Tuesday, September 03, 2013

UK inquiry and US governmental apathy

Al Jazeera notes that yesterday in England, two witnesses insisted that the British military had not "mutilated the bodies of dead Iraqi fighters after a 2004 battle."  Dropping back to the March 4th snapshot:

The Metro reports,  "British troops killed, mutilated and tortured civilians following a battle in Iraq, the start of an inquiry heard.  Graphic images were shown of missing eyes and genitals among the bodies of unarmed men who were taken to an army base."  What's going on?  An inquiry known as the Al-Sweady Inquiry, named after Iraqi Hamid al-Sweady, a 19-year-old killed in May of 2004.   Huffington Post UK reports, "The Al-Sweady Inquiry is examining claims that UK soldiers murdered 20 or more Iraqis and tortured detainees after the 'Battle of Danny Boy' in Maysan Province, southern Iraq, in May 2004."  Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) explains, "Nine Iraqis say they were tortured after being taken to a detention centre at Shaibah base near Basra and held there for four months. They say they were taken, along with the 20 murdered Iraqis, to a British base, Camp Abu Naji, after a fierce firefight in what became known as the battle of Danny Boy, a British military checkpoint near Majar al-Kabir, on 14 May 2004."

Col Adam Griffiths was one of the two witnesses.  Under early questioning yesterday he stated that he could not recall any specific training on prisoner handling or appropriate level of force when interacting with detainees.  On the day in question, as one platoon finished their part in the battle, while it was still daylight, an order was given to gather the dead immediately around the platoon (only immediately around you, he stated he did not want the troops venturing out where they might enter other combative areas).  Asked to explain why he didn't count the dead, he then declared, "I think because, one, at that stage that wasn't of interest to me.  The battle was still going and I was still trying to ensure that I knew where all my men were."  No count was kept, at the gate, he also stated and brushed aside the fact that those UK troops guarding the gate (entrance to the British encampment) should have known all incoming -- dead or alive -- into the encampment. (Inquiry's official transcript is, in PDF format, here.)

Ellen Branagh (Scotsman) reports:

Col Griffiths admitted an order to take bodies of Iraqis back to CAN was “highly unusual” but must have been for a good reason – it has been suggested it was given in a bid to identify an insurgent who may have been responsible for the murder of six military police officers in Iraq the previous year.
But Col Griffiths said he did not believe rumours troops had mutilated bodies before they were handed back to relatives.
In a statement to the inquiry, he said: “I did not believe any of our soldiers had mutilated a body and I did not see at the time, and have not seen since, any evidence to support this proposition. I thought then, and I still think now, that the rumours were baseless and caused by a combination of ignorance amongst the local population as to the traumatic injuries that can be suffered in combat and the misinformation spread by insurgents who wished to discredit the coalition forces.”

Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) reports:

Patrick O'Connor QC, for the Iraqis, questioned why Griffiths had not at first reported an injury, a badly bruised hand, to one of his soldiers, Private Dodd. Lawyers for the Iraqi detainees say they were beaten up by British soldiers. The International Committee of the Red Cross expressed concern about the treatment meted out to some detainees.
Griffiths earlier said he agreed that pre-deployment training of British soldiers about how to treat detainees was "a little skimpy". He later told the inquiry it was more than adequate. However, problems with training is known to be one of the issues included in a "lessons learned" study into the battle of Danny Boy.

As England carries out another public inquiry into the Iraq War, it's notable that the US government has never done that.  No public inquiry. Not into the abuses of Abu Ghraib, not into the lies used to sell the Iraq War.  As US President Barack Obama works to launch an attack on Syria, his media enablers whine about the Iraq effect but imagine what kind of effect would exist in the US today if there had ever been any accountability, if there had been even one public inquiry in the US and the press had covered it.

Pepe Escoabr (Asia Times) notes Barack's war lust:

Yes We Scan. Yes We Drone. And Yes We Bomb. The White House's propaganda blitzkrieg to sell the Tomahawking of Syria to the US Congress is already reaching pre-bombing maximum spin - gleefully reproduced by US corporate media.
And yes, all parallels to Iraq 2.0 duly came to fruition when US Secretary of State John Kerry pontificated that Bashar al-Assad "now joins the list of Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein" as an evil monster. Why is Cambodia's Pol Pot never mentioned? Oh yes, because the US supported him.
Every single tumbleweed in the Nevada desert knows who's itching for war on Syria; vast sectors of the industrial-military complex; Israel; the House of Saud; the "socialist" Francois Hollande in France, who has wet dreams with Sykes-Picot. Virtually nobody is lobbying Congress NOT to go to war.
And all the frantic war lobbying may even be superfluous; Nobel Peace Prize winner and prospective bomber Barack Obama has already implied - via hardcore hedging of the "I have decided that the United States should take military action" kind - that he's bent on attacking Syria no matter what Congress says.

Victor Wallace (Open Media Boston) goes over the lies being used to push for an attack:

First, the particular charge that the Assad forces have engaged in chemical attacks is dubious. The opposition forces have been militarily dependent on foreign fighters. The regime has been gaining the upper hand in combat. It invited the UN inspectors in, and could have no interest in carrying out an attack for which they would then be able to establish its culpability. [See http://shoebat.com/2013/08/27/evidence-syrian-rebels-used-chemical-weapo... and http://www.infowars.com/rebels-admit-responsibility-for-chemical-weapons... ] The opposition, being at a military disadvantage, could hope for success only by creating a scenario of chaos within which an all-out PR campaign blaming Assad could set the stage for external military intervention. The unseemly haste reflected in Obama’s call for an attack without waiting for the UN inspectors’ report is consistent with this interpretation.
Second, whatever the truth of the chemical-warfare charge, it is disingenuous for the US government to set itself up as an arbiter in such matters, given its own past complicity in chemical attacks (supplying Iraq with chemical weaponry in the 1980s; later using phosphorus against Iraq [Fallujah, 2004] and supporting Israel in its use of the same substance in the 2008-9 assault on Gaza). Evidently, whether or not chemical warfare should be condemned depends on who applies it. In other words, it can’t be the real reason for the planned US attack.
Third, independently of the rationale (i.e., even if the accusations against Assad were true), the idea that missile attacks on the country would constitute a remedy makes no sense. While they might indeed weaken the Assad regime and eventually make possible its overthrow (as happened with the Gaddafi regime in Libya), the outcome would be one of chaos and amplified suffering. Among the “victorious” opposition, the upper hand would go not to any democratic civilian organization but rather to whoever was best armed. This might suit US policymakers, but it makes a mockery of their proclaimed (democratic) values.
It is important that we try to persuade Congress to vote down Obama’s call for a military attack on Syria. [See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/norman-solomon/obama-will-launch-a-huge_b_... ] But our arguments will be stronger if we can at the same time demonstrate that the premises behind his proposal are false.

Hannah Allam and Mark Seibel (McClatchy Newspapers) reported Friday, "The Obama administration’s public case for attacking Syria is riddled with inconsistencies and hinges mainly on circumstantial evidence, undermining U.S. efforts this week to build support at home and abroad for a punitive strike against Bashar Assad’s regime."

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We're back on regular schedule.  Yesterday, Beth's "Iraq, favoritism and feminism (Beth)," Ruth's "Ruth's Report," Kat's "Kat's Korner: Jackson and His Computerband Glow" and Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Just Keep Lying" and "Missing Hillary" all went up.  We'll close with this from Norman Solomon's "Obama Will Launch a Huge Propaganda Blitz -- and May Attack Syria Even If He Loses the Vote in Congress:"

Until Obama’s surprise announcement Saturday that he will formally ask Congress for authorization of military action against Syria, the impassioned pitches from top U.S. officials in late August seemed to be closing arguments before cruise missiles would hit Syrian targets. But the pre-bombing hyper spin has just gotten started.
The official appeals for making war on yet another country will be ferocious. Virtually all the stops will be pulled out; all kinds of media will be targeted; every kind of convoluted argument will be employed.
Hell hath no fury like war-makers scorned. Simmering rage will be palpable from political elites who do not want to see Congress set an unprecedented precedent: thwarting the will of a president who wants Pentagon firepower unleashed on another country.
President Obama and top Democrats such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will twist every arm they can to get a “yes” vote for attacking Syria. Meanwhile, most mainline media pundits, numbingly addicted to war, will often chastise and denigrate foes of authorization.

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