Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, September 12, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, another big robbery takes place in Iraq, Bully Boy spends today being pampered for tomorrow's big event, Obama tries to put one over on voters, and more.
Starting with war resistance, Eli Israel is the first US service member to publicly refuse to take part in the illegal war while stationed in Iraq.  Brian Lenzo and Kyle Brown (US Socialist Worker) speak with Israel, war resister Camilo Mejia and Phil Aliff.  Here, Eli Israel is discussing what he realized while in Iraq:
Militarily, you can't fight "terrorism" by browbeating "terrorists." You can't terrify terrorists into not attacking you.
And let's throw out the word "terrorists." You can't browbeat people into not attacking you. Believe it or not, most people want to live in peace. Believe it or not, most Palestinians and Israelis want to live in peace. 
I've changed my perspective on the world in so many ways because of what's going on in Iraq. To think that they would continue this situation forever without us doing the things we're doing is ridiculous. 
We're creating people to attack us tomorrow. The doors that are getting kicked in, the people who are being harassed, the children who are crying, the women who are seeing their houses torn apart in front of them, the men who are being shot while defending their own families, the neighbors who are being interrogated with Tasers to turn in their neighbors--all of those people are going to hate us for what we're doing. 
When are we going to accept responsibility?

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.
Greg Mitchell (Editor & Publisher) reports that Sgt. Omar Mora and Sgt. Yance T. Gray are among the dead from Monday's Baghdad "vehicle accident".  The two, along with five other active duty service members, wrote a New York Times column entitled "Iraq As We See It."
Dropping back to the August 20th snapshot:
On Sunday, the New York Times ran a piece written by seven active duty service members entitled "Iraq As We See It" (click here for Common Dreams, click here for International Herald Tribune -- available in full at both without registration) which noted "Two million Iraqis are in refugee camps in bordering countries. Close to two million more are internally displaced and now fill many urban slums. Cities lack regular electricty, telephone services and sanitation. 'Lucky' Iraqis live in communities barricaded with concrete walls that provide them with a sense of communal claustrophobia rather than any sense of security we would consider normal. In an environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. . . . In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are -- an army of occupation -- and force our withdrawal." The piece is signed by US Army specialist Buddhika Jayamaha, Sgt. Wesley D. Smith, Sgt. Jeremy Roebuck, Sgt. Omar Mora, Sgt. Edward Sandmeier, Staff Sgt. Yance T. Gray, Staff Sgt. and Jeremy A. Murphy.
Mitchell notes, "One of the other five authors of the Times piece, Staff Sergeant Jeremy Murphy, an Army Ranger and reconnaissance team leader, was shot in the head while the article was being written. He was expected to survive after being flown to a military hospital in the United States."
As a warm up act, Davey & the Petraeuses didn't do much to excite the crowds, not even the duet (performed with Ryan Crocker) of "Stay" ("a little bit longer . . .") did much to whet appetites for the main attraction.  The reviews were hostile to brutal.  The San Jose Mercury News editorialized that Davey couldn't "conceal that the surge has failed" and "Bush has no strategy beyond his faith in Petraeus and the knowledge that, in 14 months, Iraq will become another president's burden."  Newsday's James P. Pinkerton felt Davy's act was old and moldy and explained how it had been pulled from mothballs out of the Vietnam era. Stan Goff (CounterPunch) found the offstage chorus lacking and also wasn't impressed with Davey's costume: "The articulate, level-voiced General, though he only went to combat when Bush invaded Iraq, has more fruit salad on his chest than any veteran of three previous wars."
 Arun Gupta (Democracy Now!) pointed out that Davey had never lived up to the earlier hype including a 2004 Newsweek cover which boasted of his abilities to train the Iraq police and military and that when he trained Shia militias (such as the Special Police Commandos) he "issued the usual denials: 'Oh, we're not giving them any weapons.  This is an Iraqi initiative.'  And so, now he's saying the same thing with the Sunni militias."
So Thursday night, Ugly Bully airs on ABC following Ugly Betty as Bully Boy takes to primetime to deliver his equivalent of Tricky Dick's "Peace With Honor" speech.  Though Bully Boy's speech is expected to be as out of touch and laced with lies as Nixon's January 23, 1973 speech, his speech writers are still hard at work in attempting to top the howlers Nixon lobbed such as "The important thing was not to talk about peace".  A 'wisdom' Bully Boy has internalized.
In the October issue of Vanity Fair, former New York Times reporter Todd S. Purdum offers the establishment view on the Bully Boy that's still worlds away from what he could have offered at the New York Timid.  From "Inside Bush's Bunker" (page 334, article runs from 332 to 335 and 390-395):
Now, with not quite a year and a half left before Bush leaves office, we have already arrived at the beleaguered endgame of his presidency.  From deep inside the fortified precints of the White House, the president projects a preternatural calm.  He gives orders to nonexistent armies, which his remaining lieutenants gamely transmit: "Reform immigration!" "Overhaul the tax codes!" "Privatize Social Security!" Outside the bunker, in the country that his administration now refers to as "the homeland," there is chaos and confusion.  The Democrats bridged the Ptomac after winning the elections last fall, and the Blue Army has now overrun most of political Washington.  Its flag flies above the Capitol.  More and more of the president's subordinates have been captured and interrogated, most notabley the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales.  Others, such as Matthew Dowd, the president's former chief campaign strategist, have managed to make good their escape -- Dowd by parachuting onto the front page of the enemy New York Times with a detailed denuciation of Bush's policies.  Indepenent powers that would sue for peace -- the Baker-Hamilton Commission, for example -- have been banished.  Some loyalists, including presidential counselor Dan Bartlett, have simply fled to the safety of the private sector.  For one reason or another, most of the commander in chief's senior advisers are now gone, replaced by callow upstarts and last-chance opportunists.  The two most powerful advisers have been the president's second-in-command and his propaganda minister -- his vice president and his political strategist -- who had been at his side from the beginning and have remained close and trusted, despite the catastrophes they helped to engineer.  Dick Cheney will haunt the bunker till the end, but the political strategist, Karl Rove, has quietly slipped away.  The leader himself -- with his lady and his loyal dog -- soldiers on, in an atmosphere of disconnection and illusion.  Lurid tabloid tales may hint at binge drinking and marital estrangement, although visitors report uniformly, and much to their surprise, that the president seems optimistic, unbowed, chipper, his gaze bright and steadfast.  The tide is about to turn!  We will prevail!  But it is a hermetic and solidarity existence. 
Also in the current issue of Vanity Fair is Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele (Vanity Fair) report on the theft of millions in Iraq (article noted in the September 5th snapshot).  The Pulitzer Prize winning correspondents discussed their article with Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) today. Excerpt (remember, audio, video and transcript at DN!):
AMY GOODMAN: It was kept in a vault in the Green Zone?
DONALD BARLETT: Yes, in the beginning. But then it was moved about the country in different ways. But what is striking about this is that here you have $12 billion and actually many more billions later coming through that process, but no auditing arm established to track the money. And that is just amazing.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, the irony of the Coalition Provisional Authority initials, CPA, that there was no accounting.
JAMES STEELE: No certified public accountant on duty.
DONALD BARLETT: No. And this is an interesting organization in itself, because when we traced it back, it is literally a rogue agency within this country. There is no formal document establishing it. Congress has funded it with taxpayer dollars at that time, but it was never created within the legal process of Congress.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, explain this, Jim, because this is quite astounding. When it comes to accountability then -- where has the money gone -- and even lawsuits, the question is: who ran the Coalition Provisional Authority?
JAMES STEELE: The Coalition Provisional Authority, which created this illusion that this was this multinational force, was basically run by the Pentagon. It was a creation of the Pentagon. Most of the contracts were awarded with the approval of the Pentagon. This was totally their entity. And it became an absolutely perfect sieve for this cash, because it only existed for fourteen months, and then we turned Iraq over to the Iraqis. And during that period, because it was not a US government agency, because it was not really an entity of the UN, because it was a rogue operation, as Don has mentioned, nobody was responsible for really what happened to that money. And, in fact, some of the litigation that has come up in this country, the traditional whistleblower things, it's basically failed so far, because you're not dealing with malfeasance within a normal US government agency. 
AMY GOODMAN: Explain with the lawsuit, using that as an example.
JAMES STEELE: The reason -- courts have ruled that because this is not an entity of the United States government, normal whistleblowers, people who observe wrongdoing within an agency, see theft and so forth, cannot appeal to the courts, because nobody has authorized this thing. I mean, it's a classic Catch-22 situation. I mean, you've created this thing that isn't legitimate, therefore you can't sue it. But in the meantime, it's become this wonderful repository for this incredible amount of cash.
Turning to Iraq today where, MADRE notes, "Figures from Iraqi hospitals, morgues, and police logs show that civilian killings are double what they were this time last year. Women from MADRE's Iraqi sister organization, the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), have taken on the gruesome task of visiting morgues to try to assess the number of women killed in gender-based attacks. They report that the killings of women have skyrocketed under US occupation and that the 'surge' has done nothing to diminish the trend."  And where Andrew North (BBC) notes female medical student Kulsoom hasn't left her Baghdad home "in two months" due to the violence having already "missed half her classes last year because of bombs, shootings and other threats" and Kulsoom says, "Nothing has really changed."  Today a large protest took place in Baghdad.  AFP reports: "Hundreds of Shiites and Sunnis marched on Wednesday in protest at the building by US troops of a tall concrete wall separating their northwest Baghdad neighbourhoods, an AFP photographer said. The protesters complained that the wall would promote sectarianism and demanded its removal. Residents said that US forces last week began building the two-kilometre (1.25 mile) wall along the border of the mainly Shiite al-Shuala and adjoining Sunni-majority al-Ghazaliyah neighbourhoods without consulting them."  BBC notes the banners read "No to the dividing wall" and The wall is US terrorism."
Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing claimed 2 lives and left five wounded, a Kirkuk bombing aimed at "the head's of the local council convoy of Al Haweeja province injured three of his bodyguards"  Reuters notes a Rasheed mortar attack that claimed the life of 1 person and left a child injured, a Hawija roadside bombing that left three injured, and an Iskandariya mortar attack that claimed that left four people wounded.
Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Iraqi police major Khalid Jabur was shot dead in front of his home in Tirkit. AP reports, "Gunmen ambushed an Iraqi police checkpoint south of Mosul early Wednesday, killing six policemen and wounding four, police said."  CBS and AP report, "Gunmen opened fire on a car in Diyala's al Salam area, killing two and wounding two others, while an hour later in another area, assailants shot into a crowd in central Muqdadiyah killing two and wounding two, police said".
Reuters notes two Baghdad robberies -- in one the robbers made off with $240,000 after stopping a minibus of bank employees and in the other the robbers wore "camouflage uniforms" when they stopped bank employees "in two vehicles" and made off with $550,000.
Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 9 corpses were discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes a corpse discovered in Wahaweel and two in Muwailha.
Turning to political news, Bully Boy doesn't believe in science but he's now on record as a believer in some form of evolution.  Monday, while flying to Australia, AFP reports Bully Boy gave his complete backing to the puppet government of Nouri al-Maliki and praised al-Maliki's "evolving" abilities.  Possibly, on the heels of Oprah's endorsement (of Barack Obama), Bully Boy just wanted to get in one of his own?  It hasn't gone over well.  Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reports of "dismay" in Iraq with Iraqi politicians questioning why stronger statements about the lack of progress were made by both Davey Petraeus and Ryan Crocker when they were in Iraq (The answer? Greater proximity to the White House results in tighter scripts) and Fadel quotes Mhmoud Othman ("independent Kurdish legislator") declaring, "We don't see any reconciliation," while a Shi'ite parliamentarian declares, "There are many things that the U.S. has done wrong in Iraq, and one or two years later they say, 'That was a mistake.'  This is another wrong."
In US political news, Senator Barack Obama continued to his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination today.  He began it this morning on NBC's Today show where, after calling out the Bully Boy for not heeding the will of the American people (they want US troops out of Iraq), he then declared that, were he to be elected president, he would reduce the number of troops there, keeping an unspecified number stationed in Iraq for 'security.'  Obama saw no inconsistency between his remarks and no doubt the press that loves him will continue refusing to call him out.  Reuters, citing excerpts of a released speech, notes that Obama's afternoon strategy was to insit "that we have to begin to end this war now." Again this is the usual shell game Congressional Dems have attempted to trick the American public with.  He's calling for 'combat' troops.  Troops would still remain for 'security' and 'training'.  It's as much as con game as Bully Boy's intended announcement tomorrow that he will 'draw down' the number of troops . . . to pre-escalation numbers (as he knew would happen before the escalation started).  John McCormick (Tribune via Baltimore Sun) observes of Obama's attempts at delivering a fiery speech, "That rhetoric is similar to the position New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio have expressed for months. While Obama's speech added some new detail, it did not offer any dramatically new insights about his position on the war."  Excerpts also have Obama issuing his "I was against the illegal war before it started" line while refusing to note that he was also against withdrawal in 2004 while campaigning for the Senate and that he was against withdrawal in the Senate judging by his voting record until this past summer.
Turning to peace news, William Blum becomes the latest in a long line of 'end the war' writers to attempt to Arlen Specter it.  Writing at Counterpunch, Blum has discovered the "magic bullet" and it is "American soldiers" -- that will end the illegal war!  That's what ended another illegal war (Vietnam) and it will do so again today!  There is something really sad about how quickly history vanishes but there's something even sadder about the constant need to disown power and instead rush off in search of a hero.  (There's also something sad about using the term "soldiers" when everyone should know by now that different branches do not like being referred to as "soldiers.")  What ended that earlier illegal war?  Fear.  Fear from the top.  "The country is split," the media jaw boned.  It wasn't split.  The people wanted US troops out of Vietnam by an overwhelming majority.  The split wasn't between the people and their alleged represenatives as well as those who stood to continue profiting from that illegal war.  Troops who resistered played a key part as did other elements of society.  (For resistance within the military, see the brilliant documentary Sir! No Sir!)  That's where the "split" was.  The comfort level of the elites was "split" out of fear that the country could fall apart if the illegal war was continued.  You had protests, you had walk outs, you had civil disobedience . . .  It was no longer as comfortable for them as it had been.  That's what forced the end of the illegal war. And you had those things in civil society and within the military.  Blum is on strong ground writing about the importance of IVAW, he's on weak ground when he tells people that's 'the answer'.  Blum should know that's not reality.  He left the State Dept. over Vietnam -- an action others took part in and that also sent a message.  Whether it's a need to find a hero (hero worship currently seems to be plauging a number of males who took part in ending an earlier illegal war) or a desire to hype that's driving Blum, I have no idea.  But there is no single-solution answer, no "magic bullet," that will end this illegal war (even impeaching the Bully Boy -- which I support -- would not end the illegal war, there are too many members of Congress interested in continuing it).  And there was no single-solution that forced the government to pull US forces out of Vietnam.  It was a broad based movement that required all levels of actions from all sections of society.  Writing "Only those fighting the war can end it" is the height of ignorance.  As hype, when the "support" 'answer' fails, a lot of young people (already leery of all the hype that's been forced down their throat by the 'anti-war' movement) are going to be even more pissed off (not at the government, at 'leaders').  As hero worship?  Grow up.  What is Blum, 70 now?  Whatever he is, he's old enough to not still be dreaming of the Lone Ranger riding in to save the day.  Instead of pointing people to turn to others for the answers, the peace movement needs to get honest about the fact that the answer to ending the illegal war is in everyone of us.  It's in our taking action, it's in our taking to the streets, it's in our using our own voices.  The answer is in each of us, in every element of society.
Now today, a number of women are stationed in Iraq and required to 'fight.'  But let's be really honest about this masculinist b.s. these men keep pushing.  It says the "men" in Iraq will save the day and all we have to do is make like Natalie Wood cheering on the drag race, like good little women waiting for the illegal war to end.  As Elaine's noted, our biggest mistake (some -- not all -- women's biggest mistake) during Vietnam appears to have been the vast amounts of time we spent getting male 'leaders' ready to speak, chasing away the fears, stroking the ego.  We should have all pushed you out on stage while you were a jumble of nerves or near tears so you could have faced some reality.  Maybe then you wouldn't come back all these years later promoting lies that are offensive and sexist.  And then getting shocked when you're called them out on it.  If you say, as one did, that it was "the draft" that motivated (college) student action during Vietnam because "we" all had to go through that invasive physical, you're being a sexist pig.  "We" didn't all go through a physical.  And, as Rebecca noted, don't talk invasive until you've had an exam where your feet are in stirrups.  Let me join Elaine in asking what has happened to the Young Lions of those days?  (Not a reference to the Young Lords.)  Can any of them make a statement that doesn't rely on the inverse of the John Wayne (or is it The Deer Hunter?) movie damage they all appear to be suffering from -- apparently caught during the midst of a middle age panic?  Really, boys (term used intentionally), you're embarrassing yourselves.  As for Blum, someone in charge of the Washington Free Press all that time ago should be able to check their old clippings if their memory is currently failing them.
While the former Young Lions seem to be emerging from some Robert Bly workshop, Ron Jacobs (Dissident Voice) offers a serious look about what's required to end this illegal war and others in a dialogue with Ashley Smith.  They both note the importance of IVAW but they don't make the mistake of instructing, "Just support them!  They are the answer!"  Ashley Smith lays it out speaking of Vietnam, "We ended it through dynamic interaction between a truly mass domestic anti-war movement, a rebellion among the US troops and Veterans documented in David Cortright's brilliant book Soldiers in Revolt, and the national liberation struggle of the Vietnamese people.  That's exactly what we must build today.  We must build a grassroots and sustained anti-war movement expressed through demonstrations, sit-ins, teach-ins and many other tactics to turn majority anti-war sentiment into the social power to shut down campuses, paralyze cities in mass protests, and even organize strikes at workplaces against the war."
In other peace news, September 15th (see ANSWER for more information) mass protests will be 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
Finally, on PBS' NOW with David Brancaccio: this week (Friday's on most PBS stations), the program expands to an hour for a special look at the Third Infantry's First Brigade which is on it's third deployment to Iraq. A preview is posted at YouTube. The earlier broadcast of interviewing the Third Infantry's First Brigade can be found here. And NOW is offering an online exclusive of interviews with members of the Third Infantry and their spouses.

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