Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Margaret Hassan, landmines, US troops still headed to Iraq

Margaret Hassan should have been news in the paper's today. She isn't. Margaret Hassan was with the NGO CARE International and worked in Iraq (where she held citizenship) for years before the start of the illegal war. She was kidnapped October 19, 2004 in Baghdad. She was brutally murdered. Yesterday, a man was found guilty for his role in her kidnapping and murder. The New York Times reduces the news to a paragraph in "World Briefing" on A9 (national edition) and, even worse, the paragraph's not written by one of their employees. It's AP.

The Los Angeles Times may top the insult. They do run a full article . . . by AP. And? Take a look below.

She was seized in October 2004 on her way to work in Baghdad, where she served as director of CARE International in Iraq.

Shortly after her abduction, a terrified Hassan, 59, was shown on a video trembling and pleading for her life as she urged then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair to withdraw British troops from Iraq.

Is that photo of Margaret Hassan? No, it is not. (It appears to be Lt Gen Stanley A. McChrystal.)

And how did that make it up at the paper's website with no one noticing it? How did no one notice that Margaret Hassan, a woman, was not pictured in that photo?

All her family wanted to know yesterday was where Margaret's body was. The Mirror reports they were denied that and quotes the family statement: "We are content that this man has been found guilty. However, he has still not revealed the whereabouts of Margaret's remains, which would allow us to bury her with the respect that she deserves." The Sun quotes her sister Deirdre Fitzsimons stating, "We want to ensure she is buried with the respect she deserves." It is not a minor point to the family. And it's not a minor point to most people which is why the family members of POWs never give up. But it's a minor issue to the press. The Sun and The Mirror are UK tabloids. They're covering it. Where's the 'respected' and 'respectable' media? They were happy to cover it in 2004. Now? They lost interest. Poor little guys, they peaked early. If only they had a viagra to keep up press interest.

Irish Central covers the news here. The Press Association's article is here. CNN is here. From Antony Loyd and David Brown's "Iraqi jailed for life for Margaret Hassan murder" (Times of London):

Mrs Hassan, 59, became Iraq’s most prominent kidnap victim after being dragged from her car in western Baghdad in October 2004. She was a critic of the US-led invasion and had been head of the humanitarian organisation Care International for 12 years.
She was shot twice in the back of the head in an act that came to symbolise the savagery of the Iraqi insurgency. Her body has never been found.

Xinhua adds, "At the age of 27, she married Tahseen Ali Hassan, a 29-year-oldIraqi student of engineering in the United Kingdom. She moved to Iraq with him in 1972 and became Iraqi citizen. She spent the rest of her life in the country."

At McClatchy Newspapers, Jack Dolan and Jenan Hussein cover the landmines. Reporting on the removal of them, "U.S. military officials estimated in 2007 that 15 percent of the charges for improvised explosive devices -- the ubiquitous homemade bombs used to attack American forces -- came from land mines and other unexploded munitions." And in "Iraq halts clearing landmines even as huge toll keeps rising," they explain:

Sadiqa Foroon has lost two brothers, her right foot and 32 sheep to landmines and other explosive remnants of the three wars that have raged through her village since 1980.
Burns from the mine she stepped on contort the right side of her face. "And my horse is missing a hoof," she said with a weary laugh. "So is my donkey."
Still, every morning she trudges back into the sun-scorched scrubland behind her house -- one of the most densely contaminated minefields on the planet, according to international aid organizations -- to collect firewood in order to cook for 12 children, and to harvest whatever scrap metal she thinks she can sell.

Meanwhile Little Willie Thayer flaunts his ignorance at the Wall St. Journal. Writing from San Diego, Little Willie insists that the death toll in Iraq means it's safer (but not safe yet, as Bully Boy would say) and, goodness, if the number of US service members who die was reduced to 8 a month "it would be as dangerous for a U.S. soldier to be in Iraq as in New Orleans." Really, Little Willie? How many thousands of US service members are injured in New Orleans each year? How many require medical evacuations, Little Willie? What an idiot. Little Willie leaves out the Iraqis wounded in shootings and bombings. He leaves out a lot. You have to in order to call the illegal war a 'success.' But isn't it funny how the right-winger doesn't grasp that Marines, among others, do not enjoy being referred to as "soldiers."

"No one cares whether an Iraqi dies," Yassin Salem tells Anthony Shadid (Washington Post) who reports:

Haditha is an instance, writ small, of that divide. No one disputes that 24 people were killed in this forlorn but picturesque town along a majestic stretch of the Euphrates.
For the U.S. Marines, they were in a town as dangerous as any in Iraq when a devastating roadside bomb killed one of their own along a strip of asphalt bordered by olive trees and pink oleander. In time, they came under fire from insurgents, they said, and followed the rules of engagement in answering a threat. Eight Marines were prosecuted, but since then, charges have been dropped against six. Another was acquitted. The last Marine, Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, still faces charges of voluntary manslaughter.
In Haditha, no one calls it a crime. No one refers to it as a killing. The only word used is "majzara," or "massacre." Nearly every villager seems able to recall even the minute details of what they say were revenge killings by Marines first targeting unarmed men in a car, then men, women and children, including a 1-year-old girl, gathered in three houses.

On medical evacuations, Cali Bagby (KVAL -- link has text and video) reports on Louisa Babcock and others with Oregon Army National Guard from the Charlie Company, 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation who are on a 400 day deployment, "The mission: prepare to extract wounded soldiers and others from hot spots in Iraq." The Des Moines Register reports that the Iowa Army National Guard's 294th Area Support Medical Company are sending 75 members "to Iraq for a one-year tour of duty." Tom Gordon (Birmingham News) reports 75 is also the number the Alabama Army National Guard is sending to Iraq in August where they will do "police training."

During Saddam Hussein's reign in Iraq, he allowed Iranian rebels, the People's Mujahedeen, to set up camp. There are approximately 3,500 on a northern Iraq base alone. They reportedly seek the overthrow of Iran. Iran has long wanted them out but Iran's wants weren't a real big concern to Hussein. Nouri al-Maliki, of course, has strong ties to Iran. For example, he hid out there when he wanted Saddam overthrown but was too chicken to do that himself so he waited and waited for decades outside Iraq until the US invasion. He went back to Iran over the weekend. Iran's Press TV reported he flew to "Hakim's bedside in Tehran" this weekend because Abdul Aziz al-Hakim is receiving treatments for cancer. al-Hakim, like Nouri, is an Iraqi chicken who ran to exile, stayed in exile for decades and then, after the US invasion, was a 'respected' Iraqi . . . in the eyes of the US. al-Hakim grew up in Najaf and left Iraq in 1980 for Iran. Robin Wright (Washington Post) reported May 19, 2007 that al-Hakim had gone to Houston due to lung cancer: "Vice President Cheney played a role in arranging for Hakim to see U.S. military doctors in Baghdad, who made the original diagnosis, and for the current medical treatment in Houston, the sources said." Back to the People's Mujahedeen, AFP reports the International Committee of the Red Cross has assisted 260 in relocating.

We'll note the United Nations' "Iraq needs continued international engagement -- UN refugee agency" in full:

2 June 2009 -- Although the humanitarian situation in Iraq has been out of the spotlight recently, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) today cautioned that the situation for the millions of uprooted Iraqis both inside and outside the country remains dire and urged the international community to maintain their support.
"While overall security conditions have improved, they are not yet sustainable enough to have encouraged massive returns of Iraqis," agency spokesperson Ron Redmond said, noting that more than 1.5 million Iraqis are still living in other countries, mostly in Syria and Jordan, with another 2 million internally displaced.
Although some have returned to their homes, many of these returns have neither been safe nor sustainable, he added. "It is UNHCR's opinion that Iraqis should not be forced back, which would be detrimental to the safety of those concerned and would negatively affect the fragile absorption capacity of the country."
The Government of Iraq is torn between many priorities in the political, electoral and national reconciliation areas, and faces many obstacles related to socio-economic issues and requirements for the return and reintegration of the uprooted, according to UNHCR.
Mr. Redmond said authorities must make strides in implementing the national policy on displacement and return; take action on land allocation and property restitution; and launch housing and rehabilitation programmes.
For its part, UNHCR, along with its partners, is still hindered by a shortage of funds and the need for heavy security which impedes its mobility and ability to deliver assistance, he said.
Nevertheless, the agency has expanded its presence to 14 of Iraq’s 17 provinces, the spokesperson said, "but these efforts will remain piecemeal if not integrated into a national, Government-led framework aimed at addressing the myriad social and economic challenges that must be overcome."
UNHCR's $299 million appeal for its work in Iraq for 2009 is less than half funded, he said, warning that without an influx of resources, some programmes cannot be implemented.
Outside Iraq, asylum countries are feeling the burden and are increasingly concerned over what they believe could become a protracted refugee situation, Mr. Redmond noted.
"Iraq has experienced waves of mass displacement over the last 40 years that have resulted in deep social dislocation and complex humanitarian problems," he said. "What we are dealing with today is the accumulation of these problems. Bringing stability to such a complex situation is going to take time and requires the collective and continuous engagement of all."

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