Saturday, September 10, 2011

Baha Mousa the tip of the iceberg

Following the whitewash findings of the inquiry into the torture and death of 26-year-old Iraqi Baha Mousa at the hands of the British military, some may be breathing a sigh of relief that the inquiry avoided the obvious by refusing to address that 2003 British soldiers would have to be trained in techniques to utilize them -- techniques the British military supposedly outlawed over thirty years prior. And the inquiry refused to address the chain of command issue and the patterns of abuse going instead for a 'few bad apples.'

That pretense might be hard to keep up. Paul Cahalan (Independent of London) reports that human rights attorney Phil Shriner is calling the Baha Mousa "just the tip of the iceberg" and "there were thousands of allegations of mistreatment from Iraqis detained by British troops. The allegations potentially implicate every single battle group that did a tour, and also the special interrogation team, he said." Meanwhile Jason Groves (Daily Mail) reports the UK Defense Secretary Liam Fox has declared that he will be getting to the bottom of how these outlawed interrogation techniques came back into use.

Meanwhile Jassim Alaiv (Al Mada) reports on the lives of journalists claimed during the Iraq War: 295 journalists killed by militias or insurgents, 32 during mass attacks, 29 by US forces and 12 by Iraqi forces. Alaiv notes that journalists have been kidnapped and held for money, tortured while they were held, and that the status of 18 journalists who have been kidnapped during the war remains unknown. Earlier this week, Aswat al-Iraq reported that journalist Ismail Mustapha has been "detained by a joint Iraqi-US force in western Baghdad" since "last week" and that the Iraqi Society for the Defense of Journalists Rights was calling for his release. And Thursday journalist Hadi al-Mehdi was assassinated. Aswat al-Iraq reports today, "The Iraqi Parliament has demanded the protection of journalists, freedom of opinion and demonstration, along with the discovery of the killers of the Journalist, Hadi al-Mahdi, and sending them to justice." Due to the fact that Nouri al-Maliki's forces kidnapped and tortured Hadi February 25th following a protest and due to Nouri's repeated demonizing of protesters (he's called them terrrorists, Ba'athists, etc.), many suspect his involvement in the assassination. Annie Gowan and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post via Gulf News) report, "Friday, Al Maliki's government had no comment on Al Mahdi's death. But its opposition block in parliament, Iraqiya, demanded a full investigation. Iraqiya issued a statement condemning the crime as a 'desperate attempt at muzzling and to bring Iraq back to the republic of repression, fear and despotism'." Aswat al-Iraq notes, "Mahdi, graduate of Baghdad University’s Collage of Find Arts in 1989 and father of 3 children, had immigrated to Denmark in the 1990s of the last Century, escaping from the regime of former President Saddam Hussein, which executed a number of his relatives and returned home after the downfall of the regime, where he worked in several media agencies, last of which had been a radio station, in which he had been presenting a program that gained a broad mass support."

The following community sites -- plus On the Wilder Side and Random Notes -- updated last night and today:

David Bacon's most recent book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. We'll close with this from Bacon's "SOMETHING LESS THAN PROSPECTIVE CITIZENS: Borrowed hands -- does the H-2A guest worker visa program make it easy to exploit farm workers?" (California Lawyer):

In the fall of 2006 Irma Luna, a community outreach worker for California Rural Legal Assistance in Fresno, got a phone call. Hundreds of farm workers, the caller said, were living in the Siskiyou County Fairgrounds, and many were being fired and sent back to Mexico.
To investigate, Luna and CRLA attorneys Alegria Delacruz and Mike Meuter drove 500 miles north to the tiny town of Tule Lake. Waiting at the local library they found a hundred angry laborers. Over 600 people, workers said, had been contracted in Mexico by Sierra Cascade, a large nursery, to spend six weeks trimming the roots of strawberry plants. The company owns over a thousand acres of nursery ranches in northern California and southern Oregon, where it grows rootstock for berry plants, selling to growers around the world.
The attorneys took declarations and prepared a suit, beginning one of the largest litigations in California over the job rights of contract Mexican guest workers. It became one of the longest as well. The last payments to workers to settle their claims were finally made this spring, five years later. The passage of that much time might not seem extreme to many California lawyers. But to workers who live from one paycheck to the next, waiting five years to get paid is more than a delay. It is an indication that the legal process cannot overcome the vast inequality in power between Mexican contract workers and their employers.
California's 650,000 farm laborers comprise a third of the nation's agricultural workforce, but only about 1 percent of those laborers are here on H-2A visas - a much lower rate than on the East Coast.
However, numbers don't tell the full story. For more than a decade pressure for expanding guest worker programs in California agriculture has been coming from growers and the politicians close to them. More than half of the state's farm workers are undocumented, and though their labor is cheap, growers can't always rely on having it when they need it. And if the prohibition on hiring undocumented workers were seriously enforced in agriculture - as it has been increasingly in other industries - most enterprises would not be able to function.

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends