Archive for category iraq

Iraq War is Over But the Occupation is Endless

Sunday August 22, the Associated Press reported, “BAGHDAD — An American solider was killed in a rocket attack in southern Iraq on Sunday, the U.S. military said, marking the first American fatality since the last combat unit in Iraq pulled out of the country.”

As the “last” combat brigade left Iraq, President Obama prepares to give a major speech this week.  He probably won’t claim victory; that would be laughable.  He will claim that the U.S. is taking responsible action, now that the Iraqis are ready to “step up” and run “their own” country.  This is the same plan the Bush regime had, but framed and re-branded, Obama-style, to cover  a thoroughly illegitimate occupation.

Jeremy Scahill said on Democracy Now earlier this month, that the combat role is shifting to the State Department which “has plans to remake some US bases into what they call ‘enduring presence posts,’ EPPs. And so, you’ll have these outposts around the country that are essentially—what is essentially unfolding here is a downsized and rebranded occupation, Obama-style, that is going to necessitate a surge in private forces. The State Department is asking for MRAP vehicles, armored vehicles, for Black Hawk helicopters and for these paramilitary forces. So, yes, you can say that officially combat has ended, but in reality you’re continuing it through the back door by bringing in these paramilitary forces and classifying them as diplomatic security, which was Bush’s game from the very beginning.”

But don’t think the military is really leaving.  General Ray Odierno, who’s in charge in Iraq, says they’ll stay or come back at the discretion of the administration.  More troops left Ft. Hood this morning, see below.

There are still 50,000 troops “advising” the Iraqi government which rules through US backing; the biggest embassy in the world ever; civil society in shambles, and no stability for the people.  Adil E. Shamoo, a professor of ethics, writes in What You Will Not Hear About Iraq, ” Iraq has between 25 and 50 percent unemployment, a dysfunctional parliament, rampant disease, an epidemic of mental illness, and sprawling slums. The killing of innocent people has become part of daily life. What a havoc the United States has wreaked in Iraq…For the past few decades, prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the percentage of the urban population living in slums in Iraq hovered just below 20 percent.  Today, that percentage has risen to 53 percent: 11 million of the 19 million total urban dwellers.”

Chris Floyd in The Peace Laureate’s Prayer: War Without End, Amen

So while the “last full U.S. combat brigade” have left Iraq, just under 50,000 soldiers from specially trained heavy, infantry and Stryker brigades will stay, as well as two combat aviation brigades …

There are seven Advise and Assist Brigades in Iraq, as well as two additional National Guard infantry brigades “for security,” said Army spokesman Lt. Col. Craig Ratcliff. …

The Army selected brigade combat teams as the unit upon which to build advisory brigades partly because they would be able to retain their inherent capability to conduct offensive and defensive operations, according to the Army’s security force assistance field manual, which came out in May 2009. This way, the brigade can shift the bulk of its operational focus from security force assistance to combat operations if necessary.

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Stephanie Tang from World Can’t Wait joined anti-war veterans Josh Stieber and Ethan McCord on the Lettieri & Poole show, KGO Newstalk Radio (San Francisco) Saturday August 21, for a talk about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and WikiLeaks.

Josh and Ethan were in Iraq with Bravo Company 2-16, the unit whose Apache helicopter attack on civilians is now known to the world thanks to the Wikileaks “Collateral Murder” video. Ethan is seen in that video, carrying a wounded Iraqi child to find a medic. After returning from Iraq, Josh and Ethan wrote An Open Letter of Reconciliation and Responsibility to the Iraqi People: From Current and Former Members of the US Military.

Listen/Download (36 minutes)

Scott Trent answers an article, “Eight things Obama has done to make the world a more peaceful place” with The Truth About Obama’s “Accomplishments” and the Need to Build a Mass Movement PDF

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Obama Steps over the Line to Assassination First; Due Process Never

“In the past few weeks, it has become common knowledge that Barack Obama has openly ordered the assassination of an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, because he is suspected of participating in plots by Al Qaeda.  Al-Awlaki denies these charges.  No matter.  Without trial or other judicial proceeding, the administration has simply put him on the to-be-killed list. ”

Graphic from New York Review of Books ad May 27 2010

So begins the text of a paid ad in The New York Review of Books May 27 issue which arrives on newsstands Thursday.  The statement, under the headline “Crimes Are Crimes – No Matter Who Does Them” poses the challenges:

What would we have done if President George Bush had publicly ordered the assassination of a citizen?  And what should we do now as a fever pitch of media calls for the drones to “take out” Al Awlaki?

The New York Times went front page Sunday with a long profile titled “Imam’s Path From Condemning Terror to Preaching Jihad.” The article covers al-Awlaki’s speeches and advocacy of ideas, providing no evidence that he’s committed crimes.  But this is the newspaper that front-paged Judith Miller’s reporting on Iraq having “weapons of mass destruction.”  I’m not convinced that because something  appears in the “paper of record” it’s either true, or that it should inform U.S. foreign policy.

My understanding of Obama’s order is that Al Awlaki is to be killed by whatever means necessary, wherever he is found, on sight, or within the scope of a drone or sniper’s rifle.  As in Eric Holder’s statement Sunday May 9 that the Obama administration’s effort to set aside Miranda rights in cases of interrogations of suspected terrorists is a “very big deal,” so is ordering the killing of someone suspected of a crime, but not convicted.

If the president is judge, jury, executioner, and there is no check, no appeal, what exactly protects people from being killed for any reason, speech, idea, or even un-uttered thought?

Glenn Greenwald wrote in February when this policy was first made public:

“it’s so dangerous — as well as both legally and Constitutionally dubious — to allow the President to kill American citizens not on an active battlefield during combat, but while they are sleeping, sitting with their families in their home, walking on the street, etc.  That’s basically giving the President the power to impose death sentences on his own citizens without any charges or trial.  Who could possibly support that?”

Post-colonial rebellions and uprisings around the world reached the U.S. in response to the American-backed, funded and organized assassinations of Patrice Lumumba; Salvador Allende; repeated attempts to kill Fidel Castro and countless abuses such that in 1976, after intense struggle in Congress on the Church Committee, Gerald Ford issued an executive order prohibiting such assassinations.  Under the Bush regime, and justifications of the so-called “Global War on Terror” international law, and U.S. laws, were set aside, but not as openly as they have been by the Obama administration.

One of the signers of the NY Review ad, Bill Quigley, wrote May 10 on Common Dreams, “Assassination of US Muslim Cleric is Illegal, Immoral and Unwise,”

“A simple committee of unelected individuals from one branch of government, no matter their subject matter expertise, should not have the power to assassinate an American citizen.”

Even FOXNews.com ran a piece, by Mohamed Elibiary, against the assassination order, It’s a Mistake to Assasinate Anwar Al-Awlaki. Elibiary warns the U.S. not to become identified historically with the Nasser regime in Egypt, which in 1966 executed Syed Qutb, as Islamic scholar, merely for his speech.

“The public perceived injustice, witnessing a military execution without any recognized due process inflicted upon a man for simply speaking and writing his mind. It led to the violent radicalization of tens of thousands.”

A comment on Facebook about the assassination order said, “The ease with which Obama did that, and the easy acceptance by the US public, is quite frightening.”  I agree.  Jeremy Scahill,writing in February:

There has been almost universal silence among Congressional Democrats on the Obama administration’s recently revealed decision to authorize the assassination of a US citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki.

That hideous war criminal Ronald Reagan once “joked” when he didn’t realize he was on a live mike, “My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever.  We begin bombing in 5 minutes.”  There was international condemnation.

On May 1, President Obama made news — but was not widely condemned as far as I’ve seen — for this “joke:”

Obama declared a warning to the Jonas Brothers, who attended the affair. “Sasha and Malia are huge fans but, boys, don’t be getting any ideas. I have two words for you: predator drones.”

This is the president who launched more predator drones into Pakistan and Afghanistan in one year than George Bush did in 8 years.  A week later, PressTV reported that 20 civilians had been killed in a drone bombing in Pakistan, saying,

A total of 300 people have so far lost their lives in 42 drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal belt this year.

I am proud of those who signed this ad, and all those who paid for it in advance of its publication.  Sign it yourself, and send your donations so this message can spread!  We should all be raising our voices to say “Crimes ARE crimes!  No matter WHO does them!”

Hundreds have signed already. Here are the signers appearing in the New York Review of Books ad:

Rocky Anderson • Edward Asner • William Ayers • William Blum • Fr. Bob Bossie • Elaine Brower • Matthis Chiroux • Noam Chomsky • James Cromwell • Carl Dix • Daniel Ellsberg • Jodie Evans • Hester Eisenstein • Donald Freed • Ann Fagan Ginger • Mike Gravel • Stephen Hays • Chris Hedges • Dahr Jamail • Kathy Kelly • Uzma Khan • Joyce Kozloff • Emily Kunstler • Sarah Kunstler • Dennis Loo • Peter McLaren • Ray McGovern • Ann Messner • Tom Morello • Tomás Olmos • Bill Quigley • Michael Ratner • Rev. Dr. George F. Regas • Mark Ruffalo • Cindy Sheehan • Jed Stone • Frank Summers • David Swanson • Debra Sweet • Sunsara Taylor • Cornel West • Andy Worthington • Ann Wright

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Marching in Protest of 7 Years US Occupation of Iraq

Protesting John YooSeven years of U.S. war and occupation of Iraq were marked with varied protests in the U.S. last weekend. There were more of us than last year, in 2009, when people widely believed the election of Barack Obama was going to end these wars.  It’s important we’re out there to go against the tide.

Today, Obama is in Afghanistan, on dark-of-night unannounced trip to twist the arms of Hamid Karzai, the president who didn’t win the recent election, but nevertheless is the US’ best hope to secure Afghanistan firmly under the domination of the U.S. empire.  Even Fox News notes today that

Both of Karzai’s vice presidents are former warlords whose forces allegedly killed thousands of people in the civil war of the 1990s that paved the way for the rise of the Taliban.

Few people, including those against the wars, are paying attention to the US offensive in Marja, Afghanistan, which is now being spread north to Kandahar.  The U.S. is already warning people there to leave, or else they will be considered Taliban sympathizers…in the second largest city in the country!  Where should people go? It’s impossible not to kill civilians in an occupation, as reported Friday in Tighter Rules Fail to Stem Deaths of Innocent Afghans at Checkpoints.

“The people are tired of all these cruel actions by the foreigners, and we can’t suffer it anymore,” said Naqibullah Samim, a village elder from Hodkail, where Mr. Yonus lived. “The people do not have any other choice, they will rise against the government and fight them and the foreigners. There are a lot of cases of killing of innocent people.”

Still Waitin on that ChangeYes, Obama and General Stanley McChrystal report the occupation is now “winning” even while they tell us to expect more casualties.  While the headline is US deaths double in Afghanistan as troops pour in, the news is that more people in the US support the offensive than in December 2009

After a summer marked by the highest monthly death rates of the war, President Barack Obama faced serious domestic opposition over his decision in December to increase troops in Afghanistan, with only about half the American people supporting the move. But support for his handling of the war has actually improved since then, despite the increased casualties.

The latest Associated Press poll at the beginning of March found that 57 percent of those surveyed approved his handling of the war in Afghanistan compared to 49 percent two months earlier.

The Washington Post today polls 53% in favor of Obama’s policy in Afghanistan, so Obama feels he can get away with telling the troops in Afghanistan that people at home support the war there.  I think that support is shallow, and temporary, and that we have a great responsibility to bring reality to people on why the U.S. is occupying Afghanistan.  See A War for Empire – Not a “Good War” Gone Bad by Larry Everest.

The Iraq War was Illegitimate from Bush’s Invasion On

The Bush regime’s war on Iraq was, and remains, completely illegitimate by all measures.  Yet, too few people, even those against the wars, stop to look at  how the Iraq war began.  As we said in Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime in 2005, “YOUR GOVERNMENT, on the basis of outrageous lies, is waging a murderous and utterly illegitimate war in Iraq, with other countries in its sights.”  Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Tenet and the whole cabal openly lied about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction and a link to al Qaeda and 9-11 in an attempt to bully other countries into joining the invasion.

The Bush regime carried out the destruction of civil society in Iraq.  The electrical, educational, sewage, water, and security systems.  In the process 1.2 million, displaced more than 4 million, tortured unknown numbers directly in detention, and made the country unlivable.  The Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war amounted to a war crime on its face, of aggressive war.

Should we stop talking about that?  Much of this country thinks the war is a) over or b) ending because Obama is withdrawing troops, even though private contractors are still pouring in for a permanent US military occupation.  Foreign policy is gone from the headlines, except for that minor problem Obama has with Netanyahu.

I am still thinking about the piece in the Christian Science Monitor by Michael Ollove, reporting on the war from York, PA

After seven years in Iraq and nine in Afghanistan, residents of York, Pa., talk about how the wars have become like a screen saver: always there but rarely acknowledged.

So, that’s why our visible protests are important. A survey of the ways in which people protested:

Washington, DC:

Stop the KillingCindy Sheehan set up Camp OUT NOW on the national mall as part of the ongoing Peace of the Action effort to have continuous protest in Washington until the wars end.  The action resumes April 6.

The Iraq War Memorial came to the Washington Monument, stopping thousands of tourists with the names of those killed in Iraq, both US military and Iraqis.

ANSWER Coalition 7,000 rallied and marched around the White House, depositing symbolic coffins at the offices of Haliburton (where an effigy of Dick Cheney was trampled); the offices of the Washington Post and Veterans Administration; and in the front of the White House.  Cindy Sheehan, Elaine Brower, Matthis Chiroux and 5 others were arrested for not moving from in front of the White House, held for 48 hours, and banned from the White House area for six months. Read AP report. Watch the AP video. Flickr Gallery.

Iraq and Afghanistan veterans marched along with military families.  While speaking at the rally, Elaine Brower, a leader of World Can’t Wait; Robynn Murray, an Iraq veteran, and Matthis Chiroux, an Afghanistan veteran and Iraq war resister, said the American flag stands for empire, and burned one. See The Nightmare Will End When We Wake Up! Watch the video.

Marches in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle:

Thousands marched.  See Stephanie Tang of World Can’t Wait: Obama’s War is Killing the Afghan People, not Saving Them.

In San Francisco, Daniel Ellsberg spoke to a rally of thousands on the importance of protest:

Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the top-secret Pentagon Papers study of the Vietnam War and is the subject of the recent documentary film, “The Most Dangerous Man in America,” likened the protest and others like it around the country Saturday to a day of demonstrations organized against the conflict in Vietnam in 1969.

“They thought it had no effect,” he told the crowd in San Francisco, referring to the 1969 protesters. “They were wrong.”
Ellsberg said President Richard Nixon was planning to escalate the war around that time, but held off.

In Los Angeles, thousands also marched, including a We Are Not Your Soldiers contingent carrying a banner signed by many more youth pledging to resist military recruiters.

Charlottesville, VA:

Friday, March 19, John Yoo made two speeches at the University of Virginia, and was disrupted at both by questions and objections to his authorship of the Bush torture memos; his promotion of aggressive war; and his theory of presidential powers.  150 people protested outside.  See David Swanson, John Yoo: A President Can Nuke the United States for an account, photos & video.

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