Friday, April 13, 2007

Suzanne Swift

Friday . . . barely. The Iraq study group just ended and Mike and I are playing dueling computers as we attempt to post. This first excerpt is something C.I. highlighted earlier this week. I didn't have time to read it then but made a note to check out. It's pretty powerful.
I'm going to assume most regular readers know the story of Suzanne Swift. I chose this excerpt because it focuses on the transformation.

"The Birth of An Activist" (Sara Rich, Truth Out):
Confronting imminent redeployment, she went AWOL. Later, the Army would contend that she went AWOL because of her mother's political beliefs. I only wished it were that. If it were because of my political beliefs, she never would have gone to Iraq in the first place. Then they tried to say it was because of her own antiwar beliefs. That would have been a dream come true. But the truth was that my daughter went AWOL out of pure fear: fear of what her command had done to her in the first deployment, and the rejection of being treated like a "deployment whore" again. This was not a decision; it was a reaction.
All through Suzanne's AWOL time, she was not active against the war. She listened to me as I became more and more outraged at what our administration was doing - abusing our military and committing genocide on the Iraqi people - but she was not involved. When I asked her to speak at a Eugene rally last March, she said she could not speak about the war and her experience. The idea overwhelmed her. So we wrote a piece together, in which she said that maybe the United States needed someone to come liberate us! That gave me a glimmer of hope that she was waking up from this brainwashing and might become politically active.
Two days before her arrest, Suzanne and I watched a video by a young US Army lieutenant named Ehren Watada. He was going to refuse to deploy to Iraq. We were both very impressed and talked about his courage.
Without warning, it happened. Suzanne was traumatically arrested in our home and taken to jail in handcuffs. The Eugene police officers had no warrant - just an email on the police car computer screen saying, "hey buddy will you pick this one up for us?" She was strip-searched and denied urgent medical care for an abscessed tooth for 12 hours. She says she wept harder than ever in the cell by herself that night.
They took her to Fort Lewis a few days later and put her under the supervision of the original harassing sergeant from Iraq. She called me in tears again. I made some phone calls. She was moved to a new unit and a no-contact order was issued for this sergeant. A month later, she was allowed to come home for a visit.
At the Oregon Country Fair, I tried to introduce her to Amy Goodman, but Suzanne refused to engage and merely walked away. I made my apologies to Amy about her abruptness.
Despite her apparent lack of interest, we had a rally for Suzanne on her 22nd birthday at Fort Lewis. Ehren Watada was at the rally, along with his mother Carolyn. Suzanne had an instant connection with Ehren and continues to see him as one of her personal heroes. Suzanne was shocked and embarrassed, but grateful about how many people were there to support her.
There was no overt change in her attitude until one day Suzanne watched the movie "Sir! No Sir!" and suddenly put it all together. She called me in a frantic state, saying, "MOM! I watched the movie! We have to DO something to get the truth to the troops so they will stop fighting" My heart soared, and I started to give her books and other literature about what the administration was doing to our country. She literally devoured the information.
I was invited to attend the national conference for Vets for Peace (VFP), and we asked Suzanne's attorney if she could go. He replied that she was forbidden to attend. We snuck her in anyway. Then some real magic began. She got to meet with a group of powerful veterans: Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and Colonel Ann Wright. This was a HUGE turning point for Suzanne. She spent many hours with other Iraq women vets, and Suzanne's eyes began to sparkle for the first time in forever. She told me, "Mom, these women really understand me. They know what I have been through." It was so good to have these connections for her to build her strength and energy to start speaking out.
We had a press conference that weekend at the VFP conference about Suzanne's case and sexual assault in the military. Many powerful women vets talked about what their experience had been and about their support for Suzanne. What they did not know was that Suzanne was on the second floor looking down on us. She watched the entire press conference with unblinking eyes, and I think this was when she saw just how impactful her speaking out has been on the women of this nation.
I finally, as a mother and an activist, had hope for my daughter's emotional and mental well-being.
As time passed, the military officials at Fort Lewis played their hideous hurry-up-and-wait games with Suzanne's life. Suzanne made some very good friends among the people who started Camp Suzanne; they were caring and supportive. Suzanne found herself leaving the barracks in the evening to go and spend time with them. She also would sneak off base to attend Ehren Watada rallies and wear her Ehren Watada T-shirt. I warned her that it could be used against her, and she wore it anyway. I was bursting with pride.
One night at home, Suzanne was getting ready to head back to Fort Lewis. (She was allowed to come home to Eugene every other week to see her civilian psychologist.) She asked, "What was that lady's name who has the radio show and was at the fair?"
"Amy Goodman," I replied, my curiosity piqued.
She asked, "What is the name of her show?"
I replied, "Democracy Now!" She asked if I thought she could download it onto her podcasts. My heart jumped for joy. I was so excited at the thought of my daughter listening to Democracy Now! When Amy called a few weeks later, I handed the phone to Suzanne, telling her Amy Goodman was on the phone and wanted to talk to her. Suzanne's jaw dropped; she was so in awe of Amy and her work. The next day, Suzanne did her first radio interview on Democracy Now!
When Suzanne was asked by the Army to sign a statement, including a part that says she was not sexually abused, she called me once again, saying, "Mom, do you know what they want me to sign?"
She explained it to me, and I asked her what she wanted to do about it.
She spoke strongly. "I am not going to sign it; it's not true."
This was another turning point where Suzanne could have just signed the paper, not told me what it said in its entirety, and avoided being stripped of her rank and sent to prison. She refused the deal and would not sign. Her attorneys were furious at her for refusing to sign, but she held her ground. The attorneys went back to the drawing board and came up with a new "deal." With this deal, she signed a statement and she experienced a summary court-martial with an uncertain outcome: she would probably go to prison, but it would not be for a year, more likely a month.

Sara Rich is the mother of Suzanne Swift -- that links takes you to the page for Swift where you can find out more information. In addition, please read "Women and the military" (The Third Estate Sunday Review). I helped on that but my help was minimal. Anyone will tell you that. They will also tell you that their help was minimal as well. I don't remember what was going on but I know it was one of those times when we all felt we were hitting a wall. Those of us who participate by phone had hung up and gone to sleep. On the West coast, they were going to continue working. What happened was Ava and C.I. were working on their TV review in another room at C.I.'s. They came back with the thing completed and found Kat, Jim, Dona, Jess and Ty had fallen asleep. They were kind of pissed and kind of mock pissed. They had both been pushing for an article on the abuses of women serving in the military for about six weeks. It was something everyone always agreed with but there was never time because it would involve research. We'd have it on the list of articles to work on, time would run out. The next week, it would make the list again. Since everyone was asleep and the edition was no where finished, Ava and C.I. did all the research. Their plan was that it would all be compiled and we could all work on it. But they pulled it together quicker than they expected and then wrote a very long rough draft. At that point, those of us by phone were back and the gang was up. Jim read the piece out loud. We all thought it was perfect. C.I. and Ava said, "Pull the curse words at least." Dona and Jim gave it an edit to make it tighter. Then we worked on a sentence here and there. That was editing as well. Ava and C.I. deserve credit for that wonderful piece.

Suzanne Swift? As they argue, Swift deserves an honorable discharge with full benefits. When C.I. noted Rich's article this week, C.I. also noted the silence from our 'brave' or 'independent' senators. They were silent on Swift, they've been silent on the abuses women have suffered. Where is their oversight? Or, is it that when troops are serving in a war zone, rapes, harassment and other abuse becomes a 'side issue'? It's a very real issue and Congress should be ashamed for refusing to address it.

Sara Rich has written a wonderful article but one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much was because it's the best article about Swift. C.I. was saying privately, and later at The Common Ills, that people pushing the war resister angle were hurting Swift (who hadn't made any public statements to that effect). Would it have changed it any, how the military served up mock justice, if the issue of abuse had been at the forefront? I think it would have.

I think Rich has written an article that makes you identify with what it was like not only for her daughter but also to be unable to do anything to help your daughter other than listen. That's a very tough place to be and I dare you to read the article, even if you think you know every detail of the story, and not be moved.

I also strongly urge any woman in a similar situation to get a female attorney. C.I. was slamming the attorney and the defense being mounted. But "in fairness" (a C.I. catch phrase), noting that maybe a man didn't really get it, didn't really get what it was like to be in that position. He could hear it, he could nod, he could sympathize, but he couldn't really get it. We, C.I. and I, were in agreement that the defense seemed to be based upon, "Some times things happen and we want to address them." There was no rage, no huge sense of injustice that we were getting from the defense being mounted.

When Anita Hill came forward to testify about the sexual harassment she experienced from Clarence Thomas, we saw, the whole nation, that those White men sitting in judgement in the Senate just didn't get it. That became one of the rallying cries that swept in change in 1992 as a result.

I do think that some men can get it. I do not think, even at this late date, that enough of them of a certain age exist to take a chance on it. If you're rich or poor, pretty or plain, barely literate or well educated, it doesn't matter. Women can identify with this because, on various levels, it happens every day. Even if it's something like, as happened to me recently, being followed through a parking garage by a flirting man, you have had that sense of danger, that sense of fear. A woman who won't stop flirting and following a man in a parking garage, I don't think he worries. He might be irritated, but I don't think he's calculating how many footsteps until he reaches his car or scanning the garage to see if there's anyone there who might help if something happened or might be a witness, if nothing else.

What happened to Suzanne Swift wasn't an isolated incident. It wasn't a "misunderstanding." It wasn't any of the excuses some would offer. It's happened too often, to too many women serving, in the last few years to push it off as abnormal. But that's what our Congress did by ignoring it and the other abuses women are suffering.

You know what? I'm rarely even slightly pleased with anything here (but always remind myself, "It's a journal"). The topic of Suzanne Swift is such an important one that it says it all, it writes itself. That's it for me tonight. What's above this paragraph says it all. I see Betty's latest chapter is up, "Flop House." I suggest you do like I intend to do now and read it.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, April 13, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war will reach 3300 shortly (3299 currently), tensions flare between northern Iraq and Turkey and the refugee crisis continues so the US Senate offers help to "up to 500" of the estimated 3 million Iraqis internally and externally displaced.

In war resister news, we'll focus on
KPFA and Brian Edwards-Tiekert. Responding to a commentary by Marc Sapir in The Berkeley Daily Planet last week, Edwards-Tiekert wanted to address the issue of war resisters. Edwards-Tiekert is an important part of KPFA's news staff and does strong work, but appears to think much more is being covered than actually is. Sapir, sharing his feelings and fears regarding KPFA, wrote (this was not the thrust of his commentary), "How could KPFA be a useful tool for the GI resisters' movement, the immigrants' rights and sanctuary movements, the prison reform and opposition movements, the new sds [SDS] (already at 160 chapters), . . . if such an edict is upheld?" Sapir is referring to the fact that KPFA can promote events; however, they can not say "Be there" (as Sasha Lilley explained on the Listeners' Report earlier this month). Edwards-Tiekert grabs the subsection of that sentence and responds (this was not the thrust of his response), "Clearly, he [Marc Sapir] wasn't listening the week Aaron Glantz traveled to Fort Lewis, Washington, to produce up-to-the minute rports on the failed court martial of First Lieutenant Ehren Watada." Was Edwards-Tiekert? Aaron Glantz' reports were largely filed for Free Speech Radio News and re-aired duing the KPFA Evening News and during Aileen Alfandary's newsbreaks during The Morning Show. Sandra Lupien and Alfandary each spoke with Glantz once during the court-martial on programs other than the Free Speech Radio News. But, as Edwards-Tiekert well knows, Free Speech Radio News is an independent program, it is not a KPFA program.

Aaron Glantz did a wonderful job reporting on the court-martial for
Free Speech Radio News, for IPS, for His voice gave out and, possibly, had that not happened he would have done more reporting on it for KPFA. But in terms of reporting (not interviews days after the mistrial was called), Edwards-Tiekert appears to believe that Glantz was reporting on KPFA programs more than he was. This could result from the fact that it was usually announced (by the news staff) that he would be reporting but, in the morning or evening, what instead aired was a rebroadcast (sometimes edited down) of a report Glantz had done for Free Speech Radio News.

Ehren Watada's court-martial is important. His upcoming court-martial (July 16th) will also be important and, hopefully, KPFA will do a better job covering it than they did with the February one. For that coverage, Aaron Glantz deserves praise. KPFA? Not so much. That was February. Since Watada's court-martial,
Agustin Aguayo and Mark Wilkerson have been court-martialed. Aguayo was court-martialed in Germany, possibly that's why it wasn't covered (reading wires doesn't really replace first person reporting)? Wilkerson was in Texas. Texas is much closer to California than DC (Edwards-Tiekert notes KPFA's DC coverage in his response) but it might as well be across the Atlantic. What of Robert Zabala's historic court case? Where was KPFA? Again, reading wire reports (or local press) on air doesn't really replace on the spot reporting.

Edwards-Tiekert muses, "Perhaps Sapir doesn't listen much to the radio station he maligns." As
Ruth pointed out regarded Sasha Lilley's declarations in the Listeners' Report, Lilley doesn't seem to listen a great deal. In the listners' report she maintained that KPFA news staff promoted, on air, the KPFA webpage of local events when, in fact, that wasn't the case. KPFA is an important radio station and a historic one. Edwards-Tiekert is a strong member of the news staff. His commentary (and recent call in on air to Larry Bensky) only fans simmering flames for many. I'm not interested in that. (Ruth may be. She can write whatever she wants in her space.) I am interested in war resisters.

Edwards-Tiekert may feel Watada was covered by the KPFA news. He really wasn't. (Off topic, but needs noting again, Philip Maldari, not part of the news staff, did a wonderful job last summer interviewing Bob Watada.) That false impression may come from on air announcements such as, "Tomorrow morning in the first half-hour of The Morning Show, Aileen Alfandary will speak with Aaron Glantz . . ." -- announcements that were made of coverage that never took place. (That's not a slam at Alfandary. Glantz' voice was giving out early on.) But announcements of intended coverage are not actual coverage. And re-airing reports done for a non-KPFA produced program (Free Speech Radio News) on KPFA news and news breaks does not indicate that KPFA itself provided coverage.

In February,
Kyle Snyder was hauled away in handcuffs (and in his boxers) by Canadian police. Joci Perri (Citizenship and Immigration) stated the arrest was requested by the US military and that deportation was supposed to follow. Did KPFA listeners hear about that on the news? Joshua Key is being 'shadowed.' Winnie Ng reported the incident that happened at her home. She was visited by three men, she was told they were Canadian police. They were looking for Key (Joshua, Brandi and their children stayed with Ng early on after moving to Canada). Ng's character was called into question (including by some 'friends' in Canada) and the police said it never happened. Turns out, it did happen. The Canadian police, WOOPS, did send out one officer . . . with two members of the US military. Has the KPFA news informed listeners about those developments? Dean Walcott self-checked out of the US military and went to Canada in December of 2006. How often has his name came up during news breaks or newscasts?

Here's where the real fault is, the real problem. Four years into the illegal war and
KPFA still has not created a program to focus on Iraq. Flashpoints started to cover the first Gulf War. KPFA can't spare one half-hour or hour a week for a program that focuses on Iraq? Of course they can. The fact that they haven't is more embarrassing than any of the back and forths or the old history (covered in both Edwards-Tiekert and Sapir's commentaries). Is KPFA frozen or paralyzed when it comes to new programming? No. In fact it did an election series for the 2006 elections. One would think that an illegal war was at least as important as a mid-term election.

Dean Walcott, the latest to go public, part of the growing movement of war resistance within the military that also includes
Ehren Watada, Camilo Mejia, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Joshua Key, Ricky Clousing, Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo, Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, 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.

Yesterday in Iraq, the Green Zone was the target of an attack.
AFP notes today that the US military is now saying that the bombing in the parliament's cafeteria killed only one person (but "an Iraqi security officer" maintains "three people died"). Though Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) prefers to call it the "International Zone," as William M. Arkin (Washington Post) notes of the Green Zone, "The Zone is officially known as the international zone, a less inflammatory label that suggests non-U.S. control, but everyone knows the truth." Bushra Juhi (AP) reports that al Qaeda is claiming responsibility for the bombing and that it was a suicide bombing and that the Iraqi parliament met today ("about 90 minutes") but turnout was low due to the traffic ban and to the fact that many were visiting the wounded from yesterday's bombing. While AP repeats that the culprit is thought to be a bodyguard to a Sunni lawmaker, The Australian reports that three cafeteria workers are being questioned as well as "some parliamentary guards". CNN notes that this is due to the suspicion that the bombing was an 'inside job'. Robert Burns (AP) reveals: "The U.S. military will not take over security of the Iraqi parliament building in the wake of the deadly suicide bombing in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, a top commander said Friday. Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq, said "it is clear we still have a long way to go to provide stability and security to Iraq." Michael Howard (The Guardian of London) informs, "US officials admitted last night that the bombing of the Iraqi parliament shows that not even the heavily fortified Green Zone is safe any more, despite the security crackdown launched earlier this year in the Iraqi capital." Despite that reality, Robin Wright and Karin Brulliard (Washington Post) report that John McCain, "who this week spoke of 'the first glimmers' of progress in the new U.S. effort, said the attack on the parliament building does not change the 'larger picture'."

Or, as
William M. Arkin (Washington Post) observes, "For the past few weeks, we have been told by the administration and the military that the Baghdad Security Plan and the surge are working. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had his Snoopy in the tank moment walking through a marketplace in a well-oiled photo op, accompanied of course by American Humvees and soldiers and roof-top snipers. The Senator and his delegation then repaired to the 'relative safety' of the Green Zone, speaking of their safe drive to and from the airport to downtown, a trip by dignitaries that is usually made by helicopter. The boast itself spoke volumes about the truth of the Green Zone, and of Baghdad."

Security and refugess was a topic today on
KPFA's The Morning Show, where Andrea Lewis and Aaron Glantz spoke with guests including Dahr Jamail and Sarah Holewinski (Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict). (20 minutes in, Dahr speaks for the first time other than the normal greetings.)

Dahr: Well without a doubt, I think offering someone $2,500 when they've had a loved one killed by occupation forces is - is quite an insult especially now with the rate of inflation and the conditions in Iraq. I think the primary thing that I'd absolutely agree with her with is that the Iraqi people who are sufffering right now as we speak and all those who have lost loved ones certainly deserve and justifiably have earned compensation levels that are very, very fair and, in my opinion, I think that they should be compensation levels like we see in the United States when someone dies in a plane crash and there's a lawsuit or when someone dies in a car crash, typically millions of dollars are awarded to someone. How would people in the United States react if they lost a loved one and the government offered them $2,500?
[. . .]
I would start by amending the numbers that Nabil just said. I have updated numbers from meeting with Sybella Wilkes yesterday who is the UNHCR regional public information officer. And according to UNHCR, there are, there's 1.2 million is the minimum estimate they have in Syria alone. The governement of Syria, who UNHCR admitted probably has more accurate figures than they do, estimates there's between 1.4 and 1.5 million Iraqi refugees here [Syria], hundreds of thousands of those are Shia as well. I think people in the US are led to believe that it's only the Sunni population that's leaving and, while they are the majority, it's important to note that there's a giant number and growing number of Shia up here in Syria as well. But really the situation is really -- even just those numbers, as if they're not staggering enough by themselves -- the situation here is UNHCR has only actually registered approximately 70,000 of these people. So that means these are only the 70,000 that literally have so little of anything that they have to literally go there for food and in some way to find some housing. So the crisis is certainly going to grow exponentially as these other Iraqis here, and I have met with many of them, are living on their savings right now. What are they going to do when their savings run out? Syria right now has approximately a 20 to 25% unemployment rate. Add in another between 1.2 to 1.5 million Iraqis, so already that figure is too low. And as time persists, of course, the situation will worsen. And we have between 30 and 50,000 more Iraqis coming into Syria alone every single month.

Andrea Lewis: And Dahr what are some of the refugees telling you, other than concerns about their finances which obviously are important, what other things are you hearing from the people you're talking to?

Dahr: Well I'm actually sitting here right now with two friends who just came out yesterday from Baquba and they're telling me things like the US military has absolutely zero control of that city. There's only one street where one kilometer of that street is controlled by the US military and that's because that's primarily where their base is. The banks in Baquba have zero money whatsoever. It's a ghost town in the middle of the day. There's no marekts open. Of course, no one is working. And, as they described it, al Qaeda is in total control of that entire city and they state that the US military there is doing little to nothing to stop them.

Aaron Glantz: Well that's where Zarchawy was killed and we all remember Abu Musab al-Zarchawy. He was a big enemy and now he's dead and he was killed in Baquba.

Dahr: Right and clearly the situation has done nothing but degrade. As they said, it's like something out of a scene of a movie where literally it's a ghost town, nobody leaves their homes, nobody goes out. Even traveling from there to Baghdad, which is just barely 20 miles away, people just don't even make that trip. For them to even come up to Syria, they had to go, completely bypass Baghdad, and go to the north in order to come up here. Of course it was very far out of their way. But that just gives you an idea of how horrible the security situation is. There's literally no security and no regular life there to be found.

Turning to news from the US Senate,
Reuters reports that legislation passed allowing for the admission of a whopping (yes, that is sarcasm) "500 Iraqi and Afghan translators into the United States a year because their lives are in danger for helping U.S. forces during the wars."

Last month,
Tom Hayden (Huffington Post) noted that it was past time for US citizens to ask exactly who their tax dollars supported in Iraq. This month (at The Huffington Post), Hayden notes: "The time has come to understand the new de facto US policy in Iraq: to support, fund, arm and train a sectarian Shi'a-Kurdish state, one engaged in ethnic cleansing, mass detention and murder of Sunni Arabs." Hayden argues that the training of police fails to acknowledge who is being trained and for what -- as with El Salvador the 'blind eye' is a pretense upon the part of the US government. Tom Hayden proposes a series of recommendations including "peace advocates and critics must focus on the new reality that American blood and taxes are being spent on propping up a sectarian government that wants to carry out an ethnic cleansing of the Sunni population."

Keeping the above in mind and turning to the northern section of Iraq, yesterday
Umit Enginsoy (Turkish Daily News) reported on the conference in DC regarding the the upcoming, proposed referendum that would etermine the fate of Kirkuk (an Iraqi citiy that "sits on nearly 40 percent of Iraq's oil") which Iraqi president Jalal Talabani is pushing (Talabani fell ill as the latest wave of the crackdown began earlier this year, he was represented at the conference by his son Qubad Talabani who is also "the representative for the Kurdistan regional government"). The issues revolve around the oil, obviously, and also around the demographic makeup of Kirkuk and who gets a vote with Turcomen and Arabs concerned over what "hundreds of thousands of Kurds [who] have flocked into Kirkuk in recent years while the number of Kurds expelled under Saddam's regime could be measured by tens of thousands."

Laith al-Saud (CounterPunch) explores the issue of the resettling, "Since the 2003 invasion of the country myth has taken precedence over history and Kurdish politicians have adopted the methods of that other myth-based nation-state in the region-Israel, to establish claims . . . During the invasion, Kurdish peshmerga (militias) entered Kirkuk and established de facto control of the city. Since then, as has been reported by the Center for Research on Globalization, Kurdish militias have forcibly evicted people from their homes, engaged in Murder, assassination and a slow ethcnice cleansing. The first victims in this regard have been the Arabs. Since the Arabs there are largely associated with Baa'th policy they have seen little support from the regime in Baghdad. Less publicized has been the targeting of Assyrians and other smaller minorities in the region. But the largest group in the city -- and the one that promises to be the most resistant to Kurdish aggression -- is the Turcomen. Ethnically Turks, the Turcomen have lived in the area for over eight-hundred years and have strong ties to Turkey."

Patrick Cockburn (CounterPunch) notes of the referendum: "The Kurds expect that large areas of eastern, northern and western Ninevah province will join theKRG, not not Mosul city itself because it has an Arab majority. The Kurds are absolutely determined to get what they consider their rights after years or persecution, expulsion and genocide. They rightly think that they now have an historic opportuniy to create a powerful near independent state within Iraq: They are America's only effective allies in Iraq; they are powerful in Baghdad; The non-Kurdish parts of the Iraqi government are weak."

At the conference, the US appeared to waffle (we'll get back to the point).
Michael Kuser and Guy Dinmore (Financial Times of London) note that Turkey's concern is that "an independent Kurdish state" will be created. This stems from Turkey's own issues in the southern part of its country where a historical and ongoing battle by Kurdish inhabitants of the area to gain self-autonamy has been rejected.If Iraq is partitioned off into regions and/or Kirkuk and other northern areas become their own independent body, Turkey's concerns include how such a breaking up could effect their own country. Chris Toensing (Foreign Policy In Focus) summed up the recent conflict within Turkey: "Since the invasion [of Iraq], the Turkish military and security services -- known to Turks as the 'deep state' -- have reasserted themselves, to the detriment of Turkish democracy. They are resisting even the Justice and Development Party's modest efforts to reach out to the country's Kurdish population, and inveighing against any ceasfire with the renewed Kurdish insurgency in the southeast. Far-right social elements associated with the 'deep state' are rallying in favor of chauvinistic versions of Turkish nationalism; in January, one such militan murdered an Armenian-Turkish journalist who sought to reconcile Turks' and Armenians' understanding of the 1915 Aremian genocide."

Another concern on the part of Turkey
pointed out by Kuser and Dinmore is that their border is not respected by "combat rebels from the Kurdish Wokers party (PKK)". Lebanon's The Daily Star reports that Turkish General Yasar Buyukanit has "asked the government" of Turkey "for approval to launch a cross-border incursion into northern Iraq, signaling growing frustration over a lack of action by Iraqi and US forces against Kurdish guerrillas. This follows, as Umit Enginsoy notes, that the head of Iraq's Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani, stated last week if Turkey did not stop interfering in Iraq's northern region, Iraq would "retaliate by intervening in Turkey's Kurdish-related matters. The rising tensions come as Turkey's president, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, prepares to step down (the parliament electes a new president in May). The Turkish Daily News presents a sample of Buyukanit's press conference where he touched on a number of issues, including political ones.

As the tensions rise and some commentators wonder what the US is doing -- signaling both ways is the answer. Fortunately, the issue is in questionable hands: Hoover Institute's Barbara Stephenson is now a 'diplomat' ("
deputy senior advisor and coordinator to the secretary of state"). In 1998, she was a "homemaker" and apparently $519,200 in donations is all it takes to buy a job at the State Department under US Secretary of State and Anger Condi Rice. (It's also a good little circle jerk since, Rice was "the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institute"). Stephenson's main claim to fame/infamy may be her declaration of Iraqis, "They need to want this more than we do." Spoken by the person who some would argue bought her way into an administration.

From the north to the south,
Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) reports on the protests that took place Monday calling for foreign troops (all non-Iraqi troops) to leave the country. Historian Mahmood al-Lamy tells al-Fadhily, "Basra is the biggest southern city and the only Iraqi city that has a port near the Gulf. It is now controlled by various militias who fight each other from time to time over an oil smuggling business that is flourishing under the occupation."
Simon Assaf (Great Britain's Socialist Worker) reminds that the protest on Monday (in Najaf) "was the biggest in Iraq since the massive unity demonstrations in the early days of the occupation" and that uniformed Iraqi soldiers joined in the protest.


Hussein Kadhmim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports one civilian dead from a roadside bombing in Baghdad, a Baghdad mortar attack that killed one person and left 15 wounded,
"a primary school was exploded in Instar village of Bani Saad," "a public clinic at (Tibtib) village" was bombed, and "LC Falih Hassan of the Iraqi national police was killed today after a road side bomb targeted his vehicle today after noon. Three of his body guards were killed."
CBS and AP note a Baghdad roadside bomb claimed the life of a police officer and left four other officers injured as well as one citizen injured. Reuters reports a second Baghdad mortar attack killed two people and left 8 more wounded, a Hilla bombing killed a police officer and left three others wounded, and a mortar attack in Iskandariya wounded 10 people.


Hussein Kadhmim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a woman wounded during an attack on a police patrol. Reuters reports that Mohammed Abd al-Hameed ("Mosque imam in the northern city of Mosul . . . well known figure in the Sunni Muslim Scholars' Association") was shot dead in Mosul, three guards of the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party offices were wounded in an attack in Hilla, and an attack on a barber shop left two people "seriously wounded."


Hussein Kadhmim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports five corpses discovered in Baghdad,
Reporters Without Borders notes that two corpses were discovered in Mosul yesterday: Iman Yussef Abdallah ("journalist for a radio station operated by a group of Mosul trade unions") and her husband. She "was the second journalist to be murdered in Mosul this year and the 13th in Iraq."

Today the
US military announced: "A Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldier died April 12 due to a non-battle related cause." And they announced: "An MND-B Soldier died when a patrol was attacked with small arms fire north of the Iraqi capital. The unit was conducting a security patrol when the attack occurred." [Both were noted last night. They were announced Friday Iraq time.] And they announced: "An MND-B Soldier died and one other was wounded when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device south of Baghdad April 12. The unit was conducting a security patrol in the area when the attack occurred." And they announced: "Two MND-B Soldiers were killed and seven others were wounded when their patrol base came under attack by anti-Iraqi forces south of Baghdad April 12. Two Iraqi interpreters were also killed in the attack." ICCC's total for the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war is 3299 and 52 is the total for the month thus far.

Finally, the
Austin American-Stateman weighs in with an editorial commenting on the decision by the White House to extend tours of duty to 15 months while, at the same time, searching for someone ( a war 'czar' -- "The first and most obvious is that a war szar already exists: the president of the United States is the commander in chief. The novelty of the idea doesn't make it viable.") to run the illegal war in Iraq and concludes, "It is especially troubling when you consider that the Bush administration is asking more and more from military personnel who can't appoint someone else to do their jobs for them."