Friday, May 22, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the 4300 mark hovers, Green gets life in prison and Iraqis aren't happy, and we look back at the Abeer coverage since the War Crimes were first exposed.
Yesterday the KPFA Evening News didn't air (or not at its usual hour if it did). KPFK did carry the KPFA Evening News. This being Pacifica, we should probably point out that it's fundraising before someone thinks there was another lock-out. On the KPFA Evening News aired on KPFK, KPFA's Andrea Lewis covered the War Crimes.
Andrea Lewis: An ex-soldier convicted of raping and killing an Iraqi teen and murdering her family was spared the death penalty today and will serve a life sentence after jurors could not agree unanimously on a punishment.
The jury deliberated for a total of ten hours and twenty minutes. While waiting for the jury, Jim Lesousky(P) was seen, hands clasped, as if in prayer. Scott Wendelsdorf(D) was pacing around the defense table, anxious and apprehensive. His hands were shaking as he took his seat. Green, appearing in the same maroon sweater vest as before, appeared surprisingly calm, his breathing steady; the exact same calm-cool-collected look could also be seen on Green's father John and uncle David, present in court. Pat Bouldin(D) twiddled his thumbs with his head down, knowing that this was the moment they'd spent the past two and a half years preparing for.
The jury entered, looking quite stern. Two juror's lips were near quivering. The members of the defense team looked down, while the prosecution eyed the flock of jurors for the last time. After reviewing the verdict forms, Judge Russell announced that the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict, giving Green life in prison without possibility of parole.
Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) broke it down thusly, "Green was given the life term after jurors couldn't come to unanimous agreement on sentencing him to death."
AFP explains, "Their failure to agree effectively handed Steven Dale Green life in prison without the possibility of parole for the rape and killing of Abeer al-Janabi, 14, and the murder of her mother, father and six-year-old sister." As James Dao (New York Times) notes, "At least four other soldiers have pleaded guilty or were convicted in military courts for their roles in the rape and murders. While most received long prison terms, none are facing the death penalty, and all will be eligble for parole in 10 years or less." UPI explains, "The trial was the first in which a civilian jury was asked whether to execute a former service member for a wartime crime." Alsumaria notes, "Green acknowledged the 17 charges addressed to him including rape, murder and judicial obstruction." Andrew Wolfson (Courier-Journal -- link has a video option as well) observes, "Green broke into a slight smile when the verdict was announced."
While Green was grinning, Iraqis were less than pleased. Marc Santora and Suadad al-Salhy (New York Times, for tomorrow's paper so it will not be considered in the next section of the snapshot) quote Sheik Fahil al-Janabi stating, "There is no comparison between the crimes and the sentence. That soldier entered an Iraqi house, raped their underage daughter and burned her with her family, so this sentence is not enough and it is insulting for Iraqi's honor." The reporters tell you that the case was news ("extensive coverage") on Iraqi TV -- well at least some media system cared -- and that Green has been dubbed "the killer of innocence." Sami al-Jumaili and Habaib al-Zubaidy (Reuters) quote Abeer's uncle Raad Yusuf stating, "It's a real shock. That court decision is a crime -- almost worse than the soldier's crime." Earlier, Habib al-Zubaidy (Reuters) noted a mechanic from Abeer's home time, Ahmed Samir stating, "What the American soldier did is a terrorist act and he deserves execution. The court has not delivered justice. If I killed an American girl, the American court would have executed me." CNN quotes Sahwa leader Mustafa Kamel Shabib al-Jaoburi stating, "He raped a girl and killed an entire family, and he got only life in prison. . . . This is an unjust trial. We demand a new trial."
And Green may get a new trial. It's always sad when anyone -- guilty or innocent -- who is poor is betrayed by a public defender. Maybe the defender falls asleep in court, maybe the defender just doesn't give a damn about the client? There are many wonderful public defenders in the US and they work very, very hard. They are heroes and heroines because they ensure that everyone gets a voice, that everyone has representation. But not every public defender is up to the job. Steven D. Green entered a plea of "not guilty." As reporters have repeatedly noted, his attorneys decided (they say) not to fight the guilt but to work on being sure Green didn't get the death penalty. If that is correct, Green's got solid grounds for an appeal because his attorneys disregarded his wishes. A public defender does not determine what the client will plead. Nor is a public defender allowed to say, "I'll just sit out the trial but, after they convict my client, I'll earn the tax payers dollars by fighting to prevent him/her from receiving the death penalty." Green does not appear to have been served by his attorneys who appear to have either thought they couldn't win or just didn't want to work for a win. This appears likely not only by their comments to the press but also by their behavior in the courtroom. April 28th the prosecution began calling their witnesses and they rested May 4th. That afternoon the defense began calling their witnesses and they rested . . . the following day. 1 day and a half of witnesses. May 7th the jury returned their verdict (guilty on all counts). Green was now guilty. It was time for sentencing. The defense called their first witness on May 11th. May 18th, the defense called their last witness. Throughout the case, the defense verbally argued the entire system failed Green. With their actions, the defense failed him. (Click here for more on that.) Comments made by Green's father and brother indicate it's likely Green may indeed appeal. He's due to be sentenced September 4th. This may or may not be over.
But let's look back to what should be the most known War Crimes of the Iraq War. The fact that they aren't go to a media failure. There are some who have earned praise. Many more have not. From July 2, 2006 snapshot: "Lupien also noted the arrest of Steven D. Green. Green, is 21 and was with the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army. Friday, in Asheville, North Carolina, he was arrested and charged with both the four deaths as well as the rape. According to the US government press release, if convicted on the charge of murder, 'the maximum statutory penalty . . . is death' while, if convicted on the charge of rape, 'the maxmium statutory penalty for the rape is life in prison'." Green's trial finally began April 27th. The first day, Andrew Wolfson (Courier-Journal) reported, "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'." Wolfson bid closest without going over: Four weeks. The trial lasted four weeks. In all that time, there was only one known editorial. The Washington Observer-Reporter made the trial the topic of an editorial and they concluded, "But there are no hardships, military or otherwise, that could excuse an atrocity like this and you can't blame it on a 'lack of leadership'." The New York Times? During the four weeks, they filed three reports on the story. Three. Campbell Robertson and Atheer Kakan filed "Ex-G.I. Guilty of Rape and Killings in Iraq" from Iraq and this is the first report the paper ever carried which mentioned Abeer by name. It was not their first story on the topic, or the second or third or . . . But it was the first time that Abeer's name was ever mentioned. The paper had repeatedly rendered her invisible for nearly three years. James Dao filed "Civilian Jury Considers Death Penalty for Ex-G.I." which moved Abeer's name back to paragraph 14 (paragraph thirteen was where Robertson and Kakan were able to get it in) and was a pretty sorry report with no saving graces. Today Dao filed "Ex-Soldier Gets Life Sentence for Iraq Murders" which is such a huge improvement, it's hard to believe that both articles were written by the same reporter. Praise for Dao.
That was the New York Times. The Los Angeles Times loves, loves to cover 'military justice.' They're always dispatching Tony Perry to . . . Well, as a friend at the San Diego Union-Tribune likes to put it, "Where ever Rick goes, they [LAT] send him." And if anyone ever doubted that Tony was anything other than a camp follower they had their proof over the last four weeks. Rick Rogers wasn't dispatched to Kentucky so . . . Tony didn't go. Some people call it "competition," some people call it "stalking." The Washington Post? Though Ellen Knickmeyer wrote the definitive newspaper account of the crimes in 2006, "Details Emerge in Alleged Army Rape, Killings" (July 3, 2006), the paper made do with Reuters and AP when 'covering' the Green trial. Wall St. Journal? Didn't Old Man Rupaul Murdoch promise no lay offs and that resources would be pooled so there would be even more coverage? Apparently the only thing that pooled was the blood from his lifeless head because the Wall St. Journal which should have been covering it wasn't covering it. Now everyone knows -- check any Marriott -- that the Wall St. Journal isn't really the paper with the largest circulation in the US (the bulk of the Wall St. Journals at Marriotts are never picked up -- many front desks 'store' them in the closet nearest to the front desk) but it claims to be and, as such, it certainly should have been able to manage one reporter covering the case. September 13, 2006, USA Today ran Gregg Zoroya's "Soldier describes anguish in revealing murder allegations" on the front page which not only offered a look at Justin Watt who heroically came foward, it also named the victims (Abeer, sister Hadeel, parents Fikhriya Taha and Qassim Hamza) and featured photos of her two brothers Ahmed (then nine) and Mohammed (then eleven). Justin Watt did a courageous thing in coming forward and Zoroya explained that he took the issue to a mental health counselor "because he wanted to bypass what he thought would be a skeptical command structure and get an audience with Army investigators". You might have thought they'd want to live up to their high water mark because, let's be honest, USA Today is not the paper most people read -- it's a glance-at. It's the paper which causes serious readers to groan at the airports when they realize it's the only one left. And yet despite having one of those few moments in their history that they could be proud of, they elected not to build it and appeared to think they'd show the world they were a real news outlet -- honest they were -- by blogging about what the AP wrote. Yesterday they teamed their Andrea Stone up with the Courier-Journal's Andrew Wolfson for "Ex-soldier gets life for Iraqi murders." It was a move they should have considered weeks ago but they still come out ahead of many, many other outlets.
And what about radio? A lot of McBurgers were sold to make NPR what it is so where's the beef? Never on air. Diane Rehm famously BANNED the topic from her show when the jury released their verdict of guilty (on all counts). After they were exposed (here) the show sent out a laughable e-mail to those who had e-mailed on the topic and those who had called Rehm out for banning the topic. We've got seven forwarded copies of that and I've confirmed it with a friend with the show so on a slow day this summer we may include it in the snapshot. (Click here for some of the e-mails sent into the show on the day Diane was banning the topic.) All those hours to fill every day and not a word about Abeer on the NPR programs. This afternoon Frank James blogs and includes some comments by NPR's JJ Sutherland. But actually getting it on air was too damn much work for NPR. Pacifica Radio? They didn't send anyone. They're begging for money right now and they're doing awful. KPFA, for example, is supposed to be ending their fund drive and they are $100,000 short of their target goal. KPFA has the best fundraising (because it has the richest base) of any Pacifica radio station. WBAI is teetering due to already being in debt. No one thought to send anyone to Kentucky and despite the fact that all the Pacifica stations have listeners in Kentucky, no one thought to ask one of them to file some sort of report or, for that matter, to interview Evan Bright. We'll come back to Evan. Lila Garrett talks a good game about caring about Iraqis, she talks a good game. But when it came to an Iraqi teenager who was gang-raped and murdered by US soldiers? Where were you, Lila? We know where Margret Prescond was -- on the corner whoring for Barack. Remember that when Maggie The Cat wants to tell you yet again how wonderful she is and how she interview Hugo Chavez and how she . . . Didn't do s**t.
I'm not overly fond of Amy Goodman. I'd love to right now be able to point to someone else but Amy's the only one who consistently was aware of Abeer. It was never more than headlines but when Goodman's getting ready to go to bed, she can tell herself, "I did cover it." And she did. Credit where it's due. Not as much but also deserving credit, Andrea Lewis on KPFA. Andrea covered it twice. Andrea does know what actual news is. Which puts her far ahead of her morning replacement, to be honest. When Andrea co-hosted The Morning Show and when Sandra Lupien did the news breaks? They broke the story. No other radio station in the country had run with the arrest of Steven D. Green. Sandra worked her ass off and she didn't -- as Aileen does -- just grab AP and read it out loud (which some call plagiarism when you don't say "AP reports . . ."). She found the government's announcement of the arrest and found it about ten minutes after it was released and worked furiously to include it in the news break she was about to do. KPFA was the first broadcast outlet to note Steven D. Green's death.
They're short now. And why is that? Why should we give money to KPFA? They didn't send anyone to cover Abeer's case. We had Aimee Allison making a fool herself every damn morning, being the equivalent of Phyllis George, and we're supposed to pay for that? We're supposed to pay to listen to them read Associated Press stories to us that they pass off as news? We're supposed to pay for all that Barack Whoring? It's not news. It's not free speech. It is propaganda and, no surprise, they're learning people aren't going to pay for it. (See Panhandle Media for how KPFA in particular ABUSED the airwaves and the audience to WHORE for Barack.) Andrea Lewis is a functioning adult. She may be one of the few left at KPFA. But despite all the calls and e-mails and all the blog comments they've had (you can leave comments at their archives) asking why they weren't covering the Green trial, the only KPFA employee who seemed to think "Maybe in a fundraising cycle it's really not good to piss off our audience?" was Andrea. When the layoffs come, they need to start way at the top. When the layoffs come they need to start with the execs who allowed this to go on and who have turned The Morning Show into two hours that no one can listen to because it's a daily sermonette (preached strongest by Brother Mitch Jeserich in that hideous "Washington Letter") on the Glory and Goodness of St. Barack. Instead of sending Mitch to DC to reach his hands down St. Barack's pants, maybe the money could have been spent reporting on the War Crimes trial coz, pay attention, in ten years when Pacifica really needs to beg for money, their happy time chatter about Barack won't be worth s**t but if they could say "We covered the War Crimes trial" they might have have impressed someone. That's especially true of Free Speech Radio News which appears to be utilizing all of their energies currently to demonstrate that they are not "free speech" nor are they news. Message received. May you share warm reminisces . . . on the unemployment line.
Turning to televison. I have friends with The NewsHour and I know they are re-tooling the show. That's no excuse for their silence on this story. That's no excuse for not covering it. For those wondering, PBS does have a member station in Paducah, Kentucky (where the trial was held), WKPD. There's no reason they couldn't have partnered with that station to cover it. There's no reason -- other than it wouldn't let her be the airhead she loves to be -- that Washington Week couldn't have covered the trial in their gas bag way. (For those not aware of it, even under Gwen, Washington Week has brought reporters on to do a report and not gas bag, they're usually reporting by remote from outside the studio.) PBS is broadcast television. The network news? Damn disgusting. And it's really sad that when we finally do have a woman anchor that the gang-rape and murder of an Iraqi teenager by US soldiers isn't seen as news. It's really sad.
MSNBC? They don't do news, kids. They think they do comedy and that actually is funny. CNN? CNN covered this story starting in 2006. They have always covered the story. While MSNBC and Fox 'News' served up pompous wind bags, CNN offered news. They deserve a lot of credit for the reports they did -- including the reports done by Dave Alsup and Deborah Feyerick on the Green trial. Yet again, CNN proved they are in the news business. They may be the only ones, but they are in it.
The weeklies? Newsweek couldn't be bothered. When can they be? TIME magazine offered a report by Jim Frederick who has long covered the story and who is writing a book on Green's unit. US News & World Reports? Stop, you're making us laugh. The Nation? Oh that is funny. You think any of those useless writers at The Nation gives a damn about Abeer. Ugly Girl Katha Pollitt who poses as a feminist? What has that useless woman ever done? Not real damn much. She's trashed the NAACP, true. That made her feel good, I guess. What a proud moment for White Katha, lecturing the NAACP on what she thinks they should focus on. How they were wasting their time complaining about the unfair portrayals on TV and the lack of them. But what does Katha do but kvetch and moan every two weeks about something in the media. Real problems? Katha doesn't have time for them. And she never had time for Abeer. It was almost one year after the War Crimes were known that, under tremendous pressure, Katha was forced to mention Abeer. Which she did . . . for a half-sentence. The self-styled den mother of the push-up bra set of 'feminists,' the 21st century's Charlotte Rae, Katha Pollitt, take your bow. Ruth Conniff? She makes Katha look like a deep thinker. The Progressive's a monthly but, no, it didn't cover Abeer. There was time for Matthew Rothschild to come out of the closet this week but no time for Abeer. Never time for Abeer. Well, hey, Matthew Rothschild, what he's really like, him telling us that, does qualify as news, right? News you can use? No, it's more naval gazing from the man who is far too intimate with his own pot belly and who, honestly, should have grasped long enough that, as a news topic, he's just not interesting.
Reuters, UPI, AFP and AP filed stories. AP was fortunate to have Brett Barrouquere who has covered the story for nearly three years and may know it better -- all the ins and outs -- than any other reporter who has followed the story. AP's not really fond of bylines. They're not really fond of reporters names. They prefer their 'product' be known and not individuals -- their 'product' is not the news reports, they mean "Associated Press." Well tough, because Brett Barrouquere deserves praise for the work he's long done on this story and, his own natural talents aside, he's also the strongest argument for keeping reporters on stories. Other outlets should learn something from that. In a reporter's universe, 'heaven' may be tenacity paying off. If so, Brett's earned his joy.
And then there's Evan Bright. The 18-year-old high school senior, one who's not even necessarily planning to be a reporter, one who wasn't even aware the case over six months ago. But he reported -- REPORTED -- on the case. He was in the court room every day. During the last four weeks we've been treated to a load of sanctimonous claims about the power of the newspapers and how important they are and how much they matter to democracy and how we need to give them a bail out and blah, blah, blah. No national newspaper put a reporter in a court room every day. Evan Bright put himself in that court room. When the US media system failed (excepting only Brett's work for AP), Evan Bright was there. Instead of bailing out newspapers, maybe Congress can fund Evan's college career? Evan's offered closing thoughts on the trial here.
Here is the US Justice Dept press release on yesterday's events:
WASHINGTON -- A federal jury that convicted Steven D. Green, a former Ft. Campbell, Ky., soldier of charges arising out of the rape of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and the murder of the girl and her family today said it was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on whether the defendant should be sentenced to death. Because the jury did not unanimously reach a decision on the death penalty, U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell will sentence Green to life without parole, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Candace G. Hill of the Western District of Kentucky announced.
Judge Russell is scheduled to formally sentence Green on September 4, 2009.
Green, 24, was convicted by the federal jury on May 7, 2009, in Louisville, Ky., on all charged counts, including premeditated murder, aggravated sexual abuse, felony murder, conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit aggravated sexual abuse, use of firearms during the commission of violent crimes and obstruction of justice. Green was indicted by a federal grand jury on Nov. 2, 2006.
Green was charged with the crimes following an incident that occurred on March 12, 2006, in and around Mahmoudiyah, Iraq. According to evidence presented at trial, while manning a military checkpoint, Green and other fellow soldiers discussed raping and killing Iraqis. Trial evidence showed that Green and others then took off their uniforms, put on black clothing, left their post and forced their way into the nearby home of the Al-Janabi family. Evidence presented at trial proved that Green then took the mother, father and six-year-old into a bedroom where he shot and killed them. In the living room, Green and the other soldiers raped the 14-year-old and then Green repeatedly shot her in the face and set her body on fire. Green then tried to blow up the house, according to trial evidence, after which the soldiers returned to their checkpoint. After committing the rape and murders, trial testimony revealed that Green bragged to others that the experience was "awesome."
Green was discharged from the U.S. Army in May 2006 and was prosecuted in U.S. District Court under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA), a statute that gives U.S. courts jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed outside the United States by, among others, persons who served with the armed forces but who are no longer subject to military prosecution. Green's co-conspirators were prosecuted by military authorities under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Green, formerly stationed at Ft. Campbell and deployed to Iraq while serving with the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army, was arrested by the FBI on June 30, 2006, on federal charges of murder and rape based on MEJA.
The case was investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marisa Ford and Jim Lesousky of the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Western District of Kentucky and Trial Attorney Brian Skaret of the Criminal Division's Domestic Security Section.
Yesterday's violence in Iraq resulted in 27 reported deaths and thirty-two reported wounded. The 27 includes the 3 US soldiers killed. This morning Reuters adds the following on Thursday's violence: a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer and injured six more, another Mosul roadside bombing injured a woman, 2 corpses discovered in Mosul ("man with bullet wounds" and "woman with bullet wounds"). So there are 30 reported deaths from Thursday's violence (at least thirty) and thirty-nine reported wounded plus nine US soldiers wounded for a total of forty-eight wounded. And the violence follows Wednesday's Baghdad bombing which resulted in at least 40 dead. On yesterday's Baghdad bombing, Nada Bakri (Washington Post) notes eye witness Raed Nizar stating, "Blood was all over the ground. The wounded were pleading with motorists who happened to drive by to take them to the hospital." Timothy Williams and Abeer Mohammed (New York Times) describe the Baghdad bomber as "a beared man dressed in a woman's black floor-length cloak".
In some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad mortar attack on the Green Zone (missed), a Baghdad mortar attack which wounded two people, a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer and left six people injured and a second Mosul roadside bombing which injured one person.
As the US heads into Memorial Day weekend, the number of US service members killed in the Iraq War stands at 4299 -- one away from the 4300 mark.
TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (check local listings):
This week NOW on PBS partners with best-selling author and journalist Robert Lacey to investigate the surprising success of Saudi Arabia's approach to dealing with terrorists and extremists - without torture or water-boarding. Given extraordinary access to the Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry and its practices, Lacey visits terrorist rehabilitation camps that use "soft policing" tactics to be nice to the bad guys.
In the program we see the Saudis providing a private jumbo jet to bring inmates home from Guantanamo Bay, giving them a hero's welcome, then sending them to a converted holiday resort for re-education. Then, the men are set free.
Is this rehab program working, and can we trust the Saudis to protect themselves - and us - against Islamic extremism in the future? Watch this NOW on PBS report for a perspective on terrorism you've never seen before.
Washington Week also begins airing tonight and Catty Girl Gwen invites three boys over for her sleep over and tosses Karen Tumulty (TIME) in for giggles (NYT's David Sanger, Wall St. Journal's Naftali Bendavid and National Journal's John Maggs compete to be Gwen's Dream Date). Golly, you know if PBS had been okay with this sort of 'representation' of the American public, Gwen would never have been a host of any PBS show. Don't worry though, she's off singing "I got mine." Four guests, one is a woman. No that's not reflective of the population. Yes, it does speak to Gwen's own sexism and her own vanity. As a fix you can watch (and starts airing tonight on many PBS stations, check local listings) as Bonnie Erbe sits down withCari Dominguez, Karen Czarnecki, Patricia Sosa and Avis Jones-DeWeever to discuss this week's news on To The Contrary. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
The economic stimulus package includes a "buy American" clause that the steel and other U.S. industries lobbied hard for. However, American businesses that export overseas now fear foreign governments will retaliate and keep U.S. products out of their market, hurting their business. Lesley Stahl reports. | Watch Video
Waving a badge he bought on the Internet and claiming to belong to the "Multi-jurisdictional Narcotics Task Force," Bill Jakob fooled a small town's officials into granting him the authority of a law enforcement officer. Katie Couric reports. | Watch Video
Scientists have found a substance called resveratrol in red wine that slows down the aging process in mice. Will it someday lengthen the lives of humans, too? Morley Safer reports. | Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, May 24, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.