Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, February 10, 2009.  Chaos and violence continue, al-Maliki slams Joe Biden, the ACLU speaks out, Cliff Cornell turns himself in, and more.
Today US war resister Cliff Cornell turned himself in.  Some reports state he's the second US war resister to be deported from Canada.  The second deported would appear to be Daniel Sandate.  Rena Guay interviewed Daniel on January 22, 2009.  In one video, Daniel tells about enlisting.
Daniel Sandate: Well, like a lot of other soldiers, the military seemed the last resort [. . .]  to stay on my feet.  My father had just died and I inherited his house and, after a series of events -- mostly my fault, I just was tired of living that every day life.  I just got out of jail, actually, a few days before I went to the recruiters and the marine recruiter asked me if I had ever been arrested and he asked me a series of other questions and they ended up flat out rejecting me in like five minutes.  They said, "Get out of our office, we don't want you!"  And so, I walked directly, right across the hallway, to the army recruiters, they were all in the same building.  And they asked me the same questions and I gave them the same answers and basically they said, "Yeah! Sure, we'll take you.  There's absolutely no problem at all.  All you need is just to get a waiver and you'll be in.
Sandate tried suicide countless times, using drugs, rat poison, even slicing his tongue in half, hoping he'd bleed to death.  He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression and attention deficit disorder.  He never finished high school.  He did a lot of drugs.  
He says he told everything to military recruiters.  The Marines wouldn't take him; the Army gave him a waiver.  He was 24.
Later he went to Iraq, where he survived three attacks and cleaned up masses of dead bodies.  Along the way, he herniated a disc in his back.  Instead of immediately treating his injury, the Army put Sandate through a bureaucratic nightmare.  He became suicidal again.  Then he took an online friend's offer to desert and live with her in Canada.  Together, they grew marijuana to help Sandate with his phyiscal pain and mental instability.  But Sandate says he felt guilty for abandoing his comrades, and blamed his girlfriend.  The relationship crumbled.  Alone again, Sandate slit one of his wrists in his Canadian apartment.
His attorney James Branum explains the route back to the US in this video, "You went from Brantford, Onatrio later to Niagra Detention Center, eventually was deported into the US and from there he was transported to Colorado Springs where he was held in the county jail in pre-trial confinement."  In this video, Branum explains that Robin Long and Daniel were the first two US war resisters to be forcefully deported from Canada and Daniel speaks about the back surgery he had while in the military. 
Which brings us to Cliff, also represented by Jim Branum.  Gary McCollum co-owns the Village Food Market where Cliff worked and he told the Nanamio Daily News, "He was a wonderful worker, it is very sad that he had to leave and that the U.S. arrested him.  He won a national award for us for setting up the best display in the country last November.  I know the entire store missed him and he got a great deal of support from across Gabriola [Island]."  Today Cliff turned himself in at Fort Stewart.  Russ Bynum (AP) quotes him explaining yesterday, "I'm nervous, scared. I'm just not a fighter.  I know it sounds funny, but I have a really soft heart."  Project Safe Harbor's Gerry Condon continues to call on US President Barack Obama to grant amnesty to all war resisters. Former US presidents Gerald Ford created a process for Vietnam war resisters (draft dodgers and deserters) to seek asylum and Jimmy Carter provided amnesty to all Vietnam draft dodgers.  AP notes, "His lawyer says Cornell has been assigned to a unit after meeting with military police, but it's not clear if the Army will hold him in pretrial confinement."
Meanwhile MIlitary Families Speak Out just wrapped up four days of action in DC.  Saturday's action was "a solem procession from Arlinton National Cemetery to the White House . . . to bring President Obama the message that they want him to bring an immediate end to the war in Iraq that has already claimed the lives of over 4,200 U.S. troops and more than a million Iraqis."  Celeste Zappala explains, "Our walk from Arlington to the White House is a symbol of the walk that families of the fallen make everyday -- we mourn and miss our heroes, our lives will never be the same, and we promise in their names to do everything we can to bring the troops home and never again commit to a needless war -- this is the message of our feet and the tears in our eyes." Celeste Zappala is the mother of Sherwood Baker who was killed in Baghdad April 24, 2004.  Next month another action takes place.  From Iraq Veterans Against the War:

IVAW's Afghanistan Resolution and National Mobilization March 21st

As an organization of service men and women who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, stateside, and around the world, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War have seen the impact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had on the people of these occupied countries and our fellow service members and veterans, as well as the cost of the wars at home and abroad. In recognition that our struggle to withdraw troops from Iraq and demand reparations for the Iraqi people is only part of the struggle to right the wrongs being committed in our name, Iraq Veterans Against the War has voted to adopt an official resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and reparations for the Afghan people. (To read the full resolution, click here.)
To that end, Iraq Veterans Against the War will be joining a national coalition which is being mobilized to march on the Pentagon, March 21st, to demand the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and further our mission and goals in solidarity with the national anti-war movement. This demonstration will be the first opportunity to show President Obama and the new administration that our struggle was not only against the Bush administration - and that we will not sit around and hope that troops are removed under his rule, but that we will demand they be removed immediately.
For more information on the March 21st March on the Pentagon, and additional events being organized in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Orlando, to include transportation, meetings, and how you can get involved, please visit: www.pentagonmarch.org or www.answercoalition.org.
Yesterday President Barack Obama held his first 'press conference,' calling on pre-selected journalists.  Not one asked about Iraq despite the fact that the Iraq War hits the 6 year mark in March, despite the fact that approximately 147,000 US troops are stationed in Iraq, despite the fact that four US service members died in Mosul yesterday, despite all that and more, Iraq wasn't a 'worthy' topic.  Sports stars on steroids was considered a 'national issue' to ask about, but an ongoing war, not one damn question.  Barack was asked if he would allow photos of flag draped coffins returning to Dover.  He needed 'more time'.  Really?  When George W. Bush banned it, he did so quickly.  The practice of hiding the dead is not an American practice or policy.  There is nothing to review, you simply overturn Bush's ban.  Barack's not interested in that.  Today he added more insults to the military.  Yunji de Nies (ABC News) reports that Barack declared today, "I am so proud of you guys and grateful for you.  You guys are doing very important stuff."  As de Nies points out, these were military "men and women in uniform".  Not that a sexist like Barack easily understands but "guys" have penises.  His remarks were insulting.  Maybe he thinks it a plus that he didn't call the women "sweeties"?  102 service women have died serving in Iraq.
Joe Biden is the vice president of the United States.  He's in the news today as thug Nouri al-Maliki tries to see if the new White House puppet masters will be easier to jerk around than the previous ones.  Thug Nouri is blasting Biden.  Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) quotes al-Maliki stating Biden is "out of date" for stating that the lack of progress in Iraq means (Biden) "I think our administration is going to have to be very deeply involved.  We are going to have to get in there and be much more aggressive in forcing them to deal with these issues."  al-Maliki whined, "Such a speech is out of date, because the government of Iraq knows its responsibilities and acts accordingly in a strong way."  While such b.s. no doubt has Patrick Cockburn reaching around inside his shorts and heavy panting, the adult world grasps that al-Maliki hasn't done a damn thing.
The 'surge' was rammed through -- over Democratic (verbal) objection -- with the understanding that it was being done to give the Iraqi government the room to maneuver and accomplish some of the needed tasks.  The 'surge' resulted in no action on the part of the government.  The Iraq Parliament STILL does not have a speaker.  De-de-Baathification measures (passed by the Parliament) have still not been implemented. April 2, 2008, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled "Iraq After The Surge."  From that hearing, exchange between US Senator Barbara Boxer and Council on/for/of/from Foreign Relations Stephen Biddle:
Barbara Boxer: Did you just say that Maliki uses the Iraqi security forces as his militia?  Did you say that?
Biddle: Yes.
Barbara Boxer: If that's true and Maliki uses his military as a force to bring about peace -- that's scandalous and that we would have paid $20 million to train [it] and someone that we consider an expert says it's a militia, that's shocking.
[. . .] Boxer wanted Biddle to explain his remarks and explain how the US could still be a peacekeeping force in Iraq while they were engaging warlords in Iraq which boils down to taking sides.  ("You cannot count" on them, Boxer pointed out of the warlords on the US dime.)  She rejected as offensive Biddle's suggestion that that sitting down with warlords was an answer.  "There is no good solution to this nightmare," she pointed out, "so why not just figure out a way to tell the Iraqis, 'We've spilled the blood, now it's your turn.'"
April 8th, Gen David Peteraeus and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker took their song and dance to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and from that day's snapshot:
She wanted to know about the training, all the training, that had gone on and then on again.  "We've done a lot for the Iraqis just in terms of the numbers themselves," Boxer declared.  "I'll tell you what concerns me and most of my constituents, you said -- many times -- the gains in Iraq are fragile and reversable. . . . So my constituents and I believe that" after all the deaths, all the money, "you have to wonder why the best that you can say is that the gains are fragile and reversable."  Noting the lack of military success and Hagel's points, Boxer pointed out that nothing was being done diplomatically "and I listened carefully to Senator Hagel and Ambassador Crocker -- from the answer you gave him, I don't get the" feeling that the White House has given anything, it's still "the status quo.  She then turned to the issue of monies and the militias, "You are asking us for millions more to pay off the militias and, by the way, I have an article here that says Maliki recently told a London paper that he was concerned about half of them" and wouldn't put them into the forces because he doubts their loyalty.  She noted that $182 million a year was being paid, $18 million a month, to these "Awakening" Council members and "why don't you ask the Iraqis to pay the entire cost of that progam" because as Senator Lugar pointed out, "It could be an opportunity" for the Iraqi government "to turn it into something more long term."  This is a point, she declared, that she intends to bring up when it's time to vote on the next spending supplamental. Crocker tried to split hairs.
Boxer: I asked you why they couldn't pay for it. . . . I don't want to argue a point. . . I'm just asking you why we would object to asking them to pay for that entire program giving all that we are giving them in blood and everything else?
What's al-Maliki done? Since emerging from hiding after the US military went into Iraq.  al-Maliki's just another pathetic Iraqi exile installed by the US government and the puppet might want to consider that before snapping and pretending he's actually accomplished a damn thing because outside of terrorizing the press, al-Maliki hasn't done much but fatten his own bank account and it's past time an independent auditor was sent to Iraq.  Remember that when the puppet leaves and -- yet again -- we hear, "Where did the money go?  Where did it go?"  If the puppet's feeling so strong, why doesn't he order the US military out of Iraq?  (He won't because the moment they leave, his 'power' crumbles.)  "Goodbye Pasha" indeed.
Meanwhile the thug refuses to help Iraqi women.  Feminist Wire Daily reports on Nawal al-Samarraie's resignation:
Nawal al-Samarraie, the Iraqi Minister of Women's Affairs, resigned from her post last week largely due to lack of funds for her office. Her budget was slashed from $7,500 to $1,500 a month after a drop in oil prices. Al-Samarraie told the Associated Press, "I reached to the point that I will never be able to help the women. The budget is very limited ... so what can I do?"

The Iraqi State Ministry of Women's Affairs was founded after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, but has achieved little progress since. On a daily basis, women in Iraq face homelessness, lack of jobs, domestic violence and the possibility of detention during US and Iraqi military sweeps.

Other Iraqi ministries have faced similar budget cuts, yet Iraqi women's rights activist lawyer Safia al-Suhail told
IRIN that "when we talk about the women of Iraq, we are talking about nearly 65 percent of the population. They need a national and comprehensive strategy to help them enjoy their legal, health, and social rights." Al-Suhail urged Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to deny al-Samarraie's resignation and instead help form an independent commission for women with a bigger budget, according to the Associated Press. However, al-Maliki signed al-Samarraie's resignation the day it was submitted

Al-Samarraie told IRIN, "my office is inside the Green Zone with no affiliated offices in other provinces and not enough funds to hold conferences, invite experts for studies and implement development plans." "How can I work and serve women under such circumstances?" Al-Samarraie plans to travel to an international conference in Turkey concerning Iraqi women. She said she would consider returning to her job and told the Associated Press that "maybe with the next government it will be a priority."
The resignation comes as Naseer al-lly (Asharq Alawsat) notes that "dozens of widows" are being refused assistance by family members and quotes Bosaina Mahmoud Abbas, Director of the Eve Relief Organization, stating Diyala Province "is currently suffering from a problem that warns of  an imminent danger, and this is the swelling of the size of the number of widows, divorced women, and unemployed women who are forced to marry elederly men in order to ensure their own livelihood, and the livelihood of their children.  But the question is: who guarantees that the new husband will actually support the widows and her children?  . . .  I recently met dozens of widows who complained that their late husbands families has disowned them and their children. Such a phenomenon is dangerous. Iraqi society in the past was known for family interconnectivity and social integration, to the point that you would find relatives supporting afflicted family members. But now families disown their own children due to the hardship of life. And so there is only one option and that is to get the government to focus on supporting the families of the victims of terrorism. It is a terrorist victims right to have the support of the government."
Meanwhile Deborah Haynes and Sonai Verma (Times of London) report that "a British manager for the services company Kellogg Brown and Root" is accused of an inappropriate sexual relationship with an Iraqi women working for the British embassy and that the manager "was also accused of sexual harassment more than 18 months ago by an Iraqi cleaner and two cooks at the embassy."  The reportes quote the cleaner who charged sexual harassment a year and a half ago stating today, "I was in the British Embassy and under the British flag and I was oppressed but nobody did anything about that."
Steven Lee Myers and Sam Dagher (New York Times) offer  that Anbar thug Sheik Risha is very happy to display photos of himself with George W. Bush and Barack Obama -- a thug's gotta' have friends -- and having intimidated the 'election' 'commission' into results he liked, he now declares that his weapon of choice is "papers and evidence." The reporters note he "did not recant his earlier threats of violence". The reporters note:

Khalid al-Alwani, a senior official of the Iraqi Islamic Party in Anbar, called the accusations a smear campaign. He insisted that the party's slate in Anbar won nearly 40 percent of the votes, not the 15.9 percent that was announced. The party issued a statement on Sunday accusing Sheik Ahmed and Mr. Mutlaq of practicing "intimidation and extortion" in order have the results declared in their favor. It vowed to "reclaim what is rightfully theirs."  
Another of the party's backers called for more drastic action. Sheik Hakem al-Saad, a leader of one of the largest tribes in Anbar, called for the firing of the police chief and army commander and the declaration of a state of emergency. He accused the Awakening leader of sowing discord and inciting violence.
"Ahmed Abu Risha is a bandit and thief," he said.   
From election crimes to some of today's reported daily violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing on the car of a bodyguard to Iraq's Shia vice president Adel Abdul Mahdi -- two people were wounded, a Baghdad mortar attack that claimed 1 life and left four people injured and a Mosul car bombing that left three police officers injured.  To the sticky bombing, Reuters adds, "Reuters Television footage showed the badly wounded guard lying motionless. Eye witnesses said he died but police did not confirm that. Police initially said the guard worked for Vice President Adel Abdul-Mehdi's office, but the vice president's office said he worked for another branch of government."
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 police officers shot dead in Mosul.
This week Dahr Jamail (MidEast Dispatches) back in Iraq reports on hospitality.  Last week, he reported on the thriving grave digging business including that "in the Al-Adhamiya area of Baghdad, what used to be a park is now a cemetary with more than 5,000 graves.  According to the manager, most of the dead are never counted. . . . Such graveyards, and there are many, raise questions about the real death toll in Iraq."
Iraq is moving to stop foreigners from visiting their country apparently as a result of the Italian visitor.  The New York Times' Baghdad Bureau Blog offers more details -- from an Iraqi correspondent -- on the Italian tourist and the correspondent notes, "I found it very strange that he had got to the city so easily.  Falluja resident have badges that allow them to get in the city.  Those who are not locals of Falluja are usually there on missions."
Meanwhile Thomas E. Ricks has a new book out on Iraq. Tim Rutten (Los Angeles Times) reviews Ricks' new book The Gamble and notes, "This is contemporary history of a vivid and urgent sort, and Ricks has produced a book that deserves to be read by any American who realizes that something other than today's economic news also is of vital interest to the nation." Michiko Kakutani (New York Times) also reviews the book today and notes, "Mr. Ricks writes as both an analyst and a reporter with lots of real-time access to the chain of command, and his book's narrative is animated by closely observed descriptions of how the surge worked on the ground, by a savvy knowledge of internal Pentagon politics, and by a keen understanding of the Iraq war's long-term fallout on already strained American forces." From Rick's "The right way to do Iraq, and the wrong way" (Foreign Policy):

Two excerpts from my new book The Gamble are running in the Washington Post Sunday and Monday. There also are some cool on-line only things -- not just another excerpt, but also a great video about how one officer, Capt. Samuel Cook of the 3rd Armored Cavalry, conducted counterinsurgency operations in one part of Iraq last year. (To read more about how Cook talked an insurgent leader into cooperation, read this excerpt from the book, a section called "The Insurgent Who Loved Titanic.")

FYI, Ricks is of the opinion that the US cannot leave Iraq and clearly everyone in this community (including me) disagree with that call. But that's an opinion expressed in the book and not what his book's about. It's offering a serious look at events on the ground in Iraq and it is as strong a read as his previous book Fiasco (my opinion).
Turning to the US, the ACLU issued the following yesterday:

Justice Department Stands Behind Bush Secrecy In Extraordinary Rendition Case (2/9/2009)  
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org 
NEW YORK – The Justice Department today repeated Bush administration claims of "state secrets" in a lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan for its role in the extraordinary rendition program. Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen was brought on behalf of five men who were kidnapped and secretly transferred to U.S.-run prisons or foreign intelligence agencies overseas where they were interrogated under torture. The Bush administration intervened in the case, inappropriately asserting the "state secrets" privilege and claiming the case would undermine national security. Oral arguments were presented today in the American Civil Liberties Union's appeal of the dismissal, and the Obama administration opted not to change the government position in the case, instead reasserting that the entire subject matter of the case is a state secret. 
The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU:   
"Eric Holder's Justice Department stood up in court today and said that it would continue the Bush policy of invoking state secrets to hide the reprehensible history of torture, rendition and the most grievous human rights violations committed by the American government. This is not change. This is definitely more of the same. Candidate Obama ran on a platform that would reform the abuse of state secrets, but President Obama's Justice Department has disappointingly reneged on that important civil liberties issue. If this is a harbinger of things to come, it will be a long and arduous road to give us back an America we can be proud of again."
The following can be attributed to Ben Wizner, a staff attorney with the ACLU, who argued the case for the plaintiffs:  
"We are shocked and deeply disappointed that the Justice Department has chosen to continue the Bush administration's practice of dodging judicial scrutiny of extraordinary rendition and torture. This was an opportunity for the new administration to act on its condemnation of torture and rendition, but instead it has chosen to stay the course. Now we must hope that the court will assert its independence by rejecting the government's false claims of state secrets and allowing the victims of torture and rendition their day in court."

Totally non-related but we'll note Sandra Bulluck's Q&A with In Style readers -- just because it's Sandra.