On Iraqi television screens this week, two visions of the Baghdad security plan flickered in people's living rooms.
Al Iraqiya, the station controlled by the Shiite-dominated government, showed Iraqi soldiers and police patrolling calmly and searching cars for weapons, as Baghdad residents spoke approvingly of the newly safe streets.
On the Sunni-controlled stations such as Al Sharqiya and Baghdadiya, a 20-year-old Sunni Muslim woman calling herself Sabreen, with dark scarves covering all but her teary eyes, recounted how three Iraqi police officers raped her.
When U.S. and Iraqi forces planned their renewed security effort in Baghdad, they anticipated attacks from suicide bombers, mortar fire and sectarian gunmen. But this week they are confronting a more formidable threat: the fallout from Sabreen's claims.
The charges are strongly disputed by Iraqi authorities. But regardless of their veracity, the assertions threaten to turn people against the security crackdown, which is as dependent on public perception as it is on supremacy on the streets.
The claims reinforce the view held by some Sunni Muslims that the security plan, far from an even handed effort to restore peace, is being executed by militia members determined to extend Shiite Muslim dominance in the new Iraq.
Already, many Iraqis are wondering why Sunni strongholds have been among the first targets of the security effort, but Sadr City, the neighborhood that is home to some of the most militant Shiite fighters, has been virtually untouched.
The above is from Christian Berthelsen's "Rape claim threatens Iraq security plan: Was a Sunni woman assaulted by Shiite police officers? Officials fear the sectarian fallout from the case" (Los Angeles Times). There's a timeline offered that skips/omits an important part of the timeline. The European press realized this was a story long before the US mainstream media. It's also true that the US military wasn't issuing their own official version at that time; however, the woman didn't show up at medical facilities, she was taken there by US troops. Click here for AFP's report or go to Monday's snapshot when we offered links to other European coverage.
This was always going to be a major story and maybe it says something about American men in the press corps (or their editors) that they've had to play catch up on this?
Is the woman telling the truth? It no longer matters. What matters is that the puppet has demonstrated that there is 'fair to all' and then there is 'fair to Shi'ites.' The American military -- on orders -- waits on the sidelines saying they can't comment and they can't interfere which is a laughable claim when they are the occupying power and a rape by militia members they have empowered would be a war crime that the occupying power would have to deal with immediately.
They wait on the sidelines and al-Maliki twists in the wind and grows more desperate. What concession might he make (to the Americans) this time? Or, having noted that he couldn't even put a cabinet together by the Constitutionally mandated deadline (first sign of his lack of leadership), will they use this to squeeze him out of his installed role (prime minister) and install a new puppet?
Willie Caldwell, the Giddiest Gabor in the Green Zone, issued some statements and non-statements yesterday that translate as "We're staying out of it" and apparently no reporter had the guts to call him on that and point out that as an occuyping power, over all security forces -- American or Iraqi, the US can't legally stay out of it.
Whether the rape happened or not (and the US military seems to know one way or the other) the allegation is of a war crime. The US cannot stay out of it. Strange that Condi can zip back and forth (along with many others, but Condi most recently) to try to enforce the privatization of Iraq's oil but an alleged war crime is something that the US chooses to take a pass on.
From Marc Santora's "Maliki Fires Official for Criticizing Response to Rape Account" (New York Times):
On Wednesday, Sunni and Shiite leaders called news conferences to condemn one another.
Abdul Nasir al-Janabi, a leader in the Tawafiq bloc of Sunni political parties, said the government was covering up many rapes of Iraqi women by the security forces. He threatened that Sunni parties might withdraw from the government if their concerns were not addressed.
He also sought to rally support from the broader Sunni Islamic world, calling on "the international Arab and Muslim conscience to raise its voice and condemn these indescribable crimes."
Mr. Janabi and other Sunni leaders pointed out that it was only a matter of hours before the prime minister shifted from calling for an investigation of the woman's allegations to denouncing her as a liar and criminal and praising the officers involved.
The criticisms quickly escalated from specific concerns about the woman's case to the broader security crackdown in Baghdad, which Mr. Maliki is in charge of organizing.
Mr. Janabi joined other Sunni leaders in condemning the plan as a sham meant to allow Shiite militias to go into hiding while Sunnis were harassed.
Mr. Maliki, on the other hand, found the harsh comments from Sunni leaders to be further proof that the woman's claims had been fabricated and aimed at undermining his authority and the credibility of the security plan. His office released a defiant, at times confusing, statement.
"We expected this fabricated propaganda," the statement said. "The purpose of this is to obstruct and distort the law enforcing plan."
And on the same topic, Gareth passes this on from AP:
Four Iraqi soldiers have been accused of raping a 50-year-old Sunni woman and the attempted rape of her two daughters in the second allegation of sexual assault leveled against Iraqi forces this week, an official said Thursday.
Brig. Gen. Nijm Abdullah said the attack allegedly occurred about 10 days ago in the northern city of Tal Afar during a search for weapons and insurgents.
A lieutenant and three enlisted men denied the charge but later confessed after they were confronted by the woman, a Turkoman. Abdullah said a fifth soldier suspected something was wrong, burst into the house and forced the others at gunpoint to stop the assault.
"They have been referred to the judicial authorities so they can receive their just punishment,'' said Abdullah, who effectively serves as mayor of the city.
Regardless of the truth, a second allegation within a single week is likely to undermine further the reputation of Iraq's security services, which the U.S. hopes can take over from coalition troops so the Americans and their allies can go home.
Mindy notes the AP's "AWOL soldier faces less than a year in military prison:"
An Army soldier faces less than a year in a military prison for fleeing before his second deployment to Iraq.
In a plea deal that caps his punishment at 10 months, Spc. Mark Wilkerson pleaded guilty to desertion and missing troop movement after the military decided last month that he would be court-martialed. He is to be sentenced by a judge Thursday.
Wilkerson, 23, surrendered at Fort Hood in August, about a year and a half after failing to return from an approved two-week leave. Since then he has worked in an office at the Central Texas Army post and has been allowed to leave after initially being confined to the post, although he was never in a cell, he said.
Wilkerson, of Colorado Springs, Colo., said he was tired of running and wanted to face the consequences to move forward with his life.
He said he decided to go absent without leave because his conscientious objector status was denied a month before his unit was to return to Iraq in early 2005. Wilkerson, who was 17 when he enlisted in the Army, has said his views on the war changed after he served in Iraq for a year beginning at the start of the March 2003 invasion.
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