Thursday, May 28, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Steven D. Green is back in court, Abeer's family does not accept his prepared words, Cindy Sheehan is censored on YouTube, Iraq's LGBT community is still under assault and more.
Iraq Veterans Against the War held their Winter Soldier Investigation in the DC area in March of 2008. That was broadcast at War Comes Home, at KPFK, at the Pacifica Radio homepage and at KPFA, here for Friday, here for Saturday, here for Sunday with Aimee Allison (co-host of the station's The Morning Show and co-author with David Solnit of Army Of None) and Aaron Glantz anchoring Pacifica's live coverage. (It was also broadcast at the IVAW site.) That was their first Winter Soldier. They recently had another in Pasadena. Iraq Veterans Against the War explains:
Winter Soldier Southwest was a great success. There were more than half a dozen camera crews shooting it for purposes ranging from independent media to anti-war documentaries. The panelists were quite moving and the audience was extremely supportive and full of positive energy. We want to thank everyone that helped put the event together, including all the panelists from VVAW, VFP, MFSO and Gold Star Families. Most profoundly moving was the testimony of the Gold Star Families panel.
Quite a number of panelists testimonies have found their way onto the internet already, below is a short list of a few links to what's out there
Yesterday we noted Ryan Endicott, today we'll note Sgt Christopher Gallagher. In addition, IVAW notes the testimony of Devon Read, this compilation video and this compilation video. We'll note Devon Read's testimony tomorrow.
Christopher Gallagher: My unit was 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines. I joined the Marine Corps right at 9-11out of patriotism and love for my country. I was part of the invasion force and two tours following that. While sitting around in Kuwait in early 2003, we were told to write a final letter to our families and put it on [. . .] sea bags that were to be left behind and then sent to your family if you died in Iraq. This is a picture of the letter I wrote. Many of the troops, including myself, were sent to Iraq with inadequate armor. I drove a Hummer into Iraq. It had only a plastic canvas for protection while I was driving directly behind armored troop carriers. I was not issued ballistic plates for my flak jacket. Whole battalions of officers were issued ballistic plates along with the line companies. But to the government, I was expendable and did not rate to have such life-saving, personal protection. I vividly remember one night after being up for nearly five days straight I was on a closed parameter roving post outside the commanding operation center when artillery rounds started landing. The next day I found out it was friendly fire. And these rounds were landing only a few hundred yards away -- which if you've ever been around 120 millimeter round, land near you, it's pretty insane. It made me realize how close I had come to death and it made me angry that I didn't have ballistic plates.
After my unit had taken Baghdad and helped pull the statue of Saddam Hussein down, there was a short-lived celebration. This brings me to my next issue -- of where an official Defense Department story meets with true reality on the ground. On April 14, 2003, Cpl Jason Mileo of India Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines was murdered by a Force Recon Sniper. Cpl Mileo had apparently taken off his helmet and was smoking a cigarette at night with his rifle next to him and was mistaken for an insurgent. I had been providing security at night along with several others of my platoon on that roof. For several nights prior to Force Recon relieving us and I had not noticed anything significant to report in that time. There was nothing out there. I hadn't seen anything. And as soon as Force Recon had taken over, I was hearing shots coming from the roof constantly and it made me wonder what the hell were they shooting at? Then the night of April 14, 2003, my company gunnery sergeant had called from the roof and was raising hell. That's when I found out one of the marines from India Company had been shot by one of the cowboys from Force Recon. On my third tour, I had been on the government issued computer and found the investigation case file for the incident on a military web server. The report went on to say that the platoon commander and the sergeant had been derelict in their duty. They failed to do proper, routine patrol overlay and negated to send in a position report to let the battalion know where they were at. To my knowledge, no one was reprimanded and some were later promoted. The Defense Department stated that he died from hostile friendly fire and that the incident was under investigation. It was a shocking reminder to everybody about the truth and what really goes on down there compared to what the government is telling you at home.
Forced Recon and their tabloid ways proved deadly for my unit once again. April 7, 2005, Lance Cpl Juan Venegas, who was one of the snipers in my unit, was on a mission in Falluja. He was in a hide when a patrol of Force Recon Marines drove up in their Hummers and then, mistaking him for an insurgent, running him over with their vehicles. The official story released by the Defense Department stated that he was involved in a hostile vehicle accident that was under investigation. I don't know about you, but I've never heard of a hostile vehicle accident before. It's a shame that a young man -- through my research -- he wanted to become a boxer and too many lives have been lost that -- you can't take it away from these guys -- they're young men that want to serve their country and this story is just -- it got to me.
And I'm going to go back to my second tour in Iraq. I was stationed at a dam in Haditha. Things were completely different from my first tour. I had seen the presence of contractors doing military jobs such as cooks, truck drivers and security mercenaries like Blackwater. They were doing these jobs and getting paid five times more than I was. At the dam, marines were providing security for the dam below it as were Azerbaijani soldiers who were poorly trained and equipped. They were very trigger happy and shot at and sometimes killed fisherman who got to close to the damn. During that tour it was the first time I noticed the change in the demeanor that the Iraqis had towards us. During the invasion, the streets of Baghdad were filled with people cheering "Bush good, Saddam bad!" In 2004, the Iraqis called protests in the town of Haditha against the occupation. Typical response for this was to have fighter jets fly over the crowd and scare them away. So much for winning the hearts and the minds of the Iraqi people we were supposed to be doing. In January 2005, I was stationed in Falluja about three hundred yards from the bridge where the Blackwater contractors bodies were hung in April 2004. We were relieving a marine infantry unit that had fought during the heavy fighting in the city carrying out Operation Phantom Fury. I was the radio operator for an 81 millimeter mortar platoon and our task was to run a checkpoint outside Falluja making sure that no insurgents return to Falluja. During the transition, I met a few young marines who were reservists from an artillery unit. It was there job to clean up all the dead bodies of the insurgents and the foreign fighters after the operation was finished. They had taken all the enemy to a place we called The Potato Factory where the bodies were stripped and checked for identification by CIA agents.
So after we got the checkpoint up and running, smoothly, the marines from my platoon were given jobs such as issuing identification to everyone re-entering the city by retinal scanning them and giving them a badge they had to show to get back into the city they were forced from. After they were retinal scanned with the biometric system known as BATS [Biometrics Automated Toolset System], they had to pass in front of a BATS scanner scan that was supposed to scan for heat variation to see if someone was carrying a weapon. This piece of equipment that probably cost more than most Americans homes, didn't work too well in the heat. If the government hasn't noticed, Iraq is in a desert and it's hot most of the year. Now if you look at this picture behind me, you can see it's winter time and there are no leaves on the tree of course it's going to work when it's cold out. The Iraqis were herded like cattle through the checkpoint as if they were animals. If any Iraqis voiced their opinion for the way they were being treated, the Iraqi police we had at our checkpoint would handle the situation by harassing and assaulting them.
Looking back on my third tour, it seems Orwellian to me with the CIA involvement and all that Big Brother-esque type of equipment and technology being used to enslave the Iraqis in their own country.
I still love my country and I feel that the most patriotic thing we can do is to let the world know that US imperialism is wrong. And I finish today by saying something that I've heard a million times and I've said myself: You can't bring democracy through the barrel of a gun.
Again, we'll note Devon Read tomorrow.
"Most of all I am sorry for the deceased, but aside from them, I am the most sorry for the boys whose family are gone. I know what we did left a hole in their lives, and scars on their minds, and that there is no making up for that. I only hope for them that they can somehow, and I don't know how, move forward, and have a good future despite the nightmare in their past that I helped create. They have my apologies and my prayers, as meaningless as they must seem," declared Steven D. Green in court today. May 7th, former US soldier Steven D. Green was found guilty on all counts for his role in the Iraq War Crimes from March 12, 2006, when Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi was gang-raped and murdered, her five-year-old sister was murdered and both of her parents were murdered. May 21st, the federal jury deadlocked on the death penalty and instead kicking in sentence to life in prison. September 4th, Green is scheduled to stand before US District Judge Thomas B. Russell for sentencing. This morning AP reported that Abeer's family would provide testimony to Judge Russell on the damage and destruction to them as a result of the War Crimes and are doing that because they need to return to Iraq. Green's pre-written statement (which he claimed to be the author of) also included, "I am truly sorry for what I did in Iraq and I am sorry for the pain my actions, and the actions of my co-defendants, have caused you and your family. I imagine it is a pain that I cannot fully comprehend or appreciate. I helped to destroy a family and end the lives of four of my fellow human beings, and I wish that I could take it back, but I cannot. And, as inadequate as this apology is, it is all I can give you."
The apology or 'apology' did not go over well with Hajia al-Janabi (Abeer's aunt). Andrew Wolfson (Courier-Journal) reports she denounced Green "as a coward, a criminal and a 'stigma on the United States'," attempted to approach him and was "restrained by a half-dozen court security officers." Wolfson notes that Mahdi al-Janabi then went back to the witness stand to express, "We do not accept your apology at all." WKLY has text and video:
Ann Bowdan: An outburst in federal court after relatives of an Iraqi family killed by a Kentucky-based soldier addressed the suspect for the first time. Steven Green was faced with the death penalty but will receive a life sentence instead. Hailee Lampert was in court today during this morning's and she's live downtown to tell us what happened.
Hailee Lampert: Ann, this was the most emotional, intense court hearing I have ever been to. At one point, the victim's grandmother got so upset she had to be restrained by multiple law enforcement agents who actually began escorting her out of the court room until she literally collapsed on the floor beside the bench where I was sitting. She was literally within arm's reach of me. And she was beside herself. She was that striken with grief.
Hailee Lampert adds that both of Abeer's brothers testified briefly.
Hailee Lampert: And at a certain point, the prosecutor pointed out Steven Green and one of the boys took a moment to look at him. His face remained stoic and cold and he was asked if he had anything to say to the suspect and the boy said "no." Then the man's sister took the stand and said, "I am not honored to look at Steven Green and I don't want to see his face." She said she doesn't understand why Green would would cross all those continents and oceans to come to Iraq and kill her family. She spoke directly to Steven Green, referring to him on multiple occassions as a coward and a criminal without mercy. Then the 14-year-old's grandmother took the stand echoing similar sentiments. Remember for her it was the first time being in the same room as the man convicted of killing her son and his family. Again the prosecutor pointed out Steven Green in the court room and after giving her testimony the elderly woman got up and began approching Green saying she just wanted to get a look at her. But as she began moving closer, law enforcement stepped in and physically held her back until she fell down crying on the ground beside the bench where I was sitting. Now at that point, the judge did allow her to stay in the court once she had calmed down a little but the uncle took the stand as well.
In another report, Hailee Lampert (WLKY -- text and video) quotes the aunt stating, "The wounds are eating my heart. But he has no conscience.." The uncle is quoted stating, "The face of this innocent girl, that face will be chasing you in that dark cell you will be in until the last day of your life. Abir will follow you in your nightmares. On Judgment Day, you will see what your hand has done to us and to your nation."
Throughout the trial, editorial boards repeatedly ignored the case (here for an exception). Today a letter appears in the Salt Lake Tribune:
The decision by the jury for U.S. "soldier" Steven Green is absolutely outrageous ("Sentence for rapist-killer brings Iraqi outrage," Tribune , May 23). A life sentence is unimaginably unjust.
The conduct of the U.S. military members involved in this case is as horrific as any act committed by any small group of terrorists. It cannot be condoned; it cannot be tolerated. In essence, we are terrorists. These military members should never have been in Iraq in the first place.
I am embarrassed to be a U.S. citizen. I feel anguish for a family that was assaulted, raped and systematically assassinated by U.S. servicemen who scarcely deserve to be called human. Green and his cohorts should be executed. But apparently four murders is not enough.
Let us not feel any sorrow for Green, but rather for the members of the Janabi family who were unmercifully slaughtered: a 6-year-old girl; her 14-year-old sister, Abeer Qassim Janabi, who was gang raped and shot in the face by Green with an AK-47; and their parents -- all burned in their home near Baghdad.
If this is the price of freedom, who wants it?
Salt Lake City
Meanwhile Cindy Sheehan reports she was censored by YouTube. She and Clifford Roddy created a short film entitled finaledit and she posted it to her YouTube page only to have YouTube pull the video down because the realities of war must never be seen, even on the allegedly free speech web. Cindy writes, "I am sorry (sarcasm) that our video 'violated' You Tube's terms of service, but the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan not only violate my terms of service, but international law." Cindy Sheehan's currently on a speaking tour and these are some of the upcoming dates:
Phoenix: June 5th
Dallas: June 7th and 8th
Waco: June 9th
Austin: June 10th and 11th
Nashville: June 14-16
St. Petersburg, FL: June 17-18
Philadelphia: June 20-23
NYC: June 24-26
Cape Cod: June 27-29
New Hampshire: June 30 - July 1
San Francisco: July 3 - 5 (Socialist Conference)
Cleveland: July 8-9 (National Assembly to end the Iraq War)
Pittsburgh: July 11-12
Norfolk, VA: July 15-18
Vashon Island, Washington: July 25-26
In today's New York Times, Timothy Williams' "Bomb Kills G.I. in Baghdad as Attacks Keep Rising" covers multiple topics (including corruption, the pipeline to Turkey, etc.). Williams notes that May -- a month not yet over -- is already the deadliest month for US troops in Iraq since September 2008 when the monthly toll was 25. Aamer Madhani (USA Today) also covers that news and notes, "Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has said that he would be willing to stay longer in hot spots, such as Mosul, if asked by the Iraqi government. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said that he expects all U.S. troops to withdraw as scheduled." They will be staying in Baghdad -- a fact Williams forgets in his report today despite the fact that his colleague Rod Nordland already reported on that for the Times. Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report the US military base by Basra base was targeted with rockets (British 'combat' troops left yesterday) and a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and left four people injured. Reuters has the Mosul roadside bombing targeting a woman serving on the region's provincial council.
Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report Talib Chiad ("leading recruiter for the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq") was shot dead in his home in Diwaniyah Province.
Reuters notes a corpse discovered in Kirkuk.
ABC News' Mazin Faiq reports on the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community and notes, "The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs believes as many as 30 people have been killed during the last three months because they were -- or were perceived to be -- gay." ChicagoPride picks up the story, as does UPI which notes an Iraqi soldier stating, "Two young men were killed Thursday. They were sexual deviants," and that's it. The ongoing targeting has NEVER been a segment on Democracy Now! nor has it been a full hour broadcast. What is going on gets no coverage. Reruns is all they have to offer for the Iraq War. Which is why Goody jumped on the gas bag (and will be on it tomorrow again) over an earlier Iraq War story. Duncan Gardham and Paul Cruickshank (Telegraph of London) cover what has everyone chattering this morning about the torture photos Barack Obama refuses to release:
At least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.
Further photographs are said to depict sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube.
Another apparently shows a female prisoner having her clothing forcibly removed to expose her breasts.
Detail of the content emerged from Major General Antonio Taguba, the former army officer who conducted an inquiry into the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq.
Andrew Gray and Ross Colvin (Reuters) report the Pentagon has "attacked the report" and its accuracy and the White House has "strongly denied" the Telegraph of London's report. Racist Robert Gibbs -- whom Barack appointed White House spokesperson in a deliberate slap to all people from and living in India -- played his usual drama queen self, snapping, "Let's just say if I wanted to read a write-up today of how Manchester United fared last night in the Champions League Cup, I might open up a British newspaper. If I was looking for something that bordered on truthful news, I'm not entirely sure it'd be the first stack of clips I picked up." Gibbs is really begging the Telegraph of London to pick up the story GQ buried to protect their Dream Lover Barack. Gibbs will not benefit from that story surfacing.
Yesterday on KPFA's Flashpoints, Robert Knight noted that British 'combat' forces left Iraq yesterday (British forces remain in Iraq). Despite the fact that British "combat" troops are out, five hostages remain held. CNN reports that David Miliband, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, is calling for their release. James Sturcke (Guardian of Manchester) adds:
Peter Moore, an IT consultant from Lincoln, and four bodyguards were seized in Baghdad by a group of 40 armed men dressed in police uniforms.
Moore's stepmother, Pauline Sweeney, said the relatives had been given hope by the release of a video two months ago in which her stepson looked "a lot, lot healthier".
Below is David Miliband's statement in full:
"It is two years since five British men were abducted from the Finance Ministry in Iraq. I don't think that any of us can imagine their ordeal nor the anguish that their families and friends have had to suffer during this dreadful time.
"We have seen the humanitarian appeals that the families of the men have made. I'd like to support this appeal. Our thoughts are with them all as they continue to endure the pain of being separated from their loved ones.
"We are totally committed to working for the safe release of the men. There is a dedicated team from across government, including people on the ground in Baghdad, working tirelessly with the Iraqi authorities and Coalition partners to help bring this about. We are grateful to Prime Minister Maliki and all our allies for their support and continue working with them and with anyone who may be able to help.
"The Iraq of today is a different place to that of two years ago. There are signs of progress and reconciliation as the Iraqi people show their commitment to a democratic and peaceful future. Hostage-taking has no part in that future. We call on those holding all hostages to release them immediately and unconditionally and return them safely to their families where they belong."
Not everyone is thrilled with Miliband. From Peter Dominiczak and Ben Bailey's "David Miliband accused of 'not giving a damn' over British hostages" (This is London):
But Mr Miliband's comments were overshadowed by criticism from the father of one of the hostages, who said the Government had failed his son.
The hostages, who have not been officially named, are IT consultant Peter Moore and four security guards. Peter's father Graeme Moore, 59, of Leicester, said: "The Foreign Office and the government don't give a damn."
In a separate attack, Iraq's national security adviser added to the pressure on Mr Miliband by saying Britain should do more to secure the release of the five men, who have been seen only in videos released following their capture.
In an email to The Times, Mowaffak al-Rubaie said: "The families of the hostages should work on the Western governments to be much more proactive in their approach to this."
Personal note breaking in and then back to politics. At Ruth's site "Ruth's off in Japan" and "Barack may be post-racial; however, our society is not" have gone up this week. Those posts and others this week are written by Ann (Cedric's wife). Ruth's in Japan on vacation. She'll be gone for at least two more weeks. Next week, the guest blogging will be done on a rotating basis but Ann's grabbing this week. I mean to note that each morning and never have time. Does it belong in the snapshot? Considering how many things I work in for friends and strangers, I think we can take the time to note Ann guesting for Ruth. Back to the politics.
In No Fool Like An Old Fool, Socialist Grace Lee Boggs -- who didn't and doesn't hide in a political closet -- still managed to make a damn fool of herself in 2008 as she glommed on Barack blindly because 'the kids like him'. When you're over 90 years old, life's not supposed to be about what Dick Clark's spinning on American Bandstand and you're supposed to be the one imparting wisdom. Grace now seems to realize she was played for a fool (actually, she played herself for a fool) but can't bring herself to speak reality except to make a few meek moans about war. Say goodnight, Gracie, no one needs your crap. If you don't have your honesty, you've got nothing. Gracie lies, LIES, and says "gays" are now welcome thanks to Barack. Reality, you old fool, Barack's the reason Proposition 8 passed in California. You can be a fool like Roseanne Barr and blame 'gay leaders'. Roseanne, into nutso land again, echoes Sherry Wolf's ludicrous b.s. Reality, it doesn't matter who was part of the reach out opposing Prop 8 when Barack was part of the reach out on the other side. The media darling allowed his voice to be used to argue against marriage equality in robo calls and he REFUSED to call those robo calls out. He refused. When some group associated with John McCain or in McCain's proximity did this or that, Barry O and his Cult wanted an apology, wanted this and that. But Barry O never did a damn thing to call out homophobes using his words to make their argument. That's why the ban on same-sex marriage passed. Don't lie. Don't cover for the ass. And Barry O's silence? It was just like what we saw in the primaries. "John Edwards is being mean to me! He promised not to do this negative campaigning! He must stop or I will cry and wet my pants." So Edwards pulls the ads and mere days later Barack's doing negative ads on Edwards and won't pull them. WILL NOT PULL THEM. That's how it works in Barry O land. And he better own the fact that he was used to rally people to support homophobia. He better own it the same damn way he better own embracing homophobes and putting them onstage at his events in the primaries and in the general. Barack's not just given homophobia a pass, the asshole's embraced it, he's humped homophobia and come up grinning. He's a damn liar. And Roseanne, you are in nutso territory now. You need to get a grip real damn quick. Here's the first clue for you, that little event you have planned next month? You look like a damn fool and a crazy woman. You're going to be onstage with a woman who claims she was a CIA sex slave -- claims Senator Robert Byrd controlled her -- and, here's the kicker for Roseanne -- claims that among the people she was forced to sexually service was Hillary Clinton. Roseanne, that would be who you endorsed in the Democratic Party primary. (Roseanne then ended up supporting Cynthia McKinney's run for president.) You look like a damn fool. And you sound highly uninformed or, yes, STUPID, on your radio show chattering away about how much you trust this woman (whom you haven't met and whose story you obviously didn't check out) and how great the event's going to be. Grace Lee Boggs and Roseanne Barr, two working hard to be big time fools this week. And, at that, they succeed. No links to Grace, no links to Roseanne when she's being crazy. From crazy to sane. Yesterday, Bob Somerby (Daily Howler) had a strong critique which (unknowingly, I'm sure) was reminiscent of the spirit of the 1970 Women's Strike Day profile of Ben Bradlee by Washington Post's female staff including B.J. Phillips. (That's not an endorsement for the Supreme Court. That's an endoresement of Somerby's strong critique.) [For those unfamiliar with the profile, it was putting Bradlee through the prism the Post put all women through in profiles at that time: did spouse approve of their working, did they have permission, did they have a trim little figure, etc.]
Lastly, this link takes you to NOW on PBS' debate on gay marriage featuring Maggie Gallagher who believes that allowing gays and lesbians to use the same water fountains as straights is quite enough, thank you and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom who supports equality for all. As noted before, disclosure, I know Gavin, I love Gavin, he's wonderful. (PBS asked for that link, not Gavin. If Gavin had asked, it would have gone in Tuesday's snapshot instead of waiting until I could squeeze it in.)