Thursday, September 27, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, September 27, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraq vet Josh Gaines stands up, Democratic 'front runners' play in their own human waste as they say a-okay to the illegal war continuing through 2013, a US helicopter in Iraq comes under fire, Pig and Our Modern Day Carrie Nation offer 'advice' to the peace movement, and more.
Starting with war resistance.  Big news!  Canada cannot be reached by either phone or e-mail!  The apparent blockade must explain why All Things Media Big and Small in the US are unable to contact James Burmeister who served in Iraq and was publicly speaking of "kill teams" of US forces who intentionally left items (not just items that were weapons or could be used for making weapons -- as the mainstream narrative likes to insist) out in public so that Iraqis could be shot for touching "US property."  Apparently the blockade also includes Canada's borders being heavily guarded and Ottawa being ringed with armed guards -- possibly from the US mercenary company Blackwater.  In times long since past, independent media would have been all over this story instead they're all apparently imposing some self-gag order when it comes to the words: "James Burmeister."
As noted before, as appalling (and illegal) as the program is when guns and materials that might be used for making bombs are, public outrage is mitigated by the fact that some in the US will tell themselves, "Well, if they're touching it, they probably are guilty!"  Telling the truth (something independent media has a real problem with these days -- as evidence by the elevation to sainthood of a five times busted thug) would have Americans asking serious questions about the program (which already appears to be fading from public knowledge) because a camera, for example, is not a weapon.  But what should have been the minute where independent media stepped up to the plate, grabbed the spotlight and demonstrated just how important they could be instead became a time for travelogue.  Remember that when they next beg for money.
LeiLani Dowell (Workers World) notes the DC Encampment to Stop the War at Home and Abroad that is ongoing through September 28th and includes members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, CODEPINK, TONC, United for Peace and Justice and the Green Party.  They are calling for a cut off to funding the illegal war.  As noted in yesterday's snapshot, the hands are out and begging Congress to provide $190,000,000,000 dollars more to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The Encampment is insisting that the war funding be cut off and troops be brought home.  Dowell quotes IVAW's Adam Kokesh explaining that the call is for all US forces, "we mean Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Blackwater, Hallibruton".
Dowell also reports that "a young war resister described how he enlisted in the military in 2005 because of limited career opportunities in his rural hometown. However, he says, 'I happened to join at the same time as Hurricane Katrina, and I saw on TV the bodies floating in the streets. It really hit home to me. I got out of training 25 weeks later and nothing had changed. Despite all the rhetoric about homeland security and national security, this government's priorities are not for the people'."

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Derek Hess, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, 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.
Meanwhile Iraq veteran Josh Gaines has returned his Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and National Defense Service Medal  that he received for serving in Iraq from 2004 to 2005.  Jillian Levy (Madison's The Daily Cardinal) reports on yesterday's event, "With shouts of protest and calls to end the war, more than 30 student activists marched to the state Capitol with Josh Gaines, Iraq War veteran and Madison resident, to watch him return his military medals in an act of protest Wednesday afternoon."  Alec Luhn (The Badger Herald) reports, "Gaines read the letter aloud to a crowd gathered on Library Mall Tuesday afternoon before leading dozens of protestors down State Street to the Capitol.  The march also protested the deployment of the Wisconsin National Guard to Iraq, calling for a "de-federalization" of the force to allow for its return. Once Gaines deposited the package in a postal box inside the Capitol, the group gathered outside the office of Gov. Jim Doyle to demand an audience about recalling Guard troops."
Josh Gaines declared, "I'm returning my National Defense Medal because I truly believe that I did not help defend my nation and I'm returning my Global War on Terrorism Medal because I do not believe that I helped defeat terrorism in Iraq."  Supporters present in Madison, Wisconsin included students with SDS, the Campus Anti-War Network, Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace who met up at the Library Mall on the Univeristy of Wisconsin and then marched up State Street for what is the first known instance of an Iraq veteran returning his medals.  Gaines apologized for not being able to display the medals as he had already sealed the package and began explaining what had led to his decision.  Portland's KPTV estimates that at least 100 supporters were present. Wisconsin Radio Network provides audio of Gaines speech where he explains why he's mailing the medals to former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at the Hoover Institute on Stanford University, how his unit had to improvise their own armor, how chemical weapons (such as white phosphorus and "incidneary projectiles") were used in Iraq, and how KBR and others were "all about contracts and the profits are made by civilians who did not volunteer for this war but promote the very idea of occupation."  Gaines: "I was forced to ask, 'Are we really defeating terrorism with the scars of war?'" 
While Josh Gaines stood up strongly yesterday, Democratic 'front runners' caved.  Especially hardest hit was Barack Obama (no wonder Sammy Power is looking for a new cause!).  Journalist David Corn (link goes to Corn's site, not The Nation) observes the best news for Obama is that "MSNBC is the lowest rated of the three cable networks" thereby meaning many may have missed the "lackluster perofrmance". Though Obama's continued mis-steps in his campaign are certainly amusing considering all the behind the scenes groomers (the Dan Qualye principles are still at work), even worse for the Democratic Party is what their front runners elected to declared in the 'debate.'  Watching the 'debate' with a group of students on campus, the reaction was immediate and vocal.  A day later, on two other campuses, it's a point students continuing returning to.  But search in vain for our 'brave' voices to show any of the intelligence or strength that students can.  Apparently heeding the "If you can't say something nice . . ." dictum, independent media clams up with few exceptions.
Non-indymedia reporter Beth Fouhy (AP) sums up the take-away of the 'debate' by noting that three 'front runners' (Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Obam) "conceded Wednesday night they cannot guarantee to pull all U.S. combat troops from Iraq by the end of the next presidential term in 2013" were they to be elected president; quotes Obama saying, "I think it's hard to project four years from now," Hillary stating, "It is very difficult to know what we're going to be inheriting" and John Edwards mumbling, "I cannot make that committment."
So out of touch is independent media that they all avoid this big moment.  (John Nichols, who truly is a nice guy, attempts to address the debate at The Nation.  The issue requires no niceness and, in fact, demands that niceness be put on hold..)  Though all three candidates have repeatedly struck positions somewhere along the anti-war spectrum (never along the peace spectrum), and have issued press releases on 'plans' to end the illegal war, asked last night, all three announced that they couldn't guarantee, if elected to be president, that they'd be able to end the illegal war before 2013.  "Vote for Us!  We Have No Answers!"
In other words, they need four years of on the job learning -- and people questioned whether or not Bully Boy was creating a legacy!
Candidate Bill Richardson released the following statement: "I have a fundamental difference with Senator Obama, John Edwards, and Senator Clinton.  Their position is changing the mission. My position is to end this war. Six billion dollars on cancer research equals two weeks of spending on the war.  As long as we do not end the war, we cannot invest in critical needs like cancer. The American people want to end the war. You cannot start the reconciliation of Iraq, a political settlement, and possibly this issue of a separation, which I think is a possible solution, until we get all our troops out. Unlike Senator Clinton, I do not believe the Congress has done enough. We have been able to move 240,000 of our troops in three months in and out of Iraq through Kuwait. It would take persuading Turkey. I would leave behind some of the light equipment. Leaving any troop behind will prevent us from moving forward toward stability in the region. I would talk to Iran. I would make sure the entire issue is tied to stability in the Israeli-Palestinian issue. You have to deal with the entire issue."  Daniel Bates (Reuters) reports today that Turkey's prime minister, Tayyip Erdogan, has announced he is open to considering allowing Turkey to be used as a withdraw route from Iraq for US forces.
Matt Browner-Hamlin, blogging at candidate Chris Dodd's site, notes the following from Dodd about yesterday's 'debate': "The idea that we could be emborlied in combat for at least another five years should set off alarm bells for anyone with a modicum of foreign policy experience.  Sacrificing American lives to engage in a civil war is a deeply corrupt strategy and one I have been working to combat in Congress.  I call on my fellow candidates to help me bring and end to this war before 2013 -- we need to end this war now before it passes Vietnam as the longest war in American history."
Candidate Dennis Kucinich declared during the debate, "We can get out of there three months after I take office" and, in a sentiment that is sweeping campuses now, noted, "It is fairly astonishing to have Democrats who took back the power of the House and Senate in 2006 to stand on this stage and tell the American people that the war will continue till 2013 and perhaps past that."
In a piece already cross-posted at Yahoo, John Nichols (link goes to Yahoo) notes the drinking age came up and that while you can be sent to Iraq at the age of 18 to die, you are not allowed to drink until 21.  When candidate Mike Gravel offered his thoughts on this issue, he responded, "Anyone who will fight and die for this country should be able to drink." Cyra Master (Eagle-Tribune) notes, "Former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska urged the senators on stage to stay in Congress and vote against the war every single day for 40 days in a row."
In the face of the three 'front runners' announced sell out of the American people, the peace movement has two posing as white knights riding to their 'rescue.'  First up, A Problem From Hell Samantha Power.  The War Hawk can read polling and judges (finally) Iraq to be a greater concern that her cause of the last years -- the one that made her the leader of Our Modern Day Carrie Nations (Mike coined that to describe A Problem From Hell itself).  Time magazine publishes the War Hawk's latest bit of nonsense which only serves to underscore how propped up and managed Power's entire career has been.  As if external refugees haven't suffered enough, Power decides to turn her questionable eye towards them and writes, "Despite all this, the U.S. debate about withdrawal from Iraq seems remarkably indifferent to those whose lives have been upended. The Bush Administration talks of staying the course without expending nearly enough political or financial capital to mitigate the humanitarian catastrophe that it pretends does not exist. Many advocates of withdrawal point to the humanitarian disaster as a ground for leaving without addressing how worse suffering might be averted."  Many dumb asses at Harvard's Carr Center might want to try reading a paper.   
What created the refugee crisis?  Not the first stage of the Iraq War.  In fact, the first stage saw many Iraqis who'd left under Saddam Hussein's rule begin returning to the country.  The US chose sides and, since bullies attract bullies, it wasn't enough to just choose Shia over Sunni, it was important that the most authoritarain Shia's be selected, be trained, be armed and be let loose to enforce not just their fundamentalist beliefs.  Fundamenatlism didn't prevent them from plundering the country's goods -- but it rarely does, regardless of the religion.  It's a point that's lost today in the United States because the weak ass and ineffectual independent media is riddled with Christopher Columbuses who think they've all just discovered a 'new world'.  In this country, the current wave of fundamentalism long predates the installation of the Bully Boy into the White House.  Which is why you can pick up Gloria Steinem's classic Outrageous Acts & Everday Rebellions today and find Steinem, in 1983, sounding the alarm about the rise in fundamentalism and detailing what would be their coming political impact.  It's why, in 1988, They Kingdom Come Thy Will Be Done would be playing in theaters and not on television.  The Anthony Thomas documentary was supposed to be available to Americans in May of 1987, over the airwaves.  What happened?  PBS buckled, fear of the retribution from the Ronald Reagan staffed CPB.  Hunt Oil, Tim LaHaye and many others still kicking around today were indicating their intentions in that expose. But an ahistorical and ignorant independent media (fueled by Clintonistas who want to tell you history began with Bill Clinton) can't tell you about that.  International belligerance, the kind Power advocates, is not a new phenomon but few bother to call her out (among the few who do -- Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Tom Hayden, John R. MacArthur).  So Power, when not advising Barack Obama, rushes around looking for problems to attach herself to in her usual uninformed albeit strident manner.
Advocates for withdrawal, Power insists (though she's never been one and really doesn't mix with those who are) are failing!  They're failing to grasp what withdrawal will mean to refugees!  Power fails to grasp that the illegal war (a term she will not use) created the refugee situation, that the US supported the climate and that, as the US remains in Iraq, it now works hand in hand with the thugs in creating more refugees.  The War Hawks propped her up and supported her, creating an avenue away from the pole dancing her name appeared to predestine her to, but nothing could salvage her empty mind.
Now we're up to Kramer's report in Saturday's New York Times where he reports that as retaliation against the killing of Naji, the Mahdi Army began clearing out the Washash section of Baghdad forcing "[b]etween 50 and 100 Sunni families" (families -- not individuals) to abandon their homes and flee as the thugs went through the neighborhoods with "loudspeakers, telling people to leave" and not just in full view of  the US military, with the assistance of the US military.  One of the newly created refugees, Sheik Abu Hasan, declares, "What shocked us a lot was that as soon as we reached the main streets, we saw Iraqi and American forces who were showing and directing us to the highway."  The US military was used to assist with forced evictions (non-legal ones) and not to protect the people.  The myth that the US is preserving anything should have long ago shattered.  The US armed and trained the Shi'ites while banishing the Sunnis, they created the division that exists by making their first question to Iraqis: "Are you Sunni or Shia?", and the continued presence breeds the hostility and violence. 
Kramer is Andrew E. Kramer of the New York Times and the article ran on Saturday.  It doesn't fit the Sammy Power cry of "WAR! WAR! MORE WAR!" so it gets ignored by the alleged 'intellectual.'  But the US is no longer standing on the sidelines watching as the Iraqi refugee crisis (internal and external) grows worse, they are not assisting in the clearing of the areas the thugs wish to take over.  It's a point lost on Power as are most other points.
One thing that can be said for Samantha Power is that the press has never reported she was twice busted for online predatory activities while attempting sexual hookups with underage females.  That's right, we're now to Pig.  The one who thinks CBS is owned by GE.  Guess who's back, human trash is back.  Apparently jazzed on 'feminist' Katha Pollitt's ringing endorsement of him by name in a recent column where Pollitt remembered that an illegal war was taking place, the Pig returns still casting himself as Mr. Fix It For The Anti-War Movement.
"Iraq Will Have To Wait" he declares wanting so badly to come off like Warren Beatty's Joe Pendleton but instead sounding like Tony Abbott. Pig has marching orders to hand out -- having still not grasped that the peace movement isn't his to command.  He wants the peace movement to forget about pressing for an end to the illegal war and instead focus on Iran.  It should be noted that Pig staged his own bus & truck company traveling show in 2004 where he declared that war on Iran would begin in a mere matter of months.  It is now 2007.  If you'd bet what little was left of your reputation on a war that still hasn't come to pass, you'd be struggling to save the bits and pieces of remnants as well.  The Pig writes, "Of the two problems (the reality of Iraq, the potential of Iran), Iran is by far the more important."  He's apparently just emerged from huckster course on shaping the potential within.  An ongoing (and illegal war) takes back seat, for him, to the potential for another war.  No wonder he became an independent media darling -- despite the rap sheet.
Pig oinks that "a strategic decision" must be made "and soon" about where the attention of the "antiwar movement" belongs.  "The war in Iraq can be contained," he declares sounding like any number of suits working for LBJ or Tricky Dick, "simply by letting war be war."  Sounding crazed (not just "callous," which he owns up to), he pinpoints a potential war with Iran as "[t]he highest priority for the antiwar movement in America today" thus demonstrating he lacks not only decency but also any sense of history.  The peace movement attempted to prevent the Iraq War before it started.  The world saw massive protests.  How'd that work out?  Short of forcing Congress to do their duty and impeach Bully Boy, the people have little ability to prevent another war.  What's prevented war on Iran thus far has not been Pig but the establishment's knowledge that the US military (non-brass) can only take so much and that American streets did not come to full life with protests during Vietnam until Tricky Dick decided to expand into Laos and Cambodia.  That is what has held Dick Cheney in check if Bully Boy even has a strong desire for war on Iran.  Unlike the underinformed Pig, the establishment remembers full well what happened during Vietnam and what (finally) made the war came home.  It was the realization that the people were not being listened to, underscored by the expansion of war, that finally made people wake up to the fact that for all the talk of 'secret plans' and 'peace,' the Nixon administration had no intent to withdraw from Vietnam.  In this country, we're arriving at that realization and should Bully Boy attempt to expand his illegal war, the establishment is well aware that the slow boil currently would begin rolling and the streets would, once again, come to life across America.
A war with Iran may happen and it may not.  The peace movement (in its current state) can't prevent it.  And independent media needs to inform not proseltyze.  That means addressing reality not playing the speculation market.  It's amazing how much air time and print space has been wasted in the last three years over a war that has not even started while very much ignoring an ongoing, illegal war.
Want to end a future (and speculative) war?  Tuesday, Cindy Sheehan provided a path on  KPFK's Sojourner Truth, run for Congress.  Not just against 'bad' Dems (as with Iraq, the Iran option demonstrates there are very few 'good' Dems).  Take back the Congress for the people.  Run the bums who refuse to do their duty (that's Republicans and Democrats) and begin impeachment proceedings of the Bully Boy and withdrawal from Iraq out of office.  That idea has real power which is why it's not at all surprising that Katha Pollitt is the same 'feminist' who applauds the twice busted sexual predator while slamming Cindy Sheehan for running against the Bay Area's own Joe Lieberman.  Safe races for incumbents have resulted from increased and increasing gerry-mandering and a compliant media that bows to those currently in power.  Incumbents only get nervous when money enters the picture and even then generally prevail.  The real deciding factor in elections is ideas.  Serious Congressional challenges to every incumbent currently propping up the illegal administration could reshape the landscape.  Having to identify more than a handful of at-risk seats would mean dropping their strategy of air lifting Bill Clinton, et al into districts to shore up weak incumbents.  Even if they were to maintain their seats, incumbents would be forced to deal with very real challenges and might (might -- look at Joe Lieberman to see it doesn't always happen) have to actually become responsive to the people they are supposed to be serving.
And what of independent media?  The media supposedly serving the people?  When you're spending more time each year on a speculative war (Iran) than you are on Iraq, you're really not qualified for independent media. You're certainly not a journalist and you are insulting to those in Iraq (serving or attempting to live), those who have died in Iraq (US, Iraqi) and the families who have seen their loved ones killed in an illegal war that the vast majority of independent media can't even call "illegal."  When you've wasted everyone's time with puff pieces on War Hawk Dems, you've reduced yourself from journalist to fan club member.  Hopefully, you got an 8x10 glossy out of it because those who counted on you to inform them got zilch.
While they and a silent independent media played useless and worse, the violence continued in Iraq as it does every damn day that the illegal war drags on.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a roadside Baghdad bombing that claimed the life of 1 woman and a Baghdad car bombing that claimed 2 lives (four others wounded).  Reuters reports that a Hilla roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi military forces (three more injured) and a Nassiriya roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 police officers (three more injured).
Reuters reports two brothers were killed in a Riyadh drive-by.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 9 corpses discovered in Baghdad.
In news of the continued air war, Reuters reports the US is investigating an incident on Tuesday where a US bombing claimed the lives of 5 women and 4 children in Bahbahani and that today's  forced landing of a US helicopter "south of Baghdad" after it "was hist by small arms fire while assisting troops fighting gunmen".  AP reports on the Tuesday slaughter, "Two area police officers told The Associated Press that U.S. fighter jets bombed two houses before dawn Wednesday in the predominantly Sunni village, about 10 miles west of Musayyib. The women and children were killed in the first house struck, and the second house was damaged, they said. . . . Amer Zamil, an employee in Mussayib hospital, said two of the children were decapitated, evidently in the bombing."  In a US military press release, the helicopter is identified as a Task Force Marne AH-64 Apache helicopter and it's note that it was one of two "responding to ground troops in contact with enemy forces".  No injuries are reported and the second helicopter is not stated to have come under fire.
Turning to the topic of Blackwater -- the mercenary company still reeling from the news of their slaughter of innocent Iraqis in Baghdad September 16th. Sue Pleming (Reuters) reports the US House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has issued a report that's found the lack of training and equipping led to the March 31, 2004 deaths of four of Blackwater's employees in Falluja. AP notes, "Blackwater has argued in court that it is immune to such a lawsuit because the company operates as an extension of the military and cannot be responsible for deaths in a war zone."  That refers to the four deaths of their employees, not to the multiple deaths of innocent Iraqis or the two slaughters of Falluja that Paul Bremer ordered in response to the four deaths. Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that the US Defense Department will send "a team of investigators to Iraq to look into how the U.S. military monitors private security contractors in the wake of the Sept. 16 incident in which security guards working for the [US] State Department killed at least 11 Iraqi civilians" and that the DoD has notified "commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan . . . that they can court-martial private security guards working under military contracts".  This as John M. Broder and James Risen (New York Times) report that "Blackwater USA has been involved in a far higher rate of shottings while guarding American diplomats in Iraq than other security firms providing similar services to the State Department, according to Bush administration officials and industry officials."
In prison news, Leila Fadel (Baghdad Observer, McClatchy Newspapers) reports on Tariq al Hashemi, Iraq's Sunni vice-president, visiting a prison for the young: "The camera panned through a narrow hallway where hundreds of young teen-age boys sat. Those Hashemi spoke to all had visible signs of abuse on their body. One showed acid burns on his back, another lifted his sleeves, and his shirt to show the purple and red bruising all over his body.
It aired on Sharqiya, an Iraqi station that has been banned from having an office in Iraq because it is anti-government. To the question, 'Why are you here?' They all answered 'I don't know'."
This week (Fridays in most markets) PBS' NOW with David Brancaccio examines the issue of US service members wounded in the illegal war:  "For many Iraq and Gulf War veterans, the transition from battlefield to home front is difficult. Bouts of fierce anger, depression and anxiety that previous generations of soldiers described as "shell shock" or "combat/battle fatigue" now earn a clinical diagnosis: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. But the relatively new medical label doesn't guarantee soldiers will get the care they need. On Friday, September 28 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW looks at how America's newest crop of returning soldiers is coping with the emotional scars of war, and some new and innovative treatments for them."  Aaron Glantz reports at IPS that brain trauma is being called "the signature injury of the Iraq war" with over "4,000 U.S. veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, most often from gunshots or blasts from roadside bombs."
Lastly, John Cusak interviews Naomi Klein (A/V only) at The Huffington Post about her new book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism

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