Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Such as with The New York Times repeated actions to render Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi invisible. Abeer Qassim Hamza was murdered on March12, 2006 in the town of Mahmoudiyah along with her parents Qassim Hamza Raheem and Fakhriya Taha Muhasen and her five-year-old sister Hadeel Qassim Hamza. Originally, an investigation into their deaths pegged the killer or killers as "insurgents."

The last week of June, the US military announced that they were investigating the deaths. There was talk that one of the four, Abeer, had been raped. The military gave her age as twenty-years old. On July 3rd the the US government issued a press release noting that the previous Friday (June 30th) Steven D. Green had been arrested in Asheville, North Carolina and charged with rape and murder. The 21-year-old Green had served with the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army but been dischared. Later, four soldiers still serving in the military (Paul Cortez, James Barker, Jesse Spielman and Bryan Howard) were charged with murder, rape and arson (there was an attempt to burn Abeer's body and 'do away' with the evidence) and a fifth serving soldier Anthony W. Yribe was charged with derelection of duty for failure to report the incident.

The same day that Green's arrest was announced, Ellen Knickmeyer's "Details Emerge in Alleged Army Rape, Killings" ran in The Washington Post refuting the claim that Abeer had been twenty-years-old. To date, this remains the most serious attempt (domestically -- big media or small) to detail Abeer's life and death.

Last weekend, an Article 32 hearing began for Cortez, Barker, Spielman and Howard to determine whether there was enough evidence to charge them with the crimes they are accused of. (Steven D. Green will stand trial in a federal court in Kentucky.)

You might think this was the time for reporters to explore Abeer's life? If you thought that, you weren't thinking like a reporter because no one stepped up to the plate. What you saw instead was what you'd seen largely since the beginning, details of Green's life, details of the other soldiers, denials, excuses (stress) . . . You name it, you saw anything but Abeer.

Saturday, August 6th The New York Times rendered Abeer invisible yet again. In a lengthy article running the day before the Article 32 hearing began in Baghdad, Robert F. Worth and Carolyn Marshall's "G.I. Crime Photos May Be Evidence" managed to make the argument that the defense would (stress, fatigue, etc.) -- thing is, the defense had yet to make that argument. Apparent psychics Worth and Marshall could see into the future and read the defense briefs.

Worth and Marshall should start their own 900 hotline because they presented their argument before the defense and the defense's argument? From Andy Mosher's "At Rape Hearing, U.S. Soldiers Describe Stress of War" in The Washington Post:

Eugene Fidell, a Washington military law expert, said Tuesday that the defense attorneys were most likely emphasizing combat stress to argue that their clients not face a possible death penalty in the event of a court-martial. "This is not a defense known to the law," Fidell said. "But this kind of evidence could come in during the court-martial, and it might be pertinent to the sentence. They could be setting the stage to avoid a death penalty."

Worth and Marshall -- amazing psychics for grasping a defense "not . . . known to the law."

That's from "Abeer" (The Third Estate Sunday Review, August 13, 2006). If you're new to the subject of Abeer (maybe your name is Fred Kaplan), you can check out "Justice for Abeer and her family?," "The Weeping Rapist," "Another confession to the rape and murder of 14-year-old Abeer," etc. AP's Ryan Lenz (who is not new to the topic) notes today:

They were convicted one after another - four U.S. soldiers who helped gang rape and kill a 14-year-old Iraqi girl in one of the war's worst atrocities.
[. . .]
The allegations of rape and murder at the hands of U.S. soldiers in July 2006 enraged the world community, including Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who demanded full accountability.

Enraged the world community, one of the war's worst atrocities . . . Unless you got your information from US independent media in which case you didn't get a damn thing. US independent media couldn't be bothered with the story of Abeer. Their 'excuse' may be that when the revelations started coming out, the Iraq experts weren't able to cover Iraq because they couldn't shut the hell up about Lebanon. (Again proving that the Mid East is too diverse and too active for anyone -- regardless of whom -- to take on the responsibility of one-stop, all purpose expert). And independent media, having failed to churn the Mexico elections into the big story of the summer was all about Lebanon. There are radio programs to this day that have not mentioned, forget explored, Abeer's case. If you're lucky she was mentioned in one sentence -- now, maybe like KPFA's alleged feminist show that airs once a week, she got mentioned quickly by a guest in the summer of 2006 who was just about to say the name "Abeer" when the host cut the guest off? That often passed for the most information any Pacifica program was going to give listeners about Abeer.

Robin Morgan wrote a strong article about the gang-rape and murders for the Guardian of London and Common Dreams did pick it up ("Their Bodies as Weapons: Rapes in conflict zones result from the idea that violence is erotic, and it pervades the US military"). Off Our Backs, in an issue addressing women and the military, did mention Abeer repeatedly. [See
Women in the Military: Who's Got Your Back?" by Jane Hoppen, "The Rape of the 'Hadji Girl'"by Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff, "Serving in the Rape Zone" by Allison Tobey, "Feminists in the Military: Is Armed Service Compatible with Feminism?" by Taryn McCall Runck, "A Rape in Iraq: Rape, Brothel Rape and Prostitution in Wartime" by Suki Falconberg and "U.S. Soldier Pimps Women Under His Command" by Cheryl Seelhoff.] However, Morgan and the Off Our Backs writers weren't brought on Democracy Now!, Against the Grain, et al to discuss the articles. In August 2006, Abeer would have turned 15 if she hadn't been murdered and maybe that would have been time to pick up the story they'd ignored for weeks? Independent media didn't think so. For those who've forgotten this was the period when Iraq fell off the radar and Jimmy Breslin and Molly Ivins were among the few calling that nonsense out.

Katha Pollitt's big piece during this period was calling out CODEPINK for bird-dogging Hillary Clinton.

Early in 2007, a media conference would be held and the speakers included Jane Fonda who did note Abeer. Sadly, independent media was more interested in pushing Bill Moyers. If you liked or didn't like Moyers speech, it's really doubtful that we needed to see it and only it posted at websites and broadcast repeatedly on various Pacifica programs. Click here for video of Fonda's speech, here for video of Fonda's speech and text of the full speech can be found here. From the speech:

I want to share a story. I wonder how many know the name, Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi. How many know who she was?
Abeer was a 14-old-girl, living with her family about 50 miles south of Baghdad, trying to grow up as best she could in a country ravaged by violence and war.
Until March 12, 2006, when her life was cruelly cut short. On that night, five American soldiers, dressed all in black, allegedly burst into the home where Abeer lived with her family.
After spending the evening drinking whiskey mixed with energy drinks and playing cards, the soldiers must have decided to execute the crime they allegedly had been planning for weeks. According to the charges, the men took turns raping 14-year-old Abeer before shooting her. In the next room, her mother, her father, and her five-year-old sister were executed. When the men were done, they drenched the bodies in kerosene and set them on fire.
Then, the prosecutors say, they went back to base and grilled up some chicken wings for dinner. It was months before this crime came to light.
The cold-blooded murder of Abeer and her family is a tragedy. But it’s almost as great a tragedy when her story, and all the other stories that are difficult to hear and difficult to accept, are buried in the back of the news pages--quickly shuffled off the nightly news by politicians and their handlers desperate to change the subject. Or never told at all.
Like so many Americans, I have felt frustrated and betrayed by the state of the mainstream media in this country-- media whose priorities seem out of step with their responsibilities.

One month short of a year after Knickmeyer's article ran, Katha Pollitt finally discovered Abeer long enough to include her in a half-sentence of a column. (Alexander Cockburn had written more than a half-sentence about Abeer previously. He was the only other Nation columnist to mention her.)

One of the worst crimes? Absolutely. Amazingly, also one of the least covered. The New York Times regularly minimized the issue, refused to name Abeer and seemed to channel the defense attorneys for the accused throughout their coverage. So it would have been great if independent media could have stepped the hell up to the plate but they had other things to do.

See "2006: The Year of Living of Dumbly" for examples of some of the other stories they ignored and some of the 'other things' that were so much more important . . . to them.

It did enrage the world, it just didn't get covered in the US. (On campuses then and since, Abeer is very much an issue proving yet again how far ahead of the media -- that allegedly serves them -- students today are.)

Steven D. Green, the alleged ring-leader, has his trial now scheduled for April 13, 2009. He'll be tried in a civilian court because he was already discharged before the revelations came to light.

A slaughter of US soldiers took place in the spring of 2006 and the ones who did the slaughter made public that it was in response to Abeer. So you might think All Things Media Big and Small would have paid attention to this story but they didn't. The criminal conspiracy to gang-rape Abeer and to murder her, her five-year-old sister and both of her parents was among the worst War Crimes that are known from this illegal war but the coverage in this country -- with a few, tiny exceptions -- didn't reflect that because it didn't exist.

There was always something else to cover. Not something else from Iraq, just something else. As the ignoring of these war crimes continued, it began to look like some just didn't want to be bothered and didn't want the story to be known and, you could argue, that attitude goes a long ways towards explaining the attacks on Brian De Palma's amazing film Redacted.

At least we got that amazing editorial calling out what happened in The Nation, right?

"Murder, not war. Rape, not war. That's what we're here talking about today. Not all that business about cold food, checkpoints, personnel assignments. Cold food didn't kill that family. Personnel assignments didn't rape and murder that 14-year-old little girl."

Oh wait, that wasn't The Nation, that's Capt. Alex Pickands speaking in the Article 32 hearing. In the print version, only Katha Pollitt and Alexander Cockburn have ever noted Abeer, all this time later. Online? Who knows what useless post they've offered on that dumb ass website but as of this past summer, Abeer wasn't mentioned other than in the online versions of Pollitt and Cockburn's columns. (If it's been mentioned since, I'll hear from friends with the magazine. If so we'll note it on Sunday at Third when The Nation will be addressed.)

Why did Abeer never get the coverage those War Crimes demanded? It's a question everyone in independent media should be answering. Star power? Jane Fonda spoke publicly at a media conference -- one well covered by independent media . . . when men were speaking.

Ryan Lenz never had difficulty providing articles on the topic. Independent media couldn't even provide commentary, forget reporting. It's disgusting.

A 14-year-old girl was gang-raped and hears her parents and her sister murdered in the next room while she's being gang-raped. After the gang-rape, she's murdered as well. Who stepped up to the plate to cover that? It's shameful, it's disgusting and the fact that all this time later it still hasn't been a focus for independent media goes a long, long way towards indicating exactly what independent media really thinks of women. And more than ever it proves feminists have to lead on the issue of rape because it's apparently too 'uncomfortable' for most men and too many women to address.

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