Monday, December 10, 2007

Peace (and Patti)

Am I the only one bothered by Oprah lying and saying "long before it was the right thing to do" Barack Obama stood against the illegal war?

This is Oprah who promoted the illegal war on her show. If she's now against the illegal war, she should have Iraq Veterans Against the War, war resisters and others on her light-weight daily wasted hourly program.

Selling the illegal war is one of those things Patricia Williams ignores in her bad piece at The Nation. But Oprah did sell the illegal war and did bring Judith Miller, among others, onto her program to sell it.

Williams also ignores the fact that young girls were sexually abused at Oprah's school and that was news only a few weeks back.

Patricia Williams may know the law, I've never seen any indication of that in the 'musings' she drops from her cloud, but she clearly has a problem in writing about things she knows nothing about. That may result from the fact that the law professor appears to be flipping through People magazine (as she once admitted in a column) for topics to write about.

It is also disgusting that she and others prefer to use the term "Black" for Barack Obama who is bi-racial. Bi-racial and multi-racial persons have long noted their identity issues and the way society views in. In the late 90s, the move towards the use of the terms "bi-racial" and "multi-racial" appeared to have succeeded but apparently that's one more encompassing thing we lost post-9/11.

On the plus side, at least we now know, due to her intense crush on Obama, that Williams follows politics in some manner. I remember her being interviewed by Janeane Garofalo and Sam Seder (Air American Radio) in what I believe was her only appearance on The Majority Report and she was one of those prats who had nothing to say and took offense at criticism of the Bully Boy. Williams breathes very rare air and it appears to have gotten her high. But at least we now know she, in some manner, is engaged in the same world the rest of us are. All it apparently took was hormonal urges to kick-start her political interest.

Bully Boy floats on something as well. He blames those suffering from the corrupt morgate system stating that it was their "reckless decision to buy a home they could not afford." You can read, listen or watch that quote on Democracy Now! and you can hear Oprah's endorsement, from the same show, here.

I am rushing my journal tonight, in case you haven't noticed. The snapshot went up late due to a problem in the community that C.I. addresses (wonderfully) at the end. The snapshot was dictated to someone who recorded it and then C.I. found out about the problem, said "Hold the snapshot!" and had to wait until finishing speaking with another group of students to dictate the last paragraph (which also required editing out other details because the snapshot was too long to be e-mailed to the site). I am not complaining about the delay, by the way. Had I seen the piece that offended so many, I would've been offended as well.

"Who's killing the peace movement?" went up Sunday at The Third Estate Sunday Review and it is amazing. That is not be bragging on my part. My part, everyone's part except for C.I., is minimal. This is, the bulk of it, what C.I. had dictated for a snapshot last week, I wrote about it then, but then found out how long it was and scrapped it. It is amazing and it tells the truth. There is not a great deal of truth telling going on today. My only contribution of any significance was insisting that C.I. include the "on my part" section. Their campus visits, starting next year, will feature at least one peace movement leader (there were many, many leaders) one day each week when they visit campuses to discusses Iraq. That is very much needed. Real leaders who know what really happened in that period as opposed to people who participated in a few marches, dreamed of leadership, but never achieved it.

As the article notes, many of the very real leaders dropped out. They may have turned to other activism, they may have been done with activism. On the latter group, not only do I not see that as a bad thing, I've written of it myself and how I wanted to provide Ava with my own experiences during Vietnam, specifically the toll that activism took professionally (due to having to put things on hold) and personally. I don't think I was a leader. I was a communicator and a popularizer. But when US troops finally left Vietnam, everyone I knew from college that was not active had moved on with their lives and I was suddenly faced with playing catch up. I know I was exhausted. I could only imagine how it would have been even more trying to have been a leader.

So with the real leaders largely out of the movement, participants in the movement have seized control of it and that's fine. They could carry on the left's mission. The reality is the bulk of them weren't qualified. You can witness that by how ineffective the left was during the two periods of war. When the Iraq War broke out, they were seen as leaders but they weren't. Their lousy leadership (I'm thinking of three in particular) is hurting the peace movement. At best those are place holders. Instead, they've seized leadership. They needed to step aside some time ago and hand it over to today's leaders, young adults. They're not going to do so willing. They are like the ones who struggled prior to Vietnam on a variety of issues in the fifties. At best, they planted seeds. At worst, they were ineffective. My generation had to take control from them. The same take over needs to happen with regards to the current 'leadership.'

The article notes that Ava and C.I. have lined up people for the first six months, one a week. That is no longer true. When the article went up, it became heavily forwarded by certain real leaders from an earlier time. Dona, poor Dona, is attempting to figure out the scheduling on all the people who have called and said, "Count me in. I'll go on campus and I'll share with students how we took control, why we did it and why they need to do it now." Jim was pressing for a prediction ending which C.I. didn't want to do and I agreed with that as did others. Intead it's a "2008 may be . . ." type ending.

I think it is very likely that students will seize control of what is their movement. I applaud their efforts to do so. People my age need to learn the value of the background and stop stroking their own egos.

Again, it's a major piece. If you haven't already read it, make a point to.

This is a major piece.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Monday, December 10, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, Bilal is not freed but has a day in what someone thinks is 'court,' tomorrow the Canadian Parliament holds hearing on war resisters and more.

Starting with war resisters,
Stuart Neatby (The Dominion) reports "The Canadian Supreme Court refused to even hear the case of Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey, the first two war resisters to have publicly travelled to Canada in order to refuse to fight the war in Iraq. They are expected to face deportation proceedings. The War Resisters support campaign held protests in eight Canadian cities and is appealing to supporters to bombard Canadian MP's with letters and faxes asking for a parliamentary provision allowing Hughey and Hinzman to remain in Canada." Tomorrow the Canadian Parliament will hold hearings on the issue of war resisters.

BBC Radio One's Newsbeat explained of the US military "more and more of their soldiers say they're so disgusted with how innocent civilians are treated out there they've got no choice but to quit. Even if it means they're thrown into jail." Noting that "more than 4,500 troops have deserted this year," Newsbeat spoke with US war resisters Phil McDowell and Dean Walcott who are now in Canada.

Phil McDowell: We were in convoys we were being instructed to run civilian cars off the road. I refused to do that because it didn't seem right to invade another country under false prestense and say that you're there to help them and start running their cars off the road.

Newsbeat: Since the US invaded Iraq in 2003, there's been an 80% increase in soldiers quitting in combat.

Phil: The invasion was never approved by the United Nations. In terms of that Iraq was never threating the United States. The whole weapons of mass destruction argument was, uh, ceased to exist.

Newsbeat: If they're AWOL for more than 30 days soldiers are issued with an arrest warrant but for some, like Phil McDowell, they'd rather do time behind bars than go back to Iraq and see the mistreatment of civilians.

Phil: They would have them tied up and hooded and they were laying on the ground. And their required to let them use the washrooms but they would take them into the washrooms but a soldier would refuse to untie their hands or take off their blindfold.

Newsbeat: Another of the deserters is Dean Walcott, a corporal in the Marine Corps. He saw US forces destroy a tent they had suspected of harboring terrorists but the fire spread rapidly to other tents burning innocent people.

Dean Walcott: There's no way for me to accurately describe what a human being looks like when he's been set on fire. It's horrible and there's screaming that I can only compare to some of the things you hear in movies.

Newsbeat: We put the soldiers' claims to the US Defense Department and the Pentagon. They told Newsbeat many deserters are on the run because of their shame about abandoning comrades. As a result they now face spending the rest of their lives looking over their shoulders wondering when they'll be discovered.

Phil McDowell: It's an internationally condemned war

Newsbeat: But isn't it your job as a soldier to obey orders even if you don't like them?

Phil McDowell: It is absolutely but there comes a point when what you're being asked to do if it breaks the law, you're not supposed to do it.

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. Tomorrow is the hearing. 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.

IVAW's Michael Blake will speak on the harassment of anti-war service members at Fort Drum at the "Witness to War: U.S. Out of Iraq" Tuesday at 7:00 p.m., the Unitarian Church Annex, 208 E. Buffalo St. Also speaking will be Beth Harris (professor at Ithaca College) on the Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Syria, The Catholic Worker's Peter DeMott about civil disobedience and Finger Lakes for Peace in Iraq's Ellen Grady. That's Tuesday, December 11th. More information
here at The Ithaca Journal.

On Sunday, the New York Times'
Stephen Farrell reported on the realities of Kirkuk -- an oil rich city which both the central (puppet) government in Baghdad and the northern Kurdish region of Iraq would like to claim. Currently, it is under the control of Baghdad. The Iraqi constitution is supposed to guarantee an election on the issue, by the residents of Kirkuk, but the central government has noted earlier this fall that it will not take place. In anticipation of an election, the northern region has forced Kurds to move to Kirkuk and Kurdish militias have targeted Sunni and Shi'ites already living in Kirkuk. Farrell quotes Iraqi president, and Kurd, Jalal Talabani absurdly claiming that the Kurdish region has not displaced Kurds and ordered them to Kirkuk and Farrell also interviews many of the displaced Kurds who are now homeless in Kirkuk and were told that they had to leave the northern region and threatened with loss of employment, loss of food rations and violence. He also speaks with non-Kurds who explain that they were forced out of their homes in Kirkuks by the Kurdish gangs. The Kurdish region -- which has a lot of money to toss around, none of which goes to those they've evicted -- has repeatedly been cited -- and not just in the business press -- as the 'model' region which required ignoring the ethnic cleansing that goes on there as well as the non-stop attacks on religious minorities. Money bought a lot of easy press and a lot of advocates for the region. It has been repeatedly floated throughout the illegal war that Kirkuk would become part of the northern region and then the northern region would break off and become their own nation-state. Those US academics offering the partitioning of Iraq as a solution are frequently on the payroll of the Kurdish region -- a fact that's rarely disclosed.

Sunday also provided more reasons to
Free Bilal.. Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes today, "In other Iraq news, a criminal hearing was held on Sunday in Baghdad in the case of imprisoned Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein, who has been held by the U.S. military without charge for nearly 20 months The hearing marked the first time that Hussein or his attorneys have seen any evidence in the case. No formal charges have been lodged yet against Hussein who was part of a team of AP photographers who won a Pulitzer Prize. Last week the Committee to Protect Journalists said Hussein is one of at least 127 journalists behind bars worldwide. China is currently jailing 29 journalists – more than any other country. The United States is jailing two journalists without charge – Bilal Hussein in Iraq and Al-Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Haj, who has been held at Guantanamo Bay for the past five years." The US military is targeting journalists but to stay on Bilal specifically, there is already a gag order in place. Daryl Lang (Photo District News) reports that yesterday's proceedings, the first time Bilal has appeared before the judiciary, is under wraps by court order: "Bilal Hussein, the Iraqi Associated Press photographer who has been held as a security detainee for nearly 20 months, was present for most of a seven-hour hearing Sunday in a Baghdad court. Beyond those basic facts, nothing else about the hearing was made public. A judge ordered the proceedings be kept secret." And AP has released the following statement from Paul Colford (Director of Media Relations):Bilal Hussein and his lawyers have finally had a chance to learn about the allegations that the U.S. military has withheld from them since they imprisoned Bilal 20 months ago. But, they were not given a copy of the materials that were presented today, and which they need to prepare a defense for Bilal. We would hope that we have an opportunity to review the material. There is still no formal charge against Bilal, and The Associated Press continues to believe that Bilal Hussein was a photojournalist working in a war zone and that claims that he is involved with insurgent activities are false. Bilal continues to be detained by the U.S. military.Because the judge ordered that the proceedings today be kept secret, we are restricted from saying anything further.Bilal's attorneys were not provided with court documents. Reuters notes that "Iraqi journalists working for Reuters have also been detained by the U.S. military for months and later released without charges." Bilal's lead attorney is Paul Gardephe and Kim Gamel (AP) reports that he "strongly protested the refusal of the U.S. military to allow him to meet with Hussein privately. Since the U.S. decided Nov. 19 to send the case to the criminal court, a U.S. soldier and a military interpreter have been in the room whenever Gardephe has seen Hussein, allowing no privacy to plan a defense." Gamel quotes Gardephe explaining, "You cannot prepare a defendant for a criminal trial with the prosecutor in the room." Earlier, similar nonsense was attempted on CBS camera operator Abdul Ameer Younnis Hussein whose 'crime' was also doing his job filming the aftermath of a bombing led to his being shot by US forces in Mosul and imprisoned for over a year when he finally got a day what in passes for 'court' in Iraq, the 'terrorist' was released because he was not a terrorist, he was a reporter. In April of 2006, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) interviewed attorney Scott Horton about the events:

AMY GOODMAN: So, you went to the gates of Abu Ghraib to free the CBS cameraman?

SCOTT HORTON: I did, yes. After the decision of the Iraqi court was handed down acquitting him, actually finding there was not a shred of evidence supporting the charges that were brought against him, they ordered his release, but he was still carried in manacles back to Abu Ghraib, because his release depended upon the U.S. forces. But fortunately, in this case, they acted very quickly, and within about a day, he was released.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think it helped that you were there, that CBS was involved with this, as well, to get him out?

SCOTT HORTON: Well, I was told by a number of Iraqi lawyers and some of the judges that that made a critical difference.

AMY GOODMAN: He was held for a year?

SCOTT HORTON: That's correct.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what happened the day he was shot by the U.S. forces and taken to prison.

SCOTT HORTON: Well, he was shot, and I think the immediate assumption was it was a mistaken shooting, that, you know, the sniper was aiming for or targeting perhaps another sniper or a gunman or something like that at the scene, and mistakenly hit this cameraman.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, he had just raced to the scene of this car bomb?

SCOTT HORTON: That's right. After he had gotten a tip from an A.F.P. reporter--

AMY GOODMAN: Agence France-Presse.

SCOTT HORTON: Exactly, that the event had occurred, and he got there about 30 minutes after the incident, and it's just as he picked up his camera and started to film that he was shot. Within about 48 hours, there were announcements made, basically saying, 'It was a mistake. We're very sorry about this. He is being treated and will be released shortly.'
But then, very disturbingly, about five or six days later, suddenly reports began to circulate, not in Iraq, but in Washington, D.C., amongst Pentagon correspondents for CNN and other major networks, FOX News, as well, quoting unnamed, unidentified official Pentagon spokesmen, saying that the Pentagon had extremely disturbing evidence that this man was a terrorist. And specifically, they said that he had on his videotape camera four separate incidents involving attacks on U.S. forces, where there was clear evidence of prior knowledge, that he was there before the attack itself actually occurred, filming.

If it sounds familiar, it should. It's the same nonsense that's led to Bilal being imprisoned for nearly 20 months (it will be 20 this week) for the 'crime' of reporting.
Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) blogs at Baghdad Observer about the dangers of Iraqis being reporters in their country and notes the son of a female Iraqi journalist who must hide the fact that his mother is a journalist. Bilal is a news photographer. As such he is taking photos out the open. There was no way for him to hide his profession and, as such, he was at risk. This was not the 'cover' or secret identity for a 'terrorist.' Bilal is a reporter and needs to be freed immediately.

Also on Sunday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown flew into Iraq.
Adrian Croft (Reuters) reported that the 4,500 British troops currently station in Iraq were "a tenth of the force that Brown's predecessor Tony Blair dispatched in 2003" and that Brown will be cutting it down "to 2,500 by mid-2008". In an attempt to deal with the death squads/militias in Baghdad, Reuters noted :the central government in Baghdad was adding a new detail to the eternal crackdown the city's been under since June 2006, starting now there will be "a ban on official vehicles driving without number plates in a bid to counter death squads and gangs who use unmarked government vehicles in attacks." The vehicles are most often reported to be fake or stolen. Accepting that nonsense (which requires ignoring the thug militias in the Interior of Ministry) requires believing that vehicles can't even be kept track of. How the ban will add any security is something no one's supposed to notice. In many instances, including an attack on US forces, regardless of checkpoints, vehicles have been waived through by Iraqis. The ban will most likely have little effect.

Among the deaths reported in Iraq over the weekend, one has gotten more attention that most murdered Iraqis receive. Yesterday,
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reported on the continued targeting of officials and the roadside bombing in Hilla which claimed the life of the Babil province's police chief Brig. Gen. Qais Al Mamouri (two other people also died in the bombing). Adrian Croft (Reuters) noted that there have been multiple attempts on Mamouri's life over the years and quotes a historian specializing in Iraq's history, Reidar Visser, declaring, "For several years, Mamouri stood out as an honest figure of authority in the mixed governorate of Babel, and had fought hard against militias regardless of their sectarian affilaitons." In this morning's New York Times, Paul von Zielbauer noted this "assassination of the police chief, Brig. Gen Qais al-Mamori, who led the police forces in Babil Province, was the latest of several attacks against provincial leaders in the mainly Shiite Arab region in recent months. General Mamori, who was 48, had become known for cracking down on militia leaders. He and the two bodygruads were killed as their police convoy rolled past a gas station in Hilla, the provincial capital, a local police official said. The leader of the provincial council's security committee, Hassan Watwet, said an investigation into Sunday's explosion was under way." von Zielbauer also noted that Muhammad Ali al-Hassani and Khalil Jalil Hamza -- governors of the Muthanna Province and the Qadisiya Province respectively, were assassinated several months ago "in what appeared to be a power struggle among rival Shiite militias for control of the oil-rich region." CBS and AP note: "The death of Brig. Gen. Qais al-Maamouri, chief of Babil's provincial capital of Hillah, was the latest in a series of assassinations of provincial leaders in the mainly Shiite region. Hundreds marched along dusty roads in Babil to mourn al-Maamouri, chanting and firing guns into the air."

In some of the violence reported today . . .


Reuters reports a mortar attack on an Interior Ministry jail in Baghdad today that claimed the lives of 7 prisoners and left at least 21 prisoners and guards injured. CBS and AP note that the number wounded has climbed to 23 and "A hospital official said the inmates were still asleep when the mortars hit, one landing directly on a cell and two others nearby."
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing that wounded five people ("targeting a patrol for the national police"), a Baghdad bombing that wounded two national police officers and a Salahuddin car bombing that injured one Iraqi soldier. Both McClatchy and Reuters note a fire at an oil refinery which some say was caused by a rocket attack but other sources insist was not caused by an attack. Reuters also notes 4 police officers killed in a Tuz Khurmato roadside bombing (seven more people wounded).


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 people were shot dead in Baghdad and a man wounded when he was shot in Kirkuk. Reuters notes: "Gunmen killed a Christian girl in a market in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, on Sunday, police said." On the issue of Christian in Iraq, Ava and I addressed 60 Minutes' report on the issue Sunday. (As noted, all comments were held on that last week due to the fact that we would be reviewing 60 Minutes.)


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 6 corpses discovered in Baghdad and, in Basra, the corpse of a woman ("shot in different areas of her body"). Reuters notes a corpse was discovered in Ramadi.

Today the
US military announced: "A Task Force Iron Soldier was killed from injuries sustained as a result of a suicide vehicle improvised explosive device explosion in Salah ad Din Province Dec. 10. Two soldiers were also wounded as a result of the attack near their vehicle."

Returning to the topic of the female corpse found in Basra,
Sinan Salaheddin (AP) notes that, "Religious vigilantes have killed at least 40 women this year in the southern Iraqi city of Basra because of how they dressed, their mutilated bodies found with notes warning against 'violating Islamic teachings,' the police chief said Sunday. Maj. Gen. Jalil Khalaf blamed sectarian groups that he said were trying to impose a strict interpretation of Islam. They dispatch patrols of motorbikes or unlicensed cars with tinted windows to accost women not wearing traditional dress and head scarves, he added. 'The women of Basra are being horrifically murdered and then dumped in the garbage with notes saying they were killed for un-Islamic behavior,' Khalaf told The Associated Press. He said men with Western clothes or haircuts are also attacked in Basra, an oil-rich city some 30 miles from the Iranian border and 340 miles southeast of Baghdad."

Turning to the issue of the mercenary company Blackwater USA. Today on
Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman conducted a discussion on the latest developments which included the topics of Cookie and Buzzy (brothers in arm), the use of Blackwater in the US and in other countries and more. From the discussion:

AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Jeremy Scahill, author of the book
Blackwater. Scott Horton also joins us. He teaches law at Columbia Law School. He participates in the blog "No Comment" at Harper's Magazine and was the chair of the International Law Committee at the New York Bar Association. What do you see as the issue of Blackwater here, the problem of Blackwater here?

SCOTT HORTON: Well, I think Jeremy puts his finger right on it. It really is--it's a massive privatization of national security operation, including intelligence operations. But we have a major aspect of it that's now in focus in Congress, and that's the accountability problem. If we look at the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq today, we see that US men and women in uniform, if they do something wrong, there's a proper accountability process for it, including discipline and court-martial. If it's Blackwater or if it's another contractor, nothing happens. It's effective impunity. And, in fact, we have thousands of recorded incidents out there that have gone without punishment of any kind. At most, the employee who's involved gets fired and sent back to the States. But then, frequently enough, they're back on another plane, back working for a different contractor in Iraq or Afghanistan within a matter of weeks.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Jeremy, the status of the September 16th killings that took place in Baghdad?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Where seventeen Iraqis were killed, twenty-four others wounded. And actually those--some of the victims' families and survivors are suing Blackwater, not just for wrongful death, but for war crimes under the Alien Tort Statute. And what's interesting now is that there is the federal grand jury that's been convened, and we understand it's looking at a number of cases, not just at this case. But some witnesses and potentially people who were involved with the shooting in Nisour Square have testified in front of the grand jury. And we understand from media reports--this is a grand jury that was convened in Washington, D.C.--we understand from media reports--and maybe Scott can add to this--that there potentially could be an attempt to prosecute as many as three of the Blackwater individuals involved at Nisour Square. And the way that they would most likely be prosecuted is under US civilian law, called the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, essentially saying that contractors commit a crime abroad, they can be prosecuted criminally for that at home. The problem is, is that the law was written in a way that it applies only to contractors accompanying the Armed Forces or working directly for the Armed Forces. Blackwater works for the State Department. And so, some legal observers say it's like trying to cram a square into a circle, and if they go forward with this prosecution under a law that doesn't exactly appear to apply to Blackwater, that it ultimately could be a step backwards. Now, Congress is trying to amend that so that it would apply to Blackwater, but it can't be applied retroactively. And many of the legal experts I've talked to say there almost literally is no law that could be applied to Blackwater, except war crimes. And, I mean, that's something that Scott has been looking at.

AMY GOODMAN: Scott Horton?

SCOTT HORTON: Well, that's exactly correct. I'll just say, first, if they go forward with this prosecution, this will be the first time ever that the Department of Justice has prosecuted a security contractor in Iraq with respect to a crime involving violence against locals. That's never happened before, notwithstanding thousands of incidents. If they do it and they go forward with the prosecution on the basis of the MEJA alone, then I think there is--you know, there's a serious question as to whether or not it's going to apply. I'm not quite sure I come out exactly where Jeremy does. I think there is a basis for saying that it'll cover them. The question is not whether they're DOD contractors, but whether or not they're involved in the contingency operation. And there, of course, they're going to say that their function is just to provide security for Department of State personnel. I think you could look at it fairly and say, no, they're really a part of this overall operation in Iraq. But the bottom line is, really, it's a war crime question. There clearly is jurisdiction and a basis to act against them under the War Crimes Act. But the Bush administration doesn't want to go there, doesn't want to touch that. I think they've made that point clear.

In other contrator news,
Jamie Leigh Jones has come forward to reveal she was gang-raped while in Iraq by KRB/Haliburton employees and the company then held her in a container to keep her from talking from which the US State Department rescued her; however, despite the fact that the State Department and the Justice Department were aware of the incident two years ago (as was at least one member of Congress) nothing has been done and Jones has now filed a lawsuit.

Lastly, an issue has come up in the e-mails according to Martha and Shirley. Let's use Jamie Leigh Jones, a victim of gang-rape. She should talk about what happened and not be silent. However, if she were to say that she wanted others to be gang-raped so that they could understand what she went through, it would be an indication that she had issues that needed to be addressed and she would be not be in place where she could be a public advocate. (Jamie Leigh Jones has said no such thing, she's being used an example.) The same would be true for someone tortured or the victim of any other crime or tragedy. So when someone makes comments that are similar, it needs to be remembered that he clearly needs help and that he's in no position to be a public advocate. The site he's posted over has no controls and no qualms. They rush anything up quickly -- which explains how, not that long ago, they thought it was 'cool' to post a hack actor making fun of mentally disabled children -- which is not funny and which never should have been posted. The man in question is on the road to finding himself and dealing with what he has experienced. He needs help. Clearly the answer to an illegal war is not to send more people over there. That is as much as we're going to note that subject. Again, that site has no built-in controls and regularly posts things that should never be posted. In this instance, we're talking about someone carrying a lot of issues and a lot of damage which he didn't ask for and is attempting to deal with. He's not to be pitied but he should be understood as coming from a lot of pain. And he's finding his way back from a devasting experience. It's also true that he, like many, are suffering from the mistaken impression (given them by 'elders' who continue to repeat the lie) that the draft stopped the war in Vietnam -- which it clearly did not. (One thing to add to
the piece at Third, if the draft was what stopped Vietnam, it wouldn't have lasted so many damn years. There was a draft in place before Vietnam started -- which didn't end the Korean War -- and it operated throughout the Vietnam.)

jeremy hinzmanbrandon hughey

democracy nowamy goodman
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