Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Refugees and CIA issues in Iraq

First off, Alexandra Zavis posted to the LA Times blog about her recent story on refugees. We noted the report Monday morning. We didn't include it in that day's snapshot. The plan was to pick it up Tuesday because there was more than enough to cover on Monday (Camp Ashraf also didn't get covered Monday) and when we do the topic of refugees, I put out calls to friends with relief organizations and NGOs. Yesterday, among other things between speaking about the illegal war, we listened to a friend who's developed/ing a new ___ on digital pianos that is an amazing advance and will allow for intricate overlays and other things. Being near a keyboard meant I wasted my entire 'free' hour playing. When I finished and started checking voice mail, Alexadra Zavis had to wait because the reality is NGOs aren't doing their job. I would return calls and ask for the latest and realize that we actually had the latest here. Time and again, 'our recent study' referred to something so old and out of date. One friend was referring me to their organization's February study. Which we covered in real time, I pointed out, what's the latest. They could give me whispers, but they hadn't compiled any data. Having wasted my 'free' hour, I had to quickly pull together the snapshot and refugees weren't going to be in it (especially due to the study on PTSD that a friend passed on). But Alexandra Zavis' article was already important on Monday. When you grasp how little is being done by NGOs who are tasked with this issue, Zavis' refugee article becomes even more important. In her blog post, Zavis also notes a photo gallery. We will hopefully cover refugees today but regardless of when we do, Alexandra Zavis has written a major article that needs to be widely read. Since I often mention ICRC friends, let me be clear I'm not speaking of them. The Red Cross is doing its job -- with little help from the press. I'm not speaking of Refugees International which suffered a huge loss when their leader passed away this month. I'm speaking of agencies tasked with the issue. And I'll also note that I'm not speaking of the State Dept. Despite having many friends at the UN, I will not note, for example, say I'm not speaking of them. Or IOM. I won't say, "I'm not referring to IOM." See how it works?

McClatchy Newspapers' Warren P. Strobel reports
that "potentially very serious leadership lapses" -- such as prisoners dying in US custody and allegedly during interrogations -- led to the sacking of the CIA station chief in Iraq six years ago. Manadel al-Jamadi and Abed Hamed Mowhoush are two who died in November 2003 and may be among the deaths referred to. The House Intelligence Committee was briefed on these issue in 2004 and, for some reason, apparently didn't feel that the American people -- that would be their bosses -- deserved a report on what was happening. Strobel reports:

Also in May 2004, then-CIA Director George Tenet formed a special Detainee Working Group to coordinate the agency's response to a growing outcry fueled by revelations of sadistic behavior by Army personnel at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.
Other documents show the CIA responding to requests for files from Navy and Army lawyers involved in prosecutions after the Jamadi and Mowhoush deaths, in which military personnel were also implicated.
In contrast to well-documented abuses at Abu Ghraib and the Guantanamo Bay detention center, much remains unknown about the fate of detainees under CIA control.
At least five are thought to have died, and the whereabouts of dozens of other "ghost detainees," whom the U.S. government has never acknowledged holding, is unknown.

Reporting in yesterday's New York Times on the Justice Dept's memo dump, David Johnston noted:

Former government lawyers said that while some detainees died and others suffered serious abuses, prosecutors decided they would be unlikely to prevail because of problems with mishandled evidence and, in some cases, the inability to locate witnesses or even those said to be the victims.
A few of the cases are well known, like that of Manadel al-Jamadi, who died in 2003 in C.I.A. custody at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq after he was first captured by a team of Navy Seals. Prosecutors said he probably received his fatal injuries during his capture, but lawyers for the Seals denied it.
Over the years, some Democratic lawmakers sought more details about the cases and why the Justice Department took no action. They received summaries of the number of cases under scrutiny but few facts about the episodes or the department’s decisions not to prosecute.
The cases do not center on allegations of abuse by C.I.A. officers who conducted the forceful interrogations of high-level Qaeda suspects at secret sites, although it is not out of the question that a new investigation would also examine their conduct.

Last Wednesday, a series of bombings rocked Baghdad and the Foreign Ministry and the Finance Ministry were targeted. Eventually the death toll would reach 101 (it may have climbed) with over five-hundred-and-seventy injured. It's been dubbed "Black Wednesday" and some Iraqi leaders are attempting to liken it to their own 9-11. The latter tells you all you need to know about Iraqi 'leaders,' there have been many bombings resulting in as many deaths or more and those were apparently "minor" by the terms Iraqi 'leaders' apply to Black Wednesday. An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy weighed in Monday on Black Wednesday:

Our security is fragile because the very people who are in power think of it as a tool to be used to forward their own interests. If they are happy -- we have peace. If they are vexed -- Boom!
And a young mother picks up her dead baby and speaks to her parent, "Look mom -- He's smiling at me!"
How long will Iraqis be the victims of political ambitions in this way?
Where are the demonstrations?
Why are they silent in this era of freedom of speech?
I believe Iraqis are just too weary.
Perhaps they have come to believe that it is all to no avail. That there is no peaceful outcome to this struggle, no hope for a better life.
So they will just try to get along, as they learned to do over decades of hardship. Feed their young as best as they could. Manage their affairs from day to day without having the energy to think about tomorrow or fancy words like "freedom" and "democracy".

Independent journalist David Bacon is noted for his photography and his latest exhibit is "People of the Harvest, Indigenous Mexican Migrants in California." The reception for it takes place tomorrow evening at 6:00 pm at the Asian Resource Gallery (310 Eight Street at Harrison, Oakland, CA). The exhibit runs through next month and the gallery's hour are nine in the morning until six in the evening, Monday through Friday. Immigrant Rights News carries the following:

People of the Harvest is part of a larger project, Living Under the Trees, that documents the lives of communities of indigenous Mexican farm workers in California, through documentary photographs. The photographs in People of the Harvest were taken in 2009.
It's no accident the state of Oaxaca is one of the main starting points for the current stream of Mexican migrants coming to the United States. Extreme poverty encompasses 75 percent of its 3.4 million residents.
Thousands of indigenous people leave Oaxaca's hillside villages for the United States every year, not only for economic reasons but also because a repressive political system thwarts the kind of economic development that could lift incomes in the poorest rural areas. Lack of development pushes people off the land.
The majority of Oaxacans are indigenous people-that is, they belong to communities and ethnic groups that existed long before Columbus landed in the Caribbean. They speak 23 different languages.
"Migration is a necessity, not a choice," explains Romualdo Juan Gutierrez Cortez, a teacher in Santiago Juxtlahuaca, in Oaxaca's rural Mixteca region.
In California, indigenous migrants have become the majority of people working in the fields in many areas, whose settlements are dispersed in an indigenous diaspora. This movement of people has created transnational communities, bound together by shared culture and language, and the social organizations people bring with them from place to place.
People of the Harvest documents the experiences and conditions of indigenous farm worker communities. It focuses on social movements in indigenous communities and how indigenous culture helps communities survive and enjoy life. The project's purpose is to win public support for policies helping those communities to achieve social and political rights and better economic conditions.
The communities documented in this show are locacted in Arvin, Taft, Oxnard and Santa Paula, Santa Maria, Fresno, Greenfield, Watsonville and Marysville. They include Mixtecos, Triquis, Zapotecos, Chatinos and Purepechas.
The photographs are digital color images, which focus on the relationship between community residents and their surroundings, and their relations with each other. They present situations of extreme poverty, but they also show people as actors, capable of changing conditions, organizing themselves, and making critical decisions.
The project is a partnership between David Bacon, documentary photographer and journalist (The Children of NAFTA, UC Press, 2004, Communities Without Border, Cornell/ILR Press, 2006, and Illegal People - How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants, Beacon Press, 2008), California Rural Legal Assistance, especially its Indigenous Farm Worker Project, and the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations (FIOB). Special thanks to Rick Mines and the Indigenous Farmworker Study, funded by the California Endowment, who made the documentation in People of the Harvest possible.

David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which just won the CLR James Award. Bacon is also on KFPA's The Morning Show today (each Wednesday) discussing labor and immigration issues.

Women won the right to vote with the 19th Amendment which reads: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation." Noting this sent to the public e-mail account:

To commemorate the anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, August 26th, the HerStory Scrapbook website ( is a compilation of over 900 links to articles, editorials, and letters in The New York Times Archive regarding the final four years of the fight for women’s suffrage.

The following community sites updated last night:

The e-mail address for this site is

thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends