Tuesday, February 12, 2013. Chaos and violence continue, the State Dept gets pressed on the Camp Ashraf residents, Nouri continues his clampdown on Baghdad, Norman Solomon rates Colin Powell’s lie-filled speech to the UN, Joshua Key talks about being a war resister in Canada, students in England talk about the impact the global protests against the war in February 2003 had on them, and more.
The 10th anniversary of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell lying to the United Nations — because lying was the only way to sell the illegal war — was last week. His guy pal Lawrence Wilkerson worked hard to spin for Powell last week. But, as Third noted, Norman Solomon repeatedly countered the revisionary spin: “turned out a column of truth, went on Democracy Now! and debated Larry (Amy was so supportive of Larry, wasn’t she?) and then discussed Powell’s presentation on CounterSpin.” Norman Solomon also appeared last week on Danny Schechter’s News Dissector Radio which airs Thursdays on the Progressive Radio Network at 5:00 pm EST. You can stream it here (Media Channel). And we’ll note an exchange from that.
Norman Solomon: Lawrence Wilkerson was the chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell and he stayed in that position until 2005. He has claimed credit or blame for writing the basic script that Colin Powell read at his now infamous presentation to the UN Security Council on February 5, 2003 which turned out was six weeks before the invasion of Iraq. And so yesterday was occasioned by this week being the tenth anniversary of that speech — I think arguably, Danny, perhaps the most dangerous, destructive and disreputable speech given by a US diplomat in the last several decades — and that’s saying something.
Danny Schechter: So here we had Secretary of State Colin Powell sitting in a chair on the hill and behind him was the Director of the CIA who could have been actually his puppet master. Basically with a lie, basically suggesting that we were being threatened by Iraq, Iraq had these dangerous weapons, these dangerous chemicals and that action was necessary and, you know, that the truth, the facts didn’t have much to do with the presentation. Did it?
Norman Solomon: Well what’s mind blowing is that it’s so easy to forget what at tremendous waterfall and avalanche of praise greeted Colin Powell’s speech to the UN Security Council in New York ten years ago. And just not only from the Fox News type of media outlets, we’re talking the New York Times, the Washington Post, on the front page, on the editorial page, the editorials by these esteemed papers. When you go back and you look, not only did the Washington Post, for instance, with its lead editorial speaking for the newspaper itself, headline their editorial with “Irrefutable” and saying that the issue was settled and that Weapons of Mass Destruction were definitely in the possession of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, but then when you go to the flip page, the opposite page of opinion that day, you had three columnists — two of which are still with us — Jim Hoagland and Richard Cohen — and then one who has since passed away, the usually sensible, but not on that day sensible, Mary McGrory. And all three of them were in total accord, saying that Colin Powell had made a convincing case. So it went at that point. All dissent was basically excluded from the mass media frame and it was off to war.
And we’ll stop there. Norman Solomon’s latest column is “War Makers Are In a Bunker” (San Francisco Bay Guardian). and pick up in a second with Danny, at the end of his show, discussing the NDAA. For background on that, this is from Chris Hedges’ “The NDAA and the Death of the Democratic State” (Truthdig):
Now for Danny Schechter’s commentary:
We had a guests on the program a few weeks ago, Carl Mayer, a lawyer who has been fighting the battle against the NDAA. He was in court confronting the Obama administration. Earlier, judges on the appeals court in New York threw out this NDAA ruling in a lawsuit brought by Chris Hedges and some others and who are very concerned about the possibility of legislation that allows for indefinite detention. You get on some list and suddenly you’re in jail for life with no recourse and no ability to appeal and no ability to even understand why you’ve been so chosen. You know, of course you’ll be labeled a ‘terrorist’ and all of the rest of it, whether or not you are. And so a court in New York was urged to reverse the ruling by the Obama administration, the Harvard law school, professor turned president is now fighting against Chris Hedges, former reporter of the New York Times. And as part of an effort to pass this onerous legislation of the NDAA — I have a video on my blog NewsDissector.net of the press conference that took place downtown, I was hoping that Kat Waters could join us because she was there to talk a little bit about this because she was there but, you know, this is a really momentous thing that’s going on with these drones defining our “national defense,” with cyberwar. You know, I’ve just written a piece for Al Jazeera about cyberwar and secret directives signed by the president and all the rest of it. And we have a situation where Joe Scarborough called Obama like an American king who decides personally what our policy should be. You know this flouts the whole spirit of democracy. It’s a very serious seat of measures, repressive legislation and edicts at the presidential level based on fear of terrorism, fear of cyberwar, fear of American citizens taking action and being able to preemptively arrest people before they even do anything — you know, commit any crime — because they may be thinking of committing a crime. At any rate, the New York Times today has a long story about this. Chris Hedges, somebody who has been on the show before, who I admire — there’s also a controversy within this controversy because within his legal findings, Chris mentioned that he’d had some contact with the RCP — the Revolutionary Communist Party — implying somehow that they’re terrorists which, of course, they aren’t. So this is a very complex piece of legislation in which people can become informers against each other and-and the President of the United States, rather than trying to expand internet freedom, expand free speech, is silent on important issues.
Turning to the topic of Iraq, Mary Riddell (Telegraph of London) observes:
In May 2003, soon after Saddam’s effigy fell, the party achieved a lead on the Tories that was not replicated until this week, when Ed Miliband widened his advantage over David Cameron to 12 points. Tony Blair’s equivalent bounce, in the brief moment when the Iraq war seemed won, was quickly drowned in blood and blame. Mindful of once-devoted voters who denounced Mr Blair as a war criminal, Labour strategists are dreading the damage that Iraq may yet wreak on Mr Miliband.
[. . .]
Mr Miliband, who has just set up a shadow cabinet sub-committee on liberty and security, is planning an anniversary “intervention” in which he will reiterate that Labour was wrong to take the country to war. However mindful his strategists may be of a humanitarian disaster, they also have an eye on self-interest. Labour has lost “hundreds of thousands of votes” and yet, in the words of a senior figure: “Some Labour MPs still aren’t in the same place as Labour voters.” In other words, they remain unrepentant. If the Iraq anniversary proves damaging, then the Chilcot Inquiry, expected to report next year, will be more toxic by far.
Turning to Camp Liberty, a story that starts with Camp Ashraf. Approximately 3,400 people were at Camp Ashraf when the US invaded Iraq in 2003. They were Iranian dissidents who were given asylum by Saddam Hussein decades ago. The US government authorized the US military to negotiate with the residents. The US military was able to get the residents to agree to disarm and they became protected persons under Geneva and under international law.
Despite that legal status and the the legal obligation on the part of the US government to protect the residents, since Barack Obama was sworn in as US president, Nouri has ordered not one but two attacks on Camp Ashraf resulting in multiple deaths. Let’s recap. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled “Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents,” Amnesty International described this assault, “Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike.” April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, “Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out.” Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observes that “since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf ‘noncombatants’ and ‘protected persons’ under the Geneva Conventions.”
Under court order, the US State Dept evaluated their decision to place the MEK on the terrorist list and, September 28th, took the MEK off the terrorist list. Saturday there was an attack on Camp Liberty. Prensa Latina reports, ” A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release.” CNN explained, “The rocket and mortar attack occurred at Camp Hurriya, a onetime U.S. base formerly known as Camp Liberty, which is now the home of the Iranian exile group Mujahedin-e-Khalq. Accounts of the number of people killed and wounded in the attack vary.” In today’s US State Dept press briefing, spokesperson Victoria Nuland was asked about the attack by AFP’s Jo Bidell which kicked off questions from others present as well.
MS. NULAND: Okay. Jo.
QUESTION: Can I ask about the attack on Camp Liberty at the weekend?
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I saw you put out a statement condemning the attack.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: And I wondered if you had any update from the Iraqi authorities about who they might consider was behind it. And there’s also been some calls, notably from Representative Ros-Lehtinen, for the residents who are in Camp Liberty to be moved back to Camp Ashraf, and I wondered what the United States position was on that.
MS. NULAND: Well, first let just reiterate what we said in our statement at the weekend – you got me speaking British here – over the weekend. The United States condemns in strongest terms the vicious and senseless terror attack that took place at Camp Hurriya which killed seven people and has injured dozens more. We offer our condolences to the family.
Our understanding is that the Government of Iraq has now undertaken to promptly investigate the attack. We call on the Iraqi Government to do so earnestly and to fully carry out this investigation and to take all appropriate measures to enhance the security of the camp, consistent with its commitments and obligations to the safety and security of the residents. The terrorists responsible for this attack must also be brought to justice.
The answer for the individuals at Hurriya is not to relocate back to Ashraf, in our view. The only peaceful and durable solution for these individuals is resettlement outside Iraq, and that should continue to be the focus of everybody involved in this effort. As you know, we are continuing to support the work that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq and the UNHCR are undertaking to try to work on resettlement of these people.
QUESTION: How much progress is actually being made? Because it has been going on for quite some time now – in resettlement, sorry.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I mean, I think there are a number of issues here. There are questions of working through the individual dossiers and matching those who are willing to be resettled with recipient countries. So that process is going on, and UNHCR is doing that work now. But there is also the question of continuing to encourage those inhabitants of the camp that resettlement outside of Iraq is the best option, and that’s a message we all need to continue to send.
QUESTION: Toria, are there not still some residents still at Camp Ashraf?
MS. NULAND: I need to check up on that. The last time I checked up into that we still had some 50 to 100 who had declined to move. But I’ll check on that for you, Arshad.
QUESTION: Is it – just on this –
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: — calls for people to go back to Liberty from wherever they come from, are those kind of calls helpful at all? This – I mean —
MS. NULAND: To go back to Ashraf, you mean?
QUESTION: Well, yeah, exactly. For an elected member – for a member of Congress – or for anyone in a position of some kind of authority to suggest that MEK people go back to a camp that you went to considerable lengths to get closed down, does that – is that helpful at all in terms of the – your policy and the idea of resettlement, which you’re actively working on, even though you no longer have a point person?
MS. NULAND: Well, we do have point people; they’re just inside the NEA Bureau and the Legal Bureau, rather than in a special office now. But I would simply say that we make the same point privately as I just made publicly to both Americans and Iraqis and international —
QUESTION: Yeah, but it seems to me that this is raising – it’s going to – it makes it more difficult. The MEK leadership has been recalcitrant, to say the least. It took a lot of teeth pulling to get them out and —
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Just for the record, as far as I know, they’re still not out of Camp Ashraf.
QUESTION: Well, there’s still that residual group, but for the majority of the residents, it took a lot of painstaking work to get that done. And it seems to me that for people now to be saying that they should go back, somehow Ashraf should be reopened, is just completely unhelpful to what you’re trying to do in terms of resettlement.
MS. NULAND: Well, again, the point that I made here is the same point that we make in our private meetings with those who advocate for the MEK, that if they want to see them safe, if they want to see them have a better life, the answer is outside of Iraq.
QUESTION: How long —
MS. NULAND: Said.
QUESTION: On Camp Liberty, I mean when the site was chosen, everybody knew that it was within range of mortars from Sadr City, probably everybody knows the source of these mortars, without the benefits of the C-RAM that the Americans had there before. So why not resettlement, or in fact, why not urge the Europeans to take many of these residents – I have spoken to them personally – to go back? Some of them are European citizens – to go back to their countries.
MS. NULAND: Well, this is precisely what UNHCR is working on, what we are working on with UNHCR, is to offer as much resettlement opportunity as possible, including in certain cases where there are ties to other countries as well.
QUESTION: Are any of them eligible for resettlement to the United States?
MS. NULAND: In principle, they could be. We are now in the process of evaluating some of the referrals that UNHCR has sent our way, and we’re strongly, as I said, encouraging others to do the same. As UNHCR looks at these individual cases, they make recommendations to resettlement countries. We’re looking at ours.
QUESTION: Have you accepted any?
MS. NULAND: We have not made any decisions yet, Arshad.
QUESTION: Do you think it would be easier for – do you think it might help your argument that other countries should take some if you might take some?
MS. NULAND: Again, this is – usually works best when there is burden sharing. We’re looking at what we can do.
Yesterday, Alsumaria reported that Kurdish Alliance MP Ala Talabani publicly declared that the Iraqi government has an obligation to protest the residents. Ala Talabani is the niece of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (who is currently in Germany recovering from a stroke).
In the failed state of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki is refusing to allow Iraqis from the west to enter their own country’s capital. We noted this development yesterday morning and in yesterday’s snapshot. The non-Iraqi press continues to ignore it with only one except: Jane Arraf (see yesterday’s snapshots for her Tweets) who reports for Al Jazeera, the Christian Science Monitor and PRI. Today, she Tweets.
Alsumaria reports that there will be a ban on ‘roaming’ in Baghdad starting Thursday and that “security reasons” are being cited for the curfew that kicks off at midnight tonight and for the refusal to allow ‘outsiders’ into Baghdad. Dar Addustour adds that security forces have been put on “high alert” and that there is pressure on various mosques in Baghdad not to call for demonstrations on Friday while i.d.s continue to be checked and people from western Iraq are being refused access to Baghdad. The Iraq Times notes that two military brigades are being used to stop cars attempting to enter Baghdad.
This is all in response to a request, not a threat. An official request prompted this alarm and panic from Nouri. From Saturday:
Kitabat reports that yesterday some protesters in Anbar Province announced their intent to march to Baghdad next Friday. All Iraq News notes National Alliance MP Qasim al-Araji is calling out the plan to stage a sit-in in Baghdad. The Ministry of Interior (run by Nouri al-Maliki since he never nominated anyone to head it) had its own announcement. Alsumaria reports that today it was declared their intent to crack down on any protest — anywhere in the country — that they felt was a threat or lacked a permit. Al Mada notes that the spokesperson for the Anbar protests, Sayad Lafi, states that the protesters have written Baghdad seeking permission to pray in the city on Friday and return the same day.
Alsumaria notes that the National Alliance is calling for the western protesters not to come to Baghdad and that this call follows a hastily put together meet-up in the office of National Alliance leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari — a meeting that Nouri personally attended. Now when provinces wanted to break off — using the Constitution’s provisions for that — and become semi-autonomous, Nouri told them they couldn’t. But now he won’t allow western Iraqis to enter Baghdad, to enter their own capital?
Not only did Nouri attend a meeting at al-Jaafari’s office but Alsumaria also reports — and provides a photo — that al-Jaafari visited Nouri at Nouri’s office late last night. When you think of all the foot dragging by Nouri over the last weeks, it’s rather amazing how motivated he can get out of the fear that Iraqis from outside Baghdad might show up to demonstrate.
All Iraq News reports that late yesterday the Anbar protesters who hope to demonstrate in Baghdad state that they still planned to demonstrate in Baghdad on Friday. Alsumaria reports that the Anbar Provincial Council is asking the protesters not to go to Baghdad but, they note, the spokesperson for the protesters Said Lafi says they will meet tomorrow to decide what they are going to do.
Alsumaria notes that Iraqiya is decrying the “illegal and arbitrary practices” to prevent Iraqis from Anbar Province from coming to Baghdad. Iraqiya is the political slate that won the 2010 parliamentary elections. Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya.
Yesterday, we noted the confusion with regards to Moqtada al-Sadr:
News outlets are reporting conflicting claims regarding the movement leader and cleric. Al Rafidayn reports that Moqtada has decreed that his followers will not participate in the demonstrations this Friday. By contrast, All Iraq News reports that Moqtada’s called on his supporters to participate in the demonstrations this Friday to show support for the people of Bahrain. Al Rafidayn states Moqtada called off participation because of Nouri’s actions, Nouri issuing a statement through the Office of the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces calling on the Iraqi military to physically stop protesters.
Today, Alsumaria reports Moqtada al-Sadr released a statement saying that he calls for his followers to demonstrate on Friday throughout Iraq following morning prayers and to support the second anniversary of the Bahrain revolution.
The US Embassy in Baghdad issued the following warning:
Emergency Messages for U.S. Citizens
Risk of Terror Attack and Demonstrations
February 11, 2013
The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad warns U.S. citizens of continued incidents of violence in Iraq, following the February 9 terrorist attack at Camp Hurriya, which killed six people. Attacks, similar to what occurred on February 9, may occur at any time.
In addition, the U.S. Embassy warns U.S. citizens of ongoing demonstrations across the country, which have occasionally turned violent. Citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments, to be vigilant regarding their personal security, and to avoid all demonstrations, particularly after Friday prayers, when most demonstrations have occurred.
The U.S. government considers the potential threat to U.S. Government personnel throughout Iraq to be serious enough to require them to live and work under strict security guidelines. All U.S. Government employees under the authority of the U.S. Chief of Mission must follow strict safety and security procedures when traveling outside the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulates. We urge U.S. citizens to stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times. Please check our current Travel Warning and Country Specific Information Sheet for further security guidance.
We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Iraq enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at www.Travel.State.Gov. STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the U.S. embassy or nearest U.S. consulate to contact you in an emergency. If you don’t have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The Embassy also offers SMS text alerts delivered to your mobile phone when new security and emergency messages are released.
For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State’s Internet website at travel.state.gov where the Worldwide Caution, Country Specific Information for Iraq, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts can be found. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well. Download our free Smart Traveler iPhone or Android app to have travel information at your fingertips.
Up to date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
We’re about to move to the topic of water but another important development is summed up in a Tweet by AFP’s Prashant Rao:
In other pressing issues, freshwater is vanishing in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. Sean Patterson (Web Pro News) explains, “The study, to be published this week in the journal Water Resources Research, was based on data from NASA‘s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites. The findings show that, starting in 2003, parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran in the Tigris and Euphrates river basins lost 144 cubic kilometers (117 million acre feet) of stored freshwater – nearly the same about of water found in the Dead Sea.” John Roach (NBC News) quotes University of California Irvine hydrologist and lead investigator on the study Jay Famiglietti who states, “It is a pretty big water loss. And (the Middle East) is right up there with some of the most water-stressed regions of the world.” e! Science News quotes Famiglietti stating, “They just do not have that much water to begin with, and they’re in a part of the world that will be experiencing less rainfall with climate change. Those dry areas are getting drier. Everyone in the world’s arid regions needs to manage their available water resources as best they can.” AFP adds, “Part of the loss was attributed to a 2007 drought that dried out soil and shrank snowpacks, and another part to the loss of surface water from lakes. But most of it — about 60 percent — was traced to the pumping of groundwater, which typically increases during and after a drought.”
Turning to violence, Alsumaria reports a tribal leader and his driver were injured in a Baquba roadside bombing, and Sheikh Khaled Ahmed Husein al-Obeidi was shot dead in Kirkuk. All Iraq News notes that last night a collection server was shot dead in Baghdad, a Baghdad bombing injured a national security officer and a soldier was injured in a Baghdad shooting. Alsumaria also notes that last night a Mosul home invasion resulted in 4 family members being killed.
Six weeks before the start of the Iraq War, protesters mobilized around the world attempting to stop it before it started. The three countries whose governments were pushing for the illegal war were the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. The leaders of the three countries were Bully Boy Bush, Prime Minister Tony Blair and Prime Minister John Howard. Let’s move over to Australia where today on Mornings with Steve Austin (Australia’s ABC — link is audio), Austin spoke with Just Peace‘s Annette Brownlie. Excerpt.
Steve Austin: Do you remember where you were when the planes struck the World Trade Center? I can exactly. I can then also remember where I was when the invasion of Iraq started, I think, three years later, that’s what it was. I was standing in the ABC [. . .] and we switched on the TV and all of the sudden the CNN cameras flipped on to Baghdad and they just waited. And you knew what it meant because you knew that they had the drop, the invasion was about to start. And I remember there was even an instruction went down from ABC News that it didn’t matter what we saw on CNN, we weren’t to say or announce that the invasion of Iraq had started because of a whole range of journalistic reasons, I won’t bore you with the details. But that time is seared in my memory. We did a lot of stories on the Iraq War and spoke with a lot of people ten years ago — or more — ten years ago today, I think it is, who were vehemently against the invasion of Iraq. And, as we now know, there’s no evidence that Iraq had any involvement in the attack on the World Trade Center nor that they had a current Weapons of Mass Destruction program A public forum is being held to mark a tenth demonstration of that protest because it was ten years ago today. Annette Brownlie is from Just Peace. Annette, take me back ten years ago today and the march in Brisbane. Describe it for me, draw on your memory, your mind’s eye, and describe it for me if you will. Morning to you.
Annette Brownlie: It’s all very vivid. As one of the organizers of that mass protest in Brisbane along with then lord mayor Jim Soorley, we were at the Roma Street Forum expecting, you know, like in our wildest hopes, seven-to-ten-thousand people. But that had to be multiplied by ten. So between seventy and a hundred thousand people came that day. And, uhm, many of the people that came in by train told me later that they couldn’t get on the trains, the trains were packed, they had to wait for the next train. A lot of people turned up late. And people were arriving at the Roma Street Forum as the march actually arrived at the Riverstage. So it — it was incredible. We couldn’t believe it. But, you know, people around the world said the same thing.
[. . .]
Steve Austin: You started protesting at the age of 16 against the Vietnam War. Does it sadden you that this type of protest is still necessary but still appears to be ineffective?
Annette Brownlie: It saddens me that it’s still necessary, for sure. You know, in an ideal lifetime, you would see the fruits of your labor. But, you know, history isn’t like that, is it? It’s sometimes the really big paradigm shifts in human thinking take much longer than one person’s lifetime. And you think about slavery and just how long it took for people to accept that this was wrong. Think about women’s right to vote, it took a long time for that to take off. And I’m, you know, I see what we do in the peace movement as being a continuum. And at some point, we’re going to realize that wars, indiscriminate killing of people, is a crime and it doesn’t achieve what you want and it’s criminal activity.
In England, Great Britain’s Socialist Worker speaks with various students about what the protests did for them:
“The school student walkouts were inspiring.
I could see that protesting in solidarity with Iraq meant more to them than simply bunking off.
They learnt more about society in that one day of political action than they would ever learn at school.”
Adam Riaz Khan, school student, London
“15 February was the biggest turnout ever for a demonstration from Preston.
On the way back everyone was just so high. We knew we had been part of something historic.”
Michael Lavalette, Preston Stop the War
“The FBU was one of the first unions to affiliate to the Stop the War Coalition.
The huge opposition to war reassured many firefighters that what we were doing was right.
What was remarkable was the extent to which firefighters themselves opposed the war.
It would be wrong to suggest there was complete unity on the matter—many firefighters come from an armed forces background.
But even many of these could see through the lies and deceit.”
Paul Embury, FBU
© Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.
Officially, Canada wasn’t part of the Iraq War. The Canadian government did their part to support illegal war by refusing to grant sanctuary to war resisters. In December 2003, Joshua Key returned from Iraq on leave and decided to self-check out. He, Brandi Key (his wife) and their children moved to Philadelphia where they lived ‘underground’ with Joshua doing welding jobs and Brandi waiting tables. Jermy Hinzman was the first US war resister to openly go to Canada in the hopes of receiving asylum. The story of Jeremy Hinzman’s war resistance was something Joshua Key learned of online. In March of 2005, the Key family crossed the border into Candada where Joshua, Brandi and their four children have have made their home since. The Keys continue to fight to stay in Canada. He explained in Michelle Mason’s documentary Breaking Ranks, “As we got down the Euphrates River and we took a sharp right turn , all we seen was heads and bodies. And American troops in the middle of them saying ‘we lost it.’ As soon as I stepped and I walked out the back of my APC, I seen two American soldier kicking the head around like a soccer ball. I stepped right back inside the tank and I told my squad leader . . . ‘I won’t have no part of this’.” He also told his story in the book The Deserter’s Tale: The Story of an Ordinary Soldier Who Walked Away from the War in Iraq. He was a guest on last week’s Global Research News Hour. Excerpt.
Michael Welch: You crossed into Canada in 2005 and sought to seek sanctuary here and not have to go back to the US. Can you tell us a little bit about how that process unrolled?
Joshua Key: It’s been one hell of a roller coaster. I mean, when I first came here in 2005, it was the liberal government. Things look very much different. At the time I came here, I sort of had a decent amount of hope. Through the years, of course, as everyone knows with the [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper government, things haven’t diminished by any means but things have really been a roller coaster — like I’ve been in immigration court many times, win one, lose one and then it sort of goes with all of us like that. We’ll all of us will lose, lose, lose and then we’ll have one win. There’s, I think, around 30 of us here that are doing the same thing that I am which is in the process of trying to stay in Canada legally and fight the system. But it has been very, very hard. I mean there’s only a few groups of people that the government has pretty well deemed bogus refugee claimants — and I mean in a personal manner — that’s been the Roma Gypsies as one and the other has been the war resisters. And it’s become a very hard battle. They put out bulletins, news bulletin 202 where the government stated that no immigration officials along the whole border regardless are not allowed to grant us any status. So that’s made it where we’re all here, we’re all in the system but yet we’re not allowed to work, we don’t get health care. I laugh many times because hearing the the radio news, you know, Minister of Immigration Mr. Kinney makes it seem like all these refugee applicants come here, we live off the system and we’re just running everything — and I think that’s the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever heard in my life.
Michael Welch: That sounds quite different from what we’ve heard about the Vietnam War, very much parallel to the Iraq one, people who could not stomach the idea of going to Vietnam, for legal and moral reasons and they came up here to Canada and were allowed to stay here. But you’re — your experience has obviously been quite different, eh?
Joshua Long: Yeah, I mean it’s a — You know, everyone says that in those times it was the draft and, yes, it was and that was the big, big difference from now. In other words, though, people don’t understand the poverty draft. I mean when you’re looking at nothing and you have no future and there is nothing? Like I’ve said, at that time I was married to my ex-wife, we had three children. There was no future. There was nothing. I mean, it was either, you go work at McDonalds and make nothing and then you go to a recruiter and they make it sound like you’re joining the most best establishment in the world: ‘You won’t have to go to war, you won’t have to do this, you won’t have to do that.’ And at that time, Afghanistan was going on but in the military’s eyes as well as most of my own time in the military, it was a joke. They didn’t see Afghanistan as a war, it was more of a, at that time, a peace keeping mission. It was a complete — a complete joke as far as we were concerned at that time. You know, Iraq hadn’t started. It was — For what I was being told and what I was being offered, I thought, “Why wouldn’t a person?” I mean, to make a life for yourself, to actually be able to sustain, have steady work? I wasn’t in there for the college money. I mean that wasn’t my deal. My deal was I wanted steady work and health care for my family.
Michael Welch: Mmm. And if I’m not mistaken, here you are in Canada and you’re not quite so — you’re really not that well off. You’re still struggling to make ends meet. Correct?
Joshua Long: Yes. At every given corner. I’m not allowed to work legally. It’s a give and take. I mean they don’t allow you to work, they don’t allow you to have health care. Me and my wife, who is Canadian, we are in the sponsorship —
Michael Welch: This is a second wife, correct?
Joshua Long: Yes. We’re in the sponsorship process but still, even within that process, you can’t — nor would we — but you can’t get no government help in any form. So you have to provide for yourself and you have to do for yourself which makes it very difficult just myself, I’m a skilled welder. I know that I could be making quite good money in Canada right now in many different places. But without having the ability to be allowed to work, you can’t — you can’t produce nothing.
Michael Welch: Mmm.
Joshua Key: And also the health care situation. Like I go to an emergency room, most people don’t understand this, I go to the emergency room, they don’t take me in and do what needs to be done. They look at me and say I’ve got to have $500 before I can even let you go in the back. And when you don’t have any money, that means you’re not going to the emergency room. I see how good it is from my wife and my children here because that’s an awesome system to where they get whatever they need covered. They walk into an emergency room and they get seen. It’s quite different from myself, but it goes to all the refugees and all the people applying for refugee status in Canada with the changes that have been made to the IFH — Internal Federal Health — it’s very damaging to what it has done to all and I worry about all people that are within the processes of — the health of everyone because when they did that and they took that away, that put a very much — and also another thing that the Harper government stated that was going to save taxpayers so much money, so much money. When boiled down to it, it save the individual taxpayer three cents to keep these, uh, —
Michael Welch: Refugees?
Joshua Key: — refugee applicants with at least the essential health care that they needed.
Michael Welch: And it’s not just people who are US vets, it’s refugees across the board.
Joshua Key: Exactly, that’s all the way across the board.
Lastly, in the United States, the Feminist Majority Foundation has issued the following:
all iraq news
the iraq times
feminist majority foundation