Thursday, April 02, 2009

Truth's slow emergence

The January 16, 2008 snapshot included this: "Today the US military announced: 'Three Multi-National -- North Soldiers were killed by small arms fire while conducting operations in Salah ad Din province Jan. 16. Additionally, two other Soldiers were wounded and evacuated to a Coalition hospital'." ICCC notes the three who died:

USPrivate 1st Class Danny L. KimmeBalad - Salah Ad DinHostile - hostile fire - small arms fire, grenade
USPrivate 1st Class David H. Sharrett IIBalad - Salah Ad DinHostile - hostile fire - small arms fire, grenade
USSpecialist John P. SigsbeeBalad (died in Pallouata) - Salah Ad DinHostile - hostile fire - small arms fire, grenade

The links all go to the same DoD release which reads:

The Department of Defense announced today the death of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died Jan. 16 of wounds suffered in Balad, Iraq, when they were attacked by grenade and small arms fire during combat operations. They were assigned to the 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.
Killed were:
Pfc. Danny L. Kimme, 27, of Fisher, Ill., who died in Balad, Iraq.
Pfc. David H. Sharrett II, 27, of Oakton, Va., who died in Pallouata, Iraq.
Spc. John P. Sigsbee, 21, of Waterville, N.Y., who died in Balad, Iraq.
For more information media may contact the Fort Campbell public affairs office at (270) 798-9966.

The three weren't killed by enemy fire nor were the two wounded actually injured by enemy fire.

US News & World Reports reposts James Gordon Meeks' "Army Lied About How My Son Died in Iraq: Friendly-fire Victim Was 'Misidentified' as Enemy Gunman" from the New York Daily News (Mort Zuckerman owns both publications) which follows the struggle of David Sharrett II's father, David Sharret, to get the military to admit the truth, that the deadly shooting was done by US soldiers:

For four months after the Army knew the truth, it still insisted to Sharrett's father that he was killed by enemy fire - and gave only atemporary wrist slap to Hanson under pressure from the families of Sharrett and two other G.I.s killed in the clash.
After The News uncovered new video evidence and raised questions, a 101st Airborne Division general said the probe into Sharrett's death may reopen.
"The final decisions and dispositions have yet to be made," Brig. Gen. Steve Townsend said.
Sharrett's family claims top officers in the legendary "Screaming Eagles" division initially -- and angrily -- denied friendly fire was involved, claiming for months that insurgents killed Sharrett when his eight-man team tried to capture six suspects in a rural thicket.

NPR's Corey Flintoff reported, in 2008, on the funerals. Yesterday he did a "Reporters Notebook" at NPR (text only) noting:

More than a year later, the story is still rippling outward. This January, I heard from the father of one of the men who was killed. Doug Kimme is a police officer in Champaign, Ill. His son, 27-year-old Pfc. Danny Kimme, was shot in the head in a farmer's field northeast of Baghdad. Doug Kimme, an Air Force veteran and self-styled "gun enthusiast," insists that he is not anti-Army and not anti-war, but he is convinced that there was no reason for his son to die.
Kimme told me that an Army investigation showed that the maneuver in which the men were killed was botched from the very beginning. He said the report showed that his son and the other men in his team were marched into an ambush that could have been easily avoided. It also showed that one of the soldiers was shot dead by his own lieutenant.
Kimme says that he and the families of the other fallen soldiers weren't told about the blunders until well after their boys had been buried.

It needs to be noted that the DoD wasn't the only ones involved in the cover up. Flintoff's 2008 report for All Things Considered (link has text and audio as well as photos of the three who died) included people speaking of what happened as if they knew. I'm not referring to Corey Flintoff who did his job as a reporter. I'm referring to people like Lt. Tim Cunningham. From Flintoff's report:

"We assaulted through their position, we confirmed by kicking or moving their bodies to make sure that they're dead, and then we secure the site around our casualties," said Lt. Tim Cunningham, a platoon leader.
Cunningham said there were six bodies sprawled in the trench where the insurgents ran after the first ambush. By then, it was clear that two of Charlie Troop's soldiers also were dead.
Three were wounded. One of those men would die soon after.
Charlie Troop had no time to mourn or even consider its losses. There were wounded to treat, houses to search and acres of orange groves where insurgents were known to camp and stash weapons.
"All of my soldiers reacted very well," said Staff Sgt. Matthew LeVart. "They were able to compartmentalize. ... Obviously, it's not something that you can completely forget and just overlook, but we were able to continue to fight."

Corey Flintoff's report was broadcast January 25th. James Gordon Meeks reports that Lt Col Robert McCarthy ("the unit's ex-commander") states "he knew withing days of Sharrett's death that a soldier had killed him". If the unit's ex-commander knew it why didn't the platoon leader and others also know it? Or did they know and, if so, did they choose to lie to NPR (and the American people) or were they ordered to do so? James Gordon Meeks' article explains:

Nine months after Sharrett was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, McCarthy's boss, Col. Michael McBride, caved to pressure from the families with a temporary written reprimand for [Timothy] Hanson - which was removed from his file when he left Iraq days later.
This year, McBride and McCarthy reversed course again and recommended a tougher reprimand in Hanson's permanent record. But Gen. Townsend ordered a review by uninvolved officers.
The families want career-ending punishment for Hanson, McCarthy and McBride.
"McCarthy should be relieved of duty and Hanson should be court-martialed," said Douglas Kimme, an Illinois cop.

In other Iraq shooting news, September 17, 2007 Blackwater mercenary workers staged a slaughter in Baghdad. That's the most famous one but it is far from the only one. Matt Kelley (USA Today) reports today that John Frese ("top security official at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq" when the slaughter took place) made the decision not to take "disciplinary actions" because to do so, he felt, "would be deemed as lowering morale". Frese was aware Blackwater mercenaries were "making fales statements". When did the incident take place? February 16, 2005 ("previously unreported," Kelley notes)and Blackwater had attacked an Iraqi vehilce "with more than 70 bullets". Had that example not been hidden and those involved not escaped punishment, the Sept. 17, 2007 slaughter might not have taken place. But the State Dept repeatedly sent the message that they would look the other way when it came to the wounding and killing of Iraqi civilians. From Kelley's article:

The 2005 shooting occurred when a four-vehicle convoy was returning to the U.S. Embassy from the Iraqi Ministry of Interior. Four guards told investigators they felt threatened by an approaching car on a parallel road that ignored orders to stop.
The investigators' final memo in June 2005 said several guards "failed to justify their actions" and "provided false statements," including a claim that bullet holes in a Blackwater vehicle were from a passenger in the Iraqi car. The evidence showed a guard accidentally shot his vehicle, investigators concluded.

Blackwater is the only Iraq news in the New York Times this morning and it's not even from NYT, it's an AP 'article.' An article reduced to a brief for "World Briefing" and one that can't even get its facts right (no link to trash, it's on A6 in the national edition). Blackwater, now Xe, will be replaced by Triple Canopy. The brief then concludes with, "The department has not yet determined how to replace the air support that Blackwater had been providing for American diplomats in Iraq." Elaine covered this yesterday:

Kirit Radia (ABC News) notes, "Triple Canopy and a third company, Dyncorp, have been providing similar security in Iraq, mainly in the north and south, for years while Blackwater mainly held contracts in Baghdad." That does not reassure me and let me explain why: Mercenaries in Baghdad were under greater scrutiny due to the fact that so much of the international press is located in Baghdad.

Meanwhile AP notes a new lawsuit against Blackwater/Xe over the shootings of "three security guards for the state-run Iraqi Media Network" in Feburary of 2007. March 27th, the Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following press release:

WASHINGTON, March 27 /PRNewswire/ -- A group of injured civilians and families of Iraqis killed in two unprovoked shootings in Baghdad by Blackwater “shooters” sued the company and founder Erik Prince in separate lawsuits filed today and Thursday in California federal court, according to their U.S.-based legal team.

The lawsuits allege that several Blackwater defendants – now operating as Xe and other names under the control of Mr. Prince – have demonstrated “a pattern and practice of recklessness in the use of deadly force.”

The first case was brought by the family of Sa’ad Raheem Jarallah, a 53-year-old teacher at a technical institution Al Amara, who was killed by Blackwater personnel near Al Watahba Square while in Baghdad on school business on Sept. 9, 2007.

According to the complaint, Blackwater “shooters” fired, “without justification, on a crowd of innocent Iraqi persons in and around Al Watahba Square resulting in multiple deaths and injuries.” The complaint continues, “This senseless slaughter … was only one in a series of recent incidents in Blackwater’s lengthy pattern of egregious misconduct in Iraq resulting in the deaths of innocent Iraqis.”

The second case involves another Blackwater civilian shooting – the infamous Sept. 16, 2007 Nisoor Square massacre which killed 17 people and resulted in criminal prosecutions by the U.S. Department of Justice against Blackwater personnel. One Blackwater employee has pled guilty, admitting that Blackwater personnel were not protecting diplomats or being threatened and instead intentionally killed innocents after ignoring orders to stay in the International Zone by the U.S. Embassy Regional Security Office.

The 15 plaintiffs include the estates of 12-year-old Qasim Mohamed Abbas Mahmoud, who was shot while riding in a car with his father, who also was killed, and his mother, who was injured; numerous men and women who were in or around Nisoor Square; and two Baghdad police officers, whose attempts to stop the killing allegedly were ignored by Blackwater personnel.

According to the complaint, “Xe- Blackwater created and fostered a culture of lawlessness amongst its employees, encouraging them to act in the company’s financial interests at the expense of innocent human life.”

The defendants are accused of committing war crimes, assault and battery, wrongful death, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring, training and supervision, and tortious spoliation of evidence. The complaint also includes allegations of drug use and cover-ups of illegal conduct by Xe – Blackwater personnel.

The families of the dead and injured are represented by attorneys Susan L. Burke, William T. O’Neil and William F. Gould of Burke O’Neil LLC, of Washington, D.C., and Katherine Gallagher of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Susan L. Burke, of Burke O’Neil LLC, stated, “These deaths are part of a pattern of illegal Xe – Blackwater shootings around the globe known to company management. With the litany of civilian shootings by Xe – Blackwater personnel, the company has created, fostered and refused to curb a culture of lawlessness and unaccountability.”

Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Katherine Gallagher stated, “The Iraqi victims of Xe - Blackwater’s unlawful actions have come to U.S. courts in search of justice. Justice begins with accountability, and private military contractors must be held accountable when they shoot innocent people.”

The defendants in both cases include Mr. Prince, Xe, various Prince-controlled entities such as Blackwater, The Prince Group, Falcon, Greystone Limited, Total Intelligence Solutions, EP Investments, and Raven Development Group.

The cases are:

• “Estate of “Sa’ad Raheem Jarallah v. Xe, formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, et al.,” in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California (Case No. 09 CV 0 631 H JMA), and,

• “Estate of Mushtaq Karim Abd Al-Razzaq, et al., v. Xe, formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, et al.,” in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California (Case No. 09 CV 0626 LAB BLM).

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

Iraq's Foreign Ministry announces:

Iraqi Charge D'affaires in Serbia Meets Serbian Minister of Trade

Mr. Yahya Salih Mahdi , Interim Iraqi charge d'affaires in Belgrade met with, Mr. Slobodan Milosa, Serbian Minister of Trade on 25/3/2009 to enhance cooperation between the two countries.

The Iraqi Charge d'affaires stressed the need for serious and fruitful cooperation between the two countries, mentioning the great opportunities for Serbian companies for investment and reconstruction in Iraq, referring to the willingness of the Government of Iraq to cooperate with friendly countries, including Serbia to promote trade in various forms, explaining that it is time to activate the relations in all areas and the need for exchange of visits between officials of the two countries.

On his part, the Serbian Trade Minister welcomed Mr. Mahdi and stressed the importance of bilateral cooperation between the two countries and expressed the readiness of his ministry to activate trade at all levels and also expressed the readiness of Serbia for the exchange of visits at the ministerial level stating that he is ready to visit Baghdad at the beginning of next summer on a head of a large delegation to develop relations between the two countries.

David Solnit, author with Aimee Allison (Allison co-hosts KPFA's The Morning Show with Philip Maldari), notes this event by Courage to Resist, Bay Area Iraq Veterans Against the War & Unconventional Action in the Bay:

Friend and filmmaker Rick Rowley comes to town with three films just shot on the ground in Iraq-- in typical high energy in-your-face style. Rick is joined by local IVAW organizer Carl "Davey" Davison and cutting-edge movement analyst Antonia Juhasz to do some collective thinking-discussing about how we can take on Obama to make the world a better place. Hope you can join us!

Please Invite your friends:
Bay Area Premiere
from the makers of "Fourth World War" & "This is What Democracy Looks Like"
A Big Noise Film
followed by a Public Discussion:
How Do We End Occupation & Empire Under Obama?

Carl Davison, organizer with Iraq Veterans Against the War, served in the Marines and the Army, and refused deployment to Iraq.
Antonia Juhasz, analyst, activist, author of Tyrany of Oil; The World's Most Powerful Industry--and What We Must Do to Stop It
Rick Rowley, Big Noise film maker recently returned for Iraq.

Friday April 3, 7pm
992 Valencia Street (at 21st), SF
Everyone welcome, $6 donation requested, not required.

Obama's Iraq is an evening of short films never before seen in America. Shot on the other side of the blast shields in Iraq's walled cities, it covers a very different side of the war than is ever seen on American screens. It reports unembedded from war-torn Falluja, from the giant US prison at Umm Qasr, from the Mehdi Army stronghold inside Sadr City -- from the places where mainstream corporate channels can not or will not go. Obama's Iraq asks the questions -- what is occupation under Obama, and how can we end the war in Iraq and the empire behind it? After the film, a public discussion will begin to answer that question. Join us.

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oh boy it never ends