Wednesday, May 6, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Ehren Watada gets some legal news (and people rush to figure out what it means), closing statements are made in the War Crimes trial, Blackwater did what?, and more.
Starting with big news involving the first officer to publicly resist the Iraq War. The Seattle Times reports Lt Ehren Watada will not be subjected to double-jeopardy. Hal Bernton (Seattle Times) reported November 9, 2007: "A U.S. District Court judge on Thursday barred a second court-martial of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada while the Army officer pursues his claim that it would violate his constitutional rights. It was a legal victory for Watada, the first Army officer to face prison for refusing to deploy to Iraq." That was in November of 2007. (Not October of last year -- I have no idea where people are getting their false information.) The military has decided not to appeal that 2007 decision. However, US District Judge Benjamin Settle ruled on three of the five counts against Ehren so the Seattle Times cautions, "It is unclear if the Army plans to pursue those [two] charges." Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) cites Ehren's civilian attorneys stating that the "Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today granted the Army's motion to dismiss the case." And he cites the military stating that Ehren may yet be court-martialed. Vanessa Ho (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) notes that the military is unclear what they'll do next and that James Lobsenz (one of Ehren's two civilian attorneys, the other is Kenneth Kagan) states, "We are cautiously optimistic that perhaps we've had enough litigation." In June 2006, Ehren Watada went public with his refusal to serve in the Iraq War because it was an illegal war and, as an officer, he would be responsible not only for himself but for those serving under him. 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. That court-martial took place in February of 2006. On Monday, February 5, 2007, 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. Semi-defense? Despite the gravity of the charges, despite the maximum number of years in prison he was facing if convicted, Judge Toilet (aka John Head) refused to let Watada explain why he would not deploy. Watada was boxed in to a yes-or-no-I-did-it type of defense which is no defense at all. Judge Toilet also refused to allow the defense to call various witnesses. Wednesday morning, Judge Toilet was suddenly concerned with the stipulation -- the same stipulation he was involved one, the same one he signed off on, the same one both the defense and the prosecution agreed to, the same stipulation Judge Toilet had explained to the military jury on Monday. Suddenly, the stipulation was a problem. Toilet tried to argue Ehren didn't understand the stipulation. Ehren understood it and was doing what he announced he would be doing the week prior to Toilet. Did Toilet not understand the stipulation?
He certainly didn't understand double-jeopardy which had already attached to the case when, sensing the prosecution was losing, Judge Toilet declared a mistrial over defense objection. Judge Settle found the double-jeopardy argument was correct and ruled accordingly in the fall of 2007.
Turning to other legal issues, Steven D. Green's 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. Today the jury heard closing arguments. Evan Bright reports, "Scott Wendelsdorf just completed the Defense closing statement. 'Madness? Madness. Madness is the only way any of this could have happend'." Brett Barrouquer (AP) quotes US prosecutor Marisa Ford stating that those who took part in the attack had "forfeited their right to call themselves American soldiers". In other ways she echoed the closing arguments of US Army Capt Alex Pickands during the August 2006 Article 32 hearing held in Iraq. Pickands argued:
"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. . . . 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."
Today in court, Marisa Ford declared, "This was a planned, premeditated crime which was carried out in cold blood." Evan Bright and Brett Barrouquer have covered every day of the trial. Jill at Feministe notes the trial today. And has her facts right. Others aren't so lucky.
Gail McGowan Mellor was dispatched by The Huffington Post to cover the trial and arrived yesterday. Possibly this late arrival is why she has problems in this report? "Sex was incidental; they wanted to hurt Iraqis." Rape is not "sex" and, if that was McGowan Mellor's point, we'd be agreeing with her. That's not her point her point is that Abeer's family was hit because "the five U.S. soldiers reasoned that the family would be easy to kill and that nothing more substantial than her parents stood between them." It was about, Gail tells, hatred of Iraqis.
I'm really amazed at the late to the party check-ins who didn't even bother to do any damn research. Abeer was the target. I'm sorry Gail didn't have time to study nearly three years worth of press. Steven D. Green inappropriately touched Abeer in public -- at that military checkpoint -- and freaked her out. His constant staring had already unnevered her. After he started touching this 14-year-old girl, her parents decided to get her out of the house. Had they struck the next night, the US soldiers wouldn't have found her because she was going to live somewhere else. Do not pretend that Abeer was not the focus. Green was fixated upon her. And do not pretend that it was because of some 'easy kill' element you've just introduced into the narrative. Get a damn grip.
Evan Bright reporting on Day Four of the trial: "According to Barker, 'Cortez took a little convincing to get him to come along. He said if we were gonna have sex with the girl, he wanted to go first'." Gail McGowan Mellor wasn't present for day four and apparently didn't bother to read up on it. Cortez took a little convincing? For what? For an 'easy kill'? No, to take part in the gang-rape that Barker terms "sex." Bright reported on Friday's testimonies that Paul Cortez testified they "knew what was goin' on, we knew were were goin' down to that house to have sex with that girl, and Barker and Green seemed to know where they were going to get there."
Gail McGown Mellor is showing up late and imposing a narrative. This isn't reporting. And it needs to be called out. She's imposing her values and desires on the story while ignoring the facts. Now she can have an opinion and she can make her entire article her opinion but she better know the facts. She can argue with the facts, she can disagree with them, but she better know them. There is no indication that she knows anything. She appears to think she's 'cute' with her 'local color' piece she's turned in playing, as Bob Somerby might say, the readers for rubes.
"Four of Green's co-conpirators have been convicted by military tribunal and put away" insists Gail despite the fact that it's incorrect. She doesn't even know the trial history. She doesn't even know that, for example, Paul Cortez confessed. He wasn't convicted, he confessed. The ignorance on display is astounding until you grasp that Gail jetted in with a narrative firmly in place and was going to work it like crazy. (If you can't pick up on it, Gail's argument -- which will no doubt be even more clear in later posts from her -- is WAR CORRUPTS ALL.) Especially hilarious is where she blames the local press:
There were only twelve folks viewing the trial yesterday, five of us from the media. It's arguably not a lack of public intelligence and curiosity; it's a failure of local journalism. The Paducah Sun, which is blocks from the federal courthouse, is not supplying daily or in-depth coverage, and local broadcast news does not supply enough information on the complex case to fill a tweat. The report of one anchor was simply, "There were two witnesses today." There sure were; that was the day that two of Green's co-conspirators testified for the prosecution.
Gail was viewing it for the first day, her first day in the area, so how she knows what an anchor said last week is something she might wish to clarify. But it's not the job of the local press to cover this trial. It's not a local trial. It's an international trial. The events took place not in some city in Kentucky, they took place in Iraq. The problem isn't local news which is struggling. The problem is the outlets like the New York Times and others who could send a slew of reporters to Alaska not all that long ago but can't send one reporter to Kentucky. Wonder over that. There should be more local coverage but I've spoken to people at one local paper and at one local station and they said the issues included no amplification. If there reports were getting picked up by the networks or by other papers, they would be covering it. But they showed up for day one and saw little interest from the press. With minimal interest locally (from residents) and no amplification, it wasn't worth their resources to cover it.
Why is there minimal interest among local residents? For one thing, the case should have been infamous but never has been. Find the network report on it. Not just from Green's trial, find the network report on any of the trials. There's no reason the citizens of Paducah should be any more familiar with the case than the rest of the country. That's a point Gail ignores either out of ignorance or intentionally. What is the point of her anonymous quotes from locals? She is aware that Steven D. Green didn't grow up in or live in Paducah, isn't she? Whether she is or not, she's off spinning her yarn and facts be damned because she's smelling Midnight In The Garden of Good & Evil. Heaven save us all from bad feature writers who think they're bringing us the news.
It's really a shame because there are details in McGown Mellor's feature article that, if they are true, could make for a very strong report. But she's made it so abundantly clear that facts matter so very little that who can trust anything she provides? "Only after three years of legal maneuvering however was Green brought to trial." What? Does she have any clue what she's reporting on? Green wasn't even arrested until June 30, 2006. Three years have yet to elapse. And 'legal'? From April 3, 2008: "As a result of the fact that he had been discharged, he was set to face a civilian court and that trial was finally due to start this coming Monday; however, AP reports the trial has been delayed "by three weeks to accomodate a quilt show". No, that is not a joke." It wasn't just "legal" delaying the trial.
Meanwhile at least 17 are dead from car bombings in Baghdad today. Robert H. Reid (AP) notes 15 of them died at a market and quotes eye witness Raad Hussein stating, "The security personnel are not searching the farmers who bring their vegetables to the market. They search only private cars." Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) notes at least forty were wounded in the market bombing and quotes an eye witness stating, "The Americans are responsible for what is happening. It is because of the occupation that every day we have killings and wounded people." Ernesto Londono and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) report the rise in violence has led to a new move by the US military: "In recent days, top American military officials issued an order barring commanders and spokesmen from using the oft-repeated phrase 'security continues to improve,' because they deemed it 'disingenuous' in light of the recent attacks, according to an American official who spoke on condition of anonymity." In other reported violence?
Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Baghdad roadside bombing which left eight people injured, 4 Mosul roadside bombings which claimed 2 life and left five people injured. Reuters notes a truck bombing "near the Baiji oil refinery" which left three people injured.
Saturday the US military announced: "CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, TIKRIT, Iraq -- Two Multi-National Division -- North Soldiers were killed and three wounded during a small arms fire attack at a combat outpost south of Mosul early this evening. According to initial reports, an individual dressed in an Iraqi Army uniform fired on the Coalition forces and was killed in the incident. The incident is currently under investigation. The names of the deceased and wounded are being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense." Alsumaria identifies the Iraqi soldier as Hassan Al Dulaimi and notes that Abdul Qader Al Ubaidi (Defense Minister) has launched an investigation. AFMAO/PA noted the two US soldiers killed:
Name: Jake R. Velloza
Hometown: Inverness, Calif.
Service: U.S. Army
Location of death: Operation Iraqi Freedom
Name: Jeremiah P. McCleery
Hometown: Portola, Calif.
Service: U.S. Army
Location of death: Operation Iraqi Freedom
Brent Ainsworth (Contra Costa Times) reported, "Jake Velloza was a football and baseball standout at Tomales High, where Leon Feliciano served as his football coach" and quotes Feliciano stating, "I think he knew from the first day he got into high school that he was going into the militiary. We talked about college, but he said, 'No, Coach, I want to be a Ranger doing special ops.' He was set on his goals. He was one of those young men who knew what he wanted to do and did it. Service to his country is what appealed to him." Michael Taylor (San Francisco Chronicle) spoke to his grandfather, Richard Velloza, who explained of receiving the awful news, "It was terrible all day long. Not too good. Jake was an only son. That's what makes it kind of rough." Steve Timko (Reno Gazette-Journal) speaks with Josh Rogers who was a friend of Jeremiah P. McCleery's and graduated with him in 2004 from Portola High School who says, "He was a very loyal friend. If you broke down in Reno or far away, he'd come pick you up. He always had your back." The Reno Gazette Journal also notes this statement from Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons, "I want to extend the condolences of a grateful State and a grateful Nation to the family and friends of Specialist Jeremiah McCleery. His sacrifice for freedom will never be forgotten." Katharine Q. Seelye (New York Times) notes the two men's arrival at Dover Air Force Base Monday and observes of the policy change on photographing coffins, "The first arrival of cases after the media ban was lifte on April 5 drew 35 journalists; since then, the number has dwindled, sometimes to only a single photographer for The Associated Press."
Will anything come from the investigation? Not if their work is anything like the Integrity Commission's. Sam Dagher (New York Times) reports today on the commission and the findings include:
The Integrity Commission recevied 5,031 complaints in 2008.
3,027 of the complaints went to court.
Of that, there were 97 convictions.
If my math is correct that's a 3% conviction rate (3.204%). An underwhelming conviction rate. Speaking of a lack of convictions, September 16, 2007 Blackwater slaughtered Iraqis in Baghdad. At least 17 Iraqis were killed. Bill Sizemore (Virginia-Pilot) reports today that, following the slaughter, "Blackwater contractors allegedly transferred a number of machine guns to another contractor who is now charged with trying to smuggle them out of Iraq."
Sahwa ("Awakenings," "Sons Of Iraq") are being targeted by Nouri al-Maliki. In the latest development, Ahmed Rasheed and Tim Cocks (Reuters) report that a number of them "are deserting their posts because of delays in pay and a spate of arrests". One of the recent arrests was of Nulla Naem Al Jibouri whom Alsumaria reports al-Maliki states will be released on Saturday.
Turning to p.r., Bruce Dixon (Black Agenda Report) weighs in on the 'Save Darfur' War Hawks and their machinary:
African tragedies, observed Ugandan scholar and Columbia University professor Mahmood Mamdani in a March 20 presentation at Howard University, usually occur in the dead of night, outside the sight, concern or hearing of the Western public. The exception to this, he noted, has been Darfur. No armchair observer, Mamdani has traveled and worked extensively in Darfur as a consultant to the African Union in its attempts to peacefully resolve the conflict there.
Mamdani called Save Darfur "the most successful piece of single issue organizing since the Vietnam era antiwar movement, really more successful than the antiwar movement." But Save Darfur, with slogans like "boots on the ground," "out of Iraq, into Darfur" and persistent demands for the creation of "no fly zones" is far from being an antiwar movement.
As BAR pointed in a 2007 article, Ten Reasons Why "Save Darfur" is a PR Scam to Justify the Next US Oil and Resource Wars in Africa, Save Darfur is no grassroots movement either.
[. . .]
Mamdani explained the unique appeal of the Save Darfur Movement to US audiences by noting that unlike US responsibility for the one million Iraqi dead over the last six years, the Save Darfur Movement does not demand that we understand Darfur's history, ethnography, or the complexities of the current conflict there, or acknowledge any culpability of our own. Unlike the killings in Iraq, Save Darfur does not demand that Americans respond as citizens, with a need to account for responsibilities and actions, but merely as human beings with a need to feel powerful and justified. Save Darfur, Mamdani argued, has de-historicized and de-politicized the conflict for its American audience, presenting them with a simple morality play in which they can be the heroes.
Everybody wants to be a hero. Nobody wants to be a citizen.
And what could be more heroically self-justifying and self-affirming than intervening on the side of the angels in the picture of straight-up racial conflict presented to us by the Save Darfur Movement? The trouble is, it's an utterly false picture. The historic and present uses and definitions of race in America are not nearly the same as those in Africa. Most of Darfur's janjaweed who committed atrocities against civilians in Darfur are as black as those they murdered, and just as indigenous. The prosecutors at the International Criminal Court who recently indicted the Sudanese president are accountable only to the wealthy nations of the UN Security Council, not to anybody on the African continent. And the casualty figures thrown out by Save Darfur are wildly inflated.
From 'Save Darfur' to more dumbness. Ask J-Som of Liberal Rapture who stumbles across this piece by Chris Hedges (link goes to Information Clearing House) and feels the need to add, "What does gall me about Hedges' work now is that he is saying what we, the dukes and duchesses of minor blogland, have been saying for well over a year. It grates on my nerves and ego to have a bigger player come in very late in the game and announce things like: [. . .]" And where there is dumb there is Carolyn/Caro of MakeThemAccountable (as Rebecca pointed out already this week). In the comments, Carolyn huffs to J-Som, "We won't forget we heard you speak the truth of Obama first. Some of us were immune to the hopium." If you hear J-Som before Chris Hedges, it's only an indication of how little you read.
Carolyn is this century's Tina Yothers who shows up to deliver her single line ("Yeah!") over and over whenever stupidity is expressed. J-Som and Carolyn, meet the real world: Chris Hedges has been calling out Barack all along. Your stupidity makes everything you write suspect. How could you not know that Chris Hedges called Barack out?
How could you not know that Chris Hedges was ridiculed by Tom Hayden for refusing to hop on the Barack bandwagon, ridiculed and mocked? How could you not know that, unlike all the other chicken s**t (Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Eddie Vedder, Janeane Garofalo, Ani DiFranco, Patti Smith, the list is endless) who once stood with Ralph Nader only to run like crazy when the Blame-Ralph movement started, Chris continued to stand with Ralph. Chris endorsed Ralph in the 2008 presidential race.
But J-Som and Carolyn aren't concerned with facts. They just want to write whatever they want. It's stupid and it makes them both come off as either grossly ignorant or total liars. Carolyn especially has a problem -- a repeat problem. There's no harm in highlighting Chris Hedges' article and stating, "I don't know where he stood in 2008 . . ." There is harm in assigning to Chris a position he didn't hold. Chris has spoken out about Obama through Obama's race for the Democratic nomination, throughout the general election and after Barack was elected. You sort of expect J-Som and Carolyn to next stumble across an article by John Pilger and to type up, "Oh, now, he speaks out!" (Pilger has spoken out against the lies of Barack for some time.) I do know Chris Hedges, as disclosed before. And he's been held accountable here in the past. I made the decision that I would not critique him in a negative manner when I found out he was going to endorse Ralph because I knew he was already being slammed by the Cult of St. Barack. The slamming continued beyond the election. And we don't need the likes of J-Soms and Carolyn rewriting history out of ignorance or malice.