Friday, March 02, 2007

Kyle Snyder

Pressed for time so I'm going to do a "just talking" thing. (As C.I. and Jim have dubbed them when they appear at The Common Ills.)

I am really bothered by what's happened with Kyle Snyder. C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" Thursday and today as well. Kyle Snyder, to give you the back story, was recruited heavily while he was in high school. At the time, he was in foster care and it must have really seemed like someone cared with a recruiter even showing up for his graduation. So here is this young man being hard sold on the military by someone who's allowed to lie for a living (one of the few jobs that you don't get punished for doing that -- even a president can be impeached) and he believes it. He thinks he's going to Iraq to do reconstruction and that the benefits will allow him to go to college and the woman he's engaged to will have health care (after they learn she's pregnant). That doesn't happen. He's not doing rebuilding because there's really no rebuilding going on in Iraq. He's also seeing first hand the realities of the US war on Iraq.

While he's serving, his grandfather dies and he's not even given time for that funeral. When he finally gets time off, he decides to self-check out while he's on a pass. He goes to Canada and decides to start his life there (April 2005). He's happy there and starts making a life for himself. He gets a job helping disabled children that's both rewarding and well paying. Then, he and others start thinking of returning to the United States to make a statement and to end the whole thing so that charges aren't hanging over them. Darrell Anderson was the first and the military reached an agreement with him and stuck by it. With Kyle?

They made an agreement. Everything was fine while his lawyer was present (October 31st) but the second his lawyer was gone, suddenly the agreement was falling apart. They weren't even going to process him, they needed him to return to his unit and return to Iraq. They lied to him, they screwed him over. In fact, they screwed him over from day one, when the recruiter started in with lies.

So Kyle Snyder self-checked out again (October 31st) when they dropped him off at the bus depot. He then went around the country speaking out, he went down to New Orleans to help with the rebuilding. As he began making appearances on the West Coast, suddenly the police were looking for him. (I told C.I. I was writing about this and C.I. said to note that Kentucky is the state that the 'tip/snitch' is said to have come from.) Kyle was too smart for them and still managed to speak (sometimes by calling in) and then made it back to Canada in time for the new year.

In Canada, US service members can apply for asylum which Canada granted US war resisters during Vietnam. The government of today (they've had two different prime ministers "today") has been unwelcoming. No one has been granted asylum and all have their cases on appeal. However, US police cannot enter (nor can the US military) Canada and grab the war resisters.

So the US military got another idea. They'd call the police and ask them to grab Kyle for them. So the British Columbia cops come to Kyle's door and haul him off one morning (he's not even allowed to get dressed) and they screw with him just to prove that Bully knows no single nationality. Kyle was set to be married last weekend, instead he was arrested.

That's Kyle's story thus far. I could go futher but I am limited for time and, also, I called C.I. to check a few details and C.I. was filling me in when I said, "Stop! This sounds like an editorial for The Third Estate Sunday Review!" I think we're all longing for a short weekend and I know we've all tried to come up with ideas before the weekend began so we can (hopefully) have a very smooth, very quick writing edition. But what I would like you to do is to think about Kyle and how he's been screwed over. Think about that and realize there are probably others as well but the Democratic majority in Congress acts as though they have no power.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, March 2, 2007. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq; the non-issue of rape (to follow the US coverage) turns out to be not such a non-issue (surprising only to big media); Walter Reed continues to be a problem for the Bully Bully (similar to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the incompetence of management); Amnesty International issues a statement about a US war resister; and the targeting of minorities in Iraq continues to be a minor story in the mainstream media (domestic).

Starting with war resisters,
Agustin Aguayo faces a court martial in Germany Tuesday, March 6th. Amenesty International has released a statement:

Amnesty International is closely monitoring the case of
Agustin Aguayo, a US army medic who is scheduled to face a US court-martial on 6 and 7 March in Wurzburg, Germany, for his refusal to deploy to Iraq.
In February 2004,
Agustin Aguayo applied for conscientious objector status. He says that he began developing doubts about war shortly after enlisting in the army and that he now feels that he cannot participate in any war based on his moral objections to hurting, killing or injuring another person. Whilst his application was being considered, Agustin Aguayo was order to deploy to Iraq where he received formal notification in July 2004 that his application had been turned down. The army's Conscientious Objector Review Board had found that he did not present clear and convincing evidence of his beliefs.
Agustin Aguayo served a year in Iraq where he says he refused to carry a loaded gun. He says that "I witnessed how soldiers dehumanize the Iraqi people with words and actions. I saw countless lives which were shortened due to the war. I still struggle with the senselessness of it all . . ."
Agustin Aguayo's unit was ordered to redeploy to Iraq in September 2006, he did not report to duty and went absent without leave (AWOL). He has been charged with desertion and missing movement and is currently held in pre-trial detention at a US military base in Mannheim, Germany. If convicted on both these charges he could be sentenced to up to 7 years in prison.
Lawyers for
Agustin Aguayo filed a write of habeas corpus in US federal court in August 2005, asking for his honourable discharge from the army as a conscientious objector. This request was denied and a subsequent appeal turned down. The judge wrote that "Though Aguayo stated that his Army training caused him anguish and guilt, we find little indication that his beliefs were accompanied by study or contemplation, whether before or after he joined the Army."
Amnesty International is sending a delegate to observe the court-martial proceedings in Germany next week to learn further details about the case and assess whether
Agustin Aguayo would be a prisoner of conscience if convicted and imprisoned.

Speaking with Gillian Russom (Socialist Worker), Helga Aguayo, Agustin's wife, stated the following on war resisters: "They're important because they're taking a stand that all the Americans who are against the war can't really take. They're making it difficult for the Army to continue their mission. My husband's a paramedic, and medics are needed desperately in Iraq. I think that these soldiers who stand up and say, "I won't do it," are frustrating the plans of these particular units. It's important for the antiwar movement to adopt these soldiers and say that this guy has taken a remarkable step. We need to support him because he's doing what we would do if we were in his position."

Meanwhile, US war resister
Kyle Snyder was arrested last Friday at the request of the US military who have no jurisidiction in Canada. Snyder served in Iraq, then self-checked out of the US military and went to Canada. In October of 2006, he returned to the United States to and on October 31st, he turned himself in at Fort Knox only to self-check out again the same day (no, AP, he did not turn himself in during the month of November -- AP seems to have confused Snyder with Ivan Brobeck who turned himself in November 7, 2006 -- election day). Snyder was arrested the day before his planned wedding ceremony (the wedding has been rescheduled for this month). The British Columbia police, at the US military's request, at the residence he shares with Maleah Friesen (the woman he'll be marrying this month) and US war resister Ryan Johnson and Johnson's wife Jenna. As Sara Newman (Canada's Globe & Mail) reported, the police showed up at the door, asked for Kyle and when he came to the door in his boxer shorts and robe, they grabbed him and refused to let him either change into some clothes or bring any along with him. Snyder told Vancouver News: "I couldn't believe it could happen that way. The only thought that was going through my head was I thought Canada was a completely separate country, thought it was a sovereign nation. I didn't know they took orders from the United States." ForLawyers Against the War's statement click here. Snyder tells Newman: "Basically the next step is to keep doing what I'm doing, go on with my life. I'm planning on getting married to a very wonderful woman, and I am planning on trying to find the best way to move on with my life." Before he decided to return to the US, Kyle enjoyed working with disabled children.

Another US war resister in Canada is Joshua Key (as his wife Brandi and their children) and he's put his story down on paper in
The Deserter's Tale. Reviewing the book, Martin Rubin (Los Angeles Times) quotes Key: "I never thought I would lose my country, and I never dreamed that it would lose me. I was raised as a patriotic American, taught to respect my government and to believe in my president. Just a decade ago, I was playing high school football, living in a trailer with my mom and step dad, working at Kentucky Fried Chicken, and hoping to raise a family one day in the only town I knew. . . . Back then, I would have laughed out loud if somebody had predicted that I would become a wanted criminal, live as a fugitive in my own country, and turn my wife and children into refugees as I fled with them across the border." Rubin observes, "One of the book's great pleasures is in seeing the author's personal development, the journey he has taken, turning away from violence and destruction to become more humane. 'One's first obligation, Key says, 'is to the moral truth buried deep inside our own souls.' He understands a soldier's obligations under the Geneva Conventions and the Nuremberg doctrine not to participate in atrocities. He has pad a stiff price for his desertion: exiled in Canada (where he may not be able to remain) and shunned by much of his family. Near the end of his tale, Key insists that he is 'neither a coward or a traitor.' He is believable, as he has been from the outset, and through his words and the actions he describes, he conveys hard-earned honesty and integrity. In this testament of his experience in military service in Iraq he is making a substantial contribution to history."

Aguayo, Snyder and Key are part of a movement of resistance with the military that includes others such as
Ehren Watada, Mark Wilkerson, Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Corey Glass, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.

Turning to Iraq,
Brian Murphy (AP) notes that Iraq's health ministry says 1,646 Iraqi civilians died in Iraq in the month of February while the AP count is 1,698 and the UN "and other groups often place the civilian death count far higher." (For good reason including the mainstream rarely notes deaths of Iraqis who do not fall into one of three groups: Shia, Sunni or Kurd.) On this week's CounterSpin, Peter Hart addressed last week's hula-hoop -- bad Americans don't care about the deaths of Iraqis as witnessed by a poll that found most estimated 9,000 Iraqis had died in the illegal war. Hart noted that people get information from their media so the finger pointing might need to point at the media. Equally true is the fact that attempts to count the number of Iraqis who have died are met with the right-wing screaming "Foul!", muddying the waters and the mainstream media playing dumb as though there's no way to sort out the truth. (Most recently, this was seen when The Lancet's study found that over 655,000 Iraqis had died. Instead of noting that the sampling method used was a standard method used by the US to estimate deaths, the media played dumb.) Without any sort of standard number used in the press (and note, AP runs their monthly toll but rarely notes a running total), it bears noting that the US military keeps a running tally.

Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) broke that story last summer. The US military refuses to release that number to the American people. Presumably, they utilize the numbers when evaluating how their 'mission' is performing. Since a democracy is built upon the foundation of the will of the people and since Congress is currently debating whether to do anything, the American people would benefit from knowing that number (an undercount to be sure and the US military only admits to keep a count since June of 2005).

The American people would also benefit from reality in the reporting. While rape has been a topic in foreign press and on the ground in Iraq, the US press (mainstream) has dropped the issue -- or thought they had. It pops back up today.
Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) reports that a claim by a group in Iraq that they had "kidnapped 18 interior Ministry employees in Dyiyala province in response to claims that Shiite-led security forces had raped a Sunni Arab woman" was followed by police discovering the corpses of 14 police officers in Baqubah. AFP quotes Uday al-Khadran ("mayor of Khalis, the slain officers' hometown in Diyala province") stating: "They were found in the streets of Baquba. Their throats had been cut and their hands were bound." Al Jazeera quotes their reporter Hoda Abdel Hamid: "Sabrin al-Janabi did come and say that she was raped by three Iraqi security forces. The government at first reacted by saying that it will conduct an investigation. . . . Hours later, the government came back and said the three men were cleared of that accusation, that Sabrin al-Janabi had come out with false accusations, and that the three men would each be given a medal of honour. That has caused a big uproar among the Sunni groups." AFP observes: "The alleged rape of Janabi -- who appeared in a video broadcast on Arab news networks to complain of being raped by interior ministry officers -- has triggered a bitter row at the highest levels of the Iraqi state."

If that sounds at all familiar, you probably heard
Dahr Jamail and Nora Barrows-Friedman discussing that on KPFA's Flashpoints Tuesday. Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) report today on Wassan Talib, Zaineb Fadhil and Liqa Omar Muhammad -- "[t]hree young women accused of joining the Iraqi insurgency movement . . . [who] have been sentence to death, provoking protest from rights organisations fearing that this could be the start of more executions of women in post-Saddam Hussein's Iraq." The fairness of the trials are in question as is the women's guilt.

Fairness is nowhere to be found in the puppet government. Minority Rights Group International's
(PDF format) report "Assimilation, Exodus, Eradication: Iraq's minority communities since 2003" drives that home. While the mainstream continues to speak in terms of Shia and Sunni with the occasional Kurd tossed in, minority groups in Iraq are regularly targeted for violence, death, and theft. As the report notes: "The Armenian Church of Iraq said it was working with government officials to obtain the return of property that the former regime had forced it to sale. Although the church was paid fair market values for six properties in Mosul, Basra, Kirkuk, Baghdad and Dohuk, it was coerced. Church officials said discussions with the transitional government yielded no results in 2005." Let's hope they don't take a check for payment or they may find themselves in the same situation as the Mandaens in Baghdad whose property was taken by the post-invasion installed government and was given a check for 160 million dinar ($100,000 in US dollars) but, when they attempted to deposit the check, they "were told that the signature was not legitmate, and payment was refused." Let's also hope the Armenian Church also has some form of documents -- also not easy in the post-invasion. From the report: "According to Zaynab Murad of the Cultural Association of Faili Kurds, during the Anfal campaign Faili merchants and traders were summoned to an emergency meeting and told to bring all their documents. When they complied, they were arrested. Their documents were confiscated and they were sent to the Iraq/Iran border without their families. To reclaim property today, those documents must be presented. 'The question is -- who owns [sic] the documents that prove that they are true owners of the property?' he said."

Brian Murphy (AP) notes that "4 million Iraqis are displaced within the country or are refugees abroad, mostly Sunnis who fled to neighboring Syria or Jordan, international agencies estimate." Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) reports that, in Baghdad, "Maliki has taken a tough line, labeling as terrorists everyone living in homes that were taken by force and informing parliament they would be arrested." That, of course, doesn't apply to the minority groups whom al-Maliki has been more than fine with seeing stripped of property.

Reuters reports that Philippe Douste-Blazy (France's Foreign Minister) is sounding the alarm that Iraq could be partitioned at any point as the chaose continues and that he stated: "We think that the only solution, we have already said so, is to have a withdrawal by 2008 of the international forces which are in Iraq today and at the same time the restoration of the rule of law."

As Iraq crumbles further, the US Congress dithers and dallies.
AP reports: "House Democratic leaders have coalesced around legislation that would require troops to come home from Iraq within six months if that country's leaders failed to meet promises to help reduce violence there, party officials siad Thursday. The plan would retain a Democratic proposal prohibiting the deployment to Iraq of troops with insufficient rest or training or who already have served there for more than a year. Under the plan, such troops could only be sent to Iraq if President Bush waives those standards and reports to Congress each time. . . . The Senate, meanwhile could begin floor debate on Iraq as early as next week." Ned Parker (Times of London) notes that prior to "the US November midterm elections four out of five voters siad that if the Democrats won Congress US troop levels in Iraq would fall." Those four out of five aren't idiots, that's how it was sold by a number of outlets. It's just not what's happening currently.

Military Families Speak Out's Nancy Lessing spoke with Dennis Bernstein on KPFA's Flashpoints and noted: "There is no military solution, there is no good outcome from the US military occupation continuing, it's only going to make more deaths. So we're at that moment where we're at that moment again where, I think, the majority of people at all levels of this country understand that there is no military solution and yet we have Congress not doing what it needs to do -- which is to cut the funds for continuing the war and bring the troops home. So we as military families and together with Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace and Vietnam Veterans Against the War will continue to be building the movement. And I've said it before on this program and I'll say it again, we do understand that it's never been a politician that's ended a war it's always been a social movement and so our goal is to build our movement as strong as it needs to be to get Congress to do what it needs to do."

They have released an open letter to Congress (PDF format)

We are asking that, as leaders in Congress, you exercise leadership. Your voice is needed now more than ever. Tell the American people the truth about President Bush's funding request. President Bush is not asking for more funds for the troops. He is asking for more funds to continue a war that should never have happened, a war that is killing so many U.S. service members and leaving even more physically and psychologically damaged on a daily basis. This is a war that has killed untold numbers of Iraqis, is draining our national treasure and cultivating a growing hatred against our nation. Hope, a rare commodity for us these days, is even harder to find within the current morass of non-binding resolutions and rhetorical statements in Congress about preventing "surges" and changing strategies. Hope is hard to find when we see so many in Congress adopting the morally indefensible stand of opposing escalation of this war, while poised to support its continuation.It is not too late for you to do the right thing. We ask you to exercise your leadership, stand up and call for the de-funding of the Iraq War. Stand strong when you explain that de-funding the war is not de-funding or abandoning our troops. Let the American people know what we as military families and Veterans know -- that de-funding the war will not leave our trooops without equipment or supplies. Stand strong when you explain that there are sufficient funds available to bring our troop shome quickly and safely, and that if more funds are ever needed, Congress has the ability to re-program monies from the Department of Defense budget to use for this purpose. Stand strong and fight to bring our troops home.Stop telling us that you don't have the votes and work to secure them. That is what leaders do.Right now, it seems that you cannot see the political upside of doing what we and the majority of people in this country are calling on you to do. It is important that you understand the political downside of allowing this war to continue. If you provide further funding for the war in Iraq, it will no longer be President Bush's war. You will be co-owners. You will share responsibility for the continued chaos and loss of life in Iraq. You will have lost the opportunity to provide leadership when it is sorely needed. You will have given license to more years of a failed policy and countless deaths.

John Walsh (CounterPunch) places blame both on elected Democrats and on "the 'mainstream' peace movement" which he argues should be demanding actions such as filibusters but instead plays 'nice': "Whenever a UFPJ group goes to 'lobby' the Congressmen or Senators, the unwritten rule (violated by the present writer on many occasions) is to 'make nice'. Do not risk weakening the 'relationships' with legislators and staff is the mantra. It is all carrot and no stick. And what are the results? No filibuster. Continued war. And from first hand experience, when one threatens the legislator with supporting another candidate in the coming election, a pained look comes over the UFPJ 'facilitator,' and one can rely on being tut-tutted into silence."

In Iraq today . . .


CNN notes 10 dead and 17 wounded from a car bombing "at a popular used-car lot in Baghdad's Sadr City" and a car bomb "near an Iraqi National Police patrol in the Saydiya neighborhood in southwestern Baghdad" that killed one police officer and left two more wounded. Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) reports that it was three police officers wounded in that bombing (with one dead). Robert H. Reid (AP) reports a roadside bomb "southeast of Baghdad" killed one Iraqi soldier. Reuters notes a mortar attack in Iskandariya that either killed 4 and left 20 wounded (US military) or killed eight people (Iraqi police) that is provided "the reports were referring to the same incident."


BBC reports: "Two players from the Ramadi football club are shot dead by gunmen as they take part in a training session". Reuters notes that the two men were Mohammed Hamid (27-years-old) and Mahommed Mishaan (23-years-old).


Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 corpses discovered in Baghdad
Reuters reports 6 corpses were discovered in Balad.

CounterSpin today, Peter Hart interviewed Mark Benjamin about the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal. Why now is it getting attention? (As opposed to 2004 when Diane Sawyer reported on the medical scandals in April 2004 -- not mentioned on the program.) Benjamin felt there was more interest/acceptance in something other than happy talk on both the part of the public and the press. Another reason it's getting more attention now is because Dana Priest and Anne Hull didn't file a one day story that they picked up on weeks later. It was a series of articles and Bob Woodruff's return to ABC News (Tuesday) with a hard hitting look at what he (he was injured while reporting in Iraq) went through and what service members go through helped focus attention. As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Major General George Wieghtman was fired as the head of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center yesterday. Today, Steve Holland (Reuters) reports Bully Boy is "[s]crambling to answer an outcry over shoddy health care for U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq" and has made the announcement that "a bipartisan commission" will be created "to review health care for military veterans." And Holland and Kristin Roberts (Reuters) report that "U.S. Army Secretary Francis Harvey has resigned after reports that troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan were being poorly treated at the Army's top hospital". CBS and AP note that Harvey has been in charge "since November 2004."

iraqagustin aguayo
kyle snyder
nora barrows friedmanflashpointsdahr jamail
dennis bernstein
nancy lessing

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Susan Van Haitsma, BuzzFlash

"Ruth's Report" is something I had intended to discuss yesterday and completely forgot. It went up Saturday and it's Ruth's usual blend of humor, common sense, and keen eye. She's using an article by Steve Rendall in the latest issue of Extra! to address a number of topics including Air America Radio.

Sunny read it and pointed out that this community could write a book on AAR which I agreed with her on but the introduction would be "Ruth's Report." It really is that good.

I thought I'd share some basic thoughts about Air America -- nothing as in depth as what Ruth offers.

*Randi Rhodes knows how to do good radio. That was obvious from the start. I sometimes I agree with her and sometimes don't but I've never felt bored or put out when listening to her.

*Unfiltered worked best when Chuck D, Lizz Winstead and Rachel Maddow were all on. It worked worst when it was Rachel Maddow solo or Maddow with a guest host. (Such as Bill Press.) At it's worst, it was still miles ahead of The O'Franken Factor.

*The Majority Report started off a good show and got progressively worse as Sam Seder's ego outgrew his limited talents and required that he repeatedly attempt to steal the show from Janeane Garofalo who was the only reason to listen. If Steve Rendall was truly interested in addressing how The Majority Report used talking points, he should have checked out Seder's interview with Simon Rosenberg which was embarrassing when it aired and only more so as the years have passed. Ruth rightly notes that women weren't welcome when Seder soloed and that really is the way it was. It's sad because that was Tracey's favorite show (Ruth's granddaughter) and a favorite of mine as well until Janeane was shoved aside. It's a bit like loving The Dick Van Dyke Show and tuning in to find out that it's now The Mel Cooley Show.

*Mike Malloy was an asset to the network that was never appreciated. His ability to bring in an audience, his ability to engage one and the fact that he was a radio name amounted to nothing. Had Lizz Winstead not already been "disappeared" before Malloy, it would have been shocking to see how they treated him.

*Rachel Maddow gets to attempt one failed show after another because she proved herself a "company gal" by toeing the party line and avoiding the topic of Lizz Winstead. Since Winstead is the one who selected her to co-host Unfiltered, that's pretty crappy. That she felt the need to 'build' her own name by being a lapdog on the Tucker Carlson show is shameful. That she spent month after month telling listeners that the US could not withdrawal from Iraq is embarrassing. That she couldn't take her nose out of the crotch of her "Ask a Vet"s was disgusting. She has no center to her, no base, she just goes with whatever the polling indicates is popular.

*The way Randi Rhodes, Laura Flanders and other women were shoved aside to push Baby Cries a Lot repeatedly was embarrassing. The fact that the network that didn't promote women once at least had them on air in nearly equal numbers is now so much macho demonstrates that the network isn't left. There are hosts who are left. But the network itself is useless.

*Marty Kaplin had a daily, Monday through Friday, one hour show that was a nice transition between Randi and Janeane. Then he was shoved off on the weekends. Then he vanished. Marty was actually funny and entertaining and it may have been the way they treated his show that demonstrated best that the network was more interested in talking points than quality. If you ever heard So What Else Is News?, you probably know just what I'm talking about.

*The supposed genius Maddow had a real problem with dates. Reading from a news story in front of her, she would regularly botch what newspaper it appeared in and what day it was published. She's an NPR host wasting everyone's time.

*Making Air America Place take down their archives was idiotic in terms of building an audience and in terms of understanding the new models for broadcast. It made the supposed "friend" Air America Radio look like just one more corporation.

*Too much time was spent by the left trying to prop up a really bad network that was rarely worth listening to as time went on.

*The network's early decision to push the talking point of "stay the course" and the false Pottery Barn analogy clamped down on the peace movement. Not all shows pushed that, but the majority (including Baby Cries a Lot) did. On other issues, the desire to please/appease the Democratic Party could be found as well. This was most noticeable, day by day, after the 2004 election when, from one day to the next, the same hosts would claim the election was fair, then that it was rigged and we needed to protest, then that it was fair. Baby Cries a Lot did that, Rachel Maddow did that (aided and abetted by the Pap Smear). There was no core to too many of the hosts, they went from one position to the next seemingly based upon what that day's talking point was.

*The failure to present activists or war resisters was an issue that the network was aware of long before Steve Rendall wrote his article. Speaking only of myself, I regularly raised that issue on the Unfiltered blog. The response, not reported by Rendall who appears unaware of it, was the on air meltdown of Lizz Winstead and Rachel Maddow when there was no defense for their weekly "Ask a Vet" segment that always featured pro-continue the illegal war veterans. They were bothered by the fact that others on the blog were supporting me on that point. Let's also note that they regularly stole talking points from The Common Ills without ever crediting the site -- a problem Sam Seder had as well. As the community's Rachel noted when Seder stole from her post and credited her, "But he didn't credit The Common Ills."

So those are just some of my thoughts. I would also add that near the end of Unfiltered, they had two "Ask a Vet" weekly segments -- the first being a pro-war veteran and the second being a pet doctor. Yes, they could offer up weekly visits with a pet doctor but no weekly voice calling for an end to the war.

Again, "Ruth's Report" is something you should read if you haven't already.

"Mark Wilkerson's Call to America" (Susan Van Haitsma, CounterPunch):
My favorite photograph of Mark Wilkerson shows him smiling, looking relaxed. He is standing in a grove of trees whose trunks radiate outward from his image as though they are drawing life from him. One side of his face glows with reflected sunshine. He wears a black "Iraq Veterans Against the War" T-shirt with a small star over his heart.
I first met Mark on the grounds of the Texas Capitol during a peace demonstration on Gandhi's birthday, October 2, 2004. Mark was stationed at Ft. Hood, and he and his wife had driven down to attend their first anti-war demonstration in Austin. I didn't know then the extent of Mark's experience in Iraq, but he looked stressed, his eyes circled with dark shadows. He exuded nervous energy. He looked at the materials on our Nonmilitary Options for Youth table and described how he had been recruited through the JROTC program in high school with assurances that he would receive training to become a peacekeeper. At the demonstration, Mark met local members of Veterans for Peace, who understood more profoundly than I the internal and external battles he was facing.
Mark had served one tour of duty in Iraq, during which he had begun to question both the morality and the practicality of the invasion and occupation. Assigned to the military police, he participated in house raids and arrests of Iraqi citizens. He witnessed the effects of the occupation on Iraqi civilians and the change in attitude toward US soldiers. He began suffering serious post-traumatic stress and underwent a crisis of conscience about his participation in the army. He filed for a discharge as a conscientious objector in March 2004. When his claim was denied 8 months later, he appealed the decision, but soon learned that his unit was about to be deployed to Iraq for a second tour. Stuck between honoring his conscience and obeying orders to deploy, he went AWOL in January 2005.
Mark was AWOL for about 18 months. During that time, he said the nightmares didn't stop. He also felt at sea, as though he could not move forward with his life. He worked long hours, trying to save for a future that might include prison. Just before he turned himself in at Ft. Hood in August 2006, he held a press conference at Camp Casey in Crawford, TX. Flanked by other GI resisters and supportive members of Military Families Speak Out and Gold Star Families for Peace, Mark confidently and eloquently expressed his reasons for having left the military and his reasons for returning to the base to accept the consequences.

C.I. notes the above in the snapshot and I want to be sure everyone gets a strong introduction to it. I also want to offer a suggestion to anyone thinking about become a war resister -- get your family or your friends to speak out. If they don't, you'll get very little attention. Ehren Watada has gotten attention but he has two parents and a step-mother speaking out. Darrell Anderson had his mother, Anita, and his wife. I've noted Monica Benderman before but she really does deserve credit. She kept Kevin Benderman a topic. It could have been, "Oh, he's in prison now, let's focus on something else." In fact, that's how the news treated it. But she regularly offered something that would keep him alive in the public eye. That's not easy to do because there had to be days where she was organizing or fighting and just thought, "I want to think about something else, anything else." But she kept fighting. One of the reasons we all came out strong on Kyle Snyder was because C.I. pointed that out. He was raised in a foster-family and the military was going to try to screw him over thinking he didn't have a support system. That turned out to be very true, of course, they went back on their agreement with him. But you need people who will speak out for you. What you really need is a fighter like Monica Benderman but even if you don't have someone willing to push themselves that hard (or able to), you do need a support system. Once you turn yourself in, especially, you're going to feel like you've dropped off the face of the earth as everyone rushes to the next story.

One positive development has been Iraq Veterans Against the War which is determined not to let anyone be forgotten. They do strong work and they make a strong show of support.

"Women and Older Troops Dying at Record Rates in Iraq; Twice as Many Children per Casualty Lose a Parent than in Vietnam" (BuzzFlash):
Last week, Marine Captain Jennifer Harris
was buried in her hometown of Swampscott, MA. She was killed when her helicopter was shot down in Iraq.
Though the loss of all human life throughout this war - American, Coalition, and Iraqi civilian - is equally tragic, Harris' death is a reminder that our losses have come from across the demographic spectrum.
Harris was the
75th female coalition servicemember to die in Iraq even though women are still technically barred from combat roles; incidentally, another woman died the same day from hostile fire in an unrelated battle. Of the 3419 total coalition casualties, women make up more than 2 percent. Only 8 of the 58,193 American fatalities in Vietnam were female.
While many tend to think of our soldiers as all male, we also often think they are mostly young. Indeed, 28 18-year-olds and 199 19-year-olds died during their deployments. But 23 men and one woman were
at least 50 when they were killed, a percentage of total casualties nearly four times higher than in Vietnam.
Another statistic that is often overlooked is the number of children whose lives are changed forever when their parents are killed in Iraq. These kids never volunteered mom or dad to fight; many were not even born when their parents enlisted and, in some cases, deployed.

This is a point we raised at The Third Estate Sunday Review a few weeks back and it's an important point. The service members are not all male nor, as BuzzFlash notes, are they all young. (We didn't cover that point and I congratulate them for making it.) C.I. passed this on and thought I'd be interested in it. I am. Another thing I'm interested in is how the left is playing out the Walter Reed story. Read the snapshot (below) and you'll note C.I.'s point is more than "THEY CAN'T TALK TO REPORTERS!" It's also that these wounded service members are being expected to submit to daily inspections and other tasks. That is retaliation.
One more thing on BuzzFlash and Air America Radio that I just remembered. BuzzFlash is the left's equivalent of The Drudge Report in terms of popularity. Mark (I don't know his last name, C.I. would but I don't want to be a bother and call) should have been a regular guest on AAR. I heard him twice, on two different shows, and that was it during AAR's first two years. That's one more example of how AAR refused to put voices that were needed upfront. (BuzzFlash has long called for withdrawal. They called out the war before it began and they were never afraid to call for the illegal war to come to an end.)

Last thing before the snapshot, Kat. Please read her review "Kat's Korner: Air kisses from Diana Ross" and she had recommended the Who's new CD to me and told me I would love "Man In A Purple Dress." She was right. The man is a judge and it's really one of the best songs the Who has done. It could easily make a best of and stand along side "Pinball Wizard," "I Can See For Miles," etc. I hope to write more about this Friday but, for now, thank you, Kat.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, February 28, 2007. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq; wounded US service members get targeted by the US administartion; Dems in Congress play "hot potato" with the war (and don't seem to grasp that they'll end up holding it); and US war resister
Joshua Key declares, "Iraq is a country and it's going to have to make its own path in history and its own way in life. No other country can do that and you definitely can't do that by means of a gun or a tank. But they have to make their own course and do whatever's necessary for themselves. I think that no outsiders are going to help it or solve the problem."

Starting with news of petty retaliation which, after all, is the Bully Boy's M.O. as demonstrated for the last seven years (if not sooner.) As noted by Aaron Glants today on
KPFA's The Morning Show, Kelly Kennedy (Army Times) is reporting that Walter Reed Army Medical Center's Medical Hold Unit patients are being "told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media" in what is widely seen as a punishment for the recent Washington Post expose on the deplorable conditions at what is supposed to be the United States top facility for military medical care. In addition, Kennedy reports, the soldiers receiving medical care were informed that will move from Building 18 into Building 14 and, just happenstance -- surely, unlike Building 18, Building 14 requires that "reporters must be escorted by public affairs personnel."

In a
series of articles that concluded last week, Dana Priest and Anne Hull (Washington Post) examined the realities behind the image of the 'premier medical center' -- focusing largely on Building 18, and revealed problems such as cockroach infestation, lack of heat, lack of water, mice and black mold, clerks that were overworked or didn't care. The answer for the US administration when confronted with reality is apparently the same answer they always reach for "DESTROY." Joe Wilson goes public about Niger, out Valerie Plame (his deep cover CIA wife). Soldiers talk to the press about the deplorable conditions that the administration is fine with them living in? Punish the soldiers.

The Bully Boy who loves strut around in uniforms (with or without codpieces) is far less willing to do anything to actually help the soldiers wounded in his illegal war and the administration's answer to the Walter Reed scandal is to punish the troops with daily inspections and other idiotic chores WHILE THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE RECEIVING MEDICAL CARE FOR THEIR WOUNDS.

Turning to news of war resisters,
Tina Chau (Hawaii's KMGB9) reports that Ehren Watada's court-martil has been set for July 16-20 and that the "pre-trial motions are to be heard on May 20 and 21." In June, Watada became the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. In August of last year, the military held an Article 32 hearing at Fort Lewis to determine whether or not to go forward with a court-martial. At the start of this month, the court-martial of Watada began and ran for three days -- on the third day, Judge Toilet (aka John Head) ruled a mistrial over the objections of the defense (and initially without even the prosecution in support of a mistrial). Eric Seitz, Watada's civilian attorney, has maintained that the double-jeopardy clause of the Constitution now applies and that he will appeal any attempts to court-martial on that basis.

Lehia Apana (The Maui News) reports that Ehren Watada's father Bob and his step-mother Rosa Sakanishi were at the Maui Community College Library on Monday where Bob spoke to "an energetic crowd" of at least 75 people about his son and how "he believes the judge realized his son had a chance of being acquitted of the charges and therefore forced the prosecution to request a mistrial."

Last Friday the military re-filed charges against Watada, the day prior, as
Conor Reed and Steve Leigh (Socialist Worker) observe was Mark Wilkerson's court-martial and that he issued a statement, "My Conscience is Clear," at his website:

I am now a twenty three year old man. When I made the decision to join the Army, I was a boy. When I made the decision to go AWOL I was still in many ways a boy.I realize in retrospect that going AWOL may not have been the right decision for me to make, but given the circumstances I found myself in at that time, I felt it was the only logical decision for me. I felt as though I wasn't being taken seriously by my chain-of-command. I was crushed when my conscientious objector application was denied. I had failed somehow in conveying in words just what I felt in my head and heart, and that was that I could not, in good conscience, serve as a soldier in the United States Army. I could not deploy to a foreign land with a weapon in my hand, representing my government. I am not willing to kill, or be killed for my government. When I enlisted in the Army, I thought I would be able to, but after Iraq, my beliefs became such that I could no longer participate.This was what I told my chain-of-command. I felt they didn't care what I said or believed. So I fled. I quit my job. No other occupation in the United States punishes you as badly as what the military does for quitting your job. But that's ok. I'm willing to face whatever punishment the government deems appropriate.In my Battalion's Retention Office, there is a quote by Retired Army General Bernard Rogers, and it states "This is a volunteer force. Soldiers volunteer to meet our standards. If they don't meet them, we should thank them for trying and send them home." Well, I enlisted into the Army with the best intentions. I had other options. But I wanted to serve my country. And when I felt my country was doing the very thing we pretend to condone, I took a stand. And to me that is the core of democracy. If the Army feels as though I didn't meet the standards, they should thank me for trying and send me home. There's no lesson prison can teach me. Prison is established for criminals who committed crimes that the majority of our society can say in morally wrong. And with this crime, I don't know if that can be said. Even though I committed a crime, I'm no criminal. And even if I do go to prison, I'm no longer a prisoner. My conscience is clear. I'm no menace to society. I have stayed true to myself and my moral code throughout my life, and that will never change. Just let me live my life, and I know I will live it well.

Susan Van Haitsma (CounterPunch) shares some of her encounters with Wilkerson and observations before concluding: "Mark wanted to help his country, but his country betrayed him. His country capitalized on his honorable intentions, gave him false promises, fed him misinformation, used him to carry out inhumane missions, caused him psychological injury and then punished him by making him an object lesson for his fellow GI's. In fact, Mark is an example of the best kind, for all of us. In the same courtroom where soldiers were sentenced for harming Abu Ghraib prisoners, Mark was sentenced for refusing to harm."

Wilkerson is scheduled to be released in September; however, the judge could release him earlier. Going before a judge Tuesday, March 6th in Germany is war resister
Agustin Aguayo. Workers World notes that he is "charged with desertion and missing movement because of his refusal to go to Iraq." Though not etched in stone, the military has generally attempted to use desertion charges for those who were absent without leave for a month or more. In Aguayo's case, they've elected to toss that (Aguayo was gone from September 2nd through September 26th). Gillian Russom (Socialist Worker) spoke with Helga Aguayo, Agustin's wife, about his case, his feelings about the war, her own and much more. Agustin was a medica and he joined the military to support his family and to help people (he and his wife have two young daughters). Helga explained to Russom that, for her, it was seeing the experiences of military families that made her start questioning the war -- the creation of "geographical single mothers" -- and that for her husband, a book on Iraq's history took him from conscientious objector to the belief "that the war in Iraq has essentially been created of the personal gain of a few people." Helga also notes that her husband saw Sir! No Sir! and "it just revved him up for what he knew he might have to face." He's facing? Agustin Aguayo could be sentenced to as many as seven years in prison if convicted during his court-martial because the military is going for desertion. Why go for desertion?

Aguayo and
Kyle Snyder both were screwed over by the military in different ways and they were among the last ones going public. (Snyder is back in Canada.) Tossing aside the rule of thumb re: desertion to charge Aguayo with that is considered as part of an effort by the military to clamp down on the growing movement.

Aguayo, Watada, Wilkerson and Snyder are part of a movement of resistance with the military that includes others such as Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Joshua Key, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Corey Glass, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.

Joshua Key, war resister and author of the new book
The Deserter's Tale, speaks with Christina Leadlay (Canada's Embassy Book Review) and notes that the passport requirement for travel back and forth between the US and Canada "would deter a lot of people [who] don't have passports, and if you're on the run and a deserter from the military, you're not going to be able to gain that passport." Joshua, his wife Brandi and their children went to Canada after Key returned from Iraq. There, he has sought refugee status and is currently appealing the denial of asylum. Key describes his decision to join the military as part of "the military's poverty draft" telling Leadlay: "You're stuck. You have no money. There is no other choice. If you want health care, if you want steady pay, and if you're even considering going to college, the [military] billboards pretty well offer it to you. When I joined there was not a wealthy person in the entire operation. I'd never seen a rich person in the military. I'd never seen a politican's son; I'd never seen anybody with any stature. We were all the same . . . coming from places that most people wouldn't even hear of, small towns, farms boys, and you're just looking for a way out."

Key's statements jibe with the study
Kimberly Hefling (AP) reported on last week -- the communities in America that are most directly effected by the US military death toll in Iraq -- almost half of the dead are "from towns . . . where fewer than 25,000 people live" and that "nearly three quarters of those killed in Iraq came from towns where the per capita income was below the national average. More than half came from towns where the percentage of people living in poverty topped the national average."

Sir! No Sir!, noted above, is a study of resistance within the military during the Vietnam era. The amazing documentary, directed by David Zeiger, was recently re-released in a special director's cut version with additional bonus features. In addition, (audio link) DJ Dave Rabbitt interviews Jane Fonda here. DJ Dave Rabbitt, along with Pete Sadler and Nguyen, operated an underground radio station (Radio First Termer) while serving in Vietnam. (He also acts as the dee jay for the soundtrack to Sir! No Sir!)

Returning to Minority Rights Group International
(PDF format) report Assimilation, Exodus, Eradication: Iraq's minority communities since 2003," we'll note that it examines the abuses minorities in Iraq are suffering. Yesterday, we focused on women. Today, we'll note that the religious and ethnic minoirites (who "make up about 10 percent of the Iraqi population") include Armenians, Baha'is, Chald-Assyrians, Fali Kurds, Jews, Mandaens, Palestinians, Shabaks, Turkomans and Yazidis.

A table on page 12 of the report charts the diminishing Mandaean population in Iraq by looking at the figures for April 2003 and the figures for April 2006. In 2003, 1600 families lived in Baghdad and three years later the figure had dropped to 150. Though that was the largest drop, the Mandaen population diminished in all areas -- Baquba (from 200 families to 40), Diwaniya (from 400 to 62), Kirkuk (from 250 to 75), Kut (from 400 to 65), Missan (from 900 to 300), Nasriya (from 950 to 320) and Ramadi (from 275 to 75). The report notes that "Mandaen or Sabian religion is one of the oldest surviving Gnostic religions in the world and dates back to the Mesopotamian civilisation. John the Baptist is its central prophet and water and access to naturally flowing water remain essential for the practice of the faith. Scholars believes the religion pre-dates the time of John the Baptist, however, and is has a similar creation myth to the Judeao-Christian Adam and Eve story." The report also notes that the Mandaen language has been "listed in the 2006 UNESCO Atlast of the World's Languages in Danger of Disappearing" and that their faith does not allow them to carry weapons and "forbids the use of violence". The report traces a similar disappearance of Jewish people noting that in 2003 there were "a few hundred" Jews in Baghdad, by 2005, the number had dropped to only 20 and that by 2006 there were only 15 Jews living in Baghdad (most assumed to be "older than 70" years-old).

And in Iraq today . . .


Reuters notes a mortar attack in southwestern Baghdad that left nine wounded, a car bobm in southern Baghdad ("near a vegetable market") that killed 10 people and left 21 wounded, a bomb attack on a Baghdad police station that killed 2 police officers and left two more wounded, a roadside bombing in Riyadh that wounded four Iraqi troops, a mortar attack in Iskandariya that killed a woman and a man, and a mortar attack in Mahmudiya that killed one person and left four members "from the same family" wounded.


CNN reports: "Two brothers of a prominent Sunni politician were shot and killed Wednesday, the Iraqi Islamic Party said in a statement. Salim al-Joubori's brothers were killed in Muqdadiya, north of Baghdad. Al-Joubori is a member of parliament and spokesman for the Iraqi Accord Front, Iraq's biggest Sunni Arab political bloc." Reuters notes a man shot dead ("inside his car") in Tikrit, and the shooting death of Abdul-Haid Mahmoud in Mosul. CBS and AP report that, in Taji, "Eight people died when American helicopters and fighter planes fired on a palm grove".


Reuters notes a corpse discovered in Himreen, and the corpse "of a police colonel who had been kidnapped two months ago" discovered in Baghdad.

Today, the
British Ministry of Defence announced "the death of a British soldiers in Iraq as a result of an incindent on the morning of 27 February 2007."

Dahr Jamail spoke with Nora Barrows-Friedman on KPFA's Flashpoints on a number of topics (click here for Rebecca's summary) and on the violence and the oil law, he stated, "I absolutely find no evidence on the ground to support that statement that this oil law is going to unite Iraq or anything like that. I think it's just blatant propaganda that would go along with the signing of this legislation that is really, the approval of the draff of the oil law essentially which has basically paved the way for western oil companies to finally get their hands on Iraq's oil which is what this has been about or one of the primary reasons the invasion was launched to begin with and so the corporate media, outlets like National Public Radio -- you know the joke on the ground with me and many of my colleagues from the United States who were operating in Baghdad was we would call it 'National Petroleum Radio' or 'National Pentagon Radio' because their reporters always love to embed I saw them ebedded in places like Falluja or in Baghdad, on more than one occassion -- and so that they're now issuing this propaganda that I'm sure would make the Pentagon very happy and of course the US State Department and the Bush administration and the corporations that support them saying that this is a very good thing, a positive thing. It's another way to put a spin on the occupation just like the transfer of soveriegnty on June 28, 2004 was a 'positive' thing, just like the Jan. 30, 2005 'elections' were a positive thing. And we all know, those of us with pulses, where those events have taken us today."

As all the above goes down,
Anne Flaherty (AP) reports that, in the US House of Representatives, "Democratic leaders are developing an anti-war proposal that wouldn't cut off money for U.S. troops in Iraq but would require President Bush to acknowledge problems with an overburdended military. The plan could draw bipartisan support but is expected to be a tough sell to members who say they don't think it goes far enough to assuage voters angered by the four-year conflict." Dana Bash (CNN) reports that efforts continue "to bridge differences within the [Democratic] party after backwing away from legislation that would set condictions on war funding." That would be US House Rep John Murtha's proposal. Bash quotes Yawn Emmanuel making his usual self-serving statements and notes that the Senate's 'bravely' (my mock, not Bash's) decided to postpone debating anything "for at least two weeks." (Insert joke about Bully Boy being "The Decider" here.) Yesterday, US Senator Russ Feingold issued the following statement:

I am working to fix the new proposal drafted by several Senate Democrats, which at this point basically reads like a new authorization. I will not vote for anything that the President could read as an authorization for continuing with a large military campaign in Iraq. Deauthorizing the President's failed Iraq policy may be an appropriate next step if done right, but the ultimate goal needs to be using our Constitutionally-granted power of the purse to bring this catastrophe to an end.

With few exceptions, including Feingold, the Democrats holding Congressional office appear more than willing to take Bully Boy's war and make it their own which is what they do as they rush to grab cover and refuse to call out an illegal war. Meanwhile,
Larry Kaplow (Cox News Service) reports that a "public affairs guidance" note was "sent to units in Iraq from the Baghdad command" which includes generic talking points created by the Pentagon which may also be controlling the Democratic Party judging by their own generic talking points. Meanwhile Edward Epstein (San Francisco Chronicle) reports that there is no backing away from the Murtha plan but don't pin your hopes on it, Yawn Emanuel shows up to offer more talking points. Jill Zuckman and Aamer Madhani (Chicago Tribune) may call it best: "Democrats in the House and Senate are struggling to find the best way to express congressional disapproval of the war and President Bush's troop buildup. They are wary both of going too far and not going far enough" -- "wary being the key word.

Finally, in policy news,
Jake Tapper (ABC News) reports that when US House Rep Marty Meehan "introduces legislation to overturn the ban on openly gay and lesbian troops serving in the military," he will be joined by Eric Alva (a Staff Sgt. "first U.S. Marine seriously wounded in Iraq" -- March 21, 2003) who is now openly gay.

Alva tells Jose Antonio Vargas (Washington Post): "The truth is, something's wrong with this ban. I have to say something. I mean you're asking men and women to lie about their orientation, to keep their personal lives private [. . .] That's one fact. The other factor is, we're losing probably thousands of men and women that are skilled at certain types of jobs, from air traffic controllers to linguists, because of this broken policy."

agustin aguayo

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Scary realities

Please make a point to read Rebecca's "women and owning power while you have it." I didn't read it until I was about to go to sleep (it wasn't up yet when I blogged yesterday). It was so wonderful that, even though sleepy, I had to pick up the phone and tell her how much I enjoyed it. I think it's really amazing and it's something that, sadly, we should be thinking about. Sadly because progress can come and go. That's the reality Bully Boy has demonstrated and created.
There are no laws that bind nations and everything is up for grabs. She's noting "TV: Aftermath leaves an aftertaste" (by Ava and C.I.) and the point they were making as well which is that women don't need to ever take for granted the rights that have been won because they can be wiped away in an instant.

Women in Afghanistan today seem so far away from the lives women had before the war tore their country apart. The first one, where the US was proxy players backing with money and weapons. Or look at what's happening in Iraq?

Before the illegal war, Iraq was considered the most advanced countries in the region for women's rights. Now women can't drive, have to wear a veil or scarf of some form, are better off accompanied by men. In Afghanistan it took a bit longer to turn back the clocks, in Iraq it happened in an instant.

Women in the United States should never take for granted that it couldn't happen here. "TV: Aftermath leaves an aftertaste" reviews the TV show Jericho. I haven't seen it. Sunny loves the review and has seen two episodes of the show. She feels they captured the show perfectly in their review. Jericho deals with a nuclear attack and, apparently, women don't do a damn thing.
Rebecca's " women and owning power while you have it" ties that into the 9-11 media portrayals (dripping with testes) and to Margaret Atwood's amazing novel The Handmaid's Tale.

As C.I.'s snapshot points out today, women are among the first victims of a war. War has destroyed the rights of women in Iraq and we shouldn't think it couldn't happen here either because of a war or because of an attack or disaster.

"TV: Aftermath leaves an aftertaste" (Ava and C.I., The Third Estate Sunday Review):
Presumably, a nuclear aftermath produces a ton of dust and the women have all busied themselves with housework because, otherwise, we can't image what they do all day when not making cow eyes as they fret over the men of the town.
We think that's a really ugly message and hope that, should something like the show ever happen, women would embrace their inner Xenas and Gabrielles and come out fighting. Love her, hate her or be left indifferent, Hillary Clinton's running for president. Ditto the qualifer and note that Condi Rice is currently Secretary of State (and Anger as Wally and Cedric point out quite often). Ourselves, we'd love to see a guest spot by Gloria Steinem, Maxine Hong-Kingston or Robin Morgan where the women are gathered and questions about identity and wants and needs are explored. But, probably, such a scene would play out with Pamela Reed and the other women stalling throughout the attempted consciousness raising for the men to rescue them before any self-awareness set in.
In times of crisis, Jericho tells you, natural leaders emerge and that's based on something other than the ability to lead, it's based on whether or not you've got a Y chromosome. We don't buy into the belief that the dangling Y means extra intelligence or natural leadership but, come the nuclear aftermath, women should keep in mind that the heavily worshipped area, in this society, is also a very sensitive one. Aim the stilleto there as well.

This was the section of the review we were discussing on the phone last night and we were remembering how much progress we've seen in our lifetime and how easily it could vanish. It's probably easy to think, "Oh, never." But I'm sure in 1977, women in Afghanistan thought that and in 2001, the women in Iraq thought that as well. Now, it's a different story.

"Oil Grab" (Antonia Juhasz and Raed Jarrar, CounterPunch):
Many Iraqi oil experts are already referring to the draft law as the "Split Iraq Fund," arguing that it facilitates plans for splitting Iraq into three ethnic/religious regions. The experts believe the law undermines the central government and shifts important decision-making and responsibilities to the regional entities. This shift could serve as the foundation for establishing three new independent states, which is the goal of a number of separatist leaders.
The law opens the possibility of the regions taking control of Iraq's oil, but it also maintains the possibility of the central government retaining control. In fact, the law was written in a vague manner to help ensure passage, a ploy reminiscent of the passage of the Iraqi constitution. There is a significant conflict between the Bush administration and others in Iraq who would like ultimate authority for Iraq's oil to rest with the central government and those who would like to see the nation split in three. Both groups are powerful in Iraq. Both groups have been mollified, for now, to ensure the law's passage.
But two very different outcomes are possible. If the central government remains the ultimate decision-making authority in Iraq, then the Iraq Federal Oil and Gas Council will exercise power over the regions. And if the regions emerge as the strongest power in Iraq, then the Council could simply become a silent rubber stamp, enforcing the will of the regions. The same lack of clarity exists in Iraq's constitution.

Juhasz wrote a wonderful book, THE BU$H AGENDA, which I highly recommend. I'm also really sad that it appears only CounterPunch, of our left publications, is going to follow what's happening.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, February 27, 2007. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq; was a soccer field bombed or did the US military detonate a controlled explosion; the Iraqi oil law moves from the cabinet to the parliament but no one's supposed to notice; 4 US troops are announced dead; a new report reveals women and other minorities are suffering in the US occupied Iraq;
and call it "civil war," a US official says it's okay.

Starting with the subject of war resisters. Agustin Aguayo was the topic today on KPFA's The Morning Show and Philip Maldari spoke with Jeff Englehart and Tom Cassidy of Iraq Veterans Against the War. Pointing to the common thread between Aguayo, Mark Wilkerson and Ehren Watada, Englehart observed: "These guys have basically opted not to go based on the illegality of the war and the criminality of it." They then addressed Aguayo's case specifically noting that he was "a medic who actually signed up to help people, not to take lives," that he refused to load his weapon while serving in Iraq (Cassidy: "I'd say that more than anything validates his conscientious objector status."), and how being in Germany added a physical distance (his wife Helga is attempting to raise money to travel to the court-martial). They discussed how the AWOL process varies from case to case (Cassidy: "It seems like no two AWOL cases are the same" Englehart: "Military justice is an oxymoron."), and how those serving on Aguayo's jury will be "guys who are lifers," "serious hardliners basically determining the fate of his life." The also addressed the war.

Engelhart: Jeff: Generally I kind of questioned the war from the very outset and I went into Iraq very skeptical. But it was while I was there I saw some things that really solidified in my mind what I would consider an anti-war sentiment. . . The most important thing I saw that really turned me against the war was the, uh, well two things really. A lot of the civilian deaths. Basically the way I saw a lot of the civilians deaths, and there were many, they were caused because of our complicit involvement in the occupation.

Maldari: . . . Complicity with who was killing whom and why?

Jeff: Well anytime you have an occupying force and the strongest military in the world occupying heavily populated urban areas, civilian deaths occur on any given second in response to small arms attacks from insurgents. We have to understand, we're using some of the most advanced weaponary in the world, like 50 caliber machine guns, . . . grenade launchers, you know, 500 lb bombs, 1000 lb bombs, depleted uranium, white phosphorus . . . All these things take into account. And you're dropping them essentially on civilian neighborhoods and you're using them in civilian neighborhoods. And a lot of those civilians deaths I saw were the result of sectarian differences basically what I viewed as our US forces pitting ethnic groups against each other to establish a subservient ethnicity to govern the Iraqis but a lot of those car bombs and suicide bombs that killed a lot of civilians was internal, it was in fact internal, but what I viewed as basically our own involvement was causing it. And a lot of times in any kind of urban strife just our own sheer power would destroy, you know, vast amounts of urban neighborhoods. And that's one thing I think we really lost the war in the fact that we lost the hearts and minds and you really can't win the hearts and minds with shock & awe.

Maldari: Well I interrupted you. You said you had a second reason as well.

Englehart: Just the dehumanization of Arab culture. As opposed to what the West would like to view the Arabs as backwards people who need our help. And . .. . Just scratch the surface of any kind of knowledge you would want to gain from the Arab world, you'd find that they are peaceful people, who are very intelligent and can govern themselves without any help.

Cassidy spoke of the derogatory words "used on a lot of official documents as a term to describe the Iraqi people which is sad because we had a civil rights movement like forty or fifty years ago and we still haven't gotten over just blatantly being racist to other cultures."

Elsa Rassbach (American Voices Abroad Military Projects) joined them in the last five minutes. And, FYI, re: Thomas Cassidy and Jeff Englehart. They have been speaking on campuses [AnnMarie Cornejo (San Luis Obispo Tribune) reported on a high school appearance last Thursday] and they and other members of Iraq Veterans Against the War are very interested in discussing their experiences. If you'd like to request a speaker, click here.

To clear up some confusion. Mark Wilkerson was sentenced to seven months as part of a plea agreement. Mark Wilkerson was also charged with being AWOL. Though he was not gone a full month (he was gone September 2nd through September 26th), Agustin Aguayo has been charged with desertion. Desertion charges come with longer potential sentences than do charges of AWOL. Aguayo is facing a maximum of seven years imprisonment if he is found guilty in the March 6th court-martial and if he receives the maximum sentence.

Maldari noted these upcoming events for Aguayo:

*6:30 War Memorial Building in San Francisco tonight. (401 Van Ness). This is a fundraising dinner.

*Tomorrow (Tuesday) 10 to noon City College of San Francisco Diego Rivera Theater, Ocean Campus, presentation of Iraq: The Case For Immediate Withdrawal and The Growing Military Resistance to the War.

* Saturday, in Oakland, 7pm to 2 am a party benefit that will include dee jays and performers (Taiko Ren, Qeen Deelah & Cov Records Artists, ICAF-Oakland, Zazous, Fuga, DJ Zahkee and Qbug.

For more information on the above, click here.

An article in Germany's Der Spiegel, by Mary Wiltenburg, mentions Aguayo but it is not about Aguayo. (About a fifth of the article covers Aguayo.) Wiltenburg looks at the growing resistance "[o]n military bases across Germany" and, noting there are "no guarantees," reports: In practice, many soldiers who go AWOL overseas follow the advice of the Army's deserter hotline and quietly turn themselves in to Ft. Sill or Ft. Knox. Ft. Knox spokeswoman Gini Sinclair says most of the 14,000-plus troops who have been processed through the two centers since the invasion of Aghanistan were discharged within two weeks." Wiltenburg speaks with Michael Sharp ("director of the Military Counseling Network, a non-profitogranisation near Heidelberg that helps American soldiers who are considering leaving the service") and reports: "Last month the group took on 30 new clients, three times its previous average."

Meanwhile, Carolyn Tate and Maizie Harris Jesse (Nevada Appeal) note: "Thirty-nine years ago in March, the horrible incident at Mai Lai in Vietnam occurred. When Lt. William Calley was court martialed, he insisted he was just following orders. Remarks were made at the time that he should have disobeyed and refused to kill civilians. Now they are trying to court martial Lt. Ehren Watada for refusing to deploy to Iraq. Lt. Watada has said he will go to Afghanistan and fight, but not Iraq, because he believes it to be an 'illegal' war (we agree). Double standard? Is it his Mai Lai? Or is he derelict for not following orders? Think about it."

Yesterday on The KPFA Evening News, Aaron Glantz reported on the army's decision to refile charges against Ehren Watada last Friday. Eric Seitz, Watada's civilian attorney, stated, "It is my professional opinion that Lt. Watada cannot be tried again because of the effects of double-jeopardy. . . . Once jeopardy has attached and it clearly did attach in this case when the jury panel was sworn in and when the first witness testified the protection against double-jeopardy applies as a Constitutional matter."

Jeff Paterson (Courage to Resist, Not In Our Name) told Glantz: "The military wanted to avoid showing to all the other people, all the other troops who are facing 2nd and 3rd and 4th deployments to Iraq is that if you don't go to Iraq and you speak out, you'll have a thousand people rally to your defense, pay all your legal bills, Sean Penn will hang out with you and [you will] go to prison for a few months or do you go to Iraq? And I think some people would go for that deal of the public support and spending a few months in prison instead of Iraq."
Glantz also noted that Mark Wilkerson was sentenced to seven months last Thursday and that he will be imprisoned until September (unless he is released early).(Glantz' report also aired on yesterday's Free Speech Radio News).

This month is an anniversary as well. First Coast News' Shannon Ogden noted: "This month is also the anniversary of Camilo Mejia's release from military prison." Mejia was released on February 15, 2005. Mejia self-checked out of the military after serving in Iraq and received a one-year sentence. Odgen spoke with Camilo Mejia who states, "You know, I couldn't really justify, I'd say, 90 percent of the things we did in Iraq." He also offers that "the entire invasion lacked authority . . . it was not in response to an attack on the US." Echoing the issue Tate and Harris Jesse raised above, Mejia noted, "In the military, we have a duty to refuse an order that we know is illegal." He also notes, "Absolutley. And I do feel like a coward but not for not going back but for going in the first place. Because I knew the war was wrong from the beginning." Odgen mentioned that Mejia will soon begin a lecture tour behind his upcoming autobiography. That book is Road from ar Ramadi: The Prviate Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia -- due out May 1st, from The New Press, with an afterword written by Chris Hedges.

Aguayo, Watada, Wilkerson and Mejia are part of a movement of resistance with the military that includes others such as Kyle Snyder, Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Joshua Key, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Corey Glass, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.

Turning to the topic of violence in Iraq but starting with what's seen as yesterday's attempt on Iraq's Shi'ite vice president Adel Abdul-Mahdi. On yesterday's The KPFA Evening News,
Mark Mericle noted that yesterday's bombing at the Ministry of Public works raised a number of questions including how the bomb got into the building and when since US forces had walked through with bomb sniffing dogs prior to the start of the conference.

Bringing the violence up to today, AFP reports that US Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell told the Senate Armed Services Committee today that "civil war" was the term to use in describing Iraq and that deterioation will continue at recent rates barring some ability to halt the chaos "during the 12-18 month time frame" that the crackdown is expected to last. To repeat, 12 to 18 months. That's "good news" the same way that the 600+ corpses discovered in Baghdad for the month thus far is down because of the 'crackdown'! (That's a nonsense talking point and we're not even bothering to link to it.) Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reports: "Minority groups in Iraq are facing 'desperate conditions', 'a barrage of attacks' and the threat of being 'eradicated' from their homeland." That's based on a new (PDF format) report from Minority Rights Group International (based in London). The report, credited to Preti Taneja, is entitled "Assimilation, Exodus, Eradication: Iraq's minority communities since 2003." We'll zoom in on women (pp. 5-6):

A further hidden layer is the degenerating situation for women from minorities. They are subject to rape and harassment from sectarian groups, as well as a continuing toll of domestic violence in their own communities.

Pages 22 and 23 focus soley on women and the section kicks off with the chair of the Iraqi Women's League, Souad Al-Jaziry, noting that the chaos and violence "provide a golden opportunity for the reactionary forces to impose their will, curtail the role of women and violate their rights." (A topic Rebecca was addressing yesterday.) Both the attacks and the fear of being attacked result in "a progressive curtailment of freedom in daily life, including not being able to drive or go out without a male relative to accompany them. In March 2006, Women's Right Assoication (WRA), a local Baghdad NGO, reported that since 2003, the number of women attacked for choosing not to wear head scarves or veils has more than tripled." Confinement to the home (for many) results in "raising families traumatised by living in fear." It notes that minority women face increased threats and that they are more likely to be raped, the victims of other violence, and little legal recourse ("funamentalists cite a belief that that rape of an 'unbeliever' constitutes an act of purification and is not unlawful" -- an "unbeliever" can be a Christian, Jew, Baha'is, etc.). Due to the lack of legal action (see Nouri al-Maliki's own rush to judgement last week for just one example) when reported and the social opinions of the victims (who are often blamed for the rape instead of the attacker), most rapes go unreported. In addition the police maintain that they do not have the resources to pursue the cases. The example of one 18-year-old is given. The unnamed woman "was abducted, raped, then forced to wear a belt loaded with explosives and sent to bomb a cleric's office in Khadamiyah, where she turned herself into the police." Her reward? Seven years in jail "for her sake" (the rape meant she was less than 'pure'). (FYI, those incidents are among the reasons we do not use the term "suicide bomber.") The section covers women being kidnapped and forced to convert to other religions by their kidnappers (whom they 'marry' under duress). This includes Mandaean women as well as Yazidi women. Women who are 'unbelievers' are often denied employment, education and forced to wear a hijab or other Islamic article of clothing. The section concludes by noting how weak women's rights are in the Iraqi constitution.

That's the constitution under Bully Boy. Women had more rights under the constitution in place before the illegal war.

The (PDF format) report has other sections and we'll address some of them tomorrow but the general response to these reports by news organizations has been to ignore the section of the continued destruction of women's rights in Iraq so that was our first focus. And, again, that's from the London based Minority Rights Group International.

Chaos and violence continued though there's a bombing in dispute. Dean Yates and Ibon Villeabeitia (Reuters) note that the US military claims no knowledge of a bombing in Ramadi that is said to have taken place on or near a soccer field and killed 18 people while Iraqiya state TV is broadcasting that the 18 were 12 children and 6 women. The Telegraph of London cites "an Iraqi defence official" who says that in addition to the 18 dead, 20 boys were wounded but note that the US military stated "a controlled explosion carried out today by American soldiers near a football field in Ramadi had injured 30 people, including nine children." Noting both explanations, Brian Murphy (AP) observes: "It was unclear if there were two blasts or whether there was confusion over the casualties from a single explosion."


CBS and AP note "a bomb in a plastic bag at a restaurant killed at least three people and injured 13" in Baghdad. CNN notes that bombing and one at an ice cream shop in Baghdad that resulted in a total of 8 deaths (5 in the ice cream shop alone) as well as a parking lot bombing in Baghdad that claimed one life and left three wounded and a mortar attack in Baghdad that killed two and left six wounded. Reuters notes a truck bombing in Mosul targeting a police station that killed seven and left 47 wounded, a bombing in al-Baaj that killed four and left six wounded and a roadside bombing in Iraq that killed two people and wounded eleven more.


Reuters notes a college student shot dead in Mosul.


Reuters notes four corpses discovered in Baghdad.

The US military reports: "One 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Soldier was killed and two were wounded in an improvised explosive device attack on their M-1114 HMMWV near Ad Diwaniyah at approximately 10:30 p.m. Feb 26." And they announced: "On Feb. 27, an MND-B unit struck an improvised explosive device while conducting a route clearance mission southwest of the Iraqi capital, killing three Soldiers and wounding another."

Also in Iraq, the long planned and hoped for (by the US administration) Iraq oil law has cleared the cabinet and now awaits the parliament's response. As Andy Rowell (Oil Change International) observes, "'Shared economic interest' i code for giving control of Iraqi oil to US and other multinational oil companies. What many people cannot understand is why the Iraqis are doing it." Danny Schechter (News Dissector) calls it thusly: "The Iraqi Oil Ministry has made a deal to please the international oil companies which, when all is said and done, we will learn was a powerful motive for this war that was totally unexamined in the depth it deserved."

Antonia Juhasz and Raed Jarrar, who've been following this oil law for some time now, team up (at CounterPunch) to report: "Not every aspect of the law is harmful to Iraq. However, the current language favors the interests of foreign oil corporations over the economic security and development of Iraq. The law's key negative components harm Iraq's national sovereignty, financial security, territorial integrity, and democracy. The new oil law gives foreign corporations access to almost every sector of Iraq's oil and natural gas industry. This includes service contracts on existing fields that are already being developed and that are managed and operated by the Iraqi National Oil Company (INOC). For fields that have already been discovered, but not yet developed, the proposed law stipulates that INOC will have to be a partner on these contracts. But for as-yet-undiscovered fields, neither INOC nor private Iraqi companies receive preferences in new exploration and development. Foreign companies have full access to these contracts." The two note, as they have before, that there was no need to rush through an oil law and that attempts by the US to push it through will only further inflame the chaos and violence.

Who owns the illegal war? Speaking with Yanmei Xie on Monday's The KPFA Evening News and Monday's Free Speech Radio News, CODEPINK's Nancy Kricorian explained why it was important for Democrats to make a strong proposal regardless of whether they can garner enough votes to pass legislation: "Then if it fails, that's one thing. But if they continue funding the war and voting for these appropriations bills to fund the war the war is no longer Bush's war, it's the Democrats and the Congress' war because they voted to pay for."

Finally, January 29, 2006, ABC's Bob Woodruff and Doug Vogt were injured in Iraq. For Woodruff, it's been a long struggle back (during which Charles Gibson stole the anchor desk from an injured Woodruff and a pregnant Elizabeth Vargas). Tonight (Tuesday) on ABC (10:00 pm EST), To Iraq and Back focuses on Woodruff's injuries, his recovery, injuries among veterans serving in Iraq and the level of care they are receiving.

agustin aguayo

antonia juhaszraed jarrar