Monday, July 28, 2008

They weren't criminals

The family of Hafeidh Aboud, one of the three civilians killed on their way to the airport last month, said late Sunday night that the U.S. soldiers responsible should be prosecuted either in the United States or in Iraq.
"Why did they do this to us? My father liked the Americans very much," said Mohammed Hafeidh Aboud, 21, one of Hafeidh Aboud's seven children. "The American soldiers are guilty. Why did they do this? Why?"
The shooting took place June 25 as Hafeidh Aboud was on his way to Rasheed Bank, where he had worked for 33 years. In the car with him were employees Suroor Ahmed, 32, and Maha Youssef, 31.
Around that time, a convoy of American soldiers from the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light), were traveling in the vicinity, the military said. One of the vehicles developed mechanical problems and pulled off along a road adjacent to the airport.
About 8:40 a.m., as soldiers tried to repair the vehicle, Aboud's Opel approached the rear of the parked convoy, according to the military and witnesses. The military said in a statement that the car was speeding toward the soldiers, who viewed it as a threat. "When the vehicle failed to respond to the soldiers' warning measures, it was engaged with small arms fire," the statement said.
The three civilians died instantly.

The above is from Sudarsan Raghavan and Qais Mizher's "U.S. Says 3 Iraqis Killed In June Were Law-Abiding" (Washington Post)and Lisa noted it. You can also see Leila Fadel's "U.S. concedes Iraq victims were law-abiding, not insurgents" (McClatchy Newspapers) which we noted yesterday. For context, from the June 25th snapshot: "Reuters notes the US military shot dead 2 'suspects' in Samara and they shot dead 3 people in a car 'near Baghdad airport'. On the 3 in Baghdad, Doug Smith (Los Angeles Times) reports, 'Officials at Yarmouk Hospital identified the dead as a manager and two female employees of a bank at the airport. Iraqi police also reported that two bodyguards were injured' while the US military maintains they were attacked by the bank employees." Richard A. Oppel's "U.S. Military Says Soldiers Fired on Civilians" covers the story for the New York Times:

But the findings called into question the way the military handled the aftermath of the shootings.
For example, a key assertion of the news release issued by the military on the day of the killings was that "a weapon was recovered from the wreckage." But the military said Sunday that no one claimed to have found a weapon in the car or had seen a weapon taken from it.
Instead, one of the soldiers at the scene reported seeing an Iraqi police officer pull something from the burned car and then place it in the front seat of an ambulance, according to Lt. Col. Steve Stover, a spokesman for the Fourth Infantry Division, which patrols Baghdad.
The soldier never said the item pulled from the car was a weapon, he said. But the soldier's account nevertheless formed the basis for a statement in an initial internal military assessment of the attack, which said that a weapon had been pulled from the car.
"We don't believe there was any cover-up," Colonel Stover said.
The investigation also revealed that the car had already passed through a major checkpoint leading into the airport, which required the occupants to submit to a thorough search for weapons and other dangerous objects. As they had many times before, the bank employees then drove down the main civilian road to the airport.

Saif Hameed and Ned Parker's "U.S. acknowledges that three Iraqis killed by soldiers were unarmed" (Los Angeles Times) addresses original statements from the military back in June:

In its statement on the June shooting, the U.S. Army said its soldiers had felt threatened when they saw a car speeding up a road toward them, and the driver did not heed warnings to stop.
The military said its June statement describing the dead as criminals was incorrect. Initially, some soldiers thought that someone in the car was shooting and that Iraqi police had found a weapon in the vehicle, the military said. However, no weapon was found and the passengers turned out to be a man and two women who worked at the airport bank.

Yesterday in the New York Times, Sabrina Tavernise contributed "A Shiite Militia in Baghdad Sees Its Power Wane" which sounds the political death of Moqtada al-Sadr. A visitor e-mailed the public account asking why we didn't note it. I don't believe it. Had that article appeared at the start of the March, no problem. But Tavernise's article seems completely unaware of Basra. Prior to the uprising al-Sadr stirred and then calmed, the article would make more sense and indicate that the US government's whispers that al-Sadr's influence was over; however, what happened argued something completely different. Again, at the start of March, it would seem possible. Post-Basra?

Turning to the US presidential race, Monica Johnson explains to the Free Lance Star how she's voting:

If a person feels that neither John McCain nor Barack Obama will make a suitable president, then voting for one of them based solely on his place in partisan politics is foolish and irresponsible.
When neither of the two main political candidates is satisfactory, it is up to us, the voters, to look elsewhere for someone worthy of the office of president.
If you're looking for a scapegoat to blame for George Bush's victories over Al Gore and John Kerry, don't blame Ralph Nader.
Blame the thousands of registered Democrats who can't be bothered to vote. Blame the Democratic National Committee for nominating candidates who are unable to garner enough support to defeat a disliked commander in chief.
But don't blame Ralph Nader for doing his duty as an American, for trying to give the power back to the people.
I will be voting for Ralph Nader this November because I don't want to waste my vote.

Ralph Nader is running for president, he's an independent candidate and his running mate is Matt Gonzalez. Jennifer Latson (Houston Chronicle) reports on Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez' stop in Houston yesterday:

When Ralph Nader came to town, a group of about 60 dedicated followers dug deep into their pockets to give more than $7,000 to the perennial third-party presidential candidate.
The Sunday afternoon campaign stop at the Hilton hotel on the University of Houston campus drew supporters who believed winning isn't everything, and who said they were investing in the future of politics and democracy.
Nader criticized his Republican and Democratic rivals for being influenced by corporate donors. Multiple candidates help keep politics clean, he added.
He also criticized Texas for requiring more than 74,000 signatures to place an independent candidate on the ballot. He wants the Legislature to ease those rules.
"This is the worst state in the country in terms of denying voters their own choice of candidates," he said. "What is it about Texans, who consider themselves rebels and tough critters, and they're just patsies when it comes to corporate barons?"
Many who gathered in the hotel ballroom said they will write in Nader when they vote. This is his fifth run for president. Since his controversial run as the Green Party candidate in 2000, he has campaigned as an independent.

Sebastian Kitchen (Montgomery Advertiser) reports on Nader's visit to Montgomery Saturday:

He addressed about 20 sup­porters in front of the Rosa Parks Library and Museum on Saturday, and attempted to draw a parallel between his quixotic presidential quests and Parks' role in the civil rights movement.
"Rosa Parks challenged the system," he said.
Nader, who has made mul­tiple runs for the White House, spoke out against the war in Iraq, the Bush admi­nistration, the government catering to giant corpora­tions, the low minimum wage, and the atrocity of peo­ple living in this nation with­out healthcare.
"Why aren't these issues talked about by the major parties?" Nader asked before saying those parties do not represent the American peo­ple.
He said he seeks to ad­vance people's health, safety and economic well-being.

Marie and Kendall noted the items on the Nader campaign stops. And Kendall asked if Dee Knight's "Military resister's father calls him 'a hero'" (Workers World) could be noted again::

When James Burmeister was court martialed last week, he was sentenced to six months in the stockade and a Bad Conduct Discharge. "I feel like the case was used as an example to other soldiers," his father told Workers World. "Not only will you get punished, but your loved ones will be too."
"They attacked James as more of a sociopath than a patriot," said Erich Burmeister. "They hammered on the point of his going AWOL and leaving his unit in great danger. They painted him as a coward."
"I think my son is a hero," Erich continued. "There are many Iraqis who were not killed because of what he did, and many GIs whose lives were saved because of it. He made a tremendous service to his country by standing up and bearing witness to the ‘bait-and-kill’ war crimes."
After James went AWOL he exposed this program, in which U.S. sniper teams leave "bait" to lure Iraqis and then kill them. When he denounced the program, it turned into a media scandal. (See "U.S. aims to lure insurgents with 'bait,'" Washington Post, Sept. 24, 2007.)
Being on a military base "unnerved me and my wife," Erich said. "In hindsight it was the perfect 'good cop-bad cop' thing, played to perfection.” Between the JAG lawyer the Army assigned, and the prosecution, Erich said, "They really had me convinced that the best strategy for [James] was to plead guilty. We took the bait and got our butts kicked." He said their JAG attorney "was rotten. Had we been able to afford good civilian legal defense, we could have pursued more options. I wish we had done it."
Speaking of James, Erich said, "The amazing thing is he is taking it better than those of us who love him so much. He's very strong. He told us, 'Understand this, anything the Army can do to me can't be as bad as being in Baghdad doing what they wanted me to do.' He's relieved not to have a gun in his hand anymore. That's what he cares about.
"Once he had achieved his goal, making the public aware of 'bait and kill,' he was prepared to turn himself back in. He's strong, and I'm sure he'll do okay. He didn't seem to be as troubled by it as we were. We're hoping he'll stay that way and will be with us soon."
Supporters can write to James Burmeister at Box A, Fort Knox, KY 40121.
Articles copyright 1995-2008 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved. Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011

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