Thursday, September 08, 2011

A white wash

August 21st, the first reports that the 'independent' inquiry into the death of Iraqi Baha Mousa was going to be a white wash which would find that 'things just happen.' Baha was a 26-year-old whose 'crime' was working at a hotel. British military rounded him and others up at the hotel and, less than 48 hours later, Baha would be dead with over 93 documented wounds -- all of which came at the hands of the British military. If you're new to the crimes, the Telegraph of London offers this timeline. Today the 'verdict' is out. And it's a lot of nonsense, the 'hardest' finding may be that certain individuals involved exhibited a "lack of moral courage to report abuse." Right before the findings were released, Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) noted, "The report by retired appeal court judge Sir William Gage, to be published on Thursday, is unlikely to accuse the army of systematic torture since his terms of reference are limited to the circumstances surrounding Mousa's death." Chris Ship (ITV) noted, hours ahead of the release of the 'verdict,' "This incident is however a pretty shameful episode in recent British military history."

And as shameful is the 'verdict.' The verdict is three volumes (click here). We'll go into it more in the snapshot today and I've only read -- speed read -- a little bit of it (it was released about 20 minutes ago), but it's nonsense.

If hooding and other measures the British military utilized were violations of the Geneva Convention -- and they were -- then there needs to be accountability. But all accountability is shoved off on those present with a refusal to acknowledge that these violations were not thought up by those with the prisoners but were policies that came from higher up. This was established in the Inquiry. (We covered many days of public testimony. This was established in the Inquiry.) Instead, the verdict puts out the 'few bad apples' theory. This wasn't rouge British soldiers.

This was young men who you'd hope would know better when given illegal orders but who really didn't know better and the protection for lower ranking soldiers who don't know better is supposed to be the chain of command. Instead of protecting the Iraqis and the soldiers serving, the chain of command used the soldiers -- in an illegal manner with illegal orders -- so that Iraqis could be tortured and the victims of War Crimes.

I'm not justifying the actions of the British soldiers directly involved. I am noting that they were following the policy -- an illegal policy -- set above them.

In a speed read, I twice came across "systematic failure."

Okay, let's pretend there was a "systematic failure" -- as opposed to a systematic plan (which is what it was). That's why you have a chain of command. And if there was systematic failure taking place under your command, then you would be responsible -- and carry all the way up to the top.

Even the verdict doesn't find that this all began with Baha's death. This was going on for some time. Clearly if you're uncomfortable calling out War Criminals at the top, you then go for dereliction of duty. Those at the top -- unnamed in the findings -- implemented policies in violation of international treaties, abuses and War Crimes. If that's too much for you, then you just go with dereliction of duty.

Had any oversight been provided, real oversight, then those at the top would have been informed.

You can't have it both ways. You can't say, "Those at the top didn't know!" and then not charge with dereliction of duty because it was their job to know. (Repeating: They knew. It was their policy.)

Gage calls it a "serious breach of discipline" by those directly involved. What about the breach above them? Not dealt with. Ignored. It's a white wash created to protect career military. There should be outrage around the world over this verdict.

The following community sites -- plus Cindy Sheehan and -- updated last night and this morning:

Ann, Ruth, Betty and Mike aren't showing up -- it's a Blogger/Blogspot issue. Swiping from Stan's site:

We'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "'I WANT ANOTHER ADVENTURE,' RETIRING JUDGE GERTNER SAYS" (Veterans Today):

The federal judge who socked the FBI with a bill for damages totaling $101.7-million for railroading five men to prison where they spent 20 years for a murder they didn’t commit has retired from the bench and looking about for new challenges. “I have loved being a judge,” said U.S. District Court Judge for Massachusetts Nancy Gertner, “but I want another adventure.”
Gertner, who steps down this month after 17 years on the bench during which she presided over many landmark cases, made her comments in a pre-recorded interview to air at 11 A.M. Saturday, September 10th on New England Cable News and at 11 A.M. on Sunday, September 11th on Comcast SportsNet. The broadcast will also be shown nationally.
“I actually have a book in me about judging, which I can’t write until I leave the bench,” she said. Speaking about her future, Judge Gertner said, “I want to be able to write, and think, and speak, and do something different. I’m of a generation that believes retirement is going to happen perhaps when I’m 90. I’m not close.”
Judge Gertner is the guest of “Educational Forum” of Comcast’s SportsNet, produced by the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover and hosted by Assistant Dean Diane Sullivan.
The eminent jurist noted for her legal victories in the fields of civil rights and feminism prior to her appointment to the bench in 1994, said, “If I wanted to do other things, international human rights work, I need to do it now. And given that opportunity that’s what I’m going to do.”
Judge Gertner was interviewed in connection with her book “In Defense of Women: Memoirs of an Unrepentant Advocate”(Random House), which has received lavish praise from critics and authors. Legal writer Jeffrey Toobin described it as “fascinating, fearless, and fun,” and author Scott Turow termed it “A wonderfully readable and involving memoir.”

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