Did you see it coming? From Barbara Slavin's "General: September too soon to assess Iraq" (USA Today):
The No. 2 U.S. general in Iraq said Thursday that it would be at least November before he could fully assess whether the U.S. military strategy in Iraq is working.
The Bush administration has urged Congress to wait until a report in September from Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker before considering a reduction of the 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, Petraeus' deputy, told reporters at the Pentagon via video link from Baghdad that there had been "significant success in the security arena" in recent weeks but that September might be too soon to say with certainty whether the progress was "just a blip."
"In order to do a good assessment, I need at least till November to do that," Odierno said.
Oh, they're going to restart the clock again? November's now the due date?
I don't think so. I don't think an illegal war that officially launched in March of 2003 needs anymore time to determine it's outcome. It was lost years ago.
But that's what they think they can do. They think they can ignore the will of the people. The people have spoken. Congress jerks the people around and Bully Boy just lies to us over and over.
The question is how much longer are we going to put up with this crap?
At what point do we stop saying, "I'm against the illegal war" and start screaming, "Ending this f--king war!"
I'm pissed that they think they can get away with this and I'm even more pissed that they probably will get away with it. I hope you're angry, pissed or ticked off. I hope you can manage more than miffed. Miffed isn't going to end the war.
Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Thursday, July 19, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces the deaths of more service members, funding the war is funding the killing and more.
Starting with war resistance. Joshua Key began serving in Iraq in April 2003. Approximately six and half months later, he made the decision to self-checkout. In Michelle Mason's brilliant documentary Breaking Ranks, Key (and others) share some of what we they saw in the illegal war. The section with Key in the film that may stand out most is when explains coming upon "heads and bodies. And American troops in the middle of them saying 'we lost it.' . . . I seen two American soldiers kicking the head around like a soccer ball." Key has also told his story in this year's The Deserter's Tale which has consistently earned strong reviews. In the book, Key charts his life growing up in Oklahoma, his time in Iraq, his decision to self-checkout and the decision for his family (Joshua and Brandi Key and their four children) to relocate to Canada. Among the many incidents he witnessed in Iraq was one on the way out of al-Habbaniyah where they passed many onlookers including an unarmed man sitting in a chair.
As we approached, I saw the seated man raise his leg to bare the sole of his foot at us, a sign of disrespect. We all knew that this was the Iraqi equivalent of the middle finger -- a clear "f**k you." As I watched, Sergeant Gurillo -- perched atop an APC just ten feet ahead of mine -- put the man in the sights of his semiautomatic rifle. Gurillo's rifle had a lever allowing it to be used as a machine gun or for firing single bursts, and Gurillo -- a short stocky guy who was known to us all for getting love letters from both his wife and his girlfriend -- must have switched the level to single-shot mode. He tipped the barrel of the rifle down ever so slightly, squeezed the trigger, and shot the man squarely in the foot.
That incident is one of many recounted (p. 140 for that one) throughout the book. It's actually one of the milder incidents in the book. But someone offers the equivalent of the middle finger and they get shot. All of the incidents Key observed and took part in, as well as the illegal nature of the war itself, resulted in Key's conclusion that he had no choice but to say no to illegal war, From page 99:
My own moral judgment was disintegrating under the pressure of being a soldier, feeling vulnerable and having no clear enemy to kill in Iraq. We were encouraged to beat up on the enemy, we picked our fights with civilians who were powerless to resist. We knew that we would not have to account for our actions. Because we were fearful, sleep-deprived, and jacked up on caffeine, adrenaline, and testoserone, and because our officers constantly reminded us that all Iraqis were our enemies, civilians included, it was tempting to steal, no big deal to punch, and easy to kill. We were Americans in Iraq and we could do anything we wanted to do.
If he had stayed silent, if he'd refused to take a stand, who knows how many media outlets would hail Key as a hero? Saying no to an illegal war is heroic. As Dave Lindorff (CounterPunch) observes, "It is not that these soldiers are evil. They are victims who have been assigned an evil job. Some in the military -- people with extreme courage -- have resisted, have spoken out, have risked court martials, have refused orders, have deserted, but it is too much to ask most men and women in such a situation to be similarly courageous." Which is why those who do take a stand need to be supported and applauded.
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Jared Hood and James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Augstin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Care, Kyle Huwer, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty-one US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.
The war is illegal. War crimes are being committed. Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted today that US marine Trent Thomas was found guilty in the April 26, 2006 death of Hashim Ibrahim Awad: "Awad was dragged from his home, shot and then planted with a weapon to make it appear he was a militant planning an attack. Five other service-members have pleaded guilty in the case." Reuters noted that Thomas was "convicted of kidnapping and conspiracy to murder". Elaine (Like Maria Said Paz) addressed this yesterday and noted that, throughout the case, the defense maintained that Awad was a "legitimate target" which shows no remorse or accountability. CNN reminds that Thomas had originally pleaded guilty in a plea agreement before changing his mind and withdrawing his plea and that he will be sentenced today. In February, Dave Hasemyer and Rick Rogers (San Diego Union-Tribune) reported on Thomas' announcement ("stunned the judge"0 that in the midst of what would have been his sentencing hearing, Thomas declared he was withdrawing his guilty plea after having agreed to it three weeks prior. When he entered the guilty plea in January, Thomas told the judge that his own actions had disgraced the military, admitted they planted a weapon on Awad after killing him, and more. But, Hasemyer and Rogers reported, Thomas withdrew the plea at the start of February with the claim that the orders were lawful. Lawful? In January, AP reported on the hearing where Thomas entered the original guilty plea and had Thomas testifying that Melson J. "Bacos started to spaz out, to freak out. He started saying we were going to get caught" and that "Squad leader Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III then called in over the radio that they had spotted a man digging a hole, Thomas said. Someone fired a shot, then he and others in the squad opened fire." At this point Awad was already dragged from his home, already bound, already had a shovel and a gun planted near him -- lawful orders? Lawful orders don't require any of that and they certainly don't require cover stories -- spazzing out or not. Allison Hoffman (AP) reports that one of the defense arguments this week was that Thomas may have "a traumatic brain injury [which] impeded the Marine's ability to say no when his squad leader ordered him to snatch the man from his home in Anbar province". To be clear, that man was not Awad -- when they could not find that man, they went after the grandfather Awad. Tony Perry (Los Angeles Times) explains that Thomas was convicted by a jury composed "of three officers and six enlisted personnel" who "deliberated six hours before reaching its verdict."
Goodman also noted, "Two US soldiers have been charged with murdering an Iraqi civlian in Kirkuk last month. A lieutenant colonel has been relieved of command in connection with the case." CBS and AP identify Michael Browder (Lt. Col.) as the commander who has been "relieved of his command . . . although he is not a suspect and has not been charged, the military said" and identified the two charged as Sgt. 1st Class Trey A. Corrales and Spc. Christopher P. Shore. Browder is not a suspect but the US military press release is not blowing kisses and bearing hugs, noting Browder "was relieved by Maj. Gen Benjamin R. Mixon, commander, Multi-National Division -- North and Task for Lighning, based on the totality of the circumstances surrounding this incident and due to a lack of confidence in his ability to command effectively. The alleged murder was committed by Soldiers under Browder's command." The statement notes that the death in question took place ("on or about") June 23rd "in the vicinity of Kirkuk". Megan Greenwell (Washington Post) reports, "The two men, who are based at Schofield Barracks in Oahu, Hawaii, were stationed near Kirkuk, an oil-rich city that has seen increasing violence and heightened tensions between ethnic groups. Military officials said the murder probe was launched based on information provided by other U.S. soldiers." Al Jazeera notes that charges against two US soldiers for murdering Iraqis were announced last month (and like Trent Thomas' crime, the two are accused of planting weapons to excuse the murders): "Sergeant Michael Hnsley and Specialist Jorge Sandoval were charged with the murder of three Iraqi nationals in three separate incidents . . . between April and June near the town of Iskandiriya".
Staying with war crimes, Tuesday, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted the deaths of Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh of Reuters last week had resulted in the "news agency . . . calling for a thorough and objective investigation into the U.S. military action last week that left two of its Iraqi staff members dead. . . . Reuters announced on Monday that it had recovered two cameras that were being used by Noor-Eldeen. Photos on the cameras show no evidence of the firefight described by the U.S. military. Reuters editor-in-chief David Schlesinger said: 'Our preliminary investigation raises real questions about whether there was fighting at the time the two men were killed." Eye witnesses last week stated there was no exchange of gun fire going on when the Reuters team arrived. A US air strike killed the two journalists. Today, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) explored the attacks on journalists in Iraq -- the deaths and being held captive by the US military -- with Scott Horton who spoke specifically of AP's Bilal Hussein who has been imprisoned by the US military since April 12, 2006. "He was grabbed in Ramadi by a [US] patrol. The initial announcement by the Baghdad command was that he was caught red-handed in some sort of action. Of course, I interviewed some of the people involved in detaining him. They told me that ws a complete lie, that they had been sent out on a mission to get him and that the instructions had come way, way up the chain of command. In fact, the implication being that it hadn't been decided in Baghdad. It had been decided in the Pentagon, in Washington." From the broadcast:
AMY GOODMAN: You referred to the US cameraman. This is the case that you seriously investigated. In fact, didn't you represent him, the CBS cameraman? SCOTT HORTON: The CBS cameraman, that's right.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain his case, to give us some insight. He has since been released.
SCOTT HORTON: He was released one week before Bilal Hussein was arrested. In fact, we think there's some connection between these two events. But he had been taking pictures of an attack on an American convoy that occurred in Mosul in the north of Iraq, and he was shot as he did this. CBS was told in the first couple of hours after the event that he was going to be released, and then he continued to be held. And he kept being moved around. And we learned that the center of decision-making had passed out of Iraq and was being taken in the Pentagon, in Washington. And in the Pentagon and Washington, unnamed senior press spokesmen, we believe an assistant secretary of defense, were telling reporters, off the record and not for attribution, that he had been found with photographs of four separate incidents of attacks on Americans at the time of the attack. And when we got to the end of the case and the trial, we discovered that was a conscious lie. Absolutely not the case. But it was reported, by the way, on CBS on continuous feed for thirty-six -- excuse me, on CNN on continuous feed for thirty-six hours, as well as on FOX News. Neither of them ever corrected the false statements that were put out. JUAN GONZALEZ: What is the impact on the journalists who are in Iraq when you have situations like this of the military just grabbing people and holding them indefinitely without charges?
SCOTT HORTON: Well, we have -- I mean, we need to start with the fact that we have more than 110 journalists at this point who have been killed in Iraq. That’s twice the number who were killed in World War II. The number of journalists who have been arrested is now into the thousands. Most of those arrests are simply for establishing identity, and they are resolved in a period of four to six hours, but many of them have gone on for weeks and indeed months, and it is -- you know, it creates continuous pressure on the journalists. But the most disturbing thing here is a tendency on the part of the US military to view these journalists as, quote, "the enemy." And back three months ago, we actually got to see some classified operational security briefing materials that were prepared by the Department of Defense, in which they labeled journalists in a category together with al-Qaeda and drug dealers as potential enemy, to be treated and viewed as such. That leads to people being killed, by the way.
Staying on 'detentions.' Baghdad Observer is one of two blogs McClatchy Newspapers provides that cover Iraq. Leila Fadel ("Baghdad bureau chief") writes at Baghdad Observer. Tuesday, she wrote of returning to Baghdad (from Beirut) when two people were not present. First, "One person was missing. One of our senior drivers, an elegant man and former pilot, hasn't been to work in weeks. His neighborhood has deteriorated as Sunni insurgents and the Shiite Mahdi Army, radical cleric Muqtada Sadr's militia, fight for control of the area. He hasn't stepped foot outside his home, afraid that he will be killed. Instead his 22-year-old son is sleeping at the hotel and working in his place." Second, "Hussein isn't here either. Our Iraqi reporter is in Basra visiting his father. The man was detained in May by the U.S. military. We weren't told why. I had been working to get him released and one U.S. military official promised me his papers were being processed for release. On my break in Beirut, I got an e-mail from the bureau. He had been transferred to Camp Bucca in Basra. No release in sight, no answers about why he is in detention."
Staying on the violence, Inside Iraq is a blog done by McClatchy Newspapers' Iraqi journalists. Yesterday, in "One Question," a taxi ride experience was shared where the cab driver informed the journalist of his life since the start of the illegal war -- a missile resulted in a 4-year-old daughter who can't hear or speak, the driver's three brothers are dead, thugs moved into the neighborhood and his family had to give up their home, etc. leading the journalist to note: "We have more than 100000 US soldiers in Iraq and about 300000 Iraqi security forces. What are they doing? Can Mr. Bush or our Prime Minister Mr. Nouri Al Maliki answer my question?" "Not Enough" went up today and tells the story of two young children ("one still a baby running around bare footed on the lawn with his milk bottle in his hand, his sister chasing him with a big fluffy monster making monster sounds") playing in their yard when a bomb went off in the neighborhood resulting in shattered glass, the "two children, cut up, barely alive".
At the Times of London, Deboarah Haynes writes about her life as embed in Inside Iraq which might better be called Escorted Through Iraq. On July 14th, she wrote of accompanying the US military "across the dusty farmland of Arab Jabour, south of Baghdad" and found explosive devices littering the grounds which caused her to note that, since she "had no night-vision goggles," she had to trail closely behind the US soldier ahead of her. She frets over that but somehow forgets that most Iraqis will not have a US military escort in crossing the terrain. A similar myopia occurs as she writes of riding around "in up-armoured Humvees" ("nerve-wracking") while wearing "bulky body armour" and her fretting and free association never seems the least bit aware that she's several times more protected than is the average Iraqi. Reality comes out inadvertantly, seeping through the Noblesse Blondige attitude. Dr. Susan Rosenthal (CounterPunch) notes the dissociation going on in Iraq, in the military and in the media, "The barbarism of the Iraq war is creating mass dissociation in Iraq and America. Iraqis are going out of their minds with suffering. So are their tormentors, the American soldiers who are themselves tormented by what they have seen and done. Ordinary Americans must also dissociate in order to live 'normal' lives while a horrific war looms menacingly in the background. Such dissociation provides temporary comfort, while allowing the war to continue. The media encourages mass dissociation, presenting santized coverage of the war and sedating commentary that drips with lies."
Meanwhile, Mohammed A. Salih (IPS) reports the death of 19-year-old Sahwbo Rauf Ali who was murdered by her husband and several of his peers (two of which have British citizenship) in an "honor killing" which are "numerous . . . in the Kurdish region each year" and that the province of Sulaimaniya has had 24 reported honor killings with arrests "made in only five of these cases." As Salih notes, not all honor killings are reported or tracked and some women are encouraged to kill themselves.
Funding the war is funding the killing. Which is why non-cheerleaders aren't doing cartwheels and splits over the Senate Democrats sleep-over. Joshua Frank (CounterPunch) notes, "Not only were the Democrats' please to set a timetable for withdraw fully pathetic, so too was their moral indignation. . . . The Democrats don't really want to end the war despite their veneer of opposition. If they desired to end the war they would have halted its funding long ago." It's why Dr. Susan Rosenthal (CounterPunch) explains, "The Democrats consistently betray the anti-war movement, and liberal leaders of the social movements tail the Democrats. The recent vote to bring most American combat troops home next April is just another sham. All troops must come home now, combat and occupation forces, because Iraq belongs to Iraqis. Delaying the pullout only compounds the misery and provides politicians with enough time to change their minds." Pham Binh (Dissident Voice) calls out the nonsense as well noting the now failed Levin-Reed measure "would not end the war, close the permanent bases the Pentagon is building in Iraq, or get any troops out of harms way. I've read the text of the doomed amendment. It would require some unstated number of troops to be withdrawn, starting within four months of the bill's passage and ending by April 30, 2008." Norman Solomon (Common Dreams) notes the nonsense as well, "It was a chilling moment on a split-screen history. While the Senate debated the Iraq war on Tuesday night, a long-dead senator again renounced a chronic lie about congressional options and presidential powers" -- Wayne Morse featured in a clip of War Made Easy in a CBS Face The Nation appearance responding to Peter Lisagor's assertion that "the Constitution gives to the president of the United States the sole responsibility for the conduct of foreign policy."
"Couldn't be more wrong," Morse shot back. "You couldn't make a more unsound legal statement than the one you have just made. This is the promulgation of an old fallacy that foreign policy belongs to the president of the United States. That's nonsense." Lisagor sounded a bit exasperated: "To whom does it belong, then, Senator?" Again, Morse didn't hesitate. "It belongs to the American people," the senator fired back. And he added: "What I'm saying is -- under our Constitution all the president is, is the administrator of the people's foreign policy, those are his prerogatives, and I’m pleading that the American people be given the facts about foreign policy --" "You know, Senator, that the American people cannot formulate and execute foreign policy --" "Why do you say that? Why, you're a man of little faith in democracy if you make that kind of comment," Morse retorted. "I have complete faith in the ability of the American people to follow the facts if you'll give them. And my charge against my government is we're not giving the American people the facts."
The film in question is War Made Easy which uses Solomon's book of the same title as the spring board for a riveting documentary. As Cindy Sheehan (AfterDowningStreet) maintains, "It is my belief that for all of human history, we have been giving 'war a chance' and it has never worked. There has never been a 'war to end all wars.' No matter how much BushCo blather, peace cannot be spread by the use of force and democracy cannot be forced on a people at the end of a M-16. Congressional Democrats are busy throwing up smokescreens . . . or bones . . . to their 'anti-war' left by their meaningless bills after they gave George 120 billion more dollars to wage these wars of aggression and potentially invade Iran. As one of my peace idols, John Lennon said let's 'give peace a chance'." Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan is taking part in the Journey for Humanity and Accountability and more information on that is available at Camp Casey Pease Institute.
Reuters notes the bombing of a "minaret" (think column or tower) on a Baghdad Sunni mosque (which will no doubt lead to response bombings), a Baghdad roadside bombing that claimed the lives of 2 people and a mortar attack in Baghdad that claimed 1 life (seven more injured).
Reuters notes that an Iraqi soldier was shot dead in a home invasion in Hawija
Reuters notes 8 corpses were discovered in Mosul and the corpse of Lt. Col. Salam Shanoun was discovered along with the corpses of his 5 bodyguards following yesterday's kidnapping.
Today, the US military announced: "Four Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter were killed when an improvised explosive device detonated near their patrol during combat operations in an eastern section of the Iraqi capital July 18." And [PDF format warning] they announced: "A Task Force Marne Soldier was killed by small arms fire July 19 near Rushdi Mullah."
The ICCC total number of US service members killed in the illegal war since it started is currently 3628 with 49 for the month.
Meanwhile, the ICCC total for British troops is 159 and Sean Rayment (Telegraph of London) reports, "British troops serving in Iraq are being killed at a proportionally greater rate then their American allies for the first time since the start of the war. The stark finding marks a 'watershed' for British involvement in the conflict, it is claimed, and had led to calls for the Government to set an immediate timetable for withdrawal from the war-torn country. Prof Sheila Bird, the vice-president of the Royal Stastistical Society, analysed British and American fatalities from May 2006 to June 2007, and found the death rate of British troops has now surpassed that of Americans, following a sustained upsurge of violence in the southern city of Basra."
This summer, Tina Richards' Grassroots America and Iraq Veterans Against the War are launching the campaign Funding the War is Killing the Troops. As Pham Binh (Dissident Voice) notes IVAW's membership is growing. And the new CBS News-New York Times polldemonstrates (yet again) that the public and the illegal war have parted. Support is not coming back for it. 61% of respondents stating Congress should only fund the illegal war if it has a timetable for withdrawal and only 28% believe that Congress should continue funding regardless. 74% of respondents say the illegal war is going badly, 25% live in the land of delusion and say it's going "well." Currently 8% of respondents are saying, "Block all funding." By refuting the lies of US Senator Carl Levin and others, the Funding the War is Killing the Troops campaign can make that 8% number soar much higher.
iraq veterans against the war