Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, January 16, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, officials continue to be targeted and a look at the Green Party debate.
Starting with war resisters. Heather Wokusch (American Chronicle) notes war resistance in Germany.  She notes Agustin Aguayo's resistance, Clifton Hicks and "John." We noted John when we noted Wokusch's article earlier.  Hicks' story is told in depth in Peter Laufer's Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq.  Hicks would get his CO status after serving in Iraq (twice, his unit made it to Kuwait and were then sent back in instead of heading out of the Mid East as planned).  Hicks shares this story with Laufer:
We heard a lot of gunfire up ahead and you could tell it wasn't just a couple AK-47s, it was some U.S. weapon firing back.  We knew somebody was in a fight up there.  We race ahead down the street and there's an 82 Airborne infantry platoon and they're all parked in their Humvees -- about four Humvees packed with guys.  There's a house with the lights on and people are all around the place.  There's a big fuss going on.
We pull up and we say, 'What's going on?  We heard some shooting up here.'  And they're like, 'Yeah, we got ambushed just now.'  They started clearing buildings to find out who was firing at them.  They kicked in this first door and there's a wedding party going on.  What they do in Baghdad, when there's a wedding, they shoot into the air.  These people were up on their roof, probably a little sauced up, happy there's a wedding, and I guess Grandpa is up on the roof shooting off his rifle at the same time as this 82nd patrol drives by and is engaged by insurgents from a field.  They returned fire in both directions, and I think most of them returned fire on the wedding party.  They returned fire on the wedding party and they shot three people, three people at a wedding party.  Because somebody was shooting into the air to celebrate, these guys wanted to kill him.   
The insurgents were fine, not a scrach on them.  They made it just fine.  The innocent people who were partying, just trying to celebrate a wedding, three of them had been shot.  One man had been shot in the arm, a girl had been shot in the leg, and one younger girl who was about six was dead -- laying on the ground, dead.  She was six years old, laying on the ground, face down, palms up, in a little flowery dress.  She was stone dead.  Mothers and women are all bawling and crying.  The men are all standing in shock.  We bandaged up the one guy.  The one little girl was crying, she was maybe ten, shot in the leg.  Everyone is sitting around like, 'Yeah, they f**king killed some little kid.'  I'm like, 'What the f**k?  That's pretty sh**ty.'        
The 82nd called it up to their guys and their command said, 'Charlike Mike [military parlance for 'Continue the mission'], just keep going.'  They packed up and drove off.  So we just hopped in our humvees and we drove off too.  
And that was the end of it.  They applied first aid to the people who had been shot.  The girl who was dead, they just left her there on the floor.  We drove off and continued the mission.
War resisters have resisted in a number of ways throughout the Iraq War.  That includes the ones who went to Canada seeking asylum.   November 15th, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the appeals of  war resisters Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey.  Parliament is the solution.Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: 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. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use. Both War Resisters Support Campaign and Courage to Resist are calling for actions from January 24-26.  The War Resisters Support Campaign has more on the action in Canada:
The War Resisters Support Campaign has called a pan-Canadian mobilization on Saturday, January 26th, 2008 to ensure :
1) that deportation proceedings against U.S. war resisters currently in Canada cease immediately; and 2) that a provision be enacted by Parliament ensuring that U.S. war resisters refusing to fight in Iraq have a means to gain status in Canada.
For listings of local actions, see our
Events page. If you are able to organize a rally in your community, contact the Campaign -- we will list events as details come in.
Join and support January 25 vigils and delegations in support of U.S. war resisters currently seeking sanctuary Canada. Actions are being planned in Washington D.C., New York, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Supporters will meet with officials at Canadian Consulates across the United States in order underscore that many Americans hope that the Canadian Parliament votes (possible as early as February) in favor of a provision to allow war resisters to remain. Download and distribute Jan. 25-26 action leaflet (PDF).
Supporting the war resisters in Canada is a concrete way to demonstrate your support of the troops who refuse to fight. Help end the war by supporting the growing GI resistance movement today!
Organize a delegation to a Canadian Consulate near you .
Host an event or house-party in support of war resisters.
Tomorrow (Thursday), Ann Wright (retired State Department, retired US Col.) will have an event for her new book Dissent: Voice of Conscience (Koa Books, out next week) that will benefit Courage to Resist's above campaign.  She will be at Oakland's First Congressional Church on 2501 Harrison along with Daniel EllsbergDissent: Voices of Conscience, written by Wright and Susan Dixon with an introduction by Ellsberg,
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, Clara 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 16th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation. 
Today James Glanz (New York Times) reveals that the White House's September 'progress' report to the US Congress was 'creative' and citing the spending by the puppet government in Baghdad as a 'progress'; however, "in its report on Tuesday the accountability office said official Iraqi Finance Ministry records showed that Iraq had spent only 4.4 percent of the reconstruction budget by August 2007.  It also said that the rate of spending had substantially slowed from the previous year."  Reality, Congress should have had their own reports ready and been willing to say to Petraues, Crocker and anyone else the White House sent before them, "That figure it not correct." 
Congress' inability to do their job is obvious regarding the September 16, 2007 slaughter of Iraqis in Baghdad by the mercenaries of Baghdad.  On Sunday, Lara Jakes Jordan and Matt Apuzzo (AP) reported that the investigation into the slaughter is now complicated because Blackwater had the vehicles in their convoy "repaired and repainted . . . immediately after".  Eye witness testimony says Blackwater wasn't fired on (that's the lie the mercenary corporation originally put out) and now Blackwater's actions have resulted in more road blocks.  Congress should have been asking about this when they held a hearing on Blackwater -- however, if you remember, they decided to take a pass on that.  It wasn't their pass to take.  They had Erik Prince before them, they should have at the bare minimum asked whether evidence was secured?  They didn't do their job.  Today James Risen and David Johnston (New York Times) report that the immunity deals the US State Department made with Blackwater employees (without Justice Department approval) as well as the variances in the law (which falls right back onto Congress and their inaction) have created "serious legal difficulties in pursuing criminal prosecutions of Blackwater security guards involved in a September shooting that left at least 17 Iraqis dead.  In a private briefing in mid-December, officials from the Justice and State Departments met with aides to the House Judiciary Committee and other Congressional staff members and warned them that there were major legal obstacles that might prevent prosecution."
Yesterday, Thom Shanker (New York Times) reported that Iraq's defense minister Abdul Qadir has declared that US forces will still be in Iraq as late as 2018.  This followed  Suleiman al-Khalidi (Reuters) reporting Saturday that Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshiyar Zebari raving over how the one-on-one agreements that didn't require UN approval: "Iraq is in need of this U.S. presence but the period will be defined in the pact."  The pact?  The US and their puppet government in Baghdad have made a show of getting UN approval each year.  The pact by-passes the UN.  The pact also by-passes the Iraqi parliament which has voiced their objection and it by-passes the US Congress which expresses outrage when it remembers to.  (The Constitution bars Bully Boy from forming this pact/treaty without Congress.)  Citing Shanker's article, the New York Times' editorial blog (I did not make that up, "The Board"), maintains, "Mr. Qadir and his Iraqi government colleagues should be firmly disbused of such thinking.  America must quickly organize an orderly withdrawal of troops, not wait for another decade."  Earlier this week, Michael Evans (Times of London) reported, "The invasion of Iraq and the occupation of the country by US led multinational forces had been 'a terrible episode for everybody', a Foreign Office minister admitted yesterday.  Lord Malloch-Brown, who has acquired a reputation for making controversial remarks in public, said 'a lot of people' had been lost, and no one could feel any sense of triumphalism."  He is quoted stating: "We've lost a lot of people there.  This is not something that there's triumphalism on any side.  This is a terrible episode for everybody."
Yesterday, Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) noted another US collaborator was shot dead ('Awakening' Council leader for Khuthair Lafta) and "American helicopter gunships injured five civilians in Baladiyat" while AP reports that a convoy carrying "Midhat al-Mahmoud, president of the Supreme Judicial minister" killed 5 children it ran into "during a chaotic gunbattle with checkpoint guards" in Baghdad yesterday.  In Monday's snapshot, this was noted: "Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Judge Amir Jawdat Al-na'ib ('member of the federal appeal court') was shot dead in Baghdad along with his driver today."  Yesterday, Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Abeer Mohammed (New York Times) reported that he had been "in his 60s" and that, "The attack appeared to be part of a longstanding campaign by militants to kill doctors, professors, lawyers and other professionals."  Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) noted, "Many Iraqi judges and lawyers have been assassinated since 2003 as armed groups have sought to destroy the country's professional classes."
Turning to some of today's violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing left six people wounded, an east Baghdad bombing claimed 2 lives and left ten others wounded, an "American army base in Shaab neighborhood north Baghdad" was attacked with mortar fire today, the Green Zone was attacked with mortar fire today, three Baghdad bombings on Palestine St. left three people wounded, a Kirkuk bombing left a police officer wounded, a woman blew herself up in Diyala and also took the lives of 8 other people with seven more injured and a Mosul car bombing left five people wounded.  In the continued attacks on officials, Reuters notes a Sulaiman Pek truck bombing targeting the mayor -- he and three bodyguards were injured in the attack while a Dour car bombing targted and "wounded the head of the Iraqi-U.S. Joint Coordination Centre" as well as two of his bodyguards.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports "clashes between the Iraqi army and gunmen" left six bystanders wounded in Mosul. 
Reuters notes a police officer was kidnapped outside Tuz Khurmato Tuesday night and that "a university student" was killed in the same apparent action.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 corpses were discovered in Baghdad and 1 in Khurmato.
Today the US military announced: "Three Multi-National -- North Soldiers were killed by small arms fire while conducting operations in Salah ad Din province Jan. 16.  Additionally, two other Soldiers were wounded and evacuated to a Coalition hospital."
In the US, the search continues for Cesar Laurean who is suspected of killing Maria Laterbach who was due to testify against him -- to testify that he raped her.  Maria disappeared in mid-December.  The body found behind Cesar Laurean's home (in the 'burn pit') has been identified as Maria's.  R. Gregg (Raleigh Chronicle) reports, "On Tuesday, during a nationally televised press conference, Onslow County District Attorney George Dewey Hudson, Jr. announced that Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach died of 'blunt force trauma' to the head."  The US military knew of the rape charges in April when Maria made them.  Yesterday, they began feeding the press (and some swallowed) that it wasn't really their fault because Maria said she didn't feel she was in danger.  That claim may or may not be backed up but that does not push the burden off on the victim -- the US military had a responsible to do their jobs in a timely manner.  They didn't.  David Schoetz (ABC News) reports that spokesperson for the Marine Corps planned "to address the rape allegations Lautherbach had made against Laurean and how that information was handled after the woman was reported missing by her family Dec. 19 and her military status was changed to 'unauthorized absence'."
Turning to US politics.  The Green Party held a debate in San Francisco Sunday with Cindy Sheehan and Matt Gonzalez moderating.  Appearing were Cynthia McKinney, Kat Swift, Kent Mesplay, Jesse Johnson, Jared Ball and Ralph Nader.  We'll note Cindy Sheehan is not only the Peace Mom, she's also running for the US Congress from California's 8th district and she is the only candidate running for office in 2008 that I am endorsing.  As the debate continued, not unlike many Democratic debates and 'debates,' Iraq wasn't even noted. 
Larry Bensky: It's distressing to me that we're about an hour into this program and  the issue I'm about to bring up has been mentioned only in passing and not very much.  I wonder if each of you would address how, if you are the nominee of the Green Party, you would speak to the American people to raise their awareness about what is going on with our tax dollars and the blood and psyches of our military in Iraq?  And what you would do to stop it?
Here are the responses to Bensky's question.
Kent Mesplay: In my opening speech I had to gloss over my, of course, obvious disapproval of the war in Iraq, that it was a mistake.  Our troops didn't make the mistake, I think, support our troops, impeach the president before he finds whatever specieous reasons are necessary to start another war.  And really . . .  there is no simple solution other than demanding immediate, unconditional withdrawal from Iraq.
Cynthia McKinney: I agree that we ought to demand immediate withdrawal from Iraq.  I voted for that when I was in Congress.  One of I think three people.  But the problem is not just Iraq.  The problem is the militaristic turn that our foreign policy has taken.  And so I wouldn't just say "Bring the troops home from Iraq," I would say, "Bring them home period -- from all over the world."  And then the second part of it is because the Congress is so powerful, we have to people who will run for Congress on a peace agenda, a peace platform.  That's why it's so important that we have people like Cindy Sheehan running for Congress because she shows us the power of individuals, the power of one woman willing to take a stand. And we all have that power, we just have to recognize it and do it. 
Kat Smith: Well talking to the masses about how their tax dollars can be spent is really simple, you just put out the figures and show people and once they see the numbers, they understand it.  As far as --  we also need to talk about the reallocation of monies to take care of war veterans.  I mean, homelessness after Vietnam spiked dramatically and we're already seeing the homelessness with Iraqi veterans starting to spike.  And there are very few mental health services for veterans in this country and VA benefits  are decreasing daily.  And I work with homeless services and we're seeing a lot more vets come in and I'm also in San Antonio [Texas] where a lot of the hospitals are so, you know, we see a lot of this.  But it's really simple to talk to the masses about how their tax dollars are spent when you show them the figures -- like Cynthia mentioned some of them -- when people see this, they're like "Well, what's going on?" and you just have to talk to them about changing it.
Jesse Johnson: We step away from this disaster capitalism that we're investing in in this nation.  As I said, we dimilitarize the economy.  We immediately withdrawal.  Frankly, the Constitution states clearly that we're not supposed to have a standing army to begin with.  We're not supposed to be traipsing around trying to police the entire world.  The veterans are a huge issue.  The very moment that we were marching into Baghdad this last time -- and frankly, we've been at war in Baghdad, as far as the peopl of Baghdad, for 16 years -- whether it was the first Gulf War, whether it was the embargos taking place that harmed only women, children and the elderly and the infirmed.  Or this last illegal, immoral conflict 
And ultimately, finally, without question, we hold the war profiteering perpetrators to task for what they have done and, as I said before in regards to what impeachment states in the Constitution, we all need to remember it and the audience participation is out there.
That's four.  Nader spoke at the end and didn't take part in the debate (spoke for seven minutes).  Jared Ball?  Ball endorsed McKinney so presumably he dropped out.  Had that not happened, we wouldn't waste our time on him in the snapshot.  (A full transcript of the entire debate ran in Hilda's Mix Tuesday.) Why not?  Larry Bensky asked about the Iraq War.  Bell decided to name check his own organization and organizations he belonged to, decided to mention this and that and everything except the Iraq War.  Bensky's question was very clear: how would you increase awareness of the costs of the illegal war and how would you stop it.  I don't think there was anything confusing about that question.  We don't have time for nonsense.  Candidates linked to above either regularly address the Iraq War or at least note it at their website. 
Note to the Green Party, you had a debate on Sunday.  It is now Wednesday.  You should have already issued a press release post-event.  Already Grist magazine has posted their pooh-pah commentary.  More will be coming.  The Green Party needs to get their own opinion out there.  Amanda Witherell (San Francisco Bay Guardian) points out Sunday's debate was "their only planned debate" and notes Nader has stated he hasn't decided yet whether he will run for the nominated or not but "I'll be deciding within the next months."
Links to video segments can be found here.  For those who would like to hear it, KPFA has it archived.  Host/MC Allison is, of course, co-author with David Solnit of  Army Of None.
This Friday the Peace and Freedom Party debate will be broadcast on KPFA at noon PST.

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