Monday, September 21, 2009

UK inquiry into the death of Baha Mousa

The British soldiers responsible for the death of Baha Mousa, an Iraqi detainee, were not just "a few bad apples", a public inquiry has heard.
The hotel receptionist, 26, died in UK military custody in Basra, southern Iraq, in September 2003 after being subjected to humiliating abuse.
British troops in Iraq routinely used interrogation methods banned by the Government in 1972 and did not think they were illegal, the inquiry into his death was told.
Rabinder Singh QC, counsel for Mr Mousa's family and other Iraqis detained with him, said: "This case is not just about beatings or a few bad apples.
"There is something rotten in the whole barrel."

The above is from the Telegraph of London's "Baha Mousa soldiers 'not just a few bad apples'" and BBC adds, "The inquiry, led by Sir William Gage, is focusing on Baha Mousa's death, detainees' treatment and army methods." The BBC also offers a timeline and reports that the inquiry was shown a tape of Cpl Donald Payne cursing Iraqi prisoners whom he termed "apes." Today the inquiry resumed at Finlaison House in London with opening statements. They will not meet tomorrow but they will meet Wednesday and Thursday and here testimony. They will also meet next week. The inquiry was announced May 14, 2008. Like everything else to do with Iraq in England, it has moved very, very slowly. October 15, 2008, the public inquiry began. William Gage, the chair, delivered a statement [PDF format warning] and we'll note this from it:

On 21 July 2008, I was asked by The Right Hon Desmond Browne MP, then
Secretary of State for Defence, to chair this Public Inquiry, which was formally set up under the Inquiries Act 2005 with effect from 1 August 2008. Details of my judicial experience can be found on the Inquiry website. By mid-November I shall have retired as a Lord Justice of Appeal. It is my intention to sit alone to hear the evidence given in this Inquiry. I should add that I am aware that I have power under the 2005 Act during the course of the Inquiry to appoint assessors. At present I can see no reason to do so.
The Inquiry is primarily concerned with the circumstances surrounding the death in 2003 of one man, Baha Mousa, and the treatment of others detained with him in
Basra, Iraq, by soldiers of the 1st Battalion The Queen’s Lancashire Regiment.
Whatever my ultimate findings in this matter, it is right that at the outset we express our sincere regret at the loss of life of a man in army custody. It is also right that we do not forget the loss of life of British servicemen in Iraq in 2003 and thereafter.
The Inquiry’s Terms of Reference have been published but it may be useful if I were to repeat them here. They are:
"To investigate and report on the circumstances surrounding the death of Baha
Mousa and the treatment of those detained with him, taking account of the
investigations which have already taken place, in particular where responsibility lay for approving the practice of conditioning detainees by any members of the 1st
Battalion, The Queen's Lancashire Regiment in Iraq in 2003, and to make
The gravity and importance of the events that this Inquiry is to investigate require little explanation. The Courts, and the public in general, have long recognised that the death of any person in the custody of the state other than by natural causes is always a ground for serious concern. Where the death has occurred in the custody of British forces serving abroad and there has at the same time been the infliction of injury to other detainees, in circumstances in which the issue of the use of conditioning techniques is raised, these matters are of clear and obvious public concern and importance.
I shall take note of previous investigations and proceedings which relate to these
matters, but I stress that I am inquiring afresh with all the powers provided to me by Parliament under the 2005 Act. I am under no illusions as to the magnitude of the task ahead; it will require much work in terms of the assembly and analysis of
documents as well as the preparation and taking of witness statements. The bulk of this must be done before I can embark upon hearing evidence. I shall endeavour to ensure that this work proceeds with an appropriate degree of urgency.

The inquiry isn't the only potential British abuse news. Last week, Elaine explained, "In other Iraq news, David Stringer (AP) reports that Daniel Carey is representing an Iraqi man who asserts that he was raped by two British soldiers in 2003 at a base in Basra and that the investigation into the alleged sexaul assault of 'a 14-year-old Iraqi boy at Camp Breadbasket base in Basra in May 2003' continues. Just when you think you're immune to the sickness of it all, having learned of so much already, another item surfaces." And I'll note Elaine's remarks on PTSD in Sunday's "Roundtable" at Third:

PTSD. One thing that worried me the most last week on that was a journal abstract which C.I. discovered. It's a journal for management and it seemed to be presenting a very limited view -- limited and limiting -- of PTSD veterans. We need to talk about PTSD and we need to do so honestly. But the fear is always that somehow your remarks will be used to say: "Oh, they're crazy! And they're dangerous!" They aren't "crazy." It's a war wound like any other war wound. But I know one article in particular, last week, a news report, read like "PTSD Veterans Are Nuts!" I may be too sensitive on the topic since that's what I primarily address in my practice now. But I saw the article and asked C.I., "Am I alone on this?" No. But I'm also aware that a news report has a limited amount of space. C.I., when covering crimes of veterans who may or may not suffer from PTSD, always tries to make space to include a disclaimer in terms of "Not every veteran suffering from PTSD engages in this kind of conduct" or something similar. I realize that newspapers may not have the space for that or it might get pulled out by editors sensitive to space concerns. I know it's a difficult topic to cover. I do hope that people following coverage grasp, whether it's said or not, that PTSD comes in varying degrees and effects veterans in various ways as well as the fact that lack of treatment often leads to the most alarming cases that are more likely to be covered.

Tom Philpott's "Community Effort needed to heal war wounds" (Stars and Stripes) was published at the end of last week:

Leslie Kammerdiener, mother of severely wounded Army Cpl. Kevin Kammerdiener, visibly moved attendees with her account of how the VA has failed to provide adequate support to her and her son on multiple occasions since Kevin was injured in Afghanistan in May 2008.
One of their worst experiences occurred Labor Day weekend last year when she and Kevin, who was severely burned and lost the left side of his brain to an explosion, arrived at the VA Polytrauma Center in Tampa, Fla., for follow-up treatment and no one knew he was coming.
"We had no medications for him. We had no bed for his burned body and we had no food for his feeding tube -- for 30 hours," Leslie said. "My son suffered for 30 hours because this system was not ready."
Just a week ago, she said, Kevin signaled that he wanted to take his own life by hanging. She called the VA hospital for help.
"Days went by and nobody called me." Finally, she confronted VA doctor at a social event "and said, ‘Look, you guys have to help us … I’m not trained. I’m not a nurse. I’m not a neurosurgeon. I’m not a psychologist. I’m not a therapist. I’m just a mom. And I don’t have any help with this.’"

Elaine noted that article on Friday and observed:

The above isn't an uncommon story by any means. It should break your heart. You should be appalled and distressed by this. But that said, the story is incredibly common and it goes to all the failures in the current system.
I've been treating Iraq War veterans for nearly six years now. Every time I think I've heard the last health care horror story, another one emerges. (Before some skeptic e-mails, "They're trying to get out of their bills," I don't charge the veterans I treat.) At a certain point, I don't think you can be immune to these stories (nor do I believe you should), but I do think it gets to a level where you can no longer pretend that it's an isolated incident or a series of isloated incidents.
The VA isn't doing their job. Why is that?

Yesterday afternoon, Ryan J. Foley (AP) reported that there's a request for an audit of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs "including its two nursing homes for veterans in King and Union Grove." Julia O'Malley (McClatchy's Anchorage Daily News) reports on Iraq War veteran John Mayo whose time back in the US has been very difficult and he, his wife and their son ended up homeless following his discharge for shoplifting (which he states took place while he was under heavy medication and that he doesn't remember). She speaks with clinical psychologist Jeanne Beathe who notes that it is easily possible that the medications and other issues (PTSD and brain injuries) could result in no memory of the event. She also notes, "Certainly not every traumatized soldier comes back and commits crimes, but it's not uncommon after returning from a war environment that some can get into legal trouble." She also speaks with John Mayo's mother:

I asked Cathy if her son had changed while he was in Iraq. She said it made him quiet and too nervous to read. I asked if she regretted encouraging him to join. She said she did. She felt he'd been broken by it, then abandoned.
"What they did to him, you don't do it to a dog," she said. "I lost my son."
She told me he called her while he was cutting himself in his house on Fort Richardson after the discharge in July. She said he told her he loved her and that he was bleeding and wanted to die. I asked her if she called the authorities. She started to weep over the telephone.
"I didn't know who to call," she said in a tiny voice.
Mayo told later me he didn't remember talking to her.

We'll note the opening of Sherwood Ross' "What Can Individuals Do To Oppose Warfare State?" (Yubanet):

Americans who voted for peace last November but are getting only more war are increasingly disillusioned as "change we can believe in" pans out to be mere "chump change."
The majority of Americans, polls show, would slash the military budget by over 30 percent yet President Obama has increased it by four percent. A majority of Americans want U.S. troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan but the Pentagon will garrison 50,000 in the former indefinitely and dispatch perhaps 20,000 more to escalate the war in the latter.
Since voting doesn't bring the desired change in national policies, people wonder what they can do individually. The answer is quite a lot. "Things have gotten bad enough in the minds of enough Americans that there is an opening for creating a mass movement for real change, and that movement is already growing all around us," writes citizen/activist David Swanson of Charlottesville, Va., in his new book "Daybreak"(Seven Stories Press). Swanson is cofounder of the anti-war After Downing Street Coalition.
He ticks off a number of examples where grass-roots citizen groups won a round vs. the Establishment:

# In North Dakota, farmers defeated efforts by St. Louis-based Monsanto to sell genetically engineered seeds.

# Threatened by corporate big-box stores, Utah local businesses created a successful "Buy Local First" campaign.

# Hundreds of towns and cities have enacted resolutions against enforcement of unconstitutional provisions of the USA Patriot Act.

# Chicagoans who had no good grocery stores banded together to create an organic urban farm and sell produce through a local market.

# Recognizing that America’s Great Plains are the “Saudi Arabia of wind power,” Rosebud Sioux are building windmills on their South Dakota reservation.

# Americans have created some 300 worker-run businesses.

# More than 100 towns have stopped corporations from dumping toxic sludge on farms.

# Residents of Tallulah, La., banded together to shut down an unwanted juvenile prison.

Swanson writes, "We will not create the necessary rebirth of American democracy by sending e-mails and making phone calls. We must do those things (but they are not enough). We must educate. We must create new media. We must lobby. We must march."

A visitor e-mails to express his disappoint that Ava and my "TV: Republicans should boycott SNL" did not cover the "Sunday talk shows." Everyone at Third was asleep by the time those started airing. In addition, we were at the awards last night, so we weren't going to stay up for those shows to air. Sorry you didn't get what you wanted.

Barack hit five networks yesterday. No one's worked so hard to sell a turkey since Ahnuld was doing promotion for The Last Action Hero. He was supposed to pitch his bad program that will enrich the insurance companies and Big Pharma while doing nothing, NOTHING, for the people. Presumably he did. If Iraq came up, I have no idea. I'm still waking up this morning. Toni Collette won Best Actress in a Comedy and all is wonderful in the world. What a deserving award and Toni really earned it. That was probably my happiest moment last night, having the thrill and honor of applauding for Toni. And, of course, not for ___.

Back to the e-mail topic, Amy Goodman declares this morning, "He skipped Fox because they skipped his" speech last Wednesday. Is there a bigger liar or fool than Amy Goodman? Barack didn't appear on Fox News yesterday (according to her). Fine but Fox News aired his bad speech last week.

Fox entertainment went with their scheduled programming -- for good reason, by the way. It is the fall and season premieres are already scheduled. And he better start grasping that ad time is paid for long before he gets a whim to be on camera again. The networks -- especially in this economy -- cannot continue to indulge him by providing him with non-stop prime time access. If his hunger for attention is so great that he's got to babble on repeatedly during prime time, the networks need to start divvying it up or just ignoring him. I'm not the first person to point out that he's overexposed. Lesley Stahl was pointing that out months ago -- and she was correct, "Every time I point my clicker at the television set and surf around, I see Barack Obama. He's making announcements, he's giving interviews, he's there all the time. There's a debate about why he's in our faces so much and whether he's overexposed."

He really needs to give it a rest.

And so does Amy Goodman. In her headlines today, she's all over a Fox News producer who acted as a ringer for the crowd at a protest -- encouraging them to cheer, etc. No, that's not what journalists are supposed to do. But they also aren't supposed to profit from partisan politics. Meaning? Is Amy Goodman ever going to declare publicly how much she raised by offering tickets to an inauguration ball last January? Is she? She probably needs to stop criticizing others until she can get her own house in order. She made a pretty profit off of Barack's inauguration and, no, journalism doesn't encourage that. Nor does it allow her to be a 'host' of a ball.

Bonnie reminds that Kat's "Kat's Korner: If you can get ahold of it, We Came To Sing! is amazing" and Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Grouch of Wrath" went up last night.

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lesley stahl