Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, January 23, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraq attempts to wrestle the title Land of Poppies from Afghanistan, the fifth year of the illegal war could cost $100 billion more than the first year, the US army has a recruiting problem, and more.
Starting with war resistance. 
A Lieutenant in the army
in his heart and his soul he believes
in the land of the free
and the home of the brave
now he's standing on trial
for he will not behave
as they wish
He said "I believe the constitution
to dfend it and uphold
I will not fight your war for profit 
no sir I will not go"
Imagine that. 
So sings Melissa Ethridge on track fifteen ("Imagine That") of her lastest CD The Awakening about Ehren Watada.  [The Awakening gets a strong review from Detorit's Metro Times.]  Watada is the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq.  He has rightly termed it an illegal war.  After a kangaroo court-martial in February, Watada -- whose service contract ran out in December 2006 -- remains in the military as he waits to see what happens next.  The Constitutional provision against double-jeopardy should mean he can't be court-martialed again and, thus far, the court of appeals has held that to be the case with Judge Benjamin Settle noting in November that Watada will likely win on the double-jeopardy clause.
Some war resisters refuse to go, some refuse to return.  In both groups, some go to Canada and attempt to be granted asylum.  On 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.
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. Dee Knight (Workers World) notes, "IVAW wants as many people as possible to attend the event. It is planning to provide live broadcasting of the sessions for those who cannot hear the testimony firsthand. 'We have been inspired by the tremendous support the movement has shown us,' IVAW says. 'We believe the success of Winter Soldier will ultimately depend on the support of our allies and the hard work of our members'."
Today Bryan Bender (Boston Globe) reports that the number of recruits to the US army who hold a high school diploma has reached "a 25-year-low" and had "dropped more than 12 percent between 2005 and 2007"  -- "from almost 84 percent in 2005 to less than 71 percent last year" according to a new study conducted by the National Priorities Project.  Let's flashback to the October 31, 2006 snapshot: "In ridiculous news, CBS and AP report that the White House (which can't even give an accurate count on how many US troops have died in Iraq -- not even one that matches their own Pentagon's count) is attacking US Senator John Kerry as a 'troop basher' because he noted in a California speech on Monday: 'You know education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well.  If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq.'  The truth in those remarks (recruiters target the lower class with less hopes of a college education) struck to close to home with the White House leading Tony Snow to demand that Kerry apologize to all those serving.  The apology should come right after Bully Boy apologizes for (a) starting the illegal war and (b) using Daddy's connections to get out of serving in Iraq and yet not even bothering to show up for his National Guard Training."  The February 14, 2007 snapshot noted that 'moral' waivers to recruits who had criminal records had increased by 65% and that " Lizette Alvarez (New York Times) reports this increase has come in the last three years, that '[t]he number of waivers for felony convictions also increased, to 11 percent of the 8,129 moral waivers granted in 2006, from 8 percent,' and that '[t]he Defense Department has also expanded its applicant pool by accepting soldiers with criminal backgrounds and medical problems like asthma, high blood pressure and attention deficit disorder'."   Today on KPFK's Uprising Radio, Sonali Kolhatkar addressed the findings noting that "the army's failure to meet the benchmark last year is part of a downward trend since 2005."  What's not being noted are the lies the army only recently put out.  Lolita C. Baldor (AP) reported on January 10th of this year that the army was singing the praises of their Active First program for recruits and  "The Defense Department also announced that all services met or exceeded their recruiting goals in December." Really?  A twenty-five year low on recruits with at least a high school diploma is 'meeting or exceeding' goals? As Kolhatkar noted the Department of Defense's goal was 90% and it didn't meet it.  Exceeding goals? Josh White (Washington Post) notes that "Army officials confirmed that they have lowered their standards to meet high recruiting goals in the middle of two ongoing wars" and quotes the National Priorities Project's Anita Dancs stating, "The trend is clear.  They're missing their benchmarks, and I think it's strongly linked to the impact [of] the Iraq war."  Dancs was Kolhatkar's guest today for the first segment of Uprising Radio and they addressed how the Freedom of Information requests resulted in the data and other topics.
Sonali Kolhatkar: Now the army attributes this drop in getting high school recruits to declining high school graduation rates over all. Is that something that the National Priorities Project agrees with?
Anita Dancs: No.  I think -- that may be a slight factor.  But the real factor we're talking about is the impact of the Iraq War.  This just, our analysis of army recruiting data, just points to the larger failure of the Iraq War.  Increasingly youth are realizing that the Iraq War was an unneccessary war, it was one led by deception on the part of the administration, it's bad foreign policy, and youth -- and youth that have alternatives, other alternatives, are just much more reluctant to go into the army and fight in a war that is unnecessary and that, at this point, looks like it's never going to end.
Sonali Kolhatkar: Now I understand the military has had to increase the number of waivers and raise enlistment bonuses
Anita Dancs: Right
Sonali Kolhatkar: -- to try to entice people and I think at the same time, as I mentioned, your group found that upper-middle and high income neighborhoods were under-represented among US army recruits.  Essentially, are we seeing a trend towards an army of poorer and poorer Americans?
Anita Dancs: Right.  I think, I think the first time we did this study was with 2004 data and what we found was that the upper-middle and high income neighborhoods are under-represented but with this most recent study of the 2007 data we found that those neighborhoods are even less represented than they were in 2004.  And low to middle income neighborhoods are even more over-represented and I think this really speaks to when you're looking at the strategies by the Department of Defense that has been increasing enlistment bonuses, increasing re-enlistment bonuses, introducing new bonus programs where kids in high school can sign up to join the army later and get paid a thousand dollars a month now.  It's crazy but they're using economic incentives and it does appear that the youth with the fewest alternatives who maybe can't afford to go to college or maybe didn't make it through high school are being recruited into the army because they don't have other economic alternatives. 
Part of alternatives is knowing that they are out there, a point Aimee Allison and David Solnit's Army Of None cover in their book.  Dancs felt that counter-recruitment was having some effects but noted that the are up against the overwhelming US military budget (funded by tax payers).  Earlier this month Brandi Cummings (South Carolina's WIStv -- link has text and video) reported on military recruiter Sgt. Robert Jordan going to the local Target and inserting cards in clothing there in violation of the "no solicitation" policy that Target has. Leigh Nichols tipped the station off after she bought her thirteen-year-old son a pair of pants and they found Jordan's business card.  At the National Priorities Project you can find more information.
On the topic of governmental monies, yesterday Iraq's Parliament was unable to agree on their 2008 budget; however, they did agree on a flag.  Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) provides the background and the realities explaining that the 'big' vote was for a "tempoary" flag and "is another band-aid solution.  The constitution requires that the parliament pass a new law to pick a flag for Iraq and a national anthem. . . .  In technical terms Iraq still has no flag and no anthem.  Little has been decided that lasts in Iraq.  The heads of the political blocs put the problem off for another year.  In a year maybe the problem will again be solved at a later date."  As for the 2008 budget, Ammar Karim (AFP) reports on the stumbling blocks noting, "Most of the unease, however, stems from a decision to allocate 17 percent of the budget to the oil-rich autonomous Kurdish region and on top of that to pay for its peshmerga security force from the national defence budget."
And what of the theft of Iraqi oil with Big Oil set to meet with Iraqi Oil Minster Hussein al-Shahristani?  Andy Rowell (Oil Change) notes, "Iraq has extended a deadline for international companies to register a bid for a role in developing some of the nation's prized oil fields, until February 18, the Oil Ministry has confirmed."  The extension comes as a meeting has already taken place.  Qassim Hidhir (Kurdish Globe) reports delegates from the Kurdistan Regional Government (northern Iraq) went to Baghdad today where they were to address "the Oil and Gas Law and the issue of oil contracts signed by the KRG with a number of foreign oil companies."  The central government in Baghdad has stated those contracts are null and void.  Hidhir reports that they are calling for a new Iraqi Oil Minister and that, "The KRG delegation said the U.S. Department of State Secretary Assistant for Oil Affairs, Robin Jeffery, will attend the meetings in an attempt to mediate between Baghdad and Kurdistan."  Alsumaria notes that Falah Mostafa, Director of Foreign Relations Office in Kurdistan Cabinet, has refused to invite the Oil Minister to the talks.  As for Iraq's Oil Minister, AP notes that Hussein al-Shahristani has announced he will take part in the Davos World Economic Forum where he "is expected to launch discussions with European gas consumers about the possibility of pumping gas from Akkas gas field in western Iraq to Europe through Syria."
While the theft of oil may be in doubt (in terms of the timeline), other things are very clear. Example, opium is a cash crop in Iraq.  Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London) reports, "The cultivation of opium poppies whose product is turned into heroin is spreading rapidly across Iraq as farmers find they can no longer make a living through growing traditional crops."  Cockburn notes that it has spread from Diwaniyah Province to Diayala Province and:
The growing and smuggling of opium will be difficult to stop in Iraq because much of the country is controlled by criminalised militias. American successes in Iraq over the past year have been largely through encouraging the development of a 70,000-strong Sunni Arab militia, many of whose members are former insurgents linked to protection rackets, kidnapping and crime. Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the powerful Shia militia, the Mehdi Army, says that criminals have infiltrated its ranks.
The move of local warlords, both Sunni and Shia, into opium farming is a menacing development in Iraq, where local political leaders are often allied to gangsters.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baquba roadside bombing targeting US collaborators in the "Awakening" Council that left two members wounded, a Kirkuk car bombing that claimed 5 lives and left twelve people, a roadside bombing attack on Col. Yadgar Shukr Abdu Allah.  In addition, there's the Mosul bombing.  AFP notes an Al-Dibis car bombing that claimed 6 lives. CNN says five but notes the police expect the number to increase.  Al Jazeera notes, "Witnesses to Wednesday's blast said it was one of the biggest explosions to hit Mosul, the capital of Ninawa province and 390km north of Baghdad."  AFP explains, "Police Brigadier General Abdul al-Juburi said a powerful blast ripped through an empty three-storey apartment block in Mosul, Iraq's main northern city, bringing the building down and shattering adjoining houses." Paul Tait and Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) count 15 dead and 132 injured and "Heavy equipment had been brought in to dig for survivors."  CBS and AP note that the death toll is now 17 and they quote Um Mohammed who was in the midst of preparing dinner when the bombing took place, "Everything on the kitchen shelves fell on me, and I started to scream for help until my husband came and took me to the hospital."
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 Iraqi soldiers shot dead in Baghdad with two more wounded, Munthir Ridha (Baghdad University's "dean of Dental medicine") shot dead in Baghdad and yesterday the Iraqi military shot dead a man in Mosul "and confiscated his car" and, also yesterday, Mosul University's Ali Suleiman Mohammad was shot dead in the continued attacks on educators. 
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports engineer Ali Mahmood was kidnapped in Basra and two people were kidnapped outside of Kirkuk. 
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 4 corpses discovered in Baghdad.
From deaths to the lies that caused it, Gil Kaufman (MTV News) reports on the Center for Public Integrity and the Fund for Independence in Journalism's study, "For years, the Bush administration has faced charges that it bent the truth or flat-out misled the public about Iraq's alleged stockpile of weapons of mass destruction in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of the country.  Now, a study by two nonprofit journalism organizations claims that President Bush and top officials in his administration issued nearly 1,000 false statements about the security threat posed by Iraq in the wake of 9/11. The total is 935 lies and 259 of them were made by the Bully Boy.  Next highest ranking?  Dick Cheney?  Condi?  No.  The Blot -- Colin Powell with 244.  "False Pretenses" is the study written by Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith:
In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003. Not surprisingly, the officials with the most opportunities to make speeches, grant media interviews, and otherwise frame the public debate also made the most false statements, according to this first-ever analysis of the entire body of prewar rhetoric.
MTV News quotes Steve Carpinelli explaining that "The difference" with the new sudy "is that while there have many intelligence reports that came out that contradicted a lot of statements from administration officials, there's been nothing that could show you how it was a coordinated effort."
The release of that study comes as news of pre-war claims in England garners some attention.  Michael Evans (Times of London) reports, "The Government was yesterday ordered to make public a secret document about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction which was drawn up by the head of information at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 2002.  A ruling by the Information Tribunal rejected an appeal by Foreign Office lawyers who had claimed that the contents of the document were exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act."
Meanwhile, in the US, the Congressional Budget Office has released a study.  Reuters reports that it has found a huge increase in funding of the illegal war: "War funding, which averaged about $93 billion a year from 2003 through 2005, rose to $120 billion in 2006 and $171 billion in 2007 and President George W. Bush has asked for $193 billion in 2008, the nonpartisan office wrote."  The $193 billion tof this year would mean $100 billion more than it cost the first year of the illegal war.

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