Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, March 4, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, a US service member dies in Iraq, Carl Levin wastes time in the Senate, Iraqi soldiers attack journalists and more

Starting with war resistance. Agustin Aguayo was wrongfully denied CO status. Aguayo served in Iraq and, while serving, had a spiritual awakening/strengthening that led to him refusing to even load his pistol. Instead of granting him the CO status he so obviously qualified for, the US military decided to deploy him to Iraq a second time. To demonstrate how seriously he took his beliefs, Aguayo self-checked out. Though gone for less than the 30-day rule (Aguayo turned himself in), he was prosecuted for desertion in a court-martial in Germany. (You generally have to be gone for more than 30 days to be prosecuted for desertion, otherwise the status is AWOL.) Aguayo continues to pursue his CO status. And he continues to speak out. This Thursday (March 6th) he and his wife Helga Aguayo will be speaking at UCLA Riverside, in the Interdisciplinary Building at 6:00 pm.

And outside the US, war resisters who have moved to Canada were dealt a serious set-back when the Canadian Supreme Court refused to hear the appeals of Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey. Today, Canada's Parliament remaining the best hope for safe harbor war resisters have, you can make your voice heard by the Canadian parliament which has the ability to pass legislation to grant war resisters the right to remain in Canada. Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper (pm@pm.gc.ca -- that's pm at gc.ca) who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion (Dion.S@parl.gc.ca -- that's Dion.S at parl.gc.ca) who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua (Bevilacqua.M@parl.gc.ca -- that's Bevilacqua.M at parl.gc.ca) 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. That is the sort of thing that should receive attention but instead it's ignored.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, Chuck Wiley, 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).

Meanwhile IVAW has a DC action this month:

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.
Click here to sign a statement of support for Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan

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'." IVAW's co-chair Adam Kokesh will, of course, be participating and he explains why at his site, "But out of a strong sense of duty, some of us are trying to put our experiences to use for a good cause. Some of us couldn't live with ourselves if weren't doing everything we could to bring our brothers and sisters home as soon as possible. The environment may be unking, but that is why I will be testifying to shooting at civilians as a result of changing Rules of Engagement, abuse of detainees, and desecration of Iraqi bodies. It won't be easy but it must be done. Some of the stories are things that are difficult to admit that I was a part of, but if one more veteran realizes that they are not alone because of my testimony it will be worth it." The hearings will be broadcast throughout at the Iraq Veterans Against the War home page an on KPFA March 14th and 16th with Aimee Allison (co-host of the station's The Morning Show and co-author with David Solnit of Army Of None) and Aaron Glantz hosting and the KPFA live stream will also be available at Glantz' War Comes Home.

Today Navy Admiral William J. Fallon appeared before the US Armed Services Committee and he was present to give an update/assessment on the ongoing, illegal war but the senators largely wasted the hearing by whining about the visit of Iranian president to Iraq and no one whined louder than the committee chair Carl Levin. Fallon delivered his [PDF format warning] prepared remarks which included claiming he was able "to report significant progress in security in Iraq. . . . The most significant development in Iraq over the last year has been a dramatic decrease in violence. By almost every measure, the security situation has improved significantly." Had Levin and others paid attention they could have questioned that laughable assertion. Fallon also praised the 'importance' of the "Awakening" council and claimed there were over "90,000 Iraqi men" who had signed up -- left unstated were issues involving the crimes those thugs are accused of as well as the walk-out so many of them are taking part in. But Carl Levin wanted everyone to know he did not like the fact that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Iraq -- a country that borders Iran. And isn't that more important than examining what's being 'achieved' by the illegal war? Fallon was spinning wildly: "The recent passage of the 2008 National Budget, Provincial Powers, Amnesty, and de-Ba'athification laws are significant accomplishments. The Presidency Council returned the Provincial Powers Law to the Council of Representatives but with the assurance that preparations for provincial elecitons this fall should continue." Where to begin? How about the fact that the "Provincial Powers" legislation was not 'returned' -- the Presidency Council said "NO." Call it a veto, call it whatever, but it was not 'returned' as though it just needs a little fine tuning. Why Carl Levin couldn't do his damn job is a question only he can answer; however, while he spent today frothing at the mouth over Iran, it should be noted that the US State Department's deputy flack Tom Casey came off calm by contrast in a State Dept press confrence yesterday when he noted of Iran that it "has an oustanding offer on the table to negotiate with us and to work out an arrangement that allows them to have a full civilian nuclear program while assuring us that they're not using that as a diversion or cover for building a nuclear weapon." There is no proof that Iran is attempting that and there's no strong evidence that even indicates it is likely. But even raising those elements (of administration spin), Casey still came off less foaming at the mouth than did Levin.

On Ahmadinejad, Liz Sly (Chicago Tribune) reports today that, "During his visit, the first by an Iranian president since the Islamic revolution of 1979, Ahmadinejad was feted by Iraq's Shiite and Kurdish leaders. Even the Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, turned up to greet him, though he was an hour late. In addition to the $1 billion loan, the two countries negotiated seven deals on economic and cultural cooperation. In a statement on his Web site, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said the two sides also reached an agreement 'to secure their borders ... to prevent infiltration of terrorists and smugglers'." Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) explains, "To have Ahmadinejad safely cruise around Baghdad, the capital shut down. I walked into the office on Sunday and our newsroom was empty, nearly our entire staff didn't make it to work. Hussein, one of our Iraqi reporters, tried to take a taxi. No vehicle traffic was allowed on the roads to secure Ahmadinejad's path to President Jalal Talabani's compound." Allen Pizzey (CBS News) observes, "For a send-off, Ahmadinejad didn't get just one 'kiss for luck'; he got four, when he was welcomed by U.S.-backed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who threw in a symbolic hug by standing impassive while the Iranian leader told a joint press conference: 'The Americans have to understand the facts of the region. Iraqi people do not like America." Joining Carl Levin in frothing at the mouth today was Lt. General Ray Odierno who met with the Bully Boy of the United States at the White House yesterday and spoke at the Pentagon today. Aamer Madhani (Baltimore Sun) quotes Odierno stating today of Iran's influence on Iraq that it was "what I worry about most." Andrew Gray (Reuters) notes that Odierno accused Iran of being behind rocket attacks in Iraq as he stated, "That's because it was being done by Iranian surrogates. And when the government of Iraq holds a meeting, there tends to be rocket attacks. Why's that? Because it's done by Iranian surrogates." Good of Carl Levin to help Odierno advance his itch for war with Iran today. He might have better used his time -- and the committee's -- by questioning the measures of 'success' because there is no progress in Iraq, there is no advance.

Violence didn't disappear, didn't vanish. The escalation Bully Boy pushed through last year -- with Dems in Congress waving through (symbolic measures do nothing) -- reduced some violence as did the cease-fire with Muqtada al-Sadr. But only in sections of Iraq. The "Awakening" Councils are fueling more tensions and Mosul's been in the US military's cross-hairs for how long now? More US troops were put on the ground in Iraq and not only did the puppet government not accomplish anything, but violence didn't go away.

One of today's biggest 'surge' cheerleaders is US Senator John McCain who is running to become the GOP's presidential nomination for the November general election. He loves the escalation. He thinks it's both amazing and a miracle. Or that's what he says. Or what he says now. Dropping back to the August 4, 2006 snapshot for this from the August 3, 2006 US Senate Armed Services Committee:

Senator John McCain: So, General Abizaid, we're moving 7,500 troops into Baghdad, is that correct?
General John Abizaid: The number is closer to 3,500.
[. . .]
McCain: And where are these troops coming from?
Abizaid: Uh, the troops, the Styker Brigade, is coming down from Mosul.
McCain: From Mosul? Is the situation under control in Ramadi?
Abizaid: Uh, the situation in Ramadi, is better than it was two months ago.
McCain: Is the situation under control in Ramadi?
Abizaid: I think the situation in Ramadi is workable.
McCain: And the troops from Ramadi came from Falluja, isn't that correct?
Abizaid: I can't say senator, I know that --
McCain: Well that's my information. What I' worry about is we're playing a game of whack-a-mole here. We move troops from -- It flares up, we move troops there. Everybody knows we've got big problems in Ramadi and I said, "Where you gonna get the troops?" 'Well we're going to have to move them from Falluja.' Now we're going to have to move troops into Baghdad from someplace else. It's very disturbing.

A functioning press would be asking Senator Crazy how the 'surge' is in any way different than what he was complaining about in August 2006? Answer: It isn't. There has been no peace. There has been no end to the violence. What's happened is a cease-fire and a huge addition of US troops added on the ground still couldn't stop the daily violence. Is Senator Crazy cheerleading today to be a 'good soldier' for the White House or is he unable to remember the criticism he offered in 2006?

Today Solomon Moore and Mudhafer Al-Husaini (New York Times) report: "Iraqi soldiers attacked a group of Iraqi and American journalists as they photographed the area. Five soldiers stomped on an Iraqi journalist with their combat boots as he lay on the ground, reporters there said. They said that he cried, 'Why are you doing this?' and added, 'I am an Iraqi too!' Iraqi soldiers confiscated the cameras of many Iraqi journalists at the scene. When they tried to do the same with a photographer for The New York Times, American soldiers intervened and prevented the Iraqi soldiers from arresting his bodyguard." Let's drop back to January 25, 2007 when Damien Cave and James Glanz (New York Times) reported: "One Iraqi soldier in the alley pointed his rifle at an American reporter and pulled the trigger. There was only a click, the weapon had no ammunition. The soldier laughed at his joke." Where would anyone get the idea that attacks on the press are okay? Yes, the US military has attacked the press but Iraqi thugs employed by the puppet government in Baghdad need only look to their puppet-head. Nouri al-Maliki's really lucky most Americans don't give a damn about him. If they did, the puppet would have been thrown out of office long ago because he's 'leadership' has been an absolute failure. Let's look at one of his early 'plans,' no, not the 24-point 'plan' he announced as he was being installed prime minister. Let's focus on the 4-point 'plan' and it's easy to forget that 'plan' because the press certainly did. But even when they had a little interest in it, they refused to note all four parts of the 'plan.' As noted in the October 3, 2006 snapshot, the third plank in the al-Maliki's 'peace' 'plan' was an attack on journalism and journalists. And if you drop back to a 'great day' (according to al-Maliki) you'll see that on September 7, 2006 al-Arabiya satellite network was shut down by Iraqi police on the orders of al-Maliki. The puppet's reign has been about very little but one hallmark has been the disdain (to put it mildly) for a free press. At the start of the month, Iraqi correspondents Laith and Jenan (Inside Iraq, McClatchy Newspapers) wrote that "no protections measures have taken by Iraqi government to stop this series" of jounalist killings "I thought that the Iraqi government is watching this killing series with careleness and they don't do much to protect the life of journalists except for condemning and condolences which do nothing to save the precious lives of the Iraqi journalists but today I found out that I was wrong." What had changed? Najaf announced land set aside for journalists -- for dead journalists. Meanwhile on the most recent attack, Middle East Online is recommended by Laura posting to Laith and Jenan's post and, at MEO, they note that the Iraqi soldiers' attack on a journalist took place in front of a photographer for AFP and that the country's Journalistic Freedom Observatory wants an immediate investigation after journalists "were beaten, insulted and humiliated". Reporters Without Borders notes, "Reporters and cameramen working for various Iraqi and foreign news media were beaten and insulted by Iraqi soldiers yesterday in the central Baghdad district of Al-Ghadir. Associated Press cameraman Saad Kazem Hussein told the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory that an Iraqi general ordered his troops to attack the journalists, who were photographing the scene of a bombing. 'The soldiers also fired in the air,' said an AFP phographer who was there. Four camers were confiscated, according to a third journalist who asked not to be identified." In addition, Reporters Without Borders notes, "Omar Ashti, a reporter with Hawlati, an independent weekly based in the Kurdish city of Suleimaniya (330 km north of Baghdad), was released on bail following his arrest on 10 February by security forces controlled by the Kurdish autonomous government, Reporters Without Borders learned [Monday]. He is now awaiting trial on a charge of libel in connection with an article at the end of last year in which he criticized the Kurdish government." And on a similar note the Associated Press' Bilal Hussein remains imprisoned. Bilal, a Pulitzer winning photographer, was taken into US military custody on April 12, 2006 and has been a prisoner ever since. Next week, he will have been imprisoned 23 months. Free Bilal

At the Pentagon today, Lt. General James Dubik gave a press briefing via videolink from Iraq. He was chatty and happy sharing that today was "the anniversary" of his engagment to his wife and "I did remember that it was in Hawaii". Yet when asked at what point the Iraqi military would take over their own air space, he took a lenghty pause. Possibly he was wondering how much was known about the Iraqi helicopter that went missing? Reuters notes that it crashed and 8 people died including a US service member.

In other violence reported today . . .


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that wounded two police officer and a civilian, a Diyala Province roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left two more wounded. Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing that left five people wounded.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a man shot-dead outside of his Baquba home, while unknown assailants ("wearing Iraqi army uniforms") grabbed a man in Diyala Province and later disposed of his dead body, 1 police oficer and 3 bodyguards were shot dead in Basra, 2 people ("relatives of a leader of an awakening council") were shot dead in Salahuddin. Reuters notes a police officer was shot-dead outside his Mosul home.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad.

Archbishop Paulos Faraj Raho was kidnapped Friday. The Arab American Institute (AAI -- via UN Observer) states, "Sadly, this incident is evidence of a grave situation faced by most Iraqis since the U.S.-led invasion. The suffering of the entire Iraqi people is widespread, defining daily life in most areas of the country. This is due to the lack of a plan to secure the peace. While all Iraqis live in fear, the circumstances facing minority populations is worse. With no political factions or large private militias to protect them, Iraq's embattled minorities are at the mercy of their environment. As the abduction of Archbishop Paulos and the murder of his colleagues show, when there is no security, there is too little mercy." Reuters reports that Nouri al-Maliki is making noises that Archbishop's release is "a top priority." But Asia News' reporting indicates that a lot more is known than al-Maliki lets on including a ransom. Asia News reports, "The men who have the fate of Msgr. Paulos Faraj Rahho, Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul in their hands since February 29th last, have raised the ransom and dictated 'political conditions' for his release, according to AsiaNews sources in Iraq, close to mediators who are negotiating his safe return. Late yesterday afternoon another phone call was made. The group which holds the bishop hostage, used Msgr. Rahoo’s mobile phone to communicate, but has still given no proof of his wellbeing. 'It almost seems as if his release -- anonymous sources in Mosul tell -- is of secondary importance in their demands and the conditions which they have imposed greatly complicate matters, leading us to think that they are not just simple criminals interested in money'. Concern is increasing for the 67 year-old hostage who suffers ill health, for which he needs daily treatment."

Maria Lauterbach is the US marine who vanished while pregnant. She was murdered. See the January 10th snapshot, the January 11th snapshot, the January 14th snapshot, the January 16th snapshot and the January 22nd snapshot. Maria's presumed murderer wasn't just anyone, he was someone she had stated raped her, stated to her commanding officers and she wasn't protected. They can argue that point all they want but Maria did accuse the man thought to have murdered her with rape and the US military didn't do anything. A hearing was coming up when she disappeared but . . . strangely . . . that didn't make the military take any more interest in him than they did prior. They treated it like it wasn't their problem. They acted as if it was Maria's problem. Jessica Pupovac (In These Times) examines the effects Maria's story is having which includes activist Susan Avila-Smith currently advising those who have experienced Military Sexual Trauma (MST) to be temporarily silent: "It breaks my heart to do that but I want to get them out alive and that's my main goal." Sgt. Myla Haider explains how investigations work (or don't) and notes, "The investigators themselves, when working on cases, tended to focus on reasons a victim could be lying. . . . [and use] tag team interviews [where] one agent after another is sent in there to 'get the truth' out of the victim. On occasion, that results in the victims becoming very upset." VETWOW is one organization that helps those with MST and Suzanne Swift is a strong example of how the US military refuses to do anything (Swift was assaulted and harassed, went through channels and was sent to 'training' on how not to be 'tempting' -- when the military refused to stop the abuse, Swift self-checked out).

agustin aguayo
dee knight
iraq veterans against the war
aimeee allisondavid solnit
aaron glantz
leila fadelmcclatchy newspapers
the new york timesdamien cavejames glanz
solomon moore
bilal hussein
liz slythe chicago tribune
borzou daragahithe los angeles times
suzanne swift
jessica pupovac