Friday, February 09, 2007

Friday post

Mike, Cedric and Wally were able to all visit Rebecca and Flyboy so it's a packed house this weekend and Rebecca's very happy about that. She is going to be going out and about next month. But the pregnancy meant that she really couldn't travel. She really had to take it easy (in terms of movement) so visits really do mean a great deal.

I won't lie, I was nervous. I did worry this would be another miscarriage. But this is the one. She's healthy, she's never been this far along in any pregnancy before and her doctor says that everything is smooth sailing. I understand her wanting to grab one more month of taking it slow because, if it were me, I would as well. Rebecca's not a stay a home type person. She's used to going everywhere and anywhere at the drop of a hat so this hasn't been easy for her but she's not complained. That's because this is really important and she was willing to do whatever was needed to carry this pregnancy to term.

By the way, she hasn't had any luck with the colors of "Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts 'Bully Boy & the Showboat Express'" -- we're both going to try to work on that this weekend. If we can't fix it (Isaiah has said: "It's no big deal."), I'll post it as is next week. It's a great comic, even with the yellows showing up as green.

"Truth or Consequences" (Dave Lindorff, CounterPunch):
President Bush makes a big deal out of his alleged "faith." Certainly a part of that faith ought to be speaking and behaving honestly. Just recently, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote a piece saying Vice President Dick Cheney should come clean with the American people by either answering a few questions or resigning. But if coming clean with the American people is required of the vice president, surely it is also required of the president, and Bush too, has a few questions to answer. If failure to answer honestly means Cheney should resign, Bush should be held to at least as high a standard.
Here then are a few of the questions Bush:
* Mr. Bush, what was your role in the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame? And were you lying to the press and the public when you said you had no idea who did it and wanted a thorough investigation into that leak?
We know that when information was first leaked to Robert Novak disclosing that former ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife Valerie Plame was a CIA undercover agent, you promised a vigorous investigation to find out who had done this treacherous thing. You also promised that whoever did it would be fired. Now we're seeing some evidence in the trial of Scooter Libby--including a handwritten note by Mr. Cheney--which suggests that you knew all about his role and in fact were actively involved in the leak.
* Why did you say to Congress and the American people in the 2003 State of the Union address, just weeks ahead of your invasion of Iraq, that you had just learned from British intelligence that Saddam Hussein had "recently sought" to purchase uranium ore from an African nation?
We know now that the documents in question--the forged Niger letters which purported to be receipts of sale, but which actually contained the faked signatures of officials who had not been part of Niger's government for a decade--were not new at all. In fact they had been presented to you a year and a half earlier by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. We know that you were informed by CIA and State Department intelligence people back then that the documents were fakes. That, of course, is why you didn't go straight to the press and Congress with them back in October of 2001, when you were, reportedly, looking for any excuse to have the U.S. go after Iraq. So a second question in this vein would be:
* Since you clearly were alerted that the documents were bogus way back in October of 2001, why did you cite them to Congress and the American public on January 28, 2003, and pretend that they were new information?
* While we're on the matter of the war, why did you claim in your official letter to Congress on March 18, 2003, announcing your intention to attack Iraq, that you were acting because Iraq posed "a continuing threat" against the United States" when it posed no immediate threat at all? And why did you claim the attack was part of "continuing" action against "international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001," when you knew that Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, and that Iraq posed no threat to the US?
These two justifications for going to war were both absolute lies, weren't they, and you certainly knew it, didn't you? You knew the UN inspectors were saying there were no weapons of mass destruction, and anyhow, you knew Saddam had no air force and no navy and no long-range rockets, so he had no delivery systems anyhow, and he was no threat to anybody. And since not one of the terrorists on those planes was Iraqi, and since there was no linkage ever demonstrated between Saddam Hussein and the hijackers or Al Qaeda, the second justification was just as bogus, right?

I prefer Lindorff's questions to Nicky K's. I think they deserve answers and have no trouble joining the call for impeachment. I think impeachment needs to be done to send a message to all future presidents that if you break the laws, if you lie to Congress, if you lie to the people, if you spy illegally, you are punished. Help the country if we don't do that and another sociopath ends up in the oval office.

Mike just asked me to mention Sunny. She was in Tacoma and got left out in some of the comments. She has written a piece that will run in Maria, Miguel and Francisco's newsletter Sunday. Mike explained to her that no one was sure if it was okay to mention to her but that he'd mention her tonight. He says she demonstrated and even went to two campuses with everyone and ended up speaking. She hadn't planned that and I'll get the back story on Monday but I'm sure she saw how comfortable the exchange was, C.I. really does set a wonderful tone, and that's why she spoke.

"The Najaf Massacre: an Annotated Fable" (Conn Hallinan, CounterPunch):
The target of the attack was not the "Soldiers of Heaven," but the al-Hatami and al-Khazali tribes, both of which oppose the current government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. According to the IPS reporters, the Iraqi Army fired on Hatami pilgrims on their way to Najaf for the Ashura holiday, which commemorates the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of Muhammad and Shi'ism's most revered saint. "We were going to conduct the usual ceremonies that we conduct every year when we were attacked by Iraqi soldiers," Jabber al-Hatami, leader of the tribe told IPS. Khazaali tribal members went to their aid. "Our two tribes have a strong belief that Iranians are provoking sectarian war in Iraq which is against the belief of all Muslims," one witness told the reporters, "and so we announced an alliance with Sunni brothers against any sectarian violence in the country. That did not make our Iranian-dominated government happy."
The tribes, according to Patrick Cockburn of the Independent, are opposed to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIR) and the Dawa Party, both of which are close to Iran and which dominate the Maliki government. Some Iraqi tribes object to Sistani because of his Iranian background, and they feel that religious leadership should be kept in the hands of Arabs.
The governor of Najaf, Asad Abu Ghalal, is a prominent member of SCIR, and was one of the major sources on the incident in stories that appeared in The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.
Tension between Arab and Iranian Shi'ites has been building in Iraq's south since death squads linked to the Maliki government began assassinating local tribal leaders. A death squad with ties to Iraq's Ministry of the Interior murdered Sheikh Faissal al-Khayoon, head of the large Beni Assad Shi'ite tribe, according to another IPS report . Beni Assad tribal members attacked the Iranian consulate in Basra in retaliation. On Jan. 1, the Mahdi Army of Moktada al Sadr assassinated Sheikh Hamid al-Suhail of the Shiia/Sunni Beni Tamim tribe. Sadr is a key ally of the Maliki government. According to Jamail and al-Fadhily, the Beni Assad and Beni Tamim tribes have worked for Shi'ite­Sunni unity.
The Independent claims that the "battle" began when the leader of the Hatami tribe, along with his wife and driver, were gunned down at an Iraqi Army checkpoint. The Iraqi Army is riddled with death squads, in particular the Badr Organization, the armed wing of the SCIR. When Hatami tribe members assaulted the checkpoint in revenge, the Iraqi Army called in U.S. helicopters and F-16s, and British Tornados. Tanks and humvees from the U.S. 25th Division were also summoned.
The tribe members fled into a plantation where they were pounded with 500-pound bombs that killed 263 and wounded 210. The Iraqi Army lost 25 soldiers, a casualty imbalance that Cockburn suggests points to not a battle but an "unprecedented massacre."

C.I. covered Najaf last week and it's mentioned in the snapshot today. I'll add to the above that when the victims are powerless or not part of the government, it's very easy for the press to say whatever it wants. No one calls for a correction and no correction gets offered. There are people who heard the 'cult' story and, no doubt, still believe it because the mainstream media has shown no interest in correcting it.

That's going to end it for me tonight. Usually, we end up blogging at the end of the night before we're all about to fall out on Friday night but since there are people I don't get to see that often, I'm going to cut this short and spend time talking.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, February 9, 2007. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq,
Ehren Watada's mistrial continues to be debated, "Who cooked the intel?" becomes a popular question, a leader of one group of resistance fighters in Iraq is quite clear in what is needed to end the war, and "Woops! We thought they were 'insurgents' or al-Qaeda!"

Starting with
Ehren Watada who, in June of last year, became the first commissioned officer in the US to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq because the war was illegal and immoral. On Monday, the court-martial of Ehren Watada began with jury selection for the military panel (seven officers were selected) who would, as Hal Bernton (Seattle Times) pointed out, "determine whether Watada spends up to four years in prison in one of the most high-profile cases to be tried at Fort Lewis." Watada was facing up to four years in prison and Lt. Col. John Head (aka Judge Toilet) refused to allow him to argue the reasons why he refused to deploy. This is why Norman Solomon (CounterPunch) called the proceedings "a kangaroo court-martial." . On Tuesday, the prosectution presented their case. Aaron Glantz discussed the day's events with Sandra Lupien on The KPFA Evening News noting: "The prosecution had 3 witnesses. It did not go as well as the prosecution would have liked. Lt. Col Bruce Antonia, who was the prosecution's star witness, as Lt. Watada's commander, said that nothing tangibly bad happened from Lt. Watada's refusal to go to" Iraq and
"[a]nother thing that did not go well for the prosecution today was that their own witnesses clearly showed that Lt. Watada tried other methods of expressing . . . [his opposition] to the Iraq war, internally within the military, before coming forward to speak to the public." Also noting the prosecution's poor performance on Tuesday (when they rested their case), was civil rights attorney
Bill Simpich who told Geoffrey Millard (Truthout): "The prosecution asked too many questions. By the time it was over, the prosecution witness had become a defense witness because the field was open. The defense was able to ask nuanced questions, it told the story clearly to the jury." On Wednesday, Judge Toilet began talking mistrial and, due to the lousy performance by the prosecution, it was seen as an attempt at a "do over" even before he called the mistrial.

Yesterday, on
KPFA's Flashpoints, Nora Barrows-Friedman spoke with Marjorie Cohn (president of the National Lawyers Guild) about the mistrial. Cohn's belief (based on expertise) is that the government's case is over -- that, military or civilian, courts must respect the laws of the land and that includes avoiding double-jeopardy (trying a person for the same alleged crimes twice). As Rebecca notes, Cohn explained that the stipulation Judge Toilet made much ado over was a stipulation (agreement between the prosecution and the defense) that both sides had agreed to, that the jury was made aware of, that Judge Toilet had looked over and, up until it was time for the defense to present their case, Judge Toilet never voiced any concerns over the stipulation, More importantly, Cohen pointed out, "When a mistrial is declared, the defense has to agree to it. The only thing that will defeat a finding of double-jeopardy . . . is if there was manifest necessity to declare the mistrial" which, in Cohn's opinion, there wasn't. At Counterpunch, Cohen also made the case "that under the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Constitution, the government cannot retry Lt. Watada on the same charges of missing movement and conduct unbecoming an officers." Leila Fujimori (The Honolulu Star-Bulletin) spoke with Earle Partington ("local attorney with decades in military justice") who also stated that "military judge Lt. Col. John Head lacked authority to set a new date, March 19, for the trial after declaring a mistrial Wednesday". Marjorie Cohn had explained to Nora Barrows-Friedman that Judge Toilet floated the idea of a mistrial and when the prosecution (taking the hint) asked for one, the defense did not consent to a mistrial. Also making this point is Eric Seitz, Watada's civilian attorney. Bob Egelko (San Francisco Chronicle) reports: "The lawyer for an officer whose court-martial for refusing deployment to Iraq was abruptly halted this week says the Army's planned retrial of his client would violate the constitutional ban on double jeopardy. Because 1st Lt. Ehren Watada neither caused nor consented to the mistrial that an Army judge declared Wednesday, the charges against him must be dismissed, attorney Eric Seitz said. Those charges were punishable by up to four years in prison. 'I don't think the judge understands, and I don't think the Army realizes that this case cannot be retried,'' Seitz said in an interview after the trial at Fort Lewis, Wash., was halted."

Yesterday, reporting for
Free Speech Radio News, Aaron Glantz noted Carolyn Ho's reaction to the mistrial ("tears started streaming down her cheek"). Carolyn Ho, mother of Ehren Watada: "He was quite prepared to vacate his apartment. It's been all packed up and, you know, and we were arranging to have his furniture moved on Monday. The expectation was that he would be sentenced and, um, that there would be incarceration." Reporting for IPS (text), Glantz noted Eric Seitz's contention: "Every time the government has tried to prevent political speech, which they are attempting to punish, from infusing the trial proceedings it has created a major mess and many of those cases result in mistrials."

Watada is a part of a movement of resistance with the military that includes others such as
Agustin Aguayo (whose court-martial is currently set to begin on March 6th), Kyle Snyder, Darrell Anderson, Ivan Brobeck, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Mark Wilkerson, Joshua Key, Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Jeremy Hinzman, Corey Glass, Patrick Hart, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.

War resister Joshua Key self-checked out of the US army after serving in Iraq. He, Brandi Key (his wife) and their children moved to Canada. Key has written a book on his experience in Iraq and after entitled
The Deserter's Tale. Brian Lynch (The Georgia Straight) notes: "And when Key arrived in the bomb-cratered streets of Iraq, his commanding officers issued constant reports that heavily armed terrorist cells or mobs of Saddam Hussein's sympathizers were poised to attack. None of these threats materialized, he says. And as he recalls in his book, he began to sense that 'the repeated warnings of danger were meant to keep us off guard, and to keep us frightened enough to do exactly what we were told.'
This, he believes, is a tactic that the highest political and military leaders in his native country have used on the public itself. Field commanders, he says on the phone, 'try to keep you scared, keep you motivated. And that's exactly what's happened to the [American] people as well. Everybody is so afraid of terrorism... And of course, from my actions in Iraq, I think the terrorism hasn't begun yet--terrorism from all the little Iraqi children that I terrorized myself. There's going to be a flip side to that. There will be consequences'."

Cause and effect.

On today's Democracy Now!,
Amy Goodman noted: "In Iraq, the US military is facing allegations of killing forty-five Iraqi civililans in an airstrike near Amiriyah. Police and hospital officials say the bombings flattened four homes in the village of Zaidan, just south Abu Ghraib, killing women, childre, and the elderly. A photograph released by the Associated Press shows the body of a boy in the back of a pickup truck taken to the nearby Falluja hospital. Several other children were reportedly admitted with injuries. The US military denies the account and says thirteen insurgents were killed."

That incident was explored in yesterday's snapshot (and you can tie it with the Najaf incident which
Tom Hayden recently wrote about). Today, Al Jazeera reports: "The US military had said in a statement that US forces killed five armed men in the city of Mosul early on Friday during a raid targeting an al-Qaeda cell." Had? Before we get there, please note that in Najaf, in the strike near Amiriyah, in countless 'battles,' the motive is always said to be 'suspected' this or that. And when innocents die in the attacks, it doesn't change the fact that intended targets (present or not) are still only 'suspected'. So who were US forces ordered to kill in Mosul? The BBC says: "Eight Iraqi soldiers have been killed and six wounded in a US helicopter strike". Lauren Frayer (AP) reports that "U.S. helicopters on Friday mistakenly killed at least five Kurdish troops, a group that Washington hopes to enlist as a partner to help secure Iraq, U.S. and Iraqi officials said."

Now a few things to note. 1) When you have some level of power, you can have the record corrected. That's what happened here. The US military had already issued their press release claiming suspected al Qaeda had been killed. 2) Calling it a "mistake" doesn't mitigate the effects on the families and friends of the eight dead. 3) Even when 'apologizing' the flacks for the US military still want to quibble on how many were killed (
8 is the Kurdish figure and the media's figure, the US military has tried to stick 5). This is why 'suspected' or potential 'suspected' really should raise eyebrows. As evidenced by yesterday's denial, which has only continued, the US military refuses to acknowledge that children were killed in the attack. Instead the military spokespeople want to crow about how they got 'insurgents' or al-Qaeda -- 'suspected.'

Robert Fisk (Independent of London) reports on Abu Salih Al-Jeelani ("one of the military leaders of the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Resistance Movement") and his group ("20th Revolution Brigades") which has issued a statement on what it will take for there to be a ceasefire:

* The release of 5,000 detainees held in Iraqi prisons as "proof of goodwill"

* Recognition "of the legitimacy of the resistance and the legitimacy of its role in representing the will of the Iraqi people".

* An internationally guaranteed timetable for all agreements.

* The negotiations to take place in public.

* The resistance "must be represented by a committee comprising the representatives of all the jihadist brigades".

* The US to be represented by its ambassador in Iraq and the most senior commander.

All starred items are direct quotes from
Fisk's article. The leader says they also want the constitution of Iraq and the deals arranged (especially with regards to the oil) cancelled -- to be replaced by things deriving from the Iraqi people and not foreign occupiers.

In the United States, one of the big stories is the cooking of intel.
Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) notes that "the Pentagon's inspector general examined the activities of Douglas J. Feith, an influential undersecretary to former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld during the months leading up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. . . . Its findings lend credence to charges by White House critics that Feith, who has since left the department, was out of line when he sought to discredit analyses by CIA intelligence officials that discounted alleged ties between Al Qaeda and then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein." Walter Pincus and R. Jeffrey Smith (Washington Post) report US Senator Carl Levin stated, "The bottom line is that intelligence relating to the Iraq-al-Qaeda relationship was manipulated by high-ranking officials in the Department of Defense to support the administration's decision to invade Iraq. . . . The inspector general's report is a devastating condemnation of inappropriate activities in the DOD policy office that helped take this nation to war" and the reporters note: "The summary document confirmed a range of accusations that Levin had leveled against Feith's office, alleging inaccurate work."

In some reports, Feith is noted as saying he was not wrong. Of course he wasn't wrong. He cooked the intel exactly as he wanted. Was it burned? Of course, that's how he wanted it, that's how he served it.

And on clever propaganda,
CBS and AP report that US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has declared that there is "pretty good" evidence of Iran's involvement in Iraq. Pretty good? Gates' word is supposed to be all anyone needs. Gates paints a story of 'weapons' found that are from Iran. What is he suggesting? That the Iranian government gave the Iraqi resistance the weapons? No, he means markings show that they were made in Iran. (That's his word -- take it for what it's not worth.) How shocking! People could get weapons from a country that borders their own! Oh my!

It proves nothing -- and the US firearms are all over the Iraqi black market -- but it's the new talking point. Expect to see a lot more of it.

Addressing the issue of Iran,
Juan Cole told Steve Rendell (on this week's CounterSpin): "Of coures the entire discourse of Washington has been, for many years, to get Iran and all Iranian attempts to reach out to the United States, some of which have been quite serious and wide ranging have been rebuffed. Iran has been kept as an enemy because Washington wants it as an enemy." Probably won't catch that in the mainstream.


Reuters notes 17 dead in Mosul from a roadside bomb while 2 were killed (eight wounded) in Hilla from a roadside bomb.

Reuters reports that three people were shot dead (and 10 wounded) in Baghdad today.Corpses?

AFP reports that eleven corpses were discovered today in Mahawil -- "floating in the Al-Malih river" -- after they and two others were kidnapped on Thursday (the other were released and are alive*) and, in Amara, Mohammed Qasim Kerkuki 's corpse was discovered ("riddled with bullets"). (*AFP reports that, other agencies don't address the two. Al Jazeera notes that the kidnappers were wearing "Iraqi army uniforms and drove military vehicles".)

Yesterday's snapshot didn't note corpses. My apologies.
Reuters reported 16 corpses were discovered in Mosul and 20 in Baghdad on Thursday. Please note, it's Friday. The majority of the violence (that gets reported) will emerge slowly throughout the rest of Friday.

the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence announced: "It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death of a British soldier in Iraq today, Friday 9 February 2007. MOD Announcement We can confirm that there was a roadside bomb attack on a Multi-National Forces patrol south east of Basra City that resulted in the death of the British soldier. Three other soldiers have also been injured, one of whom is described as critical." That brought the count for UK troops who have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 132.

Also today the
US military announced: "Three Soldiers assigned to Multi-National Force-West were killed Thursday from wounds sustained while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province." AP's count for the total number of US troops who have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war 3,117.

Finally, seven days ago, the Democratica National Committee held the Winter Meeting in DC and the mainstream's coverage was -- "Who didn't stick to the time limit! Nobody said anything!" Dennis Kucinich, US House Rep and
2008 candidate for president did speak and addressed a number of issues. Our focus is Iraq so we'll focus on the Iraq section. Kucinich: "Fellow Democrats, I can win because of all the candidates for President, I not only voted against the authorization but I have consistently voted against funding the war and I have a 12-point plan devised with the help of international peacekeepers, to bring our troops home and to end the war. Fellow Democrats, of all decisions a President must make, the one most far reaching is whether to commit the lives of our young men and women to combat. I believe that I have demonstrated the clarity and foresight people have a right to expect of a President. This war would have never occured in the first place if I had been President. We do not have to wait for 2009 and my Inauguration as President to end it because, fellow Democrats, right now the Democratic Congress has the ability and the power to end the war and bring our troops home. This past November, Democrats received a mandate from the American people to end the war. Democrats have an obligation to reclaim Congress' constitutional power to end the war. If we support the troops, if we truly support the troops, we should bring them home. Money is there now to bring our troops safely home. Supporting my 12 point plan, Congress can require the Administration to end the occupation, close the bases, bring the troops home and stabilize Iraq. Fellow Democrats, I want to stress, the Democratic Congress must deny the President the money he wants to keep the war going through the end of his term, money which he can also use to attack Iran. If we give the President the money to continue the war the Democratic Party will have bought the war."