Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Closing arguments today in the War Crimes Trial

Yesterday the defense rested in the Steven D. Green War Crimes trial. March 12, 2006, Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi's parents and five-year-old sister were murdered in their Iraqi home while Abeer was gang-raped in another room. Following the gang-rape, Abeer was murdered. Green is said to be the murderer of all four, a gang-rapist and the ring leader who planned the entire thing. This morning both sides make closing arguments. Evan Bright reports on yesterday:

The guilty/not guilty phase of USA V Green is complete. The defense finished it's case today with three witnesses: Christopher Barnes, a video deposition of James Gregory, and Justin Watt.
No surprise, Barnes spoke of the area he shared with the defendant in Iraq. "It was rough, like hell, constant sweat and no sleep."

The defense is a joke and from what I've been told both sides took a pass on Watt. Surprising because either side could have utilized Watt to their benefit (and Watt was called a defense witness). Watt is the one who came forward and reported the rumors he was hearing -- he did so because (a fact the trial avoided) the War Crimes resulted in other US soldiers being killed in retaliation. As for "rough, like hell, constant sweat and no sleep," that statement might mean something were it not for the celebration party following the murders and gang-rape which included non-stop drinking and chicken wings. But, of course, they were partying before that.

"They gathered over cards and booze to come up with a plan to rape and murder that little girl. She was young and attractive. They knew where she was because they had seen her on a previous patrol. She was close. She was vulnerable," that's US Army Captain Alex Pickands in the August 2006 Article 32 hearing of those (not Green) still in the military when the War Crimes were discovered. Today both sides make their closing arguments. It's worth noting this from Pickands closing argument:

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 is the reality. AFP sums up the trial this morning and includes the following:

Jurors last week heard the stories of two US soldiers, former army specialist Paul Cortez and James Barker, both of whom admitted to going to the al-Janabi family home with Green. They are serving 100 and 90 year prison sentences, respectively, for their roles in the brutal attack.
The pair said they were in one room of the home trying to rape Abeer al- Janabi while Green was in the other room with her six-year-old sister and her mother and father.
They said gunshots rang out and when they went to investigate, they discovered that Green had killed the three.
Cortez testified that Green proceeded to rape Abeer al-Janabi. He said Green then put a pillow over the girl's face and shot her three times with an AK-47.

In other news, Deborah Haynes offers "My years as an Iraq war reporter" (Times of London):

Reporting in Baghdad was the ultimate challenge. The car bombs, airstrikes, ambushes and mortar fire meant no shortage of action; while the attempt to create a new government offered an insight into the complicated tribal and religious fabric of Iraqi society. There was also a crazy sense of chaos. No one obeyed the law because there was no one to enforce it. Well, the US soldiers did, but the thing to remember about them was to steer clear, particularly in the early days when nervous young troopers had a reputation for shooting first and asking questions later.
As friendly as they were to me -- I remember one US explosives expert handing me the skipping-rope handle-shaped detonator and inviting me to set off a roadside bomb by giving it a "man tug" -- there was no forgetting the danger that they represented to civilians. I met one Iraqi boy after he had been shot in the head when his uncle failed to heed a stop warning at a checkpoint. He was treated at a US hospital and survived, but he will always have a problem with his eyes and legs because of the injury.
Our office in early 2004 was in a small hotel in central Baghdad. I remember e-mailing friends at home about the hotel defence: a spiky wire across the ground that was manned by a couple of sleepy-looking guards. "It wouldn't stop a suicide rollerblader," I joked. Protection was minimal because there had been few attacks against Westerners, but that changed within my first few weeks. One night, a rocket skimmed over our roof and slammed into the one opposite. The noise was terrifying. I hit the floor along with my colleagues. Thankfully, no one was hurt. Without thinking, I raced outside to see if any more missiles were falling and scrambled up stairs to the roof. Suddenly a second rocket exploded nearby, making me dive under a sheet of corrugated iron. That night, seven hotels containing foreigners were hit, including one by a car bomb.

Rebecca notes some of Haynes' accomplishments reporting on Iraq here. Haynes isn't the only reporter who has left Iraq. The Los Angeles Times' Tina Susman has also left Iraq. The following is the memo posted at the paper's website:

I'm delighted to announce that Tina Susman has joined the National staff in New York. For the past 2 1/2 years Tina has been reporting from The Times' Baghdad bureau, where she built on her already impressive record as a foreign correspondent. Prior to joining The Times, Tina spent eight years at Newsday, serving as South Africa correspondent from 1998-2001 and as a national and international correspondent based in New York after that. She was AP’s West Africa correspondent from 1994-98 and South Africa correspondent and news editor from 1990-94. During that stint she was kidnapped while on assignment in Mogadishu by Somali gunmen and held captive for 20 days until being freed unharmed. She has covered the war in Iraq, as well as conflicts throughout Africa, and the end of apartheid in South Africa.
Tina was born in Orange and raised in Oakland, where she was co-editor of her high school paper with Mark Barabak. She is a graduate of San Diego State University.
Tina is ideally suited to take on all the great stories that originate in New York and the Northeast. She goes places others prefer to avoid, finds tales that would otherwise not be told, and tells them with a
verve that others can only envy.
Roger Smith
National editor

With Caesar Ahmed, Susman's filed "In Iraq, a story of rape, shame and 'honor killing'" (Los Angeles Times) last month. It was her last major report from Iraq (and it's noted that she's leaving in the text). Susman's accomplishments reporting from Iraq are many including a sure and steady hand when it came to providing the context -- historical and social -- for a day's events that might otherwise seem random and unconnected. She can also take pride in the fact that her reporting on the treaty masquerading as the Status Of Forces Agreement was not the 'wowy' and breathless coverage so many of her peers provided. (Only one reporter at a national US paper got it right in real time. That's wasn't Susman but she was far ahead of the bulk of her peers. For an example of one of the many topics her reporting led on, click here.) Haynes and Susman are among the MSM foreign reporters who were stationed in Iraq and can point to reporting with pride. It's a small list when you consider how many were stationed in Iraq but the list also includes Alexandra Zavis, Sabrina Tavernise, Cara Buckley, Alissa J. Rubin, Jane Arraf, Ellen Knickmeyer, Damien Cave, Sam Dagher, Ernesto Londono, Ned Parker, Borzou Daragahi, Thomas E. Ricks and Rajiv Chandrasekaran.

Corinne Reilly has been doing some strong work. She and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) outline the basics on the KRG elections now scheduled for July 25th:

Tensions between the Kurdish regional government and Iraq's central government in Baghdad have been rising, and U.S. officials have said they fear the disputes could escalate into armed conflict.
None of Iraq's three mostly Kurdish provinces held elections in January, when the rest of Iraq chose new provincial councils, and the July elections could help further the Kurds' efforts to control their northern territory and the revenues from Iraq's northern oil fields.
Roughly 2.5 million people are eligible to vote in the elections, though registration is ongoing, said Musab al Mudaras, a spokesman for Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission.
Voters won't vote for individual candidates, Mudaras said. Instead, they'll choose from the 42 political parties that have registered to run. Winning parties will decide whom to name to the regional parliament's 111 seats after the election results are announced.

For those wondering, Laith Hammoudi would not make the list of journalists because Hammoudi is not a foreign journalist in Iraq. Hammoudi is an Iraqi (and among those doing very strong work).

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evan bright

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tina susman

oh boy it never ends