"If you look at the international convention for the protection of the children's rights, to which Iraq is a signatory, I just wonder how many articles of that convention has the government put into practice? I'm sure the answer is none." That is what Abeer Chalabi tells NPR's Jamie Tarabay on NPR's Morning Edition today. Ms. Chalabi is the Iraqi government and over the state orphanages and Ms. Tarabali is examing life for Iraqi children in a country where an estimated four-million-plus are orphans.
I want to drop back to Ava and C.I.'s "TV: 60 Wasted Minutes" on the recent 60 Minutes broadcast about Iraqi Christians in Baghdad. They are discussing the loose-with-the-truth clergy leader from the United Kingdom, Andrew White:
White made the claim that the reason women and children were so present in the service that CBS filmed was because many of the adult males had been killed. That may be true. It certainly is true of other segments of the Iraqi population; however, as two who've seen White lie on television and in person, we feel required to note that he did the shifty-eye move he's prone to when attempting to peal off a whopper. Something about those remarks was untrue. It may have been about those assembled and how they were assembled or the way they were dressed or the fact that all were not only well dressed but also freshly washed. This was in the Green Zone, true, but the visual footage indicated that the church only 'assisted' the well scrubbed -- in the midst of an illegal war. (As two who have been in missions in Latin America, we're quite aware that conflict is messy and dirty and that's what we're getting at for anyone wrongly thinking we're implying that Iraqis can't be 'clean.' That's not the issue. The issue is the most effected, the neediest, don't usually clean up so well due to the circumstances they live under, even when TV crews are present.)
This is from Ms. Tarabay's report today:
The sight of dirty children pressed up against car windows at traffic intersections is as common in Baghdad as the permanent layer of dust that blankets every surface, every statue and every bridge in the city.
When I heard the report today, I immediately thought back to Ava and C.I.'s critique because when I watched the 60 Minutes report two weekends ago, I remember thinking how nice everyone looked for the service. After I read their critique, I realized I should have wondered why that was.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:
Friday, December 14, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces deaths, the refugee crisis has new news, Nancy Pelosi tries a stand-up career and more.
Starting with war resistance, the War Resisters Support Campaign works to assist individual resisters in Canada and to fight for the rights of asylum of war resisters. They are calling for a national mobilization in Canada on January 26th. Courage to Resist is calling on people in the US to call the Canadian consulates in the US on January 24th and January 25th as well as to mobilize and with actions and vigils. Actions can take place around the world at Canadian consulates in every country.
In terms of e-mailing, where the pressure needs to be currently is on the these three:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper (email@example.com -- that's pm at gc.ca) who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion (Dion.S@parl.gc.ca -- that's Dion.S at parl.gc.ca) who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua (Bevilacqua.M@parl.gc.ca -- that's Bevilacqua.M at parl.gc.ca) who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. Brave stands need to be supported.
US war resister Aidan Delgado received CO status and was discharged. He shares his story in The Sutras Of Abu Ghraib: Notes From A Conscientious Objector In Iraq which Forbes offered a book excerpt of after Thanksgiving:
In a larger sense, what happened to me in Iraq is completely irrelevant. The sights, the sounds, the tastes are all just curiosities that I present in an effort to paint the picture. I could give you an endless series of vignettes: what Iraq looked like, what we ate, the interesting characters in my unit, but it would all be meaningless. If you want to read about daring military exploits, there are many authors with stories more dashing than mine. It would be vain and empty merely to chronicle what happened to me, as if I were somehow so important that you needed to hear every event of my life in excruciating detail. I am not telling parlor stories.
I wrote this book because I want to share a lesson I learned in the desert, in the hope that it will inform your view of the war in Iraq, of politics, of religion, of all the choices you make as a moral person. I can't bear to hear any more stories about battles and uncompromising heroes, with flags waving gently in the background. I want this book to serve as a hanging question about what it means to be an ethical soldier, to live an honest life. I want to give you a military life in shades of gray, filled with doubt, moral courage and moral cowardice.
Delgado's book (and other books, DVDs, CDs, clothing, etc.) can be purchased via Courage to Resist (as well as at bookstores) and part of the proceeds will go towards helping the organization working to end the illegal war.
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 Sunday December 16th at Culture Project -- this is your LAST WEEKEND to catch it -- 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 $41.. 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.
Meanwhile 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.
Starting with legal news. Delano Holmes was sentenced today. For? Killing Iraqi soldier Munther Jasem Muhammed Hassin by repeatedly stabbing him over forty times. Lance Cpl. Delano Holmes then, after Hassin was dead, fired Hassin's gun. As Rick Rogers (San Diego Union-Tribune) notes, Holmes declared on video that, "I picked up (Hassin's) AK and fired it, as to give myself a way out ... for getting into it with this Iraqi soldier." The court-martial was a joke as was the sentencing. Holmes had a high school teacher, a foster parent and others there to speak of his good character. Where were the people speaking for the dead Hassin? Had the court-martial been held in Iraq, since Hassin was an Iraqi soldier, there might have been people who grew up with him and/or trained with him who could vouch for his character. Since the defense (and to a degree the prosecution) dependent solely on the account of Holmes as to what happened (the defense attempted to argue a fight broke out over a lit cigarette and a cellphone), it might have been relevant to know whether or not Hassin was prone to engaging fights let alone (as the defense maintained) starting them. But for that to happen, the court-martial would have had to take place in Iraq. Since the crime took place in Iraq (Falluja), the court-martial should have as well. AP reports that yesterday Holmes was found guilty "of negligent homicide" but not of "unpremeditated homicide." AP also notes the prosecution's statement regarding the alleged fight Holmes stated had ensued: "Not a scratch. Not a blemish. . . . There is not a mark on him. There is no self-defense. There can be lawful killins during a time of war. This is not a lawful killing." Despite being found guilty of two charges, NBC's KNSD reports Holmes will receive no jail time -- receiving 'credit' instead for the 10 months he was held in custody leading up to the court-martial. What 'credit' does the dead Hassin receive? Or is that life less important? Other 'punishments' for Holmes include being busted down from Lance Cpl. to private and receiving "a bad-conduct discharge." So this is 'justice' -- kill an Iraqi and the time you're jailed before the trial will count as time-served and you won't receive any additional time. Hassin is dead. No one stood up at the sentencing for Hassin. No one offered stories of what he was like as a child, no religious figure stepped forward to vouch for his good soul. Considering that the court-martial took place in California and that California has been one of the leaders in the US on allowing the families of victims to speak at sentencings, that's offensive on every level imaginable. Rick Rogers (San Diego Union-Tribune) reports, "'Wow,' Maj. Christopher Shaw, a prosecutor, said under his breath when the sentence was read in a courtroom at Camp Pendleton." Wow indeed. Rob Schneider (Indianapolis Star) notes the maximum prison sentence Holmes could have received was 8 years. Instead, he received no prison time. Hassin, however, remains dead.
In other justice or 'justice' news, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) reports, "The Justice Department has announced the FBI is investigating the top official overseeing corruption and abuse in the US-led reconstruction of Iraq. Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuwart Bowen is under suspicion for a series of improprieties including tampering with employee emails. Bowen's investigations have indicted several American officials on corruption charges, documented wasteful and inept work by large contractors and found the Pentagon did not properly track hundreds of thousands of weapons given to Iraqi troops. The Bush administration tried to close down his office last year but backed off following Congressional opposition." Robin Wright (Washington Post) notes a number of allegations against Bowen in particular and the office in general and by the time it gets down to "Cruz threatened to put hexes on employees," readers may be skeptical whether this is an investigation or the sort of thing used by Republicans before -- see Robert Parry's Secrecy & Privilege or read articles at Consortium News such as "Rise of the 'Patriotic Journalist':" "Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh, a Republican, also encountered press hostility when his investigation finally broke through the White House cover-up in 1001. Moon's Washington Times routinely lambasted Walsh and his staff over minor issues, such as the elderly Walsh flying first class on airplanes or odering room-service meals."
Parry reports most recently on the latest wave of biometrics in Iraq which will further the targeting of Iraqis by making mobile labs which, no, do not determine guilt or innocent but may lead to more 'suspects' dying. Parry notes, "In effect, the Bush administration is transforming Iraq into a test tube for modern techniques of repression, which already include use of night-vision optics on drone aircraft, heat resonance imaging, and firepower that is both deadly and precise. The new techniques represent a modernization of tactics used in other counterinsurgencies, such as in Vietnam in the 1960s and in Central America in the 1980s. . . . The U.S. news media mostly has reacted to these developments with gee-whiz enthusiasm, like the [Washington] Post story about [Anh] Duong, which breezily depicts her complicated life as a devoted mom whose personal history as a Vietnamese refugee led her to a career developing sophisticated weapons for the U.S. government. The Post feature article expressed no alarm and no criticism of Duong's comment about shooting Iraqi suspects 'on the spot'."
Turning to the issue of Iraqi refugees, John Ross joins Robert Parry in calling out the lies of Operation Happy Talk. Writing at CounterPunch, Ross notes that the latest waves roll out as primaries approach "the usual unholy alliance of Bushites, Democrats and Big media . . . doing their damndest to skam a skeptical electorate into swallowing the lie that the surge has worked, the drawdown has begun, and the war in Iraq is just about over. . . . All this happy talk gets Bush and the Republicans off the hook for an overwhelmingly unpopular war just in time for the U.S. presidential election season. It also means that the Democrats won't have to defend their half-hearted call for withdrawal and risk being tarred as traitors on the 24 House news cycle."
Will come back to the Congress in a bit, but staying on Iraqi refugees. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Office issues the latest findings of their studies of Iraqi refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Most are living on savings and assistance from relatives with UNHCR's Jennifer Pagonis explaining, "33 percent say their financial resources will last for three months or less, while 24 percent are relying on remittances from family abroad to survive." Significant numbers are suffering from illnesses and lack of medication due to money issues while 10% of Iraqi children are working. Meanwhile the UN's IRIN reports that "Jordan is now demanding that Iraqis wishing to enter the kingdom first secure entry visas, the official Jordanian news agency Petra said on 11 December." The most recent edition of RCRC The Magazine of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement notes, "In the largest population movement in the Middle East since 1948, a huge influx of Iraqis is putting pressure on services in Jordan and Syria. . . . Security in Iraq has deteriorated to such an unprecedented level, due to the international armed conflict that began in 2003 and internal fighting, that many Iraqis find it nearly impossible to live in their own country. The result is that an estimated 4.2 million Iraqis have left their homes, the largest population movement in the Middle East since more than 800,000 Palestinians fled to neighbouring countries in 1948, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)."
From harsh reality to comedy, on yesterday's PBS' NewsHour US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was yucking it up:
GWEN IFILL: I want to point out to you -- I'm sure you've seen them -- page one of today's Capitol Hill newspapers, "Dems Cave," another ones says, "Democrats set to cave on Iraq, on the budget." What do you say to people who call this a cave-in Democratic Congress?REP. NANCY PELOSI: Well, I guess they're trying to sell papers, but the fact is, is that I will never confine the hopes, aspirations of the American people, as reflected in the legislation of the House of Representatives, to what the president of the United States, George W. Bush, will sign.We set a high watermark. We negotiate. We compete. We debate for our position to be held. And I'm pleased that, when we come out of this process, our priorities will be largely intact. It won't be funded to the levels that we want, but I'll never start at the president's bottom line. We'll always start at a high watermark.Her leadership started on a "high watermark"? How very, very, very sad that is considered a personal high. The Democrats refuse to 'compete' and refuse to force a vote on Iraq every day. This isn't new or novel. The May 22nd snapshot noted the following:
Meanwhile James Ridgeway (Mother Jones via Common Dreams) explores the presidential campaign of Mike Gravel who tells Ridgeway, "What we need to do [on Iraq] is to create a constitutional confrontation between the Congress and the president. Most people have forgotten the Congress is more powerful than the president. . . The Democrats have the votes in the House to pass it. In the Senate, they will filibuster it. Fine. The Majority Leader starts a cloture vote the first day. Fails to get cloture. Fine. The next day -- another vote on cloture. And the next day, and the next day, Saturdays and Sundays, no vacation -- vote every single day. The dynamic is that now you give people enough time to weigh in and put pressure on those voting against cloture. . . . I would guess in 15 to 20 days you would have cloture and the bill would pass and go to the president. He would veto it. Wonderful. It comes back to the House and Senate. Normal thing is to try to override and fail. No guts. No leadership. So in the House and Senate. Normal thing is to try to override and fail. No guts. No leadership. So in the House and Senate every day at noon, you have a vote to override the veto. The Democrats are the leaders -- they control the calendar. It only takes half an hour to have these votes."
That's not novel, that's not unknown. Congress has used that before. Gravel's been repeatedly advocating it all this year so for Pelosi to LIE to the American people is really sad. She declares that, "We know what to do to further meet the needs of the American people with this president and the obstructionism in the United States Senate. We can only do so much." FILIBUSTER. They could force a vote over and over. They don't do what's in their power to do. "We will only do so much" is a more honest answer than "we can only do so much." But Pelosi obviously hopes we've all forgotten the repeated caves or the fact that it took people like Cindy Sheehan, Tina Richards and many others to even force them to pretend to address the illegal war. "Vote for us in 2006, we'll end the war!" They were given control of both houses of Congress and . . . did nothing. But the 2008 elections are gearing up and it's time to trot out the "Vote for us . . ." cry again. We'll return to Congress in a moment but let's note some of the reported violence in the ongoing illegal war today:
Reuters notes an Anbar Province that left six police officers wounded
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a village attack in Mansouriat with at least 3 people shot dead and two wounded. Reuters notes 1 person was shot dead in Kirkuk by people "posing as Iraqi army soldiers," and US forces "killed three 'terrorists'" in Baghdad.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad.
Today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division -- Center Soldier died of wounds suffered when the Soldier's dismounted patrol encountered an improvised explosive device south of Baghdad Dec. 13." And they announced: "A Soldier from Multi-National Division -- Baghdad was killed Dec. 13 in a small-arms fire attack in southern Baghdad. The deceased Soldier's name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense."
Pelosi told Ifill yesterday, "But there's no question, ending the war was a -- is a high priority for us and a big disappointment to many people that we weren't able to do it." The two deaths brought the total number of US service members who have died while serving in Iraq to 3891. Pelosi wasn't quick to offer Ifill the number of how many service members have died since she assumed control. The 110th Congress was sworn in January 4, 2007 -- Democrats having control of both houses. That evening the total number stood at 3006. 885 deaths since Pelosi became the Speaker of the House and Harry Reid became the Senate Majority Leader. When voters gave Dems control of both houses in the November 2006 elections, they weren't saying, "Dilly-dally around and do con jobs on us while nearly 900 US service members die in an illegal war." They were saying "END THE WAR!" As Ron Jacobs (CounterPunch) notes:
Okay. I'm going to state the obvious here. After all, somebody needs to say it. In fact, everybody who sees it needs to say it. Are you ready? Then here goes. The men and women calling themselves Democrats and sitting in Congress are the biggest bunch of liars this country has ever seen. Given today's political situation, what with Bush and Cheney running the White House, that's a pretty big claim to make. Unfortunately for those who believed those men and women might actually stop the war in Iraq and begin getting the US military out of there, this is the only conclusion one can make.I mean, take a look. There are more troops in Iraq now than there were when the Democrats won (yeh, won) both houses of Congress a little over a year ago. If my calculations are correct, more than $100 billion have been spent to keep those troops there, keep them in supplies both lethal and otherwise, and to top it off, more troops have died since those elected "representatives" took their places than in any other year of this loathsome war and occupation. Add to this list of calamities the untold numbers of Iraqis killed, wounded and uprooted from their homes. No matter how you look at it, there is no way this can be called ending the war. In fact, not only could it be called enabling this debacle to continue, the more truthful description would be to call what the Democrats have done is conspire to commit murder.
That is reality and Pelosi can call it 'pretty' and paint it up all she wants but it is an ugly reality and one that should cause the Dems to hang in their heads in shame until they end the illegal war.
The Dems have done Americans and Iraqis no favor but in Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki's happy to play a favor game. Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) details how Iraqis are being prevented from making the yearly pilgrimage by the Iraqi government: " Iraqis who want to go on the pilgrimage say officials have issued approvals only for relatives and party members. The Iraqi government led by U.S.-appointed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is Shia dominated, and many Iraqis say selection for the pilgrimage is sectarian." al-Fadhily quotes Sheik Fadhil Mahmood explaining, "It is a shame that corruption now goes as far as the Hajj. This is the fifth year that many Iraqis are deprived of their right to go to Mecca, while those who are members of parties in power, and militiamen, go every year. Most of our pilgrims are going for political and commercial purposes." While the pilgrimage to Mecca can't be made, Basra Christians can't publicly celebrate Christmas; however, Damien McElroy (Telegraph of London) reports that if Santa can't come, the US more than likely will: "American troops may have to be sent to Basra once British force levels are halved next year" according to Major General Graham Binns.Molly Bingham and Steve Connors amazing documentary is Meeting Resistance. As Bill Stamets (Chicago Sun-Times) notes, the film starts today (Friday) at Chicago's Facets, 1517 W. Fullerton with Bingham and Connors appearing "at screenings there tongiht and Saturday, and at an added screening at 3 p.m. Sunday at Beverly Arts Center, 2407 W. 111th St." Lastly, this is nothing but a stunt but if you're going to do a stunt, do it to help others and not for ratings. Ann Curry will bungee jump live Monday morning on NBC's Today Show as part of a fundraising effort for the charities Save the Children and the United Way. You can find out more information at The Today Show's website. Tonight on ABC's 20/20 there will be a report on the latest US woman to come forward about being gang-raped in Iraq. ABC's Brian Ross, Maddy Sauer and Justin Rood report on the sexual assault of Tracy Barker in Iraq:The Department of Justice declined to prosecute a State Department employee who allegedly sexually assaulted a female Halliburton/KBR worker in Iraq, despite a recommendation from the State Department that he be charged, according to an internal document obtained by ABC News.Ali Mokhtare, who is still employed by the State Department, was investigated in2005 after a female Halliburton/KBR employee said he sexually assaulted her at the company-run camp in Basra, Iraq. Mokhtare was a diplomatic official in Basra who first came to Iraq as a Farsi translator interviewing detainees.The U.S. Diplomatic Security Service investigated the allegations against Mokhtare and presented the case to the Justice Department for prosecution, but "the case was declined for prosecution" states the document.
Barker is quoted stating, "I'm an American citizen being assaulted by a State Department employee and nobody cares and nothing's being done about it." Tonight, ABC's 20/20 will explore the topic further. And Barker's not to be confused with Jamie Leigh Jones whose story (gang-raped and held in a 'container') ABC also broke this week.
anthony arnovehoward zinn
iraq veterans against the war
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