Friday, August 17, 2007

John Pilger, Sherwood Ross

I'm starting very late. The air conditioning was back off Thursday and we were moved to another part of the building. We were there today as well though the air conditioning is supposed to be fixed now. As a result, I am so far behind in the e-mails and my apologies. I did six replies before logging on and Sunny or I will reply to the others (if they need a reply) next week.

I'm rushing through this tonight.

"The Old Iran-Contra Death Squad Gang Is Desperate to Discredit Chavez" (John Pilger, Guardian of London via Common Dreams):
I walked with Roberto Navarrete into the national stadium in Santiago, Chile. With the southern winter's wind skating down from the Andes, it was empty and ghostly. Little had changed, he said: the chicken wire, the broken seats, the tunnel to the changing rooms from which the screams echoed. We stopped at a large number 28. "This is where I was, facing the scoreboard. This is where I was called to be tortured."
Thousands of "the detained and the disappeared" were imprisoned in the stadium following the Washington-backed coup by General Pinochet against the democracy of Salvador Allende on September 11 1973. For the majority people of Latin America, the abandonados, the infamy and historical lesson of the first "9/11" have never been forgotten. "In the Allende years, we had a hope the human spirit would triumph," said Roberto. "But in Latin America those believing they are born to rule behave with such brutality to defend their rights, their property, their hold over society that they approach true fascism. People who are well-dressed, whose houses are full of food, bang pots in the streets in protest as though they don't have anything. This is what we had in Chile 36 years ago. This is what we see in Venezuela today. It is as if Chávez is Allende. It is so evocative for me."
In making my film The War on Democracy, I sought the help of Chileans like Roberto and his family, and Sara de Witt, who courageously returned with me to the torture chambers at Villa Grimaldi, which she somehow survived. Together with other Latin Americans who knew the tyrannies, they bear witness to the pattern and meaning of the propaganda and lies now aimed at undermining another epic bid to renew both democracy and freedom on the continent.
The disinformation that helped destroy Allende and give rise to Pinochet’s horrors worked the same in Nicaragua, where the Sandinistas had the temerity to implement modest, popular reforms. In both countries, the CIA funded the leading opposition media, although they need not have bothered. In Nicaragua, the fake martyrdom of La Prensa became a cause for North America’s leading liberal journalists, who seriously debated whether a poverty-stricken country of 3 million peasants posed a "threat" to the United States. Ronald Reagan agreed and declared a state of emergency to combat the monster at the gates. In Britain, whose Thatcher government "absolutely endorsed" US policy, the standard censorship by omission applied. In examining 500 articles that dealt with Nicaragua in the early 1980s, the historian Mark Curtis found an almost universal suppression of the achievements of the Sandinista government -- "remarkable by any standards" -- in favour of the falsehood of "the threat of a communist takeover".

There are certain things you do not WalkOn, from. You don't ignore crimes. In the 80s, Ronald Reagan and Poppy Bush's many crimes were ignored. Establishment thinking was that 'we' needed to let bygones be bygone. 'We' never included those directly effected by the illegal actions taken. The victims weren't polled, not the dead, not the survivors.

The payback for that cowardice is something we still live with. We need to impeach the Bully Boy and Congress needs to get started on that immediately. During the Reagan era, laws were broken, the Constitution was trashed and somehow we were supposed to 'live' with that because Reagan was out of office. Today, we're told Bully Boy will soon be out of office so we should just 'live' with what has happened.

Every time a generation decides to 'live' with (accept) abuses, we make a decision not only for ourselves, but also for future generations. If the Constitution means anything, we need to take it seriously and we need to treat abuses of it as the high crimes they are.

This administration hasn't just trashed the Constitution, it's also focused on the flag. It's easier to focus on the flag. It's a totem. It doesn't mean anything other than what a person invests into it. It contains no laws, no guidelines. It's a visual display that has alternate meanings for many. That's why it could pop up (and did) all over the place post-9/11. But the Constitution has actual meaning and actual laws. It is supposed to govern the conduct of our leaders and when we refuse to hold them to the Constitution we can still smile (or not) at the flag, but we're spitting on our country, our history and our legacy.

"Military Interrogators are Posing as Lawyers at Gitmo" (Sherwood Ross, CounterPunch):
Military interrogators posing as "lawyers" are attempting to trick Guantanamo prisoners into providing them with information, The Catholic Worker (TCW) reports.
This incredible and illegal practice contributes "to the prisoners' suspicions that the (real) lawyers are not to be trusted and could be aiding the government," TCW says in its July issue.
This subterfuge is only one of the many treacherous tactics the government is employing to sabotage the efforts of lawyers to represent their clients.
As Newsday, the Long Island, N.Y. daily, reported: "The military has set up a system that delays legal correspondence for weeks and requires lawyers from around the country to write motions at a single secure facility in Virginia. Detainees have alleged that interrogators have tried to turn them against their lawyers."
Lawyers have to wait for months for security clearances to visit their clients, and the military insists on seeing any legal papers they plan to show prisoners, and reserves the right to censor them or ban them entirely.
After meeting with their clients at Guantamo, Newsday reported, lawyers must turn their interview notes over to guards, who send them on to the Pentagon facility in Virginia that is the only place lawyers can go to write their motions. There, the military tries to edit out detainees' claims of mistreatment from the public record.
Some military lawyers have been gagged from speaking to the media after they made allegation that guards are routinely beating Guantanamo prisoners. Australian Broadcasting reported defense lawyer Lt. Col. Colby Vokey and legal aide Sgt. Heather Cerveny, who represent a Gitmo prisoner, were ordered not to talk to reporters after they filed a formal complaint to the Pentagon about the beatings.

Reading the above, you may feel America has been transformed into one of those junta governments Reagan was repeatedly willing to support in the eighties. We have no rule of law governing us, apparently, and anything can be done, any laws can be broken, we aim for the gutter not the higher ground. That is the Bully Boy's contribution to modern America.

There are no 'detainees' at Guantanamo, there are only prisoners whose rights have been abused. If that doesn't offend you on a personal level because it happens 'over there,' you should grasp that what they can get away with 'over there,' they tend to later import 'over here.'
You stand up for the country or you accept that we have no laws, we have nothing that the current and next leader can't trash at will. That's what we're saying.

While Bully Boy and others have decried the alleged desecration of flags, they've desecrated the Constitution and the country. That should result in action on the part of the Congress. That they refuse to act makes them partners in his crimes.

On Iraq, the 4,000 dead mark has passed. If you're not aware of that mark . . .

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, August 17, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, al-Maliki tries to save his ass via a Sunni shut out, the 4,000 mark for foreign fighters killed in Iraq has passed, a mosque is attacked in Iraq, A.N.S.W.E.R. is attacked in the US, IVAW & Vets for Peace & Military Families Speak Out and others gear up for a march in St. Louis this Sunday, and more.

Starting with war resisters.
Melissa Fryer (The Nanmio News Bulletin).reports on war resister Timothy Richard who enlisted in the National Guard in 1999 and self-checked out and moved to Canada after he was stop-lossed: "In August 2005, just three months before his six-year contract expired, he was called up and moved from calvalry to infantry, and began training at Camp Shelby, Miss. for deployment to Iraq. . . . His contract was extended to 2031 without his permission, due to a clause that allows the U.S. government to extend military contracts at their discretion". Camilo Mejia, who tells his story in his new book Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia, also found his 'contract' (legally binding only when it's in the military's favor) extended to 2031. Richard self-checked out during the Thanksgiving 2005 break and moved to Canada. Fyrer reports,
"Because his dad is Canadian, Richard was able to acquire Canadian citizenship, which allows him to work and go to school, and protects him from extradition to the U.S. to face desertion charges. . . . Other war resisters are not so fortunate. To support them, and to help repay the support he was shown when he landed in Nanaimo, Richard is using his singing talents to raise money for the Nanaimo War Resisters Support Group and St. Andrew's United Church" with "A Concert for Peace" scheduled to take place August 19th, starting at seven p.m. at St. Andrew's Church (ten dollars is the price for a ticket).

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Zamesha Dominique, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key,
Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, 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, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, 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. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. IVAW and others will be joining Veterans For Peace's conference in St. Louis, Missouri August 15th to 19th. (And, on the 19th, there will be a march led by, among others, war resister Darrell Anderson. See further details at later in the snapshot.)

Earlier this month, when the United Nations Security Council voted to 'expand' the UN's role in Iraq,
Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) wrote of the "fig leaf" nature of the UN 'mission' in Iraq observing that "U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expects to send all of thirty more U.N. personnel to Iraq. But the staff union at the U.N. opposes this, and even wants those currently in Iraq to be withdrawn until the safety situation there improves" and also noted how it was "difficult to imagine how the U.N. will be able to help the security situation any. The response by Britain's U.N. ambassador, Emyr Jones Parry, was laughable. He said he hopes 'the U.N. will soon be able to redeploy a contingent to Basra, where its expertise would be helpful in delivering capactiy building in Iraq's southeast'." Basra would be the site where the UK has seen many losses throughout the illegal war (the current number of UK soldiers killed in the illegal war is 168). So the "all of thirty more U.N. personnel [sent] to Iraq" is laughable and, indeed, a fig leaf.

Fig leafs are all that's left to cover the illegal war and the new one this week has been
the so-called 'alliance' Nouri al-Maliki has formed which shuts out the Sunnis. Always quick to parrot the US government's talking points, Damien Cave (New York Times) misses every bit of reality and promotes the 'alliance' as just another manuever while quoting an unnamed US official who declares its too soon to tell whether the alliance will be successful or not? Too soon to tell? The shut out of the Sunnis violates the White House endorsed, Congressionally mandate 'benchmarks' two and sixteen. Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) reports that the make up of the 'alliance' "effectively undermines the coalition's chances of breaking the political gridlock that has frustrated U.S. and Iraqi officials" and quotes Sunni Hachim al-Hassani declaring, "This is not the solution for Iraq's problems. The solution for Iraq's problems is for the real parties to get together and agree on an agenda to fix Iraq's
The Australian observes that the Sunni shut out in the 'alliance' "immediately raised questions about its legitimacy as a unifying force" and declares, "The key disappointment after days spent negotiating the pact's membership was the absence of Iraq's Sunni Vice-President, Tariq al-Hashemi, and his moderate Iraqi Islamic Party. That portends even deeper political divisions, but Mr. Maliki chose a more optimistic assessment." The Sunni shut out also comes after US efforts to arm and train some Sunnis alarmed many Shi'ites in the puppet government and the back-and-forth dance the US does with Sunnis and Shi'ites serves to throw everyone off balance (which is the point of it). al-Maliki, while trashing two 'benchmarks,' is already (once again) eager to spin happy about the chances to pass the theft of Iraqi oil, the privataziation of Iraqi oil opposed by most Iraqis but something the US administration wants. Sabah Jergest (AFP) reports "Leaders of Iraq's disenchanted Sunni Arab community on Friday slammed the new Shiite and Kurdish alliance formed to salvage Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's national unity government. The National Concord Front, the main Sunni Arab political bloc in the country's 275-member parliament, said the new tie-up between the two Shiite and two Kurdish parties was a 'futile' excercise."
David Hardaker (Australia's ABC) notes that "Sunni leader and Vice President Tariq Hashemi has severely criticised the government's record on security and human rights." And so has the mainstream press in recent months but the 'alliance' is a new chance to spin 'possibilities.'

Sam Dagher (Christian Science Monitor) provides context: "With a mid-September deadline looming for the Bush administration to deliver its Iraq progress report to Congress, American diplomats in Baghdad are working overdrive to prevent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government from total collapse -- something that could shatter all efforts to forge a long-elusive national reconciliation." Fig leaf. That's all the 'alliance' is. An effort by the US and al-Maliki to have something -- anything! -- worth spinning as the September 15th 'progress' report (to be delivered to Congress) looms. In light of this comes the 'alliance' and also talk of a crisis summit. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review observes of the latter, "How familiar is this dirge. The government is run by the Shiite majority, the Sunni minority feels put upon and many Kurds would just as soon go their own way." Among the Shi'ite militias Sunnis have called "death squads" is the Badr Brigade. Last week, the governor of the Qadasiyah province was assassinated. CBS News and AP report today that Sheik Hamid al-Khudhan, "secretary-general of the Badr Brigade" has just been elected the new govenor "by a narrow majority" of council members. With these and other actions, the puppet's cry of "We must unite" seems less like a slogan and more like a threat.

How familiar is this dirge? Tuesday multiple bombings in northern Iraq led to mass deaths. Today
BBC reports the death toll at 344 with four hundred wounded and that Abdul Rahim al-Shimari, mayor of Baaj, held a press confrence where he declared, "People are in shock. Hospitals here are running out of medicine. The pharmacies are empty. We need food, medicine and water otherwise there will be an even greater catastrophe." The International Committee of the Red Cross has announced that they are "dispatching surgical and medical supplies to Telaafar General Hospital which is receiving an influx of casualties resulting from the four explosions that rocked the Sinjar district in the north west of Iraq late on Tuesday evening. Similar supplies for the treatment of over 400 wounded have also been dispatched to Sinjar General Hospital and Dohuk Emergency Hospital." While the Red Cross (and Red Crescent) provide aid, Damien Cave (New York Times) gets giddy that Nouri al-Maliki's puppet government has announced it will provide families with $1600 (US) for each family member killed. Ignoring all context and reality, this meager sum stands in stark contrast to to the puppet's July 2006 declaration that he would send $35 million (US) in aid to Lebanon.
Diamond Jim Brady al-Maliki has all the cash in the world to toss around . . . outside of Iraq but when Iraqi lives are to be compensated for, he sends the message that the lives are of much less value on the monetary scale.

Staying on the topic of money,
CNN reported yesterday on Iraqi women who have been forced into prostitution due to their losses from the illegal war as they attempt to support themselves and their children with some earning $8 (US) a day. Suha, not her real name, is 37-years-old, the mother of three children and she tells CNN, "People shouldn't criticize women, or talk badly about them. They all say we have lost our way, but they never ask why we had to take this path. I don't have money to take my kids to the doctor. I have to do anything that I can to preserve my child, because I am a mother." The Organization for Women's Freedom in Iraq's Yanar Mohammed explains to CNN that her group "pounds the streets of Baghdad looking for these victims often too humiliated to come forward," victims of the illegal war whom she points out have been forced into prostitution: "At this point there is a population of women who have to sell their bodies in order to keep their children alive. It's a taboo that no one is speaking out. There is a huge population of women who were the victims of war who had to sell their bodies, their souls and they lost it all."

On the anniversary of the fourth year of the illegal war, the
Organization for Women's Freedom in Iraq released the following statement:

Women of Iraq have gradually let go of most of their 20th century gains and privileges in the last 4 years of occupation. Iraq turned from a modern country of educated and working women into a divided land of Islamic and ethnic warlords who compete in cancelling women from the social realm. Millions of women's destinies are wasted between the destructive US war machine and different kinds of Islamic rule who have have turned women into helpless black objects of no will or worth.
After 4 years of "democratizing" Iraq, systemic group rapes of detained women have become a routine procedure to be practiced in police staions and detainment camps. It has also become another ugly face of the atrocious sectarian war where assaulting females of
the other sect is considered a political victory and punishment.
Abeer, Sabrine and Wajidah's sufferings were known, heard, and ended but hundreds of unknown assaulted women still get beaten, raped and videotaped daily in the Iraqi ministries and around the American bases.

And yes, Virgil and Virginia, there is prostitution in Iraq and in Baghdad and it's been known throughout the illegal war though many outlets have worked overtime to officially ignore it (officially ignore).

CBS News' Lara Logan files an update on the Baghdad orphan horror story (back in June, US soldiers found an 'orphanage' that was practicing neglect and abuse and rescued the children) by noting that the US soldiers who saved the children have been awarded but she fails to mention the names of those receiving awards other than Osman Koroma. She also fails to mention how the situation (and others like it that remain unreported) came to be.
Congratulations to Koroma (and the others) for a well deserved medal but the facts remain -- and remain unreported in US media -- that the orphanage and others like it exist due to the illegal war. This was not a case of children made orphans, this was actually (though Logan doesn't note it) a special needs residential center. In the Arab media, parents of the children and of other children have been interviewed, have discussed how they placed their special needs children there because they hoped the children would have the best chance at safety in a war torn country. Parents have been vocal -- outside the US media -- about how the story CBS broke (and others picked up) have made them decide that bombs falling, shootings, barely enough food to survive on, be damned, they were going to pull the children from these institutions. CBS News continues to act as if an isolated center was found and what took place happened by mere chance. That is not reality. There are many others and 'care givers' know they can get away with it because the daily violence makes visits by parents near impossible (and, as one father revealed, many of these centers require the parents to make appointments to visit) and they thrive because Iraqi parents (or in some cases, an Iraqi parent since the illegal war has left many families with one parent -- some with none) see the daily violence from the illegal war and look for any sort of safety for their children. By all means, applaud Osman Koroma and the other US soldiers who made a huge difference by not just discovering the children but by rescuing them (up the chain commanders deserve no credit or applause for the individual actions of the soldiers) but don't ignore the fact that this center and others like it exist due to the illegal war.

yesterday a mark stood at 3999. The mark? The number of official military members who had died after foreign governments had sent them into Iraq to fight in the illegal war. The 4,000 mark has passed. Today the US military announced: "Thursday, a MNC-I Soldier died of non-battle related cause in Baghdad. An investigation into the cause of death will be conducted." And they announced: "A Task Force Lightning Soldier died of wounds sustained from enemy gunfire in Baghdad Province, Thursday." This took the total to 4001. As Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) reported earlier today, "In Iraq, the coalition death toll has now topped four thousand. The vast majority are American, with thirty-seven hundred and two U.S. troops killed. Forty-four U.S. service members have died this month."

But the number climbed still higher later in the day. Later today, the
US military announced: "One Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier was killed and two were wounded when a roadside bomb detonated during a patrol in an eastern section of the Iraqi capital Aug. 17." And they announced: "Thursday, a MNC-I Soldier died of non-battle related cause in Baghdad." ICCC's total for the number of US service members who've died in the illegal war thus far this month is 48 and the total number who have died since the start of the illegal war stands at 3706. The total number of foreign military members (US, UK and "Other") killed in the illegal war currently stands at 4003.

As noted above a US soldier died of gun wounds on Thursday. The guns were fired from the roof of a mosque and have resulted in a mosque being the site of a battle.
AP reports the US fired missiles at Honest Mohammed Mosque (which was damaged) as worshippers fled.
CNN reports 14 Iraqis were killed by the US including a "boy." The US military states the mosque battle took place in Tarmiyah while glossing over Iraqi fatalities.

In other violence today . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad mortar attack that left three people wounded and 3 bombings that claimed 2 lives and left 8 people injured (four were Iraqi soldiers). KUNA reports a Kirkuk bombing wounded four civilians and five Iraqi police officers.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two people wounded from gun fire when unknown assailants in five vehicles opened fre as they drove through Albu Faraj village. AP reports the airing today of a taped execution of Alaa Abboud Fartous Diab who had been an official at the Iraqi Defense Ministry and was "killed with two pistol shots to the back of the head."


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 11 corpses discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes 3 corpses discovered in Haditha ("gunshot wounds and signs of torture").

Yesterday, the media began reporting on US Army study that found a 15% increase in suicides among active duty members of the army which AP had. Today, Pauline Jelinek (AP) notes that "nearly a third of 99 [suicides] committed in 2006 were among soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan at the time of their deaths. Iraq accounted for the overwhelming number of those -- 27 of the 30." Military Families Speak Out's Nancy Lessing says, "This report only shows the tip of iceberg, as it does not cover those who took their lives after leaving active duty service. Until the war in Iraq is brought to an end, we think the tragic reality will only become worse" and notes the suicides of Brian Jason Rand and Jeffrey Lucey -- two of many suicides that were committed after the service members left active duty status and are not tracked in the heavily covered study.

This Sunday,
[PDF format warning] Military Families Speak Out and others including war resister Darrell Anderson will be conducting a march in St. Louis, MO called "The National March Through the Arch" which will begin at 10:45 a.m. with partipants encouraged to meet at 10:30 a.m. at the corner of 9th and Cole streets.

Many organizations and individuals will also be taking part in an August 25th march in Maine.
Kennebunks Peace Department announces the August 25th Rally and March for Peace which will include Cindy Sheehan, Cynthia McKinney, Dennis Kucinich, Melida and Carlos Arredondo, David Rovics, Indigo Girls, Pat Scanlon & Band and others. Participants should "gather in the park outside the Kennebunkport Consolidated School on School Street at 10 a.m. for a morning of speeches and music. Then the group will march to the Bush family compound on Walker's Point. The march will be followed by another speaking and music program."

In other peace activisim news,
Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) reported yesterday that A.N.S.W.E.R. is being targeted for a demonstration next month, "In Washington D.C., city officials have threatened a ten thousand dollar fine to the anti-war group ANSWER unless it removes posters promoting an upcoming peace march. Several hundred yellow posters have been posted around the city announcing the September 15th event. The protest is timed to coincide with the release of a Pentagon report on the so-called troop surge in Iraq. D.C. officials say the posters are illegal because they don't meet city standards on adhesive use. ANSWER calls the fine threat a political move aimed at silencing the march."
A.N.S.W.E.R. maintains it "will not pay one penny to the government for our First Amendment rights or to stave off their threats against us. We are working with the expert constitutional rights attorneys at the Partnership for Civil Justice to determine our next steps for legal action against this government harrassment and attempted repression." They are asking for people to take action by calling the Director of Department of Public Workds, William O. Howland Jr. at 202-673-6833 and the DC Mayor, Adrian Fenty, at 202-724-8876 and/or to use this link to send or a letter or fax. And, to be sure everyone is clear, the march remains on.