Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Barack shows his 'warmer' side

Starting with war resistance.  Courage to Resist has compiled a page providing names of war resisters and we'll note Jose Vasquez's sketch: "Staff. Sgt. Jose Vasquez served fourteen years in the Army and Army Reserve.  In January 2005, he applied for conscientious objector status requesting immediate discharge from the military which was approved.  He was honorably discharged in May 2007.  Jose is an active member of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) serving as Co-chiar of the Borad and President of the New York City chapter.  He is pursuing a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from the City University of New York." Vasquez helped verify all witnesses testifying at Winter Soldier Investigation last month and also chaired the March 14th's first panel.  Vasquez also organized the successful Operation First Casualty II last May (Memorial Day) in NYC.
That's the US.  In Canada, US war resisters are waiting to find out whether they will be granted safe harbor. The Canadian Parliament will debate a measure this month on that issue. You can make your voice heard. Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper ( -- that's pm at who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion ( -- that's Dion.S at who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua ( -- that's Bevilacqua.M at 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.         

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, Jose Vasquez, 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, Logan Laituri, Jason Marek, 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).
Last month Iraq Veterans Against the War's Winter Soldier took place and KPFA has a live program coming up April 22nd:

Live On Air and Online at!           
April 22 from 10am-1pm      
Join us on April 22nd for this very important follow up to Pacifica's groundbreaking Winter Soldier live coverage. We will be following the San Francisco trial involving wounded vets and the Department of Veterans Affairs. In this first class action lawsuit U.S. Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder sue the VA, alleging a system wide breakdown in the way the Government treats those soldiers.
During this special broadcast we will be bringing our listeners live updates from the San Francisco federal courthouse, we'll speak with wounded Veterans attorney Gordon Erspamer, (taking this case pro bono because his father was permanently disabled in World War II and never received proper health care) and speak with Veterans advocates including Veterans for Common Sense, and Vets for America.
Read more about the broadcast here.

That announcement will appear in the snapshots until the broadcast. If you missed Winter Soldier you can stream online 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.
Bilal is free.  The Committee to Protect Journalists notes, "Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein was freed today from U.S custody in Iraq, ending a two-year ordeal in which he fended off unsubstantiated accusations from the U.S. military that he collaborated with Iraq insurgents." Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reminds, "The military never made public its evidence against Hussein" and that they announced their decision on Monday when they "released a statement with a slightly gruding tone". "Two years and four days" of imprisonment, Daryl Lang (Photo District News) calculates, also noting the "five-month judicial process" that ended last week.  Robert H. Reid (AP) explains, "Hussein, 36, was freed at a checkpoint in Baghdad, where he was taken by the military aboard a prisoner bus.  He left U.S. custody wearing a traditional Iraqi robe and appeared in good health."  Dean Yates (Reuters) quotes Bilal stating, "I want to thank all the people working in AP . . . I have spent two years in prison even though I was innocent.  I thank everybody."  Editorial Photographers United Kingdom & Ireland describes the scene, "The photographer was embraced by sobbing family members, including his brother and mother, and spoke to other well-wishers on a mobile phone as he was showered with flowers and sweets.  He later was honored with a traditional feast." They also quote professor Yassir Hussein (Bilal's brother) explaining, "I cannot describe my happiness at seeing him again.  The family has been going through a hard time over the past two years, but now we thank God that we will have some rest."  AFP notes Bilal's Pulitzer Prize win and that he was released at "an entry checkpoint near Camp Victory near the Baghdad airport" according to US Maj Matt Morgan. Paul Colford, Associated Press' Director of Media Relations, announced Monday, "After two years in detention, Bilal Hussein needs time to spend with his family, to rest and to catch up with the rest of the world."
"We need to trust" declared Jim Nussle at the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing today on tossing away more American dollars on funding the illegal war.  Nussle is the budget director for the White House so his credentials on "trust" remain murky.  US Senator Robert Byrd is the chair (despite attempts by US Senator Patrick Leahy to oust him) and, appearing robust, he opened the haring by noting first US Senator Arlen Specter's "health has hit a small bump in the road.  While many of us know what it's like to face a health challenge, I know this man.  His strong fighting spirit will quickly lead him on the path to recovery."  Byrd then moved the topic of the hearing:
Eleven months ago, Congress sent the president a war funding supplemental that included clear direction to bring our troops home by December of 2007.  The president chose to veto that bill.  If he had signed that bill, most of our troops would already be home.  But instead of bring our troops home, the president decided to increase our commitment of US troops and treasure to a war that has now entered its sixth year.  Over 4,000 US service members have died.  Over 30,000 US service members have been wounded.  By the end of 2008, the war in Iraq will have cost a whopping $600 billion.  In the next few weeks, the Appropriations Committee will consider the president's request for Congress to approve another $108 billion of emergency funding, most for this endless war in Iraq.  We will be considering the president's request at a time when the US ecnomy is, by most accounts, in serious trouble. Under the president's fiscal leadership, the US government will have piled up the five largest deficits in the history of our Republic.  It took 212 years and 42 US presidents to accumulate one-trillion-dollars of foreign-held debt.  But in only seven years, President George W. Bush has more than doubled the debt our country owes to China, Japan, and other foreign entities.
As he concluded his opening remarks, Byrd also noted, "This year, we will once again take good care of our troops.  But we must also invest in our own economy and take care of our people here at home.  To fail to do so will only further dampen our economy, work a hardship on our our citizens, and deplete our ability to pay these endless, every-climbing requests for more money to fund this war in Iraq.  The well is running dry, and it is time to prime the pump."  The senators worthy of note include Patty Murray who pointed out that the White House repeatedly underfunds in the US (infastructure, etc) and that when Congress attempts to address the underfunding, the White House threatens a veto.  She stated that Congress was attempting to fund the needed programs "in a responsible way" but there's no effort on the part of the White House to reach out to the Congress and that can stop.  "If that means," Murray declared, "we're going to to have to wait until we get" the next president, "then that's what we're going to do."   Senator Byron Dorgan echoed Murray's point and noted that "the game is over."  He referenced the New York Times story (C.J. Chivers' "Washington Blocks Exports of Munitions Firm Suspected of Fraud") on the 'businessmen' providing ammo to Afghanistan (emphasing "massage therapist" repeatedly) as well as the fact that Halliburton gets US tax payer funds and then "runs the payroll through the Cayman Islands" in order to avoid paying the US payroll taxes.  He stated that everyone -- Congress, the administration -- bears responsibility for the lack of oversight but that "there comes a time when you have to say enough."  Senator Ben Nelson noted the "blank check policy" the administration has attempted to utilize repeatedly.
The big surprise may have been Senator Dianne Feinstein who may have done her best job in a Senate hearing period.  She was to the point, she knew what you wanted to say.  She noted the frustrations everyone on the committee felt and maybe that's what it took but Feinstein, repeatedly holding her forehead as she held the administration accountable, Feinstein was professional and focused. "Never before in history has a war been funded on the debt," Feinstein pointed out.  "I think it's a . . . problem for the survival of the nation."  She was referring to the climbing debt and the White House's request for yet another 'emergency' funding bill.  Feinstein noted what wasn't getting funded, she noted the failing infrastructure across America, and the lack of funding to prevent wildfires or the leveys in Califonria that need to be fixed.  "My problem is," she explained, "I've got a part of a state that might well burn over the summer again and we can't provide" the needed funding.  She noted the tax cuts for the wealthy throughout the years of the illegal war and the domestic programs cut and re-cut during this emphasizing, "It's rather cyncial what happens: You fund the war off budget, on the debt, and you press for further tax reduction."  Regarding the latest 'emergency' request, Feinstein declared, "I think maybe the time has come when we do have to put our foot down" to make clear that "we're not going to do" this "and I'm going to have a very hard time for $108 billion knowing what's happening in the United States, . . knowing we need to do some things just to protect our own people. . . . It's not right and it's not why we" came to Congress.
"The legacy that this president will leave," Senator Mary Landrieu pointed out, "is that he drove the country into a war and for the next six years . . . refused to submit a plan to pay for it. There's nothing, Director, clean about this bill -- it's either a cover-up . . . or a sloppy sales job."
At the conclusion of the hearing, the chair, Robert Byrd, spoke noting in "the next few weeks the committee will mark up a supplemental that meets the needs" of the military and the civilians.  A lively hearing and a CODEPINK activist chanted "Fund them home! Fund the home!" repeatedly at the end; however, it needs to be noted that some of the life in the hearing may have had less to do with the illegal war (and the drain its placed on the US economy -- present and future) and more to do with the White House's threat to veto what Congress sends up if they add any additional spending to it (which is their right, they control the purse and the White House does not have line-item veto).  Senator Ben Nelson hit especially hard on the issue of the money going to the Iraq War and reminded that he and Senator Evan Bayh had, early on, requested that the monies for reconstruction, et al in Iraq be given in the form of a loan.  Nussle apparently missed last week's hearings because this was a new concept to him.  He spoke of taking the idea back to the White House and begged off additional questions noting he was not the Secretary of State.  In terms of the waste Dorgan emphasized, he also acted as if this was news to him.  He suggested Congress explore that.  That's what they were attempting . . . while he played dumb.

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