Friday, April 03, 2009

Blackwater, Chris Hedges

"Ex-Blackwater Workers May Return to Iraq Jobs" (Rod Nordland, New York Times):
Late last month Blackwater Worldwide lost its billion-dollar contract to protect American diplomats here, but by next month many if not most of its private security guards will be back on the job in Iraq.

That is among the reasons we don't say, "Blackwater is out of Iraq." Which was the point of "Blackwater Xe-ases out of Iraq" Wednesday. We've heard Blackwater's out over and over and they never are. So it's really past time we stopped being so gullible after every pronouncement. At some point you start to grasp that Xe/Blackwater is like Jason and that there will always be a Friday the 13th sequel to the sequel to the sequel to the . . . You get the picture.

"Obstruction of Justice: The Persecution of Dr. Sami Amin Al-Arian" (Chris Hedges, World Can't Wait):
U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema is scheduled to issue a ruling in the Eastern District of Virginia at the end of April in a case that will send a signal to the Muslim world and beyond whether the American judicial system has regained its independence after eight years of flagrant manipulation and intimidation by the Bush administration. Brinkema will decide whether the Palestinian activist Dr. Sami Amin Al-Arian, held for over six years in prison and under house arrest in Virginia since Sept 2, is guilty or innocent of two counts of criminal contempt.
Brinkema’s ruling will have ramifications that will extend far beyond Virginia and the United States. The trial of Al-Arian is a cause célèbre in the Muslim world. A documentary film was made about the case in Europe. He has become the poster child for judicial abuse and persecution of Muslims in the United States by the Bush administration. The facts surrounding the trial and imprisonment of the former university professor have severely tarnished the integrity of the American judicial system and made the government’s vaunted campaign against terrorism look capricious, inept and overtly racist.
Government lawyers made wild assertions that showed a profound ignorance of the Middle East and exposed a gross stereotyping of the Muslim world. It called on the FBI case agent, for example, who testified as an expert witness that Islamic terrorists were routinely smuggled over the border from Iran into Syria, apparently unaware that Syria is separated from Iran by a large land mass called Iraq. The transcripts of the case against Al-Arian—which read like a bad Gilbert and Sullivan opera—are stupefying in their idiocy. The government wiretaps picked up nothing of substance; taxpayer dollars were used to record and transcribe 21,000 hours of banal chatter, including members of the Al-Arian household ordering pizza delivery. During the trial the government called 80 witnesses and subjected the jury to inane phone transcriptions and recordings, made over a 10-year period, which the jury curtly dismissed as “gossip.” It would be comical if the consequences were not so dire for the defendant.

Chris Hedges is still calling out the injustices. Need a reason to listen to him? He didn't drink the Barack flavored Kool-Aid. He didn't sell out what he believes in. He endorsed Ralph Nader even though pathetic types like Tom Hayden ridiculed him for it. Chris Hedges took a brave stand and that was almost non-existant in 2008.

I am so sorry but I'm just ready to go to sleep. I am so tired. It was such a long day and I feel like I could sleep for fourteen hours straight at this point.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, April 3, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, an earlier death announced this week is surrounded with mystery, the US military air bombs "Awakenings," Iraqi refugees garner some attention, and more.

Starting with the topic of Iraq refugees, Fahed Khamas has been expelled.
Alsumaria reports Switzerland expelled him yesterday and notes "he used to work as an Iraqi interpreter with the US military in Baghdad" and he stated elements in Iraq had made threats on his life. Meanwhile Assyrian International News Agency reports, "The International Federation of Iraqi Refugees has called a protest on 16-17 April in Geneva about the plight of Iraqi refugees. It says: The situation of the Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Pakistan, Iran and Europe is a tragedy. Many thousands of Iraqi refugees have resorted to begging, prostitution, selling their internal organs to avoid destitution." At the center-right Brookings Institution, Roberta Cohen contributes a lengthy article on Iraqi refugees (here for HTML intro, here for PFD format article in full) entitled "Iraq's Displaced: Where to Turn?" Cohen opens by sketching out how refugees were an Iraq 'industry' when Saddam Hussein was in power but the US war on Iraq "far from resolving the problem, however, made it worse. It catapulted the country into a near civil war between Shi'a, who had largely been excluded by Saddam Hussein's regime, and Sunnis who until then had dominated the government." Combining external refugees (2.7 million) with internal ones (2 million), Cohen notes that "4.7 million people out of a total population of 27 million -- remained displaced." While their numbers have increased, the sympathy for them throughout the world appears to have decreased and Cohen postulates that this is due to the fact that their displacement (due to the Iraq War) is "seen as a problem largely of the United States' making and one that the United States should therefore 'fix'." It's felt, she continues, that the US and the oil-rich government in Iraq should be footing the bill for host countries such as Jordan and Syria. "Even though Iraq's budget surplus from oil revenues is projected to be $79 billion by the end of 2008," Cohen writes, "the Shi'a-dominated government of Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has delivered only minimal amounts of funding to neighboring states for the refugees. Some believe it is because many of the refugees are Sunni and Christian or because the refugees humiliated the government by departing. Still others argue that support for the refugees will discourage their returning home. Nor has the government been forthcoming with support for its internally displaced population, again dampening other countries' willingness to contribute." The post-9/11 world is noted by Cohen. Tuesday Senator Bob Casey Jr. chaired a Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing on "The Return and Resettlement of Displaced Iraqis" and one of the witnesses appearing before the subcommittee was Ellen Laipson of the Henry L. Stimson Center who noted that the 'security' measures post-9/11 were harming Iraqi refugees. Cohen notes the "intense screening" refugees have to go through from the US Department of Homeland Security and that the number of Iraqi refugees the US accepted while Saddam Hussein was Iraq's president was much greater than the number the US has currently accepted. Cohen notes the stereotypes of Iraqi refugees which include that, struggling for cash, they "could easily fall prey to militant groups" and how those stereotypes harm their attempts at garnering asylum. These stereotypes are re-enforced (I'm saying this, Cohen touches on it but doesn't state it -- see page 314) when those attempting to help refugees make the case that, if you don't, there will be "security consequences." Cohen quotes Brookings' Elizabeth Ferris arguing that if aid is not provided "there is a very real danger that political actors will seek to fill the gap." Cohen notes that the bulk of Iraqi refugees are not the perpetrators of violence but refugees because they have been targeted with violence.

Cohen notes countries neighboring Iraq already had taken in Palestinian refugees and there were concerns re: large influxes of refugees as to cohesive societies. Palestinian refugees from Iraq suffer, Cohen argues, because neighboring countries already which might take them in already have a large Palestinian refugee population with Jordan listed as having 70%.

The claims that these refugees are 'temporary' and will soon be returning is explored by Cohen who notes the small number of returnees to Iraq and cites the UNHCR for explaining that those who did return did so "because their resources or visas ran out in Syria and Jordan." Cohen notes the 'guest'-like status of refugees in Syria and Jordan where they do not "have a clear legal status". Neither Syria nor Jordan signed onto 1951's Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees so they do not recognize this agreement popularly known as the "Refugee Convention" which requires rights such as the right to work. The agreement also recognizes the rights of refugee children to education and Syria does have free access but the bulk of Iraqi children are not enrolled. Jordan officially allows all Iraqi children to attend public schools; however, 1/5 of the Iraqi refugee children is the number enrolled. In both countries, they also have more medical needs than are being met. Not noted in the report is that having 'guest' status means a number of refugee children may not be enrolled for the reason that the parents are attempting to stay off the grid -- especially important in Syria where you are required to leave every six months and re-enter the country. Staying off the grid allows them to avoid that. (PDF format warning,
click here for Bassem Mroue's AP article on this six month policy at Refugees International.) Cohen notes how the economies in Syria and Jordan (mirroring the economices worldwide) have begun to slide and there is a growing hostility to the refugees in both countries where they are [unfairly] blamed for the economy. She notes that the UNHCR maintains their request that neither Syria or Jordan forcibly deport any Iraqi refugees.

Cohen documents the US government's refusal to take responsibility for the Iraqi refugee crisis such as the State Dept's Ellen Sauerbrey telling Congress in 2007 that the situation was a "'very top priority' for the United States, but [she] expressed little urgency about expediting refugee resettlement. As former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton explained it, sectarian violence, not American actions, created the refugee problem so it was therefore not the United States' responsibility" and Cohen quotes Bolton's pompous comments, "Our obligation . . . was to give them new institutions and provide security. We have fulfilled that obligation. I don't think we have an obligation to compensate for the hardships of war." Bolton -- and this is me, not Cohen -- should have been required to explain how the "sectarian violence" he credits for creating the refugee crisis came about because the US seeded and grew it. Back to Cohen. She notes fiscal year 2006 saw the US admit a paltry 202 Iraqi refugees, while in 2007 the figure rose to the still tiny 1,608. Cohen doesn't note it but neither of those figures met the target goal the administration had itself set for admittance of Iraqi refugees. Fiscaly year 2008 saw 12,000 Iraqi refuees admitted. While the US does grant refugee status to those admitted and Syria and Jordan do not, note the difference in numbers with Jordan and Syria both having over 750,000 each by the most conservative estimate (that's me, not Cohen). Cohen notes that Syria and Jordan are said to need $2.6 billion in aid for their refugees but that the US in 2008 was offering a meager $95.4 million. [Me, under Barack, it should be noted, that figure is the meager $150 million and that's for the Iraqi refugee crisis period -- not just for Syria and Jordan -- neither of whom will directly receive any funds from the US.]. Cohen contrasts that meager $95.4 million with the $70 billion the Congress granted for the US military effort in Iraq for fiscal year 2008. Cohen notes that al-Malikis government gave $25 billion to neighboring states towards the costs of sheltering Iraqi refugees. (That is a shameful figure.) She tosses out that the Bully Boy Bush administration might have been less than eager to help Iraqi refugees due to the fact that doing so might be seen as admission of the failures of the Iraq War to create "peace and stability in Iraq" and she notes Barack Obama, campaigning for president, promised an increase to $2 billion in aid for the Iraqi refugees. (In the words of
Diana Ross, "I'm still waiting . . . I'm waiting . . . Ooooh, still waiting . . . Oh, I'm a fool . . . to keep waiting . . . for you . . .")

Cohen then turns to the issue of the internally displaced and notes "radical Sunni and Shi'a militias who drove the 2006-07 sectarian violence were tired to political parties, police and army units. The Ministry of the Interior is still widely reported to be infiltrated by Shi'a militias, which assaulted and expelled people from their homes, sometimes in police uniforms. In such a political environment, it is not surprising that the government has failed to exhibit the will, resources or skills to deal with the needs of the displaced. In the Ministry of Displacement and Migration, it is not unusual to find staff that sees the displaced only from the perspective of their own ethnic or religious group." Cohen observes that when displaced, Sunnis and Shi'ites tend to relocate to an area where their sect is dominant while Iraqi Christians flee "to parts of Ninewah province and Kurds to the northern Kurdish areas." A large percentage (40%) state they do not intend to return to their homes. As with external refugees, Iraq's internal refugees "face extreme hardship, many with urgent needs for shelter, food, medicine, clean water, employment and basic security." Cohen observes, "Thus far, the national government has not demonstrated that it has the skills, resources, or political will to take care of its displaced population or provide the security, access to basic services, and livelihoods needed for the return of large numbers to their homes." Cohen notes that while the government provides no assistance "radical sectarian Sunni and Shi'a groups" rush to fill the void. Robert Cohen offers several proposals for helping both the external and internal refugees and you can read
her report for that (and we may or may not note them next week).

Sahar S. Gabriel is an Iraqi media worker for the New York Times who was granted refugee status in the US.
She (at the paper's Baghdad Bureau) reports on her initial impressions of the US:

After spending 21 hours waiting in airports and 13 hours in flying I arrived at the windy city of Detroit, Michigan. It is raining, always a good sign to me. My sister and I put on our gloves and jackets as we get off the plane. While I follow the baggage claim sign, I keep repeating to myself: "Don't panic, but you've made it." I am now on the other side of this war. The less violent side.

Iraqi refugees in the US have found how quickly initial benefits dry up and how few the opportunities often are -- to the point that some refugees are considering returning for economic reasons only. And think how sad that is, refugees to the US think they'd have better economic chances in Iraq. (As noted before, those refugees who want to should be offered jobs at various US bases where they could provide cultural training to those due to ship out to Iraq for the first time -- and to those who've been to Iraq as well.) If the paper were smart, it would set up a fund for Sahar and any other Iraqi media worker who came to the US because, without them, the paper's coverage of Iraq would not have been as strong as it was and a large number of readers grasp that and would contribute to a fund. But let's turn to the violent side.

New news in the continued attacks on Sahwa (e.g. "Awakenings," "Sons of Iraq," etc.). This morning
Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) broke the news that US "aircraft opened fire Thursday night on Sons of Iraq members who were allegedly spotted placing a roadside bomb north of Baghdad". Mohammed Abbas, Khalid al-Ansary and Dominic Evans (Reuters) add, "The incident could further heighten tensions with the Sunni forces, who number some 90,000 and whom the U.S. military had backed to steer Iraq's Sunni Arabs away from an anti-U.S. insurgency. The arrest of Adil al-Mashhadani, a Baghdad Sunni Arab force leader, last week started clashes between his supporters and Shi'ite led government forces." UPI reports, "A U.S. military official said an air weapons team spotted four men placing a roadside bomb near Taji 'near a critical road juncture' in a rural area close to a U.S. military base, and where several attacks were carried out in recent months." Ernesto Londono calls the bombing "the latest sign of the fraying allegiance between the paramilitary groups and the U.S. military." Amazingly, this is how this weekend starts -- amazing after last weekend's violence. Last weekend's violence was kicked off by the arrest of Adel Mashhadani and the slowly revealed of arrest of Raad Ali. Though Mashhadani remains imprisoned, Raad Ali has just been released. Ned Parker and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) report Raad Ali was released by a judge (who dismissed the charges) Wendesday and quotes him stating, "They've accused me many times. I went to court and they listened to me and said I am clean. If anyone wants to talk about me, every time they have a charge against me, I have shown that I am clean." He also states he was imprisoned in a "secret" location and that the US military had no idea where he was. Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) observes that Raad Ali "returned home to a rain of celebratory shooting by neighbors and supporters. He told McClatchy that he'd been charged with seven crimes, including kidnapping a man who'd already accused someone else of the crime, planting roadside bombs, displacing Shiite families and killing two police officers, one of whom had been his own follower. He said that all of the charges were bogus." Deborah Haynes (Times of London) quotes an unnamed Sahwa leader in Diayla Province explaining "that the Government did not trust the Awakening movement because it was made up of Sunni arabs. 'We fought al-Qaeda, so how could it be that my guys are terrorists?' said the man, who goes by the nickname of Abu Iraq (father of Iraq). 'I do not trust my Government'." Haynes notes al-Maliki's pledge to take on responsibility for Sahwa from the US and that only 5% have been provided with jobs (al-Maliki pledged 20%) and that Thursday saw the transfer of the last thousands of Sahwa to al-Maliki's government. For "Abu Iraq," he has seen half of the 1,000 of the men working under him "laid off without the prospect of further employment and there was no sign that the 530 still with jobs would be accepted into the security forces soon." Haynes notes the Baghdad located Abu Safar "said a quarter of his force was on strike because of the lack of wages" (the Iraqi government has not been making their payments). But one Sahwa isn't worried. Hamza Hednawi (AP) reports the Abu Risha 'clan' is positively glowing and Shakey Sheik Ahmed Abu Risha is thrilled to be in bed with Nouri al-Maliki -- wet spot or not -- and that "he and al-Maliki arleady have discussed joining up in the government that will emerge from parliamentary elections expected late this year." Really? First off, as Dahr Jamail explained back in February, Shakey is in the "construction business" -- Iraqi mafia -- and a real thug. Second of all, imagine that, Shakey Risha being thrilled with al-Maliki. Now why would that be? Let's drop back to the US Defense Dept report [PDF format warning] entitled "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq March 2009" which we were discussing yesterday. The report went out of the way to lavish the provincial elections held in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces on January 31st. You had to go deep to find out 'irritating' facts such as only 51% of Iraqis voted (many -- largely Shia -- have lost faith in the process as a result of the ones elected in 2005 having done little; Sunnis boycotted the 2005 elections and had they done the same this year, the percentage would have been even lower). Deep in, it did note that "no party won the majority of votes in any province. As a result, most of the 14 prvoinces where elections were held will face a period of complex coalition-building before they can form governments." It also included the laughable assertion that "parties pledged to accept the outcome of the democratic vote." Did they? Which brings us back to Shakey Risha. Did he make that pledge? Well damned if he didn't abandon it lickety-split. From the Feburary 4th snapshot:

Ned Parker, Caesar Ahmed and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) quote Sheik Ahmed Buzaigh abu Risha vowing, "If the percentage is true, then we will transfer our entity from a political to a military one, to fight the Islamic Party and the commission." If the Iraqi Islamic Party is declared the winner in Anbar, the "Awakenings" say they will begin a slaughter. And instead of being called out, they're getting catered to. [. . .] Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) observes how "quickly" the officials go into motion for the ones making threats in Anbar, "The Independent High Electoral Commission sent a committee from Baghdad Wednesday to recount ballot boxes from some polling stations in the province after tribal leaders accused the Iraqi Islamic Party, IIP, which currently controls the provincial council, of rigging the vote. The accusations of vote rigging came from an especially important source, Ahmed Abu Risha, the head of the province's Awakening Council, which is widely credited with bringing calm to Anbar." Oh, yes, that voice of peace Sheik Risha. And what did LAT quote him saying? "If the percentage is true, then we will transfer our entity from a political to a military one, to fight the Islamic Party and the commission." [. . .] And Monte Morin and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) quote the menacing Sheik Risha promsing, "There will be very harsh consequences if this false election stands. We won't let them form a government."

From the
February 5th snapshot:

Turning to Anbar Province. As noted
yesterday, Sheik Ahmed Buzaigh abu Risha has been threatening violence over the possibility that the Iraqi Islamic Party might have done better in the polls than his own party. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) observes, "In Anbar province, in western Iraq, tension between rival Sunni parties have been running high after leaders of the Awakening Council groups, or Sahwa militant groups who fought al-Qaida militants in their areas, accused the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP), headed by Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, of committing fraud to win majority of the 29-seat provincial council. IIP vehemently denied the accusation." Sam Dagher (New York Times) reports "al-Maliki sent a deputy, Rafie al-Issawi, a Sunni who is an Anbar native" to speak with Shik Risha and that the meeting was also attended by the Iraqi military. He threatens violence -- he continues to threaten violence -- and he gets his way. All the people who peacefully demonstrated against not being permitted to vote? They're ignored. But it's rush down to make nice with Sheik Risha when, if it was anyone else, the US military would be rushing down to arrest him. And al-Maliki can't stand Risha. The fact that the sheik is being catered to indicates just how little control al-Maliki still has. Dahger speaks with another tribe leader from the area, Sheik Ali al-Hatem, who has (like many in Anbar) frequently been in conflict with Sheik Risha (al-Hatem has also had issues with the Iraqi Islamic Party)who notes that each tribe put up their own candidates so you had slates competing against each other as well as competing against IIP. He states that Risha is "sowing rifts among the tribes" and that the violence could become "intratribal": "Ahmed is playing with fire. We will confront him if he acts this way and divides the tribes." al-Hatem doesn't call on al-Maliki to reign in Risha, he calls on the US military to do so. (If that happens, it may take place during today's meet-up in Anbar.) Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) reports the US Marines are back in "Ramadi in observation roles, patrolling areas from which they had largely withdrawn." Again, Risha stamps his feet and threatens violence and gets his way. All the people turned away from the polls and refused the right to vote? All Faraj al-Haidari has to offer them is this 'pithy' little comment, "It's not our fault that some people couldn't vote because they are lazy, because they didn't bother to ask where they should vote." Again, they should have ditched the peaceful protest and run around threatening violence -- that's the only way al-Haidari would have listened. Sheik Risha works the commission the way he wants to.

Now what had Shakey Risha so upset was the fact that he lost big. He knew it, the pollsters knew it. And instead of telling him "tough cookies," he got catered too. The mafia don threatened violence and Iraqis and Americans rushed to soothe him. Many believe the election was tossed to him in the 'counting' as a result of his tantrum. The fact that he and al-Maliki will be building so many alliances begs the question of what was offered during those February talks that, honestly, should have resulted in Shakey Risha's ass being hauled off to jail?

International Christian Concern notes that on the first two days of this month, "four Iraqi Christians were killed [in] Baghdad and Kirkuk." Sabah Aziz Suliamn was murdered in Kirkuk and the Baghdad killings, taking place on April 2nd, were of Nimrud Khuder Moshi, Glawiz Nissan and Hanaa Issaq. The organization's president, Julian Taimoorzy, states, "The killing of four innocent people within the last two days has put renewed fear in our hearts. What is important to keep these continuous atrocities in the media and on the policy makers' radars. What we need is a more safe and secure Iraq for all of Iraq, especially for the Christians who have faced ethno-religious cleansing." And they quote Jonathan Racho, ICC's Regional Manager for Africa and the Middle East, declaring, "The suffering of Iraqi Christians has been beyond description and is not yet over. More than ever, the Iraqi Christians need our prayer and support. The latest martyrdom of our brothers should serve to awaken churches in the Western countries to come to the aid of their Iraqi brothers and sisters. We call upon Iraqi officials and the allied forces in Iraq to avert further attacks against Iraqi Christians. It is simply unacceptable to watch the extinction of the Christian community from Iraq." Sabah is the Iraqi Christian Betty was noting last night who was beheaded. Betty also noted Daniel Graeber (UPI) reporting on the fears of Iraq's Christian community quoting Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako declaring, "Under Saddam's regime, we had security but no freedom. Today we have freedom, but the problem is security." The Archbishop also pointed out the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians who have fled Iraq. On Iraqi refugees, an Iraqi correspondent for BBC News shares this popular joke in Iraq, "A Jordanian finds a magic lamp. A genie appears and asks him what is his heart's desire. 'Send all these Iraqi refugees back across the border,' the man says. 'Why?' asks the genie. 'Whatever have we done to you?'"

Laith Hammoudi and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Bgahdad roadside bombing which wounded four people, a Baghdad mortar attack which left four children wounded, a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 "official of the oil products directorate" and left his wife and their child injured, and another Baghdad sticky bombing which left Lt Gen Hussein Breisamn injured.

Today the
US military announced: "JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq -- A 3rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Soldier died as a result of non-combat related causes Apr. 3. The Soldier's name is being withheld pending next of kin notification and release by the Department of Defense." The announcement brings to 4262 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.

Meanwhile, on the heels of
the news that David H. Sharrett II was not shot to death by 'insurgents' in January of 2008, a new mysterious death makes the news. Yesterday the Defense Dept identified a March 31st death in Iraq: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Lance Cpl. Nelson M. Lantigua, 20, of Miami, Fla., died March 31 as a result of a non-hostile incident in Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 10 Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C. The incident is currently under investigation." Sharrie Williams (CBS4) reports Nelson will be buried in the Dominican Republic and quotes his cousin Milagros Santos stating, "He didn't deserve this." Robert Samuels and Luisa Yanez (Miami Herald) spoke with the family who state Nelson died from an apparent shooting and was discovered in his bed this week with "less than a week" left in his tour of Iraq. He'd spoken to an uncle, Francisco Santos, on the phone in the last few days and to his grandmother. The reporters quote Santos stating of Nelson's wife Rossana, "She's so upset she can't even speak." Marine Times notes that Nelson was 20-years-old and "An English-language media outlet in the Dominican Republic, saying Lantigua was born near Santiago, reported Wednesday that 'companions' found him facedown in bed around 2:30 a.m., having suffered a single gunshot wound to the head. His aunt, Arelis Torres, told Dominican Today that she didn't have any additional details about Lantigua's death, saying only that he was married shortly before his unit deployed and that he likely will be buried locally." Jose Pagliery and Robert Samuels (Miami Herald) note Nelson was "born in the Dominican Republic, joined the Marines on Oct. 29, 2007" and while in Iraq for the last six months had "received the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal."

Turning to legal news,
Rick Rogers (San Diego Union-Tribune) reports on Sgt Ryan Weemer's murder trial where he's represented by War Hawk Paul Hackett and notes 'pride of the Marines' Hackett is arguing 'no one saw my client shoot the man dead!' but yesterday saw Paul Prichard, Chief Warrant Officer who "ran prisoner operations" during the assault on Falljua, explain on the witness stand that prisoners were taken to an area "in a train station north of the city," not killed. Tony Perry (Los Angeles Times) states, "Although Weemer confessed to killing the Iraqi in two tape-recorded interviews in 2006, the prosecution is hampered by lack of forensic evidence and lack of a name for the alleged victim." Apparently, kill an unnamed Iraq and be presented with a get-out-of-jail free card. 'Pride of the Marines' Hackett is attempting the same cowardly behavior of Jose Luis Nazario who is refusing to testify which, Perry points out, is what Weemer did during Nazario's trial for the same crimes and allowed Nazario to walk. At that time, Hackett wanted a deal for Weemer and bragged/bullied, "Granting Ryan immunity and ordering him to testify would be the only way . . . (to prosecute Nazario) because to my knowledge, there is not physical evidence that supports the prosecution's case." Play-Marines like Paul Hackett fail to grasp what a disgrace they are when they refuse to follow the judicial process. They fail to grasp what chickens and cowards they appear to be and how little respect for the US Constitution they appear to have. Hackett won't defend his client's actions because there is no defense for them. So instead, he'll try to -- as with Nazario -- win by cheating. What a proud, proud moment for Paul Hackett.

Maybe next he can defend rapists in the ranks as well? Oh wait they and the killers of American family members don't get charged very often, do they?
Ann Jones (Znet) covered "Death on the Home Front" this week:

In April 2000, after three soldiers stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, murdered their wives and CBS TV's "60 Minutes" broke a story on those deaths, the Pentagon
established a task force on domestic violence. After three years of careful work, the task force reported its findings and recommendations to Congress on March 20, 2003, the day the United States invaded Iraq. Members of the House Armed Services Committee kept rushing from the hearing room, where testimony on the report was underway, to see how the brand new war was coming along. What the task force discovered was that soldiers rarely faced any consequences for beating or raping their wives. (Girlfriends didn't even count.) In fact, soldiers were regularly sheltered on military bases from civilian orders of protection and criminal arrest warrants. The military, in short, did a much better job of protecting servicemen from punishment than protecting their wives from harm. Years later the military seems as much in denial as ever. It has, for instance, established "anger management" classes, long known to be useless when it comes to men who assault their wives. Batterers already manage their anger very well -- and very selectively -- to intimidate wives and girlfriends; rarely do they take it out on a senior officer or other figure of authority. It's the punch line to an old joke: the angry man goes home to kick his dog, or more likely, his wife. Anger may fire the shot, but misogyny determines the target. A sense of male superiority, and the habitual disrespect for women that goes with it, make many men feel entitled to control the lesser lives of women -- and dogs. Even Hollywood gets the connection: in Paul Haggis's stark film on the consequences of the Iraq War, In the Valley of Elah, a returned vet drowns the family dog in the bathtub -- a rehearsal for drowning his wife. The military does evaluate the mental health of soldiers. Three times it evaluated the mental health of Robert H. Marko (the Fort Carson infantryman who raped and murdered a girl), and each time declared him fit for combat, even though his record noted his belief that, on his twenty-first birthday, he would be transformed into the "Black Raptor," half-man, half-dinosaur. In February 2008, after the ninth homicide at Fort Carson, the Army launched an inquiry there too. The general in charge said investigators were "looking for a trend, something that happened through [the murderers'] life cycle that might have contributed to this." A former captain and Army prosecutor at Fort Carson asked, "Where is this aggression coming from?... Was it something in Iraq?"
The topic of sexual assault in the military will be explored by
Cindy Sheehan on her internet radio program The Soapbox this week with her guests Sara Rich (sexual assault activist, peace activist and mother of Suzanne Swift) and retired Army Col and retired State Dept diplomat Ann Wright. Turning to TV programming notes, NOW on PBS begins airing tonight on most PBS stations (check local listings and true of all PBS programs noted here) and tonight's stories include:"Coming Home?" & "Paradise Lost, Revisited"Has the Army been denying care to its neediest soldiers?Thousands of U.S. troops are getting discharged out of the army. Many suffer from post traumatic stress disorders and brain injuries, and haven't been getting the care they need. The Army's been claiming these discharged soldiers had pre-existing mental illnesses. But health advocates say these are wrongful discharges, a way for the army to get rid of "problem" soldiers quickly, without giving them the treatment to which they're entitled.NOW covered this issue last summer, and this week we revisit the army's controversial position and follow up with affected soldiers we met.As a result of the media attention from our report and others, the Department of Defense revised its criteria for diagnosing pre-existing conditions and, now, fewer soldiers are receiving the diagnosis, making more of them eligible for care.This is an update to the NOW investigation: Fighting the Army

They also cover how global warming is effecting Kiribati. On
Washington Week, Gwen sits around the table with David Wessel (Wall St. Journal), Martha Raddatz (ABC News), Pete Williams (NBC News) and John Harwood (New York Times and CNBC). Topics include the economy, Russia, China and Iran, GM and the case of former US senator Ted Stevens. And lastly on PBS, To The Contrary finds Bonnie Erbe addressing the week's topics with: "U.S. News & World Report's Dr. Bernadine Healy; The Global Summit of Women President Irene Natividad; The National Council of Negro Women's Dr. Avis Jones-Weever; and Conservative Commentator Tara Setmayer." All three PBS programs will offer their programs in podcasts. In addition, streaming will be up tonight for NOW with the others adding the streaming option on Monday. Washington Week and To The Contrary will post transcripts early next week, ideally by Monday afternoon. Turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

Closing The ClinicThe economic crisis is affecting society's most vulnerable as a county hospital is forced by budget cuts to close an outpatient cancer clinic. Scott Pelley reports.
Torture In IranIn his first U.S. television interview, Ahmad Batebi tells CNN's Anderson Cooper how he was tortured during his eight years in an Iranian prison and how he was finally able to escape.
DollyDolly Parton, the oh-so-country music superstar with the city-slicker sense of show business talks to Morley Safer about her childhood, her career and the Broadway production of her film, "9 to 5." Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, April 5, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

The one and only
Dolly Parton, Sunday on 60 Minutes. By the way, though the e-mail arrived in plenty of time to make this snapshot, I'm not interested in a sexist essay which refers to a woman with condescending remarks of "Baywatch." I wouldn't have gone if I were Miss Universe (I'd never be Miss Universe -- at my age, nor would I have when I was younger) but disagreeing with her trip doesn't give you the right to insult her leering, sexist insults. And considering the program and its long, long history of sexism, you should all be ashamed of yourselves. Naturally, that garbage is posted at Sexist Robert Parry's Consortium News. And I'm not sure what's more frightening, that PBS funds paid for this vile sexism or that the idiots involved don't even know how to spell? Miss Universe is not "Dyanna Mendoza." Her name is Dayana Mendoza. But hey, who needs basic facts when you're in a rush to flaunt what a sexist pig you are? While I won't note that garbage, I will gladly note Liz Smith (wowOwow) on Marlo Thomas leading the cast of Arthur Laurents new play "New Year's Eve" which plays from April 17th through May 10th at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey. I know Marlo and am sure she'll be wonderful but the cast (which also includes Keith Carradine) features Natasha Gregson Wagner and I'll note the item for that reason (disclosure, I knew her mother -- a wonderful woman who is sorely missed). I'm sure it will be amazing play with an amazing cast and I hope to see it.

Lastly, David Solnit, author with Aimee Allison of
Army Of None (Allison co-hosts KPFA's The Morning Show with Philip Maldari), notes this event which takes place tonight and is sponsored by Courage to Resist, Bay Area Iraq Veterans Against the War & Unconventional Action in the Bay:
Friend and filmmaker
Rick Rowley comes to town with three films just shot on the ground in Iraq-- in typical high energy in-your-face style. Rick is joined by local IVAW organizer Carl "Davey" Davison and cutting-edge movement analyst Antonia Juhasz to do some collective thinking-discussing about how we can take on Obama to make the world a better place. Hope you can join us! Please Invite your friends: Bay Area Premiere from the makers of "Fourth World War" & "This is What Democracy Looks Like"OBAMA'S IRAQ A Big Noise Film followed by a Public Discussion: How Do We End Occupation & Empire Under Obama? Carl Davison, organizer with Iraq Veterans Against the War, served in the Marines and the Army, and refused deployment to Iraq. Antonia Juhasz, analyst, activist, author of Tyrany of Oil; The World's Most Powerful Industry--and What We Must Do to Stop It Rick Rowley, Big Noise film maker recently returned for Iraq. Friday April 3, 7pm ATA THEATER 992 Valencia Street (at 21st), SF Everyone welcome, $6 donation requested, not required. Obama's Iraq is an evening of short films never before seen in America. Shot on the other side of the blast shields in Iraq's walled cities, it covers a very different side of the war than is ever seen on American screens. It reports unembedded from war-torn Falluja, from the giant US prison at Umm Qasr, from the Mehdi Army stronghold inside Sadr City -- from the places where mainstream corporate channels can not or will not go. Obama's Iraq asks the questions -- what is occupation under Obama, and how can we end the war in Iraq and the empire behind it? After the film, a public discussion will begin to answer that question. Join us.

the washington post
ernesto londonothe los angeles timesiraqned parkermcclatchy newspapersleila fadel
roberta cohen
sharrie williamsrobert samuelsluisa yanezsandra colethe new york timessahar s. gabriel
sam daghercaeser ahmedsudarsan raghavanmonte morinrick rogerssan diego union-tribune
dahr jamail
ann jones
cindy sheehan
dolly parton
60 minutescbs newsnow on pbspbsto the contrarybonnie erbe
aimee allisonphilip maldaridavid solnitobama's iraq

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Blackwater Xe-ases out of Iraq

CNN reports, "Herndon, Virginia-based Triple Canopy has been awarded the security services contract in Baghdad, a State Department source told CNN Tuesday." That's actually Charles Keyes of CNN. Today's snapshot is huge and C.I. had to pull a lot of things from it. More so than usual. Those Feast of Scraps (nod to Alanis) are generally tossed together in an e-mail that we're all sent and can freely pick through if we have no topic or aren't in the mood to search for things. I said I would take that one. Triple Canopy is still a merceneary so I don't believe it qualifies as "good news"; however, as awful as Blackwater was, possibly it does. Kirit Radia (ABC News) notes, "Triple Canopy and a third company, Dyncorp, have been providing similar security in Iraq, mainly in the north and south, for years while Blackwater mainly held contracts in Baghdad." That does not reassure me and let me explain why: Mercenaries in Baghdad were under greater scrutiny due to the fact that so much of the international press is located in Baghdad. Sharon Weinberger (Wired) explains that Blackwater (now called Xe) also has an "air wing" (Presidential Airways) and it too is "being forced out of the country" by the State Dept.

C.I. also included this from today's State Dept briefing by spokesperson Gordon Duguid:

QUESTION: Gordon, what can you – details can you give us about Triple Canopy being awarded the remainder of the Blackwater security contract in Baghdad, please?
MR. DUGUID: I can, if I can – I need to find the date, excuse me. I believe the Triple Kennedy – excuse me, Triple Canopy was awarded the contract on March 31st. And I am going to search to make sure that I have that correct, if you’ll excuse me for just a moment.
Yes, indeed, March, the 31st, the Department awarded Triple Canopy the ground task order for protective security details in Baghdad after a thorough evaluation of proposals from each company that had submitted bids. They will begin the transition process to – just to anticipate, if I may – between the current company, which is called Xe – formerly Blackwater – immediately, although Blackwater will continue to provide security services until the end of its current task order which finishes in May.
QUESTION: A quick follow-up on that.
QUESTION: Who’s going to do the air assets that Blackwater provided, namely the helicopters?
MR. DUGUID: Air assets is currently being performed by – as you said, by Presidential Airways, which is a part of Blackwater. The decision has not been made yet on who will perform the new air order, although we recognize that based on the Government of Iraq’s decision, the Department has had to notify Xe in writing that it did not renew the company’s task order for the air order.
QUESTION: And when is that task order up?
MR. DUGUID: I’ll have to find out for you.
QUESTION: Could you?
MR. DUGUID: Yes, I will.
QUESTION: And the award for Triple Canopy, what’s the duration of that? And do you have a price tag on that?
MR. DUGUID: I don’t have either one of those two things. We’ll try and find out for you.
QUESTION: Actually, if I – quick, one more. You are going to try to find someone else to replace the air assets? You’re not just getting rid of that? It has to be --
MR. DUGUID: No decision has been made on who will replace. Yes, that’s correct.
QUESTION: All right. Well – but whether you will replace it, whether you’ll – you still require those air assets, do you?
MR. DUGUID: I believe that we still require air assets. No decision has been made on who will do that job.

There was not a link but C.I. said check the State Dept page because the transcript and video might be up. The transcript is currently up here. I do not see a video link. Maybe I'm missing it. But the State Dept does post the transcripts and the video so when you read this, it may already be up. (If not check back Thursday morning -- at the State Dept website, not here.)

I know C.I. works hard on those snapshots but just doing the above wore me out and I provided none of the context C.I. does. For example, C.I. would be noting the September 2007 attack in Baghdad (September 17th) and providing a link to coverage of that and how it really changed the game for Blackwater and any hopes it had to stay in Iraq.

I could not do the snapshot. I could barely manage the above. That's not modesty, that's reality.

So let's recap with what we learned: Blackwater, now Xe, is no longer going to be in Baghdad. I say "in Baghdad" because everytime Blackwater is allegedly out of Iraq, it turns out they've found a loophole. Again, I would also caution that just because a mercenary isn't "Blackwater" doesn't mean it's a group of Santa's happy elves out to save the world.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, April 1, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, today kicks off sexual assault awareness month, tensions continue between al-Maliki's government and the "Awakenings" which the government's been attacking, an Iraqi Christian is beheaded, PBS airs a special for childrens of veterans and their families tonight, and more.

Tonight, first hour of prime time,
PBS airs a special:

Elmo: Hi, Miss Queen Latifah.

Queen Latifah: Hey, Elmo. Hi, it's so good to see you.

Elmo: It's so good to see you too. Well what brings you here to Sesame Street?

Queen Latifah: Well I'm meeting up with some friends who've been through some pretty tough times. They were all hurt in one way or another while serving in the military. And you know those kinds of changes can be really tough on a family.

Little Girl A: When I saw my dad's legs it made me feel a little bit nervous.

Little Girl B: He doesn't have no legs and one arm.

Dad B: At first I didn't think she wanted to hug me -- because she was scared of me maybe. That hug made me feel so happy and complete inside that it made me feel like I didn't really lose anything at all.

Dad C: When I was first injured I did struggle for awhile with the idea that I may be chasing this little kid here around on crutches or in a wheel chair because I didn't know what my future held so I was, I was nervous. I was afraid it was going to change the way I was going to be a father.

Son D: I was a little worried that he was injured but I don't care if he has his whole body gone as long as he's still living.

Daughter E: I heard Mama was talking. She said that our daddy was injured. I was scared because I didn't know if he was actually going to come home or if he would just passed away.

Mom E:You know it was really hard for them to comprehend what had happened in Iraq, let alone a burn injury.

Dad E: I was in the denial stage and I didn't want to accept that I had a problem. Took awhile for me to get the pride to go away. And what it was that made me let the pride go was I was tearing my family apart.

Mom E: To see your kids and your husband have to go through that is hard.

Queen Latifah: My father actually suffered from PTSD. He was a veteran of Vietnam. I mean it was very challenging for us too as a family so I can kind of relate to what the kids have gone to. Luckily, he sought treatment, just like you guys did, and it really made a big difference because it helped him to recognize you know what was going on.

Dad D: You're not as macho as you thought you are and that you're a US soldier and you're a fighting machine. This particular fight you can't do alone. You need, you need that family.

Elmo: Is that your daddy's new hand?

Son D: Yeah.

Elmo: Well can Elmo see it? Wow. Wow. Look at that, it's like a robot hand.

John Mayer: It's really important that families talk about the change and say what's on their minds.

Elmo: Oh, you mean (singing) "Say what you need to say."

[John Mayer begins performing "Say"]

Queen Latifah: Please join us for
Coming Home: Military Families Cope with Change and meet some parents and kids who are pulling together.

The special airs tonight. It's a Sesame Street special, it is geared towards childen and one of the few programs thus far -- all this way into the Iraq and Afghansitan Wars -- to note the effects on the families, especially young children. For example, a wounded veteran who suffered from extreme depression for over a year shares his story as does his son who explains, "He'd be laying there like a lump on a couch. I'd go upstairs and get mad." Again, that's PBS tonight. First hour of prime time. (Unless your local stations are playing it at a different time or not at all. Check your local listings.) The challegned/disabled community and their families rarely get coverage. Their ranks have increased due to two wars this decade.

Another rarely covered topic was given a full hour on NPR today. USA Today's Susan Page filled in as guest host on
The Diane Rehm Show and, for the second hour, explored the topic of sexual assaults in the military with guest Helen Benedict and whack-job Kaye Whitley making a brief appearance that was as fact-free as her Congressional appearances are.

Susan Page: Since March 2003, nearly 200,000 American women in Iraq -- more than in any other war since WWII. They are participating in combat more than ever before but they can feel isolated in a military culture that seems hostile to females. Helen Benedict is a novelist and journalist who interviewed forty soldiers and veterans about the struggles and challenges they experienced in Iraq. Their stories are part of a new book titled
The Lonely Soldier.

Helen Benedict's The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq is out today, published by Beacon Press. Benedict explained the book started when she attended a townhall with veterans discussing their experiences and all the ones up front were men. She found a female soldier at the back who explained her experiences serving in Iraq. Women service members and veterans groups allowed Benedict to find others who wanted to share their stories. Liar who needs to be fired Kaye Whitley appeared briefly on the show as a call-in and let's deal with that liar first off.

People seem unaware that Kaye Whitley helps no one. She does her soft purr and creates 'facts' as she goes along and offers cover for the sexual predators. That's what she does. If that surprises you, you need to own up to the fact that you haven't been paying attention. In July of 2008, she refused -- REFUSED -- to testify before Congress. When she finally did appear (and you can
check out this Feminist Wire Daily News item from September 12, 2008 if you were caught napping when that was going on) she refused -- REFUSED -- to provide an answer as to what allowed her to legally refuse. Kaye Whitley NEEDS TO BE FIRED. Is that clear? She is paid by the US tax payer. Barack Obama should have immediately fired her upon taking office -- and it's a sign of how useless so many 'leaders' are that they didn't ask for this easy, quick (and probably cosmetic) change to take place. She insults victims who testify before Congress by getting in little digs after they've offered their testimony. She makes up figures and facts as she goes along. Congress needs to confront her -- each time she provides testimony -- with her previous testimony because the two never, ever mesh. She's a liar. And she can sell make up door to door and be as big a liar as she wants to be. But right now she's the director of DoD's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office and, in that capacity, her lies are hurting a lot of people.

Susan Page asked the little liar about the increase in reported assaults and, being the liar she is, Kaye Whitley tried to assert that there was no increase in actual assaults, it was just that there was so much more comfort these days with reporting . . . thanks to the work she (Whitley) had done. That woman is a menace.

And so is the idiotic PSA she's so thrilled with. Prepare to be disgusted in mere seconds.

Male voice: My strength is for defending my nation and my fellow service members.

Female voice: Preventing sexual assault is part of that duty.

Male voice: So when I saw my buddy's date was drunk, I told him, ask her when she's sober.

Female voice: When some guy went way too far with my friend, I got her out of there.

Male voice: Sexual assault can be prevented when friends and co-workers look out for each other.

Female voice: If you see a situation headed in the wrong direction, do your duty.

Male voice: Say something, do something.

Female voice: Get help.

Male voice: Find out more at

Note, it's not when a man goes too far, it's when he goes "way too far." Hopefully, Whitley will explain the difference between the two. And the first offense was probably "ask her when she's sober." Because surely sexual assaults are fine and dandy when someone's sober. "Do you mind if I sexually assult you?" When drunk, a woman is so apt to immediately say, "Yes, please sexually assault me." Right? Because sexual assault is nothing but 'good times' gone bad, right? That's what that insulting and appalling PSA is saying and Kaye Whitley's proud of it?

Whitley then wanted to bring up "restricted reporting" and forgot to note that it was a pilot program. She also -- yet again -- revealed how stupid she is, how inept she is and how fired her ass needs to be immediately. Pimping her stupid "restricted reporting" program, she claimed that if you were in the corporate world and were sexually assaulted, you could choose whether or not to participate and "certainly" no one would phone the CEO about it. If a sexual assault takes place at any corporation, everyone knows about for legal reasons. Kaye Whitley is an idiot. We could go on and on about how she twsited reality to convey a false impression. It's past time she was fired. She should have been canned on day one of the new administration for her refusal to testify to Congress. Her job does not permit her to make such a refusal. The tax payers pays her salary and when Congress wants her front and center, her ass plops down before them. That's how it works.

She praised her stupid "restricted reporting" program insisting it was a "success" and that "the reason I say that" is because, since 2005, she's had "over 2,500" victims come forward ("and last year alone over 700"). How many of those went on to file charges? That's the question she refuses to answer when Congress asks her. That was the point of the "restricted reporting" option -- how it was sold. It would provide counseling and work the victim towards filing charges. Kaye never provides an answer -- even when asked by Congress -- how many "restricted reporting" have gone on to file charges. And "over 2500"? That's not a lot. Especially when she was claiming
before Congress January 28th of this year that 1,896 was the number. Again, her numers change at random -- based apparently on whom she's speaking to. When she walked that 1,896 number out before Congress, US House Rep Niki Tsongas pointed out, "It means a significant number of people who committed these assaults are not accountable." Whitley was too busy whining to that Congressional hearing (chaired by US House Rep Susan Davids) that reporting rape (not using restricted reporting -- and this was for rape, that was the topic, not sexual assault which can be attempted and can be verbal, this was reporting actual rape) "tears a unit apart." You want to explain where this woman's loyalties are because anyone who, interviewed about the huge increase in rape, that would want to whine about how the unit is harmed doesn't need to be the director of DoD's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. It's Sexual Assault Awareness month and there's no indication that Kaye Whitely has any; however, firing her might increase awareness nation-wide.

When Kaye left the show, the broadcast improved tremendously and similar effects would no doubt happen at the Pentagon. When Kaye Whitley was gone, Susan Page asked Helen Benedict for her take on Kaye and her 'efforts' at the Pentagon?

Helen Benedict: One is she said that even if you report your assault anonymously, they call "restricted," the commander is still told that there was an assault. And the thing is that platoons are very enclosed, gossipy, hiearchical organizations and everybody knows everybody's business so what this means is that it's very, very likely that she [the victim] won't in fact be anonymous and everyone will know exactly who it is. And women are aware of this so that's enormously intidimating. The other thing that worries me is how much can an ad work to really change behavior? I mean, we've seen that sometimes it works better than others but, uhm, we've had sexual prevention classes in the military for quite a long time now, we've had the unrestricted reporting -- I mean the anonymous reporting since 2005. There's no evidence that sexual assault is going down. And if the numbers of reporting go up you never know if it's actually more reporting or more rapes. The culture has to change and advertising alone isn't enough. I think all these steps are good, but they're not enough. I would like to see anybody who's ever found guilty of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, kicked out of the military altogether -- not given some demotion or slap on the wrist or letter in his file, which happens all too often. Anybody who has a record of domestic or sexual violence against women should never be admitted into the military -- some have under the moral waivers. I'd like to see civilian hotlines put in all the bases at home so that a woman who has been assaulted can call a civilian rape crisis center, not even have to deal with the military at all. And I would like to see a culture where it's really understood that rape is a war crime just like at war whether you're raping civilians of the enemy or your own kind, it's a war crime. It's that serious.

And we'll get to some current problems but Page and Benedict also discussed some what ifs and we'll note this section:

Susan Page: You know some people would look at the experience, the difficult experience many women have had in this combat situation in Iraq and say, 'Well okay, maybe women should not be put in this situation, maybe women should not be in the military in these combat support roles that put them in these isolated situations.' What would you say to that argument?

Helen Benedict: I'd say it's like the argument that was once used women-shouldn't-vote, women-shouldn't-be-fire-fighters, or teachers, or professors. We've always had to fight against the sort of predjudice, [in order] to be treated equally, but women are adults, they should be able to have any job they want. Not everybody would choose to have that kind of role -- just as not every man would -- but it should be up to women to choose what jobs they want, not up to the government or anyone else.

Susan Page: Well let's do the reverse side. What if there were no restrictions on what women could do in the military? What do you think the effect of that would be?

Helen Benedict: I think if -- if the Pentagon lifted its ban on ground combat it would help women win respect and stop this perpetuation of seeing them as second class soldiers. I think it would have a large effect on how they were treated by their male comrades because at the root of every assault and harassment is lack of respect. And if the message comes down from the top "Yes, this is a second class soldier. No, there is no reason to respect her," then things aren't going to change.

Now some realities right now.
Amanda Hess (Washington City Paper) notes how difficult it is for women on bases to get emergency contraception and quotes Nancy Northup of Reproductive Health Reality Check explaining, "It's excluded from the list of what military facilities, including the primary stores where families shop, are required to stock. That can be particularly challenging for women and families who are based overseas and rely solely on those facilities to buy over-the-counter drugs." Corpus Christi, Texas' KRISTV reports a 29-year-old "military police officer" is a suspect in the "aggravated sexual assault" on "a 14-year-old Aransas Pass girl". Virginia's WDBJ7 Roanoke News reports Stephen J. Lloyd, 21-years-old, is in jail for suspicion "of sexually assaulting another cadet". Mike Gangloff (Roanoke Times) adds that allegations involve a female and states she's 20-year-old and has stated she was raped. Sunday Jane Lerner (Lower Hudson Valley Journal News) reported that Atlanta police had taken Lavell Tyrone McNutt into custody under suspicion over a recent series of sexual assaults in Atlanta. McNutt raped two women while he was a West Point cadet and faced a court-martial in 1976. Despite pleading guilty he was given only nine years -- five for one rape, four for another -- and the judge ordered that the two sentence run consecutively. This week IVAW's Jen Hogg joined with Veterans and Servicemembers Project at Urban Justice Center's director Rachel Natelson and Hogg's co-founder of Claiming Justice Anuradha Bhagwati in addressing the issue of sexual assault in a letter to the New York Times which noted:

Violence against servicewomen will continue to exist so long as sexual assault is treated as an internal military mater.
As it did in the aftermath of the Tailhook and Aberdeen Proving Ground scandals, Congress has lately renewed its demand that the military imporve the matter in which it polices itself. But why should the military be trusted to police itself at all?
Under military policy, the disposition of harassment and assault cases is left entirely to the discretion of unit commanders, who alone decide on the need for corrective action. Since service members are exempt from civilian workplace harassment laws, the military is shielded from precisely the sort of outside judicial review that could act as a real deterrent.
This lawlessness has fostered a culture of underprosecution in which only 38 percent of substantiated rape cases even go to trial.
Surely these numbers prove that it's time to stop trusting the fox to protect the henhouse.

VETWOW is an organization for female military veterans and RAAIN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is an organization serving all victims of sexual assault (civilian and military, male and female) -- RAAIN's toll free number is 1 (800) 656-HOPE or 1 (800) 656-4673.

Helen Benedict said rape should be treated like a War Crime and, if it were, that might be the saddest thing of all. That's said because what happened to
Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, was a War Crime and yet most outlets, including the New York Times, refused to print her name or run a photo (USA Today and the Washington Post were two exceptions -- the Associated Press repeatedly did a strong job portraying Abeer as a person and not a statistic or, worse, an 'other'). The 14-year-old girl was gang-raped at her home by US soldiers while one US soldier shot her parents and her five-year-old sister dead in the next room. Then that soldier joined the others and allegedly shot her after he raped her. He then allegedly attempted to set Abeer's body on fire to destroy the evidence. When that didn't work, they just made sure 'insurgents' would be blamed for their actions, then they returned back to the base where -- after disposing of the blood-stained clothes -- they grilled chicken wings and proceeded to get drunk while celebrating. All the US soldiers have confessed to their role in the conspiracy and rape (two soldiers confessed to their rape, others to various parts of the conspiracy where they planned to do this to Abeer and her family) except one: Steven D. Green. The others, still in the military, faced an August 2006 court-martial and then trials that were completed by last year. All fingered Steven D. Green as the ringleader. They stated Green came up with the plan(Abeer's brother told reporters that Green stroked his sister's face and had long made his sister uncomfortable), that he shot and killed the sister, the parents and then Abeer, that he participated in the gang-rape and that he set Abeer's corpse on fire. Steven D. Green has, through is attorneys, maintained he was innocent. How 'innocent' the world will soon see since his attorneys have been attempting to navigate an insanity plea with the court. The last Friday in June 2006, Green, who had already been discharged from the military before the War Crimes came to light, was apprehended by federal authorities in Kentucky. After many delays (including a postponement for a quilting fair -- that is not a joke, they actually postponed last year's trial for a quilting fair) Green's trial is now scheduled to begin April 27th at the United States District Court Western District of Kentucky. April 6th jury selection will begin. They are anticipating media interest (after the media silence on Abeer, that's an interesting prediction) and Judge Thomas B. Russell issued media guidelines March 26th including that a media room would be set aside and laptops and cell phones would be allowed there, they also restricted the press to doing all interviews outside the courthouse ("Interviews may be conducted on the sidewalk on Broadway across from the courthouse"). Well maybe they're expecting the international press? Sunday AFP noted the case: "In another case involving the rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and the killing of her father, mother and younger sister, four soldiers were convicted by a court martial and handed sentences of up to 110 years in prison. The last defendant, Steven D. Green, is to be tried next month in a civilian court in Paducah, Kentucky and could face the death penalty if convicted." (AP filed two stories on Green's attempt to make a motion that the prospective jury pool did not contain enough African-Americans. Green's attorneys filed paperwork today to withdraw that motion -- PDF format warning, here for that paperwork.] And, to be clear, James Barker and Paul Cortez entered guilty pleas, Jesse V. Spielman was convicted and Bryan L. Howard had made a plea agreement.

Yesterday in Basra, a ceremony was held for the 'withdrawal' of British forces which really isn't a withdrawal since 400 of the 4100 will remain behind after 'withdrawal' and which was strange since most will be leaving by May 31st and not yesterday. But, hey, any excuse to throw a party, right?
Campbell Robertson and Sam Dagher (New York Times) note that a one time, British forces in Iraq numbered 40,000 and that the main thrust of the ceremony was to turn Basra over to US control. As Richard Beeston (Times of London) observes, "The British Army still knows how to perform a ceremonial withdrawal better than anyone, as the Royal Marines band and a lone piper proved at Basra airport yesterday. Thanks to decades of lowering flags and marching into the sunset on every corner of the planet, the drill is dignified and graceful -- and certainly well rehearsed." Caroline Wyatt (BBC) reports that the majority of British forces leaving will not be leaving until May 31st. She also notes 179 British troops have died and we'll add "thus far" because British troops are not home and will not be home come May 31st. Xinhua notes, "Tuesday's departure is part of an agreement signed between Iraq and Britain in November last year, in which the latter pledged to complete pullout of its last 4,100 soldiers from Iraq by late July 2009." Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reports of the ceremony, "Major General Andy Salmon handed over what will become known as Multinational Division South to U.S. Major General Michael Oates during a ceremony at a military base in the southern city of Basra. The pullout is a process that will culminate on May 31, the Ministry of Defence said." Alsumaria points out, "It is to be noted that senior Iraqi officers attended the ceremony and praised the British Army saying that Iraq owes them a lot for helping Iraq's Army in all its missions." The Washington Post's Sudarsan Raghavan (at Financial Times of London) quotes US Gen Ray Odierno stating, "We have shed blood together and that is a bond that no man can break. You have restored hope where chaos reigned." Raghavan notes that approximately 7,000 US service members will replace the departing British. Terri Jud (Independent of London) explains, "Yesterday, a bright pink trailer offering 'pretzel dogs' was a sign that the Americans had begun moving into the British base, having been warned by their unofficial website that they will have to endure more spartan living conditions until the luxuries to which US forces are accustomed are built." British Maj Gen Andy Salmon tells Deborah Haynes (Times of London), "I think we have made a difference; we can see amazing progress has taken place in Basra. There is still an awful lot to do, of course. At least we can go having done our bit." He added his plans for his return to England will include, "Have a couple of beers, I think, and see my missus."

Anna Mulrine (US News & World Reports) notes this weekend's Baghad battle and states "the arrest of Adil al-Mashhadani" has put "the spotlight" on a long "simmering issue." The "Awakenings" are being targeted now -- the Sunni thugs the US put on the payroll after they installed Shi'ite thugs into the puppet government. Robert H. Reid (AP) observes the attack "carried big risks -- chief among them that Sunnis would view the action not as a move against a criminal but a politically motivated Shiite push against Sunnis." With the weekend violence in Baghdad which found "Awakening"s on one side and Iraqi and US forces on the other, Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapes) observed, "Most Iraqis think that today's lower level of violence is the eye, not the end, of the storm, and that the decisive power struggles are just beginning. The U.S.-backed Iraqi government is widely regarded as an undeserving group of exiles who returned to Iraq on the backs of American tanks." And they're right to think that since all the high positions -- such as prime minister -- are occupied by people who fled Iraq long ago and waited until after the US declared war and began occupying Iraq to return to the country they now 'rule'. This morning, Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) reports on the shifting ground and notes a US "military intelligence officer" who just knows the resistance is dead but "terrorism" will always remain in Iraq -- like the Tigris, I guess. Others are less sure and Iraqi and US officials echo many of the concerns Rania Abouzeid (Time magazine) reported (noted in yesterday's snapshot). Is the concern realistic or not? At this point, no one knows (and Rubin doesn't attempt to present it any other way or to take sides). But, true or false, it feeds into al-Maliki's talk of why he can't let "Awakenings" be absorbed by his puppet government. (The counter-argument is that these concerns are not about potential absorbings, these concerns are that "sleepers" are already in the Iraqi security forces.) Nouri's best buddy, the Condi to his George, Mowaffak al-Rubaie (who was awarded the title of "Iraq's national seucirty adviser" following a dramatic upset in the swimsuit competition) is insistent that it's (you know it's coming) "Al Qaeda and the hard-core Saddamists" -- and you get the feeling that al Qaeda's tossed in for the international audience and "Saddamists" for all the Shi'ites in Iraq. Like Condi, Mowaffak knows how to work the room. For the article, "14 leaders of the Awakening movement" were interviewed and they see reason for concerns: "assassination attempts, homemade bombs placed near their homes or under their cars, leaflets urging them not to work with the Iraqi government." Mullah Nadhim al-Jubori goes on the record and notes kidnappings of four men serving under him (two set free when ransom was paid, the other two killed)and notes: "The ransom was picked up in Baghdad. That tells me there is good coordination and organization among Al Qaede members." Meanwhile, as noted in yesterday's snapshot, the US military and Iraqi officials were telling Rod Nordland that the Fadhil neighborhood of Baghdad was weapon free. Not quite. Robert H. Reid (AP) reports this afternoon that the approximately 250 "Awakening"s in Fadhil turned over their weapons . . . excpet for "at least 25 percent" who "escaped with their weapons." And Reid reports the figure may actually be 30%. Reid notes the weekend attack in Baghdad has other "Awakening" Council members in Iraq suspicious and wary and that they have refused to work 13 of their 21 checkpoints in Jurf al-Sakhar as a result ("The area had been a major al-Qaida staging area until the rise of the Awakenings"). Thomas E. Ricks, author of the new bestseller The Gamble, writes (at Foreign Policy) of how Col Pete "Mansoor had warned in Baghdad that signing the Status of Forces Agreement could lead the United States into fighting the Sunni 'Awakening' units also known as the 'Sons of Iraq,' or SOI" and quotes Mansoor's confirmation of that warning (confirmation to Ricks) which includes, "As I recall what I said was that the status of forces agreement would put U.S. forces into a position where they could not intervene to stop the government of Iraq from attacking SOI. If the Iraqi Security Forces needed help once engaged against the SOI, U.S. forces could be drawn into the fight against the very people who helped us turn the war around."
Back to
Alissa J. Rubin who reports a new weapon being utilized, RKG-3 grenades which "weigh just five pounds and, attached to parachutes, can be lobbed by a teenager but can penetrate the American military's latest heavily armored vehicle, the MRAP." Rubin notes these inexpensive weapons cost $10 a piece. Me speaking, not Rubin, the American military has long laughed at the mortar attacks. The mortar attacks are not precise and rarely cause alarm. (Troops stationed inside the Green Zone have been injured by mortar attacks. An attack that wounded Australian troops several years ago stands out. However, the attack that frightened the US military, the attack on the Green Zone, was the 2006 late spring attack which wasn't mortars but an attempt to storm the Green Zone -- this led to the first in a series of al-Maliki's 'crack downs'.) If more precise than the mortars, the RKG-3s could become a serious source of concern. Turning to today's violence..


Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report an RPG7 was launched in Baghdad "during a visit by vice president Tariq al-Hashimi to Sadr City" leaving two soldiers injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing resulted in two people being wounded, a Mosul car bombing left twelve people wounded and, dropping back to last night for all that follows, a Mosul grenade attack wounded three people, a Mosul roadside bombing which wounded four police officers and an al Juboor bombing which resulted in an exchange of gun fire with the US military and house raids by the US military.


Reuters notes 1 "primary school teacher" was shot dead in Mosul.


Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report 11 corpses discovered in Baghdad,

Today the
US military announced: "TIKRIT, Iraq -- A Multi-National Division - North Soldier died in a non-combat related incident in Salah ad Din province, March 31. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The incident is under investigation." The announcement brings the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4263.

Yesterday's snapshot covered the hearing on Iraqi refugees US Senator Bob Casey chaired yesterday. At the hearing, Nabil al-Tikriti expressed the opinion that Iraqi Christians are not refugees of interest in the way that those who help the US military are or other (non-Christian groups -- let's be honest on that, it was his point, that Iraqi Christians get attention from the US because they can relate or think they can). It was an insulting remark and a lousy call because Iraqi Christians are repeatedly targeted for who they are. That qualifies as refugee by any standard of the term. (By contrast, some of the ones al-Tikriti considered refugees would not qualify as refugees by many definitions.) Today Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report Sabah Aziz Sulaiman was beheaded in Kirkuk yesterday. The 71-year-old man's 'crime'? Apparently being an Iraqi Christian. It's not a small point, Iraqi Christians are targeted and it is wrong to assume they get any extra attention. They don't. There are Christian groups in the US that note and support them (and their are Muslim groups in the US that do the same with Muslim Iraqis) but in terms of real recognition translating as press or governmental, they get very little. The hearing yesterday (attended by so few senators) made that point. It's foolish to be so petty about 'attention' that you deny the realities of what is going on and has gone on for Iraqi Christians. They are targeted in the same way that Jews in Germany were -- not to that length and degree yet -- by which I mean, no round ups have taken place. But they are killed, they are targeted and they are threatened. The Jews in Germany (in the lead up to and during WWII) were targeted for who they were, the Iraqi Christians are targeted for who they are. It is a bigotry and a specific hate and to deny that is to deny the reality of what's taking place. They are not the only refugees but they make up a significant percentage of them. Refugees International has issued a press release yesterday:

Washington, D.C. - As security in Iraq improves, refugees and internally displaced Iraqis are starting to return home, but the returns are slow and tentative, Refugees International told Congress today. The new security climate in Iraq has not yet translated into increases in the provision of services to displaced Iraqis and more must be done to assist and protect them. Last month, Refugees International completed a mission to Baghdad, Eskanderia, Fallujah, Karbala and Hilla to assess the humanitarian situation inside Iraq. According to the United Nations, about 20 percent of Iraq's population, or more than four million people, remain displaced. "In its strategy to encourage returns, the Government of Iraq has failed to take political, social and economic reality into consideration and examine the country's capacity to absorb large numbers of returns," said RI President Ken Bacon. "Instead, it has made the return of displaced Iraqis a component, as opposed to a consequence, of its security strategy." The testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee adds that, "Assistance to returnees, property restitution, and the provision of basic services are essential for Iraqis to return home. But many will still not return until they feel the root causes of the conflict have been addressed. They need to feel accepted by the community and provided with security guarantees." Refugees International also expressed concern that the Government of Iraq is no longer registering internally displaced people in an effort to make the displacement problem disappear. Corruption within Iraq's government is widespread and makes it extremely difficult to effectively deliver assistance and for international and national aid agencies to operate. However, Refugees International met with impressive local groups, who provide assistance to thousands of vulnerable Iraqis without any support from the Iraqi government or the international community. "There is no unified process to deal with returning internally displaced persons or refugees. Property disputes will linger for many years to come and are likely to spark renewed violence," added Mr. Bacon. "While security remains the major factor in a family's decision to return home, other factors play a role - infrastructure, particularly water and electricity, employment opportunities and health care. The Government of Iraq, the U.S. and the United Nations have to do a better job of working together to provide the services necessary to support returning Iraqis." Refugees International is a Washington, D.C.-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises. Since November 2006, the organization has conducted nine missions to the Middle East to assess the needs of displaced Iraqis and work with international leaders to develop effective solutions to this crisis. RI's latest field report on displacement inside Iraq will be available on April 9, 2009. For more information, go to

Lastly, David Solnit, author with Aimee Allison (Allison co-hosts
KPFA's The Morning Show with Philip Maldari), notes this event by Courage to Resist, Bay Area Iraq Veterans Against the War & Unconventional Action in the Bay:

Friend and filmmaker
Rick Rowley comes to town with three films just shot on the ground in Iraq-- in typical high energy in-your-face style. Rick is joined by local IVAW organizer Carl "Davey" Davison and cutting-edge movement analyst Antonia Juhasz to do some collective thinking-discussing about how we can take on Obama to make the world a better place. Hope you can join us!Please Invite your friends:Bay Area Premiere from the makers of "Fourth World War" & "This is What Democracy Looks Like"OBAMA'S IRAQ A Big Noise Film followed by a Public Discussion: How Do We End Occupation & Empire Under Obama? Carl Davison, organizer with Iraq Veterans Against the War, served in the Marines and the Army, and refused deployment to Iraq. Antonia Juhasz, analyst, activist, author of Tyrany of Oil; The World's Most Powerful Industry--and What We Must Do to Stop It Rick Rowley, Big Noise film maker recently returned for Iraq. Friday April 3, 7pm ATA THEATER 992 Valencia Street (at 21st), SF Everyone welcome, $6 donation requested, not required. Obama's Iraq is an evening of short films never before seen in America. Shot on the other side of the blast shields in Iraq's walled cities, it covers a very different side of the war than is ever seen on American screens. It reports unembedded from war-torn Falluja, from the giant US prison at Umm Qasr, from the Mehdi Army stronghold inside Sadr City -- from the places where mainstream corporate channels can not or will not go. Obama's Iraq asks the questions -- what is occupation under Obama, and how can we end the war in Iraq and the empire behind it? After the film, a public discussion will begin to answer that question. Join us.

the diane rehm show
the new york timescampbell robertsonsam daghercaroline wyattterri judddeborah taterefugees internationalcaroline alexanderthe socialist workersudarsan raghavanrichard beestondeborah haynesalsumaria
the new york timesalissa j. rubinrania abouzeidmcclatchy newspapersanna mulrinenathan hodgerobert h. reid
leila fadel
mcclatchy newspapers
laith hammoudi
thomas e. ricks
rod nordland
sahar issa
hussein kadhim
jen hogg
aimee allisonphilip maldaridavid solnitobama's iraq