|17/09/03||GI Special #95: Political Crisis in Baghdad|
“Thomas F. Barton” email@example.com
GI SPECIAL #95
Political Crisis In Baghdad
Iraqi Governing Council Leadership Pressing For Power;
Urges Quick End to Occupation;
(Biting The Hand That Props Them Up)
(Taking advantage of the weakness of the U.S. Occupation, and resistance strength, the Governing Council is trying to grab for as much power as it can get, kicking Bush smartly in the ass by having talks with the UN, and the French government.
What are Bush-Rumsfeld-Bremer going to do? Fire their own puppet Governing Council?
The Bush gang have no allies left in Iraq now. Even the police have turned against them. From here on, its downhill. Not one U.S. soldier should be there for one minute more. It’s so over.)
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post Foreign Service, September 15, 2003; Page
BAGHDAD, Sept. 14 — Five key leaders of Iraq’s U.S.-appointed Governing Council have seized upon the debate over a new U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq to advocate a quick end to the American occupation and a transfer of power to Iraqis, fueling the first significant tensions between the Bush administration and its political allies here.
The leaders, who all head prominent political organizations that opposed the government of deposed president Saddam Hussein, want the 25-member Governing Council to expand its role beyond that envisaged by the U.S. occupation authority and assume the powers of a sovereign government until a new constitution is written and democratic elections are held.
“There must be a move forward to sovereignty for Iraq,” said Ahmed Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress opposition group and this month’s Governing Council president. “We want to work with the international community to achieve that as soon as possible.”
The demands for a fast transfer of power, shared by other leaders on the council, run counter to the Bush administration’s postwar reconstruction strategy. The administration insists the U.S.-led occupation authority here should retain ultimate control over Iraq’s civil and military affairs until the constitution is ratified and an elected government is seated, a process that U.S. officials have said could take until the end of next year.
The leaders’ call for an end to the occupation also could complicate U.S. efforts to win a Security Council resolution that would endorse the creation of a multinational force in Iraq under American command, without requiring the United States to relinquish significant control over the country’s civil administration.
Although the administration has argued it would be unwise to hand over power too fast, it finds itself in the awkward position of having some of the Iraqis it appointed as interim leaders calling for an accelerated end to the occupation. One member of the Governing Council, former Iraqi diplomat Akila Hashimi, recently held discussions with the French government in Paris. Other members, including Chalabi, intend to press the issue when the U.N. General Assembly meets in New York this week, representatives of the five leaders said.
“We may be heading to a confrontation over this issue,” a senior official of Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress said today. “It puts the Americans in a very difficult position.”
The U.S. civil administrator of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, is concerned that the council, whose members he handpicked, still does not have sufficient standing in the eyes of ordinary Iraqis. Many people here regard the five leaders, who returned after years living outside the control of Hussein’s government, as American puppets who enriched themselves while in exile or in autonomous Kurdish areas.
“They’re not ready for more power,” said one U.S. official familiar with the council, noting that the diverse body was created to advise the occupation authority on policy issues and supervise the national bureaucracy, not govern a nation of 25 million people.
The official maintained that transferring power quickly could be chaotic because ordinary Iraqis may not accept the council as their interim government and there would be no guarantee that the council would follow through on the writing of a constitution and elections.
The council itself has become a divided body, with deep tensions between the leaders and other members. Political independents have been incensed by the leaders’ maneuvers to dominate the body’s rotating presidency and appoint their candidates to several powerful cabinet posts — and several independents object to the idea of a fast handover of power to the council.
But the five leaders contend the best way to reduce attacks on U.S. forces and improve attitudes toward the American presence here would be to give sovereignty to the council, which then would invite U.S. troops and civilian reconstruction personnel to remain in the country. (Obviously. Without the U.S. Army holding them up, they’d last about 5 minutes.)
“We’re in a very dangerous situation now,” said Adel Abdel-Mehdi, a senior official of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shiite Muslim party whose political chief is one of the five former opposition leaders. “What prevents us from moving forward is this idea of occupation. Iraq cannot be governed if Iraqis don’t get more responsibility.”
A restoration of sovereignty, said Chalabi, “would make the Americans look like liberators again” and would reduce attacks against U.S. forces. “Iraqi people,” he said, “don’t understand the logic of occupation.”
Although most Iraqis appear to support the concept of an accelerated handover of sovereignty, there are deep divisions among them about the continued presence of U.S. forces. Many have urged a full withdrawal, while others, including Chalabi and his fellow former opposition leaders, want American troops and civil reconstruction specialists to stay, but to serve in a more behind-the-scenes role.
The tension over the transfer of power underscores the complicated and sometimes fractious relationship between the U.S. government and the five former opposition leaders, who had expected to jointly run Iraq after Hussein’s government was toppled, based on an agreement they reached among themselves before the war and what they contend were assurances from their various sponsors in Washington.
Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress has long been supported by the Pentagon, which flew him into the country during the war. Ayad Alawi, who heads the Iraqi National Accord, is disliked by the Pentagon but had been backed by the CIA, which had a falling-out with Chalabi. Abdul Aziz Hakim, the political leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which had been based in Iran, had been in touch with the State Department. The two Kurdish leaders, Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, also had the backing of the Defense and State departments.
Shortly after the war, representatives of all five parties said the first U.S. civil administrator, retired Lt. Gen. Jay M. Garner, promised them that they would lead the transitional government. At the time, strategists in the Pentagon favored that approach until democratic elections could be held.
But when Garner was replaced by Bremer, those guarantees vanished. Bremer, a former ambassador who arrived in Iraq with a broad mandate to overhaul the troubled reconstruction effort, concluded the five were insufficiently representative and too disorganized to run the country. He instead set out to form a council that would include them and several others to advise him on governance issues while he retained ultimate executive authority.
After the five objected, Bremer began negotiating with them and eventually agreed to a compromise that would give the former opposition leaders and other members of the council more power, including the authority to name cabinet ministers, approve the budget and devise a process to write the constitution.
In addition to the five former opposition leaders, the council’s other members include representatives of the country’s diverse ethnic, religious, political and tribal groups. There are other former exiles and Kurds, but also several members who lived in the country throughout Hussein’s rule. Most are not affiliated with parties and many lack political experience.
U.S. officials said they are trying to encourage independent members to help make the case for a continuation of the occupation. But the Bush administration also is trying to avoid a direct confrontation with the five leaders, who have significant constituencies and could be among the country’s first elected officials.
Iraqi Governing Council Member Visits Spain;
Condemns US “Violence And Disdain”
Agence France-Presse, September 16, 2003
MADRID, Sept 15 (AFP) – A member of Iraq’s provisional government, Raja Habib al-Khuzai, on Monday used a visit to Madrid to denounce the “violence and the disdain” which she asserted US troops were using in her country.
At a joint conference with Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio, Khuzai said that “a majority of American forces are using violence and show disdain” to the Iraqi population.
She said such an attitude meant that Iraqi people as a result felt ill-disposed towards the US soldiers.
U.S. Trained Iraqi Police Support Resistance Attacks On U.S. Troops;
Clear Marker Of A Lost War
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, 14 September 2003
KHALDIYA, Iraq, Sept. 13 — The convoy of U.S. military engineers had just entered this rough-and-tumble town when disaster struck. They had a flat tire, stopping the convoy along a ribbon of desert asphalt some Iraqis have nicknamed “the highway of death.”
Soon after, masked guerrillas fired two rocket-propelled grenades. Machine guns crackled across the late afternoon sky. When it ended an hour later, witnesses said, homes were gouged with large holes, two U.S. vehicles were burning, and the soldiers had beat a retreat.
On the sidelines throughout the clash Thursday were Khaldiya’s police, who are supposed to be the allies of the U.S.-led occupation in restoring order to Iraq. Not only was it not their fight, several said this week, but the guerrillas fighting U.S. soldiers had their blessing.
“In my heart, deep inside, we are with them against the occupation,” said Lt. Ahmed Khalaf Hamed, an officer with the 100-man force trained, equipped and financed by U.S. authorities. “This is my country, and I encourage them.”
By their own account, Khaldiya’s finest are a besieged and embittered force — uneasy about their American patrons, despised by their community and demoralized about their work. At least three have quit, and others contend the safest place for them is at home. They have become targets of tribal vendettas and blood feuds for arresting or wounding suspects, and in an hour-long standoff outside their police station this week, they had to face down an angry and better-armed mob.
Most troublesome, some said, are accusations of serving as America’s lackeys and spies, charges that were once whispered and now declared loudly in this town that hugs the Euphrates River. The officers contended that residents have it all wrong.
When asked whether the resistance would succeed in the Sunni Muslim city, Thaer Abdullah Saleh was blunt. “God willing,” the 27-year-old officer said.
The other officers in the room hesitated, then nodded their heads in agreement. “It’s our right,” said Dhiaa Din Rajoub, a 38-year-old colleague sitting on a tattered mattress. “This is our country, this is an occupation, and we don’t accept it.”
For six weeks, this farming city on a sun-baked plain 45 miles west of Baghdad has emerged as one of the locales in Iraq where attacks on U.S. forces and the support the attackers appear to enjoy resemble a guerrilla war in the fullest sense of the term.
On Aug. 4, after U.S. forces in the city came under fire, crowds attacked the mayor’s office, where they believed U.S. troops were meeting informers behind closed doors. In the ensuing chaos after the Americans withdrew, a throng threw rocks at the police chief’s pickup, then burned it. Others threw grenades into the newly painted and furnished mayor’s office before ransacking it. They tore doors and windows from their frames, made off with furniture, carpets and floor tiles, and hauled away a sink.
Since then, residents say, U.S. forces have rarely ventured into the city, except to travel the road that traverses a turbulent 30-mile stretch from Fallujah, 32 miles west of Baghdad, to Ramadi. Khudheir Mikhlif Ali, who replaced the former police chief, meets his U.S. counterparts at the base outside town, police said. For their three-day training, police go there rather than have American soldiers come to them.
“Everybody’s upset at the Americans here,” said Capt. Khalil Daham, a gaunt and weary 31-year-old officer, with 12 years on the job. Outside his window sits the charred frame of the police chief’s pickup, propped on its axle on a pile of sand. If he had the money, he declared, he would quit.
“We’re sitting here,” Daham said, pointing to the window behind him, “and I expect someone to shoot us any minute.”
“It’s chaos,” added Rajoub.
Their complaints are similar to those heard from police across Iraq. They now have uniforms, but they still lack communications gear. For a force of 100, they said, they have three cars and two motorcycles. Their station is a shell of the intimidating, even terrifying, post it was in Hussein’s days. Looted soon after the fall of his government in April, the office lacks many of its windows and doors and a borrowed light bulb illuminates the hallway. Wires ripped from the wall left scars next to a slogan in Arabic that reads, “Police in the service of the people.” A lone telephone sits at the entrance on a tattered iron cot. ”It doesn’t work,” said Mahmoud Ismail, a 35-year-old perched on the bed with an AK-47 assault rifle at his side.
The isolation of the police in Khaldiya is intense, given the hostility toward U.S. forces and anger at the very idea of occupation in a community that remains fiercely conservative and bound by tribal traditions.
In interviews today, several residents asserted that the police should be fighting with the guerrillas and against the Americans. A U.S. military spokesman in neighboring Ramadi, Capt. Michael Calvert, contended that the police should arrest guerrillas or at least notify U.S. forces about their activities, as a first step toward assuming complete control for security.
“We are scapegoats here,” Rajoub said. “How do we satisfy the tribes? How do we satisfy the Americans?” He shook his head. “We’re sitting here between two fires,” he said.
Rajoub and others said they have heard insults from residents dozens of times in the streets, when they’re willing to go outside. They’ve been called collaborators, lackeys and spies. While not accused of corruption as the police are in Baghdad, the police here have their credibility questioned, and even worse, they are accused of betraying their countrymen and fellow Muslims.
“The people tell us we’re selling our country for dollars,” Saleh said. “Even our families call us collaborators.”
In the aftermath of Thursday’s attack against the U.S. troops, crowds in the streets celebrated, shooting AK-47 assault rifles into the air, witnesses said. To some, it was a victory of sorts. No Iraqis were killed, and the Americans left behind the burning wrecks of two trucks when they withdrew. Youths chanted, “The Army of Muhammad will return” and “I swear on the Koran the Americans must leave.”
The next day, youths blocked the road with parts of charred trucks. They stopped vehicles, forcing drivers to kiss an Iraqi flag. Two carried iron bars, and one had blackened his face with ash from the trucks.
At a nearby barber shop, men warned that police should not do anything to stop them. On the window was a leaflet bearing the portrait of a bearded Adnan Fahdawi, who it said was a “martyr,” killed in an attack on the Americans on July 15.
“If the policemen work with the Americans, we consider them enemies,” said Hakim Talib, 24, a barber. His customer, 27-year-old Mehdi Saleh, interrupted him. “We would attack them just as we attack the Americans,” he said.
Grim and resigned, the police officers said they have taken the message to heart.
“When there’s a bombing, an attack or a shooting, we do nothing,” Daham said. “We just watch.”
Some contended they tacitly supported the guerrillas. Like the fighters, they reject the occupation.
Other officers said if they try to arrest someone with weapons, the suspect will frequently contend the arms are for use against the Americans. They call themselves mujaheddin, a religiously resonant term for a fighter that police say they cannot contest.
“They claim they are fighting the Americans. If I capture him, he says you’re a spy, you’re working for the Americans,” Saleh said. “The next morning you wouldn’t find any of us. We’ll all be slaughtered.”
“We’re afraid of them,” he added. “I swear to God, we’re afraid of them.”
On Monday night, after police seized two Eastern European-made trucks that were unlicensed, about 12 people showed up at the police station in a pickup, a sedan and an orange-and-white taxi. The men had red-and-white kaffiyehs wrapped around their faces and carried rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns, police said. They demanded the trucks back.
“They told us to leave or we’ll shoot you,” recalled Ammar Ibrahim Hammadi, a 22-year-old officer who stood with the other police on the roof that night. “We said, ‘We’re not leaving. Either we’ll kill you or you’ll kill us.’“
The masked men left, returned again a half-hour later, then left for good, he said.
“They probably would have won,” Hammadi said. “They have RPGs, and we have Kalashnikovs, and we don’t even know if they’ll work.” He lifted his rifle, a gesture at once flippant and discouraged. “This is nothing,” he said.
U.S. officials have acknowledged what they call setbacks in Khaldiya and have noted an increase in attacks against U.S. forces in the area.
What do you think? Comments from service men and women, and veterans, are especially welcome. Send to the E-mail address up top. Name, I.D., withheld on request. Replies confidential.
IRAQ WAR REPORTS:
New York Times, September 16, 2003
The Department of Defense has identified 294 American service members who have died since the start of the Iraq war. It confirmed the death of the following Americans yesterday:
BENNETT, William M., 35, Sgt. First Class, Army; Seymour, Tenn., Third Battalion, Fifth Special Forces Group.
BLUMBERG, Trevor A., 22, Sgt., Army; Canton, Mich; 82nd Airborne Division.
MOREHEAD, Kevin N., 33, Master Sgt., Army; Little Rock, Ark.; Third Battalion, Fifth Special Forces Group.
Convoy Ambushed In Fallujah:
One Soldier Killed, Three Wounded;
“Rocket” Drives Off Medivac
BAGHDAD, Sept 14 (AFP) – A member of the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division was killed early Sunday and three soldiers wounded when their convoy was hit by an “improvised explosive device” in Fallujah, said a military spokeswoman, Sergeant Amy Abbott.
A helicopter attempted to land to medivac the wounded to a nearby hospital after the blast, but was turned back after it was targeted by a rocket, one witness said.
An AFP correspondent reported seeing one of the wounded soldiers carried out of the area by other troops after the attack which the witnesses said occurred at 8:15 am (0415 GMT) at the entrance to Fallujah.
The blast followed the funeral of nine Iraqi security personnel in Fallujah who died in a “friendly fire” tragedy involving US troops.
Following Saturday’s funeral, anti-US forces in Fallujah, 50 kilometres (35 miles) west of Baghdad, swore to avenge them.
A group of masked men carrying RPGs and describing themselves as anti-US resistance forces spoke briefly to reporters, reciting verses from the Koran before issuing a chilling warning.
“We will conduct an operation tonight to avenge the martyrs,” one said.
A spokeswoman for the US military in Baghdad said she could not immediately confirm the attack but added reports on the strike had been received and were still being checked.
RPG Attack Kills 1st Armored Division Soldier
September 16, 2003, By Hamza Hendawi, Associated Press & AFP
In Baghdad, specialist Anthony Reinoso said a soldier from the 1st Armored Division was fatally wounded when his unit was attacked by a rocket-propelled grenade at 1:10 am.
“He was evacuated to the 28th Combat Support Hospital and subsequently died,” Reinoso said, adding the name of the soldier had been withheld pending notification of his family.
That death was the sixth combat fatality in seven days and the second since US Secretary of State Colin Powell flew into Iraq.
He was the 157th American soldier to die in Iraq since President Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1. In heavy fighting before that date 138 soldiers lost their lives.
US Troops Come Under Mortar Fire In Baqubah
September 16, 2003, BAQUBAH, Iraq, (AFP)
US troops came under mortar fire overnight near this central Iraqi town, in a pair of attacks that triggered a fire but left no immediate casualties, witnesses said Tuesday.
Mohammad Fayyad, a local farmer, said six mortar rounds were fired shortly before midnight at the old Ibn Fernass airport housing US soldiers. He said a column of smoke rose from the site but there were no estimates of damage.
The barracks were targeted by four more mortars shortly before dawn, he added.
Helicopters patrolled the skies above the location northeast of Baqubah for an hour and a half in search of suspects but did not fire any shots, witnesses said.
Grenade Attack Wounds Three US Soldiers In Mosul
BAGHDAD, Sept 14 (AFP) – Three US soldiers in the northern city of Mosul were wounded in an attack by assailants firing a rocket-propelled grenade, the US-led coalition said Sunday.
US Captain Jeff Fitzgibbons said the three from the 101st Airborne Division were wounded about 9:00 pm (1700 GMT) Saturday in the city 400 kilometers (250 miles) north of Baghdad.
He gave no other details of the attack. There was no immediate word on the conditions of the wounded.
Baghdad Grenade Attack Response Kills 8-Year-Old
By NEIL MacFARQUHAR, New York Times, Baghdad, Iraq, 9.15.03
Several families from Abu Ghraib are there to gather some of the four victims, including an 8-year-old girl, who they said were shot dead by American soldiers in the market after a grenade was thrown at an armored personnel carrier.
An American military spokesman in Baghdad confirmed that one soldier was wounded in a grenade attack but denied that the soldiers, from the First Armored Division, fired back.
“The American soldiers are so panicky that if a tire bursts in the street, they start shooting,” said Nabil Saleh Al-ani, a cousin of victim.
OCCUPATION ISN’T LIBERATION
BRING ALL THE TROOPS HOME NOW!
IRAQ RESISTANCE ROUNDUP
Collaborator Police Chief Killed
September 16, 2003, By Hamza Hendawi, Associated Press
The police chief in the dangerous “Sunni Triangle” town of Khaldiya was killed in a roadside ambush as he was returning to his home in Fallujah, scene of rising guerrilla resistance to the American occupation of Iraq.
The Monday afternoon attack was sure to further complicate U.S. efforts to build local police and militia structures to take over security in the region, where support for Saddam Hussein remains strong.
The killing of Col. Khedeir Mekhalef Ali also came just three days after the mistaken killing of eight Iraqi policemen by U.S. forces in the worst friendly fire incident since major fighting ended.
In the latest violence west of Baghdad, Ali, the Khaldiya police chief, was ambushed by three men wearing red-and-white checked Arab headdresses for masks on the outskirts of Fallujah as he was driving home. His driver and bodyguard were wounded in the attack, police said. Ali, a former Iraqi army officer, had been police chief for two months.
He took over the Khaldiya force as U.S. troops pulled out of the town in conjunction with a general pullback from the region’s population centers and the flanking cities of Fallujah and Ramadi.
The area is in the heart of the “Sunni Triangle,” a broad swath of Iraq north and west of Baghdad where American forces have come under almost daily attacks since they fell to the coalition in April.
“The three attackers opened fire with machine guns, shot one of the tires of the chief’s car and then approached the vehicle and shot him at least 25 times,” said his driver, 47-year-old Rabia’a Kamash. He spoke to The Associated Press at the Fallujah General Hospital where he was being treated for wounds to his head and shoulder.
The chief’s bodyguard, Fouad Issa, 40, was wounded in the shoulder and back and also being treated at the hospital, a short distance away from the spot where the ambush took place.
Policemen from Khaldiya said they have frequently come under attack because of their perceived association with the American occupation force, despite the American withdrawal from inside the cities in July. Many in the town, they said, shunned policemen.
Monday’s killing of Ali underlines the risks facing Iraqis in the area, and to a lesser extent elsewhere in Iraq, when they join U.S.-backed security forces that the Americans have set up with the aim of allowing them to gradually take over security.
In many cases, they are seen as collaborators who sold out in exchange for an income at a time when unemployment in Iraq is as high as 60 percent.
“We Can Make Our Own Security”
Adnan Janabi, the part owner of a construction company has been told that American government regulations require numerous studies before any reconstruction can get started — and that the people needed to conduct the studies do not want to come to Iraq because of the dire security conditions.
“They tell us there is no security, that they cannot rehabilitate the oil sector, that we cannot rehabilitate hospitals, because there is nobody to guard them,” he said. “We are fed up with being told to wait because there is no security. We can make our own security.”
America’s Hidden Battlefield Toll
Jason Burke in London and Paul Harris in New York, The Observer, 14 September 2003
The true scale of American casualties in Iraq is revealed today by new figures obtained by The Observer, which show that more than 6,000 American servicemen have been evacuated for medical reasons since the beginning of the war, including more than 1,500 American soldiers who have been wounded, many seriously.
The figures will shock many Americans, who believe that casualties in the war in Iraq have been relatively light.
It is believed many of the American casualties evacuated from Iraq are seriously injured. Modern body Armour, worn by almost all American troops, means wounds that would normally kill a man are avoided. However vulnerable arms and legs are affected badly. This has boosted the proportion of maimed among the injured.
STOP THE VA SERVICE CUTS!
On Monday 9/29 there will be a mass demonstration in front of the Manhattan VA. This is the written testimony that I presented to the City Council hearing. DC
STATEMENT BY DAVID CLINE, PRESIDENT OF VETERANS FOR PEACE
AT NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL HEARING ON VA MEDICAL SERVICES
I would like express my heartfelt gratitude to Councilwoman Margarita Lopez and the other members of the New York City Council responsible for holding this hearing. I want to thank them for showing care and concern about this issue of great importance to disabled veterans in New York City and the surrounding region. To often injustice takes place because no one has the courage to speak out against it.
My name is David Cline and I am the national president of Veterans For Peace, an organization made up of men and women veterans of all eras dedicated to the cause of world peace and social justice. I am also a coordinator with the Vietnam Veterans Against the War and a co-founder of the Jersey City Vietnam Veterans Memorial Committee. I am a member of the Disabled American Veterans, Vietnam Veterans of America, Military Order of the Purple Heart, 25th Infantry Division Association, and Veterans of Foreign Wars as well.
The Veterans For Peace Statement of Purpose has a plank which reads “to seek justice for veterans and victims of war” and that is why I am here today, to advocate for and seek just treatment for those who have stood in defense of this country and now need medical care for the wounds and other injuries they received.
Back in 1967, I was sent to Vietnam where I served with the 25th Infantry Division and was wounded three times. I suffer permanent disabilities from gunshot wounds and post-traumatic stress and hold a Purple Heart with two oak leaf clusters, Bronze Star with V device, Combat Infantryman Badge, New York State Conspicuous Service Cross and other medals.
I live right across the Hudson River in Jersey City, New Jersey and use the Manhattan VA Hospital at 23rd Street when I need medical care. I could go to the East Orange VA hospital but Manhattan is much more accessible and like me, a number of other Jersey City vets use the Manhattan hospital as our health care provider.
I am dismayed and angry about reports that the Manhattan VA is closing many units. ‘CARES” plans would have inpatient services leave Manhattan and only outpatient services remain. Moving these departments and services to Brooklyn and the Bronx will cause undue hardships and obstacles to many, especially disabled and elderly veterans. It is discrimination against those who need help, assistance and accessibility the most. The question has to be asked: does “CARES” care about our disabled, elderly and destitute veterans?
Let me tell you what happened to me. Several months ago, I spoke to my primary care doctor about pain I was having in my right heel when I walked. I was told that it was a bone spur and advised to use a shoe pad. The doctor also recommended that I be examined by the podiatry clinic
When I went upstairs to schedule an appointment, I was told that podiatry had moved to the Brooklyn VA and it would be several months before I could get an appointment. I got the pad for my shoe but never went to Brooklyn. Instead of an examination, it was turning into an expedition.
Creating obstacles to accessing healthcare is part of the problem but I fear that there is more to it. This may be the first step in the eventual closing of the Manhattan VA Hospital. How long do you think that building will remain a Veterans Hospital when much of it becomes empty and unused. It will become a prime piece of real estate for someone else’s plans and Veterans will be out the door. Any such backroom schemes are a grave disservice to veterans.
Yesterday I was at the Manhattan VA and talked with my assigned doctor. I asked about the CARES plan and she expressed grave concern. She told me that if inpatient programs go, she will have to find work elsewhere. Her duties include teaching NYU medical students working with hospitalized HIV+ vets and without those beds and patients, a major part of her job function will vanish.
When I told her that I would be testifying at this hearing, she encouraged me and said that my advocating for veterans was also speaking on behalf of those hard working, dedicated doctors, nurses and other health care workers who care for us and who’s jobs and livelihoods are threatened by these cuts.
The VA Healthcare system has been in a crisis nationwide for the last decade. Federal budgets have never provided the funds and staffing necessary for first class medical care. The budget for next year is $2 billion less than what was a “compromise” agreed to by the House and Senate. Waits for doctor’s appointment are sometimes 6 months or more. Legitimate disability claims are pending for years and as the saying goes, justice delayed is justice denied.
The current administration has no problem asking for $87 billion more to wage war and create a new generation of veterans. What kind of treatment will the government give them when they come home and what about those who served in the past?
Today we are involved in a continuing military conflict in Iraq. Veterans For Peace questions the wisdom and the necessity for this military adventure and believes our troops should be brought home now.
We also insist that the men and women serving in uniform receive the medical care and assistance they need. In Iraq, many GIs have suffered severe wounds, in fact the numbers are so great that the current administration has tried to misrepresent and hide these casualties from public consciousness.
Many soldiers will come back suffering from the emotional wounds of war trauma. We can expect many others to come back sick from the use of Depleted Uranium munitions and other deadly military toxins found on today’s battlefields.
It is hypocrisy to wave yellow ribbons and say you “support the troops”, then cynically cut the very hospitals that the wounded and disabled will need. It is betrayal to those warriors who fought in this nation’s past wars. It is shameful and it is unacceptable.
Veterans For Peace has participated in many of the antiwar demonstrations in New York City as well as many other cities throughout the United States and we often call cadence when we march.. One of them said “If they tell you to go, there is something you should know, they wave the flag when you attack, when you come home they turn their back”.
That is what is happening today to the Manhattan VA Medical Center, too many politicians and bureaucrats are again turning their backs. They did it to the Atomic Vets after World War 2. They did it to Vietnam veterans sick from Agent Orange/dioxin. They did it to veterans of the 1991 war with Gulf War Syndrome. Will they be able to do it again?
I hope and pray that together we veterans, our elected representatives and all the people will not allow this to happen and will insist that America’s veterans are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.
Thank you for allowing me to speak today. I hope our united efforts will stop this travesty of justice.
September 16, 2003
Do you have a friend or relative in the service? Forward this E-MAIL along, or send us the address if you wish and we’ll send it regularly. Whether in Iraq or stuck on a base in the USA, this is extra important for your service friend, too often cut off from access to encouraging news of growing resistance to the war, at home and in Iraq, and information about other social protest movements here in the USA. Send requests to address up top. For copies on web site see:www.notinourname.net/gi-special/
by Katha Pollitt, The Nation, September 22, 2003
The 5,300-pound hunk of granite carved with the Ten Commandments has been rolled out of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s Montgomery courtroom to gather moss in an unspecified back room.
How many devotees, though, have actually read the Ten Commandments lately? There’s a reason the laws inscribed on those stone tablets are often represented by Roman numerals or squiggles.
As a vague wave in the direction of law and order, the Decalogue pops up in thousands of public places, including the Supreme Court building, where Moses shares a frieze with Hammurabi and Justinian. Spelled out in all their ancient splendor, though, the commandments are a decidedly odd set of directives to be looming, physically or spiritually, over an American courtroom.
Consider Commandment One:
God identifies himself as God—as if you didn’t know! Who else crashes about with thunder and lightning? He reminds the Jews that he brought them out of Egypt and orders that “thou shalt have no other gods before me.” What does that mean, exactly? No other gods, period, or no other gods come first? No other gods because they don’t exist, or no other gods because they are minor and inferior and God doesn’t like them?
His need for constant reassurance is one of God’s more perplexing characteristics. If you had created the universe and everything in it down to the seven-day week, would you care if people believed in you? Wouldn’t it be enough that you knew you existed? Why can’t God give anonymously? So what if people give Baal or Ishtar the credit?
In any case, God’s status anxiety has precious little to do with the civil and criminal codes of the state of Alabama, where worshiping Baal and Ishtar is legal.
Commandments Two, Three and Four continue God’s preoccupation with himself. No graven images, indeed, no “likeness” of anything in nature, to which he holds the copyright; no taking his name in vain; no work on the Sabbath. Representational art and sculpture, swearing a blue streak and working on Saturday (or, in Alabama, Sunday) are all legal; nor does the law require that we honor our fathers and mothers as enjoined in the Fifth Commandment, despite God’s barely veiled threat of death and/or exile if we sass them.
Adultery is legal (well, actually, not in Alabama), as is coveting your neighbor’s house, wife, servants, livestock—or husband, a possibility God seems either not to have considered or not to have minded. In fact, the only activities banned by the Ten Commandments that are also crimes under American law are murder, theft and perjury. But those are illegal (I’m guessing) under just about every civil and religious code. Even Baal and Ishtar presumably took a dim view of them.
What sets the Ten Commandments apart is not content but style: that gloomy, vengeful, obsessive, insecure authorial voice, alternately vulnerable (he confesses he’s “jealous”) and dissociated (he talks about himself in the third person, like an American celebrity).
As elsewhere in the Bible, God looks constantly over his shoulder at the competition, threatens to visit the sins of the father on generations yet unborn, raves against those who hate him. He is equally disturbed by killing and cursing, and is incredibly possessive (I made that tree! no copying!). Granted we all know people like this, but would you want them presiding over your trial?
When you consider that God could have commanded anything he wanted—anything!—the Ten have got to rank as one of the great missed moral opportunities of all time. How
It’s not as if God had nothing more to say. The minute he’s through with the Decalogue, he gives Moses a long list of legal minutiae that are even less edifying: what happens if you buy a Hebrew slave and give him a wife who has children (he goes free after six years, but you keep the rest of the family); what should happen if a man sells his daughter as a “maidservant” and her master decides he doesn’t fancy her after all (he can give her to his son).
God enjoins us to kill witches, Sabbath violators, disrespectful children, and people who have sex with animals, but not masters who beat their slaves to death, especially if the death takes place a day or two after the beating, because the slave is the master’s “money.”
No wonder the good white Christians of Alabama believed the Bible permitted slavery! It does!
After several chapters in this vein, with much tedious discussion of oxen and more inveighing against other gods and their benighted followers, God finally settles down to the subject closest to his heart: the precise mode in which he would like to be worshiped.
He drones on for pages and pages about the tabernacle, the ark and the ephod, like a demented Bronze Age interior decorator—golden candlesticks, mind you, and ten linen
He specifies down to the last beryl the ostentatious get-up he wants his priests to wear and what animals they should sacrifice and when, and which parts of the burnt offering he likes best (the fat around the tail and liver—well, that’s everyone’s favorite, isn’t it?); he even gives recipes for incense and priestly perfume.
Has anyone checked out Judge Moore’s aftershave?
Bizarre In Baghdad;
Occupation Bosses Dress Their “Native” Waiters In Turbans
September 16, 2003, By PATRICK COCKBURN
The quite correct perception that the US has already failed in Iraq is becoming the common consensus in Iraq as well as much of the rest of the world.
The US failure to win a conclusive victory in Iraq is like that of Britain in South Africa during the Boer War. Like the US Britain went into the war filled with arrogant presumptions about an easy victory. As the conflict dragged on, with a constant trickle of casualties from attacks by the elusive Boers, nationalists from Dublin to Bombay drew the conclusion that the British Empire was not quite as tough as it looked.
But the speed of the American failure in Iraqis still extraordinary.
The US occupation authorities remain isolated within the Iraqi capital, impervious to the dire reality around them.
One Iraqi friend recently saw a group of US dignitaries eating and drinking in a luxury restaurant in a hotel. Whoever had organized the party had confused Iraq with the Indian Raj and dressed all the waiters in turbans.
How To Recruit More Resistance Fighters
(AFP) 9.15.03—Near Baquba on Monday residents said an Iraqi was shot and later died after he mistook American soldiers for thieves.
Sami Hassan Saref, snatched up a rifle and was shot dead after US forces on entered his house in Mikdadya, 28 miles west of Baquba, Ahmad Mansur Karim, a shopkeeper, said.
He told AFP that troops had begun searching the house at about 1:30 am and 35-year-old Saref thought he was being robbed. Karim, 37, said US soldiers immediately took Saref to hospital near Baquba, 41 miles north-east of Baghdad, where he later died from his wounds.
Vice President Dick Cheney: ”People always ask me, how much do you care about GIs in Iraq? And I always tell em, about half of this much“
DANGER: POLITICIANS AT WORK
Powell Visits Iraq, Praises Progress
By GEORGE GEDDA, Associated Press Writer, 9.14.03
BAGHDAD, Iraq – Secretary of State Colin Powell, becoming the highest ranking U.S. official to visit Iraq since the ouster of Saddam Hussein, said Sunday he is convinced “the winds of freedom are blowing” across the country but acknowledged the possibility that terrorists are trying to sabotage the process toward self-rule.
“We are not hanging on for the sake of hanging on. We are hanging on because it’s necessary to stay with this task until a new government has been created, a responsible government,” Powell said at the news conference
(THANKS TO B WHO E-MAILED THIS IN: B WRITES: Progress apparently means more and more dead GIs, because that’s about the thing that’s happening.
Powell says, We aren’t hanging on for the sake of hanging on. Were hanging on to create a democratic government – in other words, were hanging on for the sake of hanging on.)
Shit-Eating Liar Cheney;
As GIs Die, He Says Iraq “Quiet and Stable”
By Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus, Washington Post Staff Writers, September 15, 2003
Vice President Cheney, keynoting an aggressive defense by the Bush administration of its Iraq policy, rejected the full range of criticism of U.S. actions in Iraq and said there is no reason to “think that the strategy is flawed or needs to be changed.”
In a rare television interview yesterday, Cheney expanded on an effort by President Bush and top aides to argue that there should be no further changes in Iraq policy despite bipartisan and international calls for different approaches. He declared “major success, major progress” in Iraq, said most of the country is “stable and quiet” and asserted that Americans are viewed as “liberators” there.
Silly Powell’s Baghdad Briefing;
He Hides From Resistance In Occupation HQ;
50 Attacks A Day On U. S. Troops;
Airports Under Missile Attacks
By Robert Fisk in Baghdad, 15 September 2003: (The Independent: UK)
We had to walk through a quarter of a mile of barbed wire to reach Colin Powell, the American Secretary of State, last night. We had to pass through four checkpoints, including three body searches. Apache helicopters circled the conference center and Bradley fighting vehicles sat in the darkness outside.
But inside was air conditioning, brightness, optimism and Secretary Powell. He had just had a “very exciting meeting” with the new “Governing Council”. He was “deeply impressed” by what he saw in Baghdad – “people hard at work rebuilding a nation, rebuilding a society”.
So forget the $87bn (£55bn) President George Bush needs to run Iraq for the next year, forget the dead Americans and the far greater number of dead Iraqis who pay the price each day for the folly of this occupation. Forget the American soldier killed near Fallujah yesterday when a bomb blew up beneath his Humvee, wounding seven of his colleagues. He didn’t rate a mention from ex-General Powell.
It was the Coalition of the Willing Suspension of Disbelief. Sure, there was the briefest of mentions of the latest catastrophe – the killing of nine Iraqi policemen by US forces outside Fallujah – and of the compensation that might be paid to their families. It was, as America’s proconsul, Paul Bremer, put it mildly “a very regrettable incident” which “is still under investigation by our military”. Tell that to the people of Fallujah who want revenge.
Mr Powell – who never ventured outside the barbed wire and checkpoints yesterday – had apparently noticed “a vibrancy [in Iraq] that I attribute to the understanding of freedom … through this land”. America had “liberated” Iraq, he said several times. The word “occupation” didn’t cross his lips.
He wanted good news, not the stories that were “more visual [sic] and more negative in nature”. He wanted “a little more time, attention and energy” directed at “the more positive stories”. And so say all of us. Which is presumably why the occupation authorities no longer even distribute their overnight security warnings to humanitarian organisations in Baghdad. If they did, the reports would show that US forces are now being attacked up to 50 times every night, that missiles are being fired at US planes almost every day, that neither Baghdad nor Basra airports are safe enough to open.
These days the dead go back to the US and while Mr Powell was in Baghdad, the comrades of the soldier blown up in Fallujah yesterday were preparing his last journey home.
AFGHANISTAN: THE FORGOTTEN WAR
Resistance Attacks Kill 90
By James Ridgeway with Phoebe St John, Village Voice, Washington, 10 September 2003
There have been fresh waves of violence in Afghanistan, as the resistance regroups from its hidden, outlying strongholds conducting guerrilla attacks against civilians, Afghan government forces, clerics loyal to the government, foreign aid workers, and U.S. forces. In the space of 10 days in August, 90 civilians were killed in such attacks.
CLASS WAR NEWS
Employment Growth “Worst On Record” Since 1939;
More Families Homeless
By James Ridgeway with Phoebe St John Village Voice, Washington, 10 September 2003
The all-inclusive unemployment figure released by the Labor Department for August was 10 percent. The Economic Policy Institute reports: “In terms of employment growth, the current recovery is the worst on record since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking employment in 1939. Employment is down over one million since the recovery began . . . and the decline in employment opportunities has actually been greater for college graduates than for high school dropouts.” As for Bush’s claims of recovery, the Financial Times reported Monday that Asian investors are preparing to bail on their massive holdings of U.S. treasury securities.
Homelessness and poverty: The worsening unemployment situation is reflected in a 19 percent increase in requests for emergency shelter, in a survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors that covers the 2001-2002 period. The fastest growing segment of the homeless population? Families with children, making up 41 percent of all the homeless, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless.
MAILBAG: GI SPECIAL REPORTED ON A SOLDIER WHO CAME BACK FROM COMBAT IN IRAQ AND WAS GOING TO BE DEPORTED BECAUSE HE WASN’T A U.S. CITIZEN. BUT A DIFFERENT SOLDIER, KILLED IN IRAQ, WHO ALSO WASN’T A U.S. CITIZEN, IS TO BE POSTHUMOUSLY HONORED BY BEING MADE A U.S. CITIZEN. LS SENT IN THIS COMMENT:
“How about this one? So if you get killed in combat, you’ll get citizenship. But if you survive, you’ll get deported!”
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