Tuesday, December 20, 2011

US troops, Turkish bombings, Camp Ashraf, Bradley

While editorials are (falsely) claiming all US troops have left Iraq (some troops will remain in 2012), Dar Addustour reports that a Parliamentary committee states they have confirmed that there are still US troops in Wasit Province. Al Mada's also covering the story and notes the Security Committee of Deputies has issued a statement on the matter, insisting that the US military remains on a base in Wasit Province.

As those claims are debated Dar Addustour notes that the Turkish military continues bombing northern Iraq. Meanwhile Irwin Cotler (Toronto Star) observes, "While the world prepares to celebrate the beginning of the New Year, the people of Camp Ashraf, Iraq, live in imminent peril. At the camp -- set up by American forces -- 3,400 Iranian refugees are facing prospective massacre at the hands of the Iraqi government. The majority of residents have survived until now because of U.S. protection, but with American forces leaving by the end of the year, the Iraqi government has imposed an arbitrary deadline of Dec. 31 for residents to leave. Those who have nowhere to go will likely be attacked and killed; yet, the international community has been largely silent to their plight."

Camp Ashraf houses a group of Iranian dissidents (approximately 3,500 people). Iranian dissidents were welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp attacked twice. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8th of this year Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out." Nouri al-Maliki is seen as close to the government in Tehran. They have made it clear that they want the dissidents out of Iraq and returned to Iran -- where they would face trial at best, torture most likely. Nouri has announced he will be closing Camp Ashraf at the end of this year. UK MP Brian Binley (Huffington Post) has offered, "As things are evolving and if Maliki gets away with his plan to impose the deadline, just as the Christmas and New Year holidays are in full swing, the prospect is that the world will sit and watch while men and women are killed in cold blood or mutilated, crushed by US-supplied armoured personal carriers."

Jamie Crawford (CNN) reports, "The Obama administration 'welcomes' a United Nations-led effort in Iraq to relocate a group on the State Department terrorism list, before an end-of-the-year deadline that could see heavy violence and a large humanitarian disaster unfold, senior administration officials said Monday." Do they? What the UN proposed was that the deadline be extended beyond December 31st. This was addressed in an open session of the UN Security Council and the White House is damn well aware of that. I don't know if right now is a time that the White House wants to be viewed as complicit with Nouri al-Maliki. It should also be noted that the US State Dept has been court-ordered -- for over a year now -- to re-evaluate the status of the MEK. The current terrorist designation (already dropped by European countries) is preventing many countries from accepting the Camp Ashraf residents.

All of the above goes on and a great deal more not including Nouri's latest power grab (which we focused on in yesterday's snapshot and focus on in the next entry). These issues matter.

A few (members and visitors) were disappointed that yesterday's snapshot didn't contain anything on Bradley Manning. There wasn't space. I'd already made the most important observations on Saturday and Monday (morning) and we can expand on those at any point.

The pressure needed to come before the Article 32 hearing. There should have been a demand for Barack to call off the Article 32 hearing. There wasn't a demand outside the dedicated marchers and demonstrators who've been there for Bradley throughout.

An Article 32 hearing is not a court-martial.

I'm always going to be hesitant to cover a multi-day one. Why? The government doesn't allow the defense to call an unlimited number of witness (as we've seen with everyone from Camilo Mejia to Bradley) but it does allow the prosecution to.

The burden is on the defense in an Article 32 hearing. The government is asking an employee of the government to allow the government to prosecute someone. They have to provide very little evidence, they have to provide very little concrete. By contrast, the defense (unless it accepts that the Article 32 is a rubber stamp and saves its energies for the court-martial) works its ass off to repeatedly prove that the defendant should not be tried. The burder is on the defense. That's how that system works.

Bradley's defense is already obvious. It may become more so when the government rests. But the argument Bradley's attorneys are going to make in the court-martial is already obvious. (The argument could change if a different defense team was brought in. I'm not suggesting that happen with Bradley's case. But it can happen.)

In addition to writing reports, Kevin Gosztola is also Tweeting the hearing. He's covering the whole thing and good for him.

We may do that with the court-martial. (This is going to court-martial. Pressure wasn't brought on Barack. A strong push could still emerge but I'm not seeing any indication that it's out there.) But to do that with the Article 32 would go against the position we've taken from the start. We don't help the prosecution make its case.

That's what the press does now.

The government barely has to offer anything to persaude the government to allow it to take this to a court-martial. So what the prosecution does instead, while the defense carries the burden, is use the press attention to float various potential arguments that could be made at the court-martial. The press attention means its highly likely they get feedback on what's credible, what's outlandish, how sympathetic this would be seen while something else might be seen as an attack. The prosecution would love to know just how far they can go and how weak or strong certain arguments may play out. So they love the press attention.

But our position has always been: We don't make the case for the prosecution.

If there's room in the snapshot to get into the defense's case, we will today. But an Article 32 is, 99% of the time, a rubber stamp. The presiding officer has already made up his mind and that's obvious by his behavior Saturday.

60 Minutes Steve Kroft fluffed with Barack. Bob Holt (New Jersey Newsroom) notes, "When Kroft asked Obama about the lack of criminal prosecutions of some on Wall Street, the President responded, 'I can't, as President, comment on decisions about particular prosecutions. That's the job of the Justice Department, and we keep those separate so that there's no political influence on decisions made by professional prosecutors." But Princess Barack thought it was okay to state of Bradley, "He broke the law."? Always protecting Wall Street but never protecting the people, that's Barack. The hypocrite and the military's commander in chief who, prior to a court-martial, prior to an Article 32 hearing, declares that a service member is guilty.

The following community sites updated last night and this morning:

We'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "AN OPEN LETTER OF APOLOGY TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA" (OpEdNews):

Dear DEAR President Obama,
Now that you have signed the National Defense Appropriation Act into law giving yourself the power to arrest and imprison any American indefinitely, I want to tell you how very very very very very sorry I am for all those nasty things I wrote about you. Name-calling is never appropriate and I should have known better, especially when I compared you to Benito (“Three cheers for war!”) Mussolini for making undeclared wars in Africa. In retrospect, I was way off base. Since the NDAA nullifies the Constitution, you might agree with Mussolini’s viewpoint, “Mankind is tired of liberty” but that’s definitely where the comparison stops. Mussolini was a fat slob whereas everyone can see you are the leanest, trimmest, handsomest president we’ve had in the White House since JFK, maybe handsomer.
Likewise, I’m exceedingly sorry I wrote U.S. forces in Afghanistan are killing innocent people every day. I know that is not their intent. As Hermann Goring once said, “I am in the habit of shooting from time to time and if I sometimes make mistakes, at least I have shot.” Since comparing your actions to a top Nazi is odious, let’s just say as the noted American gangster Mickey Cohen once boasted, “I never killed a man that didn’t deserve it.” Sure, it’s technically an “assassination” to execute people without a trial but your suspects were fingered by the CIA. We need to keep in mind you’re striving to reduce terrorism, not necessarily uphold the law for, to quote J. Edgar Hoover, “Justice is incidental to law and order.”
If the CIA had the smarts to grab you right out of college and give you a job, I’d be surprised they could be so mistaken as to order the execution of innocent people. The late President Nixon may have said of them, “What the hell do those clowns do out there in Langley?” but what did he know? Actually, you can now take comfort from Nixon’s words, “When the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.”
Anyway, while I’m apologizing to you, please tell the CIA I take back all those nasty things I wrote, saying they’re the world’s biggest criminal syndicate ever, and comparing it to the Ku Klux Klan for operating in secret, kidnapping and lynching. We all know the CIA’s critics do tend to exaggerate. Some say the Agency’s overthrown 30 countries by force and violence when it’s probably been just 26 or so. As ex-CIA Director William Colby once said, “I have definitional problems with the word ‘violence.’ I don’t know what the word ‘violence’ means.” At times, the Agency may have run amok here and there but at least it showed its smarts by not copying the KKK’s cross burnings, which definitely would have made us look bad in Muslim countries.

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