Monday, September 18, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Monday, September 18, 2006, chaos and violence continue in Iraq with the AFP counting "[a]t least 62 people" dead, Camp Democracy continues (and extends) in Washington, D.C., in Germany: "Wife of War Profiteer Down!" and Judy Kovco, the mother of Jake Kovco, registers her opinion of the inept hearing into her son's death.

Starting in Australia, photos taken by Australian soldiers serving in Iraq have turned up online. Rory Callinan (Time) interviewed Angus Houston ("head of the ADF, Air Chief Marshal") about the photos who stated he first learned of the photos from Callinan and that "The way people have mishandled those weapons, that offends me." The Townsville Bulletin deems the photos "offensive and unprofessionl" and states that they feature "mostly from the Darwin-based 2nd Cavalry Regiment and the Brisbane-based 5/7 infantry battalion". [Houston is the witness in the Jake Kovco inquiry who strongly disagreed with Defence Minister Brendan Nelson's 'explanation' for the various reports Nelson gave the press as to Kovco's death. Houston stated Nelson was warned that nothing was known and Nelson was warned of that from the start.]

Though there's no indication that the photos feature Jake Kovco, the prospect that they might is speculated everywhere. Jake Kovco died in Baghdad on April 21st and issues surrounding his death and what happened after have been the subject of an ongoing military inquiry. Dan Box (The Australian) reports that the "inquiry . . . has warned it may find that the soldier [Jake Kovco] broke army regulations and should bear some responsibility for the circustances of his own shooting." And the inquiry, the Herald-Sun reports, has "requested the pictures and video footage showing soldiers waving the pistols."

Leigh Sales walked viewers through the latest on The 7:30 Report (Australia's ABC) and got reactions from Dan Box ("I don't think the board can deliver any other finding except for an open finding") and a criminologist at Sydney University, Mark Findlay. Findlay told Sales: "This is not just one example of incompetence, this is an example of the conscious interference with relevant evidence and in some situations that interference is almost inexplicable. . . . This wasn't a situation where one piece of evidence was lost or perhaps a minor piece of evidence had been despolied. There are many, many examples of where the evidence hs either been ruined or been put into a situation where, in fact, it's no longer useful to an investigation." Box tells Sales, "There is evidence to support the theory that it was murder. There is evidence to support the theory that it was suicide and there is evidence to support the theory that it was an accident. From what I've seen, there isn't evidence to say conclusively it was any one of those."

As Dan Box reports in print (The Australian): "Any adverse finding is expected to rely largely on the evidence from Private Steve Carr, a soldier who served with Kovco in Baghdad." Carr is "Soldier 14," the person whose DNA was found on Jake Kovco's gun, the person who offered his theories to the inquiry on how his DNA ended up on Kovco's gun, and the person whose guesses on DNA transfer were refuted by expert witness (Michelle Franco of the NSW Department of Health's Analytical Laboratories).
As Belinda Tasker (The Age) reported: "The lawyer representing Private Kovco's parents, Lieutenant-Colonel Frank Holles, asked Ms Franco whethere the fact that Soldier 14's DNA was found on the gun indicated he had touched it. Ms Franco replied: 'It is consistent with that.'"

Meanwhile Judy Kovco, mother of Jake Kovco, and Ben Kovco, his step-brother, granted an interview to Kerry O'Brien (7:30 Report). In the interview, Judy Kovco rejects the notion that her son played with guns (a behavior 'heard of' but not seen by anyone testifying in the hearing -- what is known as "hearsay") and notes that her son grew up around guns. Box's conclusion of an the inquiry reaching an opening finding (unable to determine what happened) is something she is prepared for and also prepared that the inquiry might find that her son committed suicide "[b]ut the evidence so far, there is no way known, no, he did not shoot himself. I know what you're saying, but I'm not prepared to go along with that, because there is no way known Jake shot himself purposely."

Kerry O'Brien: That really only leaves two other possibilites, an accidental shooting by somebody else or a murder, both of which it seems to me would involve a major cover-up, a major cover-up. Do you really think that's possible?

Judy Kovco: I certainly do, yes, without a doubt.

Kerry O'Brien: Do you really think that the army would go along with that?

Judy Kovco: They've done it in the past, they have done that in the past.

And the interview is getting coverage. Ben Doherty (The Age) has a piece entitled "Someone shot my son: Judy Kovco" which notes that she believes Jake Kovco was either "accidentally shot . . . or murdered". Australia's ABC leads their report with her belief that the military "would go along with a cover-up over her son's death." The Townsville Bulletin closes with Judy Kovco's statements regarding the lack of acountability and emphasizing the fact that as they waited the arrival of Jake Kovco's body, they learned that instead, somehow, Juso Sinanovic had been sent to Australia instead (a problem for Sinanovic's family in Bosnia as well): "The whole thing is just wrong to me, that these are all just acceptable. It is all just acceptable as far as they are concerned."

Box notes that Shelley Kovco (Jake Kovco's widow) is expected to provide provide a statement and that Soldier 14/Steve Carr's "credibility . . . is now expected to come under attack from lawyers representing Kovco and his family." The inquiry was thought to be winding down but, as Conor Duffy reported to Eleanor Hall (The World Today, Australia's ABC), "It's been sitting for three months, and now it seems it's going to have run a little longer. . . . It had been scheduled this week to begin wrapping up."

In Iraq, the talk of the waterless moat (or ditch) continues. The 'crackdown' hasn't worked since it started in June but apparently the moat passes for a new 'toy' or 'gadget' and we're all supposed to be excited. In the real world, the chaos and violence continued.


Al Jazeera reports "a suicide bomber blew himself up at a market in the north-western Iraqi city of Tal Afar".

Al Jazeera also reports that a car bomb "exploded at a police recruitment centre in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi" and killed at least thirteen. CBS and AP note that the Interior Ministry is stating it was two but that al-Arabiya is also noting 13. (Al Jazeera went with what the Ramadi police stated about the Ramadi explosion, not the Ministry back in Baghdad. Reuters also goes with 13.)


AFP notes four women were shot dead in Mosul and four police officers were shot dead near the Syrian border. Reuters notes that four family members were shot dead (with five more wounded) in Baquba while, in Hibhib, two family members were shot dead (two others wounded).


BBC reports that fourteen corpses were discovered in Baghdad, AFP notes three discovered and Babil and two severed heads discovered in Baiji. CBS and AP note that Lt. Col. Fawzi Abdul Karim al-Mousawi was kidnapped Sunday and his corpse was discovered in Basra today.

Turning from the corpses to the morgue, NBC posts a report by a journalist in Baghdad, whose name is withheld, about reporting and attempting to report from the capital -- the journalist requests permission from the Minister of Health, meets a camera operator at the morgue, have the paperwork checked by an officer and . . . "gunfire erupted all around us."

Lara Logan (CBS) takes a look at life in Baghdad and reports: "This is how it works. Iraqis say: 'If they haven't found the body, then they are probably still alive. Then you can still hope.' That's the only way most people have any idea about the fate of their disapeared loved ones and friends. Sometimes they know immediately. When the lock is broken in the middle of the night and they walk into your home, through the rooms where your children sleep, and drag your sons from their beds and tear your husband out of your arms -- then, even before the bodies are found, you know the men you love most likely are never coming back. Many say the men wear uniforms -- police uniformas. The police say these uniforms are stolen or bought and have nothing to do with them. It doesn't matter anymore. The damage is done."

In Germany, Melissa Eddy (AP) reports that Jaqueline Battles "has been arrested on suspicion of laundering her husban'd ill-gotten gains after investigators seized about $1 million from her accounts". Eddy notes Battles is a German citizen married to US citizen Mike Battles, of Custer Battles, who, along with partner Scott Custer, was ordered by jury in the United States "to pay $10 million for swindling the U.S. government over Iraqi rebuilding projects in connection with their Middletown, R.I.-based company, Custer Battles LLC."

In peace news, Camp Democracy continues its activities in Washington DC and has extended the date for the camp to October 1st. Camp Democracy is free and open to the public. John Nichols (The Nation) took part in Sunday events focusing on the issue of impeachment and notes: "Polls and practices suggest that the citizenry well understands the necessity of holding this administration to account -- not to punish Bush or Cheney but to restore the system of checks and balances that has been so warped in this ear of executive whim and lawlessness. And 219 years into this American experiment, as we honor the Constitution that is its foundation, the message from Camp Democracy is clear: It is time to remind politicians and the pundits that: 'This Magistrate is not the King. . . The people are the King.'"

David Lindorff also participated and he notes (Baltimore Chronicle): "It was [Elizabeth] Holtzman who stole the show, with the former member of the House impeachment panel that drew up impeachment articles against Richard Nixon noting that one of those three articles was for spying on American citizens. Holtzman, who has a new book out on impeachment herself -- (The Impeachment of George W. Bush), said that when she and the others on that committee -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- unanimously voted out those articles which led to Nixon's resignation from office, 'I thought we had protected the Constitution for generations to come."

At the start of the year, Elizabeth Holtzman contributed "The Impeachment of George W. Bush" for The Nation. Lewis Lapham's "The Case for Impeachment" (Harper's) would quickly follow, as would the Center for Constitutional Rights's Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush, David Lindorff and Barbara Olshansky's The Case for Impeachment (Olshansky is an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights), Holtzman's The Impeachment of George W. Bush and John Nichols The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders' Cure for Royalism will be published next month. (And there are other books and articles, that's only some of the ones that have come out in 2006.)

Today's events have included discussions on Iraq, tomorrow Ray McGovern and Jeff Cohen are among those taking part in Take on the Media Day (And Sherry Glaser will also do some of her standup and hold a workshop on comedy.), Wednesday's activites focus around Women's Peace Day and is joint-sponsored by NOW and CODEPINK (among those scheduled to participate is Howard Zinn). And, to repeat, the camp has extended their schedule, they will not be ending this week but will continue to October 1st -- free and open to the public. A complete schedule can be found here

Remember Take on the Media Day? Jeff Cohen reports (Consortium News) that the Washington "Post's inexcusable coverage before the war, and its ongoing pro-war editorial bias" is why he will be taking part in the forum on the media at Camp Democracy and that "[t]here will also be a protest march to the Washington Post headquarters that eveing." A lot of people participating and, though donations are welcome, Camp Democracy is free and open to the public. Olshansky, Lindorff, Cohen, Nichols, Holtzman, Zinn, McGovern, Elizabeth de la Vega . . . And that's just a few of the people participating. If you are in the DC area or are planning to be there, David Swanson's Camp Democracy is something to check out.

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