At least five marines are expected to be charged, possibly as early as Wednesday, with the killing of 24 Iraqis, many of them unarmed women and children, in the village of Haditha in November 2005, according to a Marine official and a lawyer involved in the case.
[. . .]
According to the Marine official and the defense lawyer representing one of the marines under investigation, criminal charges will be filed against Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, 26, of Meriden, Conn., the squad's leader; Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum, 25, of Edmund, Okla.; Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt, 21, of Carbondale, Penn.; Cpl. Sanick Dela Cruz, 24, of Chicago; and Cpl. Hector Salinas, 22, of Houston.
The five marines are said to have been the ones who killed the 24 Iraqis, including five men in a taxi that approached the marines’ convoy after the explosion that killed a 20-year-old lance corporal and 19 other civilians in several houses nearby. About 10 of the dead were women and children who appeared to have been killed by rifle fire at close range, military officials said.
The above is from Paul von Zielbauer's "At Least 5 Marines Are Expected to Be Charged in Haditha Deaths" in this morning's New York Times. If you're just waking up and trying to keep track, this isn't the Pendleton Eight (charged with kidnapping a man from his home and killing him) or the rape and murder of Abeer as well as the murder of three of her family members. Caleb notes this rundown of some of the 2006 crimes, Mark Weisenmiller's "U.S. Unlikely to Sentence Soldiers to Death in Wartime" (IPS):
The final month of 2006 will be one to remember because of the first two -- of perhaps many -- U.S. army servicemen will face charges that can carry the death penalty for crimes committed in Iraq.
Yet, 2007 may well be the year the U.S. military decides instead to spare their lives and sentence them to life in prison.
Both Sgt. Paul Cortez and Private First Class Jesse Spielman are scheduled to appear separately in military court in mid-December. Together with three other defendants -- Pfc. Bryan Howard, Specialist James Barker, and discharged former Private Steven Green --, the men are accused of raping a 14-year-old girl and murdering her and her family last March near the Iraqi city of Al-Mahmudiyah.
Cortez, Spielman, and Howard face court martial proceedings at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, headquarters for the 101st Airborne Division where they served. Green has pleaded not guilty to murder and sexual assault and is facing federal charges. Barker pleaded guilty to numerous charges, including premeditated murder, to avoid the death penalty. He received a 90-year prison sentence in late November.
Those airmen are not the only military personnel who could face charges for war crimes that carry possible death sentences.
A U.S. sailor and seven marines are accused of killing an Iraqi man in Hamdaniya on Apr. 26. Another six to eight Marines, who allegedly killed 24 Iraqi civilians in November 2005 in Haditha, could also face execution.
An investigation into the Haditha incident by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) is ongoing to determine if charges against the marines should be filed. The marines currently are restricted to the base-grounds of Camp Pendleton, California, pending the findings of the investigation.
And when safety goes out the window, women's rights often follow. Keesha notes Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily's "It's Hard Being a Woman" (IPS):
Once one of the best countries for women's rights in the Middle East, Iraq has now become a place where women fear for their lives in an increasingly fundamentalist environment.
Prior to the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, Iraqi women enjoyed rights under the Personal Status Law since Jul. 14, 1958, the day Iraqis overthrew the British-installed monarchy. Under this law they were able to settle civil suits in courts, unfettered by religious influences. Iraqi women had many of the rights enjoyed by women in western countries. The end of monarchy brought a regime in which women began to work as professors, doctors and other professionals. They took government and ministerial positions and enjoyed growing rights even through the dictatorial reign of Saddam Hussein and his Ba'ath Party.
"Our rights had been hard to obtain in a country with a tradition of firm male control," Dr. Iman Robeii, professor of psychology from Fallujah told IPS in Baghdad. Iraqi women have traditionally done all the housework, and assisted children with school work, she said. On top of that about 30 percent of women had been engaged in social activities.
"But a tragic collapse took place after the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the so-called Islamists seized power to place new obstacles in the way of women's march towards improvement," she said.
And if you missed it, the Dems seemed determined to prove that the recent election didn't mean a damn thing, they confirmed Robert Gates. Lyle notes Robert Parry's "Democrats Cave on Gates Nomination" (Consortium News):
Despite winning the Nov. 7 elections largely due to public anger over the Iraq War, congressional Democrats crumbled in their first post-election confrontation with President George W. Bush on the future direction of that conflict.
Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee floundered though inept questioning of former CIA Director Robert M. Gates, Bush's new choice for Defense Secretary, failing to nail down the nominee's precise thinking on any aspect of the war strategy or even to secure a guarantee that the Pentagon would turn over documents for future oversight hearings.
Among many gaps in the questioning, the Democrats didn't press Gates on whether he shared the neoconservative vision of violently remaking the Middle East, whether he endorsed the Military Commissions Act's elimination of habeas corpus rights to fair trials, whether he supports warrantless eavesdropping by the Pentagon's National Security Agency, whether he agrees with Bush's claim of "plenary" -- or unlimited -- powers as a Commander in Chief who can override laws and the U.S. Constitution.
When Gates did stake out substantive positions, he almost invariably lined up with Bush's "stay-until-victory" plan in Iraq. Though insisting that "all the options are on the table," Gates rejected any timetable for military withdrawal as some Democrats have recommended. He also echoed Bush's argument that an American pullout would lead to a regional cataclysm.
Instead, Gates advocated an open-ended U.S. military presence in Iraq. "We are still going to have to have some level of American support there for the Iraqi military and that could take quite some time," Gates said.
Democrats couldn't even get a commitment from Gates to turn over Pentagon documents for congressional oversight. Gates qualified his answer with phrases such as "to the limits of my authority" -- suggesting that the Bush administration might well resist demands from Congress for sensitive papers about the war -- and that Gates wouldn't interfere.
Though much of the news media's attention at the hearing focused on Gates's concession that the United States wasn't "winning" the war in Iraq, that admission was made in the context of Gates agreeing with assessments from Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Republican committee chairman John Warner.
Yet, because Gates offered some bromides about his "fresh eyes" and his determination not to be "a bump on a log," the Democratic senators praised his "candor," hailed the principle of "bipartisanship," and joined with their Republican counterparts in endorsing Gates's nomination on a 21-0 vote.
That pretty much sums it up. They were bound and determined to demonstrate there was no difference between Democrats and Republicans and they did exactly that. Something that should be remembered on the next trip to the voting booth.
The first half ended up being a complete waste. To use Hillary Clinton as an example, what exactly was the point of her slow, constant questions and references to Frontline if she wasn't setting up questions she intended to ask in the second round? Apparently she was auditioning for corporate sponsorship. Next hearing, look for her to ditch refs to Frontline but to wear a Pepsi t and drink from a Pepsi cup. "Go Team Hillary!" apparently.
They made themselves useless and they did so right out of the gate.
Okay, it's too noisy. I'm in DC and here's the plan (cross your fingers). I'm going to go out to a quick breakfast with friends and then will do a brief second entry this morning. I'd rather do them both now but it's really too noisy in here. That's the plan. If it doesn't happen, this evening (late), I'll do another entry but we will have our three on Iraq.
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paul von zielbauer