Wednesday, December 5, 2007

All Things Considered . . . Iraq is still not safe

Today on NPR's All Things Considered, we heard some Iraqi voices. I am not sure whether NPR does not think Iraqi voices are important or not. I do know that they failed to provide a transcript. Possibly because NPR staff proper did not do the interviews. They cannot. For all the talk of 'safe' in Iraq, U.S. reporters have to hide in the Green Zone and send out stringers to speak to Iraqis.

The report is nonsense. A female student says there is a big change and explosions have decreased. A man is honest that he feels safe in Sadr City but not in other parts of Baghdad and will not consider it safe until some of the Iraqi ministers in Nouri al-Maliki's cabinet start walking through Baghdad freely. A man says he doesn't "think there is a security improvement." He woke up to an explosion and remembers the bird market bombing not all that long ago. A woman says she thinks it is safer "because most of the customers had fled the country" and now some are back. A man says he and his family have moved back. Another man says he feels safer "since there were no explosions today." He then adds, "except one in the morning." Actually, Baghdad had four bombings today.

And while the first woman and the last man may have been interviewed before all four, the fact remains that Iraq is not safe and it is equally true that U.S. reporters still remain hidden away in the Green Zone.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:

Wednesday, December 5, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, Bobby Gates gets greeted with trumpets (well . . . car bombs) as he visits Iraq, realities continue to emerge about the myth of the 'great return' and more.

Starting with war resistance. December 11th the Canadian Parliament will hold public hearings on the issue of war resisters. A legislative remedy to allow war resisters to remain in Canada is necessary following the Supreme Court of Canada's November 15th announcement that they would not hear the appeals of US war resisters
Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey. Various war resisters hope to testify and Cindy Sheehan (OpEdNews) urges people to utilize Courage to Resist's easy to mail or e-mail resources to allow the Canadian government to know you are watching and to support organizations supporting war resisters as well as supporting war resisters:

Support actual war resisters in Canada by sending them expense money. From my friend Ryan (I gave him and his wife money to get to Canada over two years ago):

In light of the recent Supreme Court denial in Canada, I (Ryan Johnson), My wife (Jen Johnson) and Brandon Hughey need help raising funds to travel to Ottawa to attend hearings before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, where War Resisters will be giving Testimony to the committee. At these hearings the committee will be deciding on whether or not to make a provision to allow war resisters to stay in Canada. This is one of our last chances to be able to continue living in Canada. We will be leaving December 7th because the hearings are December 11th, 2007 so we need to act fast. They may try to send guys back soon and we need to have a strong War Resister Presence. We appreciate all of the support and Want to thank all of you who can help.

Checks/money orders can be sent for Ryan, Jen and Brandon to:312 Tower Rd Nelson, BC V1L3K6

One of the war resisters in Canada is
Kimberly Rivera who lives there now with her husband and two children. At her site, she reflects, "Its funny how Recruiters work, every year in high school they are allowed to set up a table in the lunch room and discuss your future as a Soldier or what have you and every school had a ROTC program. I was never in ROTC or have I ever thought of becoming a soldier, on several occassions I had the recruiters approach me and ask me what my plans where and I told them I am just 16 i don't need to disclosing info about my self to strangers, and because i was under age of 17 they didn't talk to me further that year. How ever in my junior and senior year they were calling my house with school rosters that they get from the schools. And each recruiter is assigned to a certain school." She recounts her experiences in Iraq, how her husband Mario found out information online, and how they made the decision to move to Canada and shares "we crossed the broader on Feb 18th 2007 i missed my cycle in febuary and in march and late april i started having sever pain and heavy clotting and was depressed because i know that i misscaried it last about 2 weeks." Now the Rivera family is trying to make a life for themselves and Canada's Parliament can do the right thing, they can step up and address the issue in a number of ways.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb,
Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla 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, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).

The voice of war resister Camilo Mejia is featured in Rebel Voices -- playing now through December 16th at
Culture Project and based on Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove's best-selling book Voices of a People's History of the United States. It features dramatic readings of historical voices such as war resister Mejia, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Malcom X and others will be featured. Musician Allison Mooerer will head the permanent cast while those confirmed to be performing on selected nights are Ally Sheedy (actress and poet, best known for films such as High Art, The Breakfast Club, Maid to Order, the two Short Circuit films, St. Elmo's Fire, War Games, and, along with Nicky Katt, has good buzz on the forthcoming Harold), Eve Ensler who wrote the theater classic The Vagina Monologues (no, it's not too soon to call that a classic), actor David Strathaim (L.A. Confidential, The Firm, Bob Roberts, Dolores Claiborne and The Bourne Ultimatum), actor and playwright Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride, Clueless -- film and TV series, Gregory and Chicken Little), actress Lili Taylor (Dogfight, Shortcuts, Say Anything, Household Saints, I Shot Andy Warhol, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, State of Mind) and actor, director and activist Danny Glover (The Color Purple, Beloved, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Rainmaker, Places In The Heart, Dreamgirls, Shooter and who recently appeared on Democracy Now! addressing the US militarization of Africa) The directors are Will Pomerantz and Rob Urbinati with Urbinati collaborating with Zinn and Arnove on the play. Tickets are $21 for previews and $41 for regular performances (beginning with the Nov. 18th opening night). The theater is located at 55 Mercer Street and tickets can be purchased there, over the phone (212-352-3101) or online here and here. More information can be found at Culture Project.

IVAW is organizing a March 2008 DC event:

In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers.
In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.
Click here to sign a statement of support for Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan

March 13th through 15th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation.

"I think you heard about Cholera infections in Iraq,"
writes an Iraqi correspondent at Inside Iraq (McClatchy Newspapers). "If you read the statistic you will be astonished that this wounded country is able to withstand in front of this outbreak disease in spite of all the probems that surround it. When this disease showed for the first time in north of Iraq I thought that this disease will spread in our country like the fire spread in dry stalks." The reporter goes on to share a story of a woman in Baghdad who ended up with cholera but her relatives feared the "shame on our family" if she was taken to the hospital and placed "under quarantine" so, instead, the woman ended up dying. Cholera was first detected back in August and in Kirkuk. By mid-September cholera was showing up in "twenty one districts of Northern Iraq" according to the World Health Organization. On Sunday, David Smith (UK Observer) provided an update noting that the factors were in place to "create an epidemic" with 101 cases in Baghdad. Yesterday, AAAS Science and Techonology Policy Fellow Mark D. Drapeau (at the New York Times) observed that cholera "doesn't respect borders" and that includes who is at risk in Iraq: anyone. Children, adults, foreign forces, anyone. Drapeau argues, "Cholera is a grave threat for the American project in Iraq, but also an opportunity to capture the hearts and minds of the population." No, not really. The ship sailed on that long ago. More importantly, a people under threat -- and that's what it is to live under an occupation -- usually includes a healthy number of people who will assume that outbreaks of whatever are launched upon them by the occupiers. Cesar Chelala (Qatar's Gulf Times) quotes Oxfam's Jeremy Hobbs declaring, "The terrible violence in Iraq has masked the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Malnutrition amongst children has dramatically increased and basic services, ruined by years of wars and sanctions, cannot meet the needs of the Iraqi people. Millions of Iraqis have been forced to flee the violence, either to another part of Iraq or abroad. Many of those are living in dire poverty."

Dire poverty. A characteristic of those Iraqi refugees being tricked into returning from Syria.
Hamza Hendai (AP) reports that Iraqi state television is broadcasting propaganda messages aimed at Iraqi refugees with tag lines such as "How sweet it is to return to Iraq". Yesterday on NPR's Morning Edition, Deborah Amos reported the reality revealed from refugees returning to Iraq: "many are going back because it is too difficult to stay in Syria. In October, Syria made it harder for Iraqis to enter the country. About 1,000 return to Iraq every day, but at least 500 cross into Syria daily -- running from kidnappings, bombings or personal threats. Falah Jaber, an Iraqi sociologist, says that those who have been personally targeted by violence will be the last ones to consider going home" and quoted Jaber stating, "What we have seen this far is just a trickle. We have one and a half million" external refugees so "the return of 30,000 is not yet a pro-return case." Jamie Tarabay (Morning Edition) broadcast the thoughts of Suad Moahmmed who explained, "We were kicked out of our home in Dora. They took my house and furniture" and, upon returning, discovered that a militia leader had sold the home. [The Red Crescent notes that the number of internal refugees has dipped from 2.3 million to 2.19 million.] Next month, as IRIN reported yesterday, Iraqis will discover that the items available to them will drop from ten to five and that the remaining five will be distributed in lower numbers. The food rations that Iraqis need just to struggle through are being cut because the (puppet) government wants to do the White House's bidding. Children's milk is not being reduced, it is being CUT OUT all together. This at a time when you have at least 28% of Iraqi children suffering from malnutrition and when over 11% of infants are underweight. This is criminal. The rations cards were something Paul Bremer tried to stamp out but couldn't. It took an allegedly independent puppet government to betray the already suffering children of Iraq. And these are the people that the White House says must be supported. Of course they say that, the White House wants to do away with the rations as well. But that's the sort of 'leadership' in the puppet government of Iraq: the already suffering children, living in a war zone, can suffer a lot more because the puppet government has other priorities (which we will no doubt learn, a year or so from now, included lining their own pockets).

And, in other bad news,
the US Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, went to Iraq. Iraq trumpets greeted him -- if car and roadside bombings can pass for trumpets.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded two police officers, a Baghdad car bombing claimed 14 lives with at least thirty-three more wounded, a Mosul car bombing claimed 1 life and left seven more injured, a Diyala car bombing at a Baquba bus station claimed 5 lives leaving twelve more wounded and Biji roadside bombing claimed 1 life. Reuters reports a car bombing targeting Brig. Gen Kakamen Hameed that left him and nine other people wounded in Kirkuk and also killed 2 people (inlcuding one of Hameed's bodyguards).


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports "a Kurd security officer" was shot dead in Tuz Khurmatu. Reuters notes a sheikh was shot dead Kut.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 4 corpses were discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes a corpse discovered in Dhuluiya.

Today the
US military announced: "Two Multi-National Division-North Soldiers were killed as a result of injuries sustained from a complex attack involving an improvised explosive device and small arms fire while conducting operations in Salah ad Din province, Dec. 4." And today they announced: "A Multi-National Division – North Soldier died Dec. 5 as a result of wounds sustained from an attack involving an improvised explosive device and small-arms fire while conducting operations in Salah ad Din province Dec. 4." And late yesterday, they announced: "A U.S. Soldier was killed as a result of injuries sustained from a vehicle explosion during a vehicle recovery operation in Al Anbar province Dec. 3. "

Turning to US politics, yesterday Democratic contenders for the 2008 presidential nomination (except Bill Richardson) took part in the NPR 'debate' that was pretty embarrassing.
Click here for audio (and transcript link) and here for just transcript. First thing you may have noticed is that Iraq fell off the radar. That's not the first debate this has happened but Barack Obama didn't even appear jazzed to use his "I was against the war before it started" (while refusing to note his change of position beginning in 2004). What's happening? The public hasn't lost interest in the illegal war. In fact the latest poll found it the issue most noted by respondents -- you could take the second and third most cited issues (economy and healthcare), add them together and Iraq would still outrank them. But the media has lost interest. Commenting on a new report by Media Lens, John Pilger (New Statesman) summarizes, "Like the reported 'success' of the US 'surge' in Iraq, the Soviet equivalent allowed 'poor peasants [to work] the land peacefully'. Like the Americans and British in Iraq and Afghanistan, Soviet troops were liberators who became peacekeepers and always acted in 'self-defence'. The BBC's Mark Urban's revelation of the "first real evidence that President Bush's grand design of toppling a dictator and forcing a democracy into the heart of the Middle East could work" (Newsnight, 12 April 2005) is almost word for word that of Soviet commentators claiming benign and noble intent behind Moscow's actions in Afghanistan. The BBC's Paul Wood, in thrall to the 101st Airborne, reported that the Americans 'must win here if they are to leave Iraq . . . There is much still to do.' That precisely was the Soviet line." That really does summarize the nonsense of the 'debate.' Mike Gravel, naming one specific answer he didn't have, stated, "I don't have an answer to be able to persuade the American people that they are the solution, not their leaders. I wish I had the answer to convince them of that." The worst moment -- a tough call -- probably involved when this was declared: "Oh, come on. You know what you want to do on that. You want to impeach people." That was aimed at Dennis Kucinich. Which candidate decided to freak out Kucinich? No candidate. That was Steve Inskeep of NPR. And, no, he didn't speak to other candidates like that. Exactly what did NPR think of that? If that's NPR 'tude, it certainly wasn't spread out to the other candidates. More importantly, Kucinich doesn't want to "impeach people." He's introduced a resolution to impeach Dick Cheney and he thinks the Bully Boy needs to be impeached. "People" certainly sounds 'wilder.' 'Oh, that crazy Dennis, he just wants to impeach us all!' Steve Inskeep embarrassed himself and so did Ruth Conniff for failing to note that in her commentary (at The Progressive) or to note that Iraq -- the most cited issue by voters -- wasn't addressed seriously in the debate which, again, lasted two hours. Two hours and they couldn't explore Iraq. NPR needs to take a look at themselves. Were the 'moderators' unaware the Iraq War was still going on? That is shameful even before you note that NPR is 'public radio.' The public ranks Iraq as the most important issue, it's a damn shame the fools at NPR don't.

Staying on politics, we'll close with the opening of
Sharon Smith's latest commentary at CounterPunch:

The December 17th issue of the liberal Nation magazine contains an article penned by former California Senator Tom Hayden, purporting to offer antiwar voters a glimpse of hope for mainstream relevance in the coming election year-which will certainly be a contest between two pro-war candidates from the two corporate political parties. Hayden's article, "How the Peace Movement Can Win: A Field Guide," exudes confidence that antiwar activists have a role to play in spreading a message of peace as the presidential primaries begin on January 3rd.
Hayden acknowledges that, even as a Congressional majority over the last year, Democrats have provided little more than an "echo" for the Bush administration. He also admits that leading Democratic presidential contenders refuse to guarantee troop withdrawal before 2013, arguing, "The platform of 'out by 2013' may be a sufficient difference from the Republicans for some, but it won't satisfy the most committed antiwar voters." He notes that all the leading candidates vaguely assert the need, as Hillary Clinton does, for "a smaller American force left behind dedicated to training Iraqis and counter-terrorism."
Nevertheless, Hayden's "Field Guide" exhorts antiwar activists to get out the vote for 2008-for whichever candidate becomes the anointed Democratic nominee. "Only in this way," Hayden argues without evidence, "will the peace movement succeed in expanding and intensifying antiwar feeling to a degree that will compel the politicians to abandon their six-year timetable for a far shorter one."

jeremy hinzmanbrandon hughey