Tuesday, May 12, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Steven D. Green's sentencing for War Crimes continues, Sgt John M. Russell is identified as the shooter of five Iraqi soldiers yesterday, Tina Richards speaks truth to power (and to Prescod) and more.
Steven D. Green, convicted last Thursday in the gang-rape of 14-year-old Iraqi Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, her murder, the murder of her five-year-old sister and the murders of both of her parents. His sentence hearing is ongoing. Today Evan Bright reports the defense put Dr. Ruben Gur on the stand: "Got one hell of a biology lesson on the brain and its functions from Dr. Ruben Gur of UPenn. 'Green acts on impulses and does as he's told'." And that Greg Simolke, Green's uncle, testified. Brett Barrouquere (AP) reports, "Gur told jurors that Green likely suffered closed head injuries." Evan Bright reports of yesterday's hearing:
And so it began. Marisa Ford of the prosecution opened up by speaking about murdering children and how terrified Abeer Al-Janabi must have been before she was killed. "The murder of a child is an unspeakable act, especially an innocent child, which all children are. Abeer's last moments must have been filled with terror as she was raped while her parents and little sister were shot in the room next door. And then, by one of the men who was sent there to protect them, she was murdered."
Lots of legal jargon made it's way into the opening statements. Marisa Ford reminded the jury that they are encouraged and in fact, required to reconsider the evidence which was heard in the guilty phase of the trial. She spoke of imposing the death penalty, and how doing so requires that they, the jury, by law, must outline and note the aggravating circumstances, especially in the death of Abeer, which according to Ford was committed in an "especially heinous, cruel, and depraved manner."
She repeated how the four soldiers committed the crime on March 12th, 2006, and reiterated how they agreed on the plan, changed clothes, "brought weapons and took tools to complete their mission," and how they worked to cover up the evidence. She told the jury how they would hear of the impact on the victims, and how the Al-Janabi family was like many families from both Iraq and "right here in Paducah, Kentucky." She ended her opening by elaborating on a quote from Winston Churchill: "All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope." Ford defiantly expressed, "The defendant Steven Dale Green failed to live up to his duty, he didn't show mercy to Abeer, he took away the two remaining brother's hope for a normal life, he doesn't deserve mercy."
Last night, Ruth summarized the AP reporting on yesterday's hearing:
The Associated Press' Brett Barrouquere reports that today's sentence hearing for Steven D. Green included testimony from members of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi's family. He reports that cousin Abu Farras stated Abeer's brothers Mohammed and Ahmed no longer attend school because the killing of their two sisters and parents "destroyed their future. I'm sure if they died with their family it would be better for them." Mohammed is the older of the two brothers and he told the jury of "how his father taught him to ride a bike".
Bright's reports that Abeer's aunt also testified and "spoke of having a good relationship with Qassim" (Abeer's father): "What I say about him ... isn't enough. He cared for all our family." The aunt said of Abeer, "She was proud of being young, and she was proud of the freedom her father gave her. She was spoiled, her father never suppressed her." Dave Alsup (CNN) notes, " Green might become the first former U.S. soldier to face the death penalty for war crimes before a civilian court. The reason for the distinction: Green was discharged from the military before his crimes came to light." Meanwhile the Daily 49er editorializes that "War is turning Americans into what we despise most:"
The second incident is a clear-cut case of unjustifiable brutality. Last week, former Army Pfc. Steven Dale Green was found guilty of raping and murdering a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and killing her family. He now faces either death of life in prison.
According to the AP, Green's defense team had asked jurors to consider the "context" of war, saying "soldiers in Green's unit … lacked leadership." Defense attorneys also said the Army missed signs that Green was struggling after the loss of friends in combat, and offered little help to him and other members of his unit.
It is right that Green be punished, but there is little doubt his vicious acts were at least provoked by the horrors of war. If that's the case, why is he getting the book thrown at him while Ayala is receiving only probation?
Yesterday, a US soldier shot five others in Baghdad. Ernesto London (Washington Post) reported this morning that Sgt John M. Russell is the soldier who shot the five. The story actually caused the networks to snap to attention last night. ABC's ABC World News Tonight did the best job (click here for Martha Raddatz and Luis Martinez' text report and the video -- video is of the report aired on World News Tonight).
Charlie Gibson: There was a tragic incident in Iraq today that is a stark reminder that while the demands on US forces in Iraq may be diminishing, the mental stress on service members remains high. A soldier this afternoon opened fire in a clinic in Baghdad that was treating military personnel for stress and suicide prevention. 5 American soldiers were killed, four others wounded including the shooter who is in custody. It was the worst case of soldier on soldier violence since this war began. ABC's Martha Raddatz, with us now.
Lt Col Beth Salisbury: This is the entrance into our facility in Camp Liberty.
Martha Raddatz: It was just days ago that Lt Col Beth Salisbury showed ABC News the very same combat stress control center where today's horrific shooting took place.
Lt Col Beth Salisbury: They will sign in at our front desk. They'll be greeted by our staff here.
Martha Raddatz: Salisbury, who runs the center, was not hurt but of the dead, two were on her clinical staff and three were soldiers waiting for treatment. The shooter, who officials say is a Sgt on his third deployment to Iraq, went on a rampage down these hallways and offices in one of the few places where those who were attacked would not have been armed.
Lt Col Beth Salisbury: Their weapons are taken for safety and we secure those here for the safety of our staff and themselves.
Martha Raddatz: The Sgt being held for the murders is married and based in Germany. ABC News has learned he had been having problems during his deployment. Initial indications are that he did not seek mental health treatment voluntarily but that his unit had referred him for care. It is unclear whether he had yet received treatment. Col Salisbury said recently soldiers are encouraged to look for signs of stress in others.
Lt Col Beth Salisbury: The great thing is to have a leader bring in a soldier, come in -- leadership staff -- come in and ask us how that we can help them take care of their soldiers.
Martha Raddatz: These centers are part of the response to a dramatic spike in army suicides a record 143 in the last year. Today the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the shooting will be investigated to see if the stress of multiple and frequent deployments contributed to it.
Adm Mike Mullen: It speaks to the issue of--of multiple deployments, you know , increasing dwell time, all those things that we're focused on to try to improve to relieve that stress.
Martha Raddatz: It can't be understated what a terrible blow to any unit this is when soldiers are killed by fellow soldiers, especially soldiers who were trying to help others. Charlie?
Aaron Glantz: "Veterans advocates say the details of the incident will be critical in assessing whether the killings could have been prevented. Paul Sullivan is Executive Director of Veterans for Common Sense.
Paul Sullivan: We need to know if this soldier was examined by a physician before or after deployment and if any mental health symptons were observed. We know from repeated Congressional investigations and hearings that the military has knowingly sent soldiers back with physical and mentalh health diagnosis and severe symptoms back to the war zone in some of those case the service members killed themselves or others.
Today Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) quotes Maj Gen David Perkins stating of Russell, "The commander of the suspect had taken his weapon away. He had been referred to counseling a week beforehand. There was a concern that he should not have a weapon." Corinne Reilly (McClatchy Newspapers) explains he's been charged "with five counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault" and that "Two of the victims worked at the clinic, Perkins said. Both were officers, one in the Army and one in the Navy. The three other victims were enlisted soldiers." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) observes, "Confiscating the weapon of a noncommissioned officer in charge of other soldiers would be an extremely serious step. Russell, from Sherman, Texas, has served previous deployments in Bosnia and Kosovo. . . . Perkins said the sergeant, whom he said had been deployed to Iraq 'at least two other times' had been referred to counseling about a week before the shooting. He was being treated as an outpatient and it was not known whether he had been prescribed medication." Jenny Booth (Times of London) notes Russell "was due to leave Iraq soon" and a difference between the story out of Iraq that Russell got a hold of gun in the clinic and the story out of DC that that Russell left the clinic and returned with a weapon. CNN explains the timeline this way, "A defense official said that Russell was escorted out of the stress clinic Monday by a fellow soldier. Russell and that soldier apparently struggled over the soldier's weapon in a vehicle after they began to drive away, the official said. Russell then walked back to the clinic, the official said, after apparently obtaining the weapon." CNN quotes Perkins decrying the speculation. The entire last 24 hours have been speculation including retired Col Jack Jacobs, now a military propagandist, who told Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News yesterday (Click here for video page, here for transcript) that the problem was too much time on your hands -- a ridiculous assertion unless you know Jacobs has been opposed to increasing dwell time between deployments. "Speculation does not serve us well or rumor," insisted Perkins . . . while CNN notes that the clinic has been closed at least briefly. Gee, a stress clinic closed. How well does that serve? Especially after the shooting?
Well we don't know the exact circumstances In this particular incident so it's hard to comment on this particular incident other than -- other than the obvious observation that a lot of troops have been doing multiple tours, third, fourth and, in some cases, fifth tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and they're under a lot of stress. There's a lot of really bad things that have happened in the war including torture, atrocities, accidental shootings, deliberate shootings of civilians. There's been a lot of dissent within the army. There was a poll taken back in, I think it was '06 when 72% of the troops in Iraq said that they disagreed with the war. In talking to soldiers today, I find that if anything that percentage has risen. So there are a lot of troops who are unhappy with the situation, unhappy with the war, being deployed and redeployed, they are under a great deal of stress and dissent is growing. Iraq Veterans Against the War started several years ago with about seven members and they have grown to the point where they now have many hundreds of members approching thousands probably and they have chapters clear across the country. They have chapters in Europe, they have a chapter in Canada and they have soldiers blogging against the war from Iraq. So dissent within the military is growing and if you see the movie Sir! No Sir! you'll see how it grew within the military during the Vietnam War. And you had people fragging their officers, throwing fragmentation grenades into their bunkers. You had people shooting their own officers.
Cloy Richards mother, Tina Richards was also on the broadcast.
Tina Richards: My oldest son is a Marine who did two tours in Iraq, came back with traumatic brain injury and severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And he was actually out, he was honorably discharged and they stop-lossed him and they were going to send him back for his third tour and he literally told me that he would kill himself before he was going to go back and participate in an illegal and immoral war in Iraq. And I went to Capitol Hill and I stopped it but my other son who did a tour in Iraq and he suffers from PTSD and it took years to finally convince him to seek help. He's in the army right now and he's facing a second deployment in June and he got help went through the PTSD clinic in the army. They told him he was perfectly fine and ready to be deployed and two days later he beat his wife, he was thrown in jail and my son never would have struck a woman. And the DA dropped the charges so that he could be deployed. So still facing this deployment when he's obviously suffering severe PTSD is just insane. This soldier that did this [yesterday's shooting] he was on his, finishing up his third tour over in Iraq and he was, obviously, he needed help. And often when they're in the field and they report stress or that they're in trouble, they're given a handful of pills and they're sent back out onto the battlefield. I've talked to hundreds of soldiers that that's their exact experience when they report that they're having problems processing what they're doing over there.
Steve Mraz (Stars and Stripes) adds, "The alleged shooter fits the Army's profile of troops who are more vulnerable to mental health problems when deployed. Noncomissioned officers on their third and fourth deployments are more than twice as likely to have mental health problems as NCOs serving on their first deployment, according to the latest Army report on the mental health of deployed soldiers."
In Iraq, water is an issue for Iraqis and US service members. Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) reports an action by the Parliament which attempts to force Iran, Syria and Turkey to share the water resources and, if that doesn't happen, "lawmakers agreed to block any treaty or agreement signed with the three nations that does not include a clause granting Iraq a fairer share of water resources." This as CBS' Houston affiliate KHOU reports "that some soldiers were forced to ration water, perhaps as little as 2-3 liters per day, because there was never enough"
Turning to today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report two Baghdad roadside bombings which left six injured, a Diyala Province roadside bombing left six Iraqi soldiers injured, a Kirkuk car bombing claimed the lives of 6 police officers and left twelve people injured and a Mosul roadside bombing left one person injured.
Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report the corpse of 13-year-old girl was discovered in Diyala Province today -- two days after she'd been kidnapped. Yesterday, the corpse of a 5-year-old boy turned up in Baghdad. He'd been kidnapped as well (and a ransom demand issued). The kidnappings never stopped.
Eric Gjertsen: Yes, well, these kinds of things, I mean they've been going on under the radar of the media for years now. But now it's become mainstream. As you said the rate of suicides, the level of PTSD and brain damage of soldiers who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The fact, the fact that it's mainstream news that US officials were responsible for torture policies -- these are all things that we have to recognize are victories of the anti-war movement and that they only became mainstream because there were soldiers and families of soldiers and survivors who spoke out and refused and blew the whistle and that there was a movement there to support them and so one of our aims in publishing the Refusing to Kill website is to circulate this news about refusers in different countries internationally and really to build this movement to end the war.
Lt Ehren Watada is the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy in the illegal war. He went public in June of 2006 after working for months (as his superiors requested) with the military to attempt to work out some thing other than deployment to Iraq (he'd offered, for example, to deploy to Afghanistan). If you can hold your nose or just ignoring Margret Prescod's whoring for Barack, KPFK's Sojourner Truth spoke with Ken Kagan. Did you know we don't have a US Justice Dept, we have an "Obama Justice Department"? In the Cult of Saint Barack, that's what they have. Poor Ken Kagan, forgot to say "Barack Justice Dept" and forgot to make Barack the AG and the Solicitor General (Elana Kagan). Margret needs to take her multiple orgasms off the air. If she can't, between gasps can she explain how her Lord and Savior Barack 'rescued' Ehren only partially?
Ken Kagan: In addition, he was also on trial for two charges they referred to as "conduct unbecoming an officer" and that related to statements he made in press interviews critical of the war, critical of the president for bringing us into war under false premises and indicating that the commission of war crimes would be taking place by anyone who participated in a war of aggression.
Those are the charges that were unaffected by Elana Kagan's decision not to pursue the three charges that US District Judge Benjamin Settle has already ruled were over due to the Constitution's barring double-jeopardy. The two charges remain up in the air. Why can he still be charged with those? Kagan stated that two charges were set aside. He told Prescod that it's not Ehren's fault that the trial ended in a mistrial. And that due process should have allowed the charges to be dismissed. Prescod offered that the other side is that those charges weren't brought before the jury and so those charges haven't been pursued yet. Not stated was that the charges weren't just set aside and this all goes to the stipulation.
Sarah Olson and Dahr Jamail were being asked to testify. Dahr didn't whine. Dahr didn't try to make it about him. Sarah? Norman Solomon's 'protegee' made it all about herself. She went all over the place whining, "Stop them! They're trying to make me testify!" Would she testify? She didn't know, she didn't want to talk about her legal strategy. Norman hand-held with her on Flashpoints in one of her less hysterical interviews. Norman got all of his friends to write bad columns in defense of Sarah (Phil Donahue had no clue what Ehren had done or had not done but he wrote a column about Sarah). As Panhandle Media's circus continued, Ehren agreed to a stipulation -- drawn up and approved by both the prosecution and the defense and overseen by the judge (Judge Toilet, John Head). He was not going to dispute any comments in the press. That left Sarah Olson off the hook and her 'gratitude' was so immense that she waited a few months before trashing him publicly.
Should Ehren be tried on those charges (which each could carry a year sentence), he'd be punished for trying to be a nice guy and also doing the country a favor by getting whiny Sarah Olson off any and every open mike.
Kagan was upset by some who have called Ehren a pacifist. Who? Maybe one of Norman's friends, it certainly described Phil's column. Mike Wong (Vietnam era objector) joined the group and noted the lobbying effort that took place with people phoning and e-mailing Elana Kagan asking that the charges against Ehren be dropped. (Margret didn't have much interest in that but it doesn't allow her to sing "Glory, glory, Lord Obama, glory, glory . . .") Mike Wong talked about things that took place in Vietnam and the shocker there, as he spoke of it ("In Vietnam, entire units would go out on patrol and instead of patrolling as they were supposed to, they would just go out in the bush a short distance"), was how little anyone's paid attention. (Hint, the New York Times reported on that in Iraq in an article no one seems to have ever noticed.)
Ken Kagan: Well the army has to make a decision and they have to make it soon about whether they are really going to try to proceed against Lt Watada on the two remaining criminal charges. It obviously is in their interest, time is on their side. They can wait -- they think they can wait as long as they want to but there's actually a clock ticking on the speed with which they have to proceed once they're free to do so. Which is now. And so we would urge them to make a decision quickly and we're working on that quietly behind the scenes to point out to them why it is that they have to make a decision quickly. We kind of -- We would like to be able to bring this matter before a court so that we can lay out our case for why those two remaining charges should be dismissed If they are there would then be no discipline pending against Lt Watada and, if he wished, he could resign from the army, resign honorably his commission. But he's not able to do so now. The army will not accept his resignation while there is discipline pending.
If Margret Prescod's Cult of St. Barack babbles get on your nerves, be sure not to miss the moment when Tina Richard put some real truth onto the program.
Tina Richards: I'd like to actually focus on one thing really quick. Jeremy Scahill recently wrote about this. I'd like one quote from him, that "by September of this year, Obama will have sent more troops into combat than Bush" We, as military families, we feel this. We see the rest of the numbers going down in protests and peace activities because everyone kind of feels like, well, they did their job, they voted Obama in, and the job is over and everything is winding down. It's not winding down. We are getting increased deployments. We are -- you know, the processes that led us to this are actually being accelerated under Obama and I just really want to emphasize as a military family that we really need your help and support out there when we have these events like on Sunday or Winter Soldier on Saturday we need people to attend and listen to our stories because things are actually ramping up in these wars especially with the drone attacks and the destabilization and what's happening in Pakistan. It's only going to get worse, not better. We have a lot of work to do.
Margret's snippy little reply? "You'll have the opportunity to give your website out in a minute." Me-ow, Maggie The Cat, Me-ow.