Monday, December 04, 2006

Alex de Waal, Alexander Cockburn

Okay, this will probably be a shorter post than last week.

First up, Alex de Waal addresses why an international military response is not the answer for Sudan in "'I will not sign'" (London Review of Books):

Military intervention won't stop the killing. Those who are clamouring for troops to fight their way into Darfur are suffering from a salvation delusion. It's a simple reality that UN troops can't stop an ongoing war, and their record at protecting civilians is far from perfect. Moreover, the idea of Bush and Blair acting as global moral arbiters doesn’t travel well. The crisis in Darfur is political. It's a civil war, and like all wars it needs a political settlement. Late in the night of 16 November Kofi Annan chaired a meeting at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa at which he, the AU and the UN Security Council reaffirmed this basic fact. When he promised to bring the government of Sudan and the rebels who are still fighting around the table within weeks, the outgoing UN secretary general was adopting a simple and correct rationale: fix the politics first and the peacekeeping will follow. It's not a distant hope: the political differences are small.
Long neglected conflicts first exploded in February 2003, when the newly formed Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) launched guerrilla raids on government garrisons, and the government responded with its well-tested counter-insurgency tool of unleashing militia – in this case the Janjawiid, drawn from Darfur’s indigenous Arabs. It was three years before a workable peace agreement was tabled. And it very nearly succeeded. Everything hinged on a few weeks this May, when the Darfur Peace Agreement was finalised and signed by the Sudan government and one of the rebel factions. Had the leader of the main part of the Sudan Liberation Movement also signed, the current crisis would not have happened. To understand why Darfur is in such straits today, and how the recent efforts of the UN and the AU can help it escape, it’s necessary to focus on the politics of the negotiations.
The Inter-Sudanese Talks on the Conflict in Darfur began inauspiciously in the Chadian capital, N'djamena, in April 2004, with an unworkable ceasefire agreement. The Chadian foreign minister ordered an extra sentence to be handwritten into the Sudan government’s copy of the agreement, specifying that the rebel forces had to go to camps and disarm. The Sudan Liberation Movement had a signed and stamped version without this provision -- which they had rejected as suicidal. There was a second, equally fatal short cut: the agreement had no maps attached, and so there were no details about which territory was controlled by each side. A month later, when the first African Union ceasefire observers arrived in Darfur, they didn't know which troops were supposed to be where, or whom to blame when one side accused the other of encroaching on its territory. From the start, the African Union Mission in Sudan was mission impossible.
After the Chadians were replaced by the African Union, there were five more rounds of peace talks in Ethiopia and in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, which served mostly as a forum in which each side could rehearse its condemnations of the other. (I was on the margins of these talks, the African Union having called me in as an adviser. The Sudan government vetoed my attendance until the chief AU mediator, Salim Ahmed Salim, overrode their objections and attached me to his personal staff.) The seventh round of talks, which began in Abuja in November 2005, was heralded as the last. The delegations would remain ensconced in a dreary hotel on the outskirts of the city until they came to a deal. Five months later, progress had been painfully slow, and the AU and its international partners -- particularly the US -- had lost patience. A creaking wagon, inching along from one rut to the next, was suddenly jet-propelled by an array of international political stars, headed by the Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, the US deputy secretary of state, Robert Zoellick, the British international development secretary, Hilary Benn, and others. In less than a week, government and rebels were compelled to come to a comprehensive agreement. In the late afternoon of 5 May, after a final 20-hour negotiating session, the Sudan government and the SLM faction led by Minni Arkoy Minawi signed the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA). It was a joyless climax: the Sudanese present knew that the wheels had come off, and that the agreement was, like its predecessor, unworkable. But the US and AU had staked all on a huge gamble, and were still determined to make it work against the odds.

Staying on that topic, here's Alexander Cockburn's "Gaza and Darfur" (CounterPunch):

As a zone of ongoing, large-scale bloodletting Darfur in the western Sudan has big appeal for US news editors. Americans are not doing the killing, or paying for others to do it. So there's no need to minimize the vast slaughter with the usual drizzle of "allegations." There's no political risk here in sounding off about genocide in Darfur. The crisis in Darfur is also very photogenic.
When the RENAMO gangs, backed by Ronald Reagan and the apartheid regime in South Africa were butchering Mozambican peasants, the news stories were sparse and the tone usually tentative in any blame-laying. Not so with Darfur, where moral outrage on the editorial pages acquires the robust edge endemic to sermons about inter-ethnic slaughter where white people, and specifically the US government, aren't obviously involved.
Since March 1 the New York Times has run seventy news stories on Darfur (including sixteen pieces from wire services), fifteen editorials and twenty-one signed columns, all but one by Nicholas Kristof. Darfur is primarily a "feel good" subject for people here who want to agonize publicly about injustices in the world but who don't really want to do anything about them. After all, it's Arabs who are the perpetrators and there is ultimately little that people in this country can do to effect real change in the policy of the government in Khartoum.
Now, Gaza is an entirely different story. The American public as well as the US government have a great deal of control over what is happening there. And it is Israel, America's prime ally in the Middle East that is, on a day-to-day basis, with America's full support, inflicting appalling brutalities on a civilian population. To report in any detail on what's going on in Gaza means accusing the United States of active complicity in terrible crimes wrought by Israel, as it methodically lays waste a society of 1.5 million Palestinians. Of course the death rate is a fraction of what's alleged about Darfur, but all the same, we are talking here about a determined bid by Israel, backed by the U.S. and E.U. to destroy an entire society.

I think Cockburn captures it perfectly, handwringing to feel good about handwringing. "Look how wonderful I am." Not wonderful enough to do anything, but wonderful, wonderful. I think Mike's call was exactly right, they are the Modern Day Carrie Nations.

Now, were I like their 'leader,' when I was in Ireland, I would have spent all my time advocating that the Irish government do something. I'm an American citizen but shouldn't we all go other countries and demand that they send in their troops? Isn't that what the 'leader' did? Makes you wonder if the 'leader' decided, when leaving Europe, which country to go to based upon who had the largest military?

Myself, if I ever decided to live in another country you can be sure I wouldn't be agitating to get their military to send troops somewhere. But their leader is a 'humanitarian' so war is the only answer that can come to mind. Now this country, the United States, has two overt wars going on, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. This country also actively supports and arms the slaughter in the occupied territories. So you might assume a real 'humanitarian' would put an emphasis on that. But some 'humanitarians' appear to have a strong streak of the Mad Maddie Albright in them and can just think "Kill! Kill! Kill!"

You have to wonder how much power the 'humanitarian' has (backed by others, no doubt) that only her version of the events is presented in most media.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Monday, December 4, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, another marker is passed -- 2900 US troops dead, the US Defense Department notes (in a whisper) that someone did die last week and wasn't "missing," a US war resister finds inspiration from a relative, and Mark Danner (New York Review of Books) suggests: "Anyone wanting to answer the question of 'how we began' in Iraq has to confront the monumental fact that the United States, the most powerful country in the world, invaded Iraq with no particular and specific idea of what it was going to do there, and then must try to explain how this could have happened."

Starting with peace news: (202) 224-3121. What is that? The phone number to the Congressional Switchboard. Today, as
CODEPINK notes, is " National Call in Day to hold Congress accountable to the Mandate for Peace!" The action asks that those in the United States call the number and ask their US House Representative and their two US Senators to "bring the troops home now."

On Sunday, weighing in on Iraq's civil war,
Kofi Annan (Secretary General of the United Nations) told the BBC that conditions in Iraq are "much worse". Edward Wong (New York Times) notes Annan joins others such as Colin Powell (former US Secretary of State) and Ayad Allawi (former prime minister of Iraq) in making that call. Amy Goodman writes (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) that the hair splitting over whether to use the term or not has stopped "the harangues that the media are not covering the 'positive stories' or the 'good news' -- there simply is no good news in Iraq." Goodman notes it "is definitely in a civil war. A civil war started by the U.S. invasion and fueled by the U.S. occupation."

Meanwhile, in a step usually reserved for couples in the world of entertainment,
Zalmay Khalilzad and George Casey release a joint press statement. No, they're not dispelling rumors of a break up. They are announcing that, "Together we will bring peace to all Iraqis and restore dignity and security to this great nation." Well then, one-two-three-four-five-sis-seven-eight . . . Schlemeel, schlemazel, hasenfeffer incorporated. They're going do it!

Or maybe not.


Reuters notes a car bomber in Mosul killed himself and left five civillians wounded.


AFP reports seven people were shot dead in Baquba today -- "including four employees of the department of agriculture of the Diyala province". Reuters reports four police officers were shot dead in Mosul. CBS and AP report two shooting deaths in Khalis.


CNN reports that a total of 84 corpses have been discovered in Baghdad alone in the last two days. Reuters reports that seven corpses were turned over to a hospital in Mosul and a corpses was found in Mahaweel.

AFP notes that almost "150 Iraqis have died over the last two days alone in sectarian and insurgent attacks." That number doesn't include unreported deaths or corpses discovered.
So, for instance, Hidaib Mejhoul's corpse isn't in the count. Mejhoul's body was discovered Saturday,
he was kidnapped Thursday.

In addition,
yesterday ICCC noted that the total number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war had reached 2900. This follows Saturday's announcement that "One Soldier assigned to 1st Battalion, 1st Armored Division died Dec. 1 from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province." And Sunday's many announcements (from "And the war drags on . . ."): "Earlier today, the US military announces today: 'A Multi-National Corps -- Iraq Soldier died from injuries sustained when the convoy he was traveling in struck an improvised explosive device near Taji, Iraq, at approximately 8:30 a.m. Saturday' and 'Two Soldiers assigned to the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) were killed by an improvised explosive device while conducting a security patrol in the Al Anbar province of Iraq Dec 2.' Since then, they've also announced: 'Baghdad Soldier was killed during combat operations in the Iraqi capital Dec. 3."and they've announced: 'Two Soldiers assigned to 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group and one Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 died Saturday from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province.'

Today? The
US military announced: "Two Task Force Lightning Soldiers, assigned to 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, were killed and two others were wounded from an explosion near their vehicle that occurred while they were conducting operations in Multi-National Division -- North, Dec. 3." They also announced one death in the emergency landing of a helicopter on a lake in in Iraq. CBS and AP note that the count from that crash has now risen to four marines dead (16 were reported to be onboard). CNN notes: "It was not clear if the Marine chopper went down in a lake or a river." The US military notes only that it took place in Al-Anbar province. Al Jazeera cites witness in Haditha who "said it came down in a lake, which was sealed off by US forces" while Reuters says it's Lake Qadisiya.

The military is maintaining the helicopter was not hit or even shot at. On that note, Troy Gilbert was piloting the F-16 that crashed last week. Residents who witnessed the crash stated he had died. For some reason, the US military listed him as "missing." On Sunday,
the Defense Department released the following: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of an airman deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Maj. Troy L. Gilbert, 34, of Litchfield Park, Ariz, died Nov. 27 when his F-16C fighter crashed 20 miles northwest of Baghdad, Iraq." He died, according to DoD, November 27th and was identified via DNA. Which calls into the question the more than 48 hours the US military pushed that Gilbert was missing to the press while his wife (Ginger Gilbert) waited for answers. (The couple have five children.)

2900 and counting is among the costs of the war. Over 655,000 is another number -- estimate of the number of Iraqis killed since the start of the illegal war. The injured, the frightened (those living in a war zone), the ones who mourn, all part of the cost of Bully Boy's illegal war of choice. And currently, the estimated financial cost of the war is $348,000,000,000" (
via the counter on Tom Hayden's website). This comes at a time when James K. Galbraith (writing for the Guardian of London) observes: "The US economy is going soft faster than the inflation hawks and growth optimists thought. . . . The US trade deficit is near all-time records. . . . That is partly why Economists for Peace and Security -- a group I chair -- opposed the Iraq war from the beginning. As far back as 2002, we understood - as the economically illiterate neo-imperialists did not - that a world system very favourable to America was on the line. And it was not, as they seemed to think, just a matter of military might. We knew that if the war undermined confidence in the power, good faith and common sense of the United States, that could lead toward disastrous changes on the financial front. Four years in and with no end in sight, that risk may finally be catching up to the almighty dollar."

In other financial costs,
Julian Borger and David Pallister (Guardian of London) report that Iraq faces a less noted danger -- "being brought down by the wholesale smuggling of the nation's oil and other forms of corruption that together represent a 'second insurgency'". Borger and Pallister note that the US Special Inspector General for the Iraq Reconstruction, Stuart Bowen, has "referred 25 cases of fraud to the justice department for criminal investigations, four of which have led to conviction, and about 90 more are under investigation."

Not much 'imagination,' just a lot of crooked behaivors. Addressing the lies and myths that led the US into an illegal war of Bully Boy's choice,
Mark Danner (New York Review of Books) theorizes: "[T]he War of Imagination draped all the complications and contradictions of the history and politics of a war-torn, brutalized society in an ideologically driven vision of a perfect future. Small wonder that its creators, faced with grim reality, have been so loathe to part with it. Since the first thrilling night of shock and awe, reported with breathless enthusiasm by the American television networks, the Iraq war has had at least two histories, that of the war itself and that of the American percention of it."

Exploring the British media's response to the illegal war,
Dr. Piers Robinson (Great Britain's Socialist Worker) reports on a study conducted by social scientists at three universities on the pre-war and earliest days coverage -- the study "found that stories dealing with the justifications for war 'overwhelmingly reflected the official line,' with over 80 percent of stories mirroring the government position and less than 12 percent challegning it."

In the United States, Bully Boy is meeting with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim.
Guy Dinmore (Financial Times of London) first met with Condi Rice and that the trip to DC has "fuelled the perception of an administration that is seeking a new direction in Iraq while tacitly admitting it is not winning the war." Or maybe the US administration is just auditioning the next puppet to be installed? The BBC notes that their correspondent, Sarah Morris, "says the meeting has attracted controversy since Mr Hakim has ties to Iran and is thought by many to have links to a militia group."

If Nouri al-Maliki, current puppet is replaced, chances are the next installed will also move only when strings are pulled.
Raed Jarrar (CounterPunch) notes that al-Maliki made the decision to seek a renewal of the United Nations Security Council's occupation mandate without consulting the Iraqi parliament beforehand or advising them of what he'd done which, if it matters, is probably a violation of the Iraqi constitution. If it matters? Without US backing and stroking al-Maliki wouldn't be the current puppet, he missed the Constitutional deadline for naming his cabinet (as well as the extra-Constitutional extension he gave himself). Jarrar speaks with various members of the Iraqi parliament and Sale al-Mutlaq's comments may sum up the consensus: "This is totally unexpected. It is another example of the Prime Minister dismissing the views of the parliament and monopolizing all power."
(Jarrar discuseed this with Sandra Lupien on the November 29th broadcast of
The KPFA Evening News for anyone who would like audio or additional information.)

Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) report that, "Disquiet is arising all around because the present Iraqi government is losing support -- and so is the United States in its occupation of Iraq" and that al-Maliki's seen as a failure because, as one Iraqi shares, "He and other Dawa party leaders did not keep the promises made to the Sadr movement before the elections. . . . People are complaining that this government is not paying any attention to them and their ruined city despite the huge contracts signed for reconstruction."

Monopolizing all power includes attacking free speech which is what al-Maliki has done from early on. He has closed TV stations, implemented rules that there will be a 30 minute delay when broadcasting live from the parliament, had a laughable (and failed) "four-part" "plan" whose third part was nothing but censorship. Today,
People's Daily Online reports that Nabil Ibrahim al-Dulaimi, a journalist, "was killed in front of his house while he was heading to work". On Thursday, Editor & Publisher explored some of the other issues including that "Iraq's Interior Ministry . . . formed a special unit to monitor news coverage and vowed to take legal action against journalists who failed to correct stories the ministry deemed to be incorrect." The attempts to curb the press continue.

Meanwhile, in the US, war resistor Mark Wilkerson finds inspiration and support from the past -- specifically from his great-grandfather. Writing at his website,
Red, White & Blurry: My Life As An AWOL Soldier, Wilkerson explains that his grandmother passed on a letter to him, one that his great-grandfather wrote then-US-president Calvin Coolidge when his son (John F. Hemphill) died in Nicaragua. Wilkerson reproduces the letter as his site and notes:
"When I read this for the first time, I couldn't help but crying. Because through this letter, I can't help but feel that my great-grandfather would be proud of what I'm going through, and could relate with me on many levels. I feel that reading this somehow connected me again to a part of my family that I haven't been close to much lately, and I'm thankful for that. I also feel more now, than ever, that as a veteran, it is my obligation to speak out when I feel that an injustice is being done in our country today through this so-called War on Terrorism."

Mark Wilkerson self-checked out of the US military for approximately eighteen months before,
August 31st, announcing at Camp Casey III that he would be turning himself in. Speaking with Dennis Bernstein on KPFA's Flashpoints the same day, Wilkerson explain that he had applied for c.o. status but been denied and told that he could not begin the rebuttal process until after he completed his second deployment in Iraq.

Wilkerson is part of a movement within the military of war resistance that also includes
Kyle Snyder,
Ehren Watada, Joshua Key, Ivan Brobeck, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Jeremy Hinzman, Corey Glass, Joshua Casteel, Clifford Cornell, Agustin Aguayo, Patrick Hart, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, and Kevin Benderman. Those are only some of the names of those resisting who have gone public.Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, Soldier Say No!, the War Resisters Support Campaign, Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans For Peace. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.

Their actions are helping to end to the war as are the actions of others demanding an end to the illegal war. Today on
WBAI's Law and Disorder, co-host Michael Ratner spoke with Marjorie Cohn (president of the National Lawyers Guild) about the need to press Congress but also the need to do much more. Cohn agreed and noted that the advances of the Civil Rights era weren't a gift that a generous Congress just decided to offer, they resulted from demands, protests and activism. Mike will be addressing the broadcast later today at his site Mikey Likes It! (The four hosts of the program are Ratner, Dalia Hashad, Heidi Boghosian and Michael Smith.)

And finally, tomorrow on
KPFA (airwaves and online):

KPFA Special Broadcast: Robert Gates Confirmation HearingTuesday, December 5th, 06:00amLive, gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Robert Gates Secretary of Defense confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill. With Larry Bensky, Aaron Glantz and our guest experts.

This will also be carried at the
Pacifica website. For more background on Gates see Consortium News and for Robert Parry's latest click here. Gates shouldn't be back-patted and glad-handed with his history. Danny Schechter the News Dissector notes: "Sadly, I saw John Kerry on CNN say he will vote for Gates because the country doesn't need a debate now on his appointment as the new Rummy Dummy. Huh?"