Friday, June 20, 2008

Katty and Betsy drop in

I had just returned from the road where I was speaking for Ralph Nader. I'd wanted to catch the two events this week in NYC but no sooner had I entered my apartment, kicked off my shoes and taken a breath then my doorbell rang.

Katrina vanden Heuvel and Betsy Reed breezed in without so much as a "May I."

"It's so wonderful!" gushed Katty-van-van apparently in mid-conversation. "They call me Money-bags and now I can use that!"

Betsy looked glum and repeatedly scratched her arms and shoulders. She'd caught scabies while in jail. She's lucky that's all she caught.

As Katty-van-van kept chattering away and Betsy worked on removing several skin layers, I realized the topic was Barack.

"I'm voting for Nader," I shouted, hoping that might shut Katty-van-van up.

"Yes, Thomas told me that."

How did my husband Thomas Friedman know? I started to get lost on that but thought, "Wait, Betinna, you want these women out of your home."

I was still standing by the door, holding it open in fact, and I gestured for Katty and Betsy to leave but Katty was plopping herself on the sofa and Betsy had gone over to the doorframe to the hall and was rubbing her back up and down against it.

"It's not a scratching post, Betsy. Stop fidegting," instructed Katty. "Now, Betinna, I'm here to talk to you about your vote. As a Black woman, you need to support the Black candidate."

"I wanted to," I replied, "but Cynthia McKinney's only running for 5% of the vote, not for the White House."

Betsy went into convulsions at the mention of Cynthia's name, reminding me of how The Nation refused to defend Cynthia and how one of the jerk-off Aris had even blogged that they weren't going to defend Cynthia back when she was harassed by the DC police.

I remembered how damn little Katty and her crew gave about Black America.

"Barack's bi-racial, Katrina."

"That's right! He's got something for both of us! For me, he's educated and, for you, he's probably eaten a watermelon."

"You and your racist ass can get the hell out of my apartment."

"What!" Katty-van-van sputtered. "How is that racist? At my mansion in Harlem, every summer, I make a point to stand outside and give away free watermelons. You're people love them!"

Betsy had disappeared and I made a note to immediately disinfect the bathroom as soon as I got them both out of here.

"Betinna, Barack is bringing people together," Katty-van-van insisted. "People like you and me who would normally never speak to one another because we inhabit different social worlds -- for instance, I inhabit one! -- can come together and enjoy the greatness that is Barack. Worshipping Barack is better than any stinking democracy."

"Guess what Katty, I don't want to get along with you, I don't want . . ."

My voice trailed off as Betsy returned carrying my butcher knife.

Those two whack-jobs weren't planning to kill off all non-Barack voters in order to fix the election for him, were they?

I wouldn't put it past them but, fortunately for me (and unfortunately for my good knife), Betsy was merely using it as a scratching device as she plunged it down the back of her shirt.

"I'm voting for Ralph and you need to leave," I ordered.

"Ralph? He's a loser! He has no bumper sticker-like uplifting slogans! He actually stands for things, Betinna. America doesn't freedom and choice, they need Barack. If you surrender to Barack -- give up all your beliefs and standards -- you will find the path to peace. Barack will lead you. He is creamy chocolate goodness."

I grabbed Katty by her big nose and used her body to push Betsy out the door. I then locked the door and ignored the knocking.

"What about your knife?" called Katty-van-van.

"Keep it!" I holler back. "I'm sure it's already crawling with something!"

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, June 20, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, today is World Refugee Day, and more.

Starting with war resistance.
Matthew Chiroux was the subject of a broadcast CBS 23 News (WIFR, link has text and video) last night:

Mike Garrigan: 24-year-old Matthis Chiroux says he will not deploy to Iraq. The young soldier was asked to report to duty June 15th but he refuses, calling the war in Iraq and illegal war. Chiroux has been in the US army for five years and has completed a tour of Afghanistan; however, he says he has no intentions of returning.

Matthis Chiroux: My decision was entirely based on my desire to no longer continue to violate my core values to support an illegal and unconstitutional occupation.

NBC's WAFF 48 also reported on Matthis last night (link has text and video):

Kimberly Essex: An army Sergeant is refusing to deploy from Iraq and his family is dealing with his decision to do so. WAFF 48 reporter Eric Sollman joins us now and, Eric, you spoke with the soldier's father.

Eric Sollman: Yes, Kim, and being a military man himself, Robert Chiroux, he has mixed -- mixed reactions to the whole ordeal. His son Matthis, a military photo journalist, is one of thousands of military ready reserve troops recalled to combat and now, according to army officials, he's one of about 700 called from this group that have failed to report in the last seven years. Last time Matthis Chiroux made local news was when [clip from December 2004 shown] was four years ago. The story involved his girlfriend at the time and a car break-in. Now this US army Sergeant is making national headlines for refusing to redeploy to Iraq. He's not hiding his protest and his family isn't dodging questions either.

Robert Chiroux: My son made the decision not to report. He feels that the war in Iraq is unconstitutional and unjust.

Eric Sollman: His father Robert is a navy veteran who lives in Huntsville [Alabama]. He said his son was to report to Fort Jackson Sunday for reactivation from the Individual Ready Reserve. Matthis refused.

Robert Chiroux: My son has certainly indicated that if he had been called back from the Inactive Ready Reserve to active duty to serve in Afghanistan, he would not have hesitated to go. So I know that my son -- inspite of things that I have heard said of him -- he's certainly not a coward. He just has decided that he feels this war is illegal and he's taking a stand.

Eric Sollman: While Robert doesn't necessarily agree with his son's stand, he stands by him.

Robert Chiroux: My son asked me to come to Washington [DC] to be with him on Father's Day. I had some reservations about standing behind my son while he made his statement but he's my son and, of course, I love him and I'm going to stand with him.

Eric Sollman: And Robert says he would gladly take his son's place and serve if he could and, Kim, of course there were a lot of issues that we talked about that we couldn't fit into the story so we put
his interview in its entirity on our website at

Kimberly Essex: Well your heart just goes out to this father because he really is in a tough position. He wants to support his son but it doesn't coincide with maybe what he really believes.

Eric Sollman: And he says it's something that only a parent could understand.

Brett Haas notes, "The 24-year-old is in Washington lining up support from like-minded members of Congress." AFP explains, "Chiroux served five years in the army, with tours in Afghanistan, Japan, Germany and the Philippines."

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Megan Bean, Chris Bean, Matthis Chiroux, Richard Droste, Michael Barnes, 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. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).

Today is World Refugee Day. The
United Nations' IRIN notes that "Iraqi experts have been urging the government and international community to do more to help the large number of Iraqi refugees in the Middle East" and quote Iraqi Parliamentarian Abdul-Khaliq Zankana stating, "Day after day Iraqi refugees in neighbouring countries are getting more frustrated by the harsh conditions in which they live. Sooner or later they are going to have a negative impact on the stability of the whole region." Amnesty International has released Iraq: Rhetoric and Reality: The Iraqi Refugee Crisis (here for HTML and here for PDF) this week. Picking up with obligations: "Under international law a duty exists to not send or force a person to return to a situation where they would be at risk of serious human rights abuses. This principle attaches to all states as a principle of customary international law, as well as to state parties to the ICCPR, Convention against Torture and Refugee Convention and Protocol." But as the report points out the resposibility isn't just to host countries, the international community has an obligation to provide assistance as well.

The report repeatedly stresses that refugees cannot be returned to Iraq because the country is not stable. On Northern Iraq, they note: "There have been acts of political violence between Iraqi Arabs and Iraqi Kurds and against members of the Yazidi religious minority in several areas along the border between Kurdistan and Nineweh (Mosul) governorate. Tension and insecurity also increased when attacks by a Turkey-based armed group, the Kurdistand Workers Party (PKK), against Turkish troops stationed near the border with Iraq were followed in October 2007 by Turkish military operations against PKK bases in northern Iraq." When even the highly touted 'safe' region of Iraq is not safe, there's no 'safe' area. Despite that reality, many countries are attempting to send Iraqi refugees back to Iraq.

Norway was attempting to do that but, the report notes, it appears to have stopped. Other countries continue attempting deportation. Among the offenders are Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the United Kingdom, Greece and the Netherlands.

"Instead of avoiding the reality," the report notes, "the international community should be confronting a medium- to long-term displacement crisis, in view of the likelihood that Iraqi refugees will need sancturay for years to come. Recognition of the on-going nature of the crisis must be grasped now if the suffering of the millions of displaced Iraqis is to be ameliorated. Host nations need to be provided with on-going assistance and support from the international community through increased and sustained funding."

US senators Hillary Clinton and Ben Cardin and House Representatives Alcee Hastings and John Dingell sent a letter to the White House today on the refugee issue (Barack Obama refused to sign on). Here's the letter sent to the White House:

As you know, the Iraq War and subsequent ethnic and sectarian conflict has caused the displacement of millions of Iraqis. While we have great concerns about the United States response to this humanitarian crisis, we write to you about a specific population of especially vulnerable Iraqis: those who have worked for our government and American organizations in Iraq and whose lives have been placed in grave danger because of that service. Recent statistics and reports have indicated that the current system of identifying and resettling our Iraqi allies has structural complications and procedural inefficiencies. Since March 2003, the United States has admitted fewer than 8,000 Iraqi refugees in total. Your Administration's goal of admitting 12,000 Iraqi refugees during this fiscal year seems an unlikely goal, given that less than 6,000 have been resettled to date. At a recent Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) briefing, one panelist, an attorney providing pro bono legal services to help resettle Iraqi refugees noted, "unresponsiveness and protracted delays in interviews and processing have themselves contributed to…individual emergencies…The cost in human lives and suffering due to institutional breakdowns in such aberrational instances speaks to the pressing need to ensure that our system is better equipped to respond to these challenges." The role our own government has played in prolonging the suffering of our courageous Iraqi allies who risked their lives to assist our country is troubling and simply unacceptable. To better understand why the Administration continues to delay processing our Iraqi allies for resettlement, we respectfully request that you provide us with the necessary information in response to the following: • While we are pleased that the United States has opened a processing center in Baghdad to assist Iraqis at risk in applying for resettlement to the United States, we remain concerned by reports that the office lacks the necessary personnel and resources at this time to quickly and efficiently process those Iraqis who are in imminent danger. It is most troubling that only Iraqis with sufficient connections to enter the Green Zone are able to receive help. What is the Administration's immediate and long-term strategy to improve and increase the efficiency of the current processing system? • At the Baghdad center, in particular, significant problems inhibit expeditious and efficient processing of our Iraqi allies. For example, logistical and security issues prevent access to the Green Zone for many applicants and contribute to complications with assisting applicants with medical conditions. In light of the inherent difficulties of in-country processing, what is the current status of a proposal by State Department officials to allow the Department of Defense to airlift Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants for expedited processing to a central processing center at the United States Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base in Kuwait? As you know, this past April, England's Prime Minister Gordon Brown ordered an airlift of British-affiliated Iraqis to a military airfield in Oxfordshire, England in order to expeditiously and safely process them there. Denmark also evacuated and resettled 370 Iraqi interpreters and other Iraqis who worked for Danish troops prior to the Danish contingent's departure from Iraq last year. We strongly urge your consideration of a proposal similar to those that are now being successfully implemented by our Coalition partners. • The appointment of Ambassador James Foley at the State Department and Lori Scialabba at the Department of Homeland Security as senior coordinators within those agencies with respect to Iraqi refugee issues was an important and useful step. However, it appears as if there are still problems with respect to interagency cooperation. One particular problem that has been identified is that FBI background checks, even for those Iraqis who have been working directly with the United States military in Iraq, are subject to inordinately lengthy delays. To address this ongoing issue, we strongly urge you to appoint a Senior Coordinator for Iraqi Refugee Issues in the White House. • When will the Department of Homeland Security issue its policy directive to implement the provisions of Sections 1241-1249 of Public Law 110-181, the "Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act," for which it is responsible? • What is your Administration's policy regarding medical parole for those Iraqis whose cases are of high priority due to serious medical conditions? Our government has a moral responsibility to provide aid and protection to those courageous Iraqi allies who have risked their lives and the lives of their families to assist American efforts to build a democratic and stable Iraq. We are deeply concerned that, to date, you have not acknowledged their sacrifice or effectively marshaled the assets of our government to help them. We urge you to speak out about the service of our brave Iraqi allies and direct the appropriate agencies in your Administration to take immediate steps to provide them with the attention and resources they desperately need and deserve. Each day, more Iraqi allies face increased danger or even murder for their service to the United States. To ensure that more do not suffer because they chose to help us, a prompt response to these concerns is appreciated and we believe appropriate. Sincerely,
Alcee L. Hastings, M.C.
Benjamin L. Cardin, U.S.S.
John D. Dingell, M.C.
Russell D. Feingold, U.S.S.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S.S.
Robert P. Casey, Jr., U.S.S.
John W. Olver, M.C.
Janice D. Schakowsky, M.C.
G.K. Butterfield, M.C.
James P. McGovern, M.C.
Timothy H. Bishop, M.C.
Joseph Crowley, M.C.
Diane E. Watson, M.C.
Earl Blumenauer, M.C.
Peter Welch, M.C.
Hilda L. Solis, M.C.
Ike Skelton, M.C.

Repeating, Barack elected not to sign. Consider it another skipped vote -- or, dropping back to the Illinois state legislature, a "present" one.
William C. Mann (AP) observes, "A half-million Iraqis fled their embattled country in 2007, the third consecutive year more Iraqis were displaced than any other nationality, a survey of the world's refugees reported Thursday." The organization is US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) and they also rank the ten worst countries. For Iraq, they note: "Shia militias in Iraq have particularly singled out Palestinians for retribution since the fall of the Hussein regime in 2003. From 2004 to 2007 more than 85,000 Palestinians fled targeted violence, leaving only 15,000 in Iraq. Gunmen in Ministry of the Interior uniforms have killed Palestinians, firing on UN buildings in the process. Insurgents have tortured Palestinians to death and fired mortars into Palestinian neighborhoods." IRIN notes the UNHCR's findings that 50% of the 50,000 Iraqi refugees in Lebanon are children. Citing the International Organization for Migration, Kim Gamel (AP) explains, "But women and children who have been forced to flee their homes are particularly vulnerable because the men in the family have often been killed or abandoned them in a conservative Islamic society that generally doesn't value women in the workplace." Adnkronos International notes the Spanish Commission of Refugee AID (CEAR) which found that "All 1600 refugees who sought asylum in Spain in 2007 were rejected by the government."

On refugees, the
Times of London's Deborah Haynes won an award from Amnesty Interntaional for her coverage of Iraqi collaborators who face obstacles to safe harbor from the United Kingdom. Haynes wrote multiple articles on the topic. As noted before, we're not concerned with the plight of the collaborators. They have their champions -- such as Haynes.

Meanwhile, the invasion of Amara continues with Iraqi troops and US troops taking part in the 'crackdown.'
Hannah Allam and Ali al Basri (McClatchy Newspapers) quote Faiq Hanoun declaring yesterday, "The city is quiet even though the operation has started, and I haven't heard a gun-shot or the sound of a plane. Life is going on in the normal fashion. Markets are open and movement in and out of the city hasn't stopped." Ernesto London and Aahad Ali (Washington Post) note the arrest of the vice governor which "angered followers of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr . . . Sadrist leaders in Maysan have vowed to cooperate with Iraqi troops but have suggested that the government is trying to expand its presence in Sadr strongholds to weaken the movement politically before provincial elections scheduled for the fall." Alissa J. Rubin and Suadad Salhy (New York Times) discover, "There were reports of rough treatment and especially of arrests of eminent followers of Mr. Sadr. It was unclear whether the units making the arrests had warrants, as required under Iraqi law. If so, Mr. Sadr's followers said they would not protest the detentions. However, Mr. Sadr's supporters protested at least two cases in which Iraqi troops seized family members of wanted figures when they could not find the person they were seeking. Iraqi military leaders responded that they had arrested only one relative of a wanted man. The American military has used similar tactics, drawing criticism from Iraqis in and out of the government." ANTARA NEWS and AFP explain that today saw the arrests of five more aides to al-Sadr. Aref Mohammed (Reuters) quotes Adnan al-Selawi ("head of the Sadr movement's office in Amara) stating that "we found many breaches and violations" in the 'security sweep.'

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad car bombing that claimed 3 lives and left seven people wounded, a Nineveh roadside bombing left eleven Iraqi soldiers wounded, a Mosul car bombing left six police officers wounded and, dropping back to yesterday, Diyala Province home bombings left one person wounded.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse was discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes 2 corpses discovered in Iskandariya.

Meanwhile, in the US,
Robert O'Harrow Jr. (Washington Post) reveals that the Democrats have set up a panel to investigate the contracts 'awarded' throughout the illegal war. The press release at US Senator Jim Webb's online office notes, "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi have named a co-chair and three additional commissioners to the Commission on Wartime Contracting. Established as the result of legislation introduced by Senators Jim Webb (D-VA) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) last spring and signed into law January 28, 2008, the Commission is charged with addressing the systemic problems associated with the federal government's wartime-support, reconstruction, and private security contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Today the
US military announced: "One Soldier was killed and five wounded in three roadside bomb attacks on Coalition force patrols in Diyala province June 20. All casualties were evacuated to a Coalition hospital."

Turning to US politics, Barack Obama's decision to opt out of public financing [see Wally's "
THIS JUST IN! DNC OR GOP? WHO CAN TELL?," Cedric's "Extreme DNC Makeover!," Mike's "LAT and Barack -- liars liars pants on fire," Ruth's "Barack sells out, Matthis stands firm," Kat's "Glen Ford, Kevin Zeese" and Rebecca's "the liar barack" and yesterday's snapshot] leads the New York Times to editorialize "Public Funding on the Ropes" and Team Nader notes:
Ralph Nader stands for shifting the power from the big corporations back to the people.
Full stop.
End of story.
Contrast that with Senator Obama.
The old Obama said that he thought NAFTA was a "big mistake."
The new Obama
isn't so sure.
The old Obama said he would abide by public spending limits in this election.
The new Obama he says
he won't.
The old Obama said he was for a change in foreign policy and surrounded himself with innovative thinkers with a chance to make a difference.
The new Obama has surrounded himself with veterans of the military industrial complex
status quo.
The old Obama talked economic populism.
The new Obama talks corporate-speak and surrounds himself with economists from the
Chicago School.
You know where Nader and Gonzalez stand on corporate power.
And that
isn't changing.
We're at six percent nationwide in the most recent
CNN poll.
We're going to be on ten state ballots by the end of June.
And we're shooting for 40 by the end of the summer.
Together, we are moving forward.
And together, we will make a difference in November.

Non-Iraq related, independent journalist
David Bacon continues to explore the issue of immigration. And his latest is "HOW DO YOU SAY JUSTICE IN MIXTECO?" (TruthOut). NOW on PBS (airs tonight in most markets) asks: "Will a booming worldwide middle class drive up consumer costs?" PBS' Washington Week will include AP's Charles Babington, Los Angeles Times' Doyle McManus and CNBC and the New York Times' John Harwood.

iraqmatthis chiroux
mcclatchy newspapershannah allemali al basrithe washington posternesto londonoaahad alidavid baconalissa j. rubinthe new york times
washington weekpbscharles babingtondoyle mcmanusnow on pbs