Thursday, March 15, 2007

Veteran Intelligence Professional for Sanity

Okay, I said an easy post and that's all this will be. It was hot today and I'm downing iced tea like crazy. We have one more day left and I want to say this has been a lot of fun. It's been fun traveling with everyone and it's been fun meeting so many community members (as well as their families and friends). It's also been very interesting seeing the state of Texas. I've been to San Antonio and Padre Island (a long time ago on both, a conference for the first) but we've really gotten a strong look at the state this week. I think we'll mainly miss west Texas but there might be another area, we've missed as well. (Austin was as far south as we went.)

My biggest complaint is that when we drive, there's so little to listen to. I can tell Clear Channel without any i.d. and I've heard a lot of that. The AM dial seems to be a right-wing prison. Even the so-called sports stations seem more interested in pushing the Bully Boy than in talking sports. In Texas, I think a lot of people depend on driving and there is so little to listen to. It's all the same playlist on pop and rock and AM is just one right-winger after another. There were a few country stations that seemed interesting. I'm sure I missed a number of stations but I was just amazed by how many Clear Channel stations there were. That's mainly what I would ask about when I was talking people about anything other than Iraq, "What do you listen to for good music?"

As much driving as you do in Texas, you need good radio.

"Denouement on Iraq: First Stop the Bleeding" (by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, CounterPunch):
March 14, 2007
Speaker of the House
Senate Majority Leader
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: Denouement on Iraq: First Stop the Bleeding
In the coming weeks a Congress that is willing to assert its prerogative as a co-equal branch of government has a unique opportunity to stop the needless deaths and maiming of U.S. troops in Iraq and bring them home in an orderly way this year. To do that, it must use its constitutionally mandated authority---the power of the purse. Although the president, vice president, and their most ardent supporters blindly insist that victory is a troop surge away, the current U.S. military commander on the ground, General David Petraeus, concedes that no military victory is possible. Victory will only be secured through a political solution. The question is not whether U.S. troops will remain permanently in Iraq. The vast majority of Americans agree that the U.S. presence in Iraq is temporary. The real question is how many more Americans will be killed and wounded in a civil war that pits Sunnis against Shias.
Background: VIPS is a movement of retired intelligence officers, which we created in January 2003 because of our acute concern over the the politicization of our profession. Our first analytic effort was a same-day critique of Colin Powell's performance at the UN on February 5, 2003. (At the time, we seemed the only ones not at all impressed.) Since then we have issued eleven more briefing memoranda, most of them addressed to President George W. Bush. Our intent was to make available sane, unadulterated intelligence analysis to foster enlightened decision-making on the Middle East. We have not the slightest hint, though, that our memoranda actually reached the president. And when we released them to the media, our efforts received little ink or airtime.
This president and vice president have made a regular practice of standing the intelligence process on its head. For example, they decided on the "surge" (which is looking more and more like escalation) before the intelligence community issued its National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), "Prospects for Iraq's Stability: A Challenging Road Ahead" in January. To their credit, the authors resisted pressure to support the notion that a "surge" would improve the US position in Iraq; the analysts refused to budge and made it abundantly clear that, surge or not, the US position would continue to erode.
The only trace of unacceptable policy influence on the preparation of that NIE appeared in the unclassified Key Judgments where the straw man of "rapid withdrawal" was introduced and knocked down forcefully again and again (and yet again on Monday by Cheney and yesterday by the editors of the Washington Post in their lead editorial). Intelligence analysts have complained that they were forced to estimate what would result from "rapid withdrawal" of US troops from Iraq, but not what would result from a gradual or phased withdrawal. Although the chairman of the estimate assured Senators at a hearing on February 27 that no political pressure had been applied to the drafters, he could not explain why the most extreme option, "rapid withdrawal," was singled out for debunking.
To be sure, in the wake of frequent visits by Cheney and I. Louis Libby to CIA headquarters to help the analysts, and the ensuing debacle in intelligence on Iraq, US intelligence was thoroughly discredited. Still, it makes no sense to make key foreign policy decisions in an intelligence vacuum. When we served in US intelligence, the president (and sometimes the Congress) would ask us for our considered view on likely foreign reaction to this or that policy before final decisions were taken. Quickly prepared, time-sensitive estimates were called Special National Intelligence Estimates (SNIEs). Before President Lyndon Johnson started bombing Vietnam, for example, he asked for a SNIE addressing the question as to whether bombing would make a significant difference in helping defeat the Vietnamese Communist "insurgency." That was a no-brainer; we said No. He went ahead anyway, but the point is that he would not have thought of making such a decision without obtaining the unvarnished views of intelligence analysts first.
Thanks to the separation of powers, and the outcome of the November election, the nation now has another foreign policy "decider"-you, the leaders of the new Congress. The bottom line is you now have the power to end the most unconscionable and catastrophic foreign policy blunder in our nation's history. It will take a lot of courage, but such courage cannot be expected, absent an true understanding of just how foolish it is to throw more and more U.S. troops into the cauldron. They deserve better.

As you'll see in the snapshot, Congress is . . . still hopeless? Is that too harsh? We're headed out in a few minutes so that's my quick take.

Again, it has been a great trip. Busy, but a lot of fun as well.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Thursday, March 15, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces the deaths of more US service members, Hillary Clinton gives bad press, and the Senate says "no" and the House says "yes."

Starting with news of war resistance.
Dean Kuipers (LA City Beat) examines the war resistance within the military and notes AWOL figures (8,000 since the start of the illegal war according the US Defense Department), desertion figures (40,000 since 2000) and that: "Several hundred of those soldiers have fled to Canada, according to unconfirmed reports, but only a few have identified themselves and thus face prosecution." On the issue of the sentencing of war resisters who go public, attorney Jim Feldman, who represents Agustin Aguayo among others, sees the sentencing as encouraging, noting that, "People who really are sincere, the Army judges are not going to come down hard on 'em. The judges seem to recognize that as a mitigating circumstance." Agustin Aguayo's recent court-martial in Germany found him sentenced to eight months and the time he had been in custory already (since turning himself in at the end of September 2006) was credited to his sentence. Iraq Veterans Against the War's Kelly Dougherty shares her view with Kupier, "At the same time, I think they are taking a tough stand because eight months in prison is still a long time in prison, especially for refusing to serve in a war because your conscience says it's wrong to kill people, or because you reel that this particular war is illegal. They could certainly be prosecuting people more. But the sentences that they are giving are being handed down as a message to others serving in the military not to apply for CO status and not to refuse to go to Iraq."

Ehren Watada, the first commissoned officer to publicy refuse to deploy to Iraq, is but one example of the attempt to "send a message." His second court-martial is scheduled to begin July 16th. The double jeopardy issue (a Constitutional issue) is something the military seems determined to ignore. Courage to Resist is asking that a mail campaign (snail mail) be used to demonstrate to Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik how much support there is for Watada. Dubik "has the power to drop all charges and let Lt. Watada out of the army". You can write to Lt. Gen. Dubik at: Bldg 2025 Stop 1, Fort Lewis, WA 98433.

In other news,
Vue Weekly reports: "Toronto hip-hop artist Mohammad Ali is about to release his new album at an event here in Edmonton for the War Resisters Support Campaign, a coalition of indivduals supporting US soldiers seeking asylum in Canada because they refuse to fight in Iraq. The self-proclaimed in-your-face activist ('I write about names, events and dates -- specifics.') is highlighting some of the controversial politics behind the war in Iraq, drawing some examples from the experiences of Darrell Anderson, an Iraq combat veteran." Darrell Anderson is the US war resister who served in Iraq, was awarded a Purple Heart and then self-checked out in January 2005 and moved to Canada. In September of last year, Anderson announced that he was returning to the US to turn himself in. On October 3rd, he turned himself in at Fort Knox. He was released by the military on October 6th and, as expected, he was not charged and was given an other-than-honorable discharge.

Darrell Anderson,
Agustin Aguayo and Ehren Watada are part of a movement of resistance within the military that includes Joshua Key*, 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.

[*Yesterday, the third time I mentioned Joshua Key, I wrongly called him Josh Wolf. Wolf is a reporter who has been imprisoned for refusing to roll over on the First Amendment -- imprisoned "
longer than any other reporter in U.S. history for refusing a federal grand jury subpoena" as Howard Vicini notes.]

Turning to the selling of the illegal war,
a wave of Operation Happy Talk hit big media and they suited up, grabbed the Sticky Bumps and rushed to ride that wave. The talking point was that the ongoing crackdown in Baghdad (which began in June of last year and has been beefed up and juiced up ever since) had achieved real results! It was a success! This was true because they were told it was true! One of the few who remembered he was a reporter and that the occupation entails more than mere stenography was Damien Cave (New York Times) who noted problems with the announcement that violence had declined: "But the degree of improvement was unclear, partly because of the continued confusion over casualty counts here, and an American general cautioned against reading too much into optimistic reports, given that January and February were two of the worst months for car bombings since the invasion. The Iraqi review came from Brig. Qassim al-Moussawi, a military spokesman, who said at a news conference that civilian deaths since the start of the plan on Feb. 14 were counted at 265 in Baghdad, down from 1,440 in the four weeks before. He said 36 car bombings struck the capital over the past four weeks, down from 56. [. . .] It was not clear what his statistics were based on, though, and they may not have taken into account the bodies found strewn around the capital each day. An analysis by The New York Times found more than 450 Iraqi civilians killed or found dead during the same 28-day period, based on initial daily reports from Interior Ministry and hospital officials." While Cave reported, many of his cohorts were at the beach (mentally, if not physically).

The wave came rolling in despite a new report from the Pentagon. (Or maybe because of a new report from the Pentagon. Operation Happy Talk has always attempted to counter reality.)
Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post) reported on the Pentagon's "bleakest assessment of Iraq yet" which found: "record levels of violence and hardening sectarian divisions in the last quarter of 2006 as rival Sunni and Shiite militiias waged campaigns of 'sectarian cleansing' that forced as many as 9,000 civilians to flee the country each month. Weekly attacks in Iraq rose to more than 1,000 during the period and average daily casualties increased to more than 140, with Iraqi civilians bearing the brunt of the violence". Also noted was that the assement acknowledged "Those figures may represent as little as half of the true casualties because they include only violence observed by or reported to the U.S.-led military coalition". That obvious fact was ignored by those pushing the wave of "violence is down" due to the latest version of the crackdown (this version was 'released' in February of this year). Of the Pentagon assessment, Reuters noted, "There was an average of 1,047 attacks per week on U.S.-led forces and Iraqi soldiers, police and civilians in January and early February, according to statistics released with the report." The report also notes the civil war aspect raging in Iraq. This as the AFP notes Mister Tony's denials of civil war: "British Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted that despite the raging violence four years after the invasion, Iraq is not in a state of civil war. 'not a country at civil war'."

And the violence continues today.


BBC reports that a bombing in the Karrada district of Baghdad has killed a least eight Iraq police officers and left 25 civilians wounded. Kim Gamel (AP) reports the death of a man (unnamed) in Baghdad who was "vegetable seller" who discovered a package which contained a bomb that "exploded as he was trying to carry it away from a populated area in Sadr City." Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) identifies the man as "Ahmed Draiwel, 18" an dnotes that he "was able to hurl it [the package containing the bomb] into a distant trash pile. His brother, who was trying to help him, lost his arm, witnesses said." Reuters notes a bombing in "the western Yarmouk district of Baghdad" which killed an Iraqi soldier and left two people wounded, while a car bombing in Mosul wounded a police officer.

CNN reports: "At least five people were killed and 21 wounded when a parked car packed with explosives detonated Thursday morning next ot a minibus in Iskandiriya, south of Baghdad, police said. The vehicle was carrying employees of the state-run National Car Industry Co. Police also said the manager of the company was shot dead this past week, while driving to work." The BBC notes this blast took place "outside one of the few factories still operating in Iraq."


AFP reports five shooting deaths in Baquba "by gunmen who attacked a string of gas stations and set them on fire". They also note that, in Baghdad, Rakim al-Darraji's car was attacked and he was wounded while a police officer traveling with al-Darraji was killed -- "Darraji had helped the US military in setting up a security centre in the district [Sadr City] as part of the crackdown in Baghdad". AP notes two deaths ("bodyguards") in the attack. Reuters notes a police officer and a cook were shot dead in Mosul while, also in Mosul, "U.S. forces targeting al Qaeda militants in the northern city of Mosul killed one Iraqi soldier and wounded three after thinking they were insurgent".


Kim Gamel (AP) reports: "Twenty bullet-riddled bodies also were found, most of them in Baghdad". The corpse count in Iraq for Thursday will, no doubt, be reported by others (and a higher number) on Friday. (Reuters is currently reporting corpses from yesterday.)

Today, the
US military announced: "A Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West died Mar. 14 in a noncombat related incident in Al Anbar Province." And they announced: "A Soldier assigned to Multi National Force-West was killed Mar. 14 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province." ICCC puts the total number of US service members who have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war at 3203. And, most recently, the US military has announced: "Four Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldiers died when two roadside bombs targeted their vehicles in an eastern section of the Iraqi captial, March 15."
What? In Baghdad? But the Happy Talkers couldn't stop bragging about the crackdown!
Kim Gamel (AP) notes that 2 US service members were wounded. The number of US service member deaths announced toay now stands at six.

In the United States, news from both house of Congress.
Reuters reports the Senate plan (withdrawal of US troops by March 31st of 2008) did not pass. AP reports that the vote was 50 to 48 (50 voting against the measure).

Meanwhile, in the lower house, a bill passed a committee vote and will now go to the full house.
Al Jazeera reports that the "Democratic party plan to withdraw US combat troops from Iraq by September 2008 has been approved by a House of Representatives committee. The House approriations committe approved a $124.1 bn emergency spending bill, including around $100bn to continue fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan by 36 votes to 28." David Espo (AP) notes US Rep Jose Serrano stating: "I want this war to end. I don't want to go to any more funerals." This led to a rejoinder from US Rep C. W. Bill Young who claimed he wanted troops out more than anyone. C.W. Bill Young is most infamous for refusing to call out the scandals at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (which he admitted last month he'd seen himself months prior). His "support" of anyone is curiously exhibited. Espo notes that US Rep Barbara Lee voted against the plan and stated, "I believe the American people sent a mandate to us to bring home our men and women before the end of the year" which Lee (and many others) do not believe the bill honors.

In other political news,
Michael Gordon and Patrick Healy (New York Times via Common Dreams) report on their sit down with US Senator and 2008 presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton who told them that leaving out Iraq was out of the question -- "It is right in the heart of the oil region." Well you go, gas guzzling War Hawk. Her sit down position of some US will remain in Iraq if she's elected president is, as the writers note, in contrast to her campaign stop speech where she claims, "If we in Congress don't end this war before January 2009, as president, I will."

Turning to Iraq, Yes! magazine has the second part of a three part feature. It's worth noting for a number of reasons but, chiefly, due to the overly praised Rolling Stone roundtable which was all male and nothing you really couldn't have seen by turning on cable TV.
In the second part, Lisa Farino and Dal LaMagna discuss their meeting with Iraqi parliamentarians and "ambassadors and leaders from other Middle East cocuntires." Also interested in listening, Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) who reports on what Iraqis are saying they want from leaders and, bad news for exiles, "Iraqis have little faith in people who fled and left them to face the situation." Yesterday on KPFA's Flashpoints, Robert Knight noted that Ayad Allawi was in Saudi Arabia attempting to drum up support for his challenge to Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister/puppet of the occupation.

iraqagustin aguayo