Friday, September 25, 2009

Prisons in Iraq . . . and England

Yesterday, there was a prison break in Tikrit with sixteen prisoners escaping -- one of whom was later caught, five of whom had been sentenced to death. Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) notes the curfew and that "American search dogs and aircraft" are being used to hunt for the escapees. Ned Parker and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) report that two of the sixteen have now been captured and that 4 "prison guards were under investigation on suspicion of helping the detainees escape. The prison directo was dismissed and detained while under investigation, officials said." Think back to the previous entry and how no official from the VA's been dismissed. No heads have rolled. Veterans are in danger of losing their housing, have to beg or feel like they're begging universities to wait on tuition, etc. And no heads have rolled. A Congressional hearing this week on the VA officials hiring friends and family and awarding them bonuses they don't earn and college tuition that's not related to their jobs hasn't resulted in any heads rolling. 16 prisoners escape yesterday in Tikrit and already the prison director's fired. It may just be for-show accountability, but that's more accountability than the VA's been forced to face in the US. Parker and Hameed report:

The most prominent escapee was identified as Waleed Ayash, a suspected leader of the militant group Al Qaeda in Iraq who the government blames for the killing of police and civilians in Dhuluiya, another town in Salahuddin.
Salahuddin Gov. Muttashar Hussein Alaywi, told the U.S.-funded Al Hurra satellite news channel that prison guards were probably to blame for the escape.

Also on Iraqi prisons, Anne Tang (Xinhua) reports Nouri al-Maliki, thug of the occupation, stated of allegedly violent prisoners in Iraqi prisons, "Those people, who had been involved in killing Iraqis must be punished. [. . .] We hear voices calling for release of criminals under claim that they have been defending rights of minorities and (religious) sects, forgetting that those criminals had been behind catastrophes." Nouri's words are laughable since he's so tight with the League of Righteous (responsible for an assualt on a US base in which 5 US service members were killed, responsible for the kidnapping of 5 British citizens in Baghdad -- four of whom are known to be dead -- those are the crimes they've claimed credit for). He's so tight with them that he got their leader (and the leader's brother) released from a US prison earlier this year and has met with them repeatedly. Despite the fact that a fight British citizen is either still held hostage or dead. Thug Nouri runs with his own. And his pretense to care for Iraqi lives is laughable when he sits on billions and Iraqis struggle for something as simple as potable water.

That's Iraqi prisoners. Turning to UK prisons, Alan Travis (Guardian) reports, "The number of former servicemen in prison or on probation or parole is now more than double the total British deployment in Afghanistan, according to a new survey. An estimated 20,000 veterans are in the criminal justice system, with 8,500 behind bars, almost one in 10 of the prison population."

Dropping back to Iraqi legal systems, Florida attorney Miguel R. Acosta is also an Air Force Captain and he writes about criminal investigations in Iraq in "Prosecuting high-threat detainees" (Florida Bar News):

As I stepped off the plane at the Air Force base in western Baghdad in April, my excitement was high despite jet lag and lack of sleep. Having been born and raised in Tampa, I'd survived many steamy Florida afternoons, which unknowingly prepared me for the hot air that hit my face that morning.
I was sworn in to The Florida Bar in September 2007 and officially began practicing law for the Air Force in May 2008. Now in my fourth month of a six-month deployment to Iraq, my official title is Joint Task Force 134, Office of Criminal Investigations, Multi-National Division South liaison attorney (try fitting that on one line of a business card).
For simplicity, let's just call my office OCI. Militarily speaking, Iraq is broken up into four divisions: north, west, south, and Baghdad. The goal of OCI is to successfully facilitate the prosecution of the high-threat detainees in Iraqi criminal court. The southern division consists of nine of Iraq’s 18 provinces. My job, as the liaison attorney to the south, is to manage the criminal investigations of the high threat detainees in those nine southern provinces.
For whatever reason, OCI has never had an attorney embedded with the unit in charge of the south. What that means is that the lucky (or unlucky) OCI attorney eventually assigned to the south would walk into completely uncharted waters.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani addressed the United Nations yesterday. Gulf News notes he declared recent attacks to have "reached the level of genocide." Alsumaria adds, "Liberating Iraq from international tutorship was the main focus of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's address before the United Nations General Assembly. Iraqi President considered that circumstances which placed Iraq under UN Charter Chapter VII have come to an end." And for all the idiot gas bags (and reporters) out there pretending they know the first damn thing about contract law? If the UN mandate had been renewed before it again expired December 31, 2008 (instead of being replaced with the SOFA), the government of Iraq couldn't be 'liberated' from 'international tutorship.' The SOFA is a contract between the US and Iraq with no intermediary. Extending the UN mandate again would not have allowed this sort of 'independence' which is why the White House and Nouri wanted it. And Nouri really wanted it. Which is why Huff & Puff liars always reveal their inability to grasp the issue and that their faces are pressed against the glass from the outside when they start saying Bully Boy Bush was 'forced' to do this or that. The Bush White House did the strong-arming. As witnessed by the number of US 'diplomats' rushed in to Iraq for the lead up to Parliament's November vote on the SOFA. Fang Yang (Xinhua) covers the speech and includes direct quotes from it:

"The most important challenges we face in the near future is the legislative elections due to be held in January 2010 for which the political parties have already started preparations," the president said.
"The success of these elections will put the current political regime based on democracy, pluralism and the peaceful transfer of power on the right path," he said. "The success of the elections will transfer the political process from the establishment stage to one of permanence and stability and will promote stability and security in Iraq."
"The elections will strengthen our capabilities in building national institutions ... (for a) strong state based on law, living peacefully with its own people and neighbors, and to be a key factor in the security and stability in the region," he said. "This will reflect positively on Iraq's Arab, regional and international relations and its active return to the international community."
Meanwhile, he said, "The real danger currently facing Iraq is outside interference in its internal affairs which has committed the worst crimes against innocent Iraqis from various segments of society, men, women, children, and the elderly."

Brian Montopoli (CBS News) reports on a new CBS News-New York Times poll which reveals that despite the overexposure (or maybe because of it) most Americans still do not favor what Trina, Ava and I rightly call ObamaBigBusinessCare (the press pretends it's "health care" or "health care reform" or "health insurance reform"). Only 47% of Americans favor it despite the publicity blitz. On the Iraq War, 54% approve of his 'plan' -- continuation of Bush policies. Who knew Bully Boy Bush would be so popular after he left office?

Barack continues all of Bush's policies. From Sherwood Ross' "PENTAGON TAKING OVER U.S. FOREIGN POLICY" (Veterans Today):

The Pentagon has virtually replaced the State Department in making U.S. foreign policy, The Nation magazine charges.
"Quietly, gradually---and inevitably, given the weight of its colossal budget and imperial writ---the Pentagon has all but eclipsed the State Department at the center of US foreign policy-making," reporter Stephen Glain writes in the Sept. 28 issue.
In addition to new weapons and war fighters, the Pentagon’s budget “now underwrites a cluster of special funds from which it can train and equip foreign armies---often in the service of repressive regimes---as well as engage in aid development projects in pursuit of its own tactical ends."
Although these programs technically require State Department approval and are subject to Congressional review, Glain writes, "legislative oversight and interagency coordination is spotty at best."
Meanwhile, the Pentagon "is pushing for full discretionary control" over large sums that Glain points out "would render meaningless the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act, which concentrated responsibility for civilian and military aid programs within the State Department."
Some idea of Pentagon dominance over diplomatic approaches may be gleaned from the Pentagon's $664 billion annual budget compared with State’s $52 billion. "Washington employs more military band members than it does foreign service officers," Glain notes.

TV notes. Washington Week begins airing tonight on many PBS stations and joining Gwen around the table are John Harris (Politico) Doyle McManus (Los Angeles Times), Karen Tumulty (Time) and Nancy Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers). Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Linda Chavez, Melissa Harris Lieface, Irene Natividad and Genevieve Wood to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

As the news from Afghanistan moves to the front pages of Americans' newspapers, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, tasked with turning things around there, tells 60 Minutes that the spread of the violence in Afghanistan was more than he expected. David Martin reports. | Watch Video

The Liquidator
The man in charge of recovering assets from Ponzi scheme king Bernard Madoff says there is about 18 billion still out there that he hopes to recover for victims of the scam. But it won't be easy. Morley Safer reports.

A Living For The Dead
Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Elvis are dead and now, so is Michael Jackson. But as Steve Kroft reports, they are very much alive when it comes to earning money for their estates.

The season premiere of 60 Minutes, this Sunday, Sept. 27, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Turning to public radio, this morning on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show (begins airing on most NPR stations and streaming online live at 10:00 a.m. EST). The panel for the first hour (domestic focus) is Lynn Sweet (Chicago Sun-Times), Chris Cillizza (Washington Post) and Juan Williams (NPR and Fox News). The panel for the second hour features Moises Naim (Foreign Policy), Thom Shanker (New York Times) and Nancy Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers).

The e-mail address for this site is

60 minutes
cbs news
to the contrary
bonnie erbe

the diane rehm show