Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama: 'I have . . . no blame!'

Briefly because there's not time, in November  the Canadian Supreme Court refused to hear the appeals of Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey. Today, Canada's Parliament remaining the best hope for safe harbor war resisters have, you can make your voice heard by the Canadian parliament which has the ability to pass legislation to grant war resisters the right to remain in Canada. Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper (pm@pm.gc.ca -- that's pm at gc.ca) who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion (Dion.S@parl.gc.ca -- that's Dion.S at parl.gc.ca) who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua (Bevilacqua.M@parl.gc.ca -- that's Bevilacqua.M at parl.gc.ca) who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use. That is the sort of thing that should receive attention but instead it's ignored. We will note war resisters in Canada tomorrow.  There is not time today, my apologies.          

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty 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 [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).    
Iraq Veterans Against the War staged their Winter Soldier Investigation from last Thursday through Sunday.  It was a very important action.  Among those offering testimony were Iraq veteran Jesse Hamilton who testified on the Rules of Engagement panel Friday morning.  Marcia's posted The Real News video here and we have it here. The Real News offers transcript of his testimony from which we'll note the following:
And my testimony is just based on the things that I saw in one battalion in Fallujah, in the Al Anbar province of Iraq from 2005 to 2006. I did have the opportunity to work with a lot of the Iraqi forces that are over there. And if you want my opinion as to whether or not rules of engagement actually exist within the Iraqi army, the answer is no. From what I saw, the Iraqis show little or no restraint in discharging their weapons. We had some phrases. I'm sure that there are a lot of soldiers and Marines out there who were in the cities, who worked with the Iraqi army, who'd recognize these phrases. "Spray 'n pray," where the Iraqis would just start shooting and pray that it hit the enemy if there was one. "The death blossom" was also a term that we used regularly, because once the shooting started, death would blossom all around. I never saw any civilians get killed by these actions, but one instance sticks out in my mind. I lived out in the city the whole time that I was in Iraq and on an Iraqi firm base. And the enemy would take potshots at us. They would shoot RPGs at us. We'd get mortared. And as soon as something like that would happen, the Iraqi guards on the roof would just start a barrage of fire. It didn't matter where the fire had initially come from, or even if it was just mortars or a combination, they would just start shooting. I ran up to the roof one day, and I was trying to see, you know, if there was an enemy, and if so, you know, where that enemy was. I couldn't see any incoming fire at the time. It was daylight. But I did see the Iraqis just shooting indiscriminately, and that was normal. I saw a civilian just running, and the wall that she was running in front of was just being pattered by bullets. The Iraqis weren't shooting at her. I know that for a fact. They weren't aiming at her. They were just shooting indiscriminately. More disturbing than the lack of discipline for rules of engagement shown by the Iraqi army is their treatment of their own people. The Iraqis--and this is not to say that they're bad; they just have a different culture than we do, they have different morals. I saw Iraqi soldiers just make the prisoners more or less run the gauntlet from the vehicle that they were being transported in to our firm base to where they would be questioned in the S2 intelligence office. Our job as American advisers in situations like that was to try our best to stop that, and we did. However, there's only so much you can do. And after awhile, you know, I was almost like, "I don't care. I'm over it," when it came to that. And I tried to stop it, but, you know, I just stopped caring. It was their people, and, you know, that's what they were going to do. I think it is very pretentious of us as Americans to think that we can go in there and spoon-feed them democracy and have them appreciate that democracy. I think it's even more pretentious to try to go in there and to try and change their culture and the way they handle situations. I think that it is a lost cause in Iraq. I think that regardless of when we leave, whether it is tomorrow or in 100 years, I think that the Iraqis, as soon as we leave that country, are going to handle things the way that they're going to handle them.
You can find more of The Real News Network's coverage of Iraq (including Winter Soldier) here.  Vincent Emanuel also testified on Friday but on the second Rules of Engagement panel (note I believe he stated "Al Khan" -- I did the transcription and it may be another city):
An act that took place quite often in Iraq was that of taking pot shots at vehicles that drove by.  This was quite easy for most Marines to get away with because our Rules of Engagement stated that the town of Al Khan had already been forewarned and knew to pull their cars to a complete stop when approaching a United States convoy.  The Rules of Engagement stated that we should first fire a warning shot into the ground in front of the car, then the engine bloc, then the windshield.  That is if the car was even moving in the first place.  Many times cars that actually had pulled of to the side of the road were also shot at. Of course the consequences of such actions posed a huge problem for those of us who patrolled the streets every day.  This was become friendlier with an already hostile local population.  This was not an isolated incident and it took place for most of our eight month deployment. Another incident occured when we were sent out on a mission to blow a bridge that was supposedly being used to transport weapons across the Euphrates.  During this mission we were ambused and forced to return fire in order to make our way out of the city. This incident took place in the middle of the day and most of those who were engaging us were not in clear view.  Many had hidden in local houses and businesses and were part of the local population once again making it hard to determine who was shooting from where exactly to return fire. This led to our squad shooting at anything and everything i.e. properties, cars, people in order to push through the town.  I remember firing myself into the town during this firefight and, while emptying most of my magazines issued to me, not once did I clearly identify the targets I was shooting at. The retrans site otherwise known as a retransmittions site was a communications post set up on a plateau overlooking the town of Al Khan.  This communication site was there to provide communication between the main base at the railroad station where we were and an outpost called Hussaba  where Bravo company's area of operations took place. We would encounter mortar fire on a daily basis most of the time we would return this fire with mortar fire of our own. Some of the time our counter-battery would call in a specific location for us to exchange fire.  On occasion when the counter-battery could not call in a specific location  we would fire anyway.  Sometimes in the hills off to the west of the town where we had thought the mortar fire was coming from and other times straight on to the town of Al Kahn itself on buildings houses and businesses. Because of the lack of personell at the retran site very rarely if ever did we conduct a battle damage assesment to report civilian deaths and destruction. so almost all of the time these incidents went unreported and non-investigated.  Once we were taking rocket fire from a town and a member from our squad mistakenly identified a tire shop  as being the place where the rocket fire came from.  Sure enough we mortared the shop.  This was one of the only times we had actually had the chance to investigate what it was we had done and to be able to talk to the people we had directly effected.   Luckily the family who owned the shop was still alive; however we were not able to compensate the family.  Nor were we able to explain how he could rebuild his livelihood. This was not an isolated incident and took place over our eight month deployment.
Emanuele also spoke of prisoners and corpses and see the report by Jacob Wheeler (In These Times) about that section of his testimony and an overview on Winter Soldier.  Wheeler's report went up Monday.  Yes, now we're to the issue of getting the word out.  In These Times couldn't be bothered to let people know that IVAW's hearings were going on and streaming live.  They have filed a report after they're over.  Mother Jones?  David Corn's become a complete idiot but we'll get to that later in the snapshot.  No, they didn't get the word out and they don't cover it now.  They are the among the many shameful in Panhandle Media.  But fear not, lot of shame to go around.  Let's serve some up to The Progressive.  We quote Matthew Rothschild in "Editorial: Are you ready to listen" (The Third Estate Sunday Review) when his response to our question of why IVAW's Winter Soldier Hearing was not being covered (on Friday) that there was a cover story and it would be up at the website (presumably, not a report on the actual hearings).  It's not up. But guess what do you get at The Progressive right now?  "LIVE behind the scenes updates from . . ."  Winter Soldier?  No, that's over.  It's that crap-fest Take Back America.  A Democratic Party bit of nonsense.  The Progressive is supposed to be independent.  They had the chance to cover a real event and didn't but can "LIVE" blog what is nothing but a make-work workshop for failed journalists who want to be tools of a political party.  That gets live blogging.  For the record, the elections in Mexico got "LIVE" blogging from The Progressive.  But IVAW telling the truths about Iraq?  Not important, can't be bothered. Let's move over to The Nation where Christopher Hayes (also noted in the editorial) promised that by Monday something would be up.  He had to write the blog post himself but he did what he said.  Thank you, Christopher Hayes. He's noting a section of Camilo Mejia's testimony.  Hayes noted Friday when the hearings were going on as well. Peter Rothberg noted it the day before it started.  As Elaine noted last night, nothing at CounterPunch and include today.  They obviously have other things to do. Mike covered Common Dreams last night.  Nothing today and only Jeff Cohen's nonsense (which Mike calls out and we called out as well).  We're not done with Cohen.  Foreign Policy in Focus wants credit for a March 7th article by journalist Aaron Glantz that they commissioned.  They note it was on their webpage throughout the hearings.  Yes it was and if you could scroll down the articles listed on the right, and if you could go through thirteen other articles, you'd finally find the article.  Today, after Winter Soldier, they move it to the center of the page.  (They've created a folder in 'honor' of the 5th anniversary.  Over the weekend, the folder wasn't there, "Fiesta!" below it was what they were pushing.)  Translation, when it mattered they weren't there and now that it's over, they still have nothing to say.  Repeating the Tori Amos quote that enraged FPIF so on Saturday, "I guess in times like these, you know who your friends are" ("Taxi Ride, Scarlett's Walk).
To give some positive credit, Information Clearing House prominently announced the hearings when they were live, making it the top of their page.  In Real Media, there was silence.  AP and the Washington Post were two exceptions (here for Steve Vogel's text report, here for the paper's read or watch option).  The rest played as dumb as Panhandle Media.  Personal story.  A friend at a cable news network text-d this morning to ask why I was ignoring him.  (He wanted a favor and I had been ignoring his calls and text messages sent Sunday evening.)  I replied "Im pissed that your network took part in the blackout on ivaw. But pissed doesnt begin to describe my feelings."  The reply had Kat, Ava and I bursting into laughter: "what is ivaw?"
Today KPFA's The Morning Show featured Aimee Allison speaking to John Stauber (who did get the word out when it mattered) and Jeff Cohen who was still happy talking it. On air, Cohen praised sites that did NOT cover Winter Soldier indicating he thinks shout-outs are more important than truth.  Some outlets are reposting his "What I Did This Weekend" essay that praises independent media.  As Allison pointed out, it was very hard to find news of Winter Soldier online -- including at The Daily Toilet Scrubber -- and she wondered if that was due to (pay attention Matthew Rothschild) some bloggers .  Jeff Cohen's really bad article is getting criticism at Dissident Voice where commentators are noting that both KPFT and WBAI -- Pacifica Radio stations -- had others things to do -- spin records -- on Saturday.  How shameful.  How very shameful.  How shameful that Cohen wants to claim he listened on the radio in his car throughout the weekend when he was in NYC.  He damn well didn't hear it in his car radio on WBAI.  Want to explain that Coehen? He railed against the "US mainstream media" for ignoring Winter Soldier but had nothing to say about the silence of Panhandle Media.  (Remember, they never criticize themselves.)  Stauber offered reality and addressed "the corporate peace groups."
John Stauber: The Democrats are terrified of the peace movement.  That's why they have -- through MoveOn and Americans Against Escalation in Iraq and their latest incarnation Campaign to Defend America -- really taken control of the peace movement and what I mean is this, MoveOn and its coalition Americans Against Escalation in Iraq and its new organization that seeks to raise 100 million dollars to run ads bashing McCain are completely alligned with the Democratic Party  their number one goal is getting Demcoracts elected.   And they ignored Winter Soldier because they don't want to be affiliated with soldiers resisting a war.  A year ago the founder of one of the big organizations, whose name I won't mention, told me that exactly, that this is way to radical for them, that soldiers resisting is not their message. They've really created sort of their own vets group called Vote Vets.  Here's the real gist of my point, hundreds of thousands, really millions of Americans contribute money to MoveOn and to True Majority and to the other groups that make up Americans Against Escalation in Iraq.  These groups have raised and are going to raise through this election cycle, hundreds of millions of dollars bashing Republicans on the war.  Just two weeks ago AAEI, the MoveOn coalition, announced they were going to spend twenty million dollars on ads blaming the recession on the Republicans on Iraq.  Here's how Winter Soldier could have broken through the media blackout You take that 20 million dollars blaming the recession on Iraq, heck you take 5 of the 20 million dollars, and you buy full page ads in the Washington Post and the New York Times, you buy TV ads, you force Winter Soldier into the mainstream media in that way.  But instead, as you point out, go ahead and do it, goggle "MoveOn" and "Winter Soldier," google "Americans Against Esclation in Iraq" and "Winter Soldier."  You'll find nothing.  That was a purposeful blackout. 
Text, audio and video of Hart Viges Jason Washburn, Jason Lemieux, Geoff Millard and Domingo Rosas can be found here at Democracy Now! where Amy Goodman offered a second day of broadcasting the testimonies.  We haven't noted Jason Lemieux so we'll provide a brief excerpt from his Rules of Engagement panel (the second one):
With no way to identify their attackers and no clear mission worth dying for, Marines viewed the rules of engagement as either a joke or a technicality to be worked around so that they could bring each other home alive. Not only are the misuse of rules of engagement in Iraq indicative of supreme strategic incompetence, they are also a moral disgrace. The people who have set them should be ashamed of ourselves, and they are just one of the many reasons why the troops should be withdrawn immediately from Iraq.
Domingo Rosas from the same panel:
I was stationed in the Al Anbar presence on the western edge on the Syrian border. We occupied a local train station there in an area called Al Qaim and which we called Tiger Base. While at Tiger Base, I was put in charge of the detainee site, which consisted merely of one of those shipping containers that we're all familiar with, at least most of us, and the shipping container and just a single building surrounded by barbed wire. I had two soldiers to back me up when I was handling the detainees. And I was briefed by the sergeant that I relieved that the men in the shipping container were captured combatants, and I was to deprive them of sleep. So I had them standing inside the shipping container facing the walls, no talking. I let them have blankets, because it was cold, but they were not allowed to sit down or lay down. Any time they started falling out or dozing off, they put their heads on the wall, I would be on the outside of the shipping container, and I'd just smack the shipping container with a pickax handle, try to wake them up and keep them awake.
The men in the building were noncombatant detainees just being held for questioning. There were ninety-three men altogether. Using one of them to translate, I told them that they had a clean slate with me. If they didn't give me any trouble, then the next twenty-four hours will pass calmly. If they did, I told them it was going to be a long twenty-four hours. And I just prayed that they didn¡¯t give me any trouble, because I didn't know what I would have had to do. They even told me I was a good man while I was in charge of them.
Monday's program offered Jon Michael Turner and Jason Hurd's testimony -- also from Rules of Engagment.  (We covered both already.  Turner on Friday, Hurd yesterday.) Archives of Winter Soldier can be found  at Iraq Veterans Against the War, at War Comes Home, at KPFK, at the Pacifica Radio homepage and at KPFA, here for Friday, here for Saturday, here for Sunday.  Aimee Allison (co-host of the station's The Morning Show and co-author with David Solnit of Army Of None) and Aaron Glantz were the anchors for Pacifica's live coverage (and archives are now up at Pacifica Radio).    

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