Thursday, October 11, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, October 11, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, Big Monty plays with her own feces on NPR, pretend not to notice the lowering standards for US enlistment, the US military announces another death, the Center for Constitutional Rights files a law suit against Blackwater USA, and more.
Starting with war resistance.  Sunday in Corvallis, Oregon (a college town not far from Portland) Gerry Condon will speak at the Odd Fellows Hall, 223 S.W. Second St. at 7:00 pmGerry Condon is a war resister from the Vietnam era and he's very active in war resistance today.  He can speak about war resisters in Canada -- not just Kyle Snyder, but he knows Snyder's case front to back -- and about the legal process in Canada which has thus far refused to grant any war resisters of this era refugee status.  Along with a can't-miss-speech, those attending will also be able to see Michelle Mason's Breaking Ranks -- a documentary about war resisters in Canada today.
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes James Stepp, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty-one US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters.
Today Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) broke the news that the Center for Constitutional Rights was filing a lawsuit against the mercenary company Blackwater USA.  CCR's Susan Burke explained that, "We were approached by the families of three gentlemen who were shot and killed, as well as a gentleman who was very seriously injured. They came to us because they know of our work representing the torture victims at Abu Ghraib, and they asked us whether it would be possible to try to get some form of justice, some form of accountability, against this rogue corporation. So we put together a lawsuit that is being filed this morning in federal court in the District of Columbia on behalf of the families of three gentlemen who were killed: Mr. Atban, Mr. Abbass and Mr. Ibraheem The three gentlemen, amongst them, had fourteen children, including one, Mr. Atban, had a newborn baby daughter. So, needless to say, we are very interested in holding this company accountable and in pursuing the lawsuit vigorously."  This is relation to the September 16th incident where the mercenaries slaughter at least 17 people in Baghdad.  CCR explains that they filed the case and joining them in the filing were the firms of Burke O'Neill LLC and Akeel & Valentine, P.C.: "Filed in Washington, D.C. federal court by Talib Mutlaq Deewan and the estates of the deceased men Himoud Saed Atban, Usama Fadhil Abbass, and Oday Ismail Ibraheem the lawsuit claims that Blackwater and its affiliated companies violated U.S. law and created and fostered a culture of lawlessness amongst its employees, encouraging them to act in the company's financial interests at the expense of innocent human life.  The complaint alleges that Blackwater violated the federal Alien Tort Statute in committing extrajudicial killing and war crimes, and that Blackwater should be liable for claims of assault and battery, wrongful death, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and negligent hiring, training and supervision." Among Paul Bremer's orders was CPA Order 17 and the latest report from the United Nations (more on that later in the snapshot) notes, "While CPA Order 17 also enables the US Government to waive a contractor's immunity, to UNAMI's knowledge it has not done so to date."  Susan Burke explained on Democracy Now! that "one of the interesting things to point out is that the Bremer order, which is widely viewed as immunizing these contractors, actually just says that the Iraqi courts will not have jurisdiction over them. So I think as a practical matter that the general choice of law principles still apply that Iraqi law would apply. But in addition, the conduct that we're talking about offends and violates the law of every nation. So when we bring the lawsuit here, whether you apply, you know, the law of the District of Columbia or the law of Iraq, you come to the same conclusion: you're not allowed to gun down innocents."  CCR's president Michael Ratner declares, "Blackwater's repeated and consistent failure to act in accord with the law of war, U.S. law, and international law harms our nation and it harms Iraq.  For the good of both nations, as well as for countless innocent civilians, the company cannot be allowed to continue operating extra-legally, providing mercenaires who flout all kinds of law.  This lawsuit, like the ongoing U.S. and Iraqi government investigations, cannot bring back those killed at Nissor Square but it can make Blackwater accountable for its actions."  (Ratner is also a co-host -- along with Heidi Boghosian, Dalia Hashad and Michael Smith -- of WBAI's Law and Disorder -- which also airs online and on other radio stations across the US.)  Meanwhile the Blackwater 'investigations' become more of joke.   Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Michael Gordon (New York Times) report Iraqi investigators and the US military are both complaining about the US State Dept which is not sharing information from their own alleged investigations and Iraqi investigators see the same stalling from the FBI.  And in other non-communicating, non-sharing news, Farah Stockman (Boston Globe) reports that,"US military officials say they have launched a successful effort to reduce the number of such shootings by training soldiers to give more visible warnings, but the Pentagon so far has declined to release data to back up the assertion. That refusal has sparked a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union seeking copies of military reports on such escalation-of-force shootings. Key members of Congress have also called for the release of the documents."
On Tuesday, Geneva Jalal Antranik and Marani Awanis Manouik were killed for the 'crime' of driving with approximately 30 bullets fired into their vehicle.  As Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) noted today, "Meanwhile in Iraq, mourners buried two Iraqi women killed Tuesday by guards with another private military firm. The victims were driving home from work when their vehicle came under fire by guards with the Australia-based Unity Resources Group."  Andrew E. Kramer (New York Times) reports,  "Mournful members of Iraq's Armenian Christian population bowed their heads and recited the Lord's Prayer over an altar of burning incense at a funeral here on Wednesday for two Armenian women killed by private security contractors, the second such fatal shooting in less than a month. Relatives also called for justice on Wednesday, though security contractors are immune from prosecution under Iraqi law." Scott Horton explains to Alissa J. Rubin and Paul von Zielbaer (New York Times) that
despite all the violence contractors have inflicted on Iraqis, "there has yet to be a prosecution for a single incident of violence."  Kramer reports that Marany Awanees was a cab driver and "the youngest of nine children in the Momook family, including three brotehrs who are part of the Armenian diaspora in Europe and the United States" and quotes Paul Mammok stating, "She was a lovely sister, my younger sister, a lovely, lovely sister."  Democracy Now! quotes an unidentified relative (presumaly of Geneva Jalal Antranik) declaring, "They called me to Basra and told me that the security firms have shot them dead.  She is a housewife."  As Jeremy Scahill noted (on Democracy Now!) today re: Blackwater USA's September 16th slaughter, "We have to remember that upwards of a million Iraqis have died since the beginning of the US invasion and the names of the victims of both the US military and these private military companies are almost never reported."  [Jeremy Scahill is the author of  Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.Christian Berthelsen and Said Rifai (Los Angeles Times) report that Marani Oranis had been a scientist with the country's Agriculture Ministry until she and her husband Azad decided to start a family (Nora, Karon and Alice are the three daughters) but in 2005 her husband died and she began using her 1990 Oldsmobile as a cab to support herself and her three daughters and Marani's niece tells the Times, "She was forced to traverse the roads of Baghdad on a daily basis in order to provide for her daughters.  This turn of fate is something that every single one of us Iraqis expects on a daily basis.  We are all targets for elimination, leaving for work and school in the mornings and not knowing whether we will make it back home safely."
Today the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq released a (PDF format warning) report "documenting widespread human rights abuses and recommending specific measures in response, including due process for detainees, punishment for perpetrators of 'honor killings,' and investigations into deaths caused by private military firms operating in the country."  The UN report ("Human Rights Report 1 April -- 30 June 2007") finds, "Daily life for the average Iraqi civilian remains extremely precarious.  The violence remains in large part indiscriminate, targeting public places where large numbers of people gather to inflict maximum casualties and foment fears of further descent into chaos and loss of any semblance of state control.  The violence has affected all of Iraq's ethnic groups and communities, including minority groups.  Targeted assassinations, abductions for ransom or other motives, and extrajudicial executions, continued to be reported on a regular basis.  As in the past, professional groups remained a prime target of such attacks, among them media professionals and members of the leagl profession, as highlighted in this report."  During the period of the report, UNAMI found that "88 civilians were reportedly killed during air strikes conducted by MNF forces.  They included the following: nine civilians killed in five villages in the al-Anbakiya area near Ba'quba on 11 March; two civilians killed in Dulu'iya in Salahuddin Governorate on 15 March; 16 civilians killed in Sadr City in Baghdad on 30 March; 27 civilians killed in Khaldiya, Ramadi, on 3 April; four civilians killed in Sadr City and four others west of Taji on 26 April; three civilians killed in Basra on 30 April; seven civilians killed east of Baghdad on 5 May; one civilian killed in Sadr City on 6 May; and eight civilians killed in Basra on 26 May.  On 8 May, seven children were reportedly killed when helicopters attacked an elementary school in a village in Diyala Governorate near the Iranian border.  Following this incident, a spokesperson for US forces in Iraq, Lieutenant-Colonel Christoper Garver, announced that the MNF authorities were conducting an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of the children.  However, the findings of such investigations are not systematically publicized.  On 28 June, UNAMI wrote to the MNF Chief of Staff, seeking further information on all these recorded incidents in which civilians were said to have been killed during air strikes."  BBC reports today that the US military is admitting that even if they killed 19 'insurgents' in Lake Tharthar, they also killed "15 civilians, including nine children" in an air strike (that happened when? -- no date given).
In other violence reported today . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports three Baghdad roadside bombings resulted in nine people being injured (two were police officers), while a Baghad car bombing claimed 8 lives with twenty-five more left wounded, a Mosul truck bombing targeting the PUK party headquarters left eight wounded and a Kirkuk car bombing aimed at Col Salar Ahmed ("head of Kirkuk traffic police") claimed 7 lives ("two of his guards and five civilians") and left thirty-five people wounded.  Reuters notes 8 dead and twenty-five wounded from a car bombing targeting a Baghdad internet cafe.  And  Reuters reports: "Wednesday night's rocket or mortar attack on Camp Victory, the sprawling U.S. base near Baghdad airport that houses the U.S. military headquarters, killed two coalition soldiers and wounded 38 others, the U.S. military said. Two foreign civilian contractors were also wounded." To which the Los Angeles Times adds: "The victims' nationality was not specified. The military also said two 'third-country nationals' were injured in the "indirect fire" attack at Camp Victory, near the Baghdad airport."  With CBS and AP adding it's still not known whether it was a rocket or mortar attack and "No further details on the attack were immediately released."
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Kirkuk police shot dead 3 suspects.  Reuters notes "the son of an Islamic Party official" was shot dead in Mosul and an attack on a police station outside of Tuz Khurmato that left 1 police officer dead.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 corpses discovered in Baghdad.  Reuters notes that the corpse of Haythem Nadeem ("former Iraqi athlete") was discovered in Mosul "five days after he was kidnapped' and two corpses were discovered in Latifiya.  Jenny Booth (Times of London) notes that the last attack on Camp Victory to have resulted in a death was on a rocket attack.  And the US military announced today: "One MNC-I Soldier died of wounds suffered during combat operations in eastern Baghdad Oct. 10."
Staying on the topic of the US military.  Having already lowered standards and reduced target goals, the US military managed to squeak back with a little good news this year though there are already concerns about recruitment in 2008.  Which may explain some new 'efforts.'  Aamer Madhani (Chicago Tribune) reports that they have "enlisted thousands of new soldiers with criminal records and fewer who have earned high school diplomas" via what's known as a "character waiver" (FYI, that's how Steven D. Green -- accused of being the mastermind behind the gang-rape and murder of 14-year-old Abeer and the murder of her parents and her five-year-old sister -- got it into the military) with "[m]ore than 11 percent of the Army recruits . . . [needing] waivers for problems with the law -- up from 7.9 percent the previous year and more than double the percentage in 2003, the year the U.S. invaded Iraq."  So if everyone's comfortable with the US military is allowed to sign up felons (1,620 for the Army alone in 2007), they can meet the reduced target goals.  But can they keep them (provided they aren't court-martialed for war crimes)?  Richard Lardner (AP) reports one plan for keeping members of the Green Berets and Navy Seals -- give 'em big bucks "more than $100 million in bonsuses" and the Pentagon expects "to spend another $43.5 million on commando bonuses in fiscal year 2008, which began Oct. 1".  This as the commander of the US marines, Gen James Conway, is calling for marines stationed in Iraq to be sent to Iraq and leave Iraq in the (foreign) hands of the US army, CNN reports.  Of course, also the US air force but that must have slipped Conway's mind.  Fortunately, AFP remembers what the brass forgot and reports that "the shift would mean changes as well for the air force.  The army relies on the air force in both countries for combat air support, while the marines have their own air operations."   On recruitment, AP reports that 6 "main Iraqi insurgent groups" are forming a "political council" with a "political program to liberate Iraq" and the spokesperson (unidentified) explains, "First, the occupation is an oppression and aggression, rejected by Islamic Sharia law and tradition.  Resistance of occupation is a right guaranteed by all religions and laws.  Second, the armed resistance . . . is the legitimate representative of Iraq.  it is the one that bears responsibility for the leadership of the people to achieve its legitimate hope."  The six groups are the Islamic Army of Iraq, the Mujahideen Army, Ansar al-Sunna, the Islamic Front for the Iraqi Resistance, the Islamic Movement of Hamas-Iraq and Ansar al-Sunna.
Meanwhile, the violation of anthropology continues.  Yesterday on The Diane Rehm Show, chubby little Montgomery McFate -- still a fat child on the inside but "senior advisor to the US Army" is how Susan Page billed her -- worked out her grudge against her parents yet again.  (Page was filling in for Diane Rehm.)  McFate had one laughable claim after another -- but didn't she reach the height of lying when she claimed her 'schoolmate' was someone five years younger than her?.  So poster child for Lifestyles of the Plain & Stupid finally got the spotlight she's so long craved and isn't that really what it's all about?  That and landing a blow against the sixties and her parents?  How did she word it to War Hark George Packer?  " I'm engaged in a massive act of rebellion against my hippie parents."  How transparent do your motives have to be before the mainstream press says, "Hey, this nut doesn't belong on the air?"  Petty, 'creative' Monty made it onto radio. And insisted to anthropologist David Price (St. Martin's University) that the reason he doesn't know more about the program is because it has "been in existence less than a year."  The program -- even just the aspect she was discussing yesterday -- has been going on for more than a year and Monty knows that. 
Even with the program stacked in her favor, Monty yet again found herself with feces in her hands.  During the first section of the show, listeners heard no dissenting viewpoint as the US military presented their version via Monty  Col John Agoglia and Lt Col Edward Villacres.  At fourteen minutes and seventeen seconds, David Price was allowed to present some of the serious issues such as the need for "meaningful, voluntary, informed consent.  This is a fundamental Principal of all human research in the social sciences. And if populations are being studied in theater there are big questions about how you get voluntary informed consent for research.  Now the military doesn't really have to worry about these sorts of things but social sciences do."
Monty spun, "they are not conducting covert or clandestine activities.  They identify themselves by name and the unit that they're with to anyone they talk to so it's not a secret program by any means."  She then declared that "no one is forced" to talk to the anthropologists and everyone who does is making a choice which completely ignores the issue Price was raising (maybe not intentionally -- Monty's never been all that bright) which is how do you get consent in a war zone?  How does someone tell you "no" when you roll up to their home with the US military?   Monty says that people can tell the difference between "a lethal unit of the US military and a non-lethal unit of the US military" and that's HIGHLY DEBATABLE but more to the point, do countries that are occupied by a military contain an occupied people and it is the height of stupidity for anyone to claim that an occupied people can refuse to be test subjects without fearing that doing so will result in retribution towards them from the occupiers. 
On the issue of anthropologists identifying themselves, Price pointed to David Rohde's "Army Enlists Anthropology in War Zones" (New York Times) and declared it "talks about an anthropologist I think named Tracy and that's the only name that's given.  So anthropologists need to be transparent about who they are and who they're working for. . . . But I worry how transparent the program is if the people who are doing it aren't being self-identified?  Now the story says it's being done for security reasons and so on. But if you go to the New York Times story and look at the nifty, little video they have -- you know  backing the story, it's very strange because they don't show the anthropologist -- they intentionally withhold the person's identity.  Yet they show all these people who are talking to the anthropologist which of course they're doing so at some personal risk, one would assume, in Afghanistan.  And I worry about any sort of program where there's a one-way mirror that's going on."   
Susan Page: . . . there was a  New York Times article last week which actually prompted us to do this show today. And it did talk about this anthropologist named Tracy, but it wasn't clear to me, Montgomery McFate maybe you know, whether her [full] name was just not disclosed to the New York Times article, or if her full name is not being disclosed to the people she's interatcing with in Afghanistan.  Do you know -- do you know the answer to that.
Monty [quick intake and slow first word -- always a clue Monty's inventing -- seriously, that was evident when she was a child]: Her name was held from the New York Times story and in other media that's come out of  Afghanistan at her own request.
Susan Page: But does she give her [full] name to the Afghanis that she's talking with.
Monty: Yes, she does.
Remember that.  Monty is wrong as usual.    David Rohde joins the panel late, after the above exchange took place, and it turns out Monty's inventing again.
About Tracy in the Times' story, Susan Price asked, "But the Afghans -- the Afghanis that she's dealing with, do they know her name, her full name, does it seem transparent for them or does she also go just by her first name?
David Rohde:  Um, she was transparent with them.  I don't think she gave her full name, I think she does identify herself as an anthropologist.  I saw her briefly, but I don't know what she does at all times. She personally, um, actually chose to carry a weapon for security that's not a requirement for members of the team, I've been told.  And she wore a military uniform which would make her appear to be a soldier, um, to Afghans that she wasn't actually speaking with.
Susan Price: And so you think Aghans knew that she wasn't a soldier even though she was wearing a military uniform and carrying a weapon?  Or do you think that they just assumed that she probably was?
David Rohde: I would think that they assumed that she was.
Earlier, Monty declared that an anthropologist (cited in an article by the New York Times) in Afghanistan was 'transparent' and gave her full name.  Turns out, Monty was wrong.  Gives her first name, wears a military uniform and carries a weapon.  And yet wants to pretend she's a social scientist and Monty wants to pretend that people who encounter these 'weaponized' anthros feel they can reasonably refuse to participate in a scientific study.  There's also the issue (and Packer had the same problem) that the majority involved in this don't want to be identified.  Why?  Because they fear the backlash from their own peers.  And that backlash started long before it was known that antro "Tracy" is suiting up in military drag and carrying a weapon.  That's not science.  That's not 'embedded.'  A reporter who put on a uniform would not be considered an 'embed.' 
Rohde would also explain  "From the reaction of American military officers, they seem very interested in a new approach.  One UN official said basically that the [US] military's realized that they can't end these insurgencies by military means and they're desperate for finding other ways to counter the insurgency."  Monty loves her 'influence' and being 'an angel' but she should worry about her responsibilities in terms of War Crimes.
Price and Roberto J. Gonzalez (at CounterPunch) tackled this issue last month, "The Department of Defense, intelligence agencies, and military contractors are aggressively recruiting anthropologists for work related to counter-insurgency operations. These institutions seek to incorporate cultural knowledge and ethnographic intelligence in direct support of US-led interventions in the Middle East and Central Asia.  The Pentagon is increasingly relying on the deployment of 'Human Terrain System' (HTS) teams in Afghanistan and Iraq to gather and disseminate information on cultures living in the theatre of war. Some of these teams are assigned to US brigade or regimental combat units, which include 'cultural analysts' and 'regional studies analysts'."   Concerned Anthropologists is attempting to raise awareness on this issue and to insist upon ethical anthropology.

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