Sunday, February 19, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

Britain's most senior judges will be asked today for a ruling that could lead to the war in Iraq being declared an illegal "crime of aggression".
Until now, the courts have taken the view that they cannot rule on the Crown's prerogative powers to wage war. But today the law lords will start hearing appeals by peace protesters who claim they were entitled to commit "criminal" acts in an attempt to prevent what they saw as the greater crime of launching an illegal war. Nobody has been punished for aggression in international law since the Nuremberg Tribunal executed former Nazi officers in 1946. The new International Criminal Court does not yet have jurisdiction over the crime, partly because of difficulties in agreeing a definition of it.
But the Government has been told by its senior legal adviser that ministers could face such charges under English law.

The above is from Joshua Rozenberg's "Campaigners ask courts to rule Iraq war a 'crime of aggression'" (The Telegraph of London) and was noted by Polly. It's Sunday and we're leaving the United States mainstream. The focus? Bully Boy's wars on the world. Polly notes another article from The Telegraph, Brendan Carlin and Harry Mount's "Diplomats call for closure of base at Guantanamo:"

But the British, French and German ambassadors to Washington added their voices to the growing condemnation of the camp after a UN human rights report called for it to close.
Sir David Manning, the British ambassador, said yesterday in a joint appearance by the three envoys on CNN: "We understand the context - you've lost a lot of people.
"It is difficult to find the right line to draw but it is clearly an anomaly and it needs to be dealt with."
The French ambassador, Jean-David Levitte, went further in his condemnation, saying: "Guantanamo is an embarrassment, and so it has to be solved one way or the the other. It's necessary to have the people in Guantanamo get a fair trial."

This is news throughout the world, just not in the United States. Kyle notes "More Calls to Shut Guantanamo, US Adamant" (

Two days after the UN pressed the Bush administration to close the notorious Guantanamo detention camp, a leading US daily and the archbishop of York joined the chorus, while the administration remained adamant.
"Now the only solution is to close Guantanamo Bay and account for its prisoners fairly and openly," The New York Times said in an editorial published on Saturday, February 18.
[. . .]
John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, joined mounting international criticism of Guantanamo .
"The American government is breaking international law," the second most senior cleric in the Church of England told The Independent newspaper in a front-page interview.
He urged the UN Human Rights Commission to seek - either through US courts or the International Court of Justice in The Hague – to compel Washington to either put Guantanamo detainees on trial or free them.
"The main building block of a democratic society is that everyone is equal before the law, innocent until proved otherwise, and has the right to legal representation," he said.

More on this topic comes via Gareth's highlight, Francis Elliott and Raymond Whitaker's "Shameful: This is the world's view on Guantanamo. But Tony Blair still calls it 'an anomaly'" (The Independent of London):

What happens at the US-run detention camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba is torture, and the place should be shut down "without further delay". That is the conclusion of an independent panel of experts commissioned by the United Nations.
It is shared by figures of international stature such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, as well as millions in the Muslim world. The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, yesterday became the latest voice to join the chorus calling for Guantanamo to become history.
But if their views on the shame of "Gitmo" could not be more stark, the attitude of those who have the power to close it down could not be more dismissive. So far, Tony Blair will only say that the detention centre holding nearly 500 men, some of them for four years, is "an anomaly", while a Downing Street source is reported as describing the outcry as a "flurry".
In the US, meanwhile, the report barely registered with a media industry still obsessed with Dick Cheney's shooting accident. It got even less attention than the disclosure, earlier last week, of new photographs of the 2003 abuse in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq which were more shocking than any seen before.

DK notes Susan Stone's "The Road to Guantanamo" (Germany's Der Spiegel):

English director Michael Winterbottom's provocative new film "The Road to Guantanamo" premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival this week. The docu-drama blends interviews, news footage and re-enactments to tell the story of three British Muslims taken from Pakistan to the US prison camp on Cuba.
After the British government secured their release following a two-year ordeal at the notorious American Guantanamo prison camp for suspected terrorists, one of the first things Britain's so-called "Tipton Three" did was to file a lawsuit against United States Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The men denied any links to terrorism and claimed they had been tortured at the camp. In their compensation claim, which is still pending, they alleged they had been "repeatedly struck with rifle butts, punished, kicked and slapped. They were short-shackled in painful stress positions for many hours, causing deep flesh wounds and permanent scarring." They also claim they were "threatened with unmuzzled dogs, forced to strip naked, subjected to repeated forced body-cavity searches and intentionally subjected to extremes of heat and cold for the purpose of causing suffering." They sued Rumsfeld because they believed their torture had been the "result of deliberate and foreseeable action taken by defendant Rumsfeld and senior officers to flout or evade the US constitution, law, treaty obligations and long established norms of customary international law." When they released a 115-page dossier of their treatment at Guantanamo, horrified representatives of the Red Cross claimed that if the allegations were true, they would be tantamount to war crimes.

The United States isn't the only one nation with shame, James in Brighton steers us to "Video fallout hits UK Iraq troops" (BBC):

British forces are facing problems in southern Iraq as the fallout continues over footage of soldiers apparently beating Iraqis.
A second regional council has now ended all co-operation with the British Army.
British military police have started interviewing four Iraqi youths about the video, taken during a demonstration in Amara, southern Iraq, two years ago.

More on this comes via Vic's highlight, "Basra cuts co-operation with British over beating video" (Canada's CBC News):

The municipal government of a southern Iraqi city has suspended co-operation with British forces because of a video that appears to show British soldiers abusing Iraqi civilians.
The council in Basra announced its decision on Sunday, a week after a newspaper released the video and published photographs that seem to show British soldiers beating youths with batons in southern Iraq in 2004.
Another council in the area has made a similar move, which means British troops can expect little official co-operation in most of the parts of southern Iraq that they are supposed to monitor.

Iraq. Let's all sing it:

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

The war drags on and on and on and . . .

What's to show for it? Countless Iraqis killed, 101 British troops killed, 2273 American troops killed, 103 "other troops" killed. Anything else to show for it?

Olive notes "Rice grilled over Iraq rebuilding pace, costs" (Reuters via Australia's ABC):

With water, sewer and electricity services below pre-war levels in Iraq, a leading Democrat has told US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that patience was waning over the pace and cost of rebuilding efforts.
Congress has given more than $US20 billion for projects aimed at improving Iraq's dilapidated infrastructure and winning over Iraqis with better utility services, and Dr Rice told law-makers that conditions were better.
But in three key areas - access to drinking water, electricity and sewer service - Iraqis are worse off than before the US-led invasion in March 2003, according to statistics released last week by the US special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.
"We have the inspector general saying things are getting worse even though we have provided a lot of money," said Senator Kent Conrad. "Who are we to believe?" the North Dakota Democrat asked Dr Rice in a Senate Budget Committee hearing.
"I can tell you, patience is wearing thin," he said.

Three years next month and now your patience is wearing thin?

Lynda notes "Iraq gets new power station" (Al Jazeera):

Among the most infuriating problems for Iraqis nearly three years after the US-led invasion is the lack of regular electricity to run lights and home appliances, such as air conditioners during Iraq's summer, when the country swelters under temperatures soaring beyond 49 degrees centigrade.
Of 425 electricity-related projects, only 300 are expected to be completed before the more than $18 billion approved by Congress in November 2003 for reconstruction in Iraq runs out, US officials have said.
The capital, Baghdad, is among the country's worst-off areas, with most streets unlit at night and many of the city's seven million people relying on generators.
Iraqis in Basra, the country's second-largest city 550km southeast of Baghdad, have an average of 12 hours a day of power already, up from much lower prewar levels, as a result of the new plant.
The US spent $123 million to install two 125 megawatt gas-generated turbines that were bought before the war under the United Nations Oil for Food programme.
The turbines began operating in late December at the site of a rusting Saddam-era power plant in Khor Az Zubayr, about 30km south of Basra.

So the occupation still hasn't resulted in basic necessitities. Well, at least, after those elections and the last wave of Operation Happy Talk, things are run smoothly, right? Gareth notes Michael Howard's "Moqtada al-Sadr throws Iraqi unity talks into disarray" (The Guardian of London):

Efforts to form a government of national unity in Iraq are floundering amid concerns from Kurds, Sunni Arabs and secularists at the "undue influence" within the ruling Shia alliance of the militant anti-western cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
The 33-year old firebrand - whose support was crucial to last week's controversial re-nomination of the prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari - threw the nascent talks into disarray at the weekend, saying he opposed Iraq's new federal constitution and repeating calls for the swift withdrawal of US and other foreign forces.
"I reject this constitution which calls for sectarianism and there is nothing good in this constitution at all," he told al-Jazeera television in a rare interview, conducted in Jordan. He added that the withdrawal of foreign forces "should be the priority of the future Iraqi government."
The tortuous negotiations over policies and posts in the new government begin in earnest this week, but most say it will take weeks if not months until Iraqis see the first full-term administration since the fall of Saddam. Mr Sadr's supporters also ruled out the inclusion of the former prime minister Ayad Allawi in any future government.
"[Allawi's] participation in government is a red line for the Sadr stream," said Fatah al-Sheikh, a pro-Sadr member of the national assembly. Mr Sadr's followers say they cannot forgive Mr Allawi for the bloody assault during his term in office on the al Mahdi army in the sacred Shia city of Najaf.

This goes back to when Paul Bremer closed Sadr's newspaper because he felt he (Bremer) was being mocked. Outrage mounted and when troops went into Najaf, they did so with American puppet Allawi's blessing. That isn't going to be forgotten.

And the violence continues to rage, Polly notes "Seven killed in bombings in Iraq" (BBC):

At least seven people have been killed in a series of bombings in Iraq.
Six Iraqis and a US soldier were killed in three separate explosions in the east of the capital, Baghdad, early on Saturday.
A civilian was also killed in a roadside bomb attack in Baquba, north of the capital.
In the south of the country, two Macedonian contractors working with coalition forces have been kidnapped while on their way to Basra.

Skip also noted bombings, but, for his excerpt, picked the kidnapping of two National Guard Lieutenants, "Two Iraqis die in Baghdad bombings" (The Sydney Morning Herald):

Meanwhile a militant group said it killed two Iraqi brothers who were officers in the National Guard, and posted a video showing the captives on the internet.
The Army of Ansar al-Sunna identified the two as National Guard Lieutenants Safaa Abbas Hamad and Emad Abbas Hamad.
Its video showed them sitting blindfolded on the floor as masked insurgents stood by with assault rifles.
One of the captives said he and his brother were officers in the Iraqi National Guard and gave a confession that was mostly inaudible.
"After investigations, the Sharia (Islamic law) Council sentenced them to death by shooting to serve as an example. The ruling was carried out," on-screen Arabic text read.
The video did not show the actual killing.

Killings and kidnappings and more kidnappings, Sharon notes "Five killed in Iraq banker kidnap" (BBC):

Gunmen wearing Iraqi police commando uniforms kidnapped a wealthy banker and his son in Baghdad, killing five of their bodyguards, police said.
Ghalib Abd al-Hussein Kubba was abducted from his home in the western suburb of Yarmouk on Thursday night.
Meanwhile, police in Baghdad found the bodies of three unidentified men who had been shot in the head.
On Thursday, an inquiry was launched into what the US says is evidence of death squads in the interior ministry.
US Maj Gen Joseph Peterson, who is in charge of training the Iraqi police, revealed the arrest of 22 traffic policemen allegedly on a mission to kill a Sunni man.

And as the war (and of his wars) drag on, Bully Boy does have to face opposition. Not often in the United States but an upcoming visit may not provide a bounty of photo-ops. Gupta notes
"Comrades vow street protests during Bush visit" (The Times of India):

NEW DELHI: Come what may, Communists who keep the Congress-led government alive are determined to make President George Bush's coming visit a memorable one -- through noisy anti-US street protests. Along with those opposed to the policies of globalisation, including some who may come from abroad, and other political parties, the Left says it is not going to let Bush go around India in peace. Left leaders say they are not embarrassing the Indian government, which has invited Bush. "It is the people of India who will be embarrassed because of the presence of Bush," D. Raja, deputy leader of the Communist Party of India (CPI), said. Bush arrives here March 1 on his first visit to India and will also go to Hyderabad during the three-day trip before flying to Pakistan March 4. Bush's itinerary has not been made public yet.

In the United States, as Elaine noted, Kevin Benderman's requesting to be released, "Kevin Benderman Parole Request" (Kevin Benderman Defense Committee):

I am respectfully requesting early release, by way of parole or reduction of sentence to time served.
In a different type of service, I have given 10 years to the U.S. Army, always placing the Army's needs before my own. Until my tour of duty in Iraq, I enjoyed my responsibilities as an NCO, and thought myself reasonably good at them. However, when I realized I could no longer perform those duties, I applied for conscientious objector status. Both CO status, and the procedure for obtaining it, are expressly recognized by Army regulations.
Even without acting on my CO application, my command made the decision to prosecute me for desertion and missing movement. As I understand the law and practice concerning CO applications; until my application was decided, I should have been assigned no duties which set me up for charges--whether desertion, missing movement, or anything else.
Laying the CO regulations to one side, however, I did not desert my unit or miss the movements of my unit--the two charges brought against me. Why not? Because CSM Samuel L. Coston released me on 7 January 2005 at 1800 hours, at the conclusion of a meeting between us.

Before we get to our last highlight, Melinda asked that we note a passing. From Paul Buhle's "Harry Magdoff Socialist who co-edited the Marxist Monthly Review and influenced the 1960s new left" (The Guardian of London):

From the time of his youthful work as an economist with President Roosevelt's 1930s new deal onwards, Harry Magdoff, who has died aged 92, believed in the necessity of planning, as opposed to market chaos. It was in 1969 that Magdoff, the US's most prominent Marxist economist, published The Age of Imperialism: The Economics of US Foreign Policy. Translated into 15 languages, it had a substantial impact on the 1960s American new left. In it Magdoff argued that empire, not class, was the great contradiction of the age.
[. . .]
Like many other new dealers, he supported [Henry] Wallace's third-party presidential bid in 1948, writing its small business programme. With Wallace's ignominious defeat, Magdoff soon faced congressional and grand jury investigations, FBI harassment and the blacklist. So he became a financial analyst, sold insurance and eventually settled upon a publishing company specialising in reprints. He also taught intermittently at New York's New School and at Yale University, and drew close to Monthly Review, established in 1949, for which he wrote from 1965.
By the end of his life, Magdoff had turned over direction of Monthly Review to a pair of younger scholars, and in 2002 he moved to Burlington, Vermont, with his son Fred. Magdoff enjoyed the admiration of former Burlington mayor, later socialist congressman Bernard Sanders, who reflected that Magdoff was the "true heart of the greatest generation of Americans". Magdoff had, in a sense, always represented that time of the 1930s and 40s, depression and wartime, experiences and lessons for those who would listen, and learn.

Last highlight goes to Pru (as usual) from Simon Basketter's "Iraq abuse video: 'This is never about rotten apples' (Great Britain's The Socialist Worker):

The scenes of troops brutally assaulting people in the streets of southern Iraq show the reality of occupation by British troops.
The mainstream media likes to talk of how British soldiers have had experience in Northern Ireland that equips them for their duties Iraq.
They have a point. In the New Lodge area of Belfast in 1992, 19 year old Peter McBride was shot in the back by two Scots Guards, Mark Wright and James Fisher, seconds after they had stopped and searched him.
After perjuring themselves, a Belfast court found the two guilty of murder.
Peter' sister Kelly McBride spoke to Socialist Worker about the parallels between the occupations of Iraq and Northern Ireland.
"Our family has watched events unfold over the past months in Iraq," she said. "The humiliation and abuse of civilians there brings sadness but no surprise.
"People talk about these soldiers 'disgracing' the army. But the soldiers who murdered my brother have been allowed to remain in the British army.
"Peter was not suspended from the prongs of a forklift truck, nor was he forced to simulate sexual acts or beaten in the streets.
"Instead he was shot in the back in broad daylight in a Belfast street -- and then finished off as he tried to pull himself up.
"Wright and Fisher were found guilty of murdering my brother by a court of law. They knew that Peter was unarmed and was no threat to them.
"But despite their convictions the Ministry of Defence has allowed both convicted murderers to stay on in the army. General Mike Jackson sat on the army board that made this decision.
"They gave us assurances that these two would never be put in a situation where they could kill again. Then they handed them their guns and sent them off to Iraq. "Wright and Fisher were stationed in Basra later. This is never about rotten apples. Tony Blair tolerates the murder of those who are not British citizens.
"Should we be surprised that British soldiers in Basra believe that they can literally get away with murder when they are serving alongside two convicted murderers?
"My heart goes out to the Iraqis who have to put up with the reality of British soldiers winning 'hearts and minds'."
In 1990 at a roadblock in Belfast soldiers fired 36 shots at a Vauxhall Astra car.
Martin Peake was shot in the head and died instantly. Karen Reilly was shot three times in the back and died later. Lee Clegg, a parachute regiment soldier was convicted of murdering them in 1993.
The paras celebrated the deaths by erecting in their barracks a ten foot mock-up of an Astra car with a papier mache head stuck in the drivers window. Red paint marked the fatal head wound and bullet holes riddled the model car's body.
Pinned up besides the car was a poster which read, "Vauxhall Astra -- built by robots, driven by joyriders, stopped by A Company."
Lee Clegg, now a sergeant, is currently serving with the parachute regiment in Iraq.
British troops are beating, torturing and murdering Iraqis. They will be doing so until the occupation ends.
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