Monday, August 14, 2006

Tell Rumsfeld "Hands off Ehren Watada! Let him go."

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Monday, August 14, 2006, chaos and violence continue in Iraq, we're three days away from the start of
Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing, the US military tries to dispute the Iraqi government and eye witnesses -- and the press plays he said/she said, and the US military is also involved in arguing with itself. (Report card reads: "Does not play well with self or others.")
Some basic facts/dates to start with. On Saturday (though few apparently noticed it),
the AP announced their count put the death toll for American troops in Iraq at 2600. Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) noted that the so-called crackdown in Baghdad has been going on, with no success, since June 14th. Kenneth Janda (Northwestern University) noted in The Chicago Tribune that today makred the 1,245th day that Americans have been in Iraq and contrasts that to the United States' "war against Germany [which] lasted 1,245 days, from Dec. 11, 1941, (when both nations declared war) until May 8, 1945."
And the war drags on" {Cedric note: I've added the link, C.I. just wrote: "And the war drags on."}
Sunday's violence in Baghdad was
reported (yesterday) by CNN as: " Police said the attackers used a rocket, a car bomb, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle and two other devices to attack the neighborhood between 7:30 a.m. (11:30 p.m. Saturday ET) and 8:30 a.m." Sudarsan Raghaven (Washington Post) reported it: "The attacks began when a volley of rockets bombarded a residential apartment building during a nighttime curfew, witnesses and police said. Then, a roadside bomb exploded, followed minutes later by another bomb strapped to a motorcycle." The Guardian of London: "The ministry said the rockets appeared to have been fired from Dora, one of the mostly Sunni Arab districts targeted by US troops in a recent security crackdown. Residents said the assault on Zafraniya lasted for more than an hour." The US is now disputing it was an attack and blaming it on a gas explosion. From AFP: "While the US military blamed an accident on a gas main for the disaster, Iraqi authorities insisted that insurgents had fired rockets into the largely Shiite district of Zafaraniyah and had detonated at least two bombs."
The violence on Sunday came a time when the so-called crackdown has produced no results, when the capital should be as 'secure' as the occupiers can make it and when Shi'ites are calling for neighborhoods to be turned over to militias and not the occupying armies.
CBS and AP note: "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office said in a statement that the attack started with a number of Katyusha rockets falling on a building followed by a car bomb, more rockets on a post office, a motorcycle bomb near a public library and mortar rounds near an Armenian church." They also report that "the al-Sahaba Soldiers" have claimed responsibility for the violence saying that they used "two booby trapped cars and fired mortal shells".
Gas explosion? Possibly, we'll learn that a gas explosion penetrated the Green Zone next?
Australia's ABC reports that the four Australian troops who were wounded in the Green Zone were "injured in an early morning rocket attack". (ABC also notes of the four: "Three have been released from hospital. The fourth, a female, remains in a hospital in a stable condition after suffering lacerations and bruisings.")
When not disputing Iraqi government officials, Iraqi police and eye witnesses, the US Iraq occupation force spent today disputing itself.
AFP reports that "the chief spokesman for US-led coalition forces, Major General William Caldwell" insisits at press conferences that Iran is aiding resistance fighters in Iraq by "training and providing weapons . . . in order to carry out violent attacks in the war-torn country." Caldwell uses terms like "we do know" and "verified" (though proof comes far less quickly than words). Despite these statements, Caldwell, in the same press conference that, "There is nothing that we definitively have found to say that there are any Iranians operating within the country of Iraq" which the AP headlines: "No evidence Iran active in Iraq: US general." Does it all seem like the inferences used to (falsely) link 9-11 and Iraq?
While the US military attempts to get a consistent talking point,
James Hider (Times of London) reports that British troops are being pulled from "the resitve Shia city of al-Amarah" to "instead patrol the Iranian border to prevent weapons-smuggling in one of the largest redeployments the Army has undertaken in Iraq" (Hider estimates this action will result in "freeing about 1,200 British troops").
And while British troops move to the Iraq-Iran border,
Solomon Moore (Los Angeles Times) reports that "[h]undreds of newly recruited police officers in Fallujah failed to show up for work Sunday after insurgents disseminated pamphlets threating officers who stayed on the job." Moore notes the estimate of 100 police officers killed in Falluja in "the last three months."
Reuters reports the following: two dead near Khalis from a roadside bomb (three wounded); eight dead in Tal Afar from a mortar round; two dead and four wounded in from two car bombs "in eastern Baghad"; while in the "central Karrada district of Baghdad," one person died and three were wounded from a car bomb; and "on the main road between Baghdad and Baquba" a roadside bomb killed one police recruit and injured ten more. (That's 14 reported dead.)
CBS and AP report that, in Mosul, "three blacksmiths" were shot dead. Reuters reports that "a tribal leader" was killed in Mosul and his son was wounded; "a tribal leader" was also shot dead in Baiji; and in Falluja "a civilian" was shot dead. (That would be six shot dead for a total of 20 reported dead today -- in addition to the rising death toll from Sunday's events in Baghdad.)
In peace news,
WBAI's Law & Disorder examined the efforts to surpress and prevent the 2004 peace rallies in NYC timed to coincide with the GOP convention held there.
Heidi Boghosian (host of the program along with Dalia Hashad, Michael Smith and Michael Ratner) noted the internal documents that are only now coming out,
"In one such e-mail, the Parks Department wrote, 'It's very important that we do not permit any big or political events between August 23rd and September 6th, 2004. It's really important for us to keep track of any large events -- over a thousand people -- and any rallies or events that seem sensitive or political in nature'." Those dates were "the period of the RNC" convention in NYC, as guest Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, of the
National Lawyers Guild Mass Defense Committee, noted. Michael Bloomberg denied involvement but documents released demonstrate "that Mayor Bloomberg was having meetings with the Parks Commissioner, Adrian Benepe, specifically about denial of the permit to the National Council of Arab Americans and ANSWER coalition, that there were meetings taking place where they were talking about that their official position that there would be a ban on rallies at Central Park overall in advance of the RNC, that they were trying to get him in agreement with that position notably because the police department didn't share that position. The police department didn't have a problem with a rally on the Great Lawn of Central Park."
here to read the released internal documents. Important in terms of 2004, in terms of Bloomberg (whose denials in depositions are now called into question) and important with the upcoming events surrounding September 21st (International Day of Peace).
In Crawford Texas,
Camp Casey III continues. KWTX reports that the Bully Boy went back to DC Sunday but that the camp continues and that Cindy Sheehan ("released from the hospital Sunday") and over 100 people are taking part in today's actions. Deborah Mathews (Lonestar Iconoclast) reports that Sheehan required "a transfusion of four units of blood" while hospitalized this weekend and that chants of "We love you, Cindy!" greeted her return Sunday. As she continues her recovery, Mathews reports, Sheehan will "be at the camp for only an hour or two each day." The Associated Press reports that Sheehan said Sunday, "Even though George Bush isn't here, it's important still to get together and not just how him but show the world that there are Americans who want the violence in the Middle East to stop." In a separate report, the Associated Press notes that Camp Casey actions are to continue in Crawford "through Sept. 3" (at which point, it moves to DC).
Prior to the hospital stay, Sheehan had been taking part in the
Troops Home Fast action which is on it's 42nd day and currently has 4,549 participants. It's an ongoing action and people interested can fast for one day at any time, pick a day to fast each week or do a longer fast. (The action will last at least up to September 21st.)
In other peace news, it is three days until the Article 32 hearing begins (August 17th) for Ehren Watada -- the first known commissioned officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq.
Courage to Resist and are organizing and trying to get the word out for "a National Day of Education" on August 16th. Melissa Tanji (The Maui News) reports that Bob Watada said of his son's chances the "court of public opinion is going to weigh heavily in favor of Ehren . . . [which] could make a difference". Khurram Saeed (The Journal News) reported Sunday on some actions taking place in Rockland, New York to demonstrate support for Ehren Watada. In addition to that, Tanji reports that: "Ave Dias, of the Maui Peace Action group, said Watada supporters should send postcards, call or fax elected officials such as Rumsfeld to let them know the public's support for the soldier objecting to war in Iraq." Mailing address for Donald Rumsfeld: 1000 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301-1000 and the main number for the Defense Department is (703) 545-6700 -- say "Operator" (or press 3) to speak to an actual person.
For those wanting to demonstrate the need to for public action in support of Watada, organizations (such as are recommending showing films such as Sir! No Sir! (for more on the documentary, also see "DVD Must See: Sir! No! Sir!").
In Australia, the military inquiry into the April 21st death of Jake Kovco in Baghdad continues. The latest development revolves around Solider 21 (all soldiers testifying are identified by number, not name -- Soldier 21 is "the section commander") who,
AAP reports, now denies the statement he gave to investigators that he heard a cry of "Allah Akbar" (God is great) immediately before he heard the gun shot that killed Jake Kovco. Sydney 2GB reports: "He told the inquiry it had become unclear whether he'd in fact heard the comment."

First things first, to contact Donald Rumsfeld:

1000 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301-1000 and the main number for the Defense Department is (703) 545-6700 -- say "Operator" (or press 3) to speak to an actual person.

You may think, "Ehren Watada's hearing starts Thursday" (it does) "so what good will this do? My letter probably won't get to Rumsfeld in time!" Call or write. Do it. This hearing will probably last more than one day and wouldn't it be great if we all wrote Rumsfeld and he had all these letters piled up? Or all these messages? Or both? Maybe you aren't the protesting type? Maybe you need something else? You can call or you can write. You can say a lot or you can just say: "Hands off Ehren Watada! Let him go."

I'm serious, call or write (or both) and say at least that much. Let Rumsfeld know that Ehren Watada has support, that we're out here and we support him.

Don't think you can do it? You think it's easy for him to do what he's doing? Or for his parents to stand by him? They're doing what they need to and you need to do what you need to.

You can be silent and then, after the verdict, wonder what you could have done or what would have happened if you'd done something. Or you can get active right now.

Watada needs our help and our support and it doesn't look like he'll be getting it from independent media. (No Iraq on Democracy Now today other than the headline, did you notice?) (C.I. likes the show still and does listen. When it came on, C.I. said, "I'll change it if you want." Which was silly because it's C.I.'s house and silly because C.I. should be able to listen to whatever. I listened with and criticized throughout. There's no support for Watada on that show and if this continues, I'll be very vocal about my disgust here.) (I also told C.I., "It's your business whether you highlight it at The Common Ills or not." But C.I. says the community wouldn't stand for it -- come on guys and gals, are we that angry still? -- and that The Common Ills is about the community, not about "what I want.")

Are we going to wait for someone to rescue the movement or are we going to rescue ourselves? We can do this. We can make it known that we are behind Ehren Watada, that we support him and that he's not alone.

One more time write Donald Rumsfeld at:

1000 Defense Petnagon,
Washington, DC 20301-1000

and/or call:

the main number for the Defense Department is (703) 545-6700 -- say "Operator" (or press 3) to speak to an actual person.

Say "Hands off Ehren Watada. Let him go." Say more. Speak from your heart, appeal to Rumsfeld's better nature, whatever works for you. But make your voice herad.

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