Thursday, October 11, 2007

The 'secret' war

Geneva Jalal Antranik and Marani Awanis Manouik were killed for the 'crime' of driving with approximately 30 bullets fired into their vehicle. Andrew E. Kramer's "2 Killed in Shooting Mourned Far Beyond Iraq" (New York Times) offers some details on the two women:

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.
For the family of at least one of the women killed, a taxi driver who was shot in the head as her car was struck with bullets while approaching a security convoy on Tuesday, the grief extended well beyond the borders of Iraq.
The woman, Marany Awanees, was the youngest of nine children in the Mamook family, including three brothers who are part of the Armenian diaspora in Europe and the United States.
The Mamook family, like so many other Armenian families, now straddles the boundaries between the West and the family's Middle Eastern roots.
"She was a lovely sister, my younger sister, a lovely, lovely sister," a brother, Paul Mamook, an electrical engineer in Belfast, Northern Ireland, said in a telephone interview.

Meanwhile David Clark (Reuters) reports the United Nations has completed a human rights study covering April 2007 through June 2007 and is calling for the US "to ensure that any U.S. private contractors committing offences in Iraq are prosecuted". But how will anyone ever know what happens or doesn't when everything's cloaked in secrecy? Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Michael Gordon (New York Times) report:

However, Iraqi investigators say the F.B.I. and State Department have not provided information about the investigation to their Iraqi counterparts, despite repeated requests. A senior Iraqi investigator said that American military officers had also interviewed Iraqi witnesses, collected evidence from Nisour Square and talked to Iraqi investigators.
"We haven't received any information from the Americans about their own two investigations," the senior Iraqi investigator said. "F.B.I. investigators have asked us to help them and share our information, as they have started a third investigation."
The senior American military officer said the State Department had also refused to provide details of its investigation. "We have asked questions," the official said. "They have not responded back on those." Both the Iraqi investigator and the American military officer spoke on condition of anonymity because neither was authorized to discuss the investigations publicly.

And those aren't the only ones frustrated with the lack of transparency. Farah Stockman's "Pentagon is pressed on killings of Iraqis" (Boston Globe) reports:

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.
"Without these documents being released, we don't really know how well the military is doing," said Jon Tracy, a former judge advocate general in Iraq who now works for CIVIC, a Washington-based group that seeks to curb civilian deaths. "We don't know how often this happens, and when it does happen. We can't know if a soldier reasonably had fear or was the soldier was just trigger-happy?"
Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who has been an outspoken advocate of civilian victims in Iraq and Afghanistan, has renewed calls for the Pentagon to create a declassified database of civilian deaths.
"Such a database would assist in evaluating the effectiveness of the Pentagon's efforts to reduce civilian casualties and in determining appropriate compensation for the victims' families," Leahy said in a statement to the Globe last week. "It would also help to credibly refute inaccurate claims of civilian deaths."

An entire war cloaked in secrecy. 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."

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andrew e. kramer