Monday, July 23, 2007

Short post

"Five Pro-U.S. Sunni Leaders Assassinated" (Democracy Now!):
In the Iraqi city of Taji, at least five pro-U.S. Sunni leaders were assassinated on Saturday in a suicide bomb during a meeting.

I thought I'd open with that because we're supposed to have (yet again) "turned a corner" when no corner has been turned (ever). But the US military is really proud that they've got some promises (with hand shakes to back them up!) that things are going to change. You can read "Iraq reporting MSM style" for more on that. You can also realize that you are yet again being lied to by the administration and pretty much every candidate who wants to be president.

"The Democrats' Iraqi Dilemma: Questions Unasked, Answers Never Volunteered" (Ira Chernus, Truthout):
Pity the poor Democratic candidates for president, caught between Iraq and a hard place. Every day, more and more voters decide that we must end the war and set a date to start withdrawing our troops from Iraq. Most who will vote in the Democratic primaries concluded long ago that we must leave Iraq, and they are unlikely to let anyone who disagrees with them have the party's nomination in 2008.
But what does it mean to "leave Iraq"? Here's where most of the Democratic candidates come smack up against that hard place. There is a longstanding bipartisan consensus in the foreign-policy establishment that the U.S. must control every strategically valuable region of the world - and none more so than the oil heartlands of the planet. That's been a hard-and-fast rule of the elite for some six decades now. No matter how hard the task may be, they demand that presidents be rock-hard enough to get the job done.
So whatever "leave Iraq" might mean, no candidate of either party likely to enter the White House on January 20, 2009 can think it means letting Iraqis determine their own national policies or fate. The powers that be just wouldn't stand for that. They see themselves as the guardians of world "order." They feel a sacred obligation to maintain "stability" throughout the imperial domains, which now means most of planet Earth - regardless of what voters may think. The Democratic front-runners know that "order" and "stability" are code words for American hegemony. They also know that voters, especially Democratic ones, see the price of hegemony in Iraq and just don't want to pay it anymore.
So the Democratic front-runners must promise voters that they will end the war - with not too many ideologically laden ifs, ands, or buts - while they assure the foreign-policy establishment that they will never abandon the drive for hegemony in the Middle East (or anywhere else). In other words, the candidates have to be able to talk out of both sides of their mouths at the same time.
No worries, it turns out. Fluency in doublespeak is a prime qualification for high political office. On Iraq, candidates Dennis Kucinich and Bill Richardson don't meet that test. They tell anyone and everyone that they want "all" U.S. troops out of Iraq, but they register only 1-4% in the polls and are generally ignored in the media. The Democrats currently topping the polls, on the other hand, are proving themselves eminently qualified in doublespeak.

So that's reality. That's also why you see Democratic leadership in Congress refusing to call for a genuine withdrawal. In the House, Nancy Pelosi obviously wants bases in Iraq which is why she tries to go existential when questioned on "permanent bases" by responding nothing is "permanent." Cowardice may be. I guess we'll all have to watch Congress to determine that.

Speaking of cowards (and fools), "Sweet Nepotism" is about Koo Koo Katrina vanden Heuvel. In "A Note to Our Readers," Jim notes that C.I. asked for edits. That is true but, in answer to two e-mails today, that wasn't a problem. On one section, I was actually in agreement. This was written for fun and for the print edition -- not the online edition -- and when it was suggested we pull it over for online use, it was Rebecca who said it will need to be edited. C.I. offered "take my name off" and it could run as is. But there was one section I was uncomfortable with (it was deleted in the online version) and another section that got pulled. So, answering the question, it wasn't a problem that it was edited. While I'm noting things, please be sure to read Ava and C.I.'s commentary on ABC's Brothers & Sisters entitled "TV: Losers & Fools." A lot of criticism is rightly made of news outlets pitting conservatives against centrists for a 'debate' and billing the centrists as "from the left." It's not just a "news" thing and Brothers & Sisters is a disgusting show.

"Facing the Truth" (Monica Benderman, CounterPunch):
It's about time Americans faced the truth. Today a Marine not only convicted of conspiring to commit kidnapping, larceny, and making false statements; but the murder--MURDER--of an innocent Iraqi man, was given his sentence. He is to receive a reduction in rank and a bad conduct discharge.
THIS is what America has become.
It is now considered "bad conduct" to murder an unarmed man, knowingly return to the scene to fabricate the appearance of self-defense and hide the facts after the fact.
Murdering an innocent Iraqi is now considered "Bad Conduct." In 2004 my husband, a ten-year US Army veteran, made a conscious decision to no longer participate in war--he spoke openly of the bad conduct of his commanders in giving orders to soldiers in his unit which not only jeopardized the lives of innocent Iraqis, and children, but also those of the soldiers he served with.
For his decision to no longer be part of the destruction, wanton killing, and unjust, immoral action this war has shown itself to be, my husband was accused of being a deserter, faced trumped up, fabricated charges of intentionally missing his unit's movement, and when the first court-martial attempt failed, was handed additional trumped up charges of larceny for combat pay his command erroneously placed in his paycheck. During a second court-martial attempt he was found guilty of missing movement or not getting on a plane and was sentenced to 15 months in prison, loss of all pay, reduction in rank and a dishonorable discharge.
A veteran with ten years of honorable service, who took a stand to no longer participate in an action in which murdering innocents is acceptable is now considered "Dishonorable."
How low do you intend to go, America?

When a sentence like that is handed out it's an insult to justice, an insult to Iraqis (saying their lives are unimportant) and an insult to the US military (saying that this behavior is expected and common place). It says a great deal that a murder results in no prison time. It says a great deal about all three categories. It also, as Monica Benderman points out, says a great deal about the American public. I'd argue it's an indictment of us, that we're perfectly willing to ignore a murder.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Monday, July 23, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces the death of another US service member, on Sunday the US bombed civilians (today the British follow suit), Iran and the US plan to meet tomorrow in Baghdad, and more.

Starting with war resistance.
Agustin Aguayo served in Iraq as a medic and attempted to be granted CO status. The US military refused to grant it and claimed that there had to be a religious awkening (which CO status does not require) while ignoring Aguayo's religious awakening. After his first tour, Aguayo was stationed in Germany when he was informed he would be returning to Iraq. Aguayo self-checked out and returned in less than 30 days which DID NOT prevent the US military from charging him with desertion (despite the fact that the accepted measure for a desertion charge is a minimum of 30 days). Aguayo's court-martial was held in the spring and he was sentenced to prison but the time since the end of September was recognized as time served. Aguayo is now back in the US and speaking out. Sunday he spoke in Los Angeles and Stuart Silverstein (Los Angeles Times) reports
he "received a hero's welcome" and declared that while serving in Iraq, "I realized I wasn't just a medic, someone that helps and patches up and heals the wounded. I was much more. I was an enabler of these missions."
Silverstein reports that Aguayo self-describes as a "conscientious objector/war resister." The Acorn reports that Aguayo will speak this Thursday from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm at Grant Brimhall, Thousand Oaks Library, 1401 E. James Rd., that the event is "free and open to the public" and more information is available by calling (805) 375-9939.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Jared Hood and James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key,
Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Care, Kyle Huwer, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty-one US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.

In a press briefing (via videolink) with reporters at the US Pentagon,
General Walter E. Gaskin, declared Friday, that "we have turned the corner. . . .we truly turned the corner". Reality? As noted by Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) today, "New Pentagon statistics show that the number of attacks in Iraq last month reached their highest daily average since May 2003. The data, which was obtained by Reuters, shows an upward trend in daily attacks in the four months since President Bush decided to escalate the war. During the month of June there was a daily average of 178 attacks against coalition troops, Iraqi security forces, civilians and infrastructure."

Over the weekend, the US military conducted an air strike in the heavily populated area north of the capital.
Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Qais Mizher (New York Times) reported that the US military asserted they had killed 'insurgents' only. Molly Hennessy-Fiske (Los Angeles Times) reported that the Saturday air attack was disputed by eye witnesses in Husseiniya "said U.S. helicopters attacked three houses in a four-hour period, killing at least 18 people, including women and children. They said about 21 people were wounded in the attacks, which leveled the buildings" and quoted Hazim Hussein stating, "It was a war and not a response to an attack targeting them. It was a war against civilians inside their houses."
Hannah Allam and Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) quoted Salam al Rubaiye who disputed the US military's account and declared, "Lies, lies, lies.The Americans always try to change the truth, especially when it concerns the Sadrists," and Bassem Musawi who stated, "I took out with my own hands the bodies of two young children, two men, two adult women and four little girls. I don't know why the Americans bombed these homes. I know one was the house of Abu Mustafa. He's a very poor man with only one boy and the rest of his family are girls. And he didn't even have a rifle." Democracy Now! today quoted one unidentified resident declaring, "This is what the occupation does. The occupation. Look at the fork-lift trucks, they've turned the world upside down, our relatives have been ripped to pieces. Does God accept this? Does Mohammed accept it? Why, are we heathens? Even Israel hasn't done anything like this. Israel did not do what America has done to us." And Amy Goodman (DN!) informed that "Sunday nearly 1,000 Iraqis rallied in Husseiniya to protest the killings."

In some of today's violence . . .


Sinan Salaheddin (AP) noted three car bombings in Baghdad today "within thirty minutes" Mohammed al Dulaimy and Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) report that three car bombs were followed later in the day by a fourth with an estimated 18 people being killed while at least 40 were wounded, that "Madhi Army militiamen barred a journlist from photographing the scene," that the Badr militia "set up their own checkpoing" within a 100 feet of the US forces (with apparently no US objection), and quote locals including Haider who declared, "We don't have a government! It's worthless. Bring me one honest man from the Sunnis or the Shiites!" and an elderly woman who asked, "Why are they killing us? We have no one left! They aren't saving anyone, they're killing civilians. And who's behind this?"
before pointing "to the American soldiers."

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bus bombing claimed 1 life and left seven more wounded, a Baghdad mortar attack left four people injured, a bombing on Kafri - Tooz St. targeting Soleman Beck (who survived), a Mosul mortar attack that claimed the lives of 3 members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, a child was wounded in a rocket attack in Basra, and one person was killed in Basra bombing by British forces which left eight more injured and damaged homes. BBC reports, "At least two policemen were killed and 10 wounded when a woman hiding an explosives belt under her Islamic gown blew herself up in the western Anbar province."


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the inury of 4 Iraqi soldiers from gunfire in Baghdad, 2 people shot dead in Baghdad, 2 people shot dead in Mosul, "2 electricity directorate workers" shot dead in Baquba (a third wounded), 2 shot dead at a fake check point in Khalis (five kidnapped, one wounded), and 2 shot dead at a fake check point in Khanaqeen (one wounded and at least two kidnapped). BBC reports, "Two people were shot dead in the town of Iskandariya, south of the Iraqi capital " CBS and AP report that the two were husband and wife and that a police officer was also killed.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 24 corpses discovered in Baghdad, 3 in Tooz, 1 in Bani Saad, and 8 in Mosul. CBS and AP report 3 corpses discovered "at a construction site in Iskandariyah".

Today the
US military announced: "One MNC-I Soldier was killed when an improvised explosive device detonated next to his vehicle during combat operations in Baghdad Saturday." The announcement brings the ICCC total to 3633 US service members killed in the illegal war with 54 of those for the month of July thus far.

Turning to political news. On Sunday, Turkey held elections.
Today's Zaman reports that the results of the election meant no big changes with the AK Party retaining their hold on power in "a landslide victory" leaving it "projected to win 340 seats in the 550-member Parliament." AP is calling it "a mandate" while noting "the new government faces a series of challenges, including a presidential election, Kurdish rebel violence and lingering tension over the role of Islam in society." Al Jazeera quotes Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan declaring, "This is the first time in 52 years that a party in power has increased its votes for a second term. We will continue to work with determination to achieve our European Union goal" but notes EU membership remains elusive with France objecting and other countries wanting to see more reforms. Today's Zaman notes there was a record and peaceful turnout with an estimated 42,533,041 people casting ballots. The Kurdish also won more seats in the election and this applies to Iraq in that the PKK, defined as a "terrorist group" by many Western nations including the United States, has favored a separatist movement in Turkey and is said to receive support in northern Iraq which has led to cross-border excursions by the Turkish military in recent months as well an exchange of mortars. As The Turkish Daily News noted Friday, Turkey is asking Iraq to extradite Ali Riza Altun (head of the PKK) after Austria waived him through. The Turkish Daily News also reports that Kurdish leader Leyla Zana is under investigation for remarks at a Friday get-out-the-vote rally where she allegedly called for the partitioning of Turkey supposedly stating, "It is time to divide Turkey into states. Ankara: Divide the country into states and establish the state of Kurdistan."

In United States political news,
John V. Walsh (CounterPunch) reports that the tired and boring Toad is back in the news penning an op-ed whining about Ralph Nader who may or may not run in the 2008 presidential election. Walsh notes that chants of "Run, Ralph, Run!" sprang up while Nader was speaking at this month's Green Party convention. Walsh reports that Toad gives a sloppy wet kiss to and hails it for its close relationship with DC (a relationship some might characterize as fondeling) despite the reality that "Gallup shows . . . the public is fed up with the crowd in Congress" referencing the fact that Congress' current approval rating is lower than when the Republicans were in charge in 2006.
On the Green Party convention,
Kimberly Wilder reported on it at her site and you can click here for video of Nadar addressing ballot access. No known video exists of Toad fueling rumors that he is the Dark Lord; however, several Manhattan adult video outlets may be of assistance.

In diplomatic news,
CBS and AP report that Iran and the US will meet in Baghdad tomorrow as a follow up to their May Baghdad meeting and that the US continues its whisper campaign accusing the Iranian government of arming Iraqis opposed to the US illegal war and occupation in their own country. In a Thursday press briefing (via videolink) with reporters, Lt. General Ray Odierno attempted to up the whisper campaign by claiming that
there was "a link between Iranian support to extremists" meaning al Qaeda but, when questioned further, admitted, "
We don't see any evidence -- significant evidence".
Mohammed al Dulaimy and Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) report that "some Iraqi officials had complained that they were being sidelined; another example of overlapping forces at play in Iraq. It was later agreed that Iraqi officials would observe the talks, though U.S.-Iranian interests would take center stage."

This as
Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) informs that 'benchmarks' are stalled in Iraq for a number of reasons including the planned vacation by the Iraqi Parliament next month (due to the increase heat) which makes it unlikely that anything will be passed before the US Congress receives the September 'progress' report that the White House had set as its own 'benchmark' but now tries to back peddle away from furiously with US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker declaring that the 'benchmarks' really don't matter. This follows the down playing of the September report by Lt. General Ray Odierno, Commander Multinational Corps-Iraq, in the Thursday press briefing where he stated that November was the time the escalation could really, really be measured. When questioned about the push-back in the briefing, Odierno responded, "What I was saying is -- again, my remarks were, in 45 days I will have a better idea if the trends are continuing, and that's September. Obviously, we have an assessment we will conduct in September that will provide -- that General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will provide. I was not looking at extending that time frame when they have to report back. What I imagine we'll have to do is do assessments that follow that initial assessment in September, and that's -- I'm assuming we'll continue to do assessments while we're here." Odierno never stated the September report would not take place -- nor could he, Congress accepted Bully Boy's talk of 'benchmarks,' wrote them into legislation and they are now Congressionally mandated.

Despite those facts (Congressionally mandated and Odierno being clear that he wasn't saying the report was off),
Thom Shanker and David E. Sanger (New York Times) spun Saturday trying to make 'good news' out of the fact that the September report was still 'on' -- it was never off. This was grasped on Thursday (by those paying attention) and on Friday when Tony Snow, White House flack, gave a press briefing and tried to Happy Talk the way Sanger and Shanker would the following day. When Snow attempted that, a reporter at the press briefing responded, "We know that he [Odierno] didn't ask to change the September reporting date. That isn't the point." But the New York Times tried to play dumb and make it the point on Saturday. The actual point is that the White House is attempting a push-back wherein they begin selling, "Ignore the September report we've repeatedly cited. It doesn't matter. What really matters is the November report." The push-back is to lower expectations, clampdown on public outrage and attempt to buy more time for the illegal war.