Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Iraqi refugees

"Trickle." That is the term C.I.'s used to refer to the alleged "Great Return" to Iraq. So I enjoyed Deborah Amos' report ("More Iraqi Refugees Returning from Syria," Morning Edition, NPR) especially when an Iraqi sociologist referred to it as a "trickle" as well:

While Iraqi officials highlight security improvements, interviews with Iraqi refugees reveal 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.
"What we have seen this far is just a trickle," he says. "We have one and a half million [Iraqi refugees]. The return of 30,000 is not yet a pro-return case."
In Damascus, more than 50,000 Iraqi refugees need food packages to survive and many come to a U.N. distribution center for help. Officials with the U.N. Food Program project the number will grow to 100,000 by the winter.

The other thing I would recommend today would be Margaret Prescod's discussion on Venezuela this morning on KPFK's Sojourner Truth.

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

Tuesday, December 4, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, Katrina provides the jokes, the 'great return' never was, oil deals are encouraged and Iraqis are told there's no money in the budget for children's milk . . .

Starting with war resisters. On November 15th, Canada's Supreme Court refused to hear the appeals of US war resisters
Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey. David Stein (Canadian National Newspaper) examines some of the issues involved in their case and notes the work of the War Resisters Support Campaign. Stein notes, "The Supreme Court decision appeared to disrespect Canadian constitutional precedence in relation to the safe haven that Canada provided . . . during the 1960's, and current law associated with refugees fleeing oppression and persecutory law." Along with those points there is also a court ruling that came down at the end of November. Hinzman and Hughey wanted to be recognized as a refugees. The verdict they received appeared based on (and certainly the US ambassador to Canada echoes this line) the fact that Canada and the United States are so 'tight.' Not all that tight. Nicholas Keung (Toronto Star) reported November 30th, "Canada will no longer have the right to turn back asylum seekers at the American border under a federal court ruling that deems the United States not a safe country for refugees -- opening the door for a potential flood of northbound claimants." What's going on? This has to do with refugees who land first in the United States and then continue onto Canada intending to apply for asylum there. These are not the same issues involved in Hughey and Hinzman's case, true, but one of the beliefs is that the US is peachy keen and no harm can come from expelling war resisters back to the United States. But, notice, with another class of refugees, a Canadian federal court says asylum seekers who land in the US and then continue onto Canada can not be refused entry and returned to the US. Keung notes the following as areas of concerns to Judge Michael Phelan: "the issues over the American authorities' use of expedited removals and use of detention, combined with concerns over the U.S.'s rigid application of the one-year bar to refugee claims, the provisions governing security issues and terrorism based on a lower standard, called into question whether the U.S. is safe for asylum seekers." Again, that case and the issues involved in the asylum claims by US war resisters are different, but one federal court is saying that one class of refugees cannot be refused entry into Canada and the Judge also specifically noted the United States' violation of the Convention Against Torture. The courts have failed war resisters and now the energy is focused on the Canadian Parliament which will hold hearings on the subject December 11th.

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

Courage to Resist profiles war resister Kimberly Rivera explaining how she ended up checking out and moving with her husband and children to Canada: "Kimberly Rivera grew up in Mesquite, Texas, a suburb east of Dallas. She had never thought of becoming a soldier until she was seventeen and the Army recruiters visited her home to meet with Kimberly and her parents. The recruiters offered money for college that her family did not have. Her mother was supporting Kimberly, her father, and her two sisters after her father suffered a work related accident. She took an aptitute test for job placement out of 'curiosity', but later signed up to be a mechanic. She was given an elistment date following graduation for the Army Resevers." She was released from the military due to pregnancy at the end of 200. With the costs of raising two children, she decided to re-enlist and found herself stationed in Iraq. "I felt like I was losing my mind. I was so close to death so many times. It scares me now. My life as I knew it was falling apart and I was unable to pull it together. I was surrouned by males who were filled with filthy comments and talking about all kinds of sexual things. I was there for three months and was scared that some of the guys might try to get me to trust them just so later they could have their chance to abuse me." A not uncommon nor unrealistic fear based on reported cases of sexual assault in the military. "While in Iraq losing soldiers and civilians was part of daily life. I was a gate guard. This was looked down on by infantry soldiers who go out in the streets, but gate guards are the highest security of the Foward Operation Base. We searched vehicles, civilian personnel, and military convoys that left and came back every hour. I had a huge awakening seeing the war as it truly is: people losing their lives for greed of a nation and the effects on the soldiers who come back with new problems such as nightmares, anxieties, depression, anger alcohol abuse, missing limbs and scars from burns. Some don't come back at all. On December 21, 2006 I was going to my room and something in my heart told me to go call my husband. And when I did 24 rounds of mortars hit the FOB in a matter of minutes after I got on the phone . . . the mortars were 10-15 feet from where I was. I found a hole from the shrapnel in my room in the plywood window. That night I found the shrapnel on my bed in the same place where my head would have been if I hadn't changed my plans and gone to the phone." The death of an Iraqi civilian and a base visit by an Iraq father and his daughter took place before her leave. While in Texas on leave, she and her husband made the decision to go to Canada. In the Iraq War, there are many resisters who never go public. Of those who go public, Stephen Funk is the first to resist. Camilo Mejia is the first Iraq veteran to resist, Jeremy Hinzman is the first resister to go public in Canada, Ehren Watada is the first officer to resist, Eli Israel is the first to resist while stationed in Iraq and Kimberly Rivera is the first female resister to go public in Canada.

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.

A lot to cover and we can probably use a joke before getting started. Fortunately editor & publisher
Katrina vanden Heuvel (The Nation via Common Dreams) provides it, "But here's the real problem (because we all know horserace coverage is what we're going to get at this stage in this endless campaign). . . Even if the Post or the Times devoted a full story analyzing the leading candidates' healthcare proposals, how much attention would the two papers give to alternatives offered by someone like Congressman Dennis Kucinich -- the only candidate supporting a truly universal, Medicare for all, healthcare plan, that according to recent polls, has majority support? I suspect very little." Are you sides aching yet? The Nation has featured Dennis Kucinich on the cover once this year -- in a drawing of all the Democratic presidential candidates. Barack Obama was on that cover. He's also had two solo covers this year. On Iraq, Dennis Kucinich is the only candidate to publicly oppose the illegal war consistently. (In 2002, Obama was against it. By 2004, he was stating the US had to stay and telling the New York Times that if he had been in Congress in 2002, he didn't know how he would have voted. He gets into the Senate and votes to fund the illegal war over and over. Somehow The Nation repeatedly misses everything that followed his 2002 'anti-dumb war' speech.) So vanden Heuvel is truly the last to lecture daily papers about their coverage of the campaign. She can't even include Kucinich's name in her post title. And, it gets better, after getting her high horse about how little coverage the New York Times or the Washington Post would give to Kucinich's health care proposal . . . she goes on to review the plans of . . . John Edwards, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. 24 paragraphs of 'coverage' and 'analysis' and she can't even include Kucinich in the mix -- after getting castigating others who might do . . . what she just did. Smooth down your skirt, your hypocrisy's showing.

Now to serious issue,
Ira Chernus (Common Dreams) warns readers that various mouthpieces are trying to declare Iraq is no longer an issue: "If Iraq is disappearing from the headlines, there is some other factor at work here. I suspect it's that editors and cable show hosts are watching what's going on, not only in Iraq, but in Washington and in elite policymaking circles (like the Council on Foreign Relations, where [Peter] Beinart is a senior fellow). They know that at the highest levels the debate about what to do in Iraq pretty much ended over this summer." What is about the Council on Foreign Relations and how they refuse to get serious about the illegal war. You get the feeling that if they ran an allegedly left magazine, they'd be ignoring the war, war resisters, et al and doing cover stories on rubber duckies and horseraces. Hey, that describes The Nation. Oh, yeah, KvH, Council on Foreign Relations.

In the real world,
Cara Buckley (New York Times) notes that the Red Crescent says 25,000 Iraq refugees have returned to Iraq since mid-September -- 25,000, only 25,000. CBS and AP note: "Officials in Iraq and Syria have said more than 46,000 refugees returned in October and claimed the flow has continued unabated." Far from the inflated numbers the puppet government has repeatedly told the press. Meanwhile the United Nations High Commission for Refugees Steffan de Mistura held a news conference to emphasize that "this is not a massive return" and that Iraq couldn't hanlde a massive return. CBS and AP quote the Iraqi Red Crescent report on why some are returning: "The high cost of living and rented apartments and the limited employment opportunities contributed to lack of stability of Iraqi families and increased their passion to return to their country." And of course being bribed and bused in doesn't hurt either. Who is the central (puppet) government in Iraq preying on? Hannah Allam and Miret el Naggar (McClatchy Newspapers) examine at life in Syria:Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees in Syria face a bleak winter, with rising fuel costs that could leave many without enough money for food, the director of the World Food Program said Monday.About a third of Iraqi respondents in a recent United Nations study said they skipped one meal a day to feed their children. Nearly 60 percent said that they're buying cheaper, less nutritious food to cope with a dramatic increase in prices.With the weather turning colder and heating prices rising, humanitarian workers predict more Iraqis will go hungry in order to keep up with rent and utilities."We need more help here," WFP executive director Josette Sheeran said in an interview.The WFP, a U.N. agency that is the world's largest humanitarian organization, provides food to about 50,000 Iraqi families who've sought refuge in Syria. Sheeran said that her organization doesn't have the funds to maintain its $5.6 million operation and that she soon will call for more international assistance.There are the refugees being preyed upon, being told it is 'safe' in Iraq, being bribed to return. And let's talk about what happens when they return. The United Nations' IRIN reports that Abid Falah al-Soodani (Trade Minister) announced yesterday that, starting next month, "the quantity of national food rations delivered freely to all Iraqi families will be futher reduced -- from 10 to five items." Now let's be clear, this isn't just halfing the food supplies. He told the Iraqi Parliament that the five items provided will be provided in lower numbers. Here's what's getting cut out: tea, beans, children's milk, soap detergent and tomato paste. Here's what's getting reduced: rice, sugar, cooking oil, flour and milk for adults. What a way to say, "Welcome Home!" And to be clear, despite the lies, this has nothing to do with a government 'shortfall.' This is about ending the subsidies which Paul Bremer already tried once. The Iraqi government has more money than they spend at this point (though a great deal ends up in personal pockets) and this claim that they can't afford to supply children with milk is nothing but a lie. In other attacks on the Iraqi people, UPI reports that the Samuel Bodman (US Secretary of Energy) met with the "Kurdish region's oil minister" to push for the Iraqi theft-of-oil law proposal and, in contradiction to previous White House public positions, he's giving a green light to "international oil companies" to start signing Iraqi oil deals.

Reuters reports US forces shot 4 Iraqi civilians at a checkpoint in Tamiya on Monday and that one has died. In other reported violence today . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing that wounded two people, a Dalli Abbas mortar attack that left eight people wounded and a Jalawla bombing that claimed the lives of 6 people with twenty-five more injured.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the latest attacks on an official: today "gunmen opened fire attacking the house of the ministry of electricity Kareem Waheed in Zayuna neighborhood east Baghdad wounding three of his guards"; yesterday "Atallah Eskander, the member in the local council of Hawija town west of Kirkuk and his driver Hamad Ali Hussein" were shot dead; on Saturday Mun'im Hadi ("employee of Diwaniyah city intelligence directorate office") was shot dead in Najaf. Reuters notes 1 "security officer" was shot dead in Tuz Khurmato (his brother was injured).


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 6 corpses discovered in Baghdad and 2 outside Kirkuk. Reuters notes 3 corpses discovered in Mosul and 2 in Mahaweel.

Walter Cronkite and David Krieger (Common Dreams) explore the topic of the illegal war and what needs to be done:

The American people no longer support the war in Iraq. The war is being carried on by a stubborn president who, like Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War, does not want to lose. But from the beginning this has been an ill-considered and poorly prosecuted war that, like the Vietnam War, has diminished respect for America. We believe Mr. Bush would like to drag the war on long enough to hand it off to another president.
The war in Iraq reminds us of the tragedy of the Vietnam War. Both wars began with false assertions by the president to the American people and the Congress. Like Vietnam, the Iraq War has introduced a new vocabulary: "shock and awe," "mission accomplished," "the surge." Like Vietnam, we have destroyed cities in order to save them. It is not a strategy for success.
The Bush administration has attempted to forestall ending the war by putting in more troops, but more troops will not solve the problem. We have lost the hearts and minds of most of the Iraqi people, and victory no longer seems to be even a remote possibility. It is time to end our occupation of Iraq, and bring our troops home.

jeremy hinzmanbrandon hughey