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Archive for the 'Iraq' Category

Tauscher to re-introduce ‘dwell time’ bill

Continuing the “it’s-a-whole-new-ballgame-with-Obama-in-the-White-House” waltz, Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, this Thursday will announce she’s introducing legislation to provide more “dwell time” for troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, to help them recover mentally and physically and give military units time to repair and upgrade equipment.

The House in August 2007 passed Tauscher’s like-minded H.R. 3159. It would’ve required that any regular Armed Forces member or unit deployed to Iraq must then have an equal period of time at home before being redeployed, and that no unit or member of a Reserve component including the National Guard be redeployed to Iraq within three years of their previous deployment.

But Tauscher’s bill died in the Senate Armed Services Committee, and its companion amendment introduced by U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., went down to defeat in September 2007, soon after Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he would recommend a veto, branding it a dangerous “backdoor way” to draw down forces.

Why am I reliving all this history? Well, partly because Gates is still our Secretary of Defense; it’ll be interesting to see what he recommends now, given he’s serving a new President with a new agenda for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Posted on Tuesday, February 10th, 2009
Under: Afghanistan, Ellen Tauscher, General, Iraq, U.S. House, War on Terror | No Comments »

CodePINK’s solidarity with the shoe-thrower

There’s never a wrong time for street theater against the war, as far as CodePINK is concerned, and so the activists who blockaded and protested downtown Berkeley’s U.S. Marine Corps recruiting station for all that time will be back outside the station at 8 a.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, Dec. 17, in a show of ow solidarity with Iraqi journalist Muntader al-Zaidi, who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush during a press conference Sunday in Baghdad.

(Didja see how fast Bush ducked? Not bad for a 62-year-old who’s used to having a room full of trained professionals throw themselves in front of him at the first sign of trouble. And, by the way, I can understand how al-Zaidi could have a chance to launch the first loafer, but shouldn’t someone have gotten to him before the second?)

ANYway, CodePINK activists are calling for his immediate release without charges; they even want Bush to intervene on his behalf. (Yes, good luck with that, let me know how it goes.) They’ll march around the recruiting station at 64 Shattuck Square holding their shoes aloft, then line them up for a dramatic tableau; it’s meant not only to show support for al-Zaidi’s act of civil disobedience, but also to represent Iraqis killed, tortured, maimed and U.S. soldiers who’ve died in Iraq, the news release says.

“It’s outrageous that al-Zaidi could get two years in prison for insulting George Bush, when Bush is directly responsible for the deaths of 1.5 million Iraqis and 4,200 U.S. troops, and 5 million displaced Iraqis,” said CodePINK cofounder Medea Benjamin. “The one who should be in jail is George Bush, and he should be charged with war crimes.”

Posted on Tuesday, December 16th, 2008
Under: Berkeley, Iraq, President Bush | No Comments »

The Blackwater indictment documents

A 35-count indictment was unsealed today in the District of Columbia charging five Blackwater security guards with voluntary manslaughter, attempt to commit manslaughter, and weapons violations for their alleged roles in the Sept. 16, 2007, shooting at Nisur Square in Baghdad, Iraq. The defendants are charged with killing 14 unarmed civilians and wounding 20 other individuals.

Here’s the indictment; here’s the proffer of testimony given by a sixth Blackwater employee about what happened that day; and here’s the criminal information to which that sixth employee has pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors.

Read ‘em and weep. Literally.

Posted on Monday, December 8th, 2008
Under: Iraq | No Comments »

Oh, so NOW they want an exit strategy?

House Republican leaders sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke yesterday outlining their concerns about the lack of transparency in the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) — the $700 billion financial-markets bailout — even as Treasury officials decide whether to ask Congress to release more of the money.

Such opaqueness is unacceptable, particularly if it is your intention to ask Congress to release the remaining $350 billion in taxpayer funds that were conditionally authorized by Congress this fall. It is our strongly held view that before any such request is made, the American people need satisfactory answers to a number of important questions. While the Treasury and Federal Reserve play different roles within the government, many of your recent activities have been coordinated efforts. As a result, we request answers to the following questions:

    1. What is your exit strategy for the government’s sweeping involvement in private business?

Whoa. I’m all for more transparency and accountability, but I spend much of my day writing so I’m a little sensitive to use of the language, and I think House Republicans should be banned from using the phrase “exit strategy” for the time being, don’t you? I mean, by some estimates we’ve spent well over $600 billion — some say it’s way into the trillions — on the war in Iraq (not to mention the steep human costs), but I didn’t see these same Republicans pushing the Bush Administration for an exit strategy there. I guess big government is in the eye of the beholder.

Posted on Thursday, December 4th, 2008
Under: Iraq, John Boehner, U.S. House | No Comments »

Black Friday street theater in SF

Iraq Veterans Against the War intends to “occupy” San Francisco’s bustling Union Square this Friday, staging an “Operation First Casualty” to demonstrate “the brutal and unjust consequences of occupying a foreign country,” according to a press release.

IVAW members will round up “brave civilian volunteers” and arrest them “in the same style used in Iraq,” the release continues; they’ll be transported to Moscone Center — taking simulated deadly fire along the way — for interrogation, and after that they’ll move to United Nations Plaza where Food Not Bombs will be serving lunch to the homeless to highlight the plight of thousands of homeless vets.

“Our aim is to show the American public the truth of the US occupation in Iraq, and the effects on returning soldiers,” IVAW spokesman Eddie Falcon says, as well as to urge the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq; reparations for human and structural damage done to Iraq; a halt to “the corporate pillaging of Iraq;” and full benefits, adequate health care and other support for returning veterans.

The event is co-sponsored by Veterans for Peace, World Can’t Wait, the International Socialist Organization, Food Not Bombs, Courage to Resist and Students Against War – SF State.

Posted on Wednesday, November 26th, 2008
Under: General, Iraq | No Comments »

Lee: No Iraq security deal without Congress’ OK

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, isn’t happy with the U.S.-Iraq security agreement approved yesterday by the Iraqi Cabinet and now awaiting the Iraqi Parliament’s approval.

“Although a final version of the agreement reached by the Administration and the Government of Iraq has yet to be publicly announced and made available, reports of the content along with leaked copies of the agreement lead to the conclusion that this agreement will be unacceptable to the American people in its current form and should be rejected,” she said in a statement issued moments ago.

“For starters, the Bush agreement commits the United States to a timetable that could leave U.S. troops in Iraq until Dec. 31, 2011,” she said. “Aside from the fact that the America people are plainly fed up with this unnecessary war and occupation in Iraq and want to see it ended, occupying Iraq for three more years under the Bush plan would cost American taxpayers $360 billion based on current spending levels. That money obviously could be better spent digging our economy out of the ditch the policies of the Bush Administration has put it in.”

The proposal also undermines President-elect Barack Obama’s constitutional powers because subjecting U.S. military operations to the Iraqi government’s approval by giving operational control to “joint mobile operations command centers” controlled by a joint American-Iraqi committee, Lee said. “Throughout history, American troops have been placed under foreign control in peacekeeping operations only where authorized under treaties ratified by the Senate. No American president has ever before claimed the unilateral power to cede command of American troops to a foreign power.”

Lee noted her own H.R. 6846, the Iraq Security Agreement Act of 2008, would prohibit unilateral deployment of U.S. troops or spending taxpayer dollars to guarantee Iraq’s security without Congress’ prior approval. Vice President-elect Joe Biden introduced a similar Senate bill; Lee said Congress should act on them when it convenes this week.

Posted on Monday, November 17th, 2008
Under: Barbara Lee, Iraq, U.S. House | No Comments »

The ‘World’ Has Not Had Enough

No, it’s not meant as a Bond reference, but rather to mean that when a protest group outlives that which it was formed to oppose, you can bet it’ll pivot smoothly to the next target.

In this case, “World Can’t Wait — Drive Out the Bush Regime” shows no sign of slowing down now that the Bush Regime is being Driven Out. The Bay Area chapter will hold a “No Endless Wars” march from 3 to 5 p.m. today, Monday, Nov. 10, starting in Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Park (at Allston and MLK Jr. Way) and wend its way through downtown to target the military plans of… wait for it… president-elect Barack Obama.

“Despite people’s hope for change after eight years of the Bush Regime’s crimes — the changes Barack Obama will deliver will not be at all what the people want,” organizer Giovanni Jackson said in a news release, which also said:

World Can’t Wait points to Obama’s positions on widening the war to send 10,000 more troops into an illegal, unjust war in Afghanistan (calling this a “good war”) – his plans to keep 50,000-80,000 more troops in Iraq, not including private mercenary forces like Blackwater – his call to increase the U.S. military by 92,000 more troops (more military recruiting in inner city schools) – his promise for more pre-emptive attacks on the (sovereign country of) Pakistan, and naked threats of war against Iran.

Jackson stated further: “Obama voted for illegal government spying under the new FISA, and he voted for the Patriot Act. As for torture – Obama refused to filibuster the Military Commissions Act which legalized torture, and he has already said no war criminals responsible for the torture will face prosecution during his first term.”

Posted on Monday, November 10th, 2008
Under: Afghanistan, Barack Obama, Berkeley, General, Iran, Iraq | No Comments »

Barbara Lee’s Iraq amendment gone from bill

I wrote a story back in March about how Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, co-authored a resolution barring President Bush from making major, long-term economic and military commitments to Iraq without consulting Congress first. Lee ended up having such language incorporated into the 2009 Defense Authorization Act as approved by the House in May.

But the Senate version didn’t pick up her language, and the House OK’ed that Senate version today on a 392-39 vote. Lee was among the nays, as were Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; and Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, while the rest of the Bay Area’s delegation voted for the bill.

Lee is not amused:

“When this Defense Authorization bill cleared the House last May, it included an amendment that I authored requiring congressional approval of any agreement negotiated between the President and the Government of Iraq which commits the United States to the defense and security of Iraq from internal and external threats. But because the White House threatened to veto the bill over this prudent and reasonable provision, the version of the bill returned to us from the Senate no longer includes that limitation. That is reason alone to oppose this bill, which I do.

“Supported by members of both parties, the LEE Amendment to the Defense Authorization Act of 2009 easily passed the House of Representatives on May 22, 2008, by a vote of 234-183. Under the LEE Amendment, no provision contained in any Status of Forces Agreement or ‘SOFA’ negotiated between the President and the Government of Iraq which commits the United States to the defense and security of Iraq from internal and external threats would be valid unless that agreement has been authorized and approved by Congress.

“An agreement to commit American troops to the defense and security of another country is not routine or typical or minor. It is a major commitment that must have the support of the American people. And that popular can only be reflected by the Congress of the United States. That is why the LEE Amendment was necessary and was supported by a bipartisan majority of the House.

“I regret we have lost a valuable opportunity to bring much needed accountability and transparency to our relationship with Iraq.”

Posted on Wednesday, September 24th, 2008
Under: Barbara Lee, Iraq, President Bush, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Lee’s bill demands oversight of Iraq security pact

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, on Tuesday introduced the Iraq Security Agreement Act of 2008, which would prohibit the President from unilaterally deploying U.S. armed forces or expending public funds to guarantee Iraq’s security without Congress’ prior approval. Her bill, H.R. 6846, matches a similar one introduced last month in the Senate by Democratic vice-presidential nominee U.S. Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del.

“This bill puts Congress clearly on record in support of the bedrock principle that congressional involvement and approval is required before the President can enter into any agreement obligating the United States to the defense of Iraq from internal or external threats,” Lee said in her news release.

“An agreement to commit American troops to the defense and security of another country is not routine or typical or minor. It is a major commitment that must have the support of the American people, which can only be reflected by the Congress of the United States. My legislation ensures that the Congress has the final say in determining whether and under what conditions the United States will commit more blood and treasure to guarantee the security of the sovereign nation of Iraq.”

This bill codifies a Defense Authorization bill amendment offered by Lee and adopted earlier this year by a bipartisan majority in the House. Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, is among the bill’s 10 cosponsors.

Posted on Thursday, September 11th, 2008
Under: Barbara Lee, Iraq, Joe Biden, Lynn Woolsey, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Bay Area activism, near and far

There’s plenty of liberal activism a-brewin’, as usual.

El Cerrito piano tuner and longtime pro-Palestinian activist Paul Larudee, a cofounder of the Free Gaza Movement, and his cohorts are about to set sail from Cyprus en route to the Gaza Strip in an effort to “raise international awareness about the prison-like closure of the Gaza Strip and pressure the international community to review its sanctions policy and end its support for continued Israeli occupation.” It won’t be a cakewalk for this international band of activists; Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Sunday that Israeli defense officials “favor forcefully blocking” the boats’ arrival, as “allowing the ships to reach the Gaza coastline could create a dangerous precedent.”

Closer to home, CODEPINK is gearing up for the Democratic National Convention in Denver next week. Bay Area doyenne of dissent Medea Benjamin and her group will be holding a “Peace Room” pre-convention party “to make art, friends, plans, and a peace platform” from 7 to 9 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, Aug. 19, in the CODEPINK/Global Exchange office on the second floor of 2017 Mission St. in San Francisco. Later this week, they’ll have an “All Aboard for Peace” send-off for six Bay Area activists getting on Amtrak to Denver; that’ll be at 8:15 a.m. Friday, Aug. 22, at the Emeryville Amtrak station, 5885 Horton St. According to their news release, they’re headed to Denver and later to the RNC convention in St. Paul, Minn., to “demand, in full creative force, that an end to the occupation of Iraq, no war with Iran and a commitment to peace be at the top the political agenda… CODEPINK will also be speaking out against the financing of the conventions by oil, telecom and pharmaceutical companies, exposing how corporate money corrupts the political system.” They’ve even put their schedule of actions at the conventions online.

And, speaking of the conventions, some prominent Bay Area activists — including Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg of Berkeley and “peace mom” Cindy Sheehan, who’s now running an independent Congressional campaign to unseat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco — are among those who’ve issued an open, online letter calling on people to go to Denver “to protest war, torture, and repression.” Other signatories include Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney; historian and activist Howard Zinn; and Vietnam veteran and activist Ron Kovic (“Born on the Fourth of July“).

Posted on Monday, August 18th, 2008
Under: Berkeley, Cindy Sheehan, Cynthia McKinney, Democratic Party, Elections, General, Green Party, Iran, Iraq, Nancy Pelosi, Republican Party | 1 Comment »