Sunday, April 05, 2009

And the war drags on . . .

UNDER the cover of darkness and warfare, five US soldiers broke into an Iraqi home to rape a young girl, murder her family and set the house alight to cover their crime.
The alleged ringleader - a soldier discharged for a "personality disorder'' before the slaying was discovered - faces the death penalty in a trial set to begin with jury selection Monday. Four other soldiers have already been sentenced in the March 2006 atrocity and the details which emerged during their court martials are chilling. The plan was allegedly devised over whiskey and a game of cards at a traffic check point in Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad.
Specialist Steven Green told his friends he "wanted to go to a house and kill some Iraqis,'' said Specialist James Barker, who received a life sentence for his role in the crime.
The soldiers changed into black silk underwear and masks so they would look like insurgents and headed for the house of a 14-year-old girl they had seen walking through the village. They had decided the girl would make an easy target for their plan to "have sex with an Iraqi female'' because her father was the only man in the house, said Sergeant Paul Cortez, who also received a life sentence. Cortez testified that he raped Abeer Kassem Hamza al-Janabi while Barker pinned the sobbing girl to the floor. The men switched positions and then heard about four or five shots from a bedroom where Green had taken the girl's father, mother and six-year-old sister, Cortez said.
Green shot the girl when he was finished raping her and the soldiers set the home on fire by tossing a lighter onto a Kerosene-soaked blanket covering her naked body, the other soldiers said.

The above is from AFP's "US soldier faces death for murder and raping Iraqi girl" and Olive noted it. We last noted Steven D. Green in the April 1st snapshot. Jury selection begins for his trial tomorrow in Kentucky. We'd noted that he'd removed his motion claiming the prospective jury pool would under-represent African-Americans and e-mails came in asking about Green's race. My apologies, I assumed every one knew he was White. Green, through attorneys, has maintained he's innocent in the pass. When the trial begins, his attorneys may, however, argue innocent by reason of insanity based on remarks and motions that have been entered. Green was out of the US military when the events were revealed which is why he is being tried in the federal court. The others participating in the conspiracy faced military courts. Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi is often rendered nameless in the press (always by the New York Times -- which really needs to issue an apology and correction for one article ahead of the Article 32 hearing in August 2006). Abeer remains, however, one of the few victims of War Crimes whose name is known. Many, many more are unknown. In fact, there's a military court hearing a case right now where the attorney (what a proud moment) for the defense has argued, among other things, that the fact that the dead man (Iraqi) has no known name mitigates the 'incident.' It matters when victims are named and it matters when they're not. When they're given names, they are people that the world can relate to. When their rendered nameless, they are faceless, they are unknowns. The decision by the New York Times not to name Abeer wasn't an accidental one. It was as intentional as that ridiculous article they published ahead of the August 2006 Article 32 hearing which was nothing but propaganda for the defense -- the defense which has since either all confessed or been convicted. Not a proud for the paper of record, not a proud moment for the US military, not a proud for the US government, not a proud for those of us who are US citizens.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4261 and tonight? 4266. Today the US military announced: "TIKRIT, Iraq – A U.S. Coalition forces Soldier died as a result of operations in Diyala province, Iraq, April 5. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next-of-kin and release by the Department of Defense." For those paying attention, that's three deaths announced in three days. Sort of a slap upside the face to all the 'reporters' writing their 'deaths have trended down' stories on April 1st and April 2nd. They know who they are and, thing is, so do we.

Turning to some of the violence reported today . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 police officer killed in Samarra by either "a thermal charge or an armour-penetraing grenade" (four more were wounded), a Falluja roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another wounded, a second Falluja roadside bombing resulted in one police officer being injured, a Kirkuk roadside bombing which wounded seven people, a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 "small boy" and left his mother wounded, one al Jazair (Ninevah Province) grenade attack which injured one Iraqi soldier and one Mailyah (Ninevah Province) grenade attack which injured another Iraqi soldier. Reuters notes two Baghdad home bombings which claimed the life of 1 man and left two women injured -- one home was of a Sahwa leader and "It was not clear if the target was the 'Sahwa' leader's house."


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Dr. Yasir Khdaiyir ("well known surgeon") was assassinated Saturday night in Baghdad, the Ministry of the Interior's Brig Gen Ahmed Kathum Breesem was shot dead in Baghdad tonight, a Sahwa ("Awakening") was shot dead in Baquba (in the latest of continual attacks on Sahwa) and 1 Peshmerga (Kurdish security forces) was shot dead in Kirkuk City, 1 person shot dead in Mosul.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse was discovered in Mosul "late Saturday" ("body covered with evidence of torture").

Yesterday morning's second entry. Two things, I put a correction in the post. I'd missed
Rod Nordland "Ex-Blackwater Workers May Return to Iraq Jobs" in Saturday's paper (Elaine addressed the article Friday night). That was my mistake, my apologies. (Including to Rod Nordland.) Second, the same entry included this: "Wisam Mohammed and Khalid al-Ansary (Reuters) report that gays are being targeted in Baghdad, with four corpses discovered March 25th and 2 gay men were murdered Thursday 'after clerics urged a crackdown'." The attacks on the LGBT community has actually gotten some press. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports the two were first "disowned" (by their homophobic and hateful families) and "The shootings came after a tribal meeting was held and the members decided to go after the victims." Tawfeeq reports the other were also disowned (and gives the date of their deaths as March 26th) and
states a cafe in Sadr City was torched when it was said to be an LGBT hangout in Baghdad. Billie points out that the Dallas Morning News wrote a brief on the topic. UPI summarizes Tawfeeq's report. AFP reports that the two corpses discovered Thursday "had pieces of paper attached on which was written the word 'Pervert" and that the two men were aged sixteen and eighteen and had also had "their arms and legs broken". In addition, AFP reports another man presumed to be gay was found on Friday -- which would bring the toll to seven -- and this follows Sheikh Jassem al-Muatairi's 'inspiring' sermon denouncing "new private practices by some men who dress like women, who are effeminate. I call on families to prevent their children from following such a lifestyle." And I call on the heavens to rebuke Sheiky asshole who is clearly in the midst of his own sexual denial leading him to launch attacks on others and encourage their murders. Hate preachers should be locked away -- they're the real indecency.

And these are the people the US government put in charge, these thugs and fundamentalists. That is in part why you had the "brain drain" to begin with -- educated people fleeing Iraq after the thugs were put in positions of power. Before the US invasion, Baghdad, Mosul and Basra were all said to have active LGBT communities. After? They had to go into hiding. Why was that? Because the people the US put in charge were worse than Saddam Hussein. They attacked the rights of the LGBT and they destroyed the rights of women. Iraq was the most advanced of the MidEast countries when it came to women. There were many women doctors, police officers, government workers, you name it. Women had rights. The US undid that and undid it because they thought getting in bed with Shi'ite fundamentalists thugs would mean thse thugs would 'whip' the Iraqi population into obedience and the US and other nations could quickly take part in the tag sale on Iraqi assets. People are suffering for the US government's greed. People are dying because of it.

Easing into the topic of the "Daughters of Iraq." These are women paid 20% less than their male counterparts -- although whether anyone gets paid or not these days is a matter of immense confusion. But when both were on the US payrolls and both were doing the exact same job, the US government thought it was okay to further the attacks on Iraqi women by paying them 20% less than Iraqi males for doing the exact same jobs. And then people want to wonder how Iraq became more sexist and more hostile to women's rights? Patterned behavior. Again, women were police officers in Iraq prior to the US-led and started illegal war. And now? Aseel Kami (Reuters) reports:

In her old Baghdad house, policewoman Bushra Kadhem serves breakfast to her children, finishes her tea and readies herself for a day manning checkpoints in one of the world's most dangerous cities.
Kadhem, 43, became one of Iraq's
first policewomen in 2005, joining when an insurgency raged and militants made a point of targeting recruits in the fledgling security forces. Being at the wrong checkpoint at the wrong time meant death.
Now, with violence falling across Iraq, Kadhem says she faces a more persistent challenge: persuading a conservative husband and society at large to accept her choice of career.
"We have to change the perception of women which says they should stay at home or only do certain kinds of work," she said. "At the beginning female policewomen were seen as a very odd phenomenon, but I hope society can progress beyond this."

We started with the report of War Crimes and we begin winding down with this from Corinne Reilly's "U.S. soldier charged in contractor's slaying in Iraq" (McClatchy Newspapers):

A U.S. soldier has been charged with murdering a foreign contractor at an American base in Taji, Iraq, the military said Sunday.
Pfc. Carl T. Stovall III, a 25-year-old soldier from Kennesaw, Ga., is accused of shooting the foreign laborer on March 26, the military said in a written statement. Military prosecutors handed down the murder charge Saturday.

Stovall's unit has been in Iraq less than a month, said a military spokesman, Master Sgt. Nicholas Conner. He declined to provide any more details about the shooting.

Kat's "Kat's Korner: When you build your house . . ." went up earlier today and Isaiah's latest comic goes up after this. He's addressing Chris Hill who's been nominated to be the US Ambassador to Iraq. Hill is completely unqualified for the position. Thursday, I planned to write about that but we went with something else for the Thursday night post. To be clear, I am not saying Hill won't get the position. He will. But while James Carville and others think 2010's Dem wins will come by a 'strategy' of demonizing Alaka's governor Sarah Palin, the Republican are preparing their own strategy. I'd argue it's a smarter one because Sarah Palin's is one governor and we already heard through 2008 how 'small' and 'unimportant' Alaska was so the Democratic Party's efforts to demonize Sarah Palin again are going to look very small and petty. By contrast, what the GOP has decided is to raise questions about Chris Brown. That's what happened in his hearing. The GOP senators were offering carefully worded questions, delivered very carefully. Why was that?

That doesn't happen in most hearings. No one comes off rehearsed (mainly because few have the time to be). So what was going on there? Turns out, they were preparing for clips that they can air if Iraq goes straight to hell between now and the 2010 elections. Chris Hill is unqualified and has no MidEast experience. Iraq is among the most important diplomatic posts at this point due to the perception that violence is down (and some say gone -- it's not gone, it hasn't even ceased).

It is a good guess that Iraq will yet again slap the Operation Happy Talkers in the face and this time the GOP's the one prepared to benefit from such an event. They're going to attack if that happens (I think it will happen) and they're not MoveOn. Meaning? They're not attacking Ray Odierno. They're going to point to Chris Hill. They're going to point to his ambassadorship. They also know that the 2007 benchmarks were never met. Three years later and they're not met. The GOP line of attack is going to be: "Hill had the progress that Peteraues and Crocker built and created and he wasted it. He is completely unqualified and we raised these issues when he appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee." (I don't know Sam Brownback and I have been told his objection is very real to Hill's appointment. I'm not stating or inferring he participated in political theater. I am saying that those Republicans on the committee did.)

I think Hill's going to be confirmed. I believe he's unqualified for the post and, based on Iraq events since the start of the illegal war, Iraq will be the same quagmire where nothing is accomplished. The GOP's going to hang that on Hill. The Dems think they can turn Palin into the 2010 issue and that makes no sense at all. I've been told that it's the same as when the Republicans go after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And they went after her before she was Speaker. But the difference is that Pelosi was on the national stage as a member of Congress. Palin's a governor, it's a different level and she's got no huge impact on the national stage from her position. It would be as if Bully Boy Bush had decided to attack Governor Jennifer Granholm. It makes no sense. And since the attacks on Palin never end, you're begging to create a backlash of sympathy for Palin and you're also risking looking incredibly petty by making a governor the focus of all your scorn. It's ploy based on sexism and maybe it'll work but far more likely will be the GOP betting on Iraq.

The administration has no clue what a huge mistake they're making. The Republicans are not going to stick with Iraq forever. We've noted that here in 2007 and 2008. But by naming someone with no MidEast experience as ambassador to that country, the Democratic administration just gave the Republican Party their out on Iraq. It becomes, "We supported it. We supported the work Crocker and Petraeus did. And we stood firm and managed to get the violence down. And then President Obama appointed someone completely unqualified and all the progress vanished." That will be the argument and that will be how Republicans begin walking away from the Iraq War which is now Barack Obama's. And if the GOP plays this well, it takes the only card that Dems have had for the last few election cycles: That they're right on Iraq and the Republicans are wrong.

The smartest thing the administration could do is announce that Hill is withdrawing his name from consideration, find a Republican with MidEast experience and appoint him or her because that would make it harder for the GOP to use Iraq to score political points. But the current administration is neither that smart or that on the ball. (For those late to the party, Ava and I advocated with friends in the administration on behalf of several different women to be the US ambassador to Iraq. They went with Hill. I think he'll be confirmed. I'm not advocating on behalf of a Republican being placed in the position. I'm noting what the Republican strategy is and how the administration could prevent it from working. Also my judgment of Hill as unqualfied came after his appalling Senate performance and following speaking to several people who worked under and above him.)

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Independent journalist David Bacon has a new article that we'll offer an excerpt of tomorrow (I'm too tired tonight) but you can read it here. Pru notes Matthew Cookson's "Protesters tell G20 leaders end the 'war on terror'" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

Some 5,000 people joined the anti-war demonstration in central London on Wednesday to call for troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, freedom for Palestine, and an end to nuclear weapons.
The march was organised by the Stop the War Coalition, CND, the British Muslim Initiative and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign as part of the protests in the run-up to this week's G20 summit in London.
Protesters gathered outside the US embassy in Grosvenor Square before marching to a rally in Trafalgar Square. There was anger at the continuing "war on terror", which Barack Obama is intensifying in Afghanistan, and at the economic crisis that is ripping through society.
Large delegations of students from places such as the University of Strathclyde and the University of East London (UEL) attended the demonstration.
Students at both these universities have occupied recently in solidarity with the people of Gaza, as part of the wave of occupations against Israel's assault on the Palestinians that swept campuses across Britain this year.
Students from UEL told Socialist Worker, "The world leaders are spending huge amounts of money on war that would be better spent on ending hunger and poverty around the world.
"Our university is closed today and tomorrow as the authorities are scared that we will occupy the library. There are police on campus. They didn't expect us to go into occupation over Gaza.
"But we are students not terrorists, and we have never shown any sign of violence. Since the occupation everyone seems to be really political on campus. We are taking up lots of different issues, such as fair trade. We are spreading awareness."
Amber Griffith-Monk and Ella Harrison-Hodge, school students from Walthamstow in north east London, joined the protest.
Amber and Ella told Socialist Worker, "With the G20 here, we want to make sure the world's leader listen to us. They are occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, and say they are getting out, but will they?
"They are not doing enough to stop the war. Barack Obama says he will try to stop it – and we are here to try to make sure he does."
Jeremy Corbyn, the left wing Labour MP, told the rally, "Free market capitalism has created enormous wealth for a minority and unbelievable poverty for the majority. This cannot go on.
"We are demanding that jobs are protected and workers are not thrown onto the scrapheap. We demand that the £25 billions spent on arms and war is spent on dealing with social problems here and around the world."
Arthur Scargill, the president of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) who led the Miners' Strike of 1984-5, also spoke at the rally.
To great applause, he said, "The miners and the women's support groups all stand full square with the movement against war in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and against Israel's attacks on the Palestinians.
"We have the credit crunch and the government is giving billions to banks to give golden handshakes to bankers. I'd put them all in brass handcuffs and take them away.
"They should give the money to people to pay off their mortgages and debts. We need a change in the system. Capitalism has demonstrated its inability to deal with the issues at stake."
Dr Daud Abdullah from the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) addressed the protest. The government has recently witch-hunted him, demanding that the MCB remove from his elected position of deputy general secretary because of his support for the Palestinian people's struggle against Israel.
He said, "We want the world leaders to reaffirm their commitment to human rights before they leave London. We want an end to discrimination, racism, oppression, injustice and occupation. The people of the world want peace not war, food not guns, medicine not bombs – give it to us now."
Lindsey German, the convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, urged people to join the protests at the G20 summit tomorrow.
"We have put protest back at the centre of politics this week," she said. "We are told that the demonstrations are all about violence, but it is the police who repeatedly try to hype them up, put on their riot gear and make demonstrations as difficult as possible to go on.
"Politicians and the media describe us as 'troublemakers', but the real troublemakers will be at the Excel Centre tomorrow. They have bombed the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. Come to the Excel Centre tomorrow and help send our message to the G20 leaders."
The following should be read alongside this article: »
G20 protesters converge outside Bank of England» Police tactics questioned after man dies during G20 protests» Marchers condemn police G20 tactics
Assemble 11am, Thursday 2 April, roundabout at end of Tidal Basin Road, E16 1AD. Nearest working tube/DLR: Canning Town.
© Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.
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