Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Abeer and who's trying to get the military into the Sudan?

I have a few things I want to talk about tonight but Jess mentioned a visitor wrote The Common Ills public account wondering if I thought my post last night was important? Yeah, buddy, I did. Music does matter. It matters in my life. If it doesn't matter in your life, that's your business. Start your own blog.

But I want to talk about two things tonight. The first is Abeer and The Common Ills covered her and her family in depth, providing details, providing media criticsm. Day after day. (While a lot of people went on an extended lunch.) So you can search there for more information and you can also read "Abeer" (The Third Estate Sunday Review) if you're new to the topic. Abeer was fourteen-years-old when she died. (She would have turned fifteen last Saturday.) She was murdered as were three members of her family: (father) Qassim Hamza Raheem and (mother) Fakhriya Taha Muhasen and her five-year-old sister Hadeel Qassim Hamza. In addition to being murdered, Abeer was also raped and then there was an attempt to burn her corpse to destroy the evidence. Charged with the crimes are US soldiers Paul Cortez, James Barker, Jesse Spielman and Bryan Howard (who just had an Article 32 hearing) and Steven D. Green (who will be tried in the federal courts in the United States because he'd already left the military when the reality of what happened came out). Another soldier currently serving, Anthony W. Yribe, is charged with dereliction of duty for failure to report the crime.

Robin Morgan wrote recently about Abeer in "Their Bodies as Weapons: Rapes in conflict zones result from the idea that violence is erotic, and it pervades the US military" so you can also read that. This is the occupation. As Rebecca wrote "abeer's story was the story of the illegal occupation."

Though our independent media dropped the ball throughout the Article 32 hearing (it wasn't covered at all -- not even CounterSpin bothered to do a report on how the New York Times refused to name Abeer in any of their reports -- a point C.I. made repeatedly throughout the coverage.) You might think a fourteen-year-old girl reportedly raped and murdered by the US forces that were supposed to be 'liberating' her country and protecting her (they were assigned to her neighborhood which is where they gawked at her enough to make her nervous and report it to her family who then made plans to find somewhere else for her to stay for her own safety) but that wasn't the case. CounterSpin, Democracy Now, go down the list they all slept on the job. It was very disappointing. This was the reality of the occupation. There is no liberation. There is no protection. And the longer we are over there, the more damage is done. Abu Ghraib was horrible. It should have never happened. But the excuse given (which I never bought) was that these people were arrested, they were in jail, they must be guilty of something.

What was a fourteen-year-old girl guilty of?

Who trained the five to think it was okay to gawk at a 14-year-old? Those were adult males raised in the United States who damn well knew what was acceptable behavior and what wasn't.
The fact that those lines don't exist in the illegal occupation tells you all you need to know about it. When we were speaking today, I made Abeer my topic and I started by asking for a show of hands. I was happy to see that about a third of students had heard of her story. I was surprised the number was that high considering how awful the coverage has been. But this was a young girl. She was accused of nothing. But she became the sick desire of some, some who should have known better. That they didn't should frighten us all and demonstrate how we will become the Bully Boy if we don't end the war. We will become cruel, calculated and hardened in mind and spirit. For all the supposed Christianity he has within him, Bully Boy's given no indication that the crime has touched him at all. Considering that what happened to Abeer happened because he sent troops over there, he's got no right to push it off on others.

And with all the article 32 hearings going on now, it's very hard for them to keep using the 'few bad apples' excuse. The rotting is the occupation itself and Abeer's only the latest victim. There will be more.

At the end, when we were leaving, this woman rushed over and wanted to say that it probably wasn't true and C.I. had mentioned the Iraqi investigation and how it had been going on since Thursday. The woman seized on that to prove that there was "disinformation" because she'd just heard about the investigation the day before, so that was "wrong." C.I. was nice about it (I would have told her to check her facts) but I found this published this morning. It's actually another story with the AP at the bottom, scroll down to the bottom to read the AP item and here are two paragraphs from it:

Iraq has launched its own investigation into the alleged rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl by American soldiers, even though they face a possible U.S. court-martial in the case.
[. . .]
The Iraqi investigation into the rape-slaying started Thursday and was expected to take one week, said chief prosecutor Adnan Mahmoud of the criminal court in Mahmoudiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad, where the March 12 assault took place.

Started Thursday.

The second thing I wanted to talk about was Guns and Butter which I taped today because I knew there was a chance I'd miss it otherwise (due to the times we were speaking). Sara Flounders was the woman's name (I left off the "s" at the end) but I got Keith Harmon Snow's name correct, at least. I won't try to get new names today. But the dialogue continued. The topic was Darfur and they didn't go with conventional wisdom. There was a discussion of the racism ('White Man's Burden' -- we must save them) and how that and good intentions were used to obscure reality. There were discussions of what the real motivations were and it's just a really important two part series you should check out. (If you missed it and didn't tape it, you can check it out at Guns and Butter.) You've got a perfect storm raging over Darfur and at some point the zealots are probably going to be able to push military intervention unless people are paying attention. A so-called independent movement, as Flounders pointed out in the first part of the series, doesn't usually get to meet with the Bully Boy nor does their meager protests on a Sunday in DC get more press attention than the massive rallies on immigration that followed it (on Monday) or the anti-war actions that preceeded it (on the Friday and Saturday).

There's a reason that the so-called Darfur movement gets coverage and we find all the usual suspects with the usual motives. Online you can read any number of bloggers 'bleeding' for Darfur. They'd do well to listen to the two-part series. This was really brave of Bonnie Faulkner to air. She could have taken a pass. I remember, for instance, the day after the mini, meager protest in DC for Darfur, it had to share time on Democracy Now with the massive end the war actions. People don't want to tackle the issue. Bonnie Faulkner did and CounterPunch has. Most have avoided tackling it.

So if you're tired of hearing the crap about "Bring the Troops Home and Send Them To Darfur!" Or you're tired of p.r. passing for a movement. Or maybe you're just naturally (and rightly) suspicious when the do-gooders on the right and left team up to scream for military action. Whatever it is, make a point to listen to Guns and Butter's two-part segment.

That's it for me tonight. Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, August 23, 2006 chaos and violence continue in Iraq, Ehren Watada's father Bob continues traveling and speaking to raise awareness about his son's case, a new poll by the New York Times continues to demonstrate the trend of Americans turning against the war and another witness in the military inquiry into the death of Jake Kovco blasts the way the investigation was conducted.
Today Bob Watada spoke with Philip Maldari on
KPFA's The Morning Show about his son Ehren Watada, the first known officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. Bob Watada spoke of the potential consequences that his son could face but noted that Ehren was aware of the consenquences, that there's " a real crisis in this country," and that even "knowing that he may got to jail" his son knew he had to take the stand he did an refuse to deploy. Bob Watada spoke of how his son's discovery of the lies that led a nation into an illegal war changed everything: "When he found out what was going on in Iraq, the president lying to the people, lying to Congress, lying to the military," he knew that he couldn't go to Iraq both for himself and for those who'd be serving under him.
Bob Watada spoke of the expectation that the US military will use Ehren Watada as an example in an effort clamp down on the dissent within the military. And, in answer to Maldari's question of what can be done, he spoke of the importance of public opinion in his son's case: "If the military sees that there is a large swell of public opinion on behalf of Lt. Ehren Watada, they're going to think twice about what they're doing."
The importance of public support/action was also demonstrated in the calls. One that stands out is caller Alden, WWII veteran, in The Underwater Demolition, spoke of being stationed in Hawaii and "about March of '46 the word came through that all the G.I.s were going to be sent back into China to start a war against the new Chinese government. Following this, a couple of days later, there was about 10,000 GIs in Honolulu protesting, saying 'We are going home' and about three days later another one, ten-to-twelve thousand G.I.s saying 'We are going home' and that stopped it. And that was what was going on back in those days and I'm just so supportive and feel completely what Watada is doing and the way he put it and the father and the way he puts it -- that is just outstanding."
Bob Watada is attempting to raise awareness of his son's case and upcoming events include:

Wed. 8/23
7-9:30pm Reception & Educational Event St. Paul's Church, 405 S. 10th St,
San Jose Contact: Rose Takamoto 408-725-2933

Thu. 8/24
noon-3pm World Can't Wait­Youth & Students Conference San Francisco (site TBA) Contact: Jessalyn Gagui 415-286-3408

7pm Reception & Educational Event Newman Center, 5900 Newman Ct.,
Sacramento Contact: Sacramento-Yolo Peace Action 916-448-7157

Fri. 8/25
No. Cal. Japanese Christian Theological Forum Berkeley Methodist United Church- chapel 1710 Carleton St/McGee in Berkeley Contact: Laura Takeuchi 510-848-3614

Sir! No, Sir!"
Film Screening & Speakers Santa Cruz Veterans Building Contact: Sharon Kufeldt 650-799-1070

Sat. 8/26
Educational & Cultural Event Berkeley Friends Church; 1600 Sacramento St., Berkeley Contact: Betty Kano 510-684-0239

Sun. 8/27
4-6pm Speaking Event AFSC building, 65-Ninth St., SF Contact: Martha Hubert 415-647-1119

A complete list of the events Bob Watada will be taking part in can be found
We will again note: :
Cedric (Cedric's Big Mix) is advising those calling Donald Rumsfeld (703-545-6700) or mailing him (1000 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301-1000) to say: "Hands off Ehren Watada! Let him go." Billie advises that you can use to e-mail the Pentagon. She suggests "Re: Ehren Watad" or "ATTN: DONALD RUMSFELD." Courage to Resist and will continue to offer resources, ideas and inspiration. Get the word out.
Of the various stops he's made so far to speak of his son, Bob Watada said, "It's been really postive here in the Bay Area. Just about everywhere we've gone, we've had packed crowds. . . The other day I had somebody who came up before the program started and said he was a veteran and he didn't really think he could support me or my son. . . . At the end of the evening he came up to me and said 'Whatever you need, whatever your son needs, I want to help you out.'"
In other peace news, Cindy Sheehan will rejoin
Camp Casey III after "several days" reports the Associated Press. Sheehan is back in the Providence Health Center in Waco "recovering . . . after having a hysterctomy" on Tuesday. Next week, Sheehan is scheduled to be in Salt Lake City participating with the city's mayor Rocky Anderson and others in protesting Bully Boy's August 31st speech (during a trip on which Condi Rice is accompanying him).
That's how Sheehan plans to end the month, at the beginning of the month she went to Jordan with Ann Wright, Tom Hayden, Medea Benjamin, Geal Murphy, Jodie Evans, Diane Wilson and others to meet with Iraqi legislators.
Eric Horsting (Washington Beachcomber) reports that also on the trip was filmmaker David Rothmiller who shot footage "to create campaign material for Jeeni Criscenzo, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from the 49th district in California."
As the November elections approach, many get edgy and itchy. A new poll by the New York Times and CBS News continues to note the shift in public opinion of the illegal war. Summarizing the poll,
Carl Hulse and Marjorie Connelly (New York Times) note of those surveyed: 51 percent "saw no link between the war in Iraq and the broader antiterror effort"; 53% said the "war was a mistake"; 62% agreed that things in Iraq could be rated "somewhat or very badly"; 46 percent felt the Bully Boy "had concentrated too much on Iraq". Hulse and Connelly's article also features comments from three follow up interviews. Those views worthy of being noted? Two Republicans and a self-described independent.
In Iraq, the violence and the chaos, to no one's surprise, continues.
In the Baghdad, city of so-called crackdowns, a roadside bomb (possibly targeting Jawad al-Bolani, the Interior Minister) claimed the lives of two civilians and left others wounded
according to the Associated Press. AFP notes that a roadside bomb killed two civilians "between Basra and Nasiriyah." KUNA reports that "[a] car exploded . . . near an army special ops check-point in Dorra" and "that the explosion resulted in several deaths and injuries among the special ops troops in the area." In Mosul, the AP reports, one woman was killed and ten people were wounded by a suicide bomber while, in Falljua, a roadside bomb claimed two lives and left twelve wounded.
AP reports that "1st Lt. Hassanein Saadi al-Zerjawi . . . was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in Amarah". Reuters notes that eight people were shot dead in Baquba and a police officer shot dead in al-Hay. AFP notes that, in Kut, "two civilians were shot dead" with a child and one other adult wounded.
AFP reports that six corpses were found beneath a bridge "between the two volatile cities of Mahmudiyah and Latifyah" and three were discovered in Baquba.
In Australia, the military inquiry into the April 21st death in Baghdad of Jake Kovco continues. The most recent developments revolve around Soldier 47's testimony. Australia's
ABC reports that Soldier 47, "[a] military police investigator" went to Baghdad from Melbourne to investigate the death of Jake Kovco and that "he was informed on the day of Pte Kovco's death to deploy immediately to Baghdad." AAP notes that during Soldier 47 three hour, video-link testimony (from Baghdad), he "detailed a litany of miscommunication and army bungles surrounding the death of the Victorian soldier who was shot in his Baghdad barracks room on April 21." The Daily Telegraph reports of the testiomony that "he was also angerd and surprised that Pte Kovco's body had been flown from Baghdad to Kuwait agains the orgers of the military police's special investigations branch" and "frustrated that forensic evidence was lost when the body had been washed and treated while Pte Kovco's clothes had been destroyed." ABC New South Wales notes that Soldier 47 voiced his frustration over being "told he could not view notes made by Private Kovco's room-mates" and finding out that "the room-mates were in Kuwait, not Baghdad, so he could not immediately interview them." Tracy Ong (The Australian) reports that Soldier 47 gave up custody of Jake Kovco's body because a) he wanted to "get to the scene of the shooting" and because "certain integrites had already been compromised" (see "forensic evidence was lost" two sentences prior).
Soldier 47's testimony of frustration and anger over the investigation echoes
Major Mark Willetts testimony yesterday where he complained about being refused access to the room Kovco died in (Willetts was "the officer in charge of the immediate investigation") and feeling that Jake Kovco's two roommates were being less than fully forthcoming.
In addition,
ABC notes that Soldier 30 is asserting that "some of the claims made about his troops during the course of the inquiry are simply not true" specifically he refutes Soldier 21's claim that "quick draw" games were played with weapons. Two weeks ago, Soldier 30 (who spoke today as he spoke then -- via video-link from Baghdad) asserted that he had given orders that the death/crime scene not be preserved for morale issues Soldier 21, the section commander, is most famous for issuing a statement following the death of Jake Kovco that he heard a cry (in the barracks) of "Allah Akbar" which translates as "God is great." When Soldier 21 testified to the inquiry earlier this month, he renounced that assertion. Then, as
Sydney 2GB reported, "He told the inquiry it had become unclear whether he'd in fact heard the comment."
In other legal news, on April 26th, Hashim Ibrahim Awad died in Hamdania after being allegedly kidnapped by US troops. Charged with kidnapping and the killing were the "Pendelton Eight" -- Saul H. Lopezromo, Derek I. Lewis, Henry D. Lever, Lawrence G. Hutchins II, Trent D. Thomas, Tyler Jackson, Marshall Magincadla, and Jerry E. Schumate Jr.
Thomas Watkins (AP) reports that four of the eight want to skip the Article 32 hearing and instead "proceed straight to trial." Reportedly, John Jodka III's attorney was the one who made the request first (and did so on Friday) which isn't in the AP report. Reportedly not all involved were informed of the request when it was first made. Jerry E. Shumate was the last to join the four in making the request. Watkins reports that the military has denied the request and the Article 32 hearing could start as early as August 28th. But Gidget Fuentes (Navy Times) reports the schedule for the hearings as: September 12th: Jerry E. Shumate Jr.; September 25th: Marshall L. Magincalda, Robert B. Pennington, John J. Jodka, Melson J. Bacos; and October 18th: Lawrence G. Hutchins, Trent D. Thomas and Tyler A. Jackson.