Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Deployments, refugees, theft

WRAL reports that an estimated 750 Fort Bragg soldiers are headed to Iraq for "a yearlong deployment." Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick is quoted stating, "The Iraqis will be the ones to determine whether we vacate or not. It’s not going to be us." In addition, WMAZ reports that the Macon-based 352nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion is sending 120 reserve members to Iraq.

While the US continues sending troops to Iraq, Sweden continues forcibly deporting Iraqis. DPA reports, "Swedish police Wednesday briefly detained 25 activists who attempted to block the entrance to an asylum centre to prevent a pending repatriation of some 20 Iraqi refugees. About 50 activists took part in the protest, police said. The Iraqi asylum seekers were taken to Stockholm's Arlanda Airport." Iraq is not safe and the United Nations has repeatedly called out forced deportations. Yesterday in Geneva, UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming stated:

UNHCR is very concerned by reports that Sweden plans to send around 25 Iraqis back to Baghdad tomorrow, Wednesday 19th January. We understand that a number of those scheduled for return belong to religious and ethnic groups targeted by violence in Iraq. They, and others slated for return, appear to have profiles that would warrant protection under the 1951 Refugee Convention or the European Union's Qualification Directive.
We are troubled that our advice, including on the situation of minorities in Iraq, is not sufficiently taken into account by Sweden when reviewing negative decisions that were made in 2008 and 2009. We believe that the recent deterioration in the situation of minorities in Iraq has not been adequately taken into account.
UNHCR has frequently appealed to states to ensure that asylum applicants originating from Iraq's central governorates of Baghdad, Diyala, Ninewa and Salah-al-Din, as well as from Kirkuk province, benefit from international protection in the form of refugee status under the 1951 Convention or another form of protection depending on the circumstances of the case. We understand that many of those being returned on Wednesday come from these areas.
Our position reflects the volatile security situation and the still high level of prevailing violence, security incidents, and human rights violations taking place in these parts of Iraq. UNHCR considers that serious – including indiscriminate – threats to life, physical integrity or freedom resulting from violence or events seriously disturbing public order are valid reasons for international protection.
UNHCR offices in Syria, Jordan and Turkey have recently registered a number of Iraqi refugees who left Iraq after they have been forcibly returned by European countries. One Christian man fled again after he narrowly escaped an attack on a church in Baghdad in October 2010, shortly after being sent back by Sweden. We are pleased that Sweden has now agreed to re-admit him.

In other news, Mary Rinzel (WEAU -- text and video) reports on the case of Iraq War veteran Shane Nault. Nault was seriously injured in Iraq. Judge Lisa Stark noted, "Shane gave almost the ultimate sacrifice and in many ways did." His parents Lori and Michael Nault entered a plea agreement copping to one felony charge of stealing $53,000 of their son's money. The couple frequently held fundraisers 'for their son' and would then go off and spend the money on themselves. They made over 98 trips to the casinos to gamble their son's money, they bought themselves a new truck. Yesterday, they bought themselves felony convictions. You can click here for an ABC News video report from June of this year.

The following community sites -- plus the Iraq Inquiry Digest, Jane Fonda, Military Families Speak Out and NPR -- updated last night and this morning:

We'll note the Iraq Inquiry in the next entry but for now we'll close with this from Tim Shipman and Ian Drury's "Blair 'Misled MPs on Legality of War' Law Chief Who Advised ex-PM Tells Iraq Inquiry" (Daily Mail via ICH):

Tony Blair misled Parliament and the public about the legality of the Iraq War, according to explosive documents released last night.
Former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith said the then prime minister’s claims that Britain did not need a UN ­resolution explicitly authorising force were not compatible with his legal advice.
In testimony to the Chilcot Inquiry, made public for the first time yesterday, Lord Goldsmith said Mr Blair based his case for invasion on grounds that ‘did not have any application in international law’.
He said he felt ‘uncomfortable’ about the way Mr Blair ignored his legal rulings when making the case to Parliament.
Asked whether ‘the Prime Minister’s words were compatible with the advice you had given him’, he replied: ‘No.’
The shattering testimony is a watershed moment for the Iraq Inquiry, as it is the first time that Lord Goldsmith has directly contradicted Mr Blair. The claims will form the centrepiece of Mr Blair’s ­second grilling by the inquiry on Friday.

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends