Tuesday, December 11, 2007

IVAW, Cindy Sheehan

IVAW (Iraq Veterans Against the War) is launching a new “Winter Soldier” campaign that will conduct a public investigation into the atrocities occuring in Iraq and Afghanistan. Organizing is still underway for the public hearings, with more information available on the website, www.ivaw.org/wintersoldier.
Veterans, as well as Iraqi and Afghan survivors, will testify to their first-hand experiences and reveal the truth of occupation. This investigation will help end the war because it will:
Embolden GI resistance by making the truth of their experiences an acceptable part of the national dialogue. Further, the DVD created at this conference will be a powerful educational tool on the history of GI movements and will encourage independent thought and collective action. Mobilize the anti-war movement by demonstrating the power of organized opposition and providing the facts needed to confront the myths propagated by the administration, congress and the media. IVAW will also present its strategy of organizing GIs to encourage the anti-war movement as a whole to support GI resistance
Build solidarity between the common peoples of the US, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
The people who suffer the most from this occupation will be given a voice and a view into our struggle to end the unlawful occupation of their countries. Through this event, IVAW hopes to build lasting ties with the common people of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Shape the way this history is told to future generations. Without a concerted effort to dispel the myths and sugar coated images of the U.S. occupations, future generations will never know the realities of war.
his project provides you with the opportunity to feel the deep satisfaction of contributing to laying the building blocks of an extremely meaningful movement. The best way for us to prevent the wars looming on the horizon is for people to collectively stay on the offensive against the current wars.

That is from "The Winter Soldier Campaign" (ZMag). I thought I'd open with that and mainly because Mike and both were wondering what there was Iraq related to note? Back in November, C.I. noted the polling and how it was a direct result of so many outlets either spewing out myths or ignoring Iraq completely. I thought about that today when I saw another poll with somewhat similar results.

Tomorrow I may note some specific problems with coverage or lack of -- I found a ton while searching for highlights -- but it is a huge, huge problem.

I also found somethings I enjoyed and one that I would have otherwise missed is an interview with Cindy Sheehan.

"E-Mail Heart to Heart: An Interview With Cindy Sheehan" (Rebecca Snow Landa, Eat The State):
ETS!: What victories have you seen in your own activism, and in the larger peace movement in recent years that we can celebrate and emulate? What keeps you going when the critics attack and the war machine seems unstoppable?
CS: I think the Democrats regaining majorities in both Houses of Congress was in direct response to the actions and organization of grass roots movements, especially the peace movement that is so opposed to the occupation of Iraq. As most people now know--and as I predicted--the Democrats have betrayed us and the war keeps raging, even worse, and BushCo have not been impeached. That was a victory that has turned out to be a curse.
I think no effort is wasted though. The fact that there are millions of people in harm's way for the crimes and greed of my country are what keeps me going. It is love.

As most know, Cindy Sheehan is now running for Congress. The interview is a strong one with many good points and I just chose the one that stood out most strongly to me.

Her campaign may be one of the few things I'm hopeful about these days. In one degree or another, I've always celebrated Christmas. I've never felt less Christmasy than this year. Maybe I'm coming down with a cold? Usually by now, I've got some amusement about the holiday. As I get older, that comes more and more from the young children. Whether it's a friend's child or a stranger's child you see who is just intensely focused on Christmas. Today I saw two children, the oldest was probably seven, and they may have been brothers. They may have just been friends. But I was stopping for a salad on my way home and they were really excited, attempting to list all of Santa's reindeer.

I always listen in to those conversations and try to remember if I was ever that excited? (I'm sure I was.) I don't interrupt and say, "No, it's ___" because part of the enjoyment, or mine, is hearing the names they give reindeer. (The names that many of us think we know as adults were much harder to decipher when we were young.) While I listened, I found myself hoping they had a good Christmas but not really feeling the usual excitement.

Now maybe I have a cold (I've been blowing my nose all day) but usually the Christmas mood (holiday giving -- of gifts and of the holiday cheer) has started to get into my bones by now. By December 13th every year, I'm fully into it. (When my parents were alive, the tree always went up on the 13th. It was held until then due to a birthday in the family on the 12th. So come December 13th, whether it was middle of the week or a weekend, the tree went up. After they died, my brother and I carried that on and, in my own life, I've always put up the tree on the 13th.)

I just don't feel very good tidings. I fault the government and I am being serious. The Democrats were voted in to end the illegal war and not only did they not do that, they also attempted to con us. Now they appear to be on the verge of caving on the tiny stand they did take (Bully Boy's latest spending supplemental). It's just kind of wearing on my soul.

Maybe it's because when the holidays are over, we're firmly in 2008 which is an election year. That will bring many more lies about the illegal war as candidates swear they'll do something but won't.

I don't think any children read my site. If you read it with your child, stop here. I had to put that warning in.

The only thing I can compare my mood to is the year, right before Christmas, when I found out there was no Santa. That was so devastating. I went from writing my letter and thinking what sort of snacks Santa would want on Christmas eve to feeling like I'd been lied to. I did the warning in case anyone reading didn't know there was a Santa. It's highly unlikely but who knows? I do know I'd hate to be the person to ever say "There's no Santa" to a child.

But that's what it feels like.

Please don't think that I was a believer in the idea that DC does, let alone changes, anything. However, I did believe that the people would hold the Dems accountable after the 2006 elections. So it's been really depressing to grasp that nearly the entire year has gone by and the Democratic Party hasn't really been held accountable.

That is partly due to the fact that when the Dems started attempting to swindle Americans back in March you had all these party hacks rush forward to attack the very few that were speaking out and saying, "They're about to betray us."

If the David Sirota Brigade hadn't been around, maybe the public would have grasped what was happening? As it was, March replayed in May and June and July. It seems as if most people only caught on over the summer.

Now the year's almost up and Democrats will end it, having control of both houses, having done nothing to bring the illegal war to an end.

Maybe I'm coming down with a cold, but I'm not feeling Christmasy.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, December 11, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the targeting of officials continues, women in Iraq are under attack from the puppet government and the US, what's up with al-Sadr and more..

Starting with war resisters. So we are driving in to Canada as this is dictated hoping to catch the Parliament's hearing that will provide war resisters who went to Canada the opportunity to testify in public. And no one seems to know anything about today's hearing. It is taking place right? A call to the Parliament (613-992-3150) results in a nice man on the phone who is looking to find the hearing scheduled for the Citizenship and Immigration committee. "Don't seem to have anything to do" today he says of the committee while we're all wondering (
Ava, Kat, myself and a friend), "Did the meeting get cancelled?" No. He finds it. It's been going on for "over an hour." So, fingers crossed for luck, it hasn't been cancelled and the reason members e-mailing can't find information on it is that the hearing's ongoing. (Although for all we know, we'll get there and it's been cancelled.)

What has taken place already, on December 6th was a meeting of thecommittee and we'll note the minutes of it in full.

The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration met at 3:34 p.m. this day, in Room 269, West Block, the Chair, Norman Doyle, presiding.

Members of the Committee present:
Dave Batters, Colleen Beaumier, Robert Carrier, Olivia Chow, Norman Doyle, Meili Faille, Nina Grewal, Hon. Jim Karygiannis, Ed Komarnicki and Hon. Andrew Telegdi.

Acting Members present:
Lloyd St. Amand for Hon. Maurizio Bevilacqua and Bradley R. Trost for Wajid Khan.

Other Members present:
Alex Atamanenko.

In attendance:
Library of Parliament: Penny Becklumb, Analyst; Sandra Elgersma, Analyst.

Witnesses: Department of Citizenship and Immigration:
Les Linklater, Director General, Immigration Branch; Micheline Aucoin, Director General, Refugees Branch. Mennonite Central Committee: William Janzen, Director. War Resisters' Support Campaign: Phillip McDowell. As an individual: Jeffry A. House. Canadian Friends Service Committee: Gay Anne Broughton, Program Coordinator.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted by the Committee on Thursday, November 22, 2007, the Committee commenced its study of Iraq war resisters.

Les Linklater made a statement and, with Micheline Aucoin, answered questions.

William Janzen, Philip McDowell, Jeffry A. House and Gay Anne Broughton made statements and answered questions.

Jim Karygiannis moved, -- The Committee recommends that the government immediately implement a program to allow conscientious objectors and their immediate family members (partners and dependents), who have refused or left military service related to the war in Iraq and do not have a criminal record and/or there has been no criminal or military warrants issued against them, to apply for permanent resident status and remain in Canada; and that the government should immediately cease any removal or deportation actions that may have already commenced against such individuals.

Olivia Chow moved, -- That the motion be amended by replacing the words "the war in Iraq" with the words "a war not sanctioned by the United Nations"; and by deleting the words "and/or there has been no criminal or military warrants issued against them".

After debate, the question was put on the amendment of Olivia Chow and it was agreed to on the following recorded division: YEAS: Colleen Beaumier, Robert Carrier, Olivia Chow, Meili Faille, Jim Karygiannis, Lloyd St. Amand, Andrew Telegdi -- 7; NAYS: Dave Batters, Nina Grewal, Ed Komarnicki, Bradley R. Trost -- 4.

After debate, the question was put on the motion, as amended, and it was agreed to on the following recorded division: YEAS: Colleen Beaumier, Robert Carrier, Olivia Chow, Meili Faille, Jim Karygiannis, Lloyd St. Amand, Andrew Telegdi -- 7; NAYS: Dave Batters, Nina Grewal, Ed Komarnicki, Bradley R. Trost -- 4.

The motion, as amended, read as follows:
That the Committee recommend that the government immediately implement a program to allow conscientious objectors and their immediate family members (partners and dependents), who have refused or left military service related to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations and do not have a criminal record, to apply for permanent resident status and remain in Canada; and that the government should immediately cease any removal or deportation actions that may have already commenced against such individuals.

At 5:14 p.m., the Committee adjourned to the call of the Chair.

That was December 6th and, again, a hearing is supposed to be taking place right now.
Cindy Sheehan (OpEdNews) urges people to utilize Courage to Resist's easy to mail or e-mail resources to allow the Canadian government to know you are watching and to support organizations supporting war resisters as well as supporting war resisters:

Support actual war resisters in Canada by sending them expense money. From my friend Ryan (I gave him and his wife money to get to Canada over two years ago):

In light of the recent Supreme Court denial in Canada, I (Ryan Johnson), My wife (Jen Johnson) and Brandon Hughey need help raising funds to travel to Ottawa to attend hearings before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, where War Resisters will be giving Testimony to the committee. At these hearings the committee will be deciding on whether or not to make a provision to allow war resisters to stay in Canada. This is one of our last chances to be able to continue living in Canada. We will be leaving December 7th because the hearings are December 11th, 2007 so we need to act fast. They may try to send guys back soon and we need to have a strong War Resister Presence. We appreciate all of the support and Want to thank all of you who can help.

Checks/money orders can be sent for Ryan, Jen and Brandon to: 312 Tower Rd Nelson, BC V1L3K6

Checks and money orders can continue to be sent. They obviously will not get their in time since the hearing is tomorrow but they will help with expenses. In addition, the links offered should continue to be used. No one expects the Parliament to listen to testimony and say, "Okay, then! Here's our decision."

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb,
Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, 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, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, 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, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty 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 [(877) 447-4487], 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. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).

The voice of war resister Camilo Mejia is featured in Rebel Voices -- playing now through December 16th at
Culture Project -- that's ten more days -- and based on Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove's best-selling book Voices of a People's History of the United States. It features dramatic readings of historical voices such as war resister Mejia, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Malcom X and others will be featured. Musician Allison Mooerer will head the permanent cast while those confirmed to be performing on selected nights are Ally Sheedy (actress and poet, best known for films such as High Art, The Breakfast Club, Maid to Order, the two Short Circuit films, St. Elmo's Fire, War Games, and, along with Nicky Katt, has good buzz on the forthcoming Harold), Eve Ensler who wrote the theater classic The Vagina Monologues (no, it's not too soon to call that a classic), actor David Strathaim (L.A. Confidential, The Firm, Bob Roberts, Dolores Claiborne and The Bourne Ultimatum), actor and playwright Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride, Clueless -- film and TV series, Gregory and Chicken Little), actress Lili Taylor (Dogfight, Shortcuts, Say Anything, Household Saints, I Shot Andy Warhol, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, State of Mind) and actor, director and activist Danny Glover (The Color Purple, Beloved, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Rainmaker, Places In The Heart, Dreamgirls, Shooter and who recently appeared on Democracy Now! addressing the US militarization of Africa) The directors are Will Pomerantz and Rob Urbinati with Urbinati collaborating with Zinn and Arnove on the play. Tickets are $41.. The theater is located at 55 Mercer Street and tickets can be purchased there, over the phone (212-352-3101) or online here and here. More information can be found at Culture Project.

IVAW is organizing a March 2008 DC event:

In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers.
In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.
Click here to sign a statement of support for Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan

March 13th through 15th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation.

"Has the US turned the tide in Baghdad?" wonders the Independent of London's
Patrick Cockburn at CounterPunch before outlining the actual realities (and noting "American commentators are generally making the same mistake that they have made since the invasion of Iraq was first contemplated five years ago"). Cockburn -- a non-embedded reporter -- explains how the escalation ('surge') has little to do with what's going on in Iraq ("the battle for supremacy between the Sunni and Shia communities"): "The US military -- the State Department has been very marginalized in decision making in Baghdad -- does not want to emphasize that many of the Sunni fighters now on the US payroll and misleadingly called 'Concerned Citizens' until recently belonged to al Qa'ida and have the blood of a great many Iraqi civilians and US soldiers on their hands." Cockburn traces the exodus of Sunnis from the capital at the start of the "The Battle for Baghdad" (Feb. 22, 2006) which was a surprise in the Shi'ite response and the lack of support from "Sunni states like Saudi Arabia and Egypt" and led to the forming of the militias/thugs/'Awakening councils' which are now being hailed by the US as a 'success' but are the same cause of tension as the Shi'ite thugs the US armed: ". . . the creation of this force is a new stage in the war in Iraq rather than an end to the conflict." US trained and backed to fight foreign fighters in Iraq seen as alligned with al Qaeda, that wait to turn that training on Shi'ites and on the US itself. Cockburn notes Moqtada al-Sadr's cease fire could end at any point "if the Shia community came under attack or the Americans pressured it too hard" and that al-Sadr is attempting "to purge" his Mehdi Army "of elements he does not control". Cockburn's analysis comes as Sam Dagher (Christian Science Monitor) reports that Moqtada al-Sadr insiders say he "is anything but idle. Instead, he is orchestrating a revial among his army of loyalists entrenched in Baghdad and Shiite enclaves in the south -- from the religious centers of Karbala and Najaf to the economic hub of Basra" with retraining, safe houses and samaritan efforts (such as donating blood) to win over Iraqis the violence may have alienated while developing a stronger, more controlled force that can take on the US. Dagher quotes al-Sadr's statment last week, "I tell the evil Bush, leave our land, we do not need you or your armies. . . . I tell the occupiers . . . you have your democracy and we have our Islam; get out of our land."

Cockburn notes that an August poll found that more than a majority of Iraqis continue to support attacks on US forces. In another sign of sentiment against the illegal occupation,
Peter Graff (Reuters) reports that Mowaffag al-Rubaie, Iraq's national security adviser, has declared that there will be no permanent US bases in Iraq, dubbed that an uncrossable "red line" and declared that "permanent forces or bases in Iraq for any foreign forces is a read line that cannot be accepted by any nationalist Iraqi."

Meanwhile, officials continue to be targeted in Iraq and
Reuters notes that today: "A suicide car bomb exploded near the homes of senior Iraqi politicians in a heavily guarded neighbourhood of western Baghdad on Tuesday, killing two people and wounding 12, police said." CNN says that the attack took place just outside the Green Zone and that the "politicians" were Saleh Mutlaq and CIA asset and former Iraqi puppet prime minister Ayad Allawi. Jordan's Al Bawaba notes that Mutlaq is in Jordan presently and that the Baghdad bombing also left at least 12 wounded. Lori Hinnant (AP) reports that Allawi was also out of the country during the bombing and quotes Mutlaq declaring, "Everyone is vulnerable. We have been targeted by three groups -- the Americans, Iraqi forces and a suicide bomber. Everyone should wake up and do something to change the situation." Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) explains that the car exploded at "a check point at Zaitoon street of Harthiyah neighborhood." Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) provides the context that, "The bombing came two days after the assassination of a prominent provincial police chief south of Baghdad whom U.S. officials credited with standing up to sectarianism and insurgents.

Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that wounded one Iraqi soldier, three Iraqi police officers were wounded in a roadside bombing in Diyala province and, yesterday, a Kirkuk roadside bombing killed 4 Iraqi police officers and wounded four more. Reuters notes, "A bomb attached to a booby-trapped body killed one Iraqi solder and wounded seven others including two policemen in the Saidiya district of southern Baghdad, police said."

Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the latest assassination in the continued targeting of officials in Iraq: Dr. Ibrahim Mohammed Ajeel Al-Shiqia was shot dead by two assassins on mortor cycles in Baghdad, in addition three Iraqi soldiers were wounded in a Baghdad shooting at a check point, Hassan Al-Jumaili was shot dead in Baquba and a woman was shot dead in Diyala province in the midst of a gun battle between the Iraqi army and unidentified others. Reuters notes A policeman was killed by a sniper in western Samarra, 100 km (68 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 4 corpses discovered in Baghdad and, yesterday, the corpses of two Iraqi Christians were discovered in Basra.

Turning to the topic of women in Iraq. Today on Democracy Now!,
Amy Goodman noted: "A woman in Houston Texas has sued the company Halliburton and its former subsidiary KBR after she says she was gang raped by employees of the company in Baghdad. Jamie Leigh Jones, who was working for KBR at the time, says she was raped by multiple men at a KBR camp in the Green Zone. Jones accuses the company and the U.S. government of covering up the incident. Jones told ABC News that after she was raped, the company put her in a shipping container without food or water for at least 24 hours. She was also warned that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job. No one has been prosecuted for the rape. ABC News reported the alleged assailants will likely never face a judge and jury, due to a loophole that has effectively left contractors in Iraq beyond the reach of United States law."
Meanwhile the
United Nation's IRIN reports on Nadira Habib, the deputy head of the Iraqi parliamentary committee for women and children's affairs, announcing the call for all female 'detainees' in US and Iraqi prisons throughout the country to be released stating: "The Iraqi government should expedite reviewing the files of these detainees by forming committees of lawyers, judges and prosecutors, as the majority of them [female detainees] are innocent." IRIN notes 199 women held in al-Adala prison and that the US refuses to release the number of women that they are hodling in prisons and IRIN also notes that a woman who was innocent but taken to prison by the Iraqi army when they couldn't find her brother (who was also innocent and would later receive an apology). If you're not grasping that these thugs were trained by the US (which has regularly -- against the Geneeva Convention -- targeted the wives and daughters of 'people of interest) then pay attention to what happened to her while she was held by Iraqis and wonder where the thugs learned these techniques: "they beat me during my nearly one month in prison and I was subjected to loud music, and the lights were never turned off in my cell." It's the torture the US has especially perfected during this illegal war and at Guantanamo and in Afghanistan. Meanwhile Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports the central (puppet) government has decided that Iraqi female police officers will now be unarmed "thwarting a U.S. initiative to bring women into the nation's police force. The Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, issued the order late last month, according to ministry documents, U.S. officials and several of the women.. . .
Critics say the move is the latest sign of the religious and cultural conservatism that has taken hold in Iraq since Saddam Hussein's ouster ushered in a government dominated by Shiite Muslims. Now, that tendency is hampering efforts to bring stability to Iraq by driving women from the force, said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. David Phillips, who has led the effort to recruit female officers." For those who've forgotten, there have been repeated calls to disband the Iraqi police and the Interior Ministry is seen as lawless.
IVAW's Kelly Dougherty notes the November 28th passing of IVAW member Sammantha Owen-Ewing, "It is impossible to sum up the life of a person, their personality and how much they meant to the people who loved them, in a few short lines. In her obituary, Sammantha was described as 'sweet, thoughtful, and loving. She brought joy to the lives of those around her.' I'm sorry I will never meet Sammantha and my deepest condolences go out to her family. I know that many IVAW members have suffered through depression, PTSD, and other forms of internal anguish, and many of us still deal with these things on a daily basis. IVAW has set up a memorial fund on behalf of Sammantha Owen-Ewing to help her family offset her funeral costs. We will be accepting donations through the end of December, if you'd like to make a donation, go to www.ivaw.org/memorialfund."

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