Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Iraq: One journalist freed, two dead a topic in a new book

Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi (also spelled Muntadar al-Zaidi in some outlets) has been released from pison today in Baghdad. Let's recap the events of December 14th.

Bully Boy and Puppet
That's Bully Boy Bush (still occupying the White House at that time) in Baghdad with Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister and US-installed thug, at a press conference where they lied and smiled and signed the treaties Bush pushed through (Strategic Framework Agreement and the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement.). Muntadhar was a journalist attending the press conference.

"This is a gift from the Iraqis. This is the farewell kiss you dog!" Muntadhar exclaimed hurling a shoe at Bush. And then, hurling a second shoe, "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq." Nouri's thugs pounced on Muntadhar and beat him up. He was then whisked away and, for weeks, denied all but one visitation with his family and attorney.

BBC News reports Muntadhar stated today he was tortured: "Shortly after his release from nine months in a Baghdad prison, Muntadar al-Zaidi demanded an apology - and said he would name the officials later." Ned Parker and Mohammed Arrawi (Los Angeles Times) quote him stating today, ""Here I am free and the country is still a prisoner." Marc Santora (New York Times) adds, "He claimed that he was beaten with pipes, steel cables and electric shocks while in custody. He added that he believed there were many who would like to see him dead, including unnamed American intelligence agencies." Ahmeed Rasheed, Suadad al-Salhy, Khalid al-Ansary, Tim Cocks and Samia Nakhoul (Reuters) report of Muntadhar's release:

"I felt humiliated to see my country burn and my people killed," Zaidi said, explaining his outburst.
Zaidi's protest caused huge embarrassment to Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who tried to intercept one of the shoes as he stood beside Bush.
"Thanks be to God that Muntazer has seen the light of day," brother Uday said. "I wish Bush could see our happiness. When President Bush looks back and turns the pages of his life, he will see the shoes of Muntazer al Zaidi on every page."

He is now headed for Greece. His torture assertions are not surprising for a number of reasons including the fact that he was beaten in front of everyone when Nouri's thugs tackled him. In addition, when he was seen in public at court hearings, he was obviously bruised.

Staying on the topic of reporters in Iraq. David Finkel's The Good Soldiers is released today. Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post) reports the book "provides a graphic, second-by-second description of the U.S. military's 2007 killing of two Reuters journalists" Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh in Baghdad July 12, 2007. She quotes the wire agency's attorney Thomas Kim, "We continue to have questions whether or not the actions taken by the soldiers in the area that led to the deaths of the two Reuters journalists were necessary and appropriate. My goal is to understand the basic on which the military concluded that the shooting was justified." As far back as July 16, 2007, Dean Yaters (Reuters) was reporting that the wire agency was asking for a full inquiry into the killings.


The photos are from his article. Namir Noor-Eldeen was 22-years-old and Saeed Chmagh was 40-years-old. At the time of their deaths, the US military was asserting that they had encountered 'insurgents' and gunfire was exchanged. Ann Scott Tyson reports Finkel's article backs up the claim that 'insurgents' were present and firefights had taken place. The cameras were apparently mistaken for weapons according to Finkel's account:

The gunner tracked Noor-Eldeen as he fled into a pile of trash and fired three more bursts with the cannon, killing him as he could be seen trying to stand in a cloud of dust.
Chmagh was wounded and began trying to push himself up on his knees and crawl away, but could move only a few inches. The crew saw that Chmagh was alive, but initially did not shoot him because he was unarmed. However, when a van drove up and two men tried to pick up Chmagh, the crew requested permission to fire and received it. The gunner opened fire, killing Chmagh and the two men, and injuring two children who were inside the van.

Assyrian International News Agency reports some Iraqi Christians are calling for autonomy in the Nineveh Plains and some applaud the request and some don't:

Not everyone in the Chaldo-Assyrian community agrees that staying in Iraq and dying for the cause is acceptable.
Reacting to Kanna's plea to halt immigration, Father Michael Bazzi, rector at St. Peter Chaldean Catholic Cathedral in El Cajon, Calif., said bluntly, "Shame, shame on him!"
"When these people are persecuted, their priests and bishops are killed -- where would you have them settle?"
Born in 1938 in Telkeppe, Iraq (near Mosul), Father Bazzi sees to the pastoral and corporal needs of Iraqi Chaldean refugees throughout San Diego County, which is the country's second-largest concentration of Iraqi Christians, next to the Detroit metro area.
"Immigration in the U.S. is doing a beautiful job," Father Bazzi said. "Over a short period of time, almost 3,000 Iraqis have come to this area."
Most refugees, Father Bazzi pointed out, arrive scared and with no money. What little they had has been spent getting out of Iraq.
"What are they (the politicians) doing for anybody?" Father Bazzi asked. "Nothing."
While in favor of the Nineveh Plain Administrative Unit in theory, Father Bazzi is critical of expecting Iraqi families to pay the price.

Independent journalist David Bacon explores the intersection of labor and immigration in "Photos: Labor Camps in Hollister, Calif." (Political Affairs):

The Campo Quintero (Quintero Camp) is a labor camp for farmworkers, operated by labor contractor Hope Quintero. Most of the workers living in this camp are also Mixtec, Triqui or other indigenous migrants from southern Mexico, although workers from other parts of Mexico also live here.
The signs at the camp entrance say: "Drunks and scandalous people will absolutely not be admitted. Those who disobey will be thrown out of the camp." and "It is strictly prohibited to rob or take things without permission." Ramon Valadez Tadeo, a migrant from Guadalajara, shares his room with four other men, as does Jesus Ramon from Tijuana.
Labor camps are gradually disappearing in California. Up through the 1960s and 70s, growers maintained camps where migrant workers could live while they were employed at the ranch. In some labor camps, single workers without families lived year around. This was especially true for Filipinos, who came from the islands as single men, and who were forbidden by antimiscegenation laws from marrying women of other nationalities and starting families.
When the United Farm Workers grew strong in the 1970s and early 1980s, growers began tearing down the camps, disclaiming any responsibility for housing for the farm workers they employed. As a result, today many California farm workers sleep in cars, crowded in motels or apartments, or even under the trees.

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.
And we'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "2 GOP-APPOINTED JUDGES SHAME AMERICA" (Veterans Today):

The federal Appeals Court decision to toss a lawsuit claiming contractors tortured detainees in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison is what you’d expect from a tyranny.
The new ruling brushes off the charges by 212 Iraqis who said they or their late husbands were abused by U.S. personnel at Abu Ghraib. The suit charged private security firm CACI International Inc., of Arlington, Va., of crimes inside the Baghdad hellhole.
But in a 2-1 ruling, the D.C. Court of Appeals said CACI “is protected by laws barring suits filed as the result of military activities during a time of war,” the Associated Press reported. This opinion was written by Judge Laurence Silberman, a Reagan appointee, and supported by Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a Bush appointee.
"During wartime, where a private service contractor is integrated into combatant activities over which the military retains command authority, a tort claim arising out of the contractor's engagement in such activities shall be pre-empted," Silberman wrote. If so, with about as many U.S.-led contract mercenaries as regular army involved in the Iraq conflict, this decision preposterously exempts some 150,000 fighters from legal action for any crimes they commit. It gives a shoot-to-kill pass to privateers such as Blackwater, whose operatives on one occasion are said to have gunned down 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians.
"This abuse and torture of these prisoners detained during war time constituted war crimes and torture in violation of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the U.S. War Crimes Act, the Convention against Torture, and the U.S. Federal Anti-torture Statute---felonies, punishable by death if death results as a violation thereof," said Francis Boyle, an international law authority at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.
"Judges Silberman and Kavanaugh have now become Accessories After the Fact to torture, war crimes and felonies in violation of United States federal law and international criminal law," Boyle asserted. (See if they are ever prosecuted!)

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