February 4, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, a DC peace event looms, results from the provincial elections have still not been sorted out but that hasn't stopped thugs from making threats, what happens to your finger after the purple dye, and more?
Starting with an action that begins this week in the US. Military Families Speak Out explains:
Come to Washington February 6-9 to demand "The Change WE Need"
President Elect Obama opposed the war in Iraq before it started, calling it a "dumb war." But he and his advisors have also said that they plan to spread the return of combat troops from that "dumb war" out over sixteen months and to keep tens of thousands of other troops on the ground in Iraq indefinitely.
So from February 6-9, MFSO will be traveling to Washington to bring the new President and new Congress the message that it is long past time to bring all our troops home from Iraq. The four days of events will include:
* A teach-in featuring the voices of military families, veterans, and Iraqis, explaining the need for an immediate and complete end to the war in Iraq -- and the human impacts of continuing the occupation. Friday, February 6 from Noon - 3:00 p.m. at Mott House, 122 Maryland Avenue.
* A solemn procession from Arlington National Cemetary to the White House beginning at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 7. Meet at the front gate of the cemetery right outside the exit of the Arlington Metro stop. Please arrive early.
* A "Meet and Greet" and Legislative Briefing from 3:00 - 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 8 at the Mariott Metro Center.
* Lobbying members of Congress to end the war in Iraq. Meet in the cafeteria of the Rayburn House Office Building at 9:00 a.m. Monday, February 9.
The November 27th snapshot noted Iraq War veteran Andre Shepherd who self-checked out of the US military while in Germany and held a press conference to explain: "When I read and heard about people being ripped to shreds from machine guns or being blown to bits by the Hellfire missiles I began to feel ashamed about what I was doing. I could not in good conscience continue to serve. . . . Here in Germany it was established that everyone, even a soldier, must take responsibility for his or her actions, no matter how many superiors are giving orders." The December 2nd snapshot quoted the following from James Ewinger's Cleveland Plain Dealer article:
Shepherd said he grew up on East 94th Street in Cleveland, attended Lakewood High School and studied computer science at Kent State University until he ran out of money.
He enlisted in 2004 with the hope of flying the Apaches, but was urged to become a mechanic first.
Scharf said he doubts that Shepherd's expected order to return to Iraq would, by itself, constitute an unlawful order.
"His best argument would be that Apaches are used to kill civilians," Scharf said, but he still viewed it as a weak case.
Andre is seeking aslyum in Germany and has been working with the Military Counseling Network and attorneys on that effort. Today AP's Patrick McGroarty reports that Andre is one of 71 US soldiers who has self-checked out from "European bases in 2008" (actually, he shouldn't be, he self-checked out in 2007) and his case was scheduled to take place before the Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees today where Andre would be stressing "a 2004 European Union directive that established basic guidelines for refugee status within the 27-nation bloc. Soldiers who face punishment for refusing to commit a war crime or serve in an unlawful conflict are to be granted that status, the directive says."
The Military Counseling Network blog notes Samantha Haque's January 28th report for the UK's Channel 4 News on Andre (both links have videos):
Andre Shepherd: When I speak to the other asylum seekers in the asylum camp and I explain to them my story, they completely understand it however this doesn't make me any better or any worse than anyone else that's there. We're all there because we can't go home.
Samantha Haque: As an asylum seeker he is currently in a camp in Germany with people from places like Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq. All in a similar position to him. The difference is that Andre Shepherd is a US citizen. And an Iraq War deserter. For security reasons, we were not allowed to film in the camp. Shepherd has a friend, a peace activist, who lives within the restricted boundary he's allowed to move in. He took us there.
Andre Shepherd: I was working on the Apache helicopter. Those Apaches won't fly unless we take care of them. The Apache helicopter is a deadly weapon a lot of people call it a flying tank. What started my doubts was when I saw the Iraqi people, when they would come and help us, the looks that they gave us weren't the looks of heroes or people that you know were bringing freedom. We looked like conquerors and oppressors. That really bothered me a lot. So I started to look into the reasons why we were actually there in Iraq. I thought that what we were doing was a great thing and a positive thing. That we were actually bringing freedom to people and making them happy but what I found out instead was that we completely destroyed an entire country on a pack of lies. It started to weigh very heavily to the point where my actions when I was a soldier were starting to deteriorate so as this was going on I came to the conclusion that I wasn't going to back to Iraq.
Samantha Haque: None of the criteria that the US military offered for discharge were availble to Mr. Shepherd. To be a conscientious objector in the US means to be against all wars, something he was not. While in Germany, he was faced with a second mission to Iraq. On April 11, 2007 he went absent without leave. Unable to apply for German residency without official military discharge papers, he decided that applying for asylum was the only way forward.
MCN's Tim Huber: Andre contacted us about a year and a half ago and he asked about asylum He wasn't the first to ask about asylum but our answer was always the same, we don't know what would happen if you tried aslyum. We went over the pros and cons of trying it. We noted that we were quite pessimistic that it would actually work, but we said it's an option.
Samantha Haque: His lawyer on the other hand is confident that he will have his application accepted.
Reinhard Marx: It's a specific European law, the so-called directive on qualification of refugees and in this directive it is ruled that deserters of an army who refer to international reasons, refer that the war is conducted in a way which infringes the national law then he has a right to be accepted as a refugee.
Samantha Haque: His lawyer cites the case of Florian Pfaff, a German officer demoted after refusing to work on a computer program for the US Army in Iraq in 2005. A federal court overturned his demotion because the Iraq War contravened international law. But although Germany opposed the war in Iraq and said no to the US resolution backing it, it still allowed its territory to be used as a base for military operations in Iraq. Here in Heidelberg is the US Army's headquarters in Europe. There are currently around 51,000 US military service men in Germany If Mr. Shepherd's application for aslyum is accepted, there could be implications for US-German military relations.
Gas Bag: It would mean that any US soldier in Germany who disagrees with military operations being conducted can basically step out of the base and seek asylum in Germany and that would probably be a situation that would be unacceptable to the US military.
Samantha Haque: The US is already looking at shrinking its military presence in Germany and possibly moving bases to Europe.
Gas Bag: There is a 60-year tradition, there's many Germans who cherish having the Americans here. There's also an economic factor, the US bases, particularly in the German southwest provide a lot of jobs.
Samantha Haque: Shepherd is something of a darling for the anti-war movement. Here at the Miltary Counseling Network, an American center where conscientios objectors go for help, letters of support come in from all over the world.
Tim Huber: He joined for the American dream. He joined for life, liberty and the pursuit of justice. Suddenly he finds that his pursuit of life, liberty and, most importantly, justice causes him to take a 180 degree turn and walk away from the military.
Samantha Haque: Do you think that there's a danger that Andre's case trivializes the term asylum seeker?
Tim Huber: Not at all. I think, if anything, it's causing people to look at the term asylum and put it in a 21st century defenition
Samantha Haque: The US army said that it was aware of the case but that the matter was completely in German hands. As for Mr. Shepherd it will be some months before he finds out the results of next week's hearing and whether he faces jail in America or exile abroad.
Andre Shepherd: Not being able to go back? At this point, that's just something I have to live with if I can make my consc clear then fine that's just a sacrifice I have to make.
Russia Today notes the Pentagon claims 5,000 US Army soldiers "are missing from duty" presently and quotes Andre explaining, "When the CIA report came and they said that there were no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq, that really made me angry. I wondered if there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the CIA obvioulsy the Bush administration knew about this, then why did we just destroy Fallujah, completely wiped out the entire city?"
Meanwhile Dahr Jamail (MidEast Dispatches) has returned to Iraq for the first time in four years and has heard the much hyped "security" hype:
I myself was lulled into a false sense of security upon my arrival a week ago. Indeed, security is "better," compared to my last trip here, when the number of attacks per month against the occupation forces and Iraqi collaborators used to be around 6,000. Today, we barely have one American soldier being killed every other day and only a score injured weekly. Casualties among Iraqi security forces are just ten times that number.
But yes, one could say security is better if one is clear that it is better in comparison not to downtown Houston but to Fallujah 2004.
Compared to days of multiple car bomb explosions, Baghdad today is better.
Is it safer? Is it more secure?
Difficult to say in a place when the capital city of the country is essentially in lock-down and prevailing conditions are indicative of a police state. We have a state in Iraq where the government is exercising rigid and repressive controls over social life (no unpermitted demonstrations, curfews, concrete walls around the capital city), economic (read - the 100 Bremer Orders that were passed under the Coalition Provisional Authority - all of the key laws over economic control still in place), and political life of the citizenry.
By definition, a police state exhibits elements of totalitarianism and social control, and in today's Iraq, we have plenty examples of both.
Iraq held provincial elections in 14 of the 18 provinces last Saturday. Thomas E. Ricks (Foreign Policy) announces he is waiting to weigh in: "The two key questions, he [an American official] said, were whether those who lost power would give it up and those who gained power would be able to execute it well. Why wait? Because, unlike my former colleagues in the newspaper racket, I can." While he waits, the battle of the spin continues with threats of violence mixed in. Alissa J. Rubin and Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) quote one-time "Awakening" Council leader Sheik Hammid al-Hayes who is unhappy with the early (and unofficial) results thus far in Anbar, "If the results aren't acceptable, then we'll bring back the old days. We will use rifles again, and we will eliminate the Islamic Party." When the US military keeps you and your underlings on the US tax payer dime ($300 a month per "Awakening" member), you'd think the monthly stipend might require a few civics lessons. Now "Awakening" free, al-Hayes demonstrates yet again exactly the type of person the US was paying off . They scream, they yell, they threaten violence and . . . they get their way. Ned Parker, Caesar Ahmed and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) quote Sheik Ahmed Buzaigh abu Risha vowing, "If the percentage is true, then we will transfer our entity from a political to a military one, to fight the Islamic Party and the commission." If the Iraqi Islamic Party is declared the winner in Anbar, the "Awakenings" say they will begin a slaughter. And instead of being called out, they're getting catered to. Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports, "A coalition of parties that competed against the Iraqi Islamic Party in Anbar submitted complaints that the commission considers grave, commission chief Faraj al-Haidari said, 'We will deal with it seriously because it might change the result of the election in this province,' he said."
Al Arabiya News Channel notes Anbar is "under curfew for a night". Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) observes how "quickly" the officials go into motion for the ones making threats in Anbar, "The Independent High Electoral Commission sent a committee from Baghdad Wednesday to recount ballot boxes from some polling stations in the province after tribal leaders accused the Iraqi Islamic Party, IIP, which currently controls the provincial council, of rigging the vote. The accusations of vote rigging came from an especially important source, Ahmed Abu Risha, the head of the province's Awakening Council, which is widely credited with bringing calm to Anbar." Oh, yes, that voice of peace Sheik Risha. And what did LAT quote him saying? "If the percentage is true, then we will transfer our entity from a political to a military one, to fight the Islamic Party and the commission." Andrew England and Ernesto Londono (Financial Times of London) note, "The IIP is one of the few Sunni Arab groups that took part in 2005 elections, which were boycotted by Sunni Arabs. It has been the community's main political force and had run the council in Anbar" and they quote the Iraqi Islamic Party's Omar Abdul Sattar stating that these threats of violence by people unhappy with the preliminary results are "unacceptable and totally rejected." UPI explains, "The Awakening Councils had looked to secure seats on the provincial councils as reparation for their role in routing al-Qaida militans from Anbar as part of the U.S.-led counterinsurgency strategy known as the surge." These are preliminary results -- unofficial ones. That needs to be remembered. And if al-Maliki wasn't attempting to spin the results and the press wasn't so eager to help him (we're ignoring the installment in today's news cycle on that), we'd follow Thomas E. Ricks' example (which, as noted Tuesday morning, was the plan). But since we can't, we'll note an obvious fact. "Awakening" Councils members were collaborators with the US in the occupation of Iraq. Anbar especially rejected the illegal war and occupation on and of Iraq. While "Awakenings" turned when a buck or two was popped in their g-strings, that doesn't mean the people did. If the results hold, you may see the people -- and we made this point when NYT did their ridiculous "Everything is beautiful in the province and the people are so happy" 2007 article -- really didn't want anything to do with US collaborators. If so, that's not surprising. When France was occupied, the French loudly rejected the collaborators. And continued to make known what they thought of them -- to this day. Those who go to work for the enemy -- and a foreign force occupying any country is that country's natural enemy -- are collaborators and, no, they are not popular with the home-grown population. And Monte Morin and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) quote the menacing Sheik Risha promsing, "There will be very harsh consequences if this false election stands. We won't let them form a government."
"There will be very harsh consequences if this false election stands. We won't let them form a government."
The same thugs the US paid off so they'd stop attacking US military personnel and equipment -- as US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Gen David Petraeus told Congress repeatedly last April -- scream and whine and moan about the potential results and everyone rushes to make the big babies feel better. They whine and make threats and that gets a reaction from the elections commission chair? The same pompous ass who declared Sunday, "It's not our fault that some people couldn't vote because they are lazy, because they didn't bother to ask where they should vote"? Well apparently "lazy" is mitigated when you threaten violence so possibly all those who were not allowed to vote, who were repeatedly turned away at polling stations should start threatening to 'set it off' and maybe the elections commission chair would suddenly take an interest in their issues? Of the commission, Deborah Haynes (Times of London) points out, "Iraq's electoral commission insisted that it was pleased with the turnout on Saturday, with about 7.5 million Iraqis, or 51 per cent of those eligible to vote, casting a ballot. Mr al-Maliki had forecast participation of up to 80 per cent after to an improvement in security and a decision by Sunni Arabs to participate, after boycotting past ballots in protest at the occupation." In the meantime Trenton Daniel and Mahdi al Dulaymi (McClatchy Newspapers) observe, "Thousands of Iraqis, however, couldn't vote because their names were missing from registration lists; in Hawsa, just west of Baghdad, thousands demonstrated over their exclusion." No, don't demonstrate, threaten. It works so very well in Anbar. The response to demonstrations and massive voter suppression? "Election officials said that they have no plans to address the grievances, saying that displaced voters missed their opportunity to register."
In New York at the United Nations yesterday, Staffan de Mistura, UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq, spun like crazy trying to find the 'good' in an election process that, he admitted, saw five candidates assassinated "and the explosion of two mortar shells on Election Day" -- he side-stepped the other violence taking place Saturday. [Even US Army Lt Gen Lloyd J. Austin III admits to "11 attacks" on election day.] He offered a figure of 42% for Sunni participation (42% of registered voters) which, if it holds, will only further underscore how many people stayed home (Sunnis boycotted the vote in 2005's provincial elections).
Meanwhile Deborah Haynes (Times of London) notes an interesting bit of trivia regarding the election process:
Iraq commentators go misty-eyed when they talk of the symbolic purple finger brandished by Iraqis after casting a ballot. But no one ever mentions the smelly orange nail.
Had such an abominable side-effect been better public knowledge, then I would never have enthusiastically jammed by right index finger into a pot of indelible ink at a polling station in Baghdad on election day.
[. . .]
"What the hell is happening to my nail?" I asked my interpreter.
"Oh it turns orange," he said, casually. "It is because of all the chemicals in the ink."
Four days and hours of scrubbing later, the purple ink on my finger has almost gone but the Orange Nail from Hell is still there, as colourful as the moment it first appeared. The nail has also started to smell rather foul, as if something nasty is rotting on the end of my finger.
"The latest is that nothing much has changed," AP's Kim Gamel explained yesterday on NPR's All Things Considered, "al-Zaidi has been in custody since Iraqi guards wrestled him to the ground." Muntadar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw two shoes at George W. Bush December 14th and has been imprisoned since. Gamel said he remains in a jail cell in the Green Zone and his attorney has had only one visit with him (back in December). Asked about the alleged letter Nouri al-Maliki was touting linking the journalist to 'terrorists,' Gamel replied, "Maliki did say he received that letter and the family [of Muntadar] denied that" and she noted it's impossible to determine whether the claim is true or false at this point.
What a novel concept. A journalist noting what can and cannot be verified. That's certainly nothing Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) worries himself over today as he rushes to turn a suspect into a convict. We addressed the topic in yesterday's snapshot. Yes, it was obvious yesterday. But Myers misses out as he rushes to tell you a criminal confessed! Let's go to Tina Susman ( Los Angeles Times):
There was no way to independently verify the video's authenticity, but the use of female suicide bombers has soared in the last year. More than 30 women blew themselves up last year, compared with eight in 2007, according to U.S. military figures. U.S. and Iraqi officials say Sunni Arab insurgents have run short of male recruits and turned to women for the missions.
Suspected suicide bombers were among those rounded up in the sweep conducted in the 72 hours leading up to Saturday's elections, said Army Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad and the surrounding region.
Hammond said attacks in the his area of command had dropped 80% since June 2007, part of a nationwide decrease in violence that was highlighted by the peaceful voting for new governing councils in 14 provinces.
And that is what's known as reporting. Suspected. Video could not be independently verified. All points Steven Lee Myers can't be bothered with. What a social hit he would have been in Salem back in 1692. No doubt he would be partying at Gallows Hill. Steven Lee Myers, the Cotton Mather of 2009.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that left two people wounded, a Baghdad sticking bombing aimed at an "Awakening" Council head that wounded the head and claimed the life of his son with three other people injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing that left four people wounded and a Mosul car bombing left four people wounded. Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing that left two people injured and a Mosul grenade attack with no reports of wounded but the US military fired at the thrower.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports one person shot in Kirkuk (wounded).
Reuters notes a 8 corpses discovered in Baquba.
the new york times
alissa j. rubin
steven lee myers
the los angeles times
the washington post
mahdi al dulaymi