Monday, December 17, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Monday, December 17, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, the Turkish military attacks northern Iraq, the US military announces a death, the British levae Basra and more.
Starting with war resistance.  Today, from eight p.m. to ten p.m. at NYC's The Bowery Poetry Club (308 Bowery at Bleecker St.) Jazz for Peace --  Radam Schwartz & Conspiracy For Positivity will perform for the amazingly low price of $8 admission with a one drink minimum and the proceeds going to Peace Action NY and the War Resisters League.  The War Resisters League started in 1923 and advocates action (such as tax resistance), "war resistance and individual conscience."  Among their many efforts are the War Resisters League Youth and Countermilitarism Program.  Also on a musical and resistance note, Different Drummer Cafe (12 Paddock Arcade, Watertown, NY)  will host the opener of Greene Reveal and Forever Falls Through's national tour on December 27th (that's a Thursday) starting at 7:00 p.m.  Different Drumer is the first and, thus far only, GI coffeehouse in the country.  You can click here to see a YouTube music video of Greene Reveal and here for an interview with the band on YouTube.
Meanwhile, Aimee Allison and David Solnit address resistance in terms of the young people in their amazing book Army Of None which Emily Drabinski (Left Turn) reviews the book and notes that "Allison, a veteran, and Solnit suggest that counter military recruitment campaigns offer a concrete way to challenge the military at its base-the individual soldier" and concludes, "Allison and Solnit insist on the importance of offering an alternative vision of the world.  They don't color in that vision here, but give readers the necessary tools to begin the process themselves.  Army of None is, above all, a hopeful book.  Poetry and visual art are included throughout the text, along with success stories from activists who have helped young people stay out of the war machine.  In a time of increasingly oppresive public and political life, Allison and Solnit's conviction that counter recruitment work will lead to a better world is refreshing."  Also working with today's young people is  Agustin AguayoMadeline Chambers (Reuters) reports that he is now working to get "the grim realities of war" to young people "before they join the military" and quotes Aguayo as stating, "I want to bring young people awareness.  We ask them to sacrifice so much yet we don't educate them about the realities of war."  Aguayo is currently engaged in a battle to be awarded CO status that he deserves.  Aguayo was wrongfully denied CO status by the military which refuses to operate under its own stated purpose.  Aguayo clearly fits the religious critieria.  The US military stated he did not because they refuse to recognize the fact (though the military's policy does) that someone's religious beliefs can grow -- not just start -- when they engage in a war.  Serving in Iraq strengthened Aguayo's religious beliefs.  (And to be clear, religion is not a requirement for CO status.  The criteria for religion is what Aguayo fits, however.) Chambers notes that Aguayo is appealing the CO refusal to the Supreme Court -- as he should.  The US military's actions with denying COs during this illegal war are appalling period.  However, in terms of Aguayo, the militay is not only refusing to follow their own written policies, they are creating barriers that they are not allowed to and since this involves religion (and potential discrimination), the Supreme Court is the venue to address the issues and hopefully they will grant cert and hear the case.
Turning to Canada, Great Britain's Socialist Worker reports on war resister Phil McDowell's testimony to the Canadian Parliament's Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration noting, "McDowell joined the army in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks on the US.  He served a year in Iraq, ending his tour of duty in March 2005.  But a month and a half after being discharged, he was ordered back into the army under the notorious 'stop-loss' policy which allows the US army to re-enlist former soldiers.  Disillusioned with the war, McDowell fled to Canada in October 2006 where he joined a growing number of soldiers who have refused to join the illegal occupation.  He told a recent anti-war rally that 'thousands of soldiers in the military have told me that they feel the same way'."  War Resisters Support Campaign's Michelle Rodibdoux says of the resolution now sent on to the House of Commons, "I want to make sure that nobody leaves thinking that this is won.  It's very important that we understand that now the work begins."  In terms of e-mailing, where the pressure needs to be currently is on the these three: Prime Minister Stephen Harper ( -- that's pm at who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion ( -- that's Dion.S at who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua ( -- that's Bevilacqua.M at who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. That's because the Parliament is now on break until February and because many are expecting elections to be called.  Action from the Parliament is necessary due to the fact that on November 15th, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the appeals of war resisters Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon HugheyAaron Glantz covered that in real time (one of the very few) and if you missed his report then, you can read "No refuge for U.S. war resisters in Canada" at The Final News.  The Boggs Center's Shea Howell (The Michigan Citizen) notes "Every day more soldiers are voting with their feet.  According to an Associated Press report released in mid-November, the number of AWOL Army soldiers has increased 80 percent since March of 2003.  The Army says 4,698 soldiers deserted their posts in fiscal year 2007, an increase of over 2,000 from 2006.  GI rights advocates the number is far higher.  Of course, soldiers go AWOL for many reasons, and the majority of them don't denounce the war.  However an increasing number publicly oppose the war, even though this could mean harsh punishments or jail time."
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, 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, Blake LeMoine, 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, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty 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. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).
In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers.
In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.
March 13th through 15th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation.  Shea Howell (The Michigan Citizen) observes, "These soldiers, along with survivors of the war from both countries, will provide public testimony of what they saw and experienced."
Over the weekend, Kelly Kennedy (Army Times) reported on a platoon's revolt in Iraq following tremendous losses, lack of support and a host of other issues including the suicide of Master Sgt. Jeffrey McKinney. Captain Cecil Strickland explains, "If my guys had stayed at Adhamiya, they would have taken the gloves off.  We were afraid somebody was going to get in trouble."  Kennedy reports, "They decided as a platoon that they were done, DeNardi and Cardenas said, as did several other members of 2nd Platoon.  At mental health, guys had told the therapist, 'I'm going to murder someone.'  And the therapist said, 'There comes a time when you have to stand up,' 2nd Platoon members remembered.  For the sake of not going to jail, the platoon decided they had to be 'unplugged'."  After intimidation, warnings and threats didn't work, the brass broke up the platoon.  That was the third report.  For the first report click here, for the second here and for part four here.
Also over the weekend, Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) continued to cover the issue of the Iraqi refugees: "One in five Iraqi refugees in Syria has been tortured or suffered from other violence, and more than a third fled their homeland between July and October, at the height of the U.S. troop buildup that was intended to quell sectarian violence in Baghdad, preliminary data from a new United Nations study show."  On Sunday, Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) reported on the topic and noted that both the US military and the United Nations "reacted with horror" to the central (puppet) government in Baghdad bussing in and buying off refugees and quotes Iraqi Kareem Sadi Haadi (who did return to Baghdad) objecting to claims "that the country is secure" and bus rides back because, "They are misleading Iraqis 100 percent.  Eighty percent of those who want to come back is because of residencey complications in Syria." 
The Turkish military launched an attack on villages in northern Iraq over the weekend.   Ali al Basri and Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) report that "Turkish military planes hit Kurdish border towns in a three-hour attack aimed at the Kurdistan Workers Party, a violent separatist movement that seeks to establish a Kurdish homeland in southeastern Turkey. One woman was killed, a local mayor said, and hundreds of families fled their homes."  Noting that an average of 100,000 Turkish troops remain on the border of northern Iraq, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) observed the attack was "Turkey's most aggressive action against Kurdish rebels in years. Turkey's military chief said the United States gave the go-ahead for the attacks and opened Iraqi airspace for the bombing raid. Turkish ground forces continue to shell areas of Northern Iraq in its fight against the Kurdistan Workers Party. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to continue attacks on northern Iraq."  On Sunday there were disputes as to what the US government knew ahead of time and what they didn't as well as what they'd said.  Reuters reported Sunday that Turkish General Yasar Buyukanit ("head of Turkey's military General Staff") stated the bombings took place with US approval, "America last night opened Iraqi airspace to us. By opening Iraqi airspace to us last night America gave its approval to the operation." The US denied any approval was granted; however, Sherko Raouf (Reuters) noted that while denying granting approval, "The United States said only that it had been informed in advance of the operation."  Today, citing "[a] press attache at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara," CNN noted "that the United States had been told about the plans for the strikes and reiterated that it is Turkey's decision on whether to carry out such actions."  AFP reports that Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey, has hailed the military attack as a "success" and quotes US State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack declaring that the US "welcomes such efforts by Turkey's leaders to resolve the PKK problem and eliminate terrorism. The United States supports Turkey in its efforts to end the PKK terrorist threat to its citizens and will continue to use all diplomatic, military, and intelligence means to do so."  Sabrina Tavernise (New York Times) informs, "The commander of the Turkish Army, Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, said the United States had helped the operation by offering intelligence and clearance to enter Iraqi airspace Saturday night."  CBS and AP note that the Iraqi parliament issued a statement today: "We condemn this outrageous attack on Iraq's ssovereignty."
Marnia Lazreg is the author of Torture and the Twilight of Empire: From Algiers to Baghdad.  On this week's Law and Disorder  (which aired on WBAI this morning), she spoke with hosts Michael Ratner, Michael Smith and Heidi Boghosian. 
Marnia Lazreg: The whole explanation of the war in Iraq, the whole fight against "the insurgency,"  establish a democracy in Iraq, and explaining that, you know, to establish a democracy, you actually have to do certain things.  You have to expertate out of the society all of these subversive elements and we are always told that they're really foreigners, you know, they come from outside of Iraq -- which is a good way of making the war popular but one would need to know whether on the ground you're really dealing only with outside elements or whether there is not a home grown opposition to the, you know, invasion.  Even the guys who are on our side, the Kurds, see we don't tend to think about them as Muslims but we always outlining the fact that you have the Shia and the Sunni and the Sunni were the bad guys.  And, in fact, we are helping the bad guys on the Shia side to control the government and we're also partitioning the country, you know along secetarian lines.  It's not ethnic really, that's sectarian.  They have Shia, Sunni and the only ethnic really is the Kurds.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 Baghdad roadside bombings that claimed 2 lives and left fifteen wounded and a Mosul truck bombing which "targeted Mosul dam bridge" which was "fully destroyed.  The bridge connects west Mosul and Syria with east Mosul and the other governorates," and a Diyala mortar attack that claimed 1 life and left four people wounded and a Diyala roadside bombing targeting attorney "Muslim Lateef Al-Shaibani". Reuters notes that Mosul truck bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another wounded.  Reuters also notes a Balad Ruz bike bombing that claimed the lives of 4 people and left twenty-three wounded.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1person shot dead in Basra with two more wounded and an attack in Baquba that claimed 3 lives and left four wounded. Reuters notes armed clashes in Baiji left 2 police officers dead and "four Awakening members were wounded" while, in Baquba, the same left 3 "neighbourhood patrol members" dead with four more injured.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 9 corpses discovered in Baghdad and 1 in Dhuluiya.
Today the US military announced: "A U.S. Soldier died as a result of a non-combat related injury in the vicinity of Camp Taji, Iraq, today."
Meanwhile in the US the Democrats again caved.  Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) explained this morning, "On Capitol Hill, the Democratic-led Senate has authorized another $189 billion dollars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Senate approved the spending by a vote of 90 to 3. The only Senators voting against the war funding were Democrats Robert Byrd and Russ Feingold and independent Bernie Sanders. None of the Democratic Senators running for president were in Washington for the vote. The bill also expands the size of the U.S. Army by 13,000 soldiers."  As we noted at The Third Estate Sunday Review yesterday, also not voting were Republican John McCain who is running for the GOP presidential nomination and Democratic senators Barbara Boxer and Daniel Inouye.  Isaiah's take on it was Nancy Pelosi dressed as Santa Clause providing Bully Boy with everything he wanted.  For those who have forgotten, US Speaker of the House Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were going to stand firm this time -- according to them.  The caving comes as  Peter Spiegel and Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) report that US "commanders in Iraq have decided to keep their forces concentrated in Baghdad when the buildup strategy ends next year, removing troops instead from outlying areas of the country."  That is most likely due to the fact that the US can't 'control' Iraq and focusing on Baghdad protects the puppet government and also allows reporters (MSM is based in Baghdad) the illusion that the capital is 'safe.'  The caving also comes as Reuters reports the puppet government's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh declared on Iraqi TV yesterday, "Of course we need international support. We have security problems. For 10 years our army will not be able to defend Iraq." Catch it? Ten more years. The puppet government needs US troops in Iraq because the puppets have no real authority and they do not represent the Iraqi people.
Yesterday, control of the Basra province was turned over to Iraq by the British.   Mona Mahmoud, Maggie O'Kane and Ian Black (Guardian of London) note:
As British forces finally handed over security in Basra province, marking the end of 4½ years of control in southern Iraq, Major General Jalil Khalaf, the new police commander, said the occupation had left him with a situation close to mayhem. "They left me militia, they left me gangsters, and they left me all the troubles in the world," he said in an interview for Guardian Films and ITV.
But in the film, to be broadcast on the Guardian Unlimited website and ITV News, Khalaf lists a catalogue of failings, saying:
· Basra has become so lawless that in the last three months 45 women have been killed for being "immoral" because they were not fully covered or because they may have given birth outside wedlock;
· The British unintentionally rearmed Shia militias by failing to recognise that Iraqi troops were loyal to more than one authority;
· Shia militia are better armed than his men and control Iraq's main port.
Finally, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted a passing today, "Meanwhile another Iraqi journalist has been killed. Ali Shafeya Al-Moussawi died on Friday when Iraqi National Guard forces raided his house in Sadr City. He was reportedly shot 31 times. Al-Moussawi was a journalist working for the Iraqi video website Alive In Baghdad."  Liz Gannes adds:
Ali Shafeya Al-Moussawi, a 22-year-old reporter for web news program Alive in Baghdad, was killed at home in Iraq on Friday. During an Iraqi National Guard raid in his neighborhood of Sadr City, Al-Moussawi was shot 31 times in the chest and head and died at the scene, according to the Alive in Baghdad blog.
Ali Shaefeya Al-Moussawi died two days before his 23 birthday.

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