Janet's Conner

This Blog tell the Truth and will never not tell the Truth. Impeach Bush

Saturday, August 05, 2006

IRAQ CIVIL WAR HAS ALREADY BEGUN, U.S. TROOPS SAY


BAGHDAD, Iraq---While American politicians and generals in Washington debate the possibility of civil war in Iraq, many U.S. officers and enlisted men who patrol Baghdad say it has already begun.

By: Tom Lasserter
McClatcht Newspapers
August 4, 2006

Army troops in and around the capital interviewed in the last week cite a long list of evidence that the center of the nation is coming undone:

* Villages have been abandoned by Sunni and Shiite Muslims;

* Sunni insurgents have killed thousands of Shiites in car bombings and assassinations;

* Shiite militia death squads have tortured and killed hundreds, if not thousands, of Sunnis;

* And when night falls, neighborhoods become open battlefields.

There's one street that's the dividing line. They shoot mortars across the line and abduct people back and forth," said 1st Lt. Brian Johnson, a 4th Infantry Division platoon leader from Houston. Johnson, 24, was describing the nightly violence that pits Sunni gunmen from Baghdad's Ghazaliyah neighborhood against Shiite gunmen from the nearby Shula district.

As he spoke, the sights and sounds of battle grow: first, the rat-a-tat-tat fire from AK-47 assault rifles, then the heavier bursts of PKC machine guns, and finally the booms of mortar rounds crisscrossing the night sky and crashing down onto houses and roads.

The bodies of captured Sunni and Shiite fighters will turn up in the morning, dropped in canals and left on the side of the road.

"We've seen some that have been executed on site, with bullet holes in the ground; the rest were tortured and executed somewhere else and dumped," Johnson said.

The recent assertion by U.S. soldiers here that Iraq is in a civil war is a stunning indication that American efforts to bring peace and democracy to Iraq are failing, more than three years after the toppling of dictator Saddam Hussein's regime.

Some Iraqi troops, too, share that assessment.

"This is a civil war," said a senior adviser to the commander of the Iraqi Army's 6th Division, which oversees much of Baghdad.

"The problem between Sunnis and Shiites is a religious one, and it gets worse every time they attack each other's mosques," said the adviser, who gave only his rank and first name, Col. Ahmed, because of security concerns. "Iraq is now caught in hell."

U.S. hopes for victory in Iraq hinge principally on two factors;

* Iraqi security forces becoming more competent;

* and Iraqi political leaders persuading armed groups to lay down their weapons.

But neither seems to be happening. The violence has increased as Iraqi troops have been added, and feuding among the political leadership is intense. American soldiers, particularly the rank and file who get out on daily patrols, say they see no end to the bloodshed. Higher ranking officers concede that the developments are threatening to move beyond their grasp.

"There's no plan---we are constantly reaching," said a senior American military official, who spoke on the condition of anoymity. "I have absolutely on idea what we're going to do."

The issue of whether Iraq has descended into civil war has been a hot-button topic even before U.S. troops entered Iraq in 2003, when some opponents of the war raised the likelihood that Iraq would fragment along sectarian lines if Saddam's oppressive regime was removed. Bush administration officials consistently rejected such speculation as unlikely to come to fruition.

On Thursday, however, two top Americn generals told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Iraq could slip into civil war, though both stopped well short of saying that one had begun.

Political sensitivity has made some officers here hesitant to use the words "civil war," but they aren't shy about describing the situation that they and their men have found on their patrols.

"I hate to use the word 'purify,' because it sounds very bad, but they are trying to force Shiites into Shiite areas and Sunnis into Sunni areas," said Lt. Col. Craig Osborne, who commands a 4th Infantry Division battallion on the western edge to Baghdad, a hotspot of sectarian violence.

Osborne, 39, of Decatur, Illinois, compared Iraq to Rwanda, where hundreds of thousands of people were killed in an orgy of inter-tribal violence in 1994. "That was without doubt a civil war---the smae thing is happening here."

"But it's not called a civil war---there's such a negative connotation to that word and it suggests failure," he said.

On the other side of Bahdad, Shiites from the eastern slum of Sadr City and Sunnis from the nearby neighborhood of Adhamiyah regularly launch incursions into each other's areas, setting off car bombs and dragging victims into torture chambers.

"The sectarian violence flip-flops back and forth," said Lt. Col. Paul Finken, who commands a 101st Airborne Division task force that works with Iraqi soldiers in the area. "We find bodies all the time---bound, tortured, shot."

The idea that U.S. forces have been unable to prevent the nation from sliding into sectarian chaos troubles many American military officials in Iraq.

Lt. Col. Chris Pease, 48, the deputy commander for the 101st Airborne's brigade in eastern Baghdad, was asked whether he thought that Iraq's civil war had begun.

"Civil war," he said, and then paused for several moments.

"You've got to understand," said Pease, of Milton-Freewater, Ore., "you know, the United States Army and most of the people in the United States Army, the Marine Corps and the Air Force and the Navy have never really lost anything."

Pease paused again.

"Whether it is there or not, I don't know," he said.

Pressed for what term he would use to describe the security situation in Iraq, Pease said: "Right now I would say that it's more of a Kosovo, ethnic-cleansing type thing---not ethnic cleansing, it is a sectarian fight---they are bombing; they are threatening to get them off the land."

A human rights report released last month by the United Nations mission in Baghdad said 2,669 civilians were killed across Iraq during May, and 3,149 were killed in June. In total, 14,338 civilians were killed from January to June of this year, and, 150,000 civilians were forced out of their homes, the report said.

Pointing to a map, 1st Lt. Robert Murray, last week highlighted a small Shiite village of 25 homes that were abandoned after a flurry of death threats came to town on small pieces of paper.

"The letters tell them if they don't leave in 48 hours, they'll kill their entire families," said Murray, 29, of Franklin, Mass. "It's happening a lot right now. There have been a lot of murders lately; between that and the kidnappings, they're making good on their threats. ...They need to learn to live together. I'd like to see it happen, but I don't know if it's possible."

Riding in a Humvee later that day, Capt. Jared Rudacille, Murray's commander in the 4th Infantry Division, noted the market of a town he was passing through. The stalls were all vacant. The nearby homes were all empty. There wasn't a single civilian car on the road.

"Between 1,500 and 2,000 people have moved out," said Rudacille, 29, of York, Pa. "I now see only 15 or 20 people out during the day."

The following evening, 1st Lt. Corbett Baxter was showing a reporter the area, to the west of where Rudacille was, that he patrols.

"Half od my entire northern sector cleared out in a week, about 2,00 people," said Baxter, 25, of Fort Hood, Texas.

Staff Sgt. Wesley Ramon had a similar assessment while on patrol between the Sunni town of Abu Ghraib and Shula, a Shiite stronghold. The main bridge leading out of Shula was badly damaged recently by four bombs placed underneath it. Military officials think the bombers were Sunnis trying to stanch the flow of Shiite militia gunmen coming out of Shula to kill Sunnis.

"It's getting to the point of being irreconcilable; you know, we've found a lot of bodies, entire villages have been cleared out, we get reports of entire markets being gunned down---and if that's not a marker of civil war, I don't know what is," said Ramon, 33, of San Antonio, Texas.

Driving back to his base, Johnson watched a long line of trucks and cars go by, packed with families fleeing their homes with everything they could carry: mattresses, clothes, furniture, in the back of some trucks, bricks to build another home.

"Every morning that we head back to the patrol base, this is all we see," Johnson said. "These are probably people who got threatened last night."

In Taji, an area north of Baghdad, where the roads between Sunni and Shiite villages have become killing fields, many soldiers say they saw little chance that things would get better.

"I don't think there's any winning here. Victory for us is withdrawing," said Sgt. James Ellis, 25, of Chicago. "In this part of the world they have been fighting for 3,000 years, and we're not going to fix it in three."

The YouTube War---American Soldiers Are Telling Their Stories

American soldiers are telling their story of the Iraq war in homemade videos. And the picture isn't any brighter.

TIME-Nation Page
By Ana Marie Cox
July 2006

The National Guardsman in the frame looks grim. His bunkmates are cutting up a bit, clowning for the camera. The cameraman tries to coax some action out of the unwilling documentary subject, who refuses: "I'm not supposed to talk to the media," he says. You can hear the insults sting in the cameraman's shouted protest: "I'm not the media!" The sharp denial reflects a key collateral campaign in the Iraq war: to keep soldiers strictly on message.

But there's no qustion that the soldier behing the camera in "The War Tapes" is part of this war's media. Just as Vietnam had been America's first "living-room war," spilling carnage in dinnertime news broadcasts, so is the Iraq conflict emerging as the first YouTube war. Growing up in a world where they can swap MP3s as well as intimate details about their lives via MySpace or Facebook, American soldiers are swapping their Iraq experience as well. There's a byte-enabled intimacy to "The War Tapes," the film that bills itself as the first documentary about the war filmed by those fighting it. Critics in mainstream media's war coverage might hope that the soldiers' unmediated view would be a more positive one. Vice President Cheney complained last March that the public's dwindling support for the war was due to the "perception that what's newsworthy is the car bomb in Baghdad," rather than what success has been had "in terms of making progress towards rebuilding Iraq." Talk show host Laura Ingraham encouraged those covering Iraq to "talk to those soldiers on the ground" in order to get a sense of all the good things happening there that should be "celebrated." By that logic, putting cameras in the hands of those soldiers on the ground should provide enough celebration for an "Up with Iraq" musical.

There's music in a lot of the soldiers' videos, but precious little uplift. In "The War Tapes," one soldier/amateur complains frequently about the risks he and his comrades take to protect the property of the Halliburton subsidiary subcontracted to feed the troops. "Why the f---am I sitting out here guarding a truck full of cheescake?" he laments. After another guardsman supplies a Bush Administration-approved justification for their presence (freedom and democracy for the Iraqi people, stability in the Middle East), the cameraman asks, "tell me how you really feel." Deadpan, he continues, "After that happens, maybe we can buy everybody in the world a puppy."

Videos uploaded to the internet by soldiers themselves depict, if anything, an even grimmer reality. Earlier this summer, the Council on American-Islamic Relations stoked a minor controversy over the video "Hadji Girl," which featured a Marine singing about falling in love with an Iraqi girl only to be ambushed by her family, after which he "hid behind the TV/ And I locked and loaded my M-16/ And I blew those little f---ers to eternity." Many defended "Hadji Girl" as gallows humor, but on the web there is no shortage of just plain gallows, either. A search for "Iraq" and "combat" at Ogrish dot com or You Tube dot com will field dozens of semi-pro snuff films of varying degrees of gore. Many are set to music---power ballads, speed metal, and in one case, an ironic lounge-act crooner.

Raised on Nintendo and Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, the troops fighting this war want to experience the kind of battle promised to them by Splinter Cell and Total Recall. The videos they make are an attempt to salvage a war whose coherence crumbled soon after Saddam's statue fell. However, while they offer the credibility of an unvarnished image, they lack any meaningful context of what came before and after the clip, or what's happening outside the frame. One veterans described them to the Wall Street Journal as "kind of like the ESPN highlight reels---the music is pumping and everyone was running around." Another soldier told the Los Angeles Times, "If you have a copy of it, and MTV called, I'd sell it." He may yet get a chance. MTV is airing a special---"Iraq Uploaded"---about these homemade documents of July 21. (Already has aired)

The special closes a loop in pop culture, since these clips are essentially music videos. Traditionally, historians have explained soldiers' documentary efforts---letters home, snapshots---as an attempt to force a narrative onto a situation that's out of control. But these videos don't even try to tell a story. They don't need a plot. Highlight reels at least give it a point: Blow stuff up.

If these dispatches lack a coherent explanation for why the bombs are going off, recall that the Bush Administration has been rather cagey about that, too. They have their own highlight reel, after all: A montage of 9/11, Colin Powell holding up a vial of anthrax, Zarqawi's death mask presented in a gilt frame on a curtained stage. There's some flashes of mortar fire, but this edit containes no footage of dead soldiers or even coffins, no images of the abuse of detainees.

However, video is not the only medium, or the only way we remember. In "Combat Diary," a returning Marine talks about having to drink himself into a stupor every night in order to sleep. Making a music video out the horror of war won't keep the images from hauting your dreams.

''DYING FOR BIG OIL''

Collectively big oil has posted a second-quarter profit of $30 billion. Most people think the reason for big oil's grotesque profit surge is that they are bending the American consumer over at the pump, and not even bothering to give the people a smooch when they're done. Greed is greed, but there is more to the profit story than most Americans care to realize.

The biggest reason for big oil's obscene profit surge is war. While Bush and Republicans steal freedom from the American people, if any American parent continues to believe their son or daughter is dying in Iraq because of some absurd notion of "spreading freedom" in the Middle East, that parent or parents are sadly mistaken! Their son or daughter is dying in Iraq for oil profits.

"Liberal whack-job," you say, "Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and the DLC warned me about people like you."

Fair enough. Everyone is entitled to their opinion; however, neither propoganda nor absurd nationalistic delusions will change this reality: The war in Iraq and now, too, the instability created by Israel's fight with Hezbollah threatens to, thanks to Bush's refusal to seek a ceasefire, completely destabilize the entire Middle East and are the engines driving oil over $70 a barrel. And it is the uncertainty created by war(s) more than anything that has been generating big oil's absurd profits.

Sling names, toss mud, make false accusations, continue buying into the lies O'Reilly and Limbaugh are selling, but no amount of rationalization and really twisting can change this simple and singular all important fact: War is good for business and war is especially good for big oil's business! War creates instability, which provides big oil the excuse to drive the price of their product even higher on the stock market.

AMERICA'S CHILDREN ARE DYING IN IRAQ FOR ONE THING AND ONE THING ALONE---BUSH/CHENEY'S BIG OIL PALS' PROFITS. PERIOD! END OF DEBATE. ON THE WAY TO YOUR SON OR DAUGHTER'S FLAG-DRAPED FUNERAL, STOP AT A GAS STATION AND TELL BIG OIL HOW MUCH YOU APPRECIATE THE SACRIFICE YOUR KID MADE SO THEY COULD EARN ANOTHER $30 BILLION. JUST DON'T EXPECT THE OIL EXECS OR BUSH AND CHENEY TO GIVE YOU A SMOOCH.


Commentary By: A. Alexander
August 5, 2006

FIRING AT VA STIRS DEBATE ON DISABILITY RIGHTS

"You see before you a woman with a broken body not a broken mind."

Firing stirs debate on disability rights

Veterans health system terminates social worker with cerebral palsy

VA Watchdog dot Org
By" Julie Patel
Mercury News

When people review Cheryl Hewitt's resume, they see an award winning social worker with 18 years of experience who is also a grass-roots organizer in the campaign for disability rights. When they meet the woman behind the resume, they see a cerebral palsy victim in a wheelchair, her arms having spasms sporadically and her head sometimes tilted to one side.

But last week, Hewitt drew notice as a social worker who had just been fired, in an incident that had made her a cause celebre in the disability rights community.

"You see before you a woman witha broken body but not a broken mind," Bill Luttrell told an audience of 35 people gathered to support Hewitt's discrimination complaint against her employer, Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care Syste,.

Hewitt's official last day was Friday. She says hospital managers told her that she violated patient confidentiality when she allowed her cousin to write down personal information---last names and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers---after he watched her struggle to make them legible with her shaky handwriting.

The complaint---filed by the American Federation of Government Employees Local 2110---argues that Hewitt's misstep was forced upon her, because her employer failed to make legaly required "reasonable accommodations" for her disability. Hewitt had asked for equipment that would allow her to transcribe names, but she did not receive anything that worked for her until after the incident, they say.

Hospital officials say that can't provide details about Hewitt's employment because of the pending complaint but they hint that there were other problems. They said they usually provide feedback to employees and document probelms before making employment decisions.

"The VA Palo Alto Health Care System recognizes that people with disabilities are valued and contributing members of our society," spokesman Kerri Childress wrote in an e-mail to the Mercury News. She said more than 176 of the hospital's 2,800 staffers have disabilities.

In Hewitt's termination letter, which she provided to the Mercury News, hospital managers cited the confidentiality violation and a failure to turn in reports about patients' progress---a critical job responsibility.

Hewitt said her boss talked to her about not meeting deadlines. Hewitt asked for a faster dictation service than the one hired by the hospital, which turns out notes in 24 hours. She said she was told that hospital representatives would look into it, but she heard nothing more. Hewitt said her boss also told her that her notes were not detailed enough and when she made them more thorough, she was told they were too long.

Hewitt is aware of how people view her and her disability: They might pat her head, smile politely, or avoid looking at her altogether.

She recalls being a curious child stuck in a special-education classroom, where the most difficult assignment on a given day was how to make paper plate masks. A psychiatrist had to tell college admissions departments that she is not mentally disabled. Hewitt attended 24 funerals---of disabled freinds---before finishing high school.

She vowed never to take her life for granted. "These people never had a chance to achieve their dreams and show the world what they could do," she said.

She's worked hard to find ways around the physical disability. To get dressed, she uses a bar over her bed to pull her body to one side. She slips on one side of her pants, pulls herself on her other side, pulls the other side and keeps going---twisting and turning---until they're on.

Her patience with these small challenges in life helped her overcome the big ones: By 1988, she had received her bachelor's and master's degrees in social work and since then, she has held down a job for all but five months. When she was unable to find work in her field in 1999, she took a temporary job as a door greeter at a Meijer store.

She was on the White House lawn in 1990 when President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act. Hewitt said that moment---and the fight that led to it---validated for her that people with disabilities didn't need millions in dollars in government assistance over their lifetimes; they needed civil rights and labor protection.

The first time in her career that she took disability pay was in August, when she lost her job and couldn't find a new one. The Palo Alto job was on a one-year trial basis but she gladly took it, moving 2,400 miles away from her home. Before she moved, she said she told the hospital what she would need to meet deadlines, including a special keyboard and mouse and possibly a writing assistant.

She received the mouse and keyboard in late April---after the incident in which her cousin wrote out the patient information for her.

Union officials such as Janie Patterson organized a meeting at Hewitt's church, Crosswalk Community Church in Sunnyvale, this week.

Pastor John Chrisite e-mailed a video of the talk, along with phone numbers for hospital managers and elected officials, to the church's more than 300 members. One church member, who is in the Army, said Hewitt is as brave as all the soldiers he has met.

Hewitt said she's faced with leaving an apartment she can't afford and going back to where she started last year, without a job. But she said the friends she has made in the Bay Area inspired her to do all she can to stay.


***In my opinion, since the Republican-run Congress has just approved more money for the Defense Department to build more weapons for our unsuccessful war in Iraq and God's know where else we'll end up, Bush has to take away from somebody else again. He's taken so much from the veterans that now, I think he's going to start on the disabled workers who work for the government. According to him and his religious beliefs, all disabled people are an abomination and should all be put into institutions! Maybe this is his way of doing it!