Monday, July 07, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Monday, July 7, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, a Canadain judge issues a verdict favorable to US war resister Joshua Key, Nouri 'floats' the idea of US withdrawal, the grassroots campaign of Ralph Nader meets their goals, and more.


Starting with war resistance. On Friday, a decision was released in Canada.  The Canadian Press notes the finding of Judge Robert Barnes of Canada's Federal Court, issued Friday, which found that, contrary to the Immigration and Refugee 'Board''s opinion, "Officially condoned military misconduct falling well short of a war crime may support a claim to refugee protection." ["Board" because the full committee does not hear the claims or the appeals, one person does.] The individual's case under review was Joshua Key who stated, "It's quite a statement."

Earlier Canada's Supreme Court refused to hear the appeals of Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey who were the first US war resisters to go to Canada this decade and attempt to receive refugee status. In refusing to hear their appeals, the Court allowed the lower courtss findings to stand. Key was among those cases of appeal winding their way through the Canadian court system following the Immigration and Refugee 'Board' turning down his claim for asylum. Judge Barnes' decision does not reverse the finding of the 'Board,' it merely requires that it re-examine the decision (and the 'board' has ten days to appeal to decision).

The War Resisters Support Campaign has issued a press release and appear to have left out a word or too when offering Jeffry House's legal summary of the judge's opinion: "summarized the decision saying that the court found that Key was required to systematically violate the Geneva Conventions as part of his military service in Iraq and that he was justified in doing so." Something's missing before "and that he was justified in doing so."

Judge Barnes did not find that anyone was justified in violating the Geneva Conventions. A better take would be House "summarized the decision saying that the court found that Key was required to systematically violate the Geneva Conventions as part of his military servince in Iraq and that was justified in REFUSING to do so." Without "refusing" in there, the summary makes no sense and does not reflect either Judge Barnes' legal opinion issued Friday or what he can legally do.

Barnes' opinion rests on recognized, acceptable legal human behaviors, it does not reject Geneva, it does note that Geneva Conventions but it also notes other standards (and states the standards the "Board" used were "too restrictive"). He did not find that someone "was justified" in violating Geneva. He did find that someone could be justified in refusing any action that was "contrary to the basic rules of norms of human conduct." Barnes found that the "Board" had issued a decision which stated that there were "violations of the Geneva Convention prohibition against humilitary and degrading treatment".

From Barnes' decision, "The authorities indicate that military action which systematically degrades, abuses or humiliates eitehr combatants or non-combatants is capable of supporting a refugee claim where that is proven reason for refusing to serve." The decision does cite Hinzman's case (Hinzman v. Canada, 2006) as well as the Immigration and Refugee Board's findings on Jeremy's claim:

It is apparent to me that the Board in Hinzman did not have before it the kind of evidence that was presented by Mr. Key and, therefore, neither the Board nor Justice [Anne] Mactavish were required in that case to determine the precise limits of protection afforded by Article 171 of the UNHCR Handbook. I do not consider Justice Mactavish's remarks to be determative of the issue presented by this case -- that is, whether refugee protection is available for persons like Mr. Key who would be expected to participate in widespread and arguably officially sanctioned breaches of humanitarian law which do not constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Judge Barnes points out that if Key had returned the US military any review (by the US military) would have been unlikely ("may not have been realistic") because he would have been deployed back to Iraq.

From the decision:

In November, 2003, Mr. Key returned to the United States on a 2-week furlough. He was then suffering from debilitating nightmares. Instead of reporting back to his unit, Pte. Key anonymously sought legal advice from a Judge Advocate General (JAG) representative who apparently told him to return to duty in Iraq or face imprisonment. Pte. Key elected to desert and he and his family relocated to Philadelphia. On March 8, 2005, the family came to Canada and they initiated their claims for refugee protection three days later." The justice further found, "The idea that a refugee claimant in such circumstances ought to be returned to his home country to face such a dilemma is repugnant and inimical to the futherance of humanitarian law.

Barnes notes that the "Board" found Key credible and "truthful" but also found his objection to the Iraq War was not "religiously motivated. Rather what Mr. Key objected to were the systematic violations of human rights that resulted from the conduct of the United States Army in Iraq and the requirement that he participate. The Board summarized Mr. Key's evidence concerning these events and compared his experiences to the observations of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) detailed in its report from 2003. It is apparent that the Board found Mr. Key's experiences to be consistent with the ICRC findings".

Judge Barnes wrote that an error was made by the 'Board' when they found "that refugee protection for military deserters and evaders is only available where the conduct objected to amounts to a war crime, a crime against peace or a crime against humanity."

Again, there's at least one word missing in the War Resisters Support Campaign's press release when they summarize Jeffry House's summary of Judge Barnes' decision. PDF format warning, the decicision can be found online here (23 pages). On Democracy Now! today, Jeffry House explained the decision: "The Refugee Board, the lower court, had said, OK, he did violate the Geneva Conventions, but he didn't commit war crimes, so he's not a refugee. And the federal court said, no, that's too narrow of an understanding of the right of a soldier to refuse improper orders. And they said that if you were ordered to violate the Geneva Conventions on a systematic basis, you have a right to refuse, and any punishment that follows from that refusal will make you a convention refugee and protected by international law." And breaking with tradition of late, Goodman brought on a war resister who went to Canada for the first time since 2006, Joshua Key himself.


Joshua Key: There was one incident in Ramadi, my second time there, which I was on a QRF mission. It was like a SWAT team for the military for some instance. We were on call for a twenty-four-hour timeframe. We got the call late at night, early in the morning. It was--we were going on the banks of the Euphrates River. We took a sharp right turn, and on the left-hand side I see four decapitated Iraqi bodies. When we parked our armored personnel carrier, I was told to get out and find evidence of a firefight or such, if happened. There was this American soldier on the right with American soldiers around him, and he was saying they had lost it there. On the left-hand side, there was American soldiers kicking one of the heads around like a soccer ball. So at that time, I got back inside my APC. The next day, I asked if I could see a written statement or if I could put my--for what I had seen at that location, and I was told it was none of my concern, none of my business. So, that's when I started questioning things.

UPI notes, "The Friday ruling may pave the way for other American deserters who try to claim refugee status in Canada, The Globe and Mail in Toronto reported." Tu Thanh Ha (Globe and Mail) points out, "However, the ruling didn't address another legal hurdle faced by American deserters: proving that they'll face undue hardship if sent back to the United States." Brett Clarkson (Toronto Sun) observes, "It's also the first time a court in Canada has sided with the deserters' movement, which has won both the support of Parliament and a majority of Canadians, according to various recent polls, but has been rebuffed by the Immigration and Refugee Board and Harper government." R. Robertson (Indybay Media) covers the decision here. Joe Schneider (Bloomberg News) covers it here, CBC covers it here, BBC here, the Cuban News Agency here and AP here.  The Globe & Mail which, despite the UPI citation, did not do a lot of reporting on the story (wire stories from The Canadian Press aren't reporting by Globe & Mail) issues an editorial today which demonstrates that they are incapable of taking the time to read a legal decision and instead want to run with a lot of mistaken garbage put out by bad reporting on the Barnes decision.  "A threshold set to low" gets a link for laughter purposes.  The editorial board reveals their ignorance of the term "counter-insurgency" which they misuse in the first sentence.  House raids are not "counter-insurgency."  The Globe & Mail editorial board demonstrates that not only do they have little understanding of the Barnes decision or of Joshua Key's case, but also that basic English escapes them. Not content to flaunt their ignorance with merely three items, they then want to have a go at what a "refugee" is and only succeed in demonstrating that they are both grammatically and historically challenged. 


Saturday Kitchener-Waterloo War Resisters' Support Campaign held a rally and, among the speakers, US war resister Kevin Lee.  Appeal from Canada's faith communities to the Government of Canada:"

Dear Prime Minister Harper and Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Diane Finley:
Re: Iraq War resister Corey Glass: July 10 deportation looming
We are writing to request your quick action to stop the deportation and removal proceedings against U.S. Iraq War conscientious objector Corey Glass who came to Canada seeking refuge.
The federal government's July 10 deportation order against Glass is still in effect, creating enormous stress, anxiety and turmoil for him and for all the conscientious objectors and their families who are hoping the government will be guided by the will of Parliament. This was expressed June 3rd with the passage of a landmark parliamentary motion that called on the Government of Canada to allow U.S. conscientious objectors who have left military service related to the illegal invasion of Iraq, and their immediate family members, the opportunity to apply to remain in Canada as permanent residents, and to immediately cease any removal or deportation actions that may have already commenced against such individuals. 
The rightness and justice of Canada's long tradition and proud history of supporting conscientious objectors was further reinforced in 1998 when the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights broadened the international definition of conscientious objection by officially recognizing that "persons (already) performing military service may develop conscientious objections."  
Sir and Madam, the government's quick action is urgently required to alleviate the terrible tensions and pressures on those people for whom conscientious objection to war and killing was the only deeply ethical and moral choice they could make. 
Yours very truly, 
Meridale Dewar (Dr.) Clerk, Canadian Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers); Svetlana S. MacDonald (Dr.) Clerk, Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers); Donald G. Peters, Executive Director, Mennonite Central Committee, Canada; The Very Reverend the Hon. Lois M Wilson, C.C.Ecumenist in Residence, Toronto School of Theology; Nora Sanders. General Secretary, The United Church of Canada; Jean Pfleiderer, President, Board of Trustees, The Canadian Unitarian Council; Terence Finlay, Anglican Archbishop of Toronto (retired) and A.J. Finlay; Rabbi Jordan D. Cohen Temple Anshe Sholom, Hamilton; Gregory Baum, Professor Emeritus, McGill University; John Quinn Managing Editor, New Catholic Times; Ted Schmidt, Editor, New Catholic Times; Tom Harpur, theologian and author; George E. Newman, Diaconate, Diocese of St. Catharines, Ontario; Rob Repicky, Toronto Catholic District School Board; Dave Szollosy, Chaplaincy Team Leader/Blessed Mother Teresa CSS and Councillor - Ward 3/Town of Georgina; John A. Borst, editor, Tomorrow's Trust: A review of Catholic Education; Shaka Abdul-Rashid, Teacher, Nelson Mandela Park Public School; (Fr.) Paul E. Hansen, Redemptorist Fathers Justice Desk; Bernie Hammond, PhD Coordinator, Social Justice and Peace Studies & Director, Centre for Social Concern King's University College at the University of Western Ontario; Friar Ed Debono, Order of Friars Minor; David Walsh, Director, St. Joseph House; Paul Schmidt, Principal, St. Paul SS (Mississauga, Ont.); Friar Rick Riccioli, OFM Conv. Pastor, Franciscan Church of St. Bonaventure; (Rev.) Kevin Lynch, Franciscan, Chair, Inter-church Board of St. Michael's Retreat & Ministries Inc.; Marie-Claire Recurt Teacher University of Toronto Schools; Rev. Allan Baker Newtonbrook United Church; Margaret Ann (Maggie) Plant, DLM, Bright-Chesterfield Pastoral Charge; Oxford Presbytery, London Conference, The United Church of Canada; Douglas Wm. Knott, Retired Deputy General Secretary, Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association; James Loney, Christian Peacemaker Teams; (Fr) Robert Holmes CSB, Basilian Centre for Peace and Justice. Signatories continue to come in.


In the US, Courage to Resist is planning "July 9th actions at Canadian Consulates nationwide:"

Join a vigil and delegation to a Canadian consulate near you on Wednesday, July 9th to support war resisters! On the eve of Corey Glass' possible deportation, we will demand, "Dear Canada: Abide by the June 3rd resolution - Let U.S. war resisters stay!" More details and cities to be confirmed soon!

Washington DC - Time TBA - 501 Pennsylvania Ave NW (map). Sponsored by Veterans for Peace. Info: TBA
San Francisco - Noon to 1pm - 580 California St (map). Sponsored by Courage to Resist. Info: 510-488-3559; courage(at)
Seattle - Time TBA - 1501 4th Ave (map). Sponsored by Project Safe Haven. Info: 206-499-1220; projectsafehaven(at)
Dallas - Time TBA - 750 North St Paul St (map). Sponsored by North Texas for Justice and Peace. Info: 214-718-6362; hftomlinson(at)
New York City - Noon to 1pm - 1251 Avenue of the Americas (map). Sponsored by War Resisters' League. Info: 212-228-0450; wrl(at)
Philadelphia - Time TBA - 1650 Market St (map). Sponsored by Payday Network. Info: 215-848-1120; payday(at)
Minneapolis - Time TBA - 701 Fourth Ave S (map). Info: TBA
Los Angeles - Noon to 1pm - 550 South Hope St (map). Sponsored by Progressive Democrats LA. Info: pdlavote(at)
Help organize a vigil at one of these other Canadian Consulates: Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Miami, Anchorage, Houston, Raleigh, Phoenix, or San Diego. Please contact Courage to Resist at 510-488-3559.
Veterans for Peace issued a joint call with Courage to Resist and Project Safe Haven for July 9th vigils at Canadian Consulates: "Dear Canada: Do Not Deport U.S. War Resisters!" Contact us if you can help organize a vigil, or can otherwise get involved. Locations of the 22 Canadian Consulates in the United States.
Recently on June 3rd the Canadian Parliament passed an historic motion to officially welcome war resisters! It now appears, however, that the Conservative government may disregard the motion.
Iraq combat veteran turned courageous war resister, 25-year-old Sgt. Corey Glass of the Indiana National Guard is still scheduled to be deported July 10th.
We will ask that the Canadian government respect the democratic decision of Parliament, the demonstrated opinion of the Canadian citizenry, the view of the United Nations, and millions of Americans by immediately implementing the motion and cease deportation proceedings against Corey Glass and other current and future war resisters.
Join Courage to Resist, Veterans for Peace, and Project Safe Haven at Canadian Consulates across the United States (Washington DC, San Francisco, New York City, Seattle, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles confirmed--more to be announced).
We mailed and delivered over 10,000 of the original letters to Canadian officials. Please sign the new letter, "Dear Canada: Abide by resolution - Let U.S. war resisters stay!" 


To pressure the Stephen Harper government to honor the House of Commons vote, Gerry Condon, War Resisters Support Campaign and Courage to Resist all encourage contacting the Diane Finley (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration -- 613.996.4974, phone; 613.996.9749, fax; e-mail -- that's "finley.d" at "") and Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, 613.992.4211, phone; 613.941.6900, fax; e-mail -- that's "pm" at "").  Courage to Resist collected more than 10,000 letters to send before the vote.  Now they've started a new letter you can use online hereThe War Resisters Support Campaign's petition can be found here.
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Megan Bean, Chris Bean, Matthis Chiroux, Richard Droste, Michael Barnes, 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, Jose Vasquez, 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, Jason Marek, 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. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).
Turning to Iraq where Doug Smith (Los Angeles Times) reports that the United Arab Emirates has agreed to forgive Iraqi debt and that the amount is said to be four million dollars but may go as high as seven million.  Camilla Hall (Bloomberg News) notes a development in the ongoing illegal war: press reports that puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki intends "to set a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops as part of the agreement" the White House and al-Maliki are engaged in devising/scheming. BBC uses the term "floats" to underscore this isn't an actual position, merely a concept, and that al-Maliki might find support for the treaty from Iraq's Parliament if it was carried out.  The puppet has a history of standing up to the White House for a day or two before caving.  (Such as when he said the concrete walls would not go up in Baghdad -- a statement that had the Iraqi military ignoring him and the US continuing to build them.)  It may also be an attempt to soften resistance to the treaties in Iraq just by floating the notion.  Yesterday Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (NPR's All Things Considered) reported the treaty (commonly known as the "Status of Forces Agreement" -- there is another one as well) was "in trouble."  Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) observes, "Many Iraqis, including members of Maliki's own government, view a deal as a surrender of sovereignty to an occupying force. Setting a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops could ease those fears." James Hider (Times of London) quotes al-Maliki speaking with plenty of wiggle room, ""The current trend is to reach an agreement on a memorandum of understanding either for the departure of the forces or to put a timetable on their withdrawal."
In today's New York Times, Alissa J. Rubin reports on a trip last month to Diyala Province, seemingly calm, but with fighting around the edges (and within as daily violence reports demonstrate -- including today).  Police chief Ghanem al-Khoreishi states he has "lost 1,585 policemen and had 1,650 wounded," that his home has been bombed and that for one four-month period, he was not able to leave the police headquarters (even to go home) due to safety issues.  Zaid Sabah (Washington Post) reports, "A wave of attacks in Baghdad and areas north of the capital Sunday shattered a relative lull in violence, killing 16 people and injuring 15 a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared that Iraq's government had defeated terrorism."  Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reported Sunday's wave including multiple bombings (with at least 14 dead and at least twenty-nine wounded), 1 person shot dead (another wounded), 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad and  2 "female students" kidnapped in Mosul.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . . 
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad car bombing that left four people wounded, a female bomber in Diayal Province who killed herself in 2 other people with fourteen wounded ("mostly women and children"), a Baquba roadside bombing that claimed 2 lives, another that claimed 4 lives with three people wounded, a Mosul mortar attack that left six people wounded, a Kirkuk roadside bombing targeting the home of "Mayor of Sulaiman Bek" which wounded him and "other civilians in the vicinity," and, dropping back to Sunday, an Al Anbar Province car bombing ("targeted Sahwa Council offices") which left eleven "Awakening" Council members wounded. Reuters notes a Samara car bombing that killed the driver and claimed the lives of 4 "Awakening" Council members with nine more wounded.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a woman shot dead in Baquba, an "Awakening" Council member shot dead in Baquba, 1 person shot dead in Salahuddin Province with another wounded
Turning to the US race for president. Barack Obama's (presumed Democratic Party nominee) waffle on Iraq is still in the news. As "Letters to An Old Sell Out: Iraq" (The Third Estate Sunday Review) notes, Tom Hayden took to blog on July 4th insisting that Samantha Power's March interview on the BBC (given while she was still Barack's foreign policy advisor, aired after she resigned) indicated the current waffle (it did) and that Hillary Clinton campaign's and the MSM ignored it (they didn't -- Clinton issued statements, her campaign held a confrence call on the issue -- which David Corn sneared at online at Mother Jones, the campaign made a commerical; the Washington Post and Boston Globe were among the MSM outlets covering it as real news).  Hayden's playing jilted bride was all the more comical when one looks at Panhandle Media and, specifically, his outlet The Nation magazine.  Panhandle Media worked overtime to ignore that BBC interview.  The Nation never mentioned it (though they repeatedly -- and falsely John Nichols -- wrote of Powers after she left the Obama campaign) (she's back with it now). The failure to get the word out (that Power revealed Barack's 'promise' to withdraw combat troops from Iraq wasn't actually a promise and he'd decide what to do if elected) was the fault of the allegedly 'independent' media which IGNORED the interview because they were all in love with Barack.  Apparently in tears that he wouldn't get to wear his wedding dress to Barack's inauguration, Hayden (who couldn't stop citing his own 2007 writing) forgot to inform his readers that among the ones refusing to tell the people about the BBC interview was . . . Tom Hayden himself.  It's a nice day, as Billy Idol once sang, to start again.
Meanwhile Christopher Keating (Capitol Watch) reports on independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader, "Despite getting relatively little attention from the national media, presidential candidate Ralph Nader says he is chipping away as his campaign moves toward Election Day on Nov. 4. The Connecticut native's campaign announced that it has reached its goal of being on the ballot in 10 states by July 6. The overall goal is 45 states, which would be an increase from Nader's level of 34 states in 2004."  Team Nader notes:

What to do now?

Drop a five spot on the real deal.

Donate five dollars for Nader/Gonzalez.


Five reasons:

Telecom immunity.

Gun control.

Death penalty.

Campaign finance.

Faith-based funding.

On July 4, the New York Times documented Obama's flip flops on each of these issues and then proclaimed Obama New and Not Improved.

When we ask our friends who support Obama about his recent flip-flopping on these and other issues, they say something like this:

You have to pander to become President.


It doesn't matter where Obama stands on the issues -- it's the symbolism of change that matters.

Okay, so if it's the symbolism of change that matters to you, and not the substance, then please go and support Obama.

But if you actually want a candidacy that stands steadfast for shifting the power from the corporations back to the people, then please drop a five spot now on Nader/Gonzalez.

You'll be supporting a positive, rock solid, steadfast campaign.

Already, we're penciled in in ten states.

Richard Winger, the King of Ballot Access (and editor of Ballot Access News) predicts that come November, Nader/Gonzalez will be on in 44 to 45 states - up from 34 in 2004).

We're at six percent in the most recent CNN poll.

If we hit 10 percent, Ralph Nader will be debating the candidate of perpetual war McCain and the panderer in chief Obama in the Google/Youtube debates in New Orleans.

(Check out John Nichols this morning calling on Google to let Ralph debate.)

If Ralph gets into the debates, we're convinced he'll move above 10 percent.

If he moves above ten percent, America will sense a three way race.

If America senses a three-way race, why would it be any different from when Jesse Ventura ran for Governor of Minnesota?

(Okay, Ralph doesn't wear a boa.)

(By the way, in case you missed it, here's Ralph's July 4 riff on patriotism.)

All things are looking up.

All systems are go.

But we need your help to propel this campaign to the next level.

Drop a five on the real deal now.

Together, we are making a difference.



 joshua key

doug smith
the los angeles times