Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday July 29, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, is Diyala being used for for-show purposes, all-they-need-now-is-a-locust-plague news, Iraqi unions have a victory?, and more.


Starting with war resistance.  James Burmeister was a class of 2007 war resister which we all know means they got NO attention from Panhandle Media. His story was compelling -- as are the stories of all war resisters -- and it was also news breaking.  Mark Larabee's "Soldiers still go over the hill even in an all-volunteer Army" (The Oregonian, July 16, 2007) would break the news of James Burmeister and of the kill-teams targeting Iraqi civilians.  And Panhandle Media would respond with . . . silence and indiferrence. Maybe they just found it all 'tedious'?  Dee Knight never saw the job of indpendent media to render war resisters (or the Iraq War) invisible.  Knight (Workers World) reports that Erich Burmeister (rightly) considers his son a hero, "I think my son is a hero.  There are many Iraqis who were not killed because of what he did, and many GIs whose lives were saved because of it.  He made a tremendous service to his country by standing up and bearing witness to the 'bait-and-kill' war crimes."  Erich Burmeister discusses the court-martial as well as the lead up and feels the military played "'good cop-bad cop' . . . to perfection" in convincing James to enter a guilty plea ("We took the bait and got our butts kicked").  Of the court-martial, he notes, "I feel like the case was used as an example to other soldiers.  Not only will you get punished, but your loved ones will be too."  James Burmeister can receive letters "at Box A, Fort Knox, KY 40121."  Earlier this month, Helen Burmeister explained to Rachel McDonald (OPB), "I'm very disappointed in the way they feel they can treat veterans of war. I think the reason my son went AWOL was for a good reason. I don't think he deserved the punishment he got."  James Burmeister was court-martialed July 16th, Dee Knight covered the court-martial here and noted the military came down hard on James because he was a whistle-blower.


Burmeister self-checked out and went to Canada.  He decided to return to the US in March and turn himself in.  Robin Long self-checked out and went to Canada as well; however, he did not make the decision to return.  Judge Anne Mctavish made the decision to extradite him and tried to pass it off as deportation.  Courage to Resist notes:


On July 15, 2008 U.S. Army PFC Robin Long became the first war resister since the Vietnam War forced to leave Canada and to be turned over to the U.S. military. Robin is currently being held in the El Paso County Jail, in Colorado, awaiting his Courts Martial. He will be present for his Courts Martial at Fort Carson, Co. He will likely be charged for AWOL, desertion, and possibly speech-related violations of military discipline; he is facing a General Courts Martial, the maximum penalty of such a trial is 20 years confinement. Support Robin Long and all troops with the courage to resist!      

1. Donate to Robin's legal expenses  
Send Robin letters of support     
Send Robin commissary money        
Send Robin a book      
5. Sign the public statement of support –
coming soon   


War resisters in Canada need your help. 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 finley.d@parl.gc.ca -- that's "finley.d" at "parl.gc.ca") and Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, 613.992.4211, phone; 613.941.6900, fax; e-mail pm@pm.gc.ca -- that's "pm" at "pm.gc.ca").  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.  Long expulsion does not change the need for action and the War Resisters Support Campaign explains: "The War Resisters Support Campaign is calling on supporters across Canada to urgently continue to put pressure on the minority conservative government to immediately cease deportation proceedings against other US war resisters and to respect the will of Canadians and their elected representatives by implementing the motion adopted by Parliament on June 3rd. Please see the take action page for what you can do."


There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Andrei Hurancyk, 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).


In Iraq yesterday, bombings took place in Baghdad and another in Kirkuk.  Following the Kirkuk violence, Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Sabrina Tavernise (New York Times) report, violence broke out in the form of mob attacks on Turkmen, buildings were burned, guns were fired, rocks were thrown ("at least 25 Turkmen guards" were injured) leading Iraqi MP Saadeddin Arkej to declare, "I can't practice democracy at the Parliament while the dictatorship is attacking and burning the headquarters of the Turkmen Front in Kirkuk and burning and looting other Turkmen establishments."  Caesar Ahmed and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) observe, "The bombing and reprisals provided a glimpse of the passions among Kurds, Turkmens and Arabs over the future boundaries of Iraq's Arab north and its Kurdistan region."  Meanwhile AFP reports Turkey flew planes over northern Iraq in an air strike which they state "completely destroyed" a cave used by PKK members but Kurdish spokesperson Sinksar Abudllah states the bombings took place "where there are only families who earn their living raising sheep.  This is the first time that Turkish planes have attacked during the day.  We have not received any information about casualties."


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Diyala Province bombing that claimed 1 life. Diyala Province is where the assault began today -- despite last week's leaks that it would start August 1st.  Khalid al-Ansary (Reuters) reports that 14,000 to 18,000 Iraqi soldiers should be in the province now and notes, "A Reuters witness said large numbers of Iraqi police and army personnel had deployed in Baquba, where they were searching homes. The U.S. military was present in small numbers backed by helicopters, the witness said." AFP notes the US military's attempts to hard-sell it as an Iraqi operation (and ntoes they once claimed it would involved 30,000 Iraqi soldiers). AP quotes Ahmed Kadhim ("35-year-old businessman") who criticizes the loose lips, "I think this allowed armed groups to flee outside the province." Deborah Haynes (Times of London) appears to back that up, noting that a serach in Fatamia found "only three or four families remained.  Six months ago there were 30 to 40 families.  This eerie scene has been played out repeatedly in other villages across the southeastern corner of Diyala province, one of the country's most notorious areas." Which should lead to questions of -- remember this was leaked well in advance -- whether or not this is a for-show measure intended to make it appear that things are improving?  In another report,  Deborah Haynes (Times of London) notes that Iraqi military is "backed by small US military teams".  China's Xinhua points out that Diyala Province is now under curfew.  UPI reveals the assault's name "Omens of Prosperity."  BBC adds, "Apart from the deployment in Baquba, Iraqi and US forces conducted raids in several outlying areas."


Alex Spillius (Telegraph of London) reports US Gen David Petraeus is estimating Iraqis could be in (security) control of their country by the middle of 2010.  Considering Petraeus' past estimates, don't hold your breath.  Gordon Lubold (Christian Science Monitor) tosses a damp blanket on Petraeus -- the GAO says that after all this time, Iraq is still not responsible (in full -- or puppet) for 8 provinces, most forces aren't at any level of readiness, benchmarks remain unreached.


Turning to oil and labor, Great Britain's Socialist Worker reports:


The Iraqi government has withdrawn an order banning eight key union organisers belonging to the powerful Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU).  The union leaders were ordered out of the southern city of Basra after the Western backed government of Nuri al-Maliki said they were memebers of "militias" and helped in the smuggling of oil.  The union denied these charges.  Hassan Juma'a Awad, the head of the IFOU, called on unions around the world to rally to the oil workers.  In a statement he said, "This act is a clear evidence that the Iraqi state seeks to liquidate trade unions in this important Iraqi economic sector.  It is important to note that the south is the main source of oil in Iraq."  Sabah Jawad, the spokesman for the Naftana, the organisation that campaigns for Iraqi oil rights, told Socialist Worker that the government reversed the order following mounting pressure from Iraqi unions and the international anti-war movement.  Jawad said, "We told Hussain al-Shahristani, the Iraqi oil minister, that this was not acceptable, and informed him that we were aware of the measures being taken by the oil ministry."  US and European oil multinationals are scrambling to grasp Iraq's vast oil reserves. George Bush made the take-over of oil one of his key "indicators" that the "surge" is succeeding.  The return of the multinationals, 36 years after Iraq nationalised its oil, has been greeted with widespread anger.  The oil workers have been at the head of the movement resisting the hand over of the industry to western comanies.  "The withdrawal of the order is a victory for international solidarity and Iraqi trade unions," Jawad said.


The above is spaced out better at the link but has to be run as a single paragraph to fit into this snapshot.  "© Copyright Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original and leave this notice in place." and they recommend you read "US troops have Iran in their sights" with the above article.  US Labor Against the War is attempting "to hold an International Labor Conference in Iraq in February 2009.  This is an important and urgent step toward strengthening and unifying the labor movement in Iraq.  Only through increased solidarity in Iraq, and with workers in the region and around the world can we hope to impact the fate not only of workers but of all Iraqis.  [Learn more.]  We call upon all unions and other labor organizations, and individual union members and others around the world to support this conference morally and financially."  David Bacon explained the basics at Foreign Policy In Focus in 2004: "Once the U.S. occupation of Iraq began over a year ago, Iraqi workers lost no time in reorganizing their country's labor movement. Labor activity spread from Baghdad to the Kurdish north, with the center of the storm in the south, in the oil and electrical installations around Basra, and the port of Um Qasr. Workers quickly discovered that the occupation authorities had little respect for labor rights, however."  And the puppet government in Baghdad apes the White House. Meanwhile a country already facing severe malnutrition gets more bad news.  Deborah Haynes (Times of London) reports, "Iraq is in the grip of a water crisis after this year's seasonal rains failed, wiping out crops in some parts of the country and causing an unusually high number of sandstorms because the land is so dry.  Dams and reservoirs in neighbouring Turkey and Syria have made the problem worse. The level of water in the Tigris and the Euphrates, the rivers that flow from the two countries into Iraq, has fallen by more than 60 per cent over the past 20 years."


Turning to the US presidential race.  Ronn Cantu (Iraq Veterans Against the War) writes an open letter to Barack Obama, presumed Democratic Party presidential candidate, explaining:


I read an article in the July 12 edition of the New York Times titled "Obama Won't Commit to Event at Military Base." The article confused me, because in a recent Army Times article titled "If Obama Wins," you were quoted as saying "Precisely because I have not served in uniform, I am somebody who strongly believes I have to earn the trust of men and women in uniform."  

The NY Times article mentioned, and it bears repeating, that Fort Hood is the largest active-duty military installation in the country. Our post is so large and our commitment to Iraq so great that the Killeen Daily Herald published an article on July 13, 2008 about our sister division titled "4th ID Association Looking to Expand Soldier Memorial."          

Since speaking out against the war, I've had to take great precautions to ensure that I'm never perceived to be speaking on behalf of the United States Army nor the Armed Services as a whole, so I hope this letter isn't perceived as such. But I have to say that I think it would be a huge step toward earning the trust of men and women in uniform if you and your campaign work with Carissa Picard and the Presidential Town Hall Consortium, and commit to appearing at this meeting the way Senator McCain has. 


The full letter is here.  Meanwhile John Pilger (New Statesman) calls out Barack's rah-rah on Afghanistan slaughter, "Having declared Afghanistan a 'good war', the complicit enablers are now anointing Barack Obama as he tours the bloodfests in Afghanistan and Iraq.  What they never say is that Obama is a bomber.  In the New York Times on 14 July, in an article spun to appear as if he is ending the war in Iraq, Obama demanded more war in Afghanistan and, in effect, an invasion of Pakistan.  He wants more combat troops, more helicopters, more bombs.  Bush may be on his way out, but the Republicans have built an ideological machine that transcends the loss of electoral power -- because their collaborators are, as the American writer Mike Whitney put it succinctly, 'bait-and-switch' Democrats, of whom Obama is the prince."  Meanwhile, look what happens when Gary Younge lets his Socialist roots hang free: He can tell the truth the way he so rarely does in The Nation or the Guardian of London.  Writing for the UK's Socialist Review, Young's Obama-devotion is not rushed to maximum high and includes the following:


"[Obama] is being consumed as the embodiment of colour blindness," Angela Davis, professor of history of consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz, told me last year. "It's the notion that we have moved beyond racism by not taking race into account. That's what makes him conceivable as a presidential candidate. He's become the model of diversity in this period... a model of diversity as the difference that makes no difference. The change that brings no change." Finally, he did not build a multi-racial coalition but a bi-racial one. Clinton's base has been erroneously portrayed as simply the white working class and older white women. But in California Latinos and Asian-Americans went much more heavily for Clinton than whites did and made her victory possible. The same was true with Latinos in Texas. Indeed the only state where Obama won the Latino vote was his home state of Illinois. And even then by just 1 percent.


Gary Younge, has it been erroneously reported? Yeah and you certainly did your part to PUSH THE LIE in your other two outlets.  In fact, he has been nothing but a s**t stirrer and a LIAR throughout this election cycle as he pretended he was 'one of us' (he's British, he will not be voting in this election) and posed as a Democrat to make his lies just a little more forceful to Americans.  Either tell the truth or beg for Americans to start asking, "Exactly who is Gary Younge?" (He's already lied again this week and the misogynist Common Dreams was happy to repost it.)  For the record, Angela Y. Davis speaks the truth. [On truth, Michael D. Shear and Dan Balz (Washington Post) try to track down the story of Barack's skipping out on wounded US soldiers.]  Patrick Martin (WSWS) points today to a Newsweek interview with Barach where he "emphasized" "phased withdrawal" and Martin observes this is "support for an open-ended US military presence in Iraq".  It's the 'residual forces' aspect that Barack will never be clear on -- but any paying attention should have grasped he's not calling for withdrawal.  Last week Katie Couric (CBS Evening News -- video and text at link) interviewed Barack and attempted to press him to get specific about this "residual force" -- noting that "some of your advisors have said it could be tens of thousands of troops.  Why can't you be more specific as to what you envision?" Barack's response included, "As I've said before . . . I am not interested in a false choice between either perfect inflexibility in which the next 16 months or the next two years I ignore anything that's happening in Iraq. Or, alternatively, that I just have an open-ended, indefinite occupation of Iraq in which we're not putting any pressure on the Iraqis to stand up . . . take this burden on. What I'm gonna do is to set a vision of where we need to go, a clear and specific timeframe within which we're gonna pull our combat forces out."  He would never answer the question. [Ava and I covered the interview here.]  And unlike his remarks on Sunday, he did agree the 'surge' was a success in that interview.  (The 'surge' has not been a success.) He's not supporting withdrawal.  Which is why Patrick Martin (WSWS) concludes "The Amrican people thus will be given the choice on November 4 of voting for War #1 or War #2, Iraq or Afghanistan.  In fact, they will be saddled with both wars, with only slight differences between the Democrats and Republicans over which war should receive the largest proportion of US military resources.  Those who oppose American militarism, who want to bring an end to the oppression and violence wrought by imperialist aggression throughout the Middle East and Central Asia, have been disenfrancised by the two big business parties."  And voters have other choice (including write-in, staying home, voting for other offices but not for president) which includes other candidates because it is not a two-person race.   Ralph Nader is the independent presidential candidate, Cynthia McKinney is the Green Party presidential candidate and Bob Barr is the Libertarian Party candidate.  Last week the Nader - Gonzalez (Matt Gonzalez) began a series of campaign stops that found local and regional media more receptive to covering the presidential race than is the national media.  Jim Galloway (AJC) quoted Nader speaking at the University of Georgia, "[Obama is] always talking about his past as a community organizer.  But again and again, day after day, he's back-tracking, surrendering, flip-flopping -- and appointing the worst corporatist advisors you can imagine." John O'Connor (The State) covered Ralph's appearance in South Carolina where Ralph explained of Barack and presumed GOP nominee John McCain, "They represent a minority viewpoint.  We represent a majority of the American people." Yvonne Wenger (Post and Courier) reported on the South Carolina stop as well quoting Ralp stating, "If you don't resist, the situation gets worse.  The alternative is surrender. . . . The stands McCain and Obama have taken again and again do not have the support of the majority of the American people."  Sebastian Kitchen (Montgomery Advertiser) reported on his stop in Montgomery at the Rosa Parks Library and Museum and how he noted "Rosa Parks challenged the system" and wondered of the Iraq War, corporate control of the country, minimum wage and healthcare, "Why aren't these issues talked about by the major parties?" Marshall Griffin (KWMU) reported yesterday, "Ralph Nader is a step closer to getting his name on Missouri's presidential ballot.  Robert Dalaviras, State Coordinator for the Nader campaign, delivered two boxes of petitions to the Secretary of State's office in Jefferson City this morning."  KXAN reported on his Austin stop noting that he called for a number of issues:


"A comprehensive, negotiated military and corporate withdrawal date from Iraq"
"A single-payer, Canadian-style, private delivery, free-choice public health insurance system for all"
"A living wage and repeal of the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act"
"A no nuke solar-based energy policy supported by renewable, sustainable, energy-efficient sources"
"A carbon tax to deter global warming
"An end to corporate welfare and corporate crime that has resulted in millions losing pensions, savings and jobs and squandered tax dollars"
"More direct democracy reflecting the preamble to our constitution which starts with 'we the people,' and not 'we the corporations"


 Jennifer Latson (Houston Chronicle) reported on Ralph and Matt Gonzalez' stop in Houston and how they received $7,000 in donations -- in a state that as a result of restrictive (to put it mildly) ballot access laws, they won't even be on the ballot for.  (Texas voters can write-in Nader-Gonzalez.)  Nader declared in Houston, "This is the worst state in the country in terms of denying voters their own choice of candidates." Prior to the Austin stop, David Shieh (Austin American-Statesman) did a Q&A with Nader:


American-Statesman: So why are you running for the presidency? 
Ralph Nader: Strong labor laws facilitating unions, strong consumer protections, environmental, foreign, military policy -- all these are not being addressed in a way that a majority of people in this country want them addressed. The majority of people in this country want single-payer health insurance. They want a living wage. They want to get out of Iraq. They want a lot of things that we stand for, and the other side -- (Sens. John) McCain and (Barack) Obama -- are either against it or ignore it. They don't want to talk about it.


Austin Cassidy (Austin Cassidy's Independent Political Report) explains that August 2nd and 34d will find Ralph, Cynthia McKinney, Brian Moore an Gloria La Riva competing in Sacramento for the Peace and Freedom Party's nomination which would allow the candidate to be on the ballot in California.  (Cynthia's already on the ballot as the Green nominee).  La Riva was part of a woman of color presidential ticket in both 1996 and 2000 (with Monica Moorhead).  Team Nader notes:


Is Nader/Gonzalez for real?

The country wants to know.

Will Nader/Gonzalez be on enough ballots in November to make a run for it?

And to be seriously considered for the Presidential debates?

We're now on 18 state ballots, heading toward 30 by August 10 - on our way to our ultimate goal of 45 states by September 20.

And getting to thirty won't happen unless we hit our goal of $100,000 by August 10. (Which would give us $2 million for the entire campaign year to date.)

Thanks to you, we're at over $13,000 in just a few short days.

But we need to jack it up this week.

Donate now and watch your contribution fuel our road-trippers all around the country.

On the ground, things are heating up and the press is starting to take notice.

In West Virginia, we turned in more than 24,000 signatures (15,000 valid required).

In Montana, our road trip team collected and turned in more than 10,000 signatures (5,000 required).

We've also collected enough signatures to get on the ballot in Tennessee and New Jersey.

In Missouri, today we will turn in more than 20,000 signatures (10,000 valid required).

This coming week, we're looking forward to ballot access victories in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Utah and Wyoming.

None of this would have been possible without your help.

Every time you hit the contribute button, you fuel this historic ballot access drive.

During our last two fundraising drives, you came through with flying colors.

First, we asked for $60,000. You did it - on time.

Then we asked for $70,000, and you pushed us over the top with time to spare.

Right now, we need to hit $100,000 to get us to 30 states.

These are the most crucial two weeks of the campaign.

Whether Nader/Gonzalez is for real in November depends on whether we can raise the money to pay for ballot access over the next two weeks.

Plain and simple.

So, please.

Donate now whatever you can - $10, $20, $100, $500 - to help us give America a choice in November.

For peace.

For justice.

For a safe and healthy future.

For shifting the power from the corporations, back into the hands of the people.

Together, we are making a difference.



james burmeister

robin long

dee knight

workers world
mark larabee


yvonne wenger
david shieh

 cbs evening news
 katie couric

 jennifer latson
 sebastian kitchen

 the new york times
 richard a. oppel jr.
 sabrina tavernise
 ned parker
 the los angeles times
 caesar ahmed

 john pilger

mcclatchy newspapers