Saturday, August 27, 2011

David Kelly, Baha Mousa, Camp Ashraf

Dr. David Kelly was the weapons inspector who spoke, off the record, to the BBC's Andrew Gilligan about the intelligence dossier being "sexed up" to push the case for illegal war. Shortly after being outed as the source, Kelly's body was discovered (July 18, 2003) and the official cause of death was listed as suicide. A group of British doctors have been challenging that finding. Ben Cusak (Sun) reports that they have to raise 50,000 in British pounds to pay the fee to challenge the government's decision not to hold an inquest:

Dr Halpin, who has campaigned tirelessly for a proper investigation, said: "Why has Dr Kelly not had an inquest?
"We have to get one and we are extremely determined -- we regard it as a most important case. But this does hinge on public support."

Miles Goslett (Daily Mail) notes several issues that raise questions:

This included the fact that there were no fingerprints on five items found with Dr Kelly’s body: the knife he allegedly used to kill himself, a watch, his mobile phone, an open water bottle and two blister packs of pills he supposedly swallowed.
Despite the police knowing about the lack of fingerprints at the time this was never raised at the Hutton Inquiry and was only established years later using the Freedom of Information Act.
There is also photographic evidence suggesting Dr Kelly’s body was moved after it was found.
Last year it emerged that in 2004 all medical and scientific reports relating to his death -- including photographs of his body -- were secretly classified for 70 years.
Much of the material affected by this highly unusual gagging order has still not been released and no legal explanation for it has ever been made.

Still on England, Sean Rayment (Telegraph of London) reports rumors on the upcoming finding into the death of Iraqi Baha Mousa who died in British custody in the fall of 2003:

It has found no evidence that British soldiers conducted wholesale abuse, torture and murder of suspected insurgents during the occupation of southern Iraq.
Instead it will strongly criticise serving and former soldiers for their conduct and describe "numerous failures" of the chain of command.
The inquiry will also strongly criticise the nature of the original investigation into how Mr Mousa died.

If that is what the inquiry finds, then it was a white wash. Witnesses testified to a pattern of abuse. To pin it on the individual soldiers involved and not go higher is not just cowardly, not just irresponsible, it's dishonest and shameful.

In the United States, Alice Fordham (Washington Post) reports, "Politicians, former national security officials and thousands of others gathered outside the State Department on Friday to call for the removal of the Mujahedin-e Khalk, an Iranian opposition group, from the list of foreign terrorist organizations." Michele Kelemen (NPR's All Things Considered -- link has audio and text) reports on the rally and notes that the residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq belong to the group and their safety is at risk:

Michele Keleman: Some members of congress and former officials echo that argument. Among them, former Vermont governor, Howard Dean, who says the U.S. promised to protect the people of Camp Ashraf. In a recent interview on NPR, he shrugged off news that he and others have taken speaker fees from groups tied to the MEK.

Howard Dean: This is not a scary group of people and, in the past, who knows what they did? But the fact of the matter is they're not a terrorist group. That's been ascertained by the FBI. We disarmed them. We promised to defend them. They are unarmed and 47 of them over a two year period were mowed down by Maliki's people and I don't think the United States should be permitting those kinds of human rights abuses.

Michele Keleman: There is a moral obligation to help those in Camp Ashraf, says Robert Hunter of the National Defense University, but he says that's a separate issue from the terrorism designation.

Along with Howard Dean (former Vermont Governor and former head of the DNC), others, including former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendall, spoke at the rally. Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) quotes former US House Rep Patrick Kennedy:

One of the greatest moments was when my uncle, President [John F.] Kennedy, stood in Berlin and uttered the immortal words 'Ich bin ein Berliner.' Today, I'm honored to repeat my uncle's words, by saying [translated from Farsi] 'I am an Iranian,' 'I am an Ashrafi. [. . .] To my friends in the State Department behind us, who continue to hold fast to an old policy that is supported by Tehran, you are on the wrong side of history. To [Iraqi Prime Minister] Nouri al-Maliki, your brutal and deadly assault on Camp Ashraf will land you in the International Criminal Court, where you will be held accountable.

When the US invaded Iraq in 2003, the residents of Camp Ashraf agreed to disarm and the US government offered them protected status. That protection continued throughout the Bush administration. As part of the planned drawdown (drawdown, not withdrawal), the Bush administration extracted a promise from Nouri al-Maliki that the residents of Camp Ashraf would be protected. In January 2009, the new administration (Barack) was sworn in and by July 28th of that year an assault on Camp Ashraf by Nouri's 'troops' began. During Saddam's time, Iranian exiles were allowed safe harbor in Iraq. The exiles were leftists who were opposed to the religious fundamentalist leaders following the toppling of the Shah (the exiles did not favor the Shah). They utilized violence and are known as the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran or the MEK. They remained in Iraq in the 80s, the 90s and this decade. The European Union and England are among the organizations and countries that listed the MEK as a terrorist group -- past tense. The MEK has renounced violence and was removed from the terrorist listing. The US still has the MEK listed as a terrorist organization.

April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an attack on Camp Ashraf. Mark Tran, James Ball and Melanie Newman (Guardian) reported:

The raid was the latest in a series of interventions at the camp since jurisdiction was passed from the US to the Iraqi government in 2009. A WikiLeaks cable identified by the
Bureau of Investigative Journalism at City University in London shows the US was aware the Iraqi government planned to crack down on the MEK, with potentially grave humanitarian consequences.
"If the government of Iraq acts harshly against the MEK and provokes a reaction," warned the US deputy chief of mission in Iraq, Patricia Butenis, in a cable in March 2009, "the USG faces a challenging dilemma: we either protect members of a foreign terrorist organisation against actions of the Iraqi security forces and risk violating the US-Iraq security agreement, or we decline to protect the MEK in the face of a humanitarian crisis, thus leading to international condemnation of both the US government and the government of Iraq."
Phil Shiner of the UK law firm Public Interest Lawyers, which represents some Ashraf residents, said: "I have not seen these cables. However, from what I can gather their content is quite astonishing and shows that the US -- and by implication the UK -- knew Iraqis were treating residents inhumanely, foresaw the possibility of serious injuries in clashes at the camp, and knew what was happening at the time of the deaths but did absolutely nothing."
International law requires other states to take positive action to protect innocent civilians in these circumstances, he added.

During what Senator John Kerry would late pronounce "a massacre," Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) reported that Iraqi forces are saying one thing and Camp Ashraf spokespeople another while "Journalists were prevented from entering the sprawling settlement, known as Camp Ashraf, which is home to about 3,000 people and has polished representatives in Paris and lawyers and congressional allies in Washington." And Tim Arango (New York Times) reported that Nouri's forces refused to allow "the delivery of American humanitarian aid" to Camp Ashraf according to the US military and that "some reporters" were permitted to visit the camp today; however, they were prevented from speaking to the residents. CNN added, "Camp dwellers staged angry protests, hoisting banners and inviting journalists to talk to them. 'Please journalists -- come visit us and check on our people,' one sign read."

The following community sites -- plus the Center for Constitutional Rights and Random Notes -- updated last night and this morning:

Mike's "Idiot of the week" and Kat's "Good for Gene Simmons" also went up last night.
We'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "WOMEN'S BASKETBALL COMES OF AGE" (OpEdNews):

When Rutgers basketball star Epiphany Prince skipped her 2009 senior year to play professionally in Europe, her defection made headlines. The New York Daily News pointed out she became “the first American woman to leave school early and play professionally overseas.” Prince, who seized the opportunity abroad to earn a six figure salary, was not eligible for the Women's National Basketball Association(WNBA) as she had not yet turned 22, graduated from college, or was four years removed from high school. After playing for Spartak Moscow and Botas-Spor in Turkey, Prince was selected in 2010 by the Chicago Sky, the 4th overall pick in the WNBA draft.
Although Prince plans to complete her education taking summer classes, not everyone sees her as a role model for college women basketball stars of the future. Pat Summit, head coach of the Tennessee Lady Vols basketball team and winner of eight national championships, said she was “very disappointed” when she learned Ms. Prince had elected to leave Rutgers a year early. “I absolutely hope that this is a one-time, not an example for the future.” Interviewed by professors Holly Vietzke and Diane Sullivan of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover for its “Educational Forum” on Comcast Sports Network, Summit said, “I think it's so important to get your degree, to complete your eligibility at the college level, and players don't understand it.” That's because, Summit continued, “it is the absolute best four years of your life...and the money can wait.” Echos UCLA women's basketball head coach Nikki Caldwell, “I would hope it's not a trend. Every athlete is one injury away (from becoming unable to participate) and women basketball players aren't making the multimillion-dollar contracts coming out of college, nor are they going to make them if they leave early... Education is something that can never be taken away from and one day, when that ball stops bouncing, what do you have to fall back upon?”
Spurred by expanded television coverage, women's basketball at all levels is growing in popularity and standout celebrity players increasingly are liable to be tempted by the money. TV ratings for the sport on ESPN are 40 per cent higher today than just three years ago. Triggered by enactment of Title IX in 1972 pushed by Congresswoman Patsy Mink, female participation in college sports generally is up 456 per cent and the figure for high school is a stunning 904 per cent. Title IX put an end to banning any person because of gender from participation in any educational activity that receives the Federal dollar. So where it used to be “huge” if 2,500 fans showed up for a womens' college basketball game, today some womens' games draw over 20,000 fans, more than their colleges' male teams, according to UCLA's Caldwell. Indeed, many men claim they prefer watching women shoot a basketball through a hoop. Coach Summit asserts men like it because “maybe things develop a bit slower, because the guys are just up and down a lot.” Also, “I think our game is played below the rim, and their (male) game is above the rim. Of course, we've had players that could play above the rim but I think then you get to see the game develop, whether it's offensively or defensively. I think our fans can really see as we come down the floor, the inside-outside action. They can just see the game as a whole.” She adds, “A lot of guys I know say, 'I'm getting season tickets. We'll be there. I love the women's game.' And a lot of them have daughters, too. I think that matters.” Summit goes on to say, “There are so many young girls and boys that watch our team play I think what they see is 'sports are good for women.' So maybe it inspires them, even if they're not into basketball, to go out and go running or swimming, to have this visual of 10,000 or 20,000 people coming to watch a women's basketball game on television. And I definitely think it inspires young girls and young women to play.”

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