Monday, May 18, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, al-Maliki airs the latest in his thugs' taped 'confessions,' tensions escalate in northern Iraq, questions about counter-insurgency rattle the cage, Steven D. Green's sentencing hearing continues and someone's not showing (besides the media), and more.
Starting with the War Crimes trial. Steven D. Green was convicted two Thursdays ago 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. Since then, the jury has been hearing testimony they will weigh when determining his sentencing. Green could receive the death penalty; however, all 12 jurors would have to vote to sentence him to death. If that does not happen, he is facing life in prison. No testimony was heard on Friday. The hearing resumed today and Evan Bright reports that the witnesses included "Noah Galloway again & Roman Catholic Deacon Peter Houck & Steven Green's aunt, Patti Ruth." And he reports that, contrary to rumors two weeks ago, "Green's mother, will - not -be testifying because she 'is moving out this week and has plans for a going away party'." Of the aunt's testimony, he reports:
The final witness to testify today was Patricia Ruth, Steven's aunt, and sister to John Green, Steven's dad. Her daughter is Suzi Woolsey, who testified last Thursday. She spoke of Roxanne being a flamboyant and outgoing person who "lived in her own world." She contrasted in that she herself was "strict" on her children, whereas Roxanne was "the opposite" with hers. "She wanted her children to be individuals and live an unstructured life," she told the jury. She said that as a child, Steven was "always the kid who wanted to know 'why?,' and he was also very hyper active. He was like having a squirrel loose in the house." When Pat Bouldin asked if she still loved Green, she had to retrieve tissues for her tears before answering, "I'm like a second mother to him, he's my Stevie...(pauses)...you can't just...stop loving someone, that you've always loved." She paused and thought for a moment before going on, "I don't know, I don't know how we got to spot...I don't know, we did not send a rapist and a murderer to Iraq."
Brett Barrouquere (AP) reports that the defense is expected to finish calling witnesses to the stand either Tuesday or Wednesday and that the jury will begin determining the sentence on Wednesday. CNN's Dave Alsop notes of Green, "He is a lanky 24-year-old. He looks lean, like he could grow a little more. Not really a man, but too old to be called a boy. Regardless, he is a convicted murder, rapist, and conspirator. The orange prison coveralls make him look a bit taller. The jury never sees Green in the fluorescent jumpsuit. Inside the federal courthouse there is a change of clothes." Sean Pavey (Party for Socialism and LIberation) observes, "Many in Madmuhiya were angry at the fact that the ex-soldier would be tried in the United States and not in Iraq. This fact, compounded with years of criminal occupation, has led most to doubt that Green will receive a just punishment." Evan Bright reported in depth on Thursday's proceedings in which a social worker gave some details of Green's life:
She spoke of Roxanne's relationship with Doug. "She made Doug a best friend, and a confidant," she said. This occurred more so during the periods of time when Roxanne lacked a significant male friend or boyfriend or husband. "She turned Doug into a substitute male...which gives that male too much power. She shared too much with him. She empowered him as the enforcer of the house, she put him in charge." Doug was also extremely abusive. "Doug was mentally, physically, and emotionally abusive to Steve and Danielle." The court has already heard testimony about Danielle taking three trips to the emergency room due to injuries suffered from Doug, something I left out of the blog previously. "Roxanne felt that Steve deserved Doug's abuse." She talked about Roxanne actually missing Steve's graduation from basic training. She ended by talking about the end result. "The accumulation of tumultuous events in his life made him into Steven Green."
In Iraq, Sam Dagher (New York Times) sketches the continued rise of tensions in northern Iraq -- what "American officials have long feared" if they flare up into armed conflict -- as the Kurds are, in the eyes of the newly Sunni dominant provincial government, attempting to expand their territory and as, in the Kurds' eyes, they are under assault from the new provincial government as well as the central government out of Baghdad. Dagher reviews multiple incidents in recent days where mobility has been vastly limited -- even for the governor of the province -- as a result of these tension and Dagher notes, "The American military has played down the significance of the recent Kurdish actions." Nada Bakri (Washington Post) adds, "For U.S. officials, Mosul and the province [Nineveh] rival even Kirkuk, the long-disputed oil-rich city along the same frontier, in volatility." Tim Cocks (Reuters) observes, "In Nineveh province, the most violent corner of Iraq today, Kurds have refused to participate in a new Arab-led provincial government, and several Kurdish towns vow they will not respect the new government in the war-shattered provincial seat, Mosul." Alsumaria notes, "In a step seen as an escalation of the dispute between the central and Kurdish governments over the control of oil resources, Oil Minister Hussein Al Shahristani rejected Kurdistan oil export plan." As the tensions mount, Jacques Clement (AFP) reports that the country will conduct a census and this will include Kirkuk. Kirkuk was supposed to have a census and a referendum by the end of 2007 according to Iraq's Constitution.
Meanwhile Aseel Kami, Muhanad Mohammed, Mohammed Abbas and Alison Williams (Reuters) report that Iraq will hold national elections January 30th. Yes, these are the elections which were supposed to be held in December. Yes, these are the elections that Barack's used as his excuse for breaking his promise to withdraw one brigade a month from Iraq. (He made that promise in a debate . . . after Hillary Clinton had made the promise immediately before him.) AFP adds that Khalid al-Attiya, Deputy Speaker of Parliament, confirms that the date will be January 30th and notes that December 15, 2005 was when Parliamentary elections were last held.
The elections will create their own set of tensions (and rumors -- allegedly Nouri al-Maliki and his Dawa party have just broken with the Shi'ite bloc because allegedly they see it as a drag and think it will allow them to spin themselves as 'for all of Iraq'). Tensions continue between Turkey and Iraq with Turkey bombing northern Iraq. Hurriyet reports that Nouri is claiming that "cooperation and mutual understanding" between Iraq and Turkey are the key to resolving the issue of the PKK. Uh, no, Nouri. The PKK, identified as a terrorist organization by the US, the European Union, Turkey and Nouri among others, is a group of Kurds who believe in an independent, Kurdish controlled region of Turkey. Turkey and Iraq can cooperate fully. The PKK has little to no interest in that. They want an independent region in Turkey. While al-Maliki fluttered far from reality, Turkish President Abdullah Gul seemed more grounded yesterday when he addressed the topic in Damascus. Todays Zaman reports he stated the 'Kurdish question will be resolved by improving Turkey's democratic standards". Yonca Poyraz Dogan (Today's Zaman) interviewed Iter Turkmen -- politician and diplomats whose many posts and offices included Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1980 to 1983 -- about the statements made by Gul:
Yonca Poyraz Dogan: Were you expecting the president of Turkey to say that the country's most important problem is the Kurdish question?
Iter Turkmen: Yes. I would have expected it because he is a realist, and I very much appreciate the way he approaches the Turkey's difficult problems. He showed his pragmatism and realism with what he did to bring about normalization in Turkish-Armenian relations, for instance. It came to me as no surprise. I think it is the greatest failure of the Turkish Republic that it has not already found a settlement to this problem.
Yonca Poyraz Dogan: This issue has come onto the agenda of the government and the public many times in the past. However, the discussion stops after a while and promises are forgotten. Is there anything different about the current period?
Iter Turkmen: Yes, there is something different this time, because measures have been taken; TRT Ses [a state-run Kurdish-language television station] has been established. It is an important step. It is not exactly what the Kurds want, since they want their own television stations and there are some legal impediments to this at the present time. In addition to the president's approach, we have the discussion going on at the level of the civil society. In addition, the chief of general staff [Gen. İlker Başbuğ] contributed to that.
Yonca Poyraz Dogan: What did he really say about the Kurdish issue in his recent address?
Iter Turkmen: First of all, he underlined the importance of taking measures that will enable some of the PKK members to come down from the mountains.
Yonca Poyraz Dogan: Non-military measures?
Iter Turkmen: Non-military measures. He did not advocate a new law, but he said the present law could be implemented in a better way. The other thing he underlined was what he called the "people of Turkey," not the "Turkish people," meaning that there are grounds for different identities in the nation. This is the first time we heard something like that from the military. All these signs indicate that we are making some progress, at least in our minds, and that we are approaching the problem in a different manner, considering that we made terrible mistakes in the past.
Staying on the subject of those labeled terrorists, since April 23rd al-Maliki's band of bozos haven't been able to stop insisting that they captured the mythical Abu Omar al-Bagdadi. When asked, US officials (military and civilians) have taken a pass and usually fallen back on US General Ray Odierno's line that they have not seen al-Baghdadi. They still haven't met with him but all of Iraq's seen the prisoner -- whatever his name is. Al Jazeera notes, "The video released Monday appeared to show the same person as the photographs released after al-Baghdadi's reported arrest." Robert Woodward (Reuters) provides quotes from the 'confession' which is a joke. On the one hand, this person claims that he took orders from members (presumably high ranking ones) in the Ba'ath Party and on the other that the plan was move Iraq into "creating the core of an Islamic state." The Ba'ath Party was a secular party. Why would they have any interest in creating an Islamic state? Why? Well they wouldn't but Nouri might have an interest in promoting this lie. In fact, he's promoted it over. Coup! Ba'ath Party trying to take over! Usama Redha and Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) observe, "Many are skeptical about the claim that the man is Baghdadi because similar past claims by authorities have turned out to be false. The U.S. military says it cannot confirm the man's identity, and a man claiming to be Baghdadi posted an audiotape on a jihadi website last week insisting that he is still free." What's really amazing is that these show-confessions are reported as normal when they're anything but. The press is fully aware that 'confessions' often result from torture in Iraq. (Often? We're being kind.) Regardless of the means by which this nonsense is arrived at, this broadcasting of confessions needs to be called out. This has been going on all along and the only thing that will stop it is when the world makes a point of letting Nouri know how much of a monster this continued practice makes him look like.
Just as it's amazing to watch the press treat the airing of confessions by people with no legal counsel, it's equally amazing to watch the press treat counter-insurgency as the Holy Grail -- non-Monty Python division. The RAND Corporation's Celeste Ward wrote "Countering the Military's Latest Fad" (Washington Post) which is not a call to arms to dismantle counter-insurgency programs. Even so, paragraphs like the following were upsetting to some:
Counterinsurgency doctrine is on the verge of becoming an unquestioned orthodoxy, a far-reaching remedy for America's security challenges. But this would be a serious mistake. Not all future wars will involve insurgencies. Not even all internal conflicts in unstable states -- which can feature civil wars, resource battles or simple lawlessness -- include insurgencies. Yet COIN is the new coin of the realm, often considered the inevitable approach to fighting instability in foreign lands. Now the Pentagon is shifting its budget and seeking to "rebalance" U.S. military power in order to institutionalize counterinsurgency doctrine. Clearly some of these capabilities are needed, but like many useful concepts that gain currency in Washington, counterinsurgency risks being taken too far, distracting us from other threats, challenges and strategic debates.
Just merely questioning if counter-insurgency could be used everywhere was enough to earn a rebuke from Thomas E. Ricks who pronounces the column "dumb." Dumb? One would think she'd asked the American people to think whether counter-insurgency should be used at all -- a question that needs to be asked. The American NAZIS (and Australians in America) behind this program are not being asked to explain their actions anymore than the doctors helping torture prisoners at the start of this decade were. We know how that turned out and this will turn out even worse because counter-insurgency works on an even larger scale. But no one must question counter-insurgency, apparently, not even so mild a question as "Should it be used every where?" (The appropriate question is whether it should be used at all?)
Let's stay with the topic and bring in something else. How do you waste an hour of radio? Play a fool opposite foolish guests. Connect the Dots with Lila Garrett (KPFK) today found Garrett repeatedly mentioning counter-insurgency, never defining what it is and sticking with what supporters say it does as opposed to what history tells us that it does. Lila Garrett didn't intend to promote counter-insurgency but that's what her actions did. And, as the Shangri-Las once said, "That's called sad." Equally so Gareth Porter who tossed around turns like "manipulable" to explain why Barack's acting like a War Hawk. Barack's a War Hawk because he chooses to be. He's not being manipulated. He knows what is going on in Afghanistan (and Iraq), he is not confused. He is not being forced into doing a damn thing. Gareth Porter needs to put on a wig and a dress and start introducing himself as Elizabeth Edawards; however, when she tells her crazy tales of how John Edwards was "manipulable" into an affair, most of us just roll our eyes and look the other way. Gareth Porter would do well to grasp that he is not Mrs. Barack Obama and that it's really insulting to Barack to suggest that he (Barack) is so stupid he doesn't know what he's doing and is "manipulable" by the Pentagon because he is uninformed on "foreign policy." Gareth, grow up. Really. Barack chose his tuturs in foreign policy four years ago and chief among them is Samantha Power. The War Hawk. Why does Barack do what he does? Because he wants to. Who did he get his information from? Samantha Power. He's a War Hawk, she's a War Hawk. That's why they connected. That's why he then hooked up with Dennis Ross and Sarah Sewall. None of his decisions are surprising. They go to whom he sought out for foreign policy advice when he got into the Senate. Repeating, WHEN HE GOT INTO THE SENATE. It's too damn bad, Gareth, that you and the other Panhandle Media types didn't bother to do your damn job. It's too bad that all of you are too damn scared to take on Sammy Power. At some point you'll either grow a spine or learn to cheerlead all of these wars. Until then quit acting like Barack's your husband and you're the cheated on spouse. It's so pathetic, it's not even humorous. Between Gareth's Stand By Your Man moments and Lila's refusal to explore counter-insurgency despite repeatedly bringing it up, Connect the Dots was a complete waste of time. Including Marcy just starting her campaign and already putting both feet in her mouth as she postulated that maybe -- MAYBE -- Barack needed to be pushed a little. Way to wow 'em, Marcy. Why don't you just beg people to vote for Jane Harmen. It was an hour of idiocy. In the real world, Dahr Jamail takes on the myth of the 'kindly' Human Terrain Systems:
The military's benign description specifies that HTS will "improve the military's ability to understand the highly complex local social-cultural environment in the areas where they are deployed." Proponents of the program go as far as to claim that its goal is to help the military save lives.
Those who know better, like US Army Lt. Col. Gian Gentile, will tell you, "Don't fool yourself, these Human Terrain Teams, whether they want to acknowledge it or not, in a generalized and subtle way, do at some point contribute to the collective knowledge of a commander, which allows him to target and kill the enemy in the Civil War in Iraq."
The two highest ethical principles of anthropology are protection of the interests of studied populations, and their safety. All anthropological studies consequently are premised on the consent of the subject society. Clearly, the HTS anthropologists have thrown these ethical guidelines out the window. They are to anthropology what state stenographers like Judith Miller and John Burns are to journalism.
I consulted David Price, author of "Anthropological Intelligence: The Deployment and Neglect of American Anthropology in the Second World War" and a contributor to the Counter-Counterinsurgency Manual, a forthcoming work of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists, of which he is a member.
According to Price, "HTS presents real ethical problems for anthropologists, because the demands of the military in situations of occupation put anthropologists in positions undermining their fundamental ethical loyalties to those they study. Moreover, it presents political problems that link anthropology to a disciplinary past where anthropologists were complicit in assisting in colonial conquests. Those selling HTS to the military have misrepresented what culture is and have downplayed the difficulties of using culture to bring about change, much less conquest. There is a certain dishonesty in pretending that anthropologists possess some sort of magic beans of culture, and that if only occupiers had better cultural knowledge, or made the right pay-offs, then occupied people would fall in line and stop resisting foreign invaders. Culture is being presented as if it were a variable in a linear equation, and if only HTS teams could collect the right data variables and present troops with the right information conquest could be entered in the equation. Life and culture doesn't work that way; occupied people know they are occupied, and while cultural knowledge can ease an occupation, historically it has almost never led to conquest - but even if it could, anthropology would irreparably damage itself if it became nothing more than a tool of occupations and conquest."
Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Baghdad roadside bombing which left two people injured, a Kirkuk roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and left two people wounded and a Basra roadside bombing which left the son of "a high ranking officer" injured as well as "one of his colleagues". On the Basra bombing, Reuters states 1 "police lieutenant-colnoel" was killed -- he would be the high ranking officer -- while his son and two police officers were injured.
Saturday the US military announced: "CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA, Iraq -- A Multi-National Division- South Soldier was killed in action today in southern Iraq. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The incident is under investigation." The announcement brings to 4296 the number of US service members killed in the Iraq War since the start of the illegal war. That's four from the 4300 mark.
Sahar S. Gabriel was an Iraqi correspondent for the New York Times. She is one of the very few Iraqis to be accepted as a refugee in the United States. At the Times' Baghdad Bureau Blog earlier this month, she wrote about the difficulties she has in her job search:
It's no news that refugees are not quite the hot commodity here, although everyone in America came from somewhere else at some point. It would seem only logical to create some vacancies for new people, since they escaped their original country in search of new people, since they escaped their original country in search of a new beginning. [. . .]
Job applications are another story. I feel like I'm applying for the CIA. A detailed description of your job history, education, skills and three references if not more. I flash back to Baghdad where I applied for my first job with a short one paragrah resume.
And Elizabeth DiNovella (The Progressive) covers the topic of Iraqi refugees today and notes:
Conditions for Iraqis in Damascus and Amman are difficult. They are living in rented accommodations, for the most part. They are not able to work legally and often have trouble getting their children into schools. They have been living off of their savings for several years but now funds are running low.