Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Death penalty, War Crimes and more

I've never understood the concept that there's time to waste. Time's finite. I don't have it to spare even if others think they do. As a result, I'm not interested in offering praise for fakery or dog-and-pony shows. Back in November a bunch of idiots were slobbering over Jalal Talabani, president of Iraq. 'Oh, brave Jalal! He opposes the death penalty!'

It's like the idiots who keep saying, "70,000 protested in Sadr City!" No. Approximately 15,000 members of Sadr's militia/mob marched through Sadr City and people popped their heads out their front doors as the march passed their homes. Observers are not participants.

And gas bags and insta-experts are not contributing to the conversation. As they offered the written equivalent of high-fives and back-slaps over 'brave' Talabani's 'opposition' to the death penalty, they overlooked reality, history and facts.

This was and is the same Jalal who got a lot of press for insisting he could not support the execution of Saddam Hussein. . . . did that stop that execution?

He got a lot of praise he didn't deserve in November for (yet again) supposedly standing against the death penalty. Al Rafidayn reports that yesterday Talabani signed off on court-ordered executions.

The article notes that as a member of Socialist International Organization, Talabani opposed death sentences. But it doesn't matter. His opposition has ended the death penalty in Iraq. His opposition is meaningless and, in most cases, he himself backtracks on it but does so much less publicly than when he's insisting he is opposed to the death penalty.

If you're opposed to the death penalty, there aren't reports about you signing off on court ordered executions. I'm being kind and just noting this garbage took place in November. I'm not naming names, people can look it up themselves. But it wasn't just individuals (wrongly) praising Talabani. It also included international organizations. Maybe in the future they'll grasp that it should take more than reading one day's news cycle to put their organization's reputation on the line by praising someone who doesn't deserve praising?

Yesterday Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times) reported that "U.S. Defense officials still cannot say what happened to $6.6 billion in cash" and that "federal auditors are suggesting that some or all of the cash may have been stolen, not just mislaid in an accounting error." New Sabah notes that Iraq holds the US government responsible for the theft "under the 2004 legal agreement" while the US is insisting Iraqi officials must have stolen it.

Still on money, Al Rafidayn reports that yesterday the Integrity Commission announced that their work had resulted in 479 convictions (out of 627 cases brought) between January of this year to May ( a 217% increase from the total number last year) and that they had seized $49 million.

Moving over to the US, Adam Zagorin (Time magazine) reports, "It has been nearly a decade since Manadel al-Jamadi, an Iraqi prisoner known as 'the Iceman' -- for the bungled attempt to cool his body and make him look less dead -- perished in CIA custody at Abu Ghraib. But now there are rumbles in Washington that the notorious case, as well as other alleged CIA abuses, could be returning to haunt the agency. TIME has learned that a prosecutor tasked with probing the CIA -- John Durham, a respected, Republican-appointed U.S. Attorney from Connecticut -- has begun calling witnesses before a secret federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va., looking into, among other things, the lurid Nov. 4, 2003, homicide, which was documented by TIME in 2005." Mark Memmott (NPR's The Two-Way) cites NPR's Carrie Johnson to note that "war crimes and torture charges" are being discussed. In related news, Melina Milazzao (Human Rights First) shines a light on the biggest obstruction to helping the victims of torture:

Once again, the Obama administration shirked its legal and moral responsibility to ensure torture victims are provided an enforceable remedy when it advised the U.S. Supreme Court not to hear a case brought by Iraqi detainees tortured by private military contractors at Abu Ghraib.

The case, Saleh, et al. v. Titan Corporation, et al., is a civil suit brought by 250 Iraqi detainees for torture by U.S. private contractors CACI and Titan (now L-3 Services). The two companies were retained to provide interrogation and interpretation services at Abu Ghraib, the infamous Iraqi prison that the Department of Defense (DoD) reported was the site of “numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” of Iraqi prisoners committed by Americans under the authority of Americans. Army investigations implicated private contractors in the torture and abuse of detainees held there. While 11 soldiers were convicted on detainee abuse charges, no contractor was ever criminally charged.

In September 2009, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the civil case on the ground that contractors involved in combat activities on a battlefield should be protected from lawsuits. The victims appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and Human Rights First submitted an amicus brief arguing that the decision by the D.C. Circuit to immunize the criminal conduct of private military contractors is incompatible with the United States’ international legal obligations, including its obligation under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) to provide “enforceable” or “effective” remedies to victims for acts of torture and serious abuse.

Before deciding whether or not to hear the case, the Supreme Court asked the U.S. government, which is not a party to the suit, its opinion or interest. Human Rights First sent a letter to the Acting Solicitor General urging the government to advise the Court to hear the case and reverse the decision that denies victims a remedy.

The Acting Solicitor General, however, did the exact opposite.

Last night, community sites did theme posts. Can't highlight them. Don't have the time to go to each website and grab each entry. Can't grab from the right because Blogger/Blogspot is (AGAIN) screwed up. I'll pull from Stan's site to demonstrate:

Isaiah only updates on Thursday. But Kat, Ruth, etc.? They updated last night and you can see that at their sites. I will note all of the themes -- and Wally and Cedric -- in the snapshot today but I don't have time this morning to do that. I'm on a laptop which means I have no real mouse, just that pad you put your finger on, and that adds to the time it would take. And I just realized I started this entry talking about time being finite and fate has now driven that point home yet again. Okay, we're closing with this from Sherwood Ross' "CIA Requires Secrecy To Conceal Its Own Crimes" (Veterans Today):

If the CIA routinely lies to the American people, maybe that's because its got so much to lie about, like killing millions of innocent human beings around the world. As far back as December, 1968, the CIA's own Covert Operations Study Group gave a secret report to president-elect Richard Nixon that conceded, “The impression of many Americans, especially in the intellectual community and among the youth, that the United States is engaging in 'dirty tricks' tends to alienate them from their government.” According to Tim Weiner's book “Legacy of Ashes”(Anchor), the report went on to say, “Our credibility and our effectiveness in this role is necessarily damaged to the extent that it becomes known that we are secretly intervening in what may be (or appear to be) the internal affairs of others.”

President Bill Clinton, who first gave the CIA the green light to launch its illegal “renditions” (kidnappings,) told the nation on the occasion of the Agency's 50th birthday (1997), “By necessity, the American people will never know the full story of your courage.” (Courage? For 22 agents to grab one Muslim cleric off the streets of Milan, Italy, and ship him abroad to be tortured?) Anyway, presidents who authorize criminal acts by the CIA, as virtually all have done since its founding in 1947, don't want the truth out, either, lest knowledge of those “dirty tricks” sicken and revolt the American people when they find out what crimes the Agency is perpetrating with their tax dollars. As former CIA agent Philip Agee once put it, “The CIA is the President's secret army.” This point was underscored at a luncheon by President Gerald Ford himself, which he hosted for New York Times top editors on Jan. 16, 1975. According to Weiner, Ford told them the reputation of every President since Truman could be ruined if the secrets became public. Asked by an editor, like what? Ford replied “like assassinations.”

One reason the Agency seeks to hide its operations is that it sadly is often guilty as charged. For example, take its complicity in the murders of American missionaries in Peru. As Reuters reported Nov. 21, 2008:

“The CIA obstructed inquiries into its role in the shooting down of an aircraft carrying a family of U.S. missionaries in Peru in 2001, the agency's inspector general(IG) has concluded. The (IG's) report said a CIA-backed program in Peru targeting drug runners was so poorly run that many suspect aircraft were shot down by Peruvian air force jets without proper checks being made first.” A small plane carrying Veronica Bowers, her husband Jim, their son Cory and infant daughter Charity was shot down by a Peruvian jet on April 20, 2001, after it was tracked by a CIA surveillance plane that suspected it was carrying drugs. Veronica and Charity Bowers were killed, while their pilot, Kevin Donaldson, who crash-landed the bullet-riddled plane into the Amazon River, was badly injured. The IG's report said that in the aftermath of the 2001 incident the CIA sought to characterize it as a one-time mistake in an otherwise well-run program. "In fact this was not the case. The routine disregard of the required intercept procedures ... led to the rapid shooting down of target aircraft without adequate safeguards to protect against the loss of innocent life," the report from the Agency's own IG said. (One might ask why the CIA didn't wait for the plane to land to interrogate the passengers?)

The kicker in the Reuters account is “The IG said the CIA found 'sustained and significant' violations of procedure in its own internal investigation but had denied Congress, the National Security Council and the Justice Department access to its findings.” This raises the question of whether the CIA has become so powerful it can withhold findings even from the Justice Department and Congress? The answer is that it can, has, and likely continues to do so, because it is indeed both powerful and influential. After all, with the exception of President Clinton, who abetted the CIA's crimes, presidents George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush Jr., and Barrack Obama all have been directly on the CIA payroll as employees at one time or another. Bush Sr., of course, headed the Agency during 1976-77. Bush Jr. worked for a CIA front in Alaska, and President Obama worked for CIA front Business International Corporation after he got out of college.

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