In this morning's New York Times, Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offer "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Michael Gordon. Factor that in. And wonder why anyone would want to share a byline with a 'journalist' with his record. Martin Chulov (Guardian) covers the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reports on it, BBC offers "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributes "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London).
The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released.
Those are the basics reported. There is most likely a great deal more to it and some of the details reported this morning may be incorrect.
Based on the above what's just taken place is rather disturbing.
"The United States doesn't negotiate with terrorists!" Of course they do. And they do it on a case-by-case basis and have always done so. The hard-line public stance is not, however, merely a face-saving device for whomever is president (it may or may not be that), it's also based on the belief that if it is known that the US negotiates with terrorists that puts every US citizen abroad at risk of being kidnapped in order to force the government of the United States to do as a group or organization wants it to.
Sahwa are Sunnis who turned from resistance fighters (fighting all foreign forces in Iraq including the US)into allies because they were paid. And when that began happening, a number of people were outraged. Arianna Huffington was among the ones outraged and apparently didn't understand that for any war to end, all sides need to come to the table and begin negotiations.
(That was a point Tom Hayden could make back before he became scared of his own shadow. In part because Laura Flanders attacked him, after he'd hung up the phone, on air for comments he'd made about who comes to the table and how. She viciously attacked him and then, realizing she'd gone way too far, she tried to blame it on her radio show's blog but none of the comments she made appeared on her show's blog.)
Sahwa was willing to put down their arms (at least against the US) if paid. And they didn't propose that arrangement. The US military initiated that and it took approximately eight months of offers before there was any move from Sahwa in that direction.
That's Sahwa. Asa'ib al-Haq is not a Sunni organization. It's a Shi'ite organization. Thought to be supported by some segment (government or otherwise) in Iran. Yes, there is humor to this considering that for years Michael Gordon preached war on Iran with the 'facts' that Iran was supporting Sunnis.
That's only one difference.
The other is that Sahwa wasn't holding anyone. By holding five hostages, Asa'ib al-Haq is different than Sahwa and whether or not the US should have released a prisoner or even had talks with Asa'ib al-Haq is a major issue and it's one that's going to remain long after Barack Obama leaves the White House.
Reporters at the White House and State Dept should be demanding answers to what happened. And the American citizens should as well.
You can decide for yourself whether the move was right or wrong; however, you're going to need more than a few press reports to make that judgment call. This was not a minor move and it will have long lasting impact outside of Iraq.
What is known is that this arrangement is in no way similiar to the arrangement entered into with Sahwa.
Campbell Robertson's "Minibus Passengers Die in Baghdad Bombing" (New York Times) informs that yesterday's Baghdad mini-bus bombing is the source of a dispute over whether a sticky bomb was used (Ministry of Interior claim) or whether the bomb was inside the bus. Robertson offers a civilian count for May, via ICCC, which requires an explanation but Robertson's paid to make that explanation so let's see if he can figure it out himself. As worded in his article, he is wrong. Here's your hint. We counted all non foreign military when we did our count. We did that for a number of reasons including that police officers shot outside their homes or in a home invasion are not being shot in the line of duty. An armed clash? Maybe or maybe not. So all police were lumped into our count as was the Iraqi military. And the ICCC count of civilians includes more than Iraqis. Figure that one out on your own, New York Times. Robertson notes the five arrested -- he goes with five -- in the death of Jim Kitterman and apparently only the names of two are known: Donald Feeney Jr. and Donald Feeney III. Robertson speaks with John Feeney who states:
He said that his father was in the Philippines, where the company has an office, when the murder took place. He flew to Iraq shortly after the murder because one of his employees was killed in a mortar attack in the Green Zone on the day Mr. Kitterman's body was found. Donald Feeney Jr. and Mr. Kitterman had known each other well, John Feeney added.
The Baltimore Sun offers "Justice In Iraq" which is a poll where you can vote on whether "you think Americans can get a fair trial in the Iraqi justice system?"
Friday's snapshot noted, "Guillermo Contreras (San Antonio Express-News) reports that "Robert Cain of San Marcos; Craig Henry of San Antonio; Francis Jaeger of Haltom City; David McMenomy of Lampasas; Mark Posz of San Antonio; and El Kevin Sar of Houston" have filed charges against Halliburton stating that 'they were poisoned by toxins and emissions from burn pits at U.S. camps in Iraq and Afghanistan'." In related news, last night Julie Sullivan (The Oregonian) reports Larry Roberta, Scott Ashby, Rocky Bixby, Matthew Hadley and Charles Ellis have filed suit against KBR stating the company "knew before the Oregon Guard arrived at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant in May 2003 that the site was contaminated by hexavalent chromium, a highly toxic and long-identified carcinogen."
Zach notes Chris Hedges "Hold Your Applause" (Information Clearing House):
Did they play Barack Obama's speech to the Muslim world in the prison corridors of Abu Ghraib, Bagram air base, Guantanamo or the dozens of secret sites where we hold thousands of Muslims around the world? Did it echo off the walls of the crowded morgues filled with the mutilated bodies of the Muslim dead in Baghdad or Kabul? Was it broadcast from the tops of minarets in the villages and towns decimated by U.S. iron fragmentation bombs? Was it heard in the squalid refugee camps of Gaza, where 1.5 million Palestinians live in the world's largest ghetto?
What do words of peace and cooperation mean from us when we torture-yes, we still torture-only Muslims? What do these words mean when we sanction Israel's brutal air assaults on Lebanon and Gaza, assaults that demolished thousands of homes and left hundreds dead and injured? How does it look for Obama to call for democracy and human rights from Egypt, where we lavishly fund and support the despotic regime of Hosni Mubarak, one of the longest-reigning dictators in the Middle East?
We may thrill to Obama's rhetoric, but very few of the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world are as deluded. They grasp that nothing so far has changed for Muslims in the Middle East under the Obama administration. The wars of occupation go on or have been expanded. Israel continues to flout international law, gobbling up more Palestinian land and carrying out egregious war crimes in Gaza. Calcified, repressive regimes in countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia are feted in Washington as allies.
The speech at Cairo University, which usually has trucks filled with riot police outside the university gates and a heavy security presence on campus to control the student body, is an example of the facade. Student political groups, as everyone who joined in the standing ovation for the president knew, are prohibited. Faculty deans are chosen by the administration, rather than elected by professors, "as a way to combat Islamist influence on campus," according to the U.S. State Department's latest human rights report. And, as The Washington Post pointed out, students who use the Internet "as an outlet for their political or social views are on notice: One Cairo University student blogger was jailed for two months last summer for ‘public agitation,' and another was kicked out of university housing for criticizing the government."
The expanding imperial projects and tightening screws of repression lurch forward under Obama. We are not trying to end terror or promote democracy. We are ensuring that our corporate state has a steady supply of the cheap oil to which it is addicted. And the scarcer oil becomes, the more aggressive we become. This is the game playing out in the Muslim world.
The Bush White House openly tortured. The Obama White House tortures and pretends not to. Obama may have banned waterboarding, but as Luke Mitchell points out in next month's issue of Harper's magazine, torture, including isolation, sleep and sensory deprivation and force-feeding, continues to be used to break detainees. The president has promised to close Guantanamo, where only 1 percent of the prisoners held offshore by the United States are kept. And the Obama administration has sought to obscure the fate and condition of thousands of Muslims held in black holes around the globe. As Mitchell notes, the Obama White House "has sought to prevent detainees at Bagram prison in Afghanistan from gaining access to courts where they may reveal the circumstances of their imprisonment. It has sought to continue the practice of rendering prisoners to unknown and unknowable locations outside the United States, and sought to keep secret many (though not all) of the records regarding our treatment of those detainees."
With Laila Al-Arian, Chris Hedges co-authored Collateral Damage: America's War Against Iraqi Civilians.
If you missed NOW on PBS over the weekend, the topic was:
Americans have a longstanding love affair with food -- the modern
supermarket has, on average, 47,000 products. But do we really know what
goes into making the products we so eagerly consume? David Brancaccio
talks with filmmaker Robert Kenner, the director of Food, Inc., which
takes a hard look at the secretive and surprising journey food takes on
the way from processing plants to our dinner tables. The two discuss why
contemporary food processing secrets are so closely guarded, their
impact on our health, and another surprising fact: how consumers are
actually empowered to make a difference.
You can watch the above show online.
Finally David Lightman (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that Barack's supplemental war spending bill has still not been passed because "Republicans have objected to a line of credit for the International Monetary Fund, and many Democrats are uneasy about a provision that would allow the secretary of defense to keep detainee-abuse photos secret." Whether or not the bill should be passed -- in any form -- is not a concern of Lightman's as he makes clear in the opening paragraph of his alleged report -- a paragraph better suited to an opinion column and one that doesn't belong in a news report.
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