.  One other thing to note here is this from the Palm Beach Post's editorial today, "Who were those six people in Miami Sunday night?  Oh, right.  Democrats, campaigning in the state that their party threatens to write off."

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