Tuesday, March 27, 2007

In Iraq, public anger is at last translating into unity

For four years, Britain and the US have aimed to encourage sectarianism, but ultimately they will fail to divide the country
By: Sami Ramadani

Tuesday March 20, 2007

Guardian

Two catastrophes have been in the making since President Bush and Tony Blair launched their war on Iraq four years ago. Both are epoch-making, and their resolution will shape regional and world politics for decades to come.

The first catastrophe relates to the political and moral consequences of the war in the US and UK, and its resolution is the urgent task facing the American and British peoples. The second concerns the devastation wrought by the war and subsequent occupation, and the lack of a unified political movement within Iraq that might overcome it.

Bush and Blair are in a state of denial, only offering us more of the same. They allegedly launched the war at first to save the world from Saddam's WMD, then to establish democracy, then to fight al-Qaida's terrorism, and now to prevent civil war and Iranian or Syrian intervention.

Four years after declaring "mission accomplished", the US government is sending more combat troops to add to the bloodbath - all in an effort to impose its imperial will on the Iraqi people, and in the process plunging its own country into its deepest political-moral crisis since Vietnam. Under heavier pressures, Blair, the master of tactical subterfuge, is redeploying Britain's forces within Iraq and Afghanistan, under the guise of withdrawal. He has long known that British bases in Basra and the south were defenceless against attacks by the Sadr movement and others.

Bush, on the other hand, is escalating Iraq's conflict and threatening to launch a new war, this time against Iran. It is hard not to presume that what he means by an exit strategy is to install a client regime in Baghdad, backed by US bases. The Iraqi people will not accept this, and the west should be alerted to the fact that US policy objectives will only lead to wider regional conflicts, rather than to full withdrawal.

In attempting to achieve their objective, the occupation forces will escalate their war with the resistance forces within and north of Baghdad, as well as clashing with the popular Sadr movement in the capital and the south. The latter is, despite the ceasefires and political manoeuvrings, Iraq's biggest organised opposition force to the occupation.

Meanwhile, the destruction of Iraq continues apace and its people are subjected to levels of sustained violence unknown in their history. Overwhelmingly, the violence is a direct or indirect product of the occupation, and the bulk of sectarian violence is widely known in Iraq to be linked to the parties favoured by Washington. For example, forces in control of the various ministries, including the interior ministry, clash regularly.

It is not difficult to see how this violence is linked to the occupation, for it has spawned a multitude of violence-makers: 150,000 occupation forces; 50,000 and rising contracted foreign "mercenaries"; 150,000 Iraqi Facilities Protection forces, paid by the Iraqi regime, controlled by the occupation and engaged in death-squad activities, according to the prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki; 400,000 US-trained army and police forces; six US-controlled secret Iraqi militias; and hundreds of private kidnap gangs. Pitted against some or all of these are tens of thousands of militias and resistance forces of various political hues. In total there are about 2 million actively organised armed men in the country. There are about 3,000 attacks on occupation forces every month, while tens of thousands of Iraqis languish in prison, where torture is widespread and trials considered an unnecessary formality.

The success of the occupation's divide-and-rule tactics and their insistence on basing the new political and military structures on sects, religions, and ethnicities is threatening the communal cohesion that was once the country's hallmark. This is a factor in the absence of a united movement, capable of leading the struggle to end the occupation. The occupation has sown divisions where there were none and transformed existing differences into open warfare.

And is it any wonder that the long-suffering Iraqi people find themselves at an impasse. Try catching your breath after decades of brutal dictatorship, 13 years of economic sanctions and four years of an obscene war .

But even in the absence of a unified anti-occupation front, the resistance of the Iraqi people has managed to thwart the world's greatest military empire. And there are signs of a mass rejection of these sectarian forces, and the possibility that public anger will translate into the very unity that is so desperately needed. Rage against corruption and the collapse of public services is sweeping the country, including Kurdistan. Similarly, the proposed corporate occupation of Iraq, disguised as a legal document to tie the country to the oil companies for decades to come, has reminded the population of one of the main reasons for the US-led invasion. It has also reminded them what a self-respecting, sovereign Iraq looked like in 1961, when the government nationalised Iraq's lands for future oil production.

In an opinion poll released by the BBC yesterday, 86% of people are opposed to the division of Iraq. This and other polls also show majority support for armed resistance to the occupation. Four years into this terrible adventure, both the US and Britain must realise that it is time to pack up and leave.

· Sami Ramadani was a political exile from Saddam's regime and is a senior lecturer at London Metropolitan University.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Counter-Recruitment Training Workshop, Saturday, March 31

The Washington Peace Center and CHOICES is co-hosting an intensive
six-hour training and workshop on military counter recruitment and the
most effective ways to prevent the militarization of youth in our
communities. We will be assisted by experts from the Center on
Conscience and War and other experts in the field.

Topics will include: Providing alternatives to youth, providing GI
support to potential conscientious objectors and those selecting to go
AWOL, strategies in the schools and at the school board and county
levels, and related laws to recruitment and military access to
students. The organizers believe peace activists need to be prepared
to go far beyond simple protests in front of military recruitment
offices, and to challenge the entire industry of military recruitment.

Time: 12 noon, Saturday, March 31st
Location: St. Margaret's Episcopal Church, 1820 Connecticut Ave., NW
For more info: Pete, 202-234-2000
Suggested donation will be $10

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Nuclear Disarmament Discussion Friday

Nuclear Disarmament in 2007: A Potluck Discussion Hosted by The Washington Peace Center




For Immediate Release
Contact: Pete Perry, 202-234-2000

March 21, 2007


Washington – The issue of Nuclear Disarmament in 2007 will be the topic of a potluck dinner and informal discussion, Friday, March 23rd, 7 PM at St. Stephen The Incarnation Church at 16th and Newton Streets, NW.

The Washington Peace Center remains very concerned about nuclear conflict with the saber rattling off the coast of Iran, talk of China increasing its military presence and the U.S.’ own missile production increase.

Among those invited to the event is Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton who is expected to reintroduce the Nuclear Disarmament and Economic Conversion Act the same week. Others invited include Michele Boyd of Public Citizen and Nick Ross of Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Members and friends of The Washington Peace Center, and individuals involved with peace work and disarmament are encouraged to attend.

Please bring a dish, salad or desert to share. If you are unable to bring something, please consider making a donation to the Washington Peace Center, a 44-year-old nonprofit organization dedicated to peace and social justice.

To RSVP or learn more, please call Pete Perry at 202-234-2000.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Why Won't MoveOn Move Forward?

The biggest betrayal this week was MoveOn's decision to back the leadership's plan and continue funding the Iraq quagmire into 2009... It can no longer consider itself a progressive organization!

By: Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, www.dissidentvoice.org

This week marks the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. To commemorate the occasion, the online advocacy group MoveOn.org is organizing more than 1,000 candlelight vigils throughout the United States. "We’ll solemnly honor the sacrifice made by more than 3,000 servicemen and women, and we'll contemplate the path ahead of us," states MoveOn's website. "We cannot send tens of thousands of exhausted, under-equipped, and unprepared troops into the middle of an Iraqi civil war. . . . Honor the sacrifice. Stop the escalation. Bring the troops home."

MoveOn's 3.2 million members strongly oppose any continuation of the war, and the language above seems to suggest that MoveOn's leadership agrees. But MoveOn's organizing around Iraq has become notably ambiguous lately. Although it talks in general terms about bringing the troops home, specific timetables or meaningful steps in that direction are nowhere discussed. Most strikingly, MoveOn has adamantly refused to support the Iraq amendment from Congressional Progressive Caucus leaders Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey and Maxine Waters, which calls for "a fully funded, and systematic, withdrawal of U.S. soldiers and military contractors from Iraq" by the end of 2007.

Politically, the Lee amendment cannot pass; fewer than 100 members of Congress are expected to vote for it. However, the same thing is true of weaker legislation that MoveOn is currently supporting, in league with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, John Murtha and David Obey. The Pelosi bill merely establishes "benchmarks" of progress in Iraq, so that all Bush has to do is certify that he is making progress on those goals to keep funding flowing for the war. Instead of withdrawing troops this year, the Pelosi bill talks about beginning to withdraw them in March 2008. Even so, it faces united Republican opposition and is not expected to pass the U.S. Senate, even if it is approved by the House of Representatives. And even if it does pass, Bush has already said he will veto it. So why was the Democratic Party leadership so determined to prevent the Lee amendment from even coming to the floor -- and why has MoveOn.org avoided even mentioning the Lee proposal to its members?

On Sunday, MoveOn distributed a survey asking its members to vote on three options: support the Pelosi bill; oppose it; or "not sure." MoveOn's Eli Pariser described the survey in an email as an opportunity for members to participate in "a big decision coming up this week. . . . MoveOn is a member-directed organization -- we believe that all of us, together, are smarter than any one of us." In fact, however, MoveOn's survey was designed to conceal from its members the option of supporting the stronger anti-war amendment put forth by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

There are, of course, other ways of running a survey. When TrueMajority.org recently surveyed its members about the best way forward, they offered three choices: the Lee plan, the Pelosi plan, and the option of demanding that Congress reject any further war funding, period. Only 24 percent of TrueMajority's members supported the Pelosi plan -- which appears to be the reason why MoveOn's survey gave their members no choice but the Pelosi plan.

Even MoveOn's rules for the war's fourth-anniversary candlelight vigils expressly exclude anything specifically aimed at ending it. "There are many ways to commemorate the war anniversary -- but MoveOn and other coalition members are coming together around solemn candlelight vigils," explains their website. "Events other than vigils that honor the sacrifice of our servicemen and women and their families will not be publicly posted here."
MoveOn was not always this reluctant to demand a specific and speedy timetable for ending the war. Just last year, in fact, its organizing slogan was "Out in '06." It circulated that slogan at a time when the U.S. political environment offered less realistic opportunity to end the war than it does now. Last year, the Republican Party controlled both houses of Congress along with the White House, and when Murtha called for troop withdrawal, Republicans mocked the proposal as "cutting and running." Now Democrats have retaken Congress in a watershed election in which concern about the war was the top issue on the minds of voters. According to a recent USA Today/Gallup survey, 58 percent of Americans now want U.S. troops out of Iraq within a year.

If MoveOn were serious about ending the war, now would be an opportune moment to mobilize its millions of members and make it finally happen. Instead, its current strategy is dead weight, aimed more at fooling its members into thinking they are pushing forward when in fact they are merely lighting candles. So why has MoveOn begun to blow hot and cold at the very moment when the political winds are seemingly blowing in favor of a speedy U.S. withdrawal?

The answer boils down to some breathtakingly cynical political calculations by the leadership of the Democratic Party, with which MoveOn has aligned itself.

By now even the politicians in Washington, and certainly their advisors, understand that Iraq is a lost cause. Even the Bush administration understands it. Its much-touted current "surge" is a delaying tactic, not a serious attempt to bring order to the chaos that now exists in Iraq. "Even if we had a million men to go in, it's too late now," says retired four-star Gen. Tony McPeak, who served on the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War. "Humpty Dumpty can't be put back together again." It's not a question, therefore, of whether the U.S. leaves Iraq. It's a question of when.

Bush and his advisors are continuing the war in Iraq because politically, they have no other choice. To admit defeat now would win Bush no support at all from Americans who oppose the war, and it would erase his remaining credibility in the eyes of the 35% of Americans who continue to support him.

The Democrats, however, do have a choice, and the choice that they are making is to offer symbolic statements of opposition, while in practice allowing the war to continue, and funding it. This choice is based on their realization that the war has become a political liability for Republicans. If the war ends this year, the debate during the 2008 congressional and presidential elections will turn to "who lost Iraq." If the war continues into next year, however, Democrats will benefit as the de facto "anti-war party," no matter how feckless their opposition in the meantime.

Part of this calculation is based on a common expectation, expressed by many analysts, that a U.S. withdrawal will be followed by an explosion of Iraqi-on-Iraqi bloodletting that is even worse than the current violence. "Even in the best-case scenario," says Michael Scheuer, the former chief of the CIA’s Osama bin Laden unit, "the disaster we're seeing now is nothing compared to the disaster that we'll see after we leave. The real issue here is American interest: The longer we stay, the more people we get killed. I don't think the longer we stay, the better we make Iraq. Probably the reverse."

In the short run, a U.S. withdrawal followed by the expected Iraqi national implosion will be spinnable by conservative pundits as proof that the war should have continued, and this is what Democratic politicians fear. Instead of campaigning as the party that will end the war, they are afraid that they may be labeled responsible for allowing a bloodbath to happen. But the bloodbath is happening anyway, and the longer U.S. troops stay, the worse the ultimate reckoning.

What may seem like clever politics, therefore, produces horrible policy. When politicians and advocacy groups like MoveOn play anti-war games of political theater while effectively collaborating with the war's continuation, they merely add one more deception to the layers of lies in which this war has been wrapped. Like Bush and his supporters, they are sacrificing human lives simply for the sake of perpetuating an illusion.

As several anti-war veterans' and soldiers' families organizations noted earlier this month in an open letter, "There is a tragic parallel here with the Vietnam War. The last 28,000 troops who died in that war were abandoned to political game-playing long after Congress and the President knew that it was time to bring the troops home. This was a tragedy that you must not allow to be repeated."

Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber work for the non-profit Center for Media & Democracy in Madison, Wisconsin (www.prwatch.org). Their books include: Weapons of Mass Deception, The Best War Ever: Lies, Damned Lies and the Mess in Iraq, and Banana Republicans: How the Right Wing is Turning America Into a One-Party State.

Friday, March 16, 2007

I've graduated from "Idiot Liberal" to "Well-Intentioned Liberal"

Gee, thanks Democrats! I want the old Barbara Mikulski back, the liberal social worker turned community activist...

Mikulski counters protesters

Capital News Service

March 16, 2007

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski took to the Senate floor yesterday to respond to anti-war activists who occupied her Capitol Hill office in protest three times in four weeks, saying she will continue to vote for war funding in order to support the troops.

"You can sit-in every single day. You can follow me throughout my Senate career. You can follow me to my grave," Mikulski shouted at the conclusion of her speech on a supplemental funding request pending in Congress.

"I will not vote to, in any way, harm the men and women in the U.S. military, nor will I cut off the support to their families," the Maryland Democrat added. "I'm going to support this [Democratic leader Harry] Reid resolution."

The bill provides money to back President Bush's proposed troop increase but also funds tools such as armor and health care after troops return home.

"All the good things in the bill we absolutely agree with, [but] you don't need to keep funding active combat to keep funding those things," said frustrated protester Gordon Clark in response to Mikulski's speech.

The group of about 20 protesters contend that even though Mikulski voted against the war in 2002, and continues to speak out for troop withdrawal, the only actions that will end their sit-ins are a "no" vote on the supplemental bill, or the inclusion of an amendment to bring the troops home by December this year, Clark said.

"We are on your side," Mikulski said to the "well-intentioned liberal activists," but "I can't vote against" the supplemental funding bill.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

David Obey, Tina and I


Nearly a week ago military mom Tina richards and I were caught on video during a rather heated exchange with Rep. David Obey (D-WI) who is the chair of the Appropriations Committee. His behavior was arrogant and rude. It is a prime example of the disconnect between those on Capitol Hill and the people, and it has gained a great deal of media cover.

He did finally apologize for his behavor. I didn't need it, but I am glad it was offered for Tina's sake -- her son who has already completed two tours of Iraq, and is suffering PTSD will soon probably be sent back for a third journey into hell. A hell that Congress continues to fund.

Here is Tina's response:

“How Will You End This War?”

Folks,

I’ve received emails thanking me for speaking out on behalf of my son and other troops serving in Iraq. In addition, I’ve received questions about my exchange with Rep. David Obey that was videotaped by a citizens news group, Kathleen Gable and Tyler Westbrook, that is documenting the peace movement in the halls of Congress. They’ve covered my visits with other members of Congress as well as the work of other citizens working to end the war.

I’ve come to Washington, DC because my son Cloy, who has been honorably discharged from the Marines with the presidential unit citation, is now facing a possible third deployment. Cloy is suffering from undiagnosed traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder. As Cloy says in one of his poems “every time I look in the mirror I see a casualty of the war.” (You can see on http://grassrootsamerica4us.org/ the impact the war has had on him through his poetry.)

Like other soldiers, my son has suffered neglect. Therefore, I’ve also been lobbying Congress on the inadequate treatment our troops receive in the VA system – my son is not an isolated case. He should not be going back. Indeed it is time to bring all our sons and daughters home from Iraq.

Although my senators have offered to help Cloy individually, he has refused special treatment unless they are also actively working to bring home all his brothers and sisters. He is a Marine and will not leave his fellow soldiers behind.

My unplanned meeting with Rep. David Obey in the hallway was an opportunity to ask the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, the committee that will write the budget for the Iraq War and occupation, how he will use the ‘power of the purse’ to bring the war to an end. The frustration he showed in his response to my questions was understandable. Many in Congress who know the war is wrong feel unable to do all they can to end it.

On November 7th, Nancy Pelosi was given a mandate by the American people to bring our troops home. It time for Speaker Pelosi to spend her political capital.

As a citizen, I am confused why the Democrats are working from President Bush’s appropriation when his party lost the 2006 election because of the war. The new majority should write their own supplemental budget bill based on the views of the vast majority of Americans, majority of troops in Iraq, and majority of Iraqis – one that ends the war, brings the troops home safely and takes care of them when they return.

I hope to meet with Rep. Obey and I have been contacted by Speaker Pelosi’s office to schedule an appointment to meet with her. I want to understand how they are going to end the war.

As a mother of a Marine I have a personal interest, but it is an interest shared by other mothers whose sons and daughters are in Iraq – we want this war to end. We want U.S. troops to come home. We want our sons and daughters cared for when they return. We want our country to live up to its highest ideals and help Iraq rebuild its country, provide support to a regional peace keeping force and talk with the other countries in the region about how to reduce the violence and bring stability to the Middle East. We want to see the damage of this war undone.

I have seen the horrors of war through my son’s eyes. Therefore I ask “How will you end this war?”

Sincerely,


Tina Richards
Grass Roots America, CEO
GrassRootsAmerica4us.org

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Conscientious Objector Agustin Aguayo Sentenced to Eight Months

War Resisters' International, London, 07 March 2007
USA: Conscientious objector Agustin Aguayo sentenced to 8 months imprisonment

Yesterday, US conscientious objector Agustin Aguayo (US14915) was sentenced to eight months imprisonment by a US court martial in Würzburg, Germany. Aguayo had been charged with desertion and missing movement of his unit. Besides being sentenced to eight months imprisonment, the court martial also ordered his degradation and a dishonourable discharge.

For almost three years, Aguayo tried to be recognised and discharged as conscientious objector - without success. On 1 September 2006, he refused to deploy with his
unit to Iraq, and fled from the military barracks inSchweinfurt, where he was serving as a medic. He presented himself on 26 September, and was imprisoned immediately.

During the trial, Agustin Aguayo again stated his conscientious objection, which lead him to go absent without leave to avoid being forced to deploy to Iraq. However, he
denied that he intended to desert.

The prosecution demanded 30 months of imprisonment, to deter other soldiers from choosing a similar path of action.

With the sentencing of Agustin Aguayo for desertion and missing movement of his unit, the court martial denied him his right to conscientious objection, as enshrined in
Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The fact that AgustinAguayo was not able to get a discharge as conscientious objector, and was forced to go AWOL, highlights the inadequateness of the US military procedures for conscientious objectors, which again and again force COs to commit military offences, and spent time in prison.

Luckily for Aguayo, the court martial counts the time he already spent in prison since 26 September 2006. This means Aguayo will have to serve about 40 more days, and will be released in mid-April.

War Resisters' International calls for letters/emails of support to Agustín Aguayo -- email (will be forward to him via mail) augie@aguayodefense.org.

War Resisters' International calls for letters of protest to the US authorities, or US embassies abroad. A protest email to US President George W. Bush can be sent at http://wri-irg.org/co/alerts/20070307a.html.

War Resisters' International calls for the immediate release of Agustin Aguayo and all other imprisoned conscientious objectors.

Andreas Speck
War Resisters' International

Archives of co-alert can be found at http://wri-irg.org/news/alerts