Saturday, August 05, 2006

NYT: Rendering Abeer Qasim Hamza invisible again

On March 13, a group of American soldiers sitting at a checkpoint south of Baghdad were asked to look into a horrible crime: a 14-year-old Iraqi girl had been raped, then killed along with her family in their house nearby in Mahmudiya. The soldiers knew the house. They had been there only the day before, military prosecutors now say, committing the crime.
Those soldiers, along with others from their checkpoint, walked over and took detailed forensic photographs of the charred and bullet-riddled bodies, as if it were a routine investigation of an insurgent attack, according to a defense official who spoke on conditions of anonymity.
Now those photographs are likely to serve as evidence in the military's prosecution of the case, which opens a new chapter tomorrow when an Article 32 hearing, the rough equivalent of a grand jury proceeding, begins in Baghdad for five soldiers accused in the crime.

The above is from Robert F. Worth and Carolyn Marshall's "G.I. Crime Photos May Be Evidence" in this morning's New York Times (actually makes the front page). First, as they note, Anthony W. Yribe is accused of failure to report the incident, not participating in it. Those accused of participating are Steven D. Green, James P. Baker, Jesse V. Spielman, Bryan L. Howard and Paul E. Cortez ("rape, murder and arson").

Now let's address the "as if it were a routine investigation of an insurgent attack" -- that's what it was reported as. Including in the Times, in real time. Only due to the climate could this have been reported as such without questioning on the part of the media. Only after some people began talking (months later) did another investigation begin (prior to some opening up about, among other things, the blood covered clothes, the incident was an "insurgent" attack). That needs to be noted. It's not in the article. We hear how the leadership was away (one was on "environmental recupriation"), how the troops aren't being rotated from their posts as they're supposed to be and a whole lot more.

We don't hear about the 14-year-old. We don't even get her name. Abeer Qasim Hamza. That's her name. It was a struggle just to get her age reported accurately. She's gone from adult to child. Do you really think the military, by the time they arrested Green, didn't know the young girl's age?

Worth and Marshall went to a lot of trouble hunting down sources who could give them the mind frame (or alleged mind frame) of the ones involved and their company. When do we get the serious story about Abeer Qasim Hamza and her family? When is that story going to be told?

The 14-year-old had noticed and been made nervous by the way those alleged to have raped her (it seems crazy to say "alleged" to have killed -- she's dead, she was a fourteen-year-old girl, she was killed, no alleged). Her family was about to send her to another home for her own safety.

If Worth and Marshall want to chart the decay of the military company, might they take a moment to wonder what sort of leadership existed that adult males sent by the US to Iraq were able to leer at (and comment on?) a fourteen-year-old girl? So much so that she and others noticed it. Who didn't notice it? And why didn't they notice it?

This nonsense of the leadership was under pressure and one of them needed to leave his command to get his head together isn't cutting it. But as long as the story is driven by the "pressure" (rape as an outlet for pressure? murder as an outlet for pressure?), a lot of questions about leadership (and training and who gets admitted) aren't being answered.

With Green it's already been reported that he had run ins with the law. When he was under age (which I'm not interested in -- others can be, that's their business) but also right before the military took him. Green's one person alleged to have been involved. Worth and Marshall report that there are now doubts that he was the "ringleader" as the press has billed him.

So who got in and how? And what was the training? What was the supervision?

Someone's quoted (anonymous) saying "none of that would have happened if he was around -- John Goodwin ("commander of Company B"). None of what? The murders, the rape? What about the days where Abeer Qasim Hamza was the object of attention that grown men know better of? At one point, the press (I don't believe the Times did this) made a big deal out of the age (I think it was when they'd finally downgraded to 16) and how in 'that culture' the girl is a woman. Adult males raised in the United States damn well know they don't have sex with a 14-year-old. Long before they raped her, Abeer Qasim Hamza was aware of enough going on to know that they were making her uncomfortable. Her family was aware of that as well -- which is why they were attempting to send her to another home for her own protection.

Now Worth and Marshall can quote a whiner about how everyone in Iraq hates them and you don't know who your friends are or who they aren't. They can quote that until the paper it's printed on decays to dust. That's not the issue. This isn't just murder or just rape (bad enough), this is a sexual assault on a child.

Had it been consensual (which it wasn't), it would have landed them behind bars in the United States. They know that. They knew that growing up.

All the crap in the world about how everybody hates them and they act like they're your friend to your face but the whole time they're plotting against you, is just crap. It's nothing more than crap.

Abeer Qasim Hamza was fourteen-years-old and she was raped. By US adult males. Someone shooting the wrong person because they thought they were under attack -- tragic but it happens. Someone raping a fourteen-year-old girl? Pressure is offered throughout the article. The pressure they were under.

Is the insanity defense going to be used because they'd have to be at least temporarily insane to think rape was okay (one they plotted for some time allegedly). And the rape victim was a fourteen-year-old girl. That's disgusting and the fact that the paper of record can't name her, can't try to report on her story from her angle is disgusting.

Iraqis are rendered invisible day after day in the press reports. Apparently, we have time to track down anonymice who can tell us about the pressure but that pressure never will include what it was like for a fourteen-year-old girl, in her own neighborhood, to be made uncomfortable by what was obvious sexual attention from adult males supposedly their for her neighborhood's protecticion.

Apparently that story's not going to be told and the same sadness that cloaks the end of her life now cloaks the reporting of what happened.

Walkon, From Carolyn Marshall's "6 Marines Are Charged In Assault:"

According to the charge sheet, the six marines attacked the Iraqi civilian [Khalid Hamad Daham]near Patrol Base Bushido in Iraq on April 10, "striking him on the face, head and torso with a force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm." One of the marines [Lawrence G. Hutchins III] is also charged with assaults on two other men. He was accused of choking one civilian [Hassam Hamza Fayall] and placing a loaded pistol in the mouth of another [Ali Haraj Rbashby].

That has to do with the incident we noted Thursday. We'll move on to another study in what gets told and what doesn't. Paul von Zielbauer looks at the Friday events in the military hearing into the deaths of three Iraqi civilians. This is the May 9th incident in which Raymond L. Girouard, William B. Hunsaker, Corey R. Clagett and Juston R. Braber are accused of detaining the three men (including using plastic handcuffs) and then releasing them with the intent to kill them (defense lawyers and witnesses have argued that the four were told "kill them all"). von Zielbauer's article is entitled "Prosecutor Calls Accused G.I.'s War Criminals:"

A military prosecutor called four American infantrymen "war criminals" on Friday for killing three Iraqi men in a raid in May after handcuffing them, "cutting them loose, telling them to run and shooting them."

von Zeilbauer includes (next paragraph) a defense argument that the three killed Iraqis "got exactly what they deserved." He forgets to include the prosecutor's statement addressing that (AP):

"U.S. soldiers must follow the laws of war. That's what makes us better than the terrorists, what sets us apart from the thugs and the hitmen. These soldiers did just the opposite. They cut them loose and murdered them in cold blood."

He also forgets to include the fact that the four (and their 'infamous' superior) elected not to testify in the hearing to avoid self-incrimanation. Key point.

Or to offer this (Reuters):

At the military hearing into the deaths, Corporal Brandon Helton said he saw the detainees, some with their blindfolds down, fleeing at full sprint when the soldiers opened fire.

It's a curious sort of coverage in the Times today and one that doesn't even bother to recount yesterday's events (bombings, shootings, corpses or kidnappings). The events in Mosul? Forget it, the paper's not interested this morning. The problem, and it's not limited to the Times, may be that, as John McCain pointed out on the 'strategy' with the troops, the reporters are playing
whack-a-mole or their editors are. "Tavernise! We need you over here! Forget Iraq!" Though no fan of John McCain by any means, yesterday's events in Iraq (if they were reported) demonstrate the point he was making. (Again, we differ on what the point says: I say it means bring the troops home, McCain generally says it means send more troops.) Feeding more troops into the "crackdown" in Baghdad doesn't result in any real changes -- the violence continues it just may move to another area. ("May" -- the 'crackdown' has not been a success. Only a surprise to those who think more troops means more "safety" -- all it means is more tension and more violence.) I truly dislike John McCain. But his point (Thursday on the Senate Armed Forces Committee) is demonstrated in real time and the apparent response to that is for our major dailies to avoid commenting on the violence in Iraq yesterday.

To focus on the New York Times, they're more concerned with how Hillary Clinton's call for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation may mean she's seen as less a War Hawk. As though only the left would be appalled at the way the illegal war has been carried out? Jerking off over strategy? That's a trait of the War Hawks and the military pornographers (Anne Kornblut can check in with Michael R. Gordon about his fave pleasure inducing fantasies). McCain's remarks didn't get a great deal of attention on Friday. Now that the validity to them (though, again, we disagree with the conclusion to draw from it) has been demonstrated, his remarks still aren't getting a great deal of attention. Such is the sad state of the press that helped cheerlead this war and still wants to avoid addressing it.

The AP's most recent trumpets:

U.S. reinforcements sent to Baghdad to help quell sectarian violence and clamp down on other attacks took up positions in a restive neighborhood Saturday, while two bombs at a market northeast of the city wounded eight people.

And even manages to then note:

The 3,700 soldiers of the Army's 172nd Stryker Brigade moved in from the northern city of Mosul to bolster U.S. and Iraqi security forces already in the city.

But somehow forgets to note what happened in Mosul yesterday. Maybe if we just all close our eyes, it will go away? That appears to be the "thinking" in a piece that lists a few violent incidents but avoids any in Mosul.

The following community members have posted since yesterday morning:

Betty (of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man) continues substituting for Rebecca at Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills);
Mike of Mikey Likes It!;
Trina of Trina's Kitchen;
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz ;
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix;
and Wally of The Daily Jot

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