Monday, November 27, 2006

Other Items

Today, the US military announces: "Three Multi-National Division- Baghdad Soldiers were killed during combat operations in the Iraqi capital at approximately 9 a.m. Nov. 26.Two other Soldiers were injured in the incident."

Dropping back to the stoning of Nouri al-Maliki, Louise Roug's "Angry Shiites jeer al-Maliki" (Chicago Tribune but also carried by LA Times and other Tribune papers) captures that reality:

Angry Shiites pelted Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's motorcade with stones Sunday after the Iraqi leader pleaded for national reconciliation at a memorial held in Sadr City for victims of a devastating bombing attack.
Al-Maliki, who is a Shiite, left the scene after he tried to calm a crowd of mourners calling for revenge against Sunni Arabs. His pleas were met with shouts of "coward" and "collaborator."

Again, it is news, it is telling and it's kind of surprising when a news outlet isn't aware of it or chooses not to report it.

Turning to Australia. On April 21, 2006, Jake Kovco was shot dead in Baghdad. This summer, the Australian military held an inquiry into his death and the many screw ups that followed. From Australia's The West's "Kovco's mother vows justice for her son:"

Judy Kovco has vowed to fight for justice for her son and remains adamant he did not shoot himself, despite leaked details of a report suggesting the soldier's own "skylarking" led to his death.
Mrs Kovco said she was disgusted the report into Private Jake Kovco's death in his barracks room in Baghdad on April 21 had been leaked to The Australian newspaper before his family had seen a copy.
Defence chief Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston has had the report for a month and Defence Minister Brendan Nelson received it last week, but it was still not known when Pte Kovco's parents and widow Shelley would be given a copy.
A defence spokesman said they would receive the report and be consulted before it was released, although no date has been set.
But Mrs Kovco rejected the anticipated findings of the Board of Inquiry which are expected to conclude that her son accidentally shot himself while skylarking with his pistol.
"There is no evidence my son shot himself," she told ABC Radio.
"There is a lot of evidence the other way. I would like to know how they came to that finding."

On AM (Australia's ABC), Conor Duffy spoke with Judy Kovco and reported on the latest development:

CONOR DUFFY: The military has been criticised for its conduct after the death including mixing up Jake Kovco's body with a Bosnian man, Juso Sinanovic, and destroying crucial evidence before his death could be properly investigated. Judy Kovco says these errors and the decision not to release the report to the family has made the loss much harder to deal with.
JUDY KOVCO: Every day is hard for us without Jake, every day. But this is the army's incompetence again, it's the same all over again.
CONOR DUFFY: It's not known when the report into Jake Kovco's death will be made public, though the board investigating the death has given some hints about their findings. In the final days of the inquiry, the President of the Board, Group Captain Warren Cook indicated the board had ruled out a finding of suicide. It was also revealed that an adverse finding maybe made against Jake Kovco. Judy Kovco says there were two other soldiers present at the time her son died and it can't be proved her son pulled the trigger. Mrs Kovco says she's lost faith in military justice and has asked for a separate coronial inquiry.
JUDY KOVCO: I will fight for my son and justice, and I will... I have applied for the Coroner's Court. I don't know where it's supposed to go from here, I know what I have to do for Jake. I will fight for Jake and I will fight for the truth. He's not here to do that, I will do it. I'm his mother and I will fight for him.

From The Australian's "Kovco's mother disgusted by 'incompetence':"

Neil James, executive director of defence watchdog the Australia Defence Association, said he thought it unlikely any coronial inquest would overturn the decision of the military inquiry.
"The evidence that was given to the military board of inquiry, remembering it was chaired by an independent judge, gave a pretty solid ventilation of all the facts that are known and can be known," Mr James told ABC Radio.
Mrs Kovco's refusal to accept the inquiry's findings was understandable but perhaps typical of bereaved parents in that situation, he said.

James can busy himself with the mop all he wants but the evidence was laughable, the inquiry was laughable. And not just because a government official cried on the stand about his own screw ups. Witnesses were allowed to offer conjecture as opposed to eye witness testimony. Early on the press ran the 'testimony' of 'cowboy' Jake Kovco. Who tesitified to that? Not who offered "I heard it somewhere but can't remember now where," but who testified to seeing Kovco play with his gun?

What ended up coming out in the final days was that roomates got together, Kovco's roommates, with the man he'd been on duty with the day he died, and came up with that. One of the roommates testified to 'cowboy' Jake's 'cowboy ways' and refused to say where he'd heard the rumors. Refused to say. Then, in the final days of testimony, it comes out that there was a meeting and any good lawyer could argue that meeting, based on what was testified to, was nothing but an attempt to create a cover story.

The the inquiry is going to go with a pat answer isn't surprising. That the evidence doesn't bear it out? We noted that in real time. The one on duty, his DNA was on Kovco's pistol. He invented this absurd explanation that the inquiry didn't challenge and that the press ran with it -- oh, he must have touched this and then Jake touched that and then the DNA got transferred and yada yada yada. The press ran with it and ran with it for days.

There was less concern in the press when that nonsense was shot down twice by the testimony of the forensic expert. Testimony, not speculation.

Any chance that the truth could come out died largely with a desire to put a happy face on things (members know what I'm talking about). That whole nonsense of "Jake's gone, let's have some peace." There was never any doubt that Judy Kovco was not going to throw in the towel and plead for "peace." She wanted answers to how her son died and she never got them so it's not surprising that she won't play along today and act like the nonsense the report supposedly concludes is "closure."

No one knows what happened to Jake Kovco. Still. The inquiry was a joke. The testimony was laughable day after day with few exceptions -- some of those exceptions were offensive, such as when one official referred to Kovco as a thing. But from the start, people were allowed to offer hearsay on the stand and they didn't even have to offer (one roommate refused) to testify where they heard their second-hand 'information.'

What is known is that, after the death, no procedures were followed. The scene was not secured. People were allowed to come and go. Investigators on their way from Australia came to Baghdad to discover a room completely stripped because an officer decided it was too painful for the others to preserve evidence. Jake Kovco's clothes were destroyed, the room was scrubbed clean. That Judy Kovco feels angry is not a surprise. She had to sit through that laughable inquiry and listen to people whine about their own careers and cry over errors that should have resulted in disciplinary actions.

She sat through all of that, walking out only once (when she referred to it as "Keystone Cops") because she wanted answers as to how her son died. After all of that, she still doesn't have them. That she's angry is not surprising. Nor is she the only one. Before the inquiry began, polling demonstrated that most Australians did not accept the narrative playing out and, post-inquiry, polling still demonstrates that.

James can argue that the inquiry can't be challenged, but he's not going to find many outside the government that will agree with him.

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