Rebecca: We're doing an Iraq roundtable tonight and we'll do one next Friday as well as part of the lead up to the March 19th actions. We've done two roundtables already in recent weeks and participating tonight are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Ava, me, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review, Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Trina of Trina's Kitchen, Wally of The Daily Jot, Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends, Marcia of SICKOFITRADLZ and Ruth of Ruth's Report. Betty and Cedric participate by phone. In the last Iraq roundtable, Jim of Third Estate sat in with us to figure out a way to see if there was a way to make it more manageable at Third to do a roundtable. What's been decided is that the core six of Third -- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I. -- along with Kat who lives in the same area and Betty and Wally who live at C.I.'s home will do an Iraq roundtable at Third. Others can participate if they want but most will be taking the chance to bail and be done at an earlier time than usual. Except for Cedric and Betty, we are all at Trina's for this roundtable. I'm going to toss to Mike to start with because, twice this week, the Associated Press tried to spin on Iraq and he blogged about both times. Mike?
Mike: Okay, First up, February ended and March began so it was time for 'monthly stats.' As C.I. had pointed out, February violence -- by Iraqi government figures -- was up 35% but the AP wanted you to believe, via their headline and spin, 'second lowest month ever!' Then yesterday it was "sharply reduced budget" which was only a 7% reduction. It's amazing when you think of how little coverage Iraq gets currently that they still have time to spin.
Cedric: And, as is noted in today's snapshot, James Rainey (Los Angeles Times) reports broadcast networks ABC, CBS and NBC offered 1/10 less coverge of Iraq in 2008 compared to 2007 and they haven't even filed 12 stories so far this year. So it really is something, as Mike said, with so little coverage of Iraq that AP still finds the need to spin. How many articles did the New York Times offer this week?
C.I.: In print? I believe Alissa J. Rubin's made it into print today but I couldn't read those pages of the paper since they were printed with mystery ink --
Rebecca: The pages were blank. No quality control at the New York Times.
C.I.: Right. There was Rubin's article we covered today that hopefully was in the paper -- but a pretty important John F. Burns article last week never made the paper though it was online -- and, earlier in the week, Tuesday, one of those 'justice' in Iraq pieces, by Steven Lee Myers. That's it in the paper.
Elaine: And yet the company spends millions staffing Iraq and never gets called on it by Wall Street. If you're going to spend the money, you should have something to show for it. I'm sure that will be seen as, "Pull the Iraq coverage!" That's not what I'm saying and pulling it will not suddenly make the coverage cost effective. If they pulled it tomorrow, they would still not be able to justify the costs of the coverage.
Ava: Whereas if anyone at the paper did more than sit on their ass, they would run an Iraq article in the paper every day and they would advertise their coverage. "Why we read the New York Times? We're in the United States. We're in Iraq, We're in Afghanistan. We're everywhere you need." That's what you do when you are discredited, when your entire industry is discredited -- and it is, it's seen as antiquated -- you make a point to show what you have. You make a point to advertise.
Rebecca: I'm going to jump in because that's true. P.R. is what I did and I was very good at it. You want people to buy you, you need to tell them why. Were the paper not the New York Times, it would be having even more problems. But they need to make it clear to people who don't know the brand or don't care why they should pick up the paper. And you can't just say it. You have to show it. If they used a slogan like Ava's and someone sees it and picks up the paper, Iraq better be in there and not by AP. The paper's only calling card is what they can offer that no one else can. That means filing, filing, filing. Always filing. One of the things they skipped, that everyoe skipped is in C.I.'s snapshot today, a February 23rd press conference in Baghdad on prisons. Let's talk about that just to emphasize it. Ruth?
Ruth: At one point, according to US Brig Gen David Quantock, and I find this shoking, the US military was holding 900 Iraqi juveniles. That is the highest number, according to the general, the US ever held in Iraq at one time. That is appalling and so is the idea that the US military is currently holding 38 Iraqi juveniles.
Kat: That is disgusting, I'm with Ruth. And it's disgusting that at one point we had nearly 1,000 children imprisoned. What's an average? Do we know? Average number of Iraqi prisoners.
C.I.: I'm tired but we can go with 18,000 because I can get a link for that in April 2007 -- a Washington Post article if I'm remembering correctly.
Kat: So nearly 1,000 children and in 2007, the total prison population, run by the US that the US will admit to, was 18,000? That is disgusting. And why is the US military holding children to begin with?
Ruth: And, really, what is the waves in America. There was a tiny wave of repulsion when it was revealed that the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba had children and then we apparently all decided we could live with it or had expressed ourselves as a country. And I see this momentary pang really benefits the US government and allows them to avoid being accountable or facing pressure to stop their disgraceful actions.
Rebecca: I believe "pang" is the correct word for it, as Ruth used it, because it illustrates exactly how momentary outrage has become. It's disgusting. Say your spiel and then quickly move on to the 'fun' stuff because we have so many other things we can do. And Ava and C.I. just exchanged a look.
Ava: Sorry, TV thing. Complaint from a friend with a show and we just both had an idea of how to address it. Non-Iraq related, go on.
Rebecca: Okay. The way it works is Ava and C.I. are taking the notes. We're all also drinking and if they both need a break, Trina will grab the notes if they nod to her. Cedric and Betty may or may not be drinking. But if someone wants a link, they only get it if they say so. Otherwise Ava and C.I. -- who will type this up -- aren't under any obligation to hunt down a link. Betty, Cedric, drinking alcohol?
Cedric: No. Was planning a beer or two but my stomach started killing me after lunch today and still is. Betty?
Betty: Dona and Ty made margaritas so I've been sipping on one since we started. I'm half-way through with it.
Rebecca: So everyone but Cedric, whose poor stomach is bothering him, is drinking. We have beers and drinks here. And wine. Ruth and Stan are hitting the wine. Trina, Mike, Wally and I are having beers. Ava and C.I. have Bloody Marys in front of them but are doing shots of tequila more than sipping from those. And my husband, by the way, is playing bartender. Sherry, longtime reader at my site, asked what we drank during the roundtables since we'd mentioned booze before. Now Goldie had a question as well. It's about actions. There's one coming up. Who wants to note that?
Stan: I'll grab that. Numerous groups -- such as The National Assembly to End the Wars, the ANSWER coalition, World Can't Wait and Iraq Veterans Against the War -- are taking part in an action in almost two weeks. Iraq Veterans Against the War explains:
IVAW's Afghanistan Resolution and National Mobilization March 21st
As an organization of service men and women who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, stateside, and around the world, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War have seen the impact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had on the people of these occupied countries and our fellow service members and veterans, as well as the cost of the wars at home and abroad. In recognition that our struggle to withdraw troops from Iraq and demand reparations for the Iraqi people is only part of the struggle to right the wrongs being committed in our name, Iraq Veterans Against the War has voted to adopt an official resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and reparations for the Afghan people. (To read the full resolution, click here.)
To that end, Iraq Veterans Against the War will be joining a national coalition which is being mobilized to march on the Pentagon, March 21st, to demand the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and further our mission and goals in solidarity with the national anti-war movement. This demonstration will be the first opportunity to show President Obama and the new administration that our struggle was not only against the Bush administration - and that we will not sit around and hope that troops are removed under his rule, but that we will demand they be removed immediately.
For more information on the March 21st March on the Pentagon, and additional events being organized in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Orlando, to include transportation, meetings, and how you can get involved, please visit: www.pentagonmarch.org or www.answercoalition.org.
Rebecca: Thank you, Stan. Goldie's taking part in it and she assumes Kat, Wally, Ava and C.I. -- who are on the road Monday through Friday talking about the illegal war -- are promoting this when they speak on campuses and to groups. That is correct? Wally, you haven't spoken?
Wally: Yeah. We go over that twice. We grab it at the start and at the end of every discussion. A little before Valentine's Day, we started including it in every talk to be sure people had advance notice because they might need to travel.
Rebecca: And what's the reaction?
Wally: Right now it's positive, especially among people my age and younger -- actually, really younger. It's been over two years since the last real action and, people may not realize this, that's two new classes in college. You've got freshman and sophomores who never saw any national actions on Iraq during their college careers. Now Goldie, she started going to protests when she was in middle school and she started her own house party -- she and her mother -- to end the illegal war. But not everyone's like that. And there are juniors and seniors in high school who we speak to who want to take part. Whether they will or not, I don't know. But Wednesday one was telling me that he felt like he had to find a way to be there because he, his words, had not take a public stand against the Iraq War. I'd say there is strong interest.
Kat: And that's good because most people who are interested won't go. We all know that. We've seen it over and over with each activity. But it's not just when it comes to protesting the illegal war. Let's say we all love --
Betty: Diana Ross!
Kat: Diana Ross, okay. And she's coming to the Bay Area and we're all saying we'll go and our friends are saying it and when the concert rolls around out of fifty people saying they'll go maybe 10 will try to get tickets, maybe eight.
Marcia: I agree, people always talk more than they do -- and they have someone just like themselves in the White House now! -- but, Kat, is this enthusiasm across the board?
Kat: No. And, Marcia, I'm going to let Wally cover the rest of it because I've spoken and spoken and you, Stan, Wally, Betty and Cedric haven't. But I feel like I've jawed everyone's ears off. Wally?
Wally: Right. Marcia, guess where the enthusiasm is and where it's not?
Marcia: Enthusiasm with the young.
Wally: Exactly. Why did you guess that?
Marcia: Because you emphasized high school and college in your remarks.
Wally: UPFJ is United For Peace and Justice and everyone participating in this roundtable knows just how useless that organization is. But we follow Iraq regularly. Now young people know UPFJ is worthless because it's not uncommon now to find the organization called out and they don't do s**t to end the Iraq War. So students know. If you're in college or high school and you follow the Iraq War even a little, you generally know that UPFJ is not a peace group, is not a group working to end the Iraq War.
Wally: But adults are different. Maybe because they're busy with their lives? I don't know. But they seem to panic a bit over UPFJ's refusal to join in and they will ask things like, "Is this another A.N.S.W.E.R. - UPFJ split?"
Stan: So how do you explain it? You're speaking to labor groups and to women's groups, and to the elderly as well. How do you explain to them that UPFJ isn't doing anything?
Wally: Sometimes we'll try to do the slow walk through. More often that doesn't work so we toss to C.I. who has a two-line quip that explains it all, gets a laugh and we move on to the groups who matter.
Cedric: What's the joke?
Wally: We're using it now so we won't tell.
Cedric: Backing up. You were very effective campaigning for Hillary. For those who don't know, every state Wally campaigned in for Hillary, Hillary Clinton won. I was fortunate enough to spend about a month with him in Texas on that and Marcia spent about a month or six weeks with him in other states working on that. During that period everyone wanted to know about Wally's effective speech.
Wally: Oh sure. We should have told that awhile back --
C.I.: Stop. The set up you need before Wally speaks is to know he's a young man, blond, very good looking --
Betty: Young Robert Redford!
C.I.: I didn't say that, I know he gets tired of hearing it. But Wally's charming people, men and women. And if you're older, especially, than Wally, when he explains what he's about to explain, you really want to help him make it right. Wally?
Wally: So let's say someone shows up for us to talk about Hillary, okay? And let's say it's when the media's trying to run Hillary out of the race --
Cedric: So bascially, hours after the Iowa caucus ends.
Wally: That's true, I'm laughing. But let's say it's a little further down. Let's say we're in Ohio because I didn't campaign there and I don't have to worry that someone's going to say "You must like ___ state better than my state!" So I'm in Ohio and someone says, "You know, I want to vote for Hillary but the thing is the media says it's over for her." And that's when I explain, look, I'm from Florida. I don't know if you know this, but we did our part. We went to the polls and we voted and we overwhelmingly chose Hillary. Now they won't let her have the votes she won. They're saying our primary won't even be counted. I've been robbed of my vote. My grandfather, my mom, we've all been denied our right to vote. And they may get away with stealing our votes. But if you go and vote for Hillary, you're not just speaking for you, you're speaking for all of us in Florida who overwhelmingly chose Hillary and our votes aren't being counted. You're helping us and you're saying, it's not right, and we don't treat Florida that way, we don't treat anyone that way, this is America.
Marcia: That's the condensed summary and you really need to hear him expand upon it. It was an amazing speech and there were people, especially African-Americans, who would be nodding with Wally with tears in their eyes. I saw many people nod along with him, but African-Americans -- probably because we remember it was us denied in Florida in 2000 -- would really get behind what Wally was saying and usually shout out support. When Wally gave that speech, you did not want to go after him because no one was listening to you. They were thinking about Wally's speech and about Florida 2000 and just wondering what the hell the Democratic Party was doing and what they'd become that they would deny anyone the right to vote? And to pull this back to Iraq, when we speak, that's what we all basically do. And Wally credits C.I. with that. I credit Wally because he's the one I spoke with day after day and saw it in action. You have to be you, you have to bring you to the table. I can't compete with Wally and be a better Wally. But I can find something about, for example, Iraqi refugees that speaks to me, that reminds me of my own life and I can talk about it that way and be effective. Maybe not the best, but effective.
Rebecca: Okay, before we started, C.I. jotted a few notes down for me of topics to explore if we hit a block. We haven't, but one of them was, C.I. noted this, IVAW's Matthis Chiroux wants people to focus on the refugees and the dead. I'm assuming this is in the discussion with Debra Sweet, Matthis and Elaine Brower that people can see the video of.
C.I., can you set that up and then I'll come back to Marcia with a question about refugees.
C.I.: Sure. Matthis Chiroux, first off, has a hearing March 12th in St. Louis, Missouri, regarding his decision to stick with his discharge, thank you very much, and refuse to ship off to Iraq when the military tried to pull him back into the service. That's one of the things there wasn't room for in the snapshot today and it ended up being cut. But that hearing takes place March 12th and you can find out more by clicking here. As you guessed, it does take place in the discussion with Debra Sweet and Elaine Brower. He expresses the belief that it's time for America to find it's conscience and that he's used to the signs of X number of US service members killed or wounded but what he wants to see this time is recognition of what's been done to the people of Iraq. And Afghanistan, but I focus on Iraq. So he wants to see acknowledgements of how many people have been killed, how many people have been turned into refugees, etc.
Rebecca: Okay. And, for the record, no one supports the Afghanistan War here. I don't believe anyone ever has but I know Elaine and C.I. -- and have known them since we roomed together in college -- and they were adamantally opposed to the Afghanistan War before it started. They never drank the Kool-Aid, whether George serves it up or Barack. Now Marcia, in Iraq, there is a refugee crisis. You have approximately four million refugees -- both external, who've fled the country, and internal, who remain in the country. You're speaking to high schoolers, how do you connect or get that story across?
Marcia: I speak briefly about when I was a little girl and my grandfather died and my grandmother lost the house. How devastating that was and how, even with adults trying to keep that from me, the reality of it, I knew enough and it scared me and I was frightened my parents would lose their home and where would we live and where would my toys go or my dog? And I'd talk about how I wasn't at risk. And it wasn't as if all around me people were becoming homeless. But that did frighten me. And imagine if I had grown up in Iraq, during this war, when refugees were normal. When living in tent cities or on the streets -- as so many Iraqi children do -- was normal. And maybe I make it through and maybe I don't, but what does that mean if I do? What happened to my grandmother is nothing I have ever forgotten. Imagine what it's like for an Iraqi child who ends up on the streets. She or he has lost at least one if not both parents. And is trying to survive, to make it, in a war zone. Think about it.
Ruth: Marcia, that was very good. Very good.
Marcia: I learned watching Wally. Grab that experience that is your own and use it to talk about what you want to.
Rebecca: Yes, well done, Marcia. Okay, let's talk about external refugees which have been in the news lately and the US State Dept, as C.I. noted in two snapshots this week, had a problem with a press briefing in terms of accuracy about information.
Betty: Right, they had to correct it after the press conference. Which goes to how confusing the process is for Iraqi refugees if even State Dept spokespeople find the process confusing. I want to talk about something here. There was a couple in a snapshot awhile back. They had both been college professors in Iraq. They were desperate for work and frightened that they would have to return to Iraq because they couldn't find work. It's the Feb. 27th snapshot, please link to it here, and the woman wa Rand Hikmat-Mahmood who had settled in Houston, Texas with her family. And C.I. made the point of asking why they were in Houston? Why they were in Fort Worth, for example, which is close to a base or has one, and where they could be teaching soldiers about Iraq. And I agree with that. We're willing to spend tons of money on that deceitful counterinsurgency; however, we have two people, educators, who can provide information about Iraq, and the culture, to soldiers and we're not using them? Why does Rand Hikmat-Mahmood have to look for work? Why didn't someone -- in the long process that she and her husband had to go through to get to the US -- suggest to them that they give trainings on Iraq? That is pretty obvious. And she and her husband would be earning their money but the fact that they are refugees due to a war this country started, I wouldn't care if she wasn't a qualified educator and had every class play Simon Says for an hour. I know she wouldn't do that,she came off like a very professional woman. But I'm saying,t he US has some huge debts to make good on with Iraqis. The very least they can do is put her in a job she's qualified for that will assist her and assist the service members.
Rebecca: Betty, I think you said that beautifully and think we can move into debt unless someone has something to add? No? Okay. Like I said, Betty covered it. Well done. Okay, there is a debt and the debat is both for what the US military did under orders and what they did on their own. Let me change that to what they did under legal orders because you're not supposed to obey an unlawful order. In today's snapshot, C.I. emphasized Steven Dale Green and Santos A. Cardona. I need Stan, Mike and Cedric to speak during this and Ruth can come in as well and I'd love it if Elaine did. But I'm looking at the time and we need to wrap up so Stan, Mike and Cedric, get in here. Both Green and Cardona have War Crimes in common. Steve D. Green is accused of them and denies them and Santos A. Cardona was tried for them and found guilty.
C.I.: Found guilty of one.
Rebecca: Okay. So Stan, grab one. The accused or the convicted. Grab one and start us off.
Stan: I'll go with Cardona. He was found guilty in the Abu Ghraib scandal. He is the dog handler in some of the photos with the dog snarling at naked Iraqi prisoners. You know what, I'm passing to Cedric. He and Wally have been vocal on this topic in the past.
Cedric: Contractors? Yeah. Your kids need you at home. You go out and risk your life to try and make big bucks don't kid yourself that you're doing it for your kids. Wally and I both lost our fathers early on and we don't have any sympathy for the "I wanted to make money for my kids!" nonsense. Your kids need you there, more than anything else, they need you there. And he leaves behind a daughter. The Washington Post had an article today about it that was boo-hoo city. And who really cares? He wanted to make money, he became a mercenary. People who do that can die. It's why it's not a smart job to try to turn a profit in a war zone. So he gets convicted and he can't re-enlist. They don't kick him out, but they won't let him sign up for another hitch. New rule should be that if you're convicted for abuse of any sort, you're out. That should obviously be conduct unbecoming for all service members. So he ends up becoming a mercenary in Afghanistan after that. With his dog. And I don't have any tears for the man. I don't. No tears at all. Stan?
Stan: Well, on the tears, I think the issue is basically that we're not in the mood. Abu Ghraib was a War Crime -- non-stop War Crimes. And you can be one of the low hanging fruit and complain that those at the top walked, no problem. But you can't be a low hanging fruit that refuses to take accountability and that's what Cardona was. It wasn't his fault and those people at the top didn't get punished! You terrorized Iraqis. You were in a position of authority and trust. You terrorized them. They didn't know whether you'd let the dog actually rip them to shreds or not. They lived in terror because of you. You can whine that were you told to do it but you need to take accountability for what you did. You can point to higher-ups but that doesn't change the fact thatyou need to take accountability.
Mike: I think Stan just summarized it perfectly. If you took part in abuse at Abu Ghraib, I don't need for you to rot in hell. You're really not my concern. I would hope you would try to make amends for what you did. But you become my concern when I hear that you are minimizing your actions. What was done? War Crimes. And, hey, blow the whistle on every one above you. I'll applaud you for it. Even after you've been convicted. But don't ever think that because there was evil at the top, you're innocent. You weren't. You knew better. An eight-year-old boy knows not to threaten his little brother with a dog. So Cordova really has no excuse. And he made no efforts to make amends -- apparently because he didn't feel it was his fault. I agree with Stan, this, "It's their fault," that doesn't cut it. You need to take accountability. You didn't shoot an innocent Iraqi child by accident because you were storming into a home with guns blazing in the middle of a battle. That's awful, but that's not a war crime. It's a tragedy. It's a mistake. But I don't think most people would feel the service member was at all responsible. But there's a world of difference between that andbeing assigned to a prison and deciding you can abuse and terrorize prisoners. And saying, "I was ordered to." Well you know what's right and what's wrong. Does that mean you could've stopped? It means you should have. Now maybe you're too weak willed to stand up? Well that's what it is but that doesn't change that you are accountable for your actions.
Stan: And there was no sense of accountability. Just a push to erase it. This "I will prove that's not who I am." Well, if that's not who you are then, when you bring it up, people expect to hear remorse from you. Like Mike said, no one's saying, "Rot in hell!" That's for -- my opinion -- someone else to determine. But we're not going to pretend like you were tricked into what you did. You need to take accountability.
Cedric: Of all of them, I feel sorry for Lynddie England because, honestly, she didn't strike me as all there. But even with that sympathy, if she gave an interview where she didn't take accountability for what she did -- and we all remember her from those photos, I'd have no sympathy for her. Those were War Crimes. And we don't even know how bad things were, remember, because the US Congress decided the American people didn't have right to see all the abuse.
Rebecca: Good point, Cedric, and good points all. We still have Steven D. Green. Any of you three that wants to jump in, feel free. But I'm tossing to Ruth to start.
Ruth: I am going to toss to Betty for set-up and then I will offer a few quick thoughts.
Betty: Thank you, Ruth. Steven D. Green stands accused of being the ring-leader in the gang-rape and murder of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi and the murders of Abeer's parents and her five-year-old sister. Other US soldiers accused have entered guilty pleas and all have fingered Green as the ring-leader. Abeer's brother has noted that she did not like Green, that he made her uncomfortable. He was in charge of a checkpoint right by her house. One day, as he got more foward -- remember this is a 14-year-old girl -- he ran his hand along her face. She lived in terror and complained to her parents. Had the assault been planned for the next day, Abeer wouldn't have been there because her parents had planned for her to stay in another home starting the next day. They were attempting to protect her. But Green, who states he is innocent -- doe she? Wait a second, C.I., Green, in the snapshot today, we learn Green filed his intent to plead not guilty by reasons of insanity. So is that the same as claiming he's innocent?
C.I.: You're correct. Your point is correct. If someone pleads not guilty by reasons of insanity, they aren't pleading innocent. But the thing to remember is that Steven D. Green has not spoken to the press and his attornenys no longer speak to the press. The last anyone heard from Green or an attorney speaking on his belahf, the statement was that Green was innocent. Once the trial starts, April 27th, if Green enters a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, then it really isn't accurate to simply state, "Green claims he is innocent." That plea is one that says: "I am guilty but I shouldn't be held liable due to my frame of mind." If he enters that plea, we certainly won't be under any obligation to state, "Green asserts he is innocent." We may start using "Green admits his guilt" because that is what's taking place. And that really is telling about the case. Because if they stick with that plea, Green is confessing. He says, "But wait, because there's one more thing I want to tell you, but, yes, I am guilty." Did that do it?
Betty: Yes, thank you, that covered it. So when his attorneys used to talk to the press it was conveyed he was innocent. That appears to have changed. Ruth?
Ruth: Well, I am glad Betty brought up that point and C.I. clarified it, however, it left me with little to say. So, if he pleads that way, as his legal team has indicated, he is not denying he took part in the crimes. Will the anti-death penalty people take up his cause?
Ava: Let me grab that because Jess, my boyfriend Jess, is anti-death penalty and works on that issue as do his parents. But they've said they don't believe in the death penalty but this isn't going to be an issue for them. They point to it being international in scope. Meaning, it's not a simple case. And, as advocates, it would require more teaching moments than will be possible.
Trina: Well, I would think, my opinion, that it would be a loser for the cause -- and I'm firmly opposed to the death penalty. But you've got a man who appears to be about to plead, "Yes, I was the ringleader." That means he planned the whole thing. Not just the crimes of rape and murder, but also the cover up. Add in that he's an adult and she's a child, Abeer was a child. Add in that it was his job, given to him by the US government, to protect her neighborhood. I mean, it's like, "Are we going to make the execution of a prison guard who willfully murdered prisoners are cause?" I mean, it would be great if we did. It would mean that the issue had progressed so far that we were saying, "No one deserves to be put to death." But we're not there yet. The movement tries to find the most sympathetic -- and often photogenic -- test cases. That's not a negative criticims on my part. There's much work to be done on the issue and on awareness. I understand the reluctance.
Rebecca: Trina speaking right now reminds me that she hasn't spoken and I actually wrote her name down but forgot about her. Trina, I'm so sorry. Okay, let's operate under the assumption that his plea is going to be not guilty by reason of insanity and that he's not quibbling over any of the charges. Describe what the means Steven D. Green did.
Trina: That would mean that -- as the other soldiers testified -- he planned it all. He lusted after this under-age girl. He knew it was wrong and this was not spur of the moment but a carefully crafted plan. As ringleader, he was the one deciding who went with him into the home and who was the lookout. And, note, that this was all planned ahead of time because everyone knew what to wear. C.I., help me, those still in the military had invidual trials but they all had the same court-martial. What did the prosecutor say at the hearing?
C.I.: "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." And that's Captain Alex Pickands being quoted.
Trina: And they carried it out. They plotted it and they carried it out. The others in the house -- meaning participating in the gang-rape of Abeer -- say they started the gang-rape while Green murdered Abeer's sister and her parents in the bedroom. They gang-rape took place in the living room. So they're raping her, one after the other, and she can hear her parents being killed in the next room, she can hear her sister being killed. Then Steven D. Green comes out and wants his 'turn'. So he gang-rapes her and then kills her. Then he tries to set her body on fire so that they can dispose of the evidence and blame it on insurgents. They then return to the base, where they proceed to grill chicken wings, kick back and get drunk. I don't see any public sympathy for Green but maybe his lawyers are miracle workers? I don't know.
Rebecca: Trina, cutting you off for a moment. I don't think anyone feels sympathetic for Green. But let me play devil's advocate. C.I., you're building sympathy for Steven D. Green, what do you do?
C.I.: Didn't you leave out "pop quiz," Dennis Hopper? Uh, well I stress the troubled childhood. I stress the stunted effects that had on his maturity and growth. I talk about his non-stop trouble with the law and, in effect, put the US military on trial. I ask why -- and I've made this argument at The Common Ills -- no red flags went up when Green attempted to enlist, either while in jail or while leaving? Where were the red flags? I put the US military on trial and ask for the records. I cast doubt that the US military was unaware of what Green was, what his problems were. My guess is they willfully ignored the red flags. But I would plant doubt there. I would ask what happens when you put a troubled -- beyond troubled from private accounts I've heard -- young man, emotionally not even an adult yet into a combat zone? What happens? I would throw to the jury repeatedly. I'd point to Steven and say, "I think we all know what happens. I guess the question is, 'Are we thatmuch smarter than the US military or did the US military take a gamble?' And if they rolled the dice, why is the only one being forced to pay Steven D. Green?" To be perfectly clear, I am very angry about the actions I perceive Steven D. Green was responsible for,participated in and orchestrated. However, go back to some of the early snapshots when his problems are first known. I don't want us to go around saying, "Hang 'em." One by one. But I will say for the record that if he doesn't get the death penalty, I won't be surprised and I won't be screaming my head off -- in person or online. From what I'm hearing, he's a very sick person and, if that's true, and if his attorneys can establish that, then he never should have been accepted into the military, the 'moral' waiver never should have been granted and the US military command needs to take accountability for their actions because, if true and presented convincingly, Steven D. Green has serious problems. Now I'm not saying he does have these problems. I am saying that's the word and that's what's being tested. If true, if it holds up in court, it could change the dynamic. Add in that most outlets refused to even print Abeer's name and she remains faceless and nameless to so many and you're dealing with a victim few can relate to. The prosecution would be very smart to get her brother and put him on the stand. If they don't and they lose, they will have that mistake to blame for it. They need to bring her brother into the United States for the trial. For them to win what they want to win, the prosecution needs to put a face on Abeer. The jury will hear all about 'poor Steven.' Abeer's just a dead girl in another country -- from the jury's perspective. They don't know her so she's already the 'other.' They don't know her so they have no ties to her. I think Capt Pickands did an amazing job bringing her to life in the Article 32 hearing in the summer of 2006; however, that went to him and his style. I wouldn't count on the same thing from this team of prosecutors. They need Abeer's photo in that courtroom and they need her brother. They need the family member who misses her, the family member who lost her, who lost his parents, who lost his five-year-old sister. Without him in the courtroom, you're talking about a crime which took place overseas in a war zone -- the jury will be thinking that -- and happened to a bunch of people with 'strange' names that no one knows. So if they lose or even have a partial loss and they did not call the brother to the stand, the prosecution will have only themselves to blame.
Trina: I think, Rebecca's pointing to me, I think C.I. makes the case for the defense and the prosecution. I don't know. I don't know how it's going to go. What I do know is that he got into legal trouble and was sane or aware enough to know that he could go into the military and escape consequences for his actions. That apparently was part of his road of not believing in consequences. I appreciated both views C.I. just offered but I really do think it comes down to that point C.I. made about whether or not the brother's there or the prosecution manages to put a face on the victims in some other way. If he did what he's accused of, he murdered four people in cold blood. Without any real remorse. Without any real hesitation. If they put a face on his victims, I see him getting convicted and getting the death penalty because, if I were serving on the jury, what I'd be thinking was, "Four people are dead. He joined the military to escape consequences. If he gets away with these murders and the gang-rape, no one in the US is safe from him."
Rebecca: Ruth, Betty, closing thoughts. Starting with Betty.
Betty: I think I'm the only one other than Ava, C.I., Wally and Kat who saw the stream of the discussion about the Iraq War and Afghanistan. I believe it's Debra Sweet who says that we're about to hit the sixth anniversary of this illegal war and we don't want to see the seventh. We don't. So what's it going to take. Elaine Browder believes, and I don't doubt her, that it's going to take massive civil disobedience. Sit-ins that shut down a city for example. There is so much to do, this is what I'm saying, and if you can't at least participate in the actions on the 19th or 21st, how do you make up for that? Do you chain yourself to the door at City Hall? I don't know. I know that the easiest thing in the world is for us to participate in these actions. There's so much more that could be done and should be done and these actions that are scheduled are nothing to be scared of. If I can go on for just one more second, Matthis made a point that I would have stood and applauded if I'd been there. He pointed out that just because Barack's "Black" -- put quotes around that, because he isn't and I don't consider him to be that -- doesn't mean that the racist wars are any less racist. I thought that took and demonstrated real guts and I wanted to give him some praise for that. It took a lot to make that valid point and a lot of people wouldn't have even attempted it.
Ruth: What Betty said. Seriously. I really think that if you do not stand up with these actions, you really are asking for this to be just the mid-way point of the illegal war. At least the mid-way point. If you're not going to participate, you really are asking for actions to stop and for the illegal war to continue. I did not have time to watch the stream but from what Betty said and a summary C.I. gave me earlier, Matthis Chiroux was talking about accountability. This is what we were talking about earlier. Guess what? If you do nothing, you are no better than the War Criminals from Abu Ghraib who try to offer excuses. If you sit silently and allow this illegal war to continue, you are sending a message to the world that you endorse and embrace the slaughter.
Rebecca: And on that note, we'll wrap this up. This is a rush transcript. We will do another Iraq roundtable next Friday.