Monday, April 27, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Iraqi Christians are under assault again, a US raid reveals how hollow the SOFA is, the bases reveal how hollow the SOFA is, the talk of the US staying in Iraq cities reveal how hollow the SOFA is, Nouri goes on air with the BBC, Cliff Cornell faces a court-martial tomorrow, the Steven D. Green trial began today, and more.
In Julywar resister Robin Long was extradited from Canada. He was court-martialed August 22nd. Last month, his civilian attorney posted an essay by Robin to the Free Robin Long website:
ON JULY 14th, 2008, in my final attempt to stay in Canada, where my son and community is, Federal Judge Ann Mactavish stated that I didn't prove I would be treated harshly by the US military for being a politically outspoken opponent to the War in Iraq and Bush Administration policy. She predicted my punishment would be minimal, 30 days in the brig, perhaps. She then cleared the way for my deportation/extradition. She noted only10% of these cases go to Court Martial.
A MONTH later, I was tried in a Court Martial presided over by a judge, a Colonel in the US Army, who has President Bush in her chain-of-command. (She was later appointed by Bush to oversee trials at Guantanamo Bay, no doubt because of her political credentials.
THE ONLY aggravating evidence the Prosecution presented was a 6 minute video of me stating, among other things, that I believed my President lied to me. A political statement. The fact that this was found admissible in court for the charge of Desertion is beyond me. There were no character witnesses brought against me. The ONLY factors the Prosecution wanted shown in determining my sentence was the fact I was political and exercising my freedom of speech in criticizing my Commander-in-Chief.
IT SEEMS like a conflict of interest to have a judge determine my fate when she has to ultimately answer to the President, while I was claiming that same President was a domestic enemy, who used any reason, and manufactured reasons, to invade and wreak havoc in Iraq.
THE JUDGE came back with 30 months- that's two and a half years for not showing up for work that I believed to be morally objectionable, criminal, and its by far the harshest sentence given to a resister/deserter of the Iraq War.
I was saved from that by a plea bargain that got me 15 months. I STILL get a Dishonorable Discharge (DD). A DD will keep me from many fields of employment, from any Government position to the civilian world. It will make getting home loans all the harder. This is a FELONY CONVICTION- which will make it very hard, perhaps impossible to return to Canada to be with my young family. It is the worst grade of discharge there is.
PEOPLE THAT committed far worse crimes have been getting off with lighter sentences than me. 1st Infantry Division soldier Spec. Belmor Ramos was sentenced to only 7 months after being convicted of conspiracy to commit murder- 4 Iraqi men. I refused to participate in killings, he stood guard while others executed four unidentified Iraqi men, afterwards dumping their bodies in a Baghdad canal on '07. During his court martial Ramos admitted his guilt, stating: "I wanted them dead. I had no legal justification to do this." Where is the justice? The system is neither fair nor impartial. Can it really be transparent when you don't know who is influencing the judge from up the chain of command? Do you see how the military justice system works? – Condone killings with light sentences, but God forbid someone should call President Bush a liar and a war monger. A persons words and political opinion must be far more damaging to the good order of the military if they are anti war and critical of the President, than a soldiers criminal actions in an occupied foreign nation . . . .
His attorney is James Branum and Branum will be representing Iraq War resister Cliff Cornell tomorrow at Fort Stewart in Georgia. Cliff spent four years in Canada attempting to receive refugee status. As noted yesterday at Third: "Cliff went to Canada in January 2005. He had hopes of asylum and and hopes of a life. In Mission Rejected, Peter Laufer's 2006 book on resistance, Cliff makes a brief appearance on pages 68 and 69. He and 'Ivan' (neither were comfortable, at that point, with giving their full names, Ivan is Ivan Brobeck) were joking around, Ivan was on skateboard and Cliff was laughing about tossing him out the window." Four years and he became the third known war resister forced out of Canada. February 10th he turned himself into the US military. Dee Knight (Workers World) reported in March that Cliff gave up his right to an Article 32 hearing on the hope that the desertion charge would be tossed out and that "a reduced charge" would replace it. That did not happen. Tomorrow at Fort Stewart, Cliff is scheduled to face a court-martial. Courage to Resist has information here and they are still accepting donations to Cliff's legal defense.
In June 2006, Lt Ehren Watada went public and became the first known officer to resist the illegal war. In August 2006, an Article 32 hearing was held and, weeks and weeks later, the finding was released: the military would proceed with a court-martial. On Monday, February 5th, Watada's court-martial began. It continued on Tuesday when the prosecution argued their case. Wednesday, Watada was to take the stand in his semi-defense. Judge Toilet (John Head) presided and when the prosecution was losing, Toilet decided to flush the lost by declaring a mistrial over defense objection in his attempt to give the prosecution a do-over. That's not how the justice system works in the US, double-jeopardy is banned. In November of 2007, US District Judge Benjamin Settle ruled, "The same Fifth Amendment protections are in place for military service members as are afforded to civilians. There is a strong public interest in maintaing these rights inviolate." The military stated then that they would appeal. Where does it stand for Ehren currently? (His service contract ended in December 2006. He has continued to report to his base every day as scheduled.) Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) addresed the issue earlier this month: "The Army says it is still awaiting a decision from newly appointed U.S. Solictor Elena Kagan, who was sworn in three weeks ago, as to whether it will appeal a federal judge decision". Yesterday the Ad Hoc Campaign to Free Ehren Watada announced a campaing to contact Solictor General Elena Kagan (202-514-2201) and Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal (202-514-2206) and ask them to drop the charges against Ehren, issue him an honorable discharge and release him from the military. Letters can be mailed to US Dept of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20530. E-mails sent to DOJ@usdoj.gov will be passed on to Kagan and Katyal.
I have no idea why anyone is saying the decision of Judge Settle came down in October (Kakesako's saying just October which implies the most recent October, AHCtFEW says October 2007). It was November 8th. Coverage that back that up includes Hal Bernton's "Watada court-martial now less likely?" (Seattle Times), Christian Hill's "Court-martial of Watada might not come" (The Olympian), Hal Bernton's "Court bars second court-martial for Watada, for now" (Seattle Times), Aaron Glantz' "Case Crumbles Against Officer Who Refused Iraq" (IPS -- dated "Nov 9" of 2007, Glantz opens, "First Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq, won what his backers are calling a 'huge victory' in court Thursday.") and Amy Goodman included it in the November 9, 2007 headlines.
Turning to Iraq, yesterday US General Ray Odierno, the top US commander in Iraq, spoke with Rahul Sharma and Anand Sagar (Khaleej Times) and stated that the US forces may remain in some Iraqi cities after June 30th. The Status Of Forces Agreement was rammed through in the final day of the Bush adminstration (which did the ramming) and a copy was only released by the White House to the public after the Iraqi Parliament voted for it (with a huge number of MPs refusing to show for the vote) on Thanksgiving. Prior to Barack Obama being sworn in as president, he had made many objections to the SOFA and a campaign promise at his website noted his and Vice President Joe Biden's objections to the SOFA (Biden made public objections before he was on the ticket with Obama) and how it needed to be rejected. Instead, Barack suddenly decided it was a good thing. Or maybe, the election over, he no longer felt the need to imply there was a huge difference between himself and George W. Bush. Barack's 'big' Iraq War plan is the SOFA. And people continue to operate under the mistaken belief that it is binding when, day after day, it is demonstrated that there is nothing binding about that agreement. The Corpus Christi Caller-Times outlines the basics in an editorial this morning noting of the SOFA, "Under the agreement between Washington and Baghdad, U.S. combat troops would be out of Iraq by August 2010. After that, up to 50,000 -- one third of the present U.S. forces -- would remain with a non-combat role. All 140,000 U.S. troops are supposed to be gone by the end of 2011. The decision on whether to keep U.S. troops in Iraqi cities would be made by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki; it would be a tough call, given that a majority of Iraqis want U.S. troops out of the country."
Jim Muir (BBC News -- link has text and video) interviewed puppet Nouri today and apparently forgot to ask Nouri if he condemns the attacks on Iraq's LGBT community. He does let Nouri go on and on. Including a long winded answer where he insists that there will be no change in the June 30th deadline. Until Muir brings up Odierno, anyway.
Jim Muir: General Odierno, the commander of the American forces, has suggested that it might be necessary to keep American troops, for example, in Mosul or Baquba after the end of June if your government asks for that. Is your government prepared to ask for that?
Nouri al-Kalminin: The possibility is there. The American side is willing if the Iraqi government asks for it. But so far there is no thought on the part of the Iraqi government to ask for an extension of those forces. On the basis of the field assessment we don't need them and there is no request.
Nouri's lying. Big surprise there. Baghdad's an Iraqi city. US troops will not be out of Baghdad. Rod Nordland (New York Times) broke that story in today's paper and noted that Iraq and the US are going to focus on Mosul in talks about US troops remaining in some Iraqi cities. Nordland reveals they will remain in Baghdad (he says "parts of Baghdad" -- that means they will be in Baghdad and Baghdad is a city) and that Camp Victory ["Camps Victory, Liberty, Striker and Slayer, plus the prison known as Camp Cropper"] and "Camp Prosperity" will not be closed or turned over to Iraq according to Iraqi Maj Gen Muhammad al-Askari. The SOFA 'requires' that they be closed or turned over but al-Askari says they're making exceptions even though the SOFA 'requires' otherwise. For the mammoth Camp Victory, it is in Baghdad and out of Baghdad, for example, so al-Askari says they consider it out of Baghdad. US Maj Gen David Perkins thinks Mosul will also continue to have US troops stationed there. Nouri should have stuck to his tall tales about how all the female bombers are escapees from mental institutions.
Violence continued over the weekend and one incident raised the issue of the allegedly 'binding' SOFA again. Sunday Laith Hammoudi and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reported a US raided a home in Kut (Wasit Province) "at dawn," during which two adults -- one male and one female -- were killed by the US military who also made 4 arrests (Iraqi police) or 6 arrests (US military) were made including the arrest of an Iraqi police officer. BBC added Nouri al-Maliki was claiming Iraqis were not informed and didn't give permission; therefore the raid was illegal and a violation of Iraq's soveriegnty. al-Maliki is calling for those responsible for the two deaths to be turned over to Iraqi officials, "The BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says it is the most serious dispute between the US and Iraq since the agreement came into force at the start of the year. One senior local official said the actions had rendered the pact 'meaningless'." Reuters reported Kut was the scene Sunday of a crowd of "hundreds" protesting the deaths with signs and slogans referring to the "criminal occupiers,"
Here is the US military's Sunday statement in full on the raid:
Coalition forces arrested six suspected members of the JAM Special Groups and Promise Day Brigade and killed one suspected network criminal early Sunday in Al Kut.
In an operation fully coordinated and approved by the Iraqi government, Coalition forces targeted a network financier, who is also responsible for smuggling weapons into the country to support JAM Special Groups and Promise Day Brigade.
Coalition forces approached a residence believed to be the location of the suspect, as forces approached the residence an individual with a weapon came out of the home. Forces assessed him to be hostile, and they engaged the man, killing him. During the engagement, a woman in the area moved into the line of fire and was also struck by gunfire. A Coalition forces medic treated her on site, but she died of her wounds before she could be evacuated.
Forces apprehended six other JAM Special Groups and Promise Day Brigade associates without incident.
The Government of Iraq has requested the temporary assistance of US forces for the purpose of supporting Iraq in its effort to maintain security and stability, including cooperation in the conduct of operations against terrorist and criminal groups, and remnants of the former regime.
Charles Levinson and Nada Raad (Wall St. Jounal) note, "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a statement calling the raid a 'crime' and said it violated the terms of the security agreement, which requires the U.S. military to coordinate manuevers with Iraqi counterparts." The Chicago Tribune, consistent with other reports, terms it a "predawn raid." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) repeatedly omits the term "dawn" and he repeatedly refers to the "security agreement" without identifying it as the Status Of Forces Agreement. Myers does tell readers the target of the raid was Ahmed Abdul Sada and that the woman who died, Azhar, was his wife and the man who died, Khalid, was his brother. Myers states the US military released the ones arrested but leaves out the fact that the Iraqi government demanded the ones arrested be released. Corinne Reilly and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) quote Iraqi Col Shawqat al Alusi declaring, "There was no approval given." Ernesto Londono and Zaid Sabah (Washington Post) observe: "The incident marked the first time Iraq's government has called for the prosecution of U.S. soldiers and sets the stage for a showdown between the two countries at a time when sectarian violence appears to be spiking."
Yesterday Sam Dagher (New York Times) reported that the US and England visited Jordan earlier this month in an attempt to convince "Saddam Hussein's top generals" to return to Iraq (and this followed the officials attending a year's worth of meetings between these exiles and reps from Nouri's government). Not for prosecution. To help stabalize the country. They refused. They don't trust Nouri and they don't trust him because of his actions and his many public statements. Dagher notes:
On March 28, Mr. Maliki's Shiite-led government arrested a prominent Sunni leader on charges of heading a secret armed wing of Mr. Hussein's Baath Party. A week later, the prime minister accused Baathists of orchestrating car bombings that killed more than 40 people. On Monday, he lashed out again, saying the Baath Party was "filled with hate from head to toe."
The de-de-Baathification? That became a 'benchmark'. And so what?
What was the point of those 'benchmarks'? They were supposed to allow progress claims to be evaluated. And they were supposed to prevent blood and money being tossed at a puppet government which did nothing. But Nouri didn't do a damn thing. None of the benchmarks took place in 2007. The year they were supposed to. (The provincial elections 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces held in January were supposed to take place in 2007, for example.) There was no effort by the US Congress -- don't just blame Bush here -- to say, "These benchmarks aren't being met. The deal was, Iraqi did A, B, C, D, E . . . and we continued the funding. We are cutting off the funding." That never happened and Nouri signed off on these benchmarks.
He signed off on them and then he blew them off.
Now Nouri, who loves his show trials, is calling for the heads of US soldiers? That's why the minute Barack was sworn in, he should have done what he promised on the campaign trail, moved to immediately begin withdrawal. He didn't. And now the US troops will not only have to deal with the chaos and violence they had to in 2008, they're also now going to have to know that any mission their commanders send them on could get them tossed in an Iraqi prison.
In other violence over the weekend, Sunday saw the continued assualt on Iraqi Christians. Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) reports Kirkuk was the location where 2 women were "murdered in their home" tonight (their throats were slit) and the location where a father and two sons were shot in their home. All attacked were Christians. AFP says the father, Yussef Shaba, was shot dead and two sons (Bassel and Samer) were left injured and they identify the mother in the first attack as Mouna Latif Daoud and the other woman as her (unnamed) daughter. Alsumaria notes, "Chaldeans Archbishop in Kirkuk Louis Sako rebuked these coward and terrorist crimes affirming that Christians are part of Iraq's people and perpetrators should be brought to justice." Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad grenade attack which left two police officers injured. Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing which injured three people (two are Iraqi soldiers).
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Mosul Sunday night.
Saturday the US military announced: "TIKRIT, Iraq -- A Multi-National Division – North Soldier died from injuries sustained following an attack on a patrol in the Kirkuk Province of northern Iraq, April 25. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense." The announcement brings to 4278 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. This is the fourth death of a US service member announced this week and the 15th for the month thus far -- already putting April's death toll ahead of March's.
In diplomatic news, Friday US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew to Kuwait. The same day US Ambassador Chris Hill arrived in Baghdad (though no one wants to talk about that). Saturday the Secretary went to Baghdad for a brief and unnannounced visit. Mary Beth Sheridan (Washington Post) noted of the flight into Baghdad, "Once on board, staff and reporters grabbed sweaty body armor from a mound in the back of the aircraft, and practiced strapping on helmets." The US State Dept issued a statement when Clinton arrived in Baghdad noting she would leave through Kuwait but would "meet with Prime Minister al-Maliki, President Talibani, Deputy President al-Hashimi, Foreign Minister Zebari, and other senior leaders in the Government of Iraq. They will discuss issues of common concern including security, stability operations and assistance. Secretary Clinton will also meet with Ambassador Christopher Hill and Multinational Force-Iraq Commander Odierno to discuss the Administration's new direction and change of mission for U.S. forces in Iraq and hold a roundtable with Iraqi women." In addition she was scheduled to "participate in a townhalll with Iraqi citizens who work day in and day out with Provincial Reconstruction Teams, to hear from and discuss with them what they are achieving as well as issues facing the Iraqi people." For a transcript of the townhall, see "Secretary's Remarks: Remarks at the Town Hall Meeting with PRT Leaders and Iraqi Partners"; for a transcript of the press conference with Hoshyar Zebari, see "Near East: Remarks With Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari." NPR's Michele Kelemen (Weekend Edition) offers an audio report of the trip to Iraq.
Today, Steven D. Green goes on trial: "The jury trial will commence on April 27, 2009, 9 a.m. (CDT) and will be held in the Paducah Division of the Western District of Kentucky, located at 501 Broadway, Paducah, Kentucky." Green is on trial for the gang-rape and murder of 14-year-old Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi and the murders of her five-year-old sister and her parents. Green denies involvment. Soldiers already convicted of the War Crimes finger him as the ringleader, as the murderer of all four and as one of the gang-rapists. The others faced military courts because they were in the military. Green was discharged before the War Crimes were known. Andrew Wolfson (Courier-Journal) reports, "In an opening statement in a trial that is expected to last three to five weeks, Justice Department lawyer Brian Skaret said the government will present at least five witnesses who say Green bragged about the crimes, including one who says Green told his fellow soldiers that it was 'awesome'." Green's attorney Patrick Bouldin wanted people to grasp that Iraq's "a perfect storm of craziness" and since he didn't bother to deny the charges, the defense appears to be attempting a plea of "not guilty by reason of insanity by reason of location."
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