Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Iraq snapshot

March 25, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, the cease-fire/true appears off, spying on journalists and NGOs and more.
Starting with war resisters and returning to something from last week, James Burmeister.
Courage to Resist reported that "Burmeister recently returned from Canada and turned himself in to the Army at Fort Knox, Kentucky on March 4.  In May 2007, James refused redeployment to Iraq.  He lived in Canada for the last ten months with the help of the War Resisters Support Campaign.  James' father Erich Burmeister of Eugene, Oregon believes that the Army is getting ready to prosecute James.  He is asking people to call the Fort Knox Public Affairs office at 502-624-7451 and let them know you are concerned about PFC James Burmeister."  Burmeister returned to the United States, many still remain in Canada.
For those in Canada, the nation's Parliament remains 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. We will note war resisters in Canada tomorrow.  There is not time today, my apologies.          

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, Logan Laituri, 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).    
Turning to Iraq. In August, Moqtada al-Sadr declared a cease-fire truce with the US and the puppet government of Baghdad which is widely credited as part of the 'success' of the escalation.  In February, he extended the cease-fire/true.  Leila Fadel and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "A cease-fire critical to the improved security situation in Iraq appeared to unravel Monday when a militia loyal to radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al Sadr began shutting down neighborhoods in west Baghdad and issuing demands of the central government. Simultaneously, in the strategic southern port city of Basra, where Sadr's Mahdi militia is in control, the Iraqi government launched a crackdown in the face of warnings by Sadr's followers that they'll fight government forces if any Sadrists are detained. By 1 a.m. Arab satellite news channels reported clashes between the Mahdi Army and police in Basra."  Ned Parker and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) add these details: "The capital witnessed its own friction between Shiite factions Monday as the Sadr movement organized protests in west Baghdad. Leaders from Sadr's movement vowed to mount daily protests until the Shiite-run Iraqi government stops targeting its members in raids, releases detainees and apologizes for the conduct of security force members. They accused the government of trying to weaken Sadr's organization ahead of provincial elections scheduled for October."  Those descriptions were of yesterday.  Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) reports,
"Fighting broke out Tuesday on the streets of Sadr City . . . and the Mahdi Army militia announced it had taken over Iraqi army checkpoints in an escalation of tension with Iraqi government security forces.  The sound of gunfire could be heard in Sadr City throughout the morning and Mahdi Army members walked down the streets carrying rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and other weapons in what appeared to be a show of force, accodring to two witnesses."  AFP reports that fighting was ongoing in Baghdad, Basra, Kut and Hilla with the clash between Sadr's forces and the US in Baghdad being "the first time since last October".  Atul Aneja (The Hindu) explains, "The Iraqi government's decision to establish its hold over the oil city of Basra dominated by Shia armed militias has sparked heavy fighting there" and that "field commanders of the Mahdi army in Najaf ordered to the militia 'to strike the occupiers' and their Iraqi allies." Robin Stringer (Bloomberg News) notes 18 dead and forty wounded from the Basra fighting alone and threats that the actions will go "nationwide."
The southern port of Basra was shut down, Leila Fadel and Ali al Basri (McClatchy Newspapers) report, while citizens of the area "cowered in their homes as Mahdi Army militiamen and Iraqi security forces battled" and a college student on the outskirts of the city saw the corpses of two members of Mahdi Army and one child.  PBS' NewsHour quotes Um Hussein who was caught by suprise by the outbreak and she states, "It is a difficult situation.  Not many shops or grocery stores are open since the curfew and since the fighting began.  We have not stored households items at all."   Sam Dagher (Christian Science Monitor) adds "US air power" to the battle.  Alex Kingsbury (US News and World Reports) sees the current clashes as an indication of a power struggle for control of more than Basra -- control of Iraq -- and offers, "There are indications that the United States is, to some extent, choosing sides in the inter-Shiite power struggle.  When Vice President Dick Cheney made a visit to Baghdad earlier this month, his one foray outside the heavily fortified Green Zone was to visit Hakim's office in Baghdad.  Hakim also traveled to the White House and met with President Bush in December 2006." Hakim is Abdul Aziz al-Hakim whose political party (Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council) is the largest.  Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) points out, "Sadr loyalists accuse his Shiite rivals in the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and Maliki's Islamic Dawa party of using the Iraqi army and police to round up the cleric's followers ahead of the Oct. 1 elections."  This believe is noted by Reuters as well, "Sadrists say the truce has been abused by US and Iraqi forces to make indiscriminate arrests ahead of provincial elecitons due in October, but the US military says it only targets 'rogue' members who have ignored the ceasefire."  Paul Wood (BBC) maintains that it is Iraqi military and US military against Sadrists because the British are sitting it out, "saying the Iraqi army is demonstrating it is capable of acting on its own" and also states "Moqtada Sadr believes his hundreds of thousands of followers, many of them armed, will eventually deliver power into his hands."  CNN puts the Basra dead at "at least 50 . . . and 150 others were wounded, an official with Basra's Provincial Council said" and notes Sadrists are credited with taking "down part of a bridge in nothern Basra" via bombings today.  Leila Fadel and Ali al Basri (McClatchy Newspapers) report al-Sadr has "ordered his followers to remain calm and said they should give copies of the Quran and olive branches to the police."
In some of today's other reported violence . . .

Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that claimed 1 life and left eight people wounded, a mortar attack on the Green Zone, a mortar or rocket attack on the Green Zone and a Baghdad mortar attack that wounded two police officer, a Najaf rocket attack on "the technical institute that the American forces".  Reuters notes that "[a]t least three people were wounded" from the Green Zone attacks
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports "the director of forensic medicine in Mosul" was shot dead and three Iraqi soldiers were wounded in a shooting attack on "the house of Babil province governor in Hilla". Reuters notes a Mosul morgue worker was shot dead in front of his Mosul home. 
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 6 police officers were kidnapped in Baghdad.  Reuters notes, "Gunmen abducted the son of an official of the journalists' union, Ghanim Ismail, outside his house in eastern Mosul".
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 corpses discovered in Baghdad.  Reuters notes 6 corpses discovered in Mosul.
Meanwhile today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division -- Big Baghdad Soldier was killed by a hostile fire attack at approximately 5 p.m. March 25 while conducting combat operations."  The death brings the current total of US service members killed in Iraq during the illegal war to 4001Karen DeYoung and Michael Abramowitz (Washington Post) note Bully Boy declared at the US State Department yesterday that his illegal war of choice "will merit the sacrifice" of others.  The Post's Richard Cohen observed of the 4,000 mark, "This week we reached the mark of 4,000 American dead in Iraq. It is a sad milestone in a grinding war that can never be won and is already lost in so many ways."
Returning to Iraq Veterans Against the War's Winter Soldier for the panel Saturday night entitled The Cost of the War at Home.  Unlike what John Stauber has rightly called the "corporatist peace movement," the various costs were addressed on the panel.  Yesterday's snapshot noted  Military Families Speak Out's Nancy Lessin (and Charley Richardson) noted the costs to families both while their loved ones were serving and upon return which included emotional costs, time lost and much, much more including the cost of care not being provided by the VA and a veteran making the decision to end his or her life;  Brooks Sunket addresing the costs of Iraqis attempting to unionize in the allegedly 'free' Iraq; Fernando Suarez del Solar and Carolos Arredonod spoke movingly and passionately about losing their sons -- Jesus Alberto Suarez del Solar Navarro and Alexander Arredondo [his name was wrongly mixed up yesterday, my apologies] -- and how the loss is not a day or a month but an ongoing pain; and Catherine Lutz who addressed where the money goes (military spending).  Veteran Adrienne Kinne also served on the panel and her testimony (like her testimony the day before) should have been amplified, should have been heard across the nation.  Kinne spoke of serving before 9-11 and after in Military Intelligence.
Adrienne Kinne: I think that one of the costs of war at home is the cost to our freedom and our Constitution.  In Military Intelligence there are specific guidelines and one of those specific guidelines is supposed to cover how we conduct ourselves is a guideline called USSID 18 which stands for United States Signals Instructive 18 -- which says that in an effort to uphold Americans Constitutional rights, Military Intelligence cannot collect on Americans.  And to show the seriousness with which we took this directive in 1997 or thereabouts I intercepted a radio transmission of a Middle Eastern military entity which referenced the name of an American diplomat that was visiting the Middle East.  Because an American's name was referenced we decided to delete every single record that that cut was ever collected It wasn't even directly collecting on American but just the reference And maybe that was something that we didn't necessarily have to do but we took our oath to not collect on Americans very seriously.  And so we erased every single record that that cut ever took place.  After 9-11 when I was again activated, I was again stationed at the same field site for the NSA in the States and I was assigned not to collect radio transmission of Middle Eastern military entities but Inmarsat satellite phone calls from Iraq, Afghanistan and a huge swath of that region And initially all the cuts -- this is a brand new system Why they put 20 reservists in charge of it, I will never know.  With virtually no oversight whats over, which was another problem. But, in the beginning, we were getting all of these cuts which were unidentified -- it was a brand new system, it was just, we had a front end out there that was collecting all these satellite phone conversations, sending it back to the United States and we would go through and just listen, randomly, through all of these identified cuts just kind of like fishing for whatever we could find.  And as time passed, I saw in this computer system, you could -- once you identified the telephone number, who it belongs to -- you can actually program the computer to come up with a name of whatever group belongs to it and the priority for whatever priority the cut is. So for instance "priority one" would have been a terrorist affiliated organization.  As time passed, I saw our que not fill up so much with anything that had to do with terrorism but, um, humanitarian aid organizations, NGOs  and even to include journalists.  And this was not by any means the majority of the cuts we collected but even after we knew that it was the International Red Cross/Red Crescent rather than block their phone number, which we could have done, we continued to collect. And these are the two reasons we were given that allowed us to collect on these organizations. One was that these people were eyes on the ground and as they were going through Iraq they might happen upon weapons of mass destruction and give their location.  So we could monitor them in case they ever referenced the location of WMDs.  The other reason was that they could potentially, the organization could potentially lose their phone and it could be picked up by a terrorist and they would start using it.  So we had to make sure that no terrorist ever secured the phone of another organization and then started using it and  we had to maintain coverage on those phone numbers just in case.  And this kind of came to a head for me in probably sometime in the beginning to middle of 2002 when I was listening to a conversation between a British aid worker and an American aid worker in the area And they weren't talking about anything of particular relevance.  They were talking about whatever was going on in their office.  It was so irrelevant that I can't really remember what the conversation was about.  But what I do remember is that the British aid worker said to the American, "You know you really should be careful what you say on the phone because the Americans are listening."  And the American, rightly thinking that he was protected from being monitored by our government said, "No they can't collect against me because I am an American citizen and I'm protected by USSID 18."  And when he referenced USSID 18 I don't know why but that just kind of because that's Military Intelligence lingo, I thought that that might be of some relevance.  Either the person was prior military which is probably very likely and was familiar with what was going on  or come to find out most aid workers working outside of our country know about USSID 18 because they know their USSID 18 rights are being violated all the time by our government.  I drew that cut to the attention of my officer in charge and he relayed it to the watch office and everybody actually got into a mini-uproar because this American referenced USSID 18 to a non-American.  And they acted as if this American had just enacted some form of treason by referencing USSID 18 to a British -- an ally, supposedly, person.  So shortly after that there was all this hubbub about whether or not we can collect on Americans, whether or not USSID 18 is even relevant anymore, whether or not we should be monitoring these NGOs.  And they consulted -- whoever "they" is, I don't know.  I was in my little spot where I was told I was a collector and I wasn't allowed to ask questions about anything.  I couldn't analyze, I couldn't ask questions, my job was to collect and pass the information on.  And it was shortly thereafter that we were told we were given a waiver  that we could collect on Americans in the Middle East.  And this included conversations that took place with people in the Middle East calling their family members in the United States.  And we could hear both sides of the conversation but we were told that in order to protect the Americans in the United States we would just not report on their half of the conversation -- even though we were collecting it, even though we were listening to it, we would just not add that to the report.  Why it matters where an American is in this world as to whether or not their rights are protected by our Constitution I do not know.  But apparently, I've been kind of somewhat reviewing all the changes that are happening to Military Intelligence and FISA law, all of this is no longer just a matter of a verbal waiver, it's all legal.  And that our government is using these occupations to destroy our Constitutional rights as Americans is, personally, I think, impeachable but in any reference criminal. I could kind of go through the different instances where I feel that information was collected which we could have very well known it was misinformation, we would pass it on anyway. But I think more importantly I just want to speak to the fact that it is not only our soldiers, marines, National Guard reservists, Air men and women, fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan that are supporting these wars. It is every single member of the military whether or not you are State side, whether or not you are abroad, whether or not you are intercepting transmissions in country.  By serving in the military we are all supporting the occupations.  And I really just think that's incredibly important for all of us to recognize because people always want to look and put so much on the shoulders of our veterans who have witnessed so much in Iraq and Afghanistan and act as if they're the only ones that have to bear  the burden of ending these occupations.  But I for one having served many years before 9-11and before Afghanistan and before Iraq am so sorry that through my service I in any way shape or form supported the initiation of wars which put you all in such horrible, horrible positions.  And I just wanted to say one last thing that I think in many ways it's ironic -- and I may be using that word inappropriately or incorrectly -- that I served in the military for ten years and it's only been since joining Iraq Veterans Against the War that I feel like I've done anything good.
"Adrienne Kinne" is the spelling and an earlier snapshot may have another spelling ("Adrienne Kinee"). Though that panel isn't part of the archives, if you missed other Winter Soldier panels you can stream online at Iraq Veterans Against the War, at War Comes Home, at KPFK, at the Pacifica Radio homepage and at KPFA, here for Friday, here for Saturday, here for Sunday for other panels. Aimee Allison (co-host of the station's The Morning Show and co-author with David Solnit of Army Of None) and Aaron Glantz were the anchors for Pacifica's live coverage. We're going to stay with Kinne for her testimony on Friday March 14th at the panel on veterans healthcare.  Kinne spoke of after leaving the military and pursuing her education further.  She did some college internships at VA hospitals and then was an assistant on a research study.  The study was on PTSD and TBI -- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.  The group devised a way to screen for TBI, hammered down the details and were ready to proceed.
Adrienne Kinne: And then they went to go to the next step, to actually make this happen. And I was actually on a conference call when someone said, "Wait a second. We can't start this screening process. Do you know that if we start screening for TBI there will be tens of thousands of soldiers who will screen positive and we do not have the resources available that would allow us to take care of these people so we cannot do the screening." And their rationale was that medically, medical ethics say if you know someone has a problem, you have to treat them. So since they didn't have the resources to treat them, they didn't want to know about the problem.
That is an important revelation and one that should have been carried throughout the media but the last half of the sentence really describes the 'healthcare' offered and how the government gets away with it: "they didn't want to know about the problem."  That explains the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandals as well as all the others. Last week Minnesota's The Free Press reported on Ryan Marti and two other members of the Minnesota National Guard who had deployed to Iraq met with US House Rep Tim Walz to discuss "the delays in the payments owed to them, about the uncertainty about when the next deployment might come and about the complexity and communication problems rampant in the Veterans Affairs system."  As Minnesota's Austin Daily Herald notes, Waltz will be holding a forum for veterans at the Austin American Legion Post No. 91 this Friday starting at one in the afternoon.
As Ava and I noted, last week -- the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War, most 'news' and 'public affairs' programs either ignored Iraq or thought the way to address an ongoing, illegal war just completing it's fifth year was to again bore us all by going back to 2003 as if nothing happened since.  One notable exception was last Friday, on PBS, Bill Moyers Journal explored the journey of Iraq veteran Tomas Young with Ellen Spiro and Phil Donahue who have made the documentary Body of War about his experiences.  In a clip of their movie Young explains:
I called my recruiter on around September 13, 2001 when if you all can remember the president stood on the ruble with the bullhorn and said we were going to get the evildoers that did this.  And, oh man, hold on a second . . .  But I, and he led the rah rah around the country and got everybody really excited and I was excited.  And I wanted to go to Afghanistan and get the people that did this to us.  But, after I joined the Army it became clearer and clearer to me that we weren't going to go to Afghanistan.  That we were going to go to Iraq.  And more and more began to feel with statements like George Bush saying that he sought the approval of a higher father than his own and things like that, it really concerned me that President Bush was trying to use Jesus Christ as an advocate for the war. 
Bill Moyers explained of Young, "And five days after arriving there [Iraq], he was shot in the chest and severely wounded.  He was 24 years old at the time and will spend the rest of his life in a wheel chair."  Tomas Young produced the soundtrack for Body of War and offers some thoughts on it at the Moyers blog.  Remember Bill Moyers Journal is accessible to all with computer access -- you can read transcripts, stream audio or stream video and audio. 

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