Five years after Bush’s “mission accomplished,” sharp rise in Iraqi and US casualties

This video from the USA in 2007 is called Mission Accomplished – 4 Years Later.

By Bill Van Auken:

Five years after “mission accomplished,” sharp rise in Iraqi and US casualties

2 May 2008

May 1 marked the fifth anniversary of the infamous “mission accomplished” speech delivered by President George W. Bush aboard a US aircraft carrier. Five years after what Bush proclaimed to be the end of “major combat operations” in Iraq, US casualties have reached a seven-month high, while the Iraqi death toll continues to mount.

In April, 52 US troops were killed in Iraq, the highest number since last September. The bulk of the casualties came in Baghdad, mostly in the crowded Shia slum neighborhoods of Sadr City. The sharp rise in US dead and wounded, and the far greater death and destruction being inflicted on Iraqi civilians, is the result of a month-old offensive launched by US and Iraqi puppet forces against the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to nationalist Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

See also here.

Report about dock workers in San Francisco, USA, May Day action against the Iraq war: here.

52 thoughts on “Five years after Bush’s “mission accomplished,” sharp rise in Iraqi and US casualties


    May 2, 2008

    Oakland Teach-In Looks at Budget Cuts and the War

    OAKLAND, Calif. — Third period at Paul Robeson High School in East Oakland was pretty much what you might expect on a sunny Thursday afternoon at the end of the term: distracted students, talk of graduation and nearly silent response to teachers’ questions.

    Until, of course, the topic turned to the recent cuts in the state’s education budget.

    “We don’t have any money because it’s all going to the war,” said Ashley Lawless, a 18-year-old senior who moments before had been obsessively fixing her hair. “And now they’re shutting all this stuff down.”

    That kind of angry outburst may have been precisely the point of a daylong act of educational disobedience undertaken on Thursday by about two dozen teachers across Oakland, who set aside their normal lesson plans in favor of topics like the war in Iraq, racial inequality and a recent 10 percent cut in the state schools budget.

    Craig Gordon, a social studies teacher at Robeson and the author of the day’s curriculum, said the goal was to raise awareness among students who may not have a firm grasp of the relationship between what happens at home and what happens “out there.”

    “I wanted them to actively think about the priorities of society, because they are the ones who are going to be most affected,” Mr. Gordon said. “They are the ones that need to be informed so they can make a decision on whether they want to do something about it.”

    The so-called teach-in was just one of a series of May Day events in California, including a work stoppage at several ports and large pro-immigrant demonstrations. Mr. Gordon’s classes were about a third empty because of a walkout by Latino students, some of whom chanted for immigrant rights outside the school’s fences.

    For those in school, however, the topics being bandied about were far juicier than the average civics class. Teachers from elementary school to adult education classes allowed students to discuss everything from whether the United States was committing acts of violence against innocent people to whether American businesses were getting rich on the backs of the poor.

    One worksheet handed out to students was blunt in its assessment of the current events: “About 1,000,000 Iraqis are dead and 4,000 American soldiers. The war will cost the U.S. about $2.8 trillion. Our schools don’t have money. Many people don’t have health care.”

    And while district officials did not officially sanction Thursday’s change in curriculum, they did not seem to mind, either.

    “We recognize that a comprehensive education needs to consider the subjects that are taught in relation to current events,” said Troy Flint, a district spokesman. “And today’s lessons exemplify that.”

    School districts across the state have voiced their displeasure with the cuts in financing, which come as California faces a $14.5 billion deficit. But perhaps nowhere have the objections been more pronounced than in Oakland, a historically underfinanced district of some 39,000 students, many of them poor. The district essentially went bankrupt in 2003 and was taken over by the state, though it has recently resumed local control over some administrative functions, Mr. Flint said.

    On Wednesday, members of the school board and local leaders rallied to protest the recent cuts and unveiled several proposals meant to help generate funds, including closing a loophole on a state yacht tax. More unusual, the district is also praising a plan to ask residents in Democratic-led legislative districts to “call, e-mail, and/or send a postcard” to residents in Republican districts to try to drum up support for increased taxes on oil, vehicles and the wealthy.

    “People just seem to tune out, because every year there seems to be a budget crisis,” said Kerry Hamill, a board member who organized the rally on Wednesday. “We wanted people to know that this one is different.”

    The question of whether such nonviolent means really work also had students debating in a rickety modular classroom at Oakland High School during Thursday’s teaching of the alternate curriculum.

    Taurus Hamilton, a junior, said he was not sure.

    “Sometimes you need some violence to show people that you got something to say,” Mr. Hamilton said. “Sometimes you got to show people what you’re willing to do to get what you need.”

    A classmate, Vanessa Dilworth, disagreed. “That’s not right,” she said. “If you don’t do it a peaceful way, there’s people that are going to beat you down. It’s like Martin Luther King versus Malcolm X.”

    Their teacher, Ben Visnick, came down firmly on the side of nonviolence, but let the students battle it out verbally for several minutes. A former president of the teachers’ union, which helped organize Thursday’s curriculum shift, Mr. Visnick said earlier classes had sparred over the economy and the school system’s budget, which is never far from some students’ minds.

    “Most of our students are working class or poor,” Mr. Visnick said. “And they know that the deck is not always stacked fairly.”



    Dockworkers take May Day off, idling all West Coast ports
    Their union says the action is to protest the war in Iraq, but port operators and shippers say it’s an attempt to influence their contract.
    By Louis Sahagun and Ronald D. White
    Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

    May 2, 2008

    Thousands of dockworkers at 29 West Coast ports took the day off Thursday, effectively shutting down operations at the busy complexes in what the union called a protest of the war in Iraq but employers worried might be a prelude to labor unrest.

    The stand-down at ports including Los Angeles and Long Beach — which combined handle 40% of the imported goods arriving in the United States each year — idled ships and cranes, stranded thousands of big rigs and halted movement of about 10,000 containers during the eight-hour day shift.

    The show of force by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which ended as workers reported for the Thursday night shift at Southern California’s twin ports, came two months before its contract expires with the Pacific Maritime Assn., a group of cargo carriers, terminal operators and stevedore companies.

    The action also, as one labor historian put it, added significant support for May Day, which has become the preeminent working-class and protest event of the year. The union may have taken a calculated risk that allowing its members to participate was worth potentially aggravating employers in the middle of contract negotiations.

    “This union looks at itself as the vanguard of the working class on the West Coast, and I think there was a sense that they needed to participate in this event,” said Nelson Lichtenstein, a UC Santa Barbara history professor and director of the school’s Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy.

    At the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach on Thursday morning, however, there were no antiwar activities — no protesters, no signs with antiwar sentiments and no indication of any large-scale opposition by dockworkers to U.S. policy in Iraq. The issue was discussed, union leaders said, during a private meeting of rank-and-file members at the ILWU Local 13 headquarters in Wilmington.

    “We are supporting the troops and telling politicians in Washington that it’s time to end the war in Iraq,” union President Bob McEllrath said in a news release.

    The union’s 25,000 members decided in early January to stand down on May 1. Their day off came despite an arbitrator’s order on Wednesday that they report to work. That order followed a Pacific Maritime Assn. complaint about the planned action, which it said violated contract obligations.

    “Is this a voluntary war protest or a strike aimed at leveraging labor negotiation? We’re not sure,” said Steve Getzug, spokesman for the association. “We’re concerned. We thought these kinds of old tricks were a thing of the past.”

    During the last negotiations in 2002, employers accused the union of a work slowdown and locked out the union at West Coast ports for 10 days, causing a retail business crisis that was interrupted when President Bush invoked the Taft-Hartley Act. At the time, economists estimated that the labor dispute cost the economy $1 billion to $2 billion a day.

    “The arbitrator is the ‘supreme court’ of the waterfront and what he says has resonance,” Getzug said. “And he said twice to the union that it had a duty to inform its membership to report to the docks today. The evidence is clear they defied that order.”

    The nation’s largest retail group said it wasn’t surprised by what happened Thursday because longshoremen are routinely involved in some sort of job action on May Day.

    “This is something that happens every year [and] shippers and retailers know about it,” said Craig Sherman, the National Retail Federation’s vice president of government relations. “It’s going to have no impact at all in terms of merchandise on store shelves.”

    Nor was Sherman concerned about the implications for contract negotiations, which he said began earlier this year and are “going pretty smoothly.”

    The loss of one work shift — even the busiest one of the day — was going to have a very limited effect on the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Los Angeles and Long Beach are not only the nation’s busiest container ports, they are also by far the most efficient in the U.S., although they do not move cargo as rapidly as the fastest Asian or European ports.

    “It will cost us extra money. We’ll have to run an extra shift to catch up, but this will not slow the ports down much and it won’t impact our customers at all,” said Mike Zampa, a spokesman for APL, a subsidiary of one of the world’s biggest ocean shipping conglomerates, Singapore-based Neptune Orient Lines.

    Perhaps hardest hit by the job action were the local ports’ 16,800 independent truck operators, many of whom were greeted at terminal gates by guards with a blunt message: “We’re closed. Turn around.”

    Among them was Guillermo Castillo, 35, of Calexico, who decided to wait it out near the TraPac Terminal in the Port of Los Angeles. Resting his head on a towel matted against his cab door, Castillo complained: “I heard nothing about this. I’m losing a whole day of work, and about $580.”

    A mile to the east at the Port of Long Beach, Nelson Hernandez, 25, of Bellflower was among half a dozen short-haulers killing time at a lunch wagon parked outside a terminal gate. Shaking his head in dismay, he said, “No work anyplace around here. Losing $400, at least. I’m going home.”

    A few feet away, lunch wagon cashier Pin Lim mused, “The silence around here today is really weird.”

    Times staff writer Leslie Earnest contributed to this report.



    West Coast ports shut down
    By Francine Brevetti, Staff Writer
    Article Created: 05/01/2008 12:20:29 PM PDT

    Anti-war protest shuts down the West Coat port operations
    Immigrants and local labor activists march in Oakland

    West Coast cargo traffic came to a halt Thursday as port workers staged daylong anti-war protests, terminal operators said Thursday.
    Six thousand dockworkers were scheduled to report for work Thursday morning, according to the Pacific Maritime Association. The work action left ships and truck drivers idle at ports from Long Beach to Seattle, Pacific Maritime Association, said PMA spokesman Kevin Elliott.

    Workers were expected to return for the start of the evening shift, he said. Elliott estimated that at least 10,000 containers of cargo have not been loaded or unloaded from their vessels, costing untold losses and even people’s jobs.

    The Port of Oakland marine terminals opened for business Thursday morning but so few longshore workers showed up for the day shift, which runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., that “there was insufficient labor to move any cargo,” said spokesperson Marilyn Sandifur the port’s spokesperson.

    She anticipated the effects would be minimal because a number of vessels had recently left the harbor and only one ship was yet to arrive that might be “impacted by this job action.”

    She said the Union Pacific rail terminal where antiwar processors tried to discourage members of the rail workers’ union from working also opened this morning as scheduled, but there won’t be much to do was no cargo moving at the marine terminal.

    In a statement Thursday, the International Longshore & Warehouse Union defended its members’ right to take off work to protestthe U.S. war in Iraq.

    “Big foreign corporations that control global shipping aren’t loyal or accountable to any country,” said Bob McEllrath, the ILWU’s international president. “But longshore workers are different. We’re loyal to America, and we won’t stand by while our country, our troops, and our economy are destroyed by a war.”

    The West Coast ports are the nation’s principal gateway for cargo container traffic from the Far East. In a typical day shift, about 10,000 cargo containers are loaded and unloaded from ships coastwide, according to the PMA.

    Longshore workers handle everything from operating cranes at port marine terminals to the clerical work in coordinating truck cargo deliveries. A total of about 25,000 of them work at 29 ports in California, Oregon and Washington. About 6,000 were working the day shift last Thursday, handling cargo from 30 ships up and down the coast, according to the PMA.

    J. Craig Shearman, a spokesman for the National Retail Federation, said shippers and exporters expected no significant, long-term disruptions from the walkout.

    “This is something that happens every year,” Shearman said. “Shippers and exporters know about it and plan around it, and we don’t expect to see any significant disruptions from it.” Shearman said many longshore workers on the West Coast took the day off last year to participate in immigration rallies. Longshore worker Theo Earle Frazier reported that the union had taken similar actions to protest the Iraq war in a previous year and much earlier they rallied to condemn apartheid in South Africa.

    Meanwhile, at the ILWU union house in San Francisco, members gathered in the morning to organize a march down San Francisco’s Embarcadero and assemble at Justin Herman Plaza.

    Dressed in black jackets decked with medals and buttons, the ILWU Drill Team kicked off their West Coast work stoppage by clanging down Market Street, twirling cargo hooks in their precision routine _ literally abandoning ship in honor of International Workers Day May 1.

    Their supporters also gathered at the Embarcadero to call for an end to the Iraq war, more money for schools and legalization for the nation’s estimated 12 million undocumented workers.

    “They stood here in the ’30s,” actor Danny Glover called out to the roaring crowd. “They stood here in the 40s. They stood here in the 50s.

    They stood here in the ’60s, ’70’s, ’80s and they stand here in the same spirit in the 21st century.”

    Glover delivered an emotional recitation of Martin Luther King’s speech on behalf the nation’s poor.

    The rally took place a few blocks from where in 1934 striking workers beaten and gunned down on a day called Bloody Thursday. By contrast, Thursday’s cheerful rally was so amiable police were hard to find.

    “The employers’ associations we deal with will get the message today,” said Richard Cavalli, president of the ILWU Local No. 34. “It’s ironic. I turned on the TV today and this is the fifth anniversary of the day George Bush stood on that carrier and said, ‘Mission Accomplished.'” A spokesperson for the San Francisco Police Department said the city did not take a head count but she estimated that some 300 people filled much of Justin Herman Plaza. The diverse gathering included elders in wheelchairs and young people on bicycles — nurses, teachers, veterans, retirees, some sporting gray beards and other festooned with tattoos.

    “We have to speak out against the war for working people who are non-union, who don’t have a voice and don’t have the luxury of taking the day off,” said Thibeaux Lawrence, 66.

    The union voted 97 to 3 for the work stoppage, said Stan Woods, 56, of Oakland.

    Meanwhile the PMA, longshore workers’ employers, pointed out that just last Friday, the Coastal Arbitrator, whom they call the Supreme Court of the US shipping industry, instructed the ILWU that if they did not report to work on May 1 they would be violating their contracts. The PMA and the longshore workers are currently in negotiations preceding the expiration of their contract in July.

    Peace activist Cindy Sheehan excoriated U.S. Senator Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, who “wants to give George Bush more money than he even asked for.”

    And 12-year Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Georgia, congratulated the longshoremen for “drawing a line in the sand” against what she called the Bush-Pelosi war.

    The event drew people with long memories of political and union activity. “We were red diaper babies and we’re proud of it,” said Mary Werthimer, 57, who came with her sister Martha, 59. “Our dad worked with (former longshoreman head) Harry Bridges. These were our roots. This is the power of the working people.”



    May 02, 2008
    25,000 Dockworkers Shut Down West Coast Ports in Historic Antiwar Protest

    In the largest labor strike since the invasion of Iraq, ports along the West Coast–all twenty-nine of them–were shut down as some 25,000 dockworkers went on a one-day strike to protest the war. We speak to Jack Heyman of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

    AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to turn very quickly now to the protests that took place here on Thursday to mark May Day. There were–in the largest labor strike since the invasion of Iraq, ports along the West Coast, all twenty-nine of them, were shut down as some 25,000 dockworkers went on a one-day strike to protest the war. Several other smaller antiwar actions took place in other parts of the country. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of marchers in defense of immigrant labor rights in several cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Milwaukee, New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Houston, Seattle and here in San Diego, took to the streets.

    We’re going to turn now to the dockworkers’ strike, where the workers from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union brought the port operations to a halt from Long Beach to Seattle in defiance of their employers and arbitrators.

    We’re joined on the phone from San Francisco by Jack Heyman, an officer with the International. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Jack Heyman. Can you talk about the significance of what happened yesterday?

    JACK HEYMAN: Well, yeah. We were really proud here on the West Coast, as far as the longshore union, the ILWU, making this stand, because it’s part of our legacy, really, of standing up on principled issues. And this, I think, is the first strike ever–well, I would call it a stop work, work stoppage, whatever you want–workers withholding their labor in demand–and demanding an end to the war and immediate withdrawal of the troops.

    AMY GOODMAN: What about the significance of the arbitrator saying that the longshoremen should not go out on strike?

    JACK HEYMAN: Well, you know, the interesting thing about this action is that not only did we defy the arbitrator, but in a certain sense we defied our own union officials. The union officials did not want to have the actions that we organized up and down the coast. And the arbitrator’s decision is simply–we don’t take our orders from the arbitrators. We don’t take it from judges. The rank and file goes out and does what it has to do.

    We did that in 1984, when the ship came in from South Africa, the Nedlloyd Kimberley. We refused to work that ship for, I think it was ten or eleven days. And that was in defiance of what an arbitrator said and also against what our union officials were telling us.

    So we’ve got a strong tradition in the ILWU of rank-and-file democracy, workers’ democracy, where we implement what we decide in a democratic fashion. And our action took place based on a motion that came out of our caucus, which is like a convention of all longshoremen represented up and down the coast. And we decided to stop work to stop this war, and that’s what was carried out.

    AMY GOODMAN: The action within Iraq in solidarity with your strike, can you talk about that?

    JACK HEYMAN: Well, I think that really was the icing on the cake, because we were appealing for solidarity actions. And I know there was some actions in New York with the college teachers at a New York community college and teach-ins with students and so forth; there were postal workers that had a few moments of silence, a few minutes of silence in New York, Greensboro, North Carolina, and out here in the Bay Area; but really, the most stunning solidarity came from the port workers in Iraq, who struck in solidarity with us. And that was really a very courageous move, because they’re literally under the gun of a military occupation there.

    AMY GOODMAN: What are your plans now?

    JACK HEYMAN: Well, what this action was was raising the level of struggle from protest to resistance, and we’re hoping that these kinds of actions will resonate to other unions and workers.

    It’s already catching on with some of the port truckers. Actually, they’ve been doing actions for quite awhile. While it’s not mainly based on the war–I think they’re very much affected by the high price of fuel–they’ve been shutting down ports over that issue, but also immigrant rights, because many of them are immigrant workers.

    And I hope that this will be an example to other workers that we have the power, we’ve got to use it. And that’s how we can bring this war to a halt.

    AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much, Jack Heyman, for joining us from San Francisco, an officer of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.


  5. Well the personal missions of George W. and his cronies may certainly be accomplished… namely the securing of vast lines of social wealth in the hands of a few. Also, if the stakes are the greatest crime against humanity to date, then certainly Bush is justified to sound the note of triumphal US militarism – Mission Accomplished.


  6. Hi Pareidoliac, thanks for reacting and best wishes for your blog. I’d say that Bush’s Iraq war is of course bad for the Iraqi people, US soldiers, and the US economy. Even from an establishment US ruling class point of view it is not unproblematic, as it weakens possibilities for military intervention in Latin America (Venezuela, Ecuador), Africa, etc.



    [Video at 7:02 min: ]

    May 01, 2008

    Defying Employers, Antiwar Dockworkers Plan to Shut Down West Coast Ports

    The International Longshore and Warehouse Union has been organizing to shut down ports on the West Coast today, May Day, to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But yesterday an arbitrator ordered the union to tell its members that they must report to work today. We speak to Clarence Thomas, an executive board member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 and a member of US Labor Against the War. [includes rush transcript]

    AMY GOODMAN: We move on now to another protest, as tensions rise here on the West Coast between dockworkers and their employers’ group, the Pacific Maritime Association. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union has been organizing to shut down ports on the West Coast today, May Day, to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But yesterday an arbitrator ordered the union to tell its members they must report to work today.

    Meanwhile, dockworkers in Iraq have announced plans to shut down the ports of Umm Qasr and Khor Al-Zubair for one hour today to show solidarity with US workers.

    We’re joined on the phone right now by Clarence Thomas, executive board member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 and a member of US Labor Against the War.

    So what are your plans today after this arbitrator made the announcement yesterday?

    CLARENCE THOMAS: Well, good morning, Amy, and thanks for having me on the show. I just want to say that longshoremen are not slaves. We can take a day off. And this action that we are taking has emanated from a decision made by our rank and file at our Longshore Caucus. Our Longshore Caucus is the highest ruling body of the Longshore Division. And we are calling for a call to conscience so that our workers can take a position against the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    These are our children, Amy, that are being killed. And if we are silent, then we are complicit with the George Bush administration in the killing of our children. We believe that this action is important, because we are taking this action in the name of millions of workers in this country who would love to do what we’re doing but because of their circumstances cannot.

    We also want to let you know that the truckers, the independent truckers, many of whom are immigrant workers, will also be acting in solidarity. In New Jersey, port truckers will not be working in the ports of Newark and Elizabeth, as well as the ports of Houston in the Gulf. So this movement is growing, and this is not just an action taken by the ILWU. We have a Port Workers May Day Organizing Committee, which is made up of various trade unionists here in the Bay Area, as well as antiwar activists and social justice activists.

    AMY GOODMAN: So, you will defy the arbitrator and his order to the union, saying that the union should tell the workers to go to work today.

    CLARENCE THOMAS: Well, Amy, you know, the great Harry Bridges, who was one of the founding members of our organization, once said that the rank and file does what it has to, and it’s up to the lawyers on how to get us out of it. That’s what we pay them for. What that translates into is this: the ILWU was born in struggle, and the threat of lawsuits and other kinds of actions by the arbitrator, even though they are in effect, workers have a right to take off. So we’re not bound to go to work simply because of the fact that the arbitrator says so. [crosstalk] We also believe that this action today–

    AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you, Clarence Thomas, for joining us, executive board member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10, a member of US Labor Against the War. And as we go into this break and then come back and speak to the Reverend Jesse Jackson, riot police in Turkey have clashed with labor activists trying to gather in Istanbul’s Taksim Square to celebrate May Day. Our video–our TV viewers are seeing the footage, and for our radio listeners, you can look at it at


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