Sunday, July 08, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

We're about to link something and Joan highlighted but she had a question. She's not wrong. We're not including that section in our excerpt here but, for any using the link, Carolyn Ho and Robert Watada divorced many years ago. He is remarried. The end of the article we're excerpting misses that (obvious) point. Dropping back to Saturday morning for set up on Ehren Watada. Watada is the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq which he (rightly) believes is an illegal war. In June 2006, he went public with that stand. Watada is a war resister. His resistance is based upon the fact that the illegal war violates Geneva, treaties, etc. Before he went public (for many, many moths), he tried to deal with this within the military. He offered, for example, that he could be shipped to Afghanistan because he does not feel that war is illegal. He offered many suggestions and the military gave the appearance of working with him while stressing that he shouldn't go public. Shortly before his unit was to deploy to Iraq, he went public. The military had (repeatedly) refused to address the issue despite months of having the opportunity to do so.

If you're going public with your stand, the press will ask "Why?". Anyone will, it's an obvious question. The only one who didn't have to ask why were Watada's superiors who knew why and chose to do nothing. Depite this, in August 2006, an Article 32 hearing was held into whether or not Watada should be court-martialed? After the hearing, the presiding officer/judge issued his ruling (yes) and that went up the chain of command -- at any point, it could have been stopped.

Watada is charged for the comments he has made, the answer to "Why?" as well as for not deploying. Despite the New York Times' nonsense, Watada is not classified as a "deserter" and never could be. Watada never self-checked out. Watada remained on base. Since he went public, he has continued to report to the base each scheduled work day and do his assigned tasks. That the New York Times refused to correct an obvious error (and refused to post all -- or any --comments left on their blog about this) says a great deal about the paper's alleged commitment to reporting.

In February 2006, a court-martial was held at Fort Hood in Washington. Prior the hearing begin, the prosecution offered an agreement/stipulation. The assigned officer to preside over the hearing, Judge Toilet -- aka John Head, was aware of it and had no objection. By signing the stipulation, Watada was agreeing that he had made statements in various press reports. By signing the statement, he avoided reporters having to be called in to say, "Yes, what I reported was said." Though Watada really needed coverage, independent media (as a whole) ignored his case. When a reporter was being asked to affirm in court that what they reported was accurate, suddenly the non-issue came alive with even Phil Donahue penning an op-ed. Those waiting, all these months later, for Donahue's op-ed in defense of Watada are still waiting. But apparently, a reported having to affirm their reporting was accurate was the 'big' issue. Well, considering so much 'reporting' that does go on today, it's understandable that reporters would be reluctant to swear under the oath that they told the story accurately.

All the hand wringing over one reporter (it was only one, another had agreed to testify and another was never formally asked to), Watada returned the focus to what was at stake by signing the stipulation . . . and the small media frenzy went back and never returned. Which can be read as "When the issue of the illegal war is the issue, we've all got better things to do." Despite having spared one reporter by signing the stipulation, that reporter elected to give an interview to the Atlantic Free Press where she slammed Ehren Watada with what can only be termed "catty" remarks. For the record, Watada stood up. The reporter who was at the center of a small media frenzy never did. She wouldn't discuss her 'legal strategy' translated as her easy way out of saying whether or not she would refuse the order to testify. To be clear, a small media frenzy started not over anything that had happened or any stand that had been announced, it was all over a "MAYBE." Maybe the reporter would testify, maybe she wouldn't. To say would be to give away "legal strategy." Big media publicly ignored the non-issue. Privately, those on editorial boards who were lobbied to write strong editorials in 'defense' of the reporter laughed (I know of four papers) and the consensus was, "If she refused to testify, we might have a reason to weigh in but we're not going to weigh in on something so minor when she won't even say what she's doing."

The minor non-issue ended when Watada signed the stipulation and, with it, the supposed interest of Phil Donahue (who didn't even know the facts of Watada's case judging by his op-ed which appeared to have Watada confused with other war resisters) and all the other 'names.' Which is how Aaron Glantz and Truthout ended up being the only reporters in independent media to go to Tacoma and cover the court-martial. Independent media, in those moments, demonstrated what a load of couch potatoes they were. If someone will come to them, they may cover it but apparently the task of traveling all the way to Washington state was just too much.

Tacoma was where the story was. Where many stories, in fact, were. A rally was held the Sunday before the court-martial was to begin and Sean Penn was among the noteables who showed up and spoke (spoke very well and fired the crowd up). On Monday, not only did jury selection begin, Judge Toilet reviewed the stipulation with the jury and never once did he question it. (Again, he had seen it before and agreed to it before.) On Tuesday, the prosecution began opening arguments and had a huge problem: their witnesses weren't giving what they wanted. Watada had gone with a jury of his peers over allowing a judge to determine guilt or innocence because it was thought a jury might be more sympathetic. That did not mean anyone thought "innocent" was going to come down. The weekend before the trial began, Watada had boxed up the things in his apartment in preparation for a guilty verdict.

But the witnesses for the prosecution were making statements that not only undermined the case against Watada, the statements could also be read as some form of support. The kangaroo hearing was not supposed to go that way and Judge Toilet was visibly distressed as the prosecution asked open-ended questions and witnesses' replies ended up biting the prosectution in the ass.

Early on, Judge Toilet had ruled, before the court-martial ever began, that certain topics would be off limits. Watada could not, for example, bring Michael Ratner or Marjorie Cohn to the stand to testify as to the legality of the war. Judge Toilet had forbidden expert testimony on that. Judge Toilet wanted the case to be "yes" or "no" as to Watada's actions with no information provided on the motive.

If Susan Jones shoots her husband and a judge only allows "yes" or "no," Susan Jones, answering "yes," will most likely be convicted. If Susan Jones is allowed to offer a defense, the jury may learn that her husband had a history of beating her, they may learn the police regularly came out and that reports were filed on that, they may learn many things. In such a case, they are deciding on issues of justice. In a rubber stamp kangaroo court, a defendent is not allowed to do anything but present "yes" and "no" response to actions.

Such is the court Judge Toilet created.

Yet even with that, the prosecution blew it and Judge Toilet was visibly angry at the close of Tuesday's hearing. Those who noticed Judge Toilet's entrance into the court on Wednesday may have noticed that his shoulders were no longer stumped and his brow no longer wrinkled. Judge Toilet appeared stone faced but happy. Why that was would soon become obvious.

Wednesday was the day for the defense. They really only had one witness, Watada. He would be questioned by his attorney and cross-examined by the prosecution. Summations to the jury would be made and the jury would then be sent off to deliberate. So why was Judge Toilet so damn happy?

Watada wasn't allowed to testify. Instead Judge Toilet wanted to bicker with him about the stipulation -- one the judge knew of and saw before Watada, one he knew of and saw and instructed the jury on. Watada stated he understood the stipulation. By signing the statement, Watada agreed, he was admitting to making remarks reported. Judge Toilet, and remember this is supposed to be a legal justice proceedings, immediately started to creating this new interpretation of the stipulation -- one not held by the defense or the prosecution. Judge Toilet offered that, by agreeing to the stipulation, Watada was admitting guilt.

There is no legal backing for that. If Watada was admitting guilt, or even Toilet saw it that way, there was no need for a trial. The stipulation was not a plea agreement but Toilet suddenly insisted that he saw it as such demonstrating that he's either a liar or incompetent to preside over a trial.

A liar is rather obvious. Incompentent? Any judge who feels a plea agreement has been entered does not waste time or money hearing testimony (as was done on Tuesday and as was scheduled for Wednesday). If Judget Toilet wants to stand by the stipulation being an admission not just of statements but made but an agreement that such statements were punishable, Judge Toilet needs to explain why he wasted tax payer monies and time holding a hearing when he believed a plea agreement had been reached.

As Judge Toilet attempted to convince Watada that was what Watada had agreed to, the reason became obvious. If Judge Toilet could convince Watada that he had signed a plea agreement, he could then ask Watada if he stood by his plea and, when Watada stated he was not pleading guilty, Toilet could then declare the mistrial he wanted (rumor says he was ordered to reach that decision). Watada refused. Judge Toilet tried to talk Watada privately (for extra pressure) but the defense refused to allow Toilet to speak privately to their client. Toilet then turned his attention to the prosecution. This was a plea agreement and now Watada was saying it wasn't, so surely the prosecution was wanting it thrown out?

No, the prosecution responded. It was about whether or not Watada made the remarks reported and Watada's agreeing to the remarks spared the prosectuion the hassle and time of taking testimony from reporters. It took several attempts on Judge Toilet's part before the prosecution (who fared so badly on Tuesday) grasped that they were being offered a lifeboat. When they realized they were being offered that, they moved for a mistrial which Judge Toilet quickly agreed with over the objections of the defense.

Majorie Cohn, an expert attorney and president of the National Lawyers Guild, has noted that double-jeopardy attached to the case on Monday. Double-jeopardy is the Constitutional protection to all that says you cannot be tried for the same crime twice. That means if the prosectuion blows it (because you're innocent or they're incompitent or any range between the two), you walk. The government does not get repeated "do overs" to try you. They make the best case they can and if their case is judged weak, it's over.

Wen Ho Lee was wrongly accused repeatedly in the 90s. He got an apology from the judge. Without the double-jeopardy clause, the government could have instead continuing trying the man, over and over, until they managed to make a case that would bring a conviction. The government is not allowed a "do overs." They are expected to make their case. They are expected no to bring charges unless they have a strong case. (Think of the press on the Duke issue currently.)

Double-jeopardy is written into the Constitution because it is one of the bedrocks of our legal justice system in the United States. Without, every American is at risk of prosecution -- repeated prosecution -- while a government official repeatedly retries a case until they can find something to convict us on or a jury that happens to be less bright than others.

Judge Toilet's reading was that the stipulation was an admission of guilt. He did say he was calling call a mistrial because he believed Watada had broken a plea. He maintained that Watada did not understand what he signed. Watada maintained (then and now) that he understood what he signed. If Judge Toilet thinks he can declare Watada incompentent in the midst of a court-martial, someone needs to sit him down and explain how the law actually works. (Competency status requires its own hearing.)

Over Watada and his defense's objection, Judge Toilet declared a mistrial when none should have been declared. Having done so, Watada walks. That is the law. The jury did not deadlock (they were never allowed to reach a decision). Had they, the government could retry Watada. But what Judge Toilet did was give a "do over" to the prosecution after they had presented the worst prosecution possible in court.

It should also be noted that Watada's really out of the military now. The monies that would be spent for another court-martial will be spend on an officer who's service contract will have expired.

In addition to calling a mistrial, Judge Toilet announced a new date for another court-martial. He didn't have the legal authority to do that either. Which is why no court-martial, no pre-trial motions took place in March (when Judge Toilet had announced court-martial two would begin). The Court of Appeals ruled that the issue of double-jeopardy would have to be considered.

On Friday, Judge Toilet 'considered' them for a few seconds and then ruled that he, by declaring a mistrial, had not opened up the double-jeopary clause. Judge Toilet decided for himself on himself and found himself competent -- no doubt sending gales of laughter across the land. To no one's surprise, Watada's attorneys moved that Judge Toilet should recuse himself from the trial. Amazingly, when ruling on himself yet again, Judge Toilet demonstrated more faith in himself than any impartial witness would have vested in the officer at this late date.

That is where things stand now. Now, for Joan's highlight. From Helen Altonn's "No double jeopardy deemed for Watada" (Honolulu Star-Bulletin):

Watada's lawyers filed notice they will appeal the double jeopardy ruling to the Army Court of Criminal appeals in Arlington, Va.
The developments are likely to delay the start of Watada's second trial, which had been scheduled to begin July 23.
Watada, who is based at Fort Lewis in Washington state, continues to perform administrative duties.
Honolulu attorney Eric Seitz, who was Watada's defense lawyer until March, said yesterday he wasn't surprised at Lt. Col. John Head's ruling at a pretrial hearing Friday.
"I would expect they (the appeals court) would take the issues far more seriously than Judge Head is capable of doing. I would never expect Judge Head to reverse himself but would certainly expect the Appellate Court to do that," Seitz said. "He was not the most competent judge I've met in my life."

Which is, as they say, an understatement. On a related note, Missy Comley Beattie's "King Cretin" (CounterPunch), noted by Mia:

Especially, among the military, why does the king still have a kingdom? On Independence Day, he reigned as usual-with scare tactics about the threat al-Qaeda poses and with comparisons to the Revolutionary War and the illegal one he started. A woman in the audience, the mother of a soldier who is serving in Iraq, said she loves George Bush because he gets the job done. I'm wondering what job she's talking about. His most successful endeavors have been to inspire terrorism and to nurture the scorn of the world by invading Iraq as well as "Mission Accomplished," meaning endless war for US imperialism. "Your service is needed," Bush decreed to two guardsmen who were injured in Iraq but have reenlisted. "We need for people to volunteer to defend America," he continued.
Why doesn't the king say, "I command you to serve?" After all, George Bush said about his pardoning of Scooter, "In the future, I rule nothing in or nothing out." He really meant, "I rule." Period.
What we need is for people to volunteer to defend America-against King George. Now.

Sing the song.

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)

Last Sunday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3580. Tonight? 3606 with 28 for the month of July thus far. The 3600 mark has been passed. December 31st, the 3,000 mark was passed. Since the start of 2007, over 600 US service members have died in Iraq. Now when the death toll was only the double digits, I can remember an idiot declaring it didn't matter. It didn't matter because 70 or so lives didn't matter to them. The figures are now in the thousands. At what point does it start to matter?

A visitor notes Robert Parry's "NYT on Iraq: Better Late Than Never?" (Consortium News):

In an extraordinary full-length editorial, the New York Times has called for an end to the U.S. military occupation of Iraq, a step that some anti-war Americans may praise as a turning-point while others will be left wondering why it took the nation’s leading newspaper more than four years -- and scores of thousands of dead -- to figure this out.
To its credit, the Times does acknowledge that its previous pro-occupation positions – favoring rebuilding what the U.S. invasion had destroyed and worrying about the dire consequences that might result from a U.S. withdrawal -- were faulty.
The Times concedes that whatever horrors might follow the end of the U.S. military occupation, they are not likely to be avoided by an indefinite continuation; that it is time to admit that a grotesque mistake in U.S. national security policy was made in 2003 and readjust strategy to make the best of it.
"It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit,"
the editorial states.
Many anti-war Americans are sure to welcome the belated support of a newspaper whose own credulous reporting about Iraq’s mythical weapons of mass destruction played a key role in opening the path to war. The editorial also is certain to be denounced by the dwindling members of George W. Bush’s political cult as surrender or treason.
But a deeper question, which the United States eventually must face, is why so many of its leading journalistic institutions performed so badly in the run-up to the Iraq War and what can be done about it.
Why were small, under-funded news outlets, like our own, able to get these big stories mostly right, both before and after the invasion, while the prestige news organizations got the stories almost completely wrong -- in both their reporting and opinion columns?
In 2002 and 2003, was even operating on a part-time basis -- because we had run out of money in 2000. But simply by filtering out the nonsensical propaganda and doing some old-fashioned reporting, we were able to avoid many of the pitfalls of the Times, the Washington Post and the major networks.

When credit's handed out for being right about the illegal war, Robert Parry doesn't usually get the credit he and his Consortium News deserves. That's credit he's not receiving across the board and that includes from me. For me, the reason is he's Rebecca's favorite. Howard Zinn is Elaine's favorite. For me, it's a bit like playing a CD that's a favorite of theirs, I'd rather listen to something that's not being played. We do and have noted Parry. The visitor felt that this wouldn't get a lot of links. My guess is that it will get many but the visitor is correct that Parry hasn't gotten the credit he deserves across the board and, again, you can include me on that list of those who haven't given him all the credit he deserves. Rebecca notes him at her site and we usually try to find someone else here to point out because there are a lot of people who do not get the credit they've earned and if Rebecca's covering him and Elaine's covering Zinn, that leaves us free to emphasize others not getting credit. He has been regularly quoted and noted here but, though the visitor didn't bring this up, he certainly hasn't received anywhere near the credit he and Consortium News here. That's my failing and I have no problem pointing that out or owning up to it.

On the editorial. It's an editorial. The Times has had many fiery editorials and that's never resulted in a change in coverage. In fact, when speaking on the issue of the Supreme Court, Linda Greenhouse offered opinions backed up by facts that were actually more toned down than any of the paper's editorials and she was slapped on the wrist (by the paper) for doing so. Of course, Greenhouse knew what she was talking about. The opinions were observations. And as we all saw last month, she was exactly right. But even when she spoke, the paper had repeatedly made much stronger remarks in their editorials (I'm talking about the editorials, not the columns).

So the point here is it doesn't change the paper much. Gordo's still covering Iraq. It makes it a little easier for Times' board members at social functions, they aren't cornered with demands of why they aren't coming out against the war when this paper and that paper have already editorialized against it and when approximately 70% of Americans have turned against it.

Daniel Dombey and Stanley Pignal (Financial Times of London via the Los Angeles Times) report that attitudes against the US have only hardened with 32% of Europeans listing the US as the biggest threat to security. They note: "The latest poll comes in the wake of the "surge" that has increased U.S. forces in Iraq to about 160,000 troops, but has not been accompanied by political breakthroughs or a dramatic reduction of violence.

On today's violence in Iraq, Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad car bomb claimed 3 lives (four wounded), another Baghdad car bomb wounded ten people, Col. Jawad Kadhim (Iraqi military who worked with the defense ministry) was shot dead in Baghdad, 3 police officers were shot dead in Baghdad, a Baghdad home invasion resulted in 4 family members being shot dead, another Baghdad home invasion left 1 man dead (two of his daughters were wounded), a Baghdad truck bombing claimed 10 lives (thirty more wounded), 29 corpses were discovered in the capital on Sunday, 5 corpses were handed over to the Bauqba morgue, a mortar attack in Kahlis left 2 members of a family dead (seven more wounded) and 2 corpses were discovered in Kirkuk. If my math's correct (check) that should be 60 reported deaths. Molly Hennessy-Fiske (Los Angeles Times) puts Saturday's death toll at "as many as 150 people" from the bombing in Amerli and notes a bus explosion that claimed the lives of "45 Iraqi police recruits" in Falluja on Sunday which would move Sunday's toll up to at least 105. Both Saturday's death toll and today's topped 100. Hennessy-Fiske also reports on a consequence of the privatization of the US military: " The Army has loaded the menu at the 70 chow halls, run by contractor KBR, with a buffet of fattening fare, from cheese steaks to tacos and Rocky Road ice cream. Many soldiers gain more than 15 pounds on a deployment, military dietitians say. They are also seeing soldiers return from Iraq with higher cholesterol, mostly due to their eating habits." Let me be clear on where I stand there, people should be allowed to eat what they want (in the military or not). Military food is universally panned and that's been true for the end of time. Improving it is one thing. Even offering the above as an option is one thing. But the Fast Food Nation has been exported to the military and done so because it is cheap. This isn't an option, this is a staple and that's a problem. (One of many with the military no longer being in charge of feeding their own.)

Pru's highlight (there' are comments after the highlight, heads up) is "Fife military deaths stack up under Gordon Brown’s watch" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

The mother of a soldier from Gordon Brown's Fife constituency has called on the new prime minister to bring the troops home.
Paulene Ward’s 20 year old son Jamie Kerr was killed in Iraq on Thursday of last week -- Brown’s first full day in office.
Jamie, from Cowdenbeath -- one of the main towns in Brown’s consituency -- joined the army two years ago.
He had been in Iraq for seven weeks. Jamie's stepfather said that he had phoned his mother the night before he was killed, saying that he wanted to come home.

"Jamie said being out there was not what he thought it would be," he told the local press. "He didn’t want to be there. He was more scared than anything else."
Shortly after her son was killed, Paulene wrote on her website, "Gordon Brown must bring all the troops out of Iraq. How many more families must go through this pain? It's not funny -- bring our boys home safe and sound as soon as possible."
Jamie is one of seven young men from Fife that have been killed in Iraq. Fife is a key recruitment area for the Black Watch regiment.
It is an ex-mining area with high unemployment and few job prospects. The End Child Poverty campaign reports that 24 percent of children in the constituency are living in families that rely on out of work benefits.
One of Jamie's friends from Cowdenbeath told the Scotsman, "This is America's war. We're dropping like flies out there and if Gordon Brown is listening, he needs to get the troops out."

Scott Kennedy, another soldier from Fife, was killed by the same roadside bomb. It was reported at the weekend that he had volunteered to be posted to Iraq.
But he revealed on his website that he was not impressed with the experience and wanted to come home.
Pete Wishart, the Scottish National Party (SNP) MP whose constituency includes the Perthshire headquarters of the Black Watch regiment, said, "My heart goes out to the families involved. I'd like to see all the Scottish troops returned home as soon as possible -- and an end to the growing list of young men dying in Iraq."
Roseanna Cunningham, SNP MSP for Perth, added, "The sooner they are brought home the better."
Gordon Brown hoped that he would escape Blair's legacy over Iraq. But Stop the War activists and military families campaigning for the troops to be brought home are determined that Brown should hear them.
Rose Gentle, whose son Gordon was killed in Iraq three years ago last week, said, "Let's hope Brown will not step into Blair's shoes and won't just look at the families of our brave troops as if we should shut up and go away."
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Community notes. The Third Estate Sunday Review has less links due to the problems plaguing Blogger/Blogspot sites. None of us can add titles. They did what's been done here, e-mailed titles to their site and, once they 'hit' the site, copy and pasted the features into them. There are somethings that need to be added to features (and typos fixed) but this evening, Jim, Ty, Jess, Rebecca and I spent four hours attempting to locate this issue on Blogger/Blogspot's status and known issues pages. It's been going on since Friday. It is reported. Whether they get around to fixing it or not is up to Blogger/Blogspot.

In terms of this site, Isaiah says he didn't have time for a comic. Which is a sweet lie. I'm sure he has one. I hope it will hold. But this is a hassle for everyone. It's causing problems for all. It's irritating for me too. I'll be up in less than two hours and I certainly didn't have four hours to waste on a problem Blogger/Blogspot should have fixed (that's still not fixed). The delays this caused for Third is why, as Mike has noted somewhere at Third, Kat's review isn't up. It's not done. We had too many problems Saturday night/Sunday morning. Three features that we couldn't get up at Third will run in Hilda's Mix Tuesday. And I just realized Pru's highlight could have photos. Those photos are public domain, of Jamie and Scott, and they can be found at the UK Defence Ministry online.
If you e-mailed the public account, you are not being ignored. Or not necessarily. Some highlights I intended to note tonight flew out the window due to the time spent trying to see if we could fix the Blogger/Blogspot problem on our end (we can't). Susan wondered about Watada who is linked to at least twice at Third this week but didn't get an article. That's an article that required links. We couldn't copy and paste written features and keep the links. When we did (using edit so we wouldn't have to respace every sentence and paragraph), we lost links. A multi-linked piece meant it wasn't going in. Hilda can (and says she will) copy those into her newsletter which is why they're going out on Tuesday (the three pieces). Since Watada was not covered online (it is in Third's print edition on their former campus in NY) I decided to use an intro to Joan's highlight just to recap. The 'recap' went on way longer than I expected. I don't want to be a reporter, I don't try to be one. But I was there and since so few were and since so little got reported, I did decide to share observations. I'm not interested in doing that, I have not been interested my whole life in doing that. I early on decided that would not be what my life was about. I have done it at the top here because there was so little reporting on Watada. (Just as I did a -- half-assed to be sure -- report on Iraq Veterans Against the War's Liam Madden's press conference in Boston after it didn't appear that was going to be reported on either.) I thank three friends for letting me walk the legalities through and helping me fine tune sections.

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