At THE NEW YORKER, Ben Taub reports on post-'liberation' in Iraq:
Shortly after ten o’clock, three judges in long black robes shuffled into Courtroom 2 and sat at the bench. Suhail Abdullah Sahar, a bald, middle-aged man with a thin, jowly face, sat in the center. There were twenty-one cases on his docket that day, sixteen related to terrorism. He quietly read out a name; a security officer shouted it down the hall to one of his colleagues, who shouted it to the guard, who shouted it into the cell. Out came a young man named Ahmed. A security officer led him to a wooden cage in the middle of the courtroom. Judge Sahar accused him of having joined ISIS in Qayyarah, a small town south of Mosul.
“Sir, I swear, I have never been to Qayyarah,” Ahmed said.
Sahar was skeptical. “I have a written confession here, with your thumbprint on it,” he said.
“Sir, I swear, I gave my thumbprint on a blank paper,” Ahmed replied. “And I was tortured by the security services.” Sahar listed Ahmed’s supposed jihadi associates; Ahmed denied knowing any of them.
“Enough evidence,” the prosecutor said. “I ask for a guilty verdict.”
Ahmed had no lawyer, and so Sahar called upon an elderly state attorney named Hussein, who was seated in the gallery, to spontaneously craft a defense. Hussein walked over to a lectern, repeated from memory what Ahmed had said, and, without requesting his release, concluded with a plea for “mercy in his sentencing.”
Ahmed wept as he was led out of the room. His trial had lasted four and a half minutes.
The next suspect insisted that he had been arrested by mistake—that his name was similar to that of someone in ISIS. A private defense lawyer explained that his client had confessed to ISIS affiliation under torture—he had a medical examination to prove it—but none of the judges appeared to be listening. As the lawyer spoke, they cracked jokes, signed documents, and beckoned their assistants to collect folders from the bench. Sahar yawned. The trial lasted eight minutes.
The third suspect was a twenty-three-year-old from a village near Mosul, charged with ISIS affiliation and arrested while in a displaced-persons camp.
“When did you join ISIS?” Sahar asked.
“I didn’t join,” the suspect replied.
“Then why did you thumbprint this confession?”
“They blindfolded me and made me do it.”
“Enough evidence—I ask for a guilty verdict,” the prosecutor said.
The suspect’s defense lawyer carefully explained that regional intelligence reports showed that the suspect had been mistaken for someone with a similar name. In terrorism trials, the mere presence of a private defense lawyer can signal the suspect’s likely innocence; most lawyers refuse to take on ambiguous cases, out of fear that the security services will harass them for perceived links to the Islamic State. (Last year, Iraqi courts issued arrest warrants for at least fifteen defense lawyers and charged them with ISIS affiliation.) But, as the lawyer spoke, the judges tended to administrative tasks. The trial was over in nine minutes. “I hate ISIS—they blew up my house!” the suspect shouted, in tears, as he was led out of court.
That's vengeance, he said,
That's the law
-- "Vengeance," words and music by Carly Simon, first appears on her album SPY
And it's been the law in Iraq.
The US government wasted a lot of money in Iraq -- building shoddy facilities, bribing politicians, etc. But the biggest waste was on so-called judicial building. By 2006, Michael Gordon of THE NEW YORK TIMES was repeatedly reporting on the judicial failures -- which included tents being set up for courtrooms.
There is no justice in Iraq. There is only vengeance. American L. Paul Bremer started de-Ba'athification, yes. But de-Ba'athification was a benchmark -- remember those benchmarks? From 2007? The Iraqi government would get no US funding or military support if they could not meet the benchmarks. They never met them. Not one of the benchmarks were ever met.
One of the benchmarks?
De de-Ba'athification. It was about healing the rifts. It was supposed to be about reconciliation.
That's never happened.
Every trace, every vision
Brings my emotions to collision
Past love's lost tokens
Every cherished thought once spoken
False hope of reconciliation
-- "Wheels," written by Maria McKee, first appears on Lone Justice's SHELTER
Nouri al-Maliki was in his first term as prime minister when he agreed to the benchmarks. He didn't like them but he agreed to follow them. He wasn't going to see them implemented, though. And it didn't happen in his first term as prime minister and it didn't happen in his second term.
It was never going to happen.
Nouri was paranoid. Nouri hates the Sunni people. He persecuted them. The Sunni civilians, the Sunni politicians, it didn't make a difference to him. And this persecution is what led to the rise of ISIS in Iraq in Nouri's second term.
We can pretend that somehow, someway, the innocents standing before the Iraqi courts today, charged with being terrorists, got there. But the reality is that they got there because they are Sunni.
The Sunnis are persecuted.
The cases make clear but you didn't need Ben's report to grasp what's happening. Back to his report:
Sahar questioned the other suspects first. One, named Haidar, who wore a back brace, said that he had been mistakenly arrested for a car-bomb attack, in 2014, and that in the course of an interrogation, to make the torture stop, he had started naming random people, including Louai. Judge Sahar then called upon Louai, who rose from his chair and gripped the cage to support himself. “I went to sell my car in the market,” he said. “Then Haidar called me, and I was ambushed, arrested.” He spoke in an urgent, high-pitched tone, but he stuttered and slurred his words; during interrogations, he said, officers had beaten him so badly that he suffered a blood clot in his brain. “They also broke my back!” he shouted. “They broke my feet and hands! I can barely walk!”
“Enough evidence—I ask for a guilty verdict,” the prosecutor said. It was the only phrase she uttered in court that morning.
Haidar’s lawyer noted that there was no witness and no material evidence, and that his request for a medical examination, to prove that Haidar had been tortured, had been rejected. Louai’s lawyer explained that Louai’s confession had been coerced and made no sense: he had said that he remotely detonated the car bomb, when, in fact, the police had concluded that it was a suicide attack.
Louai had spent four years in pretrial detention, and, during the two or three minutes allotted to his defense, the judges had been talking among themselves. “I haven’t seen a judge until now!” he shouted.
“Take them out,” Sahar said. A security officer opened the cage. It took Louai nearly two minutes to limp to the door. Sahar took a lunch break, then ordered his execution.
It passes for justice in Iraq. Would it do so in any country with a functioning judicial system?
This is about persecuting the Sunnis.
The courts in Iraq have been used time and again to carry out a war on the Sunni people. The most infamous case was with Tareq al-Hashemi.
He was the Vice President of Iraq at the time Nouri accused him of being a terrorist -- yes, Tareq was Sunni. And it was established that months later Nouri's forces had tortured people -- and killed one -- to get testimony against Tareq. He was a sitting vice president. But the law wasn't followed -- what does the law matter when the suspect is Sunni.
Ahead of the start of the trial, what happened? We called it out, we apparently were the only ones in the west alarmed enough to speak out -- imagine that. I'm not especially bright or especially brave.
Let's drop back to February 20, 2012, so we're all on the same page:
In December, after multiple photo-ops with US President Barack Obama, Nouri returned to Iraq and quickly ordered the homes of his political rivals circled by tanks -- a detail the US press 'forgot' to report for at least 24 hours (most estimates are 48 hours). The bulk of US forces had left Iraq when Nouri made his move (a detail international observers are stressing). He began calling for Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq to be stripped of his office. Like al-Hashemi, al-Mutlaq is also Sunni and also a member of Iraqiya. In October, Nouri had begun ordering the mass arrests of Sunnis on the pretext that he had information of an impending coup attempt. There was no attempted coup and none planned. Those inside Nouri's Cabinet have been loudly whispering to the press about that.
Sunday December 18th, Tareq al-Hashemi and Saleh al-Mutlaq, along with bodyguards, attempted to leave out of Baghdad International Airport for the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government -- three semi-autonomous provinces in Iraq). Nouri's forces pulled all off the plane and detained them for approximately an hour before allowing some bodyguards and al-Hashemi and al-Mutlaq to reboard. The next day, December 19th, Nouri issued an arrest warrant for al-Hashemi whom he charged with 'terrorism.'
al-Hashemi did not 'flee' to the KRG. He went there on business and could have been stopped if Nouri wanted tos top him. A day after he arrived, an arrest warrant was issued and he elected to remain in the KRG. He has been the guest of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and KRG President Massoud Barzani. He has noted that many believe Nouri controls the Baghdad judiciary and first asked that the case be moved to the KRG (refused) and then that it be moved to Kirkuk. He's also been stating that international observers were needed. And despite the inept reporting today of a lazy and uninformed press, that call didn't initiate today -- as this February 10th Alsumaria TV report indicates.
Thursday the 'independent' Supreme Court in Baghdad issued a finding of guilt against Tareq al-Hashemi. Was a trial held? Because Article 19 of Iraq's Constitution is very clear that the accused will be guilty until convicted in a court of law. No. There was no trial held. But members of the judiciary -- who should damn well know the Constitution -- took it upon themselves not only to form an investigative panel -- extra-judicial -- but also to hold a press conference and issue their findings. At the press conference, a judge who is a well known Sunni hater, one with prominent family members who have demonized all Sunnis as Ba'athists, one who is currently demanding that a member of Iraqiya in Parliament be stripped of his immunity so that the judge can sue him, felt the need to go to the microphone and insist he was receiving threats and this was because of Tareq al-Hashemi, that al-Hashemi was a threat to his family.
Having already demonstrated that they will NOT obey the Constitution, the judiciary then indicated -- via the judge's statement -- a personal dislike of Tareq al-Hashemi. What they did Thursday was demonstrate that Tareq al-Hashemi had always been correct in his fear that he would not receive a fair trial in Baghdad.
Grasp that. Judges held a press conference and one judge insisted he was receiving threats due to Tareq. Is that an impartial judge? Is that justice?
But you don't have to follow the rules when the targeted are Sunnis.
And let's not just blame the thug Nouris. It's also the western press. They deliberately got every detail wrong from the start (including that Tareq had evaded the law by going to the KRG -- no, he was questioned before boarding the plane to the KRG and then let go and allowed to board the plane). They showed no doubt in Nouri's charges. They showed no shock over the laws not being followed. When Nouri claimed INTERPOL was targeting Tareq they ran with that as well.
This is the same western press, please remember, that couldn't stand by the Sunni protesters (ISIS comes out of hiding in Iraq to protect the protesters, does no one remember that?). The protesters were attacked, killed and kidnapped. If you're not NPR or THE WASHINGTON POST, you ignored that reality and refused to report on it.
The persecution of the Sunnis has taken place with a silent western press and with a complicit US government.
Here's a Twitter discussion of Ben's report.
No one is a priority in Iraq. The Sunnis are persecuted but the Shi'ites aren't treated much better, nor are the Kurds. There is a ruling group of Shi'ites who are chic kens who fled the country when Saddam Hussein was in power. After the US-led invasion, these cowards came running back to Iraq. And the US government propped them up and made them leaders.
They will grudge f**k the past until their dying days.
And the Iraqi people suffer.
The protests in Basra continue.
Okay, Jimmy Dore. The episode below, believe it's the latest, notes all the promises Dems made when they were out of power and begging for votes in 2006 and how they didn't keep them not even from 2009 through 2010 when they had the votes in Congress and control of the White House.
The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley and BLACK AGENDA REPORT -- updated:
18 hours ago