Saturday, January 24, 2009

Victims asserted to be prostitutes

The killers' motives were unclear, but the official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media, said a preliminary investigation had indicated that some of the women might have been prostitutes.
His assertion could not be independently verified.

The above is from Sam Dagher's "Gunmen Kill at Least Six Members of a Family in Iraq" (New York Times) and read the above and wonder about the paper's refusal to ever name Abeer when covering the Article 32 hearings or the court-martials into her gang-rape and murder. Always, readers were confronted with "a 14-year-old girl." An apparently nameless fourteen-year-old girl in story after story.

I don't have a problem with the section above. Dagher's covering the home invasion outside Balad Ruz in which as many as nine people may have been killed -- and in which two people were reported kidnapped by various outlets (the kidnappings do not make the paper's article). Dagher and company discovered some information which may or may not be correct and they present it as such ("His assertion could not be independently verified") but considering how the paper refused to print Abeer's name, should the paper really be runing unconfirmed rumors about dead women?

Is there a worse thing that a woman in Iraq could be called than a prostitute? While the paper does not run the names, the New York Times is available online and, yes, there are Iraqis who can read English. (A larger percentage of Iraqis can read English than Americans who can read Arabic.) So it's not unlikely that someone in Iraq might read it and the charge could smear an entire family.

Repeating, I don't have a problem with Dagher's article. I do have a problem with the paper which seems to want it both ways. When confronted on the Abeer issue, people at the paper would repeatedly LIE and state that Abeer was underage and that's why they were using "14-year-old girl." Abeer was dead. Long before she ever appeared in the paper (even as "14-year-old girl"), Abeer was dead.

US soldiers conspired to gang-rape her. They conspired to kill her. They studied her and they invaded her home, killed her parents and five-year-old sister while gang-raping Abeer and then killed Abeer. After that, they attempted to set her body on fire to destroy the evidence.

The War Crimes were originally blamed on "insurgents."

Abeer was dead. There was no memory to protect. There was the issue of the US involvement in War Crimes.

All but one soldier have entered their guilty please. Steven D. Green, the ringleader according to court testimony of the other soldiers involved, had been discharged before it was learned "insurgents" did not do the crimes. As a result, he will be tried in a federal court and not a military one. Green, according to the testimony of the others, not only came up with the scheme, he was the one who killed the parents, Abeer's sister and Abeer.

Green was arrested as June wound down in 2006. Green asserts he is innocent. Like most 'innocent' people, he and his attorney have used every excuse in the book to postpone the trial. Green's allegedly building up his character profile for his day in court which allegedly includes a new found 'love' for religion. Every other US soldier has stood trial. But not Green.

In the lead up to the Article 32 hearing, the paper was carrying the defense's argument and presenting it as reporting -- a novel defense that would surprise court watchers when it finally was presented in court. But somehow, just by chance, you understand, the paper not only made the same argument but did so under 'reporting.' Not everyone was such a whore to War Crimes. The prosecutor in the Article 32 hearing, summed it up clearly:

"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."

That's Captain Alex Pickands and that's CNN because the paper couldn't be bothered with that. It wasn't reporting for the paper and it remains as embarrassing as anything they're more often called out for.

But that was the Article 32 hearing. By the time soldier after soldier confessed publicly, it went beyond embarrassing as the paper continued to render the victim of the US War Crimes invisible. And yet today they want to run with an unconfirmed rumor about dead women?

The paper needs to examine its policies because there is no consistency. One more time, I'm not disagreeing with the approach taken on Dagher's article. I think Dagher and company handled it in a journalistic manner and, whether the claim is true or not, it's important because it goes to the mind-set. A woman? Must be a prostitute. A prostitute? Worthy of death. In the name of 'holy.'

On the War Crimes against Abeer, on the murders of the women and children in the home invasion and on the Times' refusal to print Abeer's name, let's all join Dolly Parton in singing, "If you think that God won't get you, well you're wrong" ("God Won't Get You").

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