Mike and I are attempting to move quickly tonight and we thought we'd grab some headlines from Democracy Now! for a number of reasons.
"Justice Dept Plotted to Restrict Minority Vote Turnout" (Democracy Now!):
Meanwhile the McClatchy newspapers is reporting the Justice Department might be facing another potential scandal. According to the paper, for the past six years the Bush administration has pursued an aggressive legal effort to restrict voter turnout in key battleground states in ways that favor Republican political candidates. Several of the ousted U.S. Attorneys were reportedly fired in part because they failed to bring voter fraud cases important to Republican politicians. Civil rights advocates contend that the administration's policies were intended to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of poor and minority voters who tend to support Democrats. As part of this strategy, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division has sought to roll back policies to protect minority voting rights. On virtually every significant decision affecting election balloting since 2001, the division's Voting Rights Section has come down on the side of Republicans.
April 1st, we wrote "The Big Waah" (The Third Estate Sunday Review). Yesterday, Alberto Gonzales was questioned by the Senate for approximately five hours. He did a lousy job. His voice broke, he lurched and looked shifty. The firing of the attorneys took place. The question is why? If you missed it, the answer wasn't provided in Gonzales' testimony yesterday. So what's being covered up?
Many have looked at the known facts and make a strong case for the issue of voting rights. That no longer appears to be a strong case, that appears to be what happened. So it might be time to remember some of the voices who complained that the Gonzales probe wasn't about anything 'important' and how it wasn't about Guantanamo and they weren't interested in it and . . . There were always strong signs that it was about disenfranchisement. So those who dismissed it should be asking themselves if they think conspiring to disenfranchise voters is a big deal or not?
In the meantime, Rebecca's been covering the Gonzales cesspool for weeks now.
"Harry Reid: The Iraq War is Lost" (Democracy Now!):
In Washington, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has admitted for the first time that the war in Iraq has been lost. Reid said, "This war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday." On Wednesday over 300 Iraqis died making it one of the bloodiest days on the war. The U.S. Commander in Iraq General David Petraeus admitted the events on Wednesday marked a setback for the U.S.
Gen. Petraeus: "Yesterday was a bad day There are no two ways about it. And a day like that can have a real psychological impact."
The war is lost? "NYT: The war is lost but Gordie's hot for 'doggie style'." We both wanted to include that. It's one of our favorite titles C.I.'s used. Yes, Harry Reid, the war is lost. As they say in a twelve-step group, admitting is the first step. So exactly what do you intend to do now?
"U.S. Builds Wall in Baghdad Dividing Sunni and Shiites Neighborhoods" (Democracy Now!):
Meanwhile the U.S. military has begun building a three-mile concrete wall in Baghdad to cut off a Sunni district from the Shiite neighborhoods that surround it. This marks the first time the U.S. military has built a wall in Baghdad to separate Sunnis and Shiites. Critics say it could lead to the Balkanization of Baghdad.
C.I. called me and was considering including this but couldn't get a word for it. "Balkanization" may be the accepted term in use but what's going on, like so much of the "security measures" in Iraq reflect what the Israeli government does to Palestinians. C.I. called thinking I might have an idea on a word. I don't. By the way, please read "And the war drags on . . ." There are people who still aren't speaking out against the war, let alone talking about it. I think the group C.I. spoke to captures that and the need to reach out.
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, April 20, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces the death of another service member, "development" passes for an answer in Baghdad ("Time-shares" is next), Helga Aguayo explains the status of her husband (war resister Agustin Aguayo), and Bobby Gates finally gets to act out his long held dream to be Marisa Tomei.
"The investigating officer said that it was in the best interest of the military to discharge him and that he believed that Agustin was sincere. However, higher ups in the chain of command -- that never met with my husband -- decided that he wasn't sincere and just didn't really give a reason, just said that he didn't qualify as a conscienious objector," Helga Aguayo speaking to Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) today. Helga Aguayo sketched out
how her husband came to see the illegal war as immoral while serving in Iraq, how he attempted to receive CO status, the obstacles there and a great deal more including the the convictions of missing movement and desertion. On the latter, she noted that it "is unheard of for people that are gone less than thirty days -- soldiers that are gone less than thirty days." Aguayo was gone from September 2nd through September 26th. The rule of thumb is that if you are gone less than 30 days, desertion isn't even a possible charge. Not only was Aguayo gone less than 30, he turned himself in. Helga Aguayo explained how the two felony convictions mean trigger an automatic appeal:
Helga Aguayo: And the other thing is that Agustin will not be discharged. I'm getting congratulations -- 'Oh, congratulations, he's coming home' -- we don't know when he's coming home, one. And, two, he actually will not be discharged from the military for twelve to twenty-four months from now, because he got a bad-conduct discharge and it's such a serious offense. He has two felonies. It goes onto an automatic appeal, and because of that, he will remain active-duty, which means he has to abide by the standards that is required of every soldier. He could potentially be charged with anything else during the time that he's on voluntary or involuntary leave or administrative leave. They'll give him of the three, if it's approved. And we won't know if it's approved.
Amy Goodman: Could he sent back to Iraq?
Helga Aguayo: I hope not. I don't think so. I think it would be -- I mean, Agustin's gotten a lot of support. And I, you know, would definitely just go to the press and go to the people. I don't think it would be in their best interest to do that.
Agustin Aguayo's repeated attempts to receive CO status demonstrate the need for the system to be fixed. As does the case of Robert Zabala who had to take the issue to the civilian courts to be awarded his status. The two, and many others, illustrate the problems with and arbitrary nature of the way the US military chooses to recognize (or not) CO status.
This is why the Center on Conscience & War has declared May 14th the day to lobby Congress to pass a law that would "protect the rights of conscientious objectors".
Aguayo is part of a movement of war resistance within the military that also includes Ehren Watada, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Camilo Mejia, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, 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.
Turning to news in Iraq, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates landed in Baghdad Thursday to provide war weary Iraqis and US service members with a bus and truck show of My Cousin Vinnie. David S. Cloud, Alissa J. Rubin and Edward Wong (New York Times) report that he visited "to press Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq to move faster on Sunni-Shiite reconciliation at a momment when Mr. Maliki's ability to deliver appears limited, at best." This allowed Bobby Gates to attack the part of Lisa with vigor as he stomped his feet in the safety of the Green Zone.
Bobby Gates: Well I hate to bring it up because I know you've got enough pressure on you already. But, we agreed to get an oil law passed as soon as we installed you. Meanwhile, ELEVEN MONTHS LATER, no oil law, Iran is making us nervous and our bully clock is TICKING and the way this war is going, I ain't never going to see the theft of Iraqi oil.
While Gates was telling/ordering al-Maliki to step it up, Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) reported that it really doesn't make a great deal of difference: "Military planners have abandoned the idea that standing up Iraqi troops will enable American soldiers to start coming home soon and now believe that U.S. troops will have to defeat the insurgents and secure control of troubled provinces. Training Iraqi troops, which had been the cornerstone of the Bush administration's Iraq policy since 2005, had dropped in priority, officials in Baghdad and Washington said."
As most play mum on that revelation, Mark Tran (Guardian of London) notes, "Washington today said it would take political reconciliation in Iraq into account when it decides this summer whether to reduce troop numbers." Translation? There will be no real reduction unless the people insist upon it. Just more stalling tactics on the part of the US installed puppet and more bluster from the bullies of the US administration. Meanwhile, the government of Turkey has set a deadline. KUNA reports that Turkey now has: "a 'specific timetable' for trans-borders operations including intrusions into northern Iraqi, Turkish NTV news website reported Friday. . . . The plan, envising the intrusion of thousands of Turkish troops into northern Iraqi areas to hunt rebel Kurds, is about to be a reality, according to the report."
Meanwhile in "New Listings" news, need a getaway? How about some place just east of a river, a gated community with rustic charm? CBS and AP report that gated communities are coming to Baghdad in the form of "a three mile wall": "When the wall is finished, the minority Sunni community or Azamiyah, on the eastern side of the Tigris River, will be gated, and traffic control points manned by Iraqi soldiers will be the only entries, the military said."
Gated communities? And people think the US administration has no ideas in the tank.
While the US administration continues their attempts at stand up, Tom Clifford (CounterPunch) notes the very real increase in Iraqi deaths including that last month was the deadliest in the last 12 months and that the escalation has claimed at least 7,400 reported deaths. And in some of the reported violence today in Iraq . . .
AFP reports a Nasiriyah bombing that killed 4 "including an 11-year-old girl". Reuters reports an eastern Baghdad mortar attack the killed 1 person and left 4 injured as well as a truck bombing in Falluja that killed 2 people and left 37 wounded. Lebanon's Daily Star reports that gunfire and helicopter fire were used around a mosque as US forces attacked what they hope are 'guilty' people since they killed four -- however, they originally denied the deaths and the attack only to correct that later on..
Reuters notes two police officers shot dead in Baquba and eight wounded, 1 person was shot dead in Falluja (2 more injured), and 1 person shot dead in Kufa. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports: "Employees working for the North Oil Company were targeted in Kirkuk by gunmen yesterday evening. The gunmen attacked the employees' while they were coming to Baghdad, the incident took place on Karkuk-Baghdad motorway when the insurgents opened fire injuring 4 employees."
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 19 corpses discovered in Baghdad on Friday.
In addition, the US military announced today: "A Task Force Marne Soldier was killed and two were wounded when a rocket struck Forward Operating Base Mahmudiyah Thursday night."
And in news of activism, Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report) notes the national Make Hip Hop, Not War tour which attempts to welcome important segments that have otherwise been overlooked. Ford writes: "The 'Make Hip Hop, Not War' movement finds only lip-service support from the white-dominated anti-war 'movement,' which finds itself unable to include the most anti-war segment of the American public: Black people. Rosa Clemente, of Pacifica's New York radio station WBAI and a founded of the National Hip Hop Political Convention, says, 'This is why the anti-war movement is not working. How are you going to have an anti-war movement that marginalizes Black people?'"
the new york timesdavid s. cloudedward wongalissa j. rubin
democracy nowamy goodman