In yesterday's snapshot, C.I. made the very valid point that maybe US presidential candidates shouldn't be wooing lobbyists for foreign governments? It's a solid point and it's rather troubling that we've accepted the notion that it's okay for, one example, presidential candidates to trot off to AIPAC and make promises about what they'll do with regards to Israel. We supposedly decry foreign influence in our own elections (we don't care when we interfere in other countries' elections) and certainly the GOP attempted to make a huge deal about John Kerry and foreign governments. It's a real shame that presidential candidates, who supposedly have limited campaign time, give it up for lobbyists for foreign countries.
"Obama's Israel Problem" (Joshua Frank, CounterPunch):
Sen. Barack Obama isn't quite sure how he feels about the lopsided situation between Israel and Palestine. Less than two weeks after Obama gloated to AIPAC about his love for Israel, he unexpectedly admitted the truth while campaigning in Iowa recently. "[N]obody is suffering more than the Palestinian people..." said Obama, "the Israel government must make difficult concessions for the peace process to restart..." The truth hurts indeed, and Obama has been feeling the wrath of the pro-Israel activists since his statement last week.
Nonetheless, Obama shouldn't be trusted on the issue. While Rep. Dennis Kucinich hired avid pro-Palestine advocate Noura Erakat to sit on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Obama has been backpedaling -- assuring AIPAC and others that he is unwavering in his support for Israel's continued bullying of Iran and occupation of Palestine.
"[Iran] is a genuine threat" to the United States and Israel, expressed Obama at a forum sponsored by AIPAC on March 12 in Washington D.C., only one day after his lucid remarks in Iowa. At the event Obama also reiterated that he would not rule out the use of force in disarming Iran, a position shared by the other leading Democratic presidential contenders, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.
Earlier this month on March 2, Obama spoke at an AIPAC Policy Forum in Chicago where he clearly laid out his full stance on Israel, promising he would not alter the U.S./Israeli relationship. "[W]e must preserve our total commitment to our unique defense relationship with Israel by fully funding military assistance and continuing work on the Arrow and related missile defense programs," he said. "This would help Israel maintain its military edge and deter and repel attacks from as far as Tehran and as close as Gaza."
Last time I checked, I was born in the United States. My birth certificate did not tell me I was a citizen of Israel, honorary or otherwise. The United States is part of the world, no question, but this idea that we're joined at the hip with the Israeli government is distrubing for several reasons including the crimes against Palestinians.
Also including the crimes against those who attempt to help Palestinians. I haven't been to sleep yet, so I'll pull a C.I. and maintain it's still Friday even though it's early Saturday morning. Friday was the anniversary of one of the shocking crimes that actually got a little attention from the press.
"4-Year Anniversary of Rachel Corrie Killing" (Democracy Now!)
And finally today is also the fourth anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie. On March 16, 2003, an Israeli military bulldozer crushed Corrie to death as she tried to stop the demolition of the home of a Palestinian doctor in the Gaza town of Rafah. Eyewitnesses said Rachel was standing directly in the path of the bulldozer holding a megaphone and wearing a fluorescent jacket. She was 23 years old.
That's going to be it for me this morning/tonight.
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, March 16, 2007. Chaos and violence continues in Iraq; US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid proclaims "The war has gone on too long. We must change direction in Iraq" but apparently can't control senators in his own party; protests rock Sadr City in Baghdad; Vicky Toejam will have to think of a new falsehood now that Valerie Plame has testified to the US Congress that she was a covert CIA agent; and the health 'care' for veterans remains a scandal.
Starting with war resistance, today on KPFA's Making Contact, Aaron Glantz addressed the topic of Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq (June 2006) and the first to be court-martialed (last month). Glantz noted that before the court-martial began, on a rainy Sunday night, people gathered to show their support. Among those speaking were retired Lt. Col. and retired State Department Ann Wright, "
I have been here so many times and so many times for justice and principle." Glantz noted how the presiding judge, Lt. Col. John Head (aka Judge Toilet) refused to allow Watada to put foward his best defense -- explaining why he refused to deploy. A review of the court-martial's second day included Geoffrey Millard's observations (Millard reported on the court-martial for Truthout) that the prosecutions' own witnesses backed up Watada under cross examination. This point was echoed by Jeff Paterson who told Glantz, "All the prosecution's witnesses stood up there and said miltary service are important oaths are important but on cross examination they explained how Ehren Watada was trying to fulfill his oath." (Paterson covered the court-martial for Courage to Resist.) Glantz noted that the prosecution witnesses had stated that intent was important as the second day ended so there was a belief that Watada might be able to present his motivations when he took the stand the following day.
"On Wednseday morning the court room was filled with anticipation," Glantz noted. But that quickly changed as Judge Toilet zeroed in on a stipulation where Watada agreed to making public statements. Judge Toilet had seen the stipulation the week prior, on Monday he had instructed the jury on the stipulation. On Wednesday, it was suddenly an issue. Judge Toilet declared a mistrail (over the defense's objections). Eric Seitz, Watada's civilian attorney, notes that double-jeopardy should prevent Watada from being court-martialed again; however, the military has scheduled Juyl 16th for the start of his second court-martial.
US war resister Joshua Key has told his story in the new book The Deserter's Tale. In addition, he is also one of the war resisters profiled in Peter Laufer's Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq, from page 14:
Joshua still does not understand what he was doing in Iraq in the first place. "I still couldn't tell you why I was there. What purpose was it for? Whose gain was it for? I don't know the truth to it. Like I tell my wife, that's the problem with war -- your president, your generals, they send you off to go fight these battles. And all the way down to your commanding officers, they don't go out there with you. They send you out there to fight and do the crazy sh*t and do the dirty stuff. You're the one who has to live with the nightmares from it. You come back, you're nothing, you know? Guys are living on the streets that fought in Iraq just as well as I did. I mean it's horrific."
Ehren Watada and Joshua Key are part of a movement of resistance within the military that also includes Darrell Anderson, Agustin Aguayo, Kyle Snyder, Mark Wilkerson, Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Corey Glass, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake 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.
Joshua Key's statements ("You come back, you're nothing, you know? Guys are living on the streets that fought in Iraq just as well as I did. I mean it's horrific.") are the jumping off point to the realities now more openly addressed: what passes for 'care' that many returning receive (or 'receive'). In light of the recent scandals about Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) establishes the point that not all have to deal with mold, rats and roaches -- some quarters are very nice such as the Esienhower Executive Nursing Suite (Ward 72) which "features heightened security, including bullet-proof windows and secure telephone lines. Among the other touches are flat-panel television and curio cabinets filled with gifts from foreign leaders." This is the VIP suite but US Rep John Tierney feels "the true VIPs" are the returning service members and not the ones who get the Esienhower Executive Nursing Suite: "the presidents, the vice president, federal judges, members of Congress and the Cabinet, high-ranking military officials and even foreign dignitaries and their spouse. The only enlisted members of the military who are eligible to stay there are receipients of the Medal of Honor." Conn Hallinan (Berkeley Daily Planet) observes that the problems with Walter Reed require more than show firings, "'addressing' the problem will require jettisoning former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's high-tech subsidies to the nation's arms makers at the expense of the grunts, as well as the White House's mania for privitaziation. [Francis] Harvey [Army Secretary until recently] was brought in by Rumsfeld specifically to reduce the federal work force and, as he said in a speech last year, 'improve efficiency.' A former executive for one of the nation's leading arms producers, Westinghouse, Harvey hired IAP Worldwide Services -- run by two former Halliburton executives -- which promptly reduced the number of people providing service at Walter Reed from 300 to 60. The cutback and resulting increase in workloads kicked off an exodus of trained personnel, which an in-hospital study just released by the House Committee on Oversight and Governance found could lead to 'mission failure'."
One person who has been fighting for better service and for an end to the illegal war is Tina Richards whose son Cloy Richards has served two tours of duty in Iraq and now suffers from PTSD. Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) spoke with Richards today and she explained what was next for her son in the Veterans Affairs system: "On March 24th, he's supposed to report in with documentation from Veterans Affairs as to his disabilities. The problem is, is that he doesn't have that documentation, because we've ben fighting with the VA system for close to a year now, just trying to get him treatment. Recently, I've been sitting in on the hearings, and I was interviewed by a Veterans Affairs Committee on the House. And it appears that a lot symptoms that my son has is actually from traumatic brain injury, which can sometimbes be confused with PTSD, or it can be a combination of both. You know, he definitely has undiagnosed traumatic brain injury."
On today's Democracy Now!, Gonzalez and Goodman also spoke with Jean Stentz whose husband, Vietnam vet Willie Dougherty, died last year in a series of injustices that began when he was denied a VA hospital in his area -- Jean Stenz: "Because the VA hospital was full, and they wanted him to go to another one. And so, Beaumont's two hours away from us, and Houston's an hour away, but they sent him to Beaumont. And then, when they released him, I took him down by ambulance to the VA hospital emergency room, who refused him at that time, because they said he wasn't sick enough. He had an infection. He was perspiring profusely. I mean, the pillows were wet. He had fever. He had trouble breathing. But he wasn't sick enough. So we came home. We called on the phone -- in fact, my daughter and I had two phones going, the cell and the home phone -- trying to find help for him. Finally, the VA doctor in Lufkin decided that he should be put in a nursing home. He was in a nursing home in Huntsville less than two days and was very sick, was transferred to the Huntsville emergency room, who transferred him finally to the VA hospital in Houston, where he was in ICU -- very ill -- and transferred to their hospice room and died."
And though the US administration shows no genuine efforts at caring for those injured in combat, they're more than prepared to send even more over to Iraq. Bryan Bender (Boston Globe) reports the escalation goes on, the escalation goes on: "The top US commander in Iraq has requested another Army brigade . . . . The appeal -- not yet made public -- by General David Petraeus for a combat aviation unti would involved between 2,500 and 3,000 more soldiers and dozens of transport helicopters and powerful gunships, said the Pentagon sources. That would bring the planned expansion of US forces to close to 30,000 troops." Meanwhile, Pauline Jelinek (AP) reports that an additional 2,600 troops "from a combat aviation unit" are going to Iraq "45 days earlier than planned" and that the excuse for not including it in Bully Boy's January numbers was because, Col. Steven Boylan, "This was requested over a month ago as part of the surge." For those who've forgotten, in January Bully Boy announced his intentions to send 21,500 more US service members into Iraq. The response from the American people was "NO!" The US Congress couldn't find it's spine and now that number is not threatened so Bully Boy's upped it. Bender reports that it's about to be upped again and Jelinek reports that in addition to those numbers made public, the White House has numbers they have not made public -- apparently to the people or the Congress.
As Edward Wong and Damien Cave (New York Times) and Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) reported, yesterday Rahim al-Daraji was attacked (mayor of Sadr City) and Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports that, today, Moqtada al Sadr "denounced the presences of U.S. troops in his Baghdad stronghold of Sadr City, and thousands of his followers waved banners and marched through the neighborhood to back his call for a withdrawal of foreign forces." Prior to the attack, al-Sadr was widely reported to have instructed his militia to lay low during the US sweeps of Sadr City.
In violence today . . .
Reuters notes a mortar attack in Baghdad that killed one and wounded five "in southern Baghdad" and a Kirkuk roadside bomb the resulted in the deaths of two police officers and left three wounded. Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) notes the Baghdad mortar attack was on a Sunni mosque. Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports that the mortar attack on the mosque found two mortars landing behind the structure and an third landing in front and Susman also notes another mortar in Hillah which killed one person. Mohammed al Dulainy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a roadside bombing in Baghdad damaged a US military vehicle, a mortar attack on a home "in Al Muasllat neighborhood" killed three members of one family, and three police officers were wounded id Diyala when a man with a "vest bomb" staged an attack.
Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) notes the shooting death of "a member of the governmental facilities protection service in Suwayrah, 25 miles south of Baghdad." Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a fake checkpoint was set up in Diyala and "3 Kurd brothers" were shot dead -- "two of them were less than 10 years old" -- and that, in Kirkuk, an attack on police officers that started with a roadside bomb ended in gunfire with two police officers being killed, and 10 people wounded (6 of whom were police officers).
Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) notes that 9 corpses were found in Baghdad and 2 corpses were discovered in Kirkuk today.
Also today, the US military made announcements: First, they announce: "A Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West died March 14 in a noncombat related incident in Al Anbar Province." Then they announce: "One Soldier died as a result of injuries sustained from an explosion when Task Force Lightning Soldiers were attacked while conducting combat operations in Salah ad Din Province, Thursday."
Noting yesterday's US Congressional news, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) summarized today: "On Thursday, Democrats advanced an Iraq withdrawal resolution in the House but failed to pass a similar measure in the Senate. The House Appropriations Committee voted to send the military spending bill to the House floor. The vote was thirty-six to twenty-eight. The bill would link war funding in part to the withdrawal of combat troops by September of 2008. Democratic Congressmember Barbara Lee of California broke party ranks to vote against the measure. Lee says the resolution doesn't go far enough to end the war. Lee said: 'I believe the American people sent a mandate to us to bring home our men and women before the end of the year.' Meanwhile, the Senate voted down a measure to withdraw troops by April of 2008. The final vote was fifty to forty-eight. Before voting, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid hailed the measure as an opportunity to change course. . . . Two Democratic Senators -- Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Ben Nelson of Nebraska -- joined Republicans in voting against the proposal. Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut also sided with Republicans." As noted on page A8 of today's New York Times (AP box, lower left hand corner), Republican Gordon Smith (Oregon) voted in favote of the measure and was the only Republican to do so. In addition, Socialist Bernie Sanders (Vermont) voted for the measure. AFP reports that Senator and 2008 presidential hopeful Joe Biden stated those who voted against the measure would hear from their constituents on the vote; therefore, "It is ony a matter of time before our Republican colleagues come to that conclusion . . . In the meantime a lot of innocent lives are going to be lost."
The day prior, US House Rep and 2008 presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich proposed an amendment to the supplemental which would address the Iraqi oil law: "The United States should not be requiring Iraq to open their oil fields to private foreign companies as a condition of ending our occupation. The Administration's strong push to enact a hydrocarbon law has little to do with the needs of the Iraqi people. Instead it is a concerted effort to ensure that American oil companies are granted access to Iraqi oil fields. By adopting this benchmark in the supplemental, and requiring the enactment of this law by the Iraqi government, Democrats will be instrumental in privatizing Iraqi oil. We must remove this benchmark from the supplemental and work to ensure any hydrocarbon law put in place is truly the best interests of all Iraqi people."
The House bill that passed the committee vote yesterday does not include any statement regarding the Bully Boy to get Congressional authorization should he decide to go to war on Iran next. Kucinich: "The House Appropriates Committee removed language from the Iraq war funding bill requiring the Administration, under Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution, to see permission before it launched an attack against Iran. Since war with Iran is an option of this Administration, and since such war is patently illegal, then impeachment may well be the only remedy which remainst to stop a war of aggression against Iran."
Finally, CNN reports that Valerie Plame testifed to Congress today (a) that she was a covert agent and that (b) the outing of her for political reasons was harmful not only to her but to other (and that it hurt morale). In addition, CNN reports that she "testified her work involved gathering intelligence on weapons of mass destruction." Plame is married to former ambassador Joe Wilson who went to Niger to determine whether or not Iraq had attempted to obtain yellow cake uranium from that country. Wilson found no evidence of an attempt. Despite that fact (which was reported back, through channels, up to the administration), Bully Boy elected to include the false claim (known false) in his 2003 State of the Union address as part of his attempt to scare a nation into war. Wilson would speak privately to Nicholas Kristof (New York Times) about the falsehood and then write his own New York Times op-ed entitled "What I Didn't Find In Africa." The result was the White House conspired to out a CIA covert agent. The Vicky Toejam brigade has long tried to obscure the realities with false claims and the press has often helped them playing fast and loose with the facts -- such as Darlene Superville (AP) -- see Wally and Cedric's entry from yesterday.
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