Thursday, May 20, 2010

Post-election madness takes it toll

When the black-clad gunmen took over her religiously mixed west Baghdad neighborhood, turning it into a killing field, she wouldn't let them drive her out of the country she loved.
And even when they killed her husband, gunning him down as he left work, she fought through her grief, staying in Iraq and hoping for better times.
But as a postelection political deadlock threatens to pull Iraq back into violence and uncertainty, Ibtisam Hamoody has had it. Within months, the 56-year-old former engineer and women's rights activist plans to take her savings, her family heirlooms and the youngest of her three daughters and settle in Jordan or Syria.

The above is from Borzou Daragahi's "Iraq's political crisis disheartens the middle class" (Los Angeles Times) and that's the stress the continued delays and stalling have resulted in for the Iraqi people. March 7th was when elections were held. If the last time Nouri was crowned is any indication, there are still two months to go before anyone is 'selected' for prime minister. Back then, elections were held in December 2005. Nouri was 'crowned' in April 2006. Should the schedule be similar this go round, it would be July. However, this go round brought new stresses and Nouri and his toys did everything they could to tarnish Iraqiya's victory. They screamed that the results weren't accurate and that there was massive fraud -- so much so, they just knew (they claimed 'proof') that in Baghdad alone they could pick up to 20 extra seats via a recount. They screamed that elected candidates were Ba'athists and would not be seated in the new Parliament. They targeted Iraqiya with harassment and arrests.

And, in the process, not only upped the stress levels for Iraqis, they put a cloud and question mark over Iraqiya's win which was the whole point. While Iraqiya was defending their win, Nouri was working on coalition building -- something he would have been rebuked on had he not made Iraqiya's win murky. (The winning slate is guaranteed first shot at forming a coalition.)

Today Alsumaria TV reports, "Alsumaria News website posted a video that shows for the first time a fraud incident in Iraq Parliamentary elections. The video shows head of an electoral station at Al Tajareb preliminary school, in Al Latifiya District, southern Baghdad, number 2126, while putting ballot papers in the ballot box after closing the electoral center. The video shows no other individuals in the center meant to observe the ballot cast process."

Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) notes:

More than two months after the vote, Maliki and former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi - leaders of two political blocs considered essential to a coalition government - have still not met.

Mr. Allawi, apparently passing up President Jalal Talabani’s lunch invitation, left the country on Wednesday on one of his frequent foreign trips.

Alsumaria TV explains that the meeting today with Talabanai will be attended by Iraqiya's Tareq al-Hashemi (Iraq's Sunni vice president), Mohammed Allawi, Hussein Shaalan and Hasan al-Ulwi but "Kurdistan Alliance senior official Abdul Bari Zebari demeaned the importance of the meeting at Talabani’s headquarters."

Violence sweeps through Iraq with Reuters noting a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured two people, a Yusufiya home bombing which injured three people, a Mosul suicide bomber in which the bomber took his/her own life as well as the life of 1 police officer and left four more injured as well as six civilians, a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured one person, two other Baghdad roadside bombings which left eight people wounded, a Mahmudiya roadside bombing which injured three people, a Balad Ruz armed clash in which 5 'militants' were killed and, dropping back to yesterday, a Baiji roadside bombing which injured six Sahwa members and 1 person shot dead in Kirkuk with two of his family members wounded in what authorities are calling a failed kidnapping attempt.

Today in England, the inquiry into the death of Iraqi Baha Mousa (while in British custody) continues. Baha died September 16, 2003, after being beaten so badly that he had at least 93 injuries. The Inquiry began last year. Iraqi witnesses who were prisoners at the same time Baha was (none of the prisoners were ever found guilty of anything) have testified to the Inquiry about the abuse they received. Today the Inquiry hears from AJ Bradshaw, CJ Parker, C Munns, NC Pedley, C Loader and G Davies. Monday, the Inquiry heard from General John Reith. We'll note this section of the testimony:

Gerard Elias: "Blacked-out goggles were used as a compromise." Did you see any distinction between the use of blacked-out goggles and the use of hoods for this security purpose?

Commodore Neil Brown: Yes, sir. Where goggles or other means were available, they were preferred because they carried less risk of asphyxiation or discomfort that have been associated with hooding. So goggles were proposed by the ICRC at a meeting in, I believe, early April 2003 and endorsed by us as a better way of achieving sight deprivation at the JFIT and the PW camp.

Gerard Elias: Thank you. You go on in the last three lines of this email, don't you, to comment effectively that it appears the hooding policy was not handed over to 3 Div. It resurfaced in September 2003, as we know, through Baha Mousa at least and hooding was then banned by the CJO in October 2003, as we shall hear -- and the Inquiry has heard and we will hear from the man who banned it later on today.

Commodore Neil Brown: Yes, sir.

Gerard Elias: In the light of the answer that you have given to the chairman a moment or so ago that hooding carried with it inherently a possible risk of asphyxiation and maybe other discomfort, did you ever consider, Commodore, whether hooding per se might be inhumane?

Commodore Neil Brown: I did, sir, yes.

Gerard Elias: What was your view about that?

Commodore Neil Brown: Sir, I looked at the issue in the context of law of armed conflict, which allows combatants to kill combatants, which allows combatants to use force to capture combatants and to use force to keep combatants interned and even to use force -- and in extreme circumstances lethal force -- to prevent prisoners escaping. It seemed to me, therefore, that with the limitations that I have described already and the limitation in terms of the occasions when it is used and the duration of its use, that it was permissible,
particularly upon capture.

Gerard Elias: Would you agree, if that be the correct view -- and I don't comment on whether it is or not, of course -- if that be a correct view, would you agree that the necessity for those who operate it, if you like, the troops on the ground, to understand the conditions -- namely that it is to be, as it were, used extremis if there is nothing else, that it is to be time limited, that perhaps there should be medical checks of those who are hooded on a regular basis or at least perhaps just a routine check by the guard -- would you agree that those factors at least it is important should be known to those who have to carry out that process if it is permissible?

Commodore Neil Brown: Yes, sir.

Gerard Elias: Could we then look, please, at the last document that I take you to? It is at MOD020218. It is now 14 May. It is another email, isn't it, in the same chain, as it were, still dealing with the issues that are arising in May 2004 in this regard? As we can see -- I am not going to read the whole of it, Commodore -- in the first paragraph you are indicating that "... it might be helpful to provide a brief synopsis of the relevant events last year ..." You stress it is to the best of your recollection, 12 months after the event and after an overnight flight, but you think it is accurate is really what -- I summarise paragraph 1. You say in paragraph 2: "Hooding was not part of any Op Telic mission directive from CJO or the NCC and was not, as such, ordered by those commanders." It would have been equally truthful to say, would it not, that it was not prohibited either?

Commodore Neil Brown: Yes, sir.

Gerard Elias: "It was not referred to specifically in any orders. A significant amount of training was however provided on behaviour of troops in an armed conflict and this included the treatment of prisoners of war ..." You go on in the next paragraph to talk of, first, hearing of hooding when you were contacted by Colonel Mercer and his concerns about his visit to the prisoner of war camp, the JFIT, the large number of prisoners being left hooded for long periods. He spoke of "many hours" was your recollection.

Commodore Neil Brown: Yes, sir.

Gerard Elias: You were made aware of that at the time, of course.

Commodore Neil Brown: Yes, sir.

Meanwhile we'll note this from Jeremy Kuzmarov's book review "U.S. Terrorism in Vietnam" (Monthly Review):

In late 1970, prompted by the debate over the exposure of U.S. atrocities in the village of Mỹ Lai, an anonymous GI wrote a letter to Army Chief of Staff William Westmoreland, claiming to have witnessed hundreds of acts of terrorism by U.S. soldiers during Operation Speedy Express. The campaign, intended to reclaim portions of the Mekong Delta, purportedly killed over ten thousand enemy but seized only seven hundred weapons.
"In the ambushes we killed anything or anybody and a lot of these weren't VC. We used claymores on any people, on any boat that passed even if sometimes it would be loaded with bananas and a couple of women, or a papasan [male Vietnamese] with a hoe. No big thing, they were VC as soon as we killed them." The GI went on to state that there was random shooting from helicopters at anything that moved on the ground and that the "snipers were the worst killers who were responsible for at least 600 murders per month [during the Operation]." The Battalion commander [Lieutenant Colonel David Hackworth, among the most decorated soldiers in U.S. history], told his company commander that "pretty soon there wouldn't be any rice farmers left because his snipers would kill them all. And he laughed."
Such revelations provide a pivotal component of Bernd Greiner’s compelling new book, War Without Fronts: The USA in Vietnam, which vividly details the genocidal nature of the warfare carried out by the U.S. Army in Vietnam, based on evidence drawn from Army criminal investigation division reports into alleged war crimes. These records were declassified in 1994 but largely ignored by scholars until recently. Greiner's findings and analysis are especially pertinent, given the historical revisionism and cultural amnesia that have taken root in U.S. society about the Vietnam War, paving the way for the current military aggression in the Middle East.

The above might remind many of video released last month. Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of an assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Joby Warrick (Washington Post) reports on Wikileaks:

The three-year-old group was catapulted into the spotlight last month when it released a U.S. military video of a helicopter attack on Iraqis, graphic images that drew a worldwide audience.
That might have been just the warmup. Newly leaked material -- including what WikiLeaks officials describe as an explosive video of civilian casualties in Afghanistan -- is being prepared for release, part of a growing treasure trove of formerly secret documents and recordings that exceeds a million records.
The site has provoked official and corporate anxiety for years, but now WikiLeaks is tapping new technology and a growing list of financial backers to move closer to what the group says it has long sought to become: a global foe of excessive government secrecy and an enabler of citizen activists, journalists and others who seek to challenge the powerful.

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