Friday, September 04, 2009

Public records are public domain

Steven D. Green

Steven D. Green was sentenced today for his War Crimes in Iraq. He will spend life in prison with no chance of parole (see C.I.'s snapshot at the end of my post for more on the sentencing). On the photo, you can use if you want.

It is not the Associated Press' photo. They slapped a copyright on a copy of the photo but they did not take the picture. They obtained a copy from a sherrif's office. C.I. obtained a copy from the sherrif's office as well.

The Common Ills: Steven D. Green (public domain photo)

That's the entry where C.I. declared her own copy to be public domain in the hopes that it would mean more people would note the trial of Green's.

He's a war criminal. The photo is a governmental photo (county photo). AP thought they could stamp "copyright AP" on it. On their copy maybe. But the above is public domain.

I mention that because Crapapedia's confused. Sunny pointed out to me that Crapapedia now says the photo might not be public domain because it's not federal government. It's from the sherrif's office. It's a public release. If Green went missing, it would show up in post offices around the world.. It's a damn mug shot, you idiots at Crapapedia. It's a public record, in fact, which means it's public.

That's really the big news of today.

C.I. makes it the end of the snapshot for two reasons. 1) Covering US soldiers who have died seemed more important than letting Green dominate another snapshot (C.I.'s covered Green at length). 2) C.I. couldn't find a MySpace page for Jordan Shay despite the Boston Herald referencing it. So C.I. called around to various friends in the military and one knew of a Twitter account and a blog. Those aren't being covered by the press yet so C.I. opens with them.

Considering how little attention the fallen receive, I think C.I. made the right decision to open with that instead of Green.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, September 4, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, two fallen US soldiers are identified, the Bremer walls are put back up in Baghdad, Nouri courts an international crisis, Jordan and Iraq strengthen their ties, Steven D. Green gets sentenced for War Crimes and more.

A US soldier in Iraq posted the following to his blog (through amber lenses) August 27th:

Leaning up against the back of the building we discovered half of a rusted Russian heavy machine gun, and another piece of a Cold War era anti-aircraft gun. No big deal, except both weapons had been used against our company two years prior during the retaking of the city of Baqubah. Pretending this find meant the IPs were doing their job and taking dangerous weapons off the street and not that they were the average two-faced insurgents, we rounded the last corner of the compound and headed for the front gate. Thanks to the hand-tying status of forces agreement between Iraq and the United States, American soldiers are not allowed to operate in urban areas without having the Iraqi Police or Iraqi Army present. Exceptions apply, but they're few and far between. By the time our squad had regrouped around the front of the building, our IA escort forces from outside the city had exited their humvees and stood around smoking and joking with each other. They were dressed in USMC desert fatigues, military body armor, and commercial tactical vests. They were also carrying clean weapons outfitted with modern American optics and flashlights. Apparently, Iraqi Army Special Forces are fairly well funded. We passed them by and headed out the gate, since our absurdly strict platoon leader wasn't around to stop us. One lonely IP stood guard just outside the entrance to the station. He remained rooted to the ground while we moved past him and out into the neighborhood. We figured he'd count as our Iraqi escort if someone important came along. Crossing a small lot with a few scattered cars and trash piles, a pack of four or five dogs picked up our scent and barked to alert the area to our presence. We held up at the far side of the lot, less than a hundred meters from the IP station. A group of kids had been playing around in the street, but had scattered as soon as we left the station. In previous years, that was a bad sign. Kids scattered and plugged their ears before roadside bombs detonated. This time around, it's a different war. "War" is hardly the word to describe the current situation. Anyway, the unit we're replacing didn't spend a single second of their tour mingling with the locals around this particular IP station. It had been months since the last American foot patrol through their village. They peeked around corners and out from behind courtyard gates. Families weaving around rubble and small rivers of sewage eyeballed us suspiciously, rarely returning a wave. Two young boys crept closer, stopping about ten meters ahead of us. I motioned to them to come closer while Todd called to them in broken Arabic. Cautiously, the older of the two darted up to us. Todd pulled a pack of gum from his pants pocket and handed a piece to the boy, who looked confused but optimistic. Todd pulled out another piece for himself, and popped it in his mouth. The boy smiled and darted back to the safety of his house. When he stuck his head out a moment later, he was chewing happily and surrounded by a new group of local kids. I motioned again to them, and a younger boy came running up over the broken bricks and dirt littering the street. I handed him a little pack of Sweet Tarts as my squad started moving back to the police station. He accepted happily and ran back to the house. I turned and followed the squad out of the neighborhood and back through the guarded station entrance, offering the lone IP a wave as he closed the gate behind me. We walked up to the front of the building, wondering where our blundering platoon leader was. The Iraqi Army Special Forces soldiers were still lounging around, smoking cheap cigarettes in the scorching afternoon sun. Approaching them, they welcomed us with open arms and all sorts of broken English. Cigarettes were offered all around, we removed our helmets and gloves, and relaxed. The language barrier is always difficult to overcome, but through the few Arabic phrases I remember from my first deployment and creative sign language, we got to know each other. We examined each others rifles and pistols, resisted the pleas of the IA soldiers to trade watches and jokingly traded insults. An American private from Guam was played up as an Iraqi who forgot how to speak Arabic, and the sexual preference of all involved was questioned. Some things are funny to soldiers no matter their nationality.

That blog post was written by Jordan Shay who was killed while serving in Iraq. Yesterday the US military issued the following announcement: "CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, TIKRIT, Iraq -- Two Multi-National Division - North Soldiers were killed and five wounded in a vehicle rollover accident in the Diyala province of northern Iraq Sept. 2. ICCC is currently down [they note a server crash and that they are working to get the site back up] but the announcement should bring the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4338. (It was 4336 on Sunday. ICCC was down yesterday and remains down today.) It appears the two killed were Todd Selge, 25-years-old, and Jordan Shay, 22-years-old. Frederick Melo (Pioneer Press) reports Selge was on his second tour of duty in Iraq and his wife Dellona Selge states, "He was definitely gung-ho about the military. He was going to get out. He wanted to finish up school and move back home and have a regular life." With her and their sons "ages 6 and 2." John R. Ellement (Boston Globe) reports Shay was also on his second tour of duty and had been engaged to marry. Marie Szaniszlo (Boston Herald) adds that his MySpace page has "a clock counting down how many days he had left in the Army".

July 31st,
Jordan Shay wrote (on his Twitter accont), "I've been saying I'm ready to go, and I am, but it's amazing how fast the last two weeks have flown by." August 23rd, he noted "back in iraq for round two, probably won't fire a shot in anger all tour. sucks." In his last post at his blog, Shay observed, "We are respected in Baqubah. We are also feared. Our battalion has a fantastic opportunity to use these facts to our advantage and make a real difference before the withdrawal of all combat forces in the summer of next year. We made a difference in 2007, we could do it again in 2009. I fear we will not."

Any such efforts at "a real difference" seem blocked as Nouri al-Maliki continues his quest to create an international incident. August 19th was Black Wednesday -- mulitple bombs going in off in Baghdad, the Foreign Ministry and the Finance Ministry being targeted, at least 101 people were killed nearly 600 hundred injured. Though no one knows who is responsible, Nouri has attempted to make political hay by blaming Ba'athists in Syria and demanding that the Syrian government turn over to Ba'athists. The Syrian government has responded by following the laws on extradition and requesting evidence before making a move. Boht countries have recalled their ambassadors. Nouri bloviates about evidence but either has none or is unwilling to turn any over. Nouri's demanding the United Nations set up some sort of tribunal to investigate the bombing -- which actually makes it clear how inept Nouri's 'leadership' is that he can't handle an incident of violence.
Alsumaria reports that Syrian President Bashar Al Assad denounced the proposal at a press conference today with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Khalid al-Ansary, Muhanad Mohammed, Tim Cocks and Janet Lawrence (Reuters) report that Nouri's sending "thousands of extra police" to the border with Syria and Iraqi police chief Tariq Yusuf describes those being sent as "emergency forces." BBC quotes Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's Foreign Minister, stating, "We have given them [the Syrian government] the evidence that we have through the Turkish foreign minister and we are waiting for their response." Efforts by Turkey to mediate between the governments of Syria and Iraq earlier this week appear to have fallen apart after Turkey refused to send more water to the two countries. Alsumaria reports that Jordan's Prime Minister Nader Al Dahabi (visiting Baghdad and now in the Kurdistan region) "noted that his country is willing to calm tensions between Baghdad and Damascus". As Mike noted yesterday, the Jordan Times reported Iraq and Jordan reached an agreement to establish "a free trade zone".

Iraq as the Angry Child. Stomping its feet and demanding everyone bow to its wishes. If you learn one thing from following the current government, it's how ignorant and uninformed or uncaring the officials are.
Inside Iraq airs every Friday on Al Jazeera and usually includes one Iraqi government employee who struggles to redefine what government actually is and only succeeds in demonstrating how nothing resembling democracy is taking root in Iraq. Forget respect, there is no understanding of the press and you get idiots like the Ministry of National Dialogue's Saad al-Muttalibi (see the August 21st broadcast) stating:

And I'm not here to defend anybody, I'm just saying that there were no evidence. For somebody to write a piece, an article in a state-owned newspaper and claim that he knew in advance that somebody, anybody has the intention of doing the robbery and buying blankets and distributing the blankets through -- during the elections, that sounds to me like going out of the norm, this is not media reporting, this is accusation and without any evidence. I mean the journalists didn't have any evidence for his case. A journalist's job is uh to produce the news uh to convey the news and events that happen in the country and as truthfully and honest as possible and but not to make interpretation, their own interpretation of events. Thank you.

A journalist doesn't gather 'evidence.' Journalism is not a court of law. Reporting isn't a court of law. There are different standards in a court of law than are required for journalism and that's because public shaming (the worst that journalism can do) is not the same as imprisonment. Equally true, journalism is reporting and it is more than that. The article that had Saad al-Muttalibi so enraged wasn't "reporting." He wants to impose reporting standards on what was an opinion piece, a column. Forget that it was parody -- which the uneducated Saad al-Muttalibi and a whole host of others can't grasp -- it was an opinion column. But Saad thinks he can dictate what journalism will be in a country and what it would be under him is nothing but "The government said today . . ." That's not how journalism works and it's not even reporting is supposed to work. The thugs in charge in Iraq like to toss around "evidence" but they never understand what it is nor do they ever grasp that just because they dub something "evidence" doesn't mean others would recognize it as such. The government's a joke and it would deservedly fall apart if the US pulled out all troops tomorrow. Which should probably happen because it would allow the Iraqis a fighting chance -- the people who the US military was supposedly 'freeing' but instead have been enslaved to the whims of a bunch of cowardly exiles who couldn't fight Saddamn but could run off and hide in other countries where they lobbyied for US involvement for decades. These cowards are the ones the US government put in charge of Iraq and they have no legitimacy in the eyes of the average Iraqi which is not a surprise because no one would want their rulers to be composed of a slew of cowards and turncoasts who didn't have the guts to struggle in the country with everyone else but instead fled for posh and cushy lives in London, Iran, Jordan, Syria, etc.
When you grasp how many exiles make up the so-called 'government,' it's all the more shocking the central government's lack of concern for the ongoing external refugee crisis.
UNHCR announced today that 36 Iraqi refugees living in Jordan and Syria have been "resettled to Belgium". On the subject of refugees, Marcia noted the appeal sent out by the US Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents -- Camp Ashraf is a camp of Iranian exiles who have been in Iraq for decades now.

On the 38th day of a hunger strike outside the White House in protest against the continuing siege of Camp Ashraf in Iraq, speakers at a news conference called on President Obama to intervene and end the humanitarian crisis in Ashraf, home to 3,400 members of the People's Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK) and their families.Steven Schneebaum, U.S. Counsel for the families of Camp Ashraf residents,said, "The position of the United States that it no longer has any obligationtowards the residents of Ashraf is plainly wrong. The US is still responsiblebased on the agreement it signed with each and every member in 2004, accordingto Article 45 of the 4th Geneva Convention and International Customary Law."Colonel Gary Morsch, Reservist, Commander, Combat Support Hospital in the USarmy, who severed in Ashraf in 2004, remarked that, "I am speaking as asoldier and cannot comprehend why our military did nothing to stop the carnageat Ashraf.""There are hundreds of people across the world on hunger strike. If we can getour government to act quickly, and get the 36 hostages released, we can bringthe hunger strike to an end," Colonel Morsch added.

Unlike their 'leaders,' for the Iraqi people, the stuggle never ends.
Campbell Robertson (online at the New York Times) reports from northern Iraq's "small Christian villages" where "residents seem tired; looking into their empty, often unhealthy faces, you wonder whether the massive exodus of Christians from Iraq -- half the population by many estimates -- has left only the weakest and least capable behind to look after their homeland." And in order "to look after their homeland," Nordland reports, a new development has emerged, the formation of Christian militias. Militia member Thabid Daoo is quoted stating, "We are protecting the whole city, not the churches only. We are the people of our city, so we know the strangers who are coming from outside."

Quil Lawrence (NPR -- text only) reports that Iraqi security forces are using an instrumbent to detect bombs that probably doesn't do that: "Many U.S. officials say the science is about as sound as searching for groundwater with a stick. [. . .] One American expert in Baghdad compared the machine with a Ouija board but wouldn't comment on the record. A U.S. Navy investigation exposed a similar device made by a company called Sniffex as a sham." Meanwhile one security measure is in the news. Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports that not only have they stopped taking down the Bremer walls (blast walls) in Baghdad, "This week walls were again being erected across the capital in areas where they had only just been removed. The symbolism was unmistakable: forebodying landmarks of Iraq's descent into chaos were once again necessary. The security gains of the past year are starting to look like a false dawn."


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing and a Baghdad car bombing last night with seven injured from the latter. Reuters notes a Basra rocket attack last night "on the South Cas company offices" and a Baghdad car bombing which injured three people last night (in addition to the one that injured seven).


Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered in Kirkuk.

Turning to the United States and what may be the only accountability for the crimes in Iraq.
May 7th Steven D. Green (pictured above) was convicted for his crimes in March 12, 2006 gang-rape and murder of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, the murder of her parents and the murder of her five-year-old sister while Green was serving in Iraq. Green was found to have killed all four, to have participated in the gang-rape of Abeer and to have been the ringleader of the conspiracy to commit the crimes and the conspiracy to cover them up. May 21st, the federal jury deadlocked on the death penalty and instead kicking in sentence to life in prison. Today, Green stood before US District Judge Thomas B. Russell for sentencing. Kim Landers (Australia's ABC) quotes Judge Russell telling Green his actions were "horrifying and inexcusable." Not noted in any of the links in this snapshot (it comes from a friend present in the court), Steven Dale Green has dropped his efforts to appear waif-ish in a coltish Julia Roberts circa the 1990s manner. Green showed up a good twenty pounds heavier than he appeared when on trial, back when the defense emphasized his 'lanky' image by dressing him in oversized clothes. Having been found guilty last spring, there was apparently no concern that he appear frail anymore.

AGI reports, "Green was recognised as the leader of a group of five soldiers who committed the massacre on September 12 2006 at the Mahmudiyah check point in the south of Baghdad. The story inspired the 2007 masterpiece by Brian De Palma 'Redacted'." BBC adds, "Judge Thomas Russell confirmed Green would serve five consecutive life sentences with no chance of parole." Deborah Yetter (Courier-Journal) explains, "Friday's federal court hearing was devoted mostly to discussion of technical issues related to Green's sentencing report, although it did not change Green's sentence. He was convicted in May of raping and murdering Abeer al-Janabi, 14, and murdering her parents, Kassem and Fakhriya, and her sister, Hadeel, 6, at their home outside Baghdad."

Green was tried in civilian court because he had already been discharged before the War Crimes were discovered. Following the gang-rape and murders, US soldiers attempted to set fire to Abeer's body to destroy the evidence and attempted to blame the crimes on "insurgents." In real time, when the bodies were discovered, the New York Times was among the outlets that ran with "insurgents." Green didn't decide he wanted to be in the military on his own. It was only after his most recent arrest -- after a long string of juvenile arrests -- while sitting in jail and fearing what sentence he would face, that Green decided the US Army was just the place he wanted to be. Had he been imprisoned instead or had the US military followed rules and guidelines, Green wouldn't have gotten in on a waiver. Somehow his history was supposed to translate into "He's the victim!!!!" As if he (and the others) didn't know rape was a crime, as if he (and the others) didn't know that murder was considered wrong. Green attempted to climb up on the cross again today.
AP's Brett Barrouguere quotes the 'victim' Green insisting at today's hearing, "You can act like I'm a sociopath. You can act like I'm a sex offender or whatever. If I had not joined the Army, if I had not gone to Iraq, I would not have got caught up in anything." Climb down the cross, drama queen. Your entire life was about leading up to a moment like that. You are a sociopath. You stalked a 14-year-old Iraqi girl while you were stationed at a checkpoint in her neighborhood. You made her uncomfortable and nervous, you stroked her face. She ran to her parents who made arrangements for her to go live with others just to get her away from you, the man the army put there to protect her and the rest of the neighborhood. You are one sick f**k and you deserve what you got. Green play drama queen and insist "you can act like I'm a sex offender" -- he took part in and organized a gang-rape of a 14-year-old girl. That's a sex offender. In fact, "sex offender" is a mild term for what Green is.

Steven D. Green made the decision to sign up for the US military. He was facing criminal punishment for his latest crimes, but he made the decision. Once in the military, despite his long history of arrests, he didn't see it as a chance to get a fresh start. He saw it as a passport for even more crimes. What he did was disgusting and vile and it is War Crimes and by doing that he disgraced himself and the US military. His refusal to take accountability today just demonstrates the realities all along which was Green did what he wanted and Green has no remorse. He sullied the name of the US military, he sullied the name of the US. As a member of the army, it was his job to follow the rules and the laws and he didn't do so. And, as a result, a retaliation kidnapping of US soldiers took place in the spring of 2006 and those soldiers were strung up and gutted. That should weigh heavily on Steven D. Green but there's no appearence that he's ever thought of anyone but himself. He wants to act as if the problem was the US military which requires that you then argue that anyone serving in Iraq could have and would have done what he did. That is not reality. He does not represent the average soldier and he needs to step down from the cross already.

AFP notes, "During closing arguments at his sentencing, Green was described alternately as 'criminal and perverse' and deserving of the death penalty, and as a 'broken warrior" whose life should be spared'." Brett Barrouquere (AP) has been covering the story for years now. He notes that Patrick Bouldin (defense) attempted to paint Green as the victim as well by annoucing that Green wanted to take responsibility "twice" before but that Assistant US Attorney Marisa Ford explained that was right before jury selection began and in the midst of jury selection. In other words, when confronted with the reality that he would be going to trial, Steven D. Green had a panic moment and attempted to make a deal with the prosecution. (The offer was twice rejected because the 'life in prison' offer included the defense wanting Green to have possible parole.) Steve Robrahn, Andrew Stern and Paul Simao (Reuters) quote US Brig Gen Rodney Johnson ("Commanding General of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command") stating, "We sincerely hope that today's sentencing helps to bring the loved ones of this Iraqi family some semblance of closure and comfort after this horrific and senseless act."

While Green plays victim,
Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan attempts to end the wars. Last week, she led demonstrations on Martha's Vineyard while US President Barack Obama vacationed there. John V. Walsh (CounterPunch) reports:

I spent but a short time with Cindy Sheehan as she carried her antiwar protest from an earlier time at Crawford, TX, to Martha's Vineyard, vacation spot for Obama and many other Democrat Party elite. As Cindy remarked, the real story was not that she was protesting Obama's wars but that the "leadership" of the peace movement did not support her protest. When the target was Bush in Crawford, she was all the rage with antiwar celebrities, but not so now that the target is Barack Obama. While there is considerable enthusiasm for her anti-Obama protest on the part of the rank and file in the anti-war movement, a refusal of its "leaders" to notify their members far and wide, high and low, crippled the action. As a result of this betrayal, the numbers at Martha's Vineyard were not large. But Cindy and her fellow anti-warriors were undeterred. While I was there, she mounted a spirited march down the road to Obama's place, no more than a quarter mile away from where she stayed. The purpose was to present the President with a poster of Cindy bearing a signed plea to end the wars. The considerable armed force at the gate and the Secret Service officers would not even bring out the lowliest of staffers to receive the poster. Clearly the message from Obama was "Get lost, Cindy." And we were quickly told to move a considerable distance down the road. At least in Crawford it had been possible to demonstrate at the checkpoint to the site -- not so at Obama's place. Thus, did Obama greet a mother whose son was lost in the wars, which he continues and enlarges by the day.

CounterPunch's Alexander Cockburn observes:

Is there any sign of life in a movement that marshaled hundreds of thousands to march in protest against war in Iraq? Ah, but those were the Bush years. Now we have a Democrat in the White House.
One person hasn't tossed aside her peace sign. Cindy Sheehan sees war as war, whether the battle standard is being waved by a white moron from Midland, Texas or an eloquent black man from Chicago. But when she called for protesters to join her on Martha's Vineyard to stand outside Obama's holiday roost for four days at the end of August there was a marked contrast to the response she got when she rallied thousands to stand outside Bush's Crawford lair.
As John Walsh described it
here last week, "the silence was, as Cindy put it in an email to this writer, 'crashingly deafening.' Where are the email appeals to join Cindy from The Nation or from AFSC or Peace Action or 'Progressive' Democrats of America (PDA) or even Code Pink? Or United for Peace and Justice. And what about MoveOn although it was long ago thoroughly discredited as principled opponents of war or principled in any way shape or form except slavish loyalty to the 'other' War Party. And of course sundry 'socialist' organizations are also missing in action since their particular dogma will not be front and center. These worthies and many others have vanished into the fog of Obama's wars."
Before he joined Sheehan on Martha's Vineyard, Walsh says he contacted several of the leaders of the "official" peace movement in the Boston area -- AFSC, Peace Action, Green Party of MA (aka Green Rainbow Party) and some others. Not so much as the courtesy of a reply resulted from this effort -- although the GRP at least posted a notice of the action.

TV notes.
NOW on PBS begins airing tonight on many PBS stations:This week NOW, as part of a collaboration with the nonprofit investigative unit ProPublica, explores the controversial tactic of "preventative detention," a government plan that may detain suspects indefinitely without trial or even formal charges. Implementing such a plan may have far-reaching consequences on not just our fight against terrorism, but the integrity of the U.S. Constitution and the cause of human rights.Washington Week also begins airing tonight on many PBS stations and sitting around the table with Gwen this week are Dan Balz (Washington Post), Jackie Calmes (New York Times), John Dickerson (CBS News and Slate) and Martha Raddatz (ABC News). Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe and her guests Sam Bennett, Amanda Carpenter, Karen Czarnecki and Eleanor Holmes Norton discuss the week's news on this week's edition of PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:The Age of Megafires Global warming is increasing the intensity and number of forest fires across the American West. Scott Pelley goes to the fire line to report. Watch VideoCombat in Afghanistan The enemy is on the rise in Afghanistan and Lara Logan's report from a forward operating base near Pakistan includes 60 Minutes footage of up-close combat. Watch VideoMr. Ayers and Mr. Lopez Discovered living on the streets by Los Angeles Times newspaper columnist Steve Lopez, mentally ill musician Nathaniel Ayers has become the subject of a book by Lopez and now a Hollywood film. Morley Safer reports. Watch Video60 Minutes Sunday, Sept. 6, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

iraqsteven d. green
brett barrouquere
the new york timescampbell robertson
nprquil lawrence
mcclatchy newspaperssahar issa
cindy sheehan
john v. walsh
al jazeera
martin chulovthe guardian
bbc newsalsumaria
washington weekiraq60 minutescbs newspbsto the contrarybonnie erbenow on pbs

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

WBAI embraces the homophobe

Stan called while Mike and I were at dinner and, when we eat out, unless I'm expecting a call, I generally let voice mail pick up and don't even look at the caller i.d. I figure it's an hour and, as most of you know, I'm usually in the office for lunch. I don't eat breakfast so this is my meal time. If I know someone's going to call, I will grab the phone.

But I missed Stan and he must be on the phone now so I'm not sure I understand his message but I'm going to try.

I often catch a little of WBAI's Wakeup Call in the morning. Not the full two hours (it used to be three hours, in order to air Democracy Now! two times in a row, Wakeup Call lost an hour) but bits and pieces.

I loathe Esther. She never knows what she's talking about.

Which is a shame because she's got one of the most beautiful voices for radio.

Deepa Fernandez (whom I prefer) doesn't know everything but she never acts like she does. She's perfectly willing to say on air that she doesn't know __ and ask the guest to explain about it. But Esther really has a need for everyone to think she's the smartest person in the world and the result is she makes a lot of dumb mistakes. If she'd stop trying to bluff her way through, it would be so much easier for her. Again, with that voice she has a natural talent.

Deepa's very gifted as well. When Deepa's hosting, it's with regret that I turn off the show (for a session or a business call). With Esther, it's so very easy to turn off.

As I understand it, Esther was going to the well on race again. She tends to do that over and over. The topic was that the New York Post (Esther forgot to identify the paper) is putting out the rumors that Eliot Spitzer, former governor of New York, plans to run for a statewide office or even for the US Senate. He denied it. But that wasn't good enough for Esther who apparently sees a conspiracy everytime she turns on her TV and those 'little people' appear on the rectangular surface.

So she decides to discuss whether he should run or not. She books a city council member for that. She thinks that cuts it.

Forget that the council member loathes Eliot Spitzer (so it's not a balanced program and it's not a fair program and it's just more garbage from Esther), the topic quickly became (I did catch this segment) race. The council member was African-American. I'm not sure where Esther's from but she is Black.

Eliot Spitzer is White and that's why he's not in prison according to the council member with 'uh-huh's from Esther.

No, that makes no sense at all. Not a bit of sense.

Eliot Spitzer apparently used a call girl service. (I say apparently because I don't give a damn about sex scandals and I ignored this because, like most intelligent people, I grasped that what was happening was a political assassination.)

People don't to go to prison for that.

I don't know what world they live in but people don't generally go to prison for being the customer of a prostitute.

Spitzer is White and . . Marion Berry is African-American. Mairon, the show insisted, wouldn't be so lucky. First, Marion is on the city council in DC. So I don't know about "lucky." Second, what does that have to do with anything?

The woman with Marion may have been a prostitute. I don't know. That was so long ago. But what got him into trouble was he was a mayor in DC which had a huge drug problem that the media turned into an even huger one via made-up stories. So when they've already got a drug crisis and Marion's caught in a hotel room doing drugs, he got in trouble.


It is not the same thing. Eliot Spitzer and Marion Berry have nothing in common. For example, Eliot Spitzer favors same-sex marriage and Marion Berry is a homophobe.

It's really funny how homophobes who are African-American never get called out on WBAI. Never.

Esther wasted everyone's time. Eliot Spitzer told the truth. He's accepted a teaching job at a college. So Esther wasted all of our time with her conspiracy theories that Marion and Eliot were the same man but of different races. (Eliot Spitzer made a name for himself before he was governor. That wasn't addressed but, except for the callers, no one could say anything nice about Eliot Spitzer.)

For the record, Esther wastes time every day. When your program loses an hour, you really don't need those 'jams' between segments. Reduce them down to 30 seconds and offer people information. It's embarrassing to listen to all that junk.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, September 2, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, reporter Ibrahim Jassim remains a prisoner of the US military, the US ambassador to Iraq makes a radio appearence, a corpse is turned over to the British embassy in Iraq, Cindy Sheehan speaks about the need for accountability, and more.

Chris Hill is the US Ambassador to Iraq. Yesterday he appeared on
WBUR's On Point with Tom Ashbrook. Jacki Lyden filled in for Ashbrook. Hill, as usual, showed up late ("shaking into town with the brakes complain" -- Joni Mitchell "Just Like This Train"). We'll start our excerpt moments after he joins the show in progress.

Jacki Lyden: I would like to point out what the most recent caller said: What makes us think that the millions of people who've been driven from their homes in Iraq will ever forgive us because we've made enemies with our bad foreign policy? And I do think it is a question that bears putting to you.

Chris Hill: Well, first of all, I agree with your sort of interim answer that uh there are a lot of nuances to this but uh in a way I also understand what the caller is saying. I mean this has been a very tough six years. I mean we're-we're into the seventh year of this very difficult period and to be sure I think a lot of Iraqis thought that it would go a lot better, thought that uh we would essentially bring America to them and that hasn't been the case. It's been -- it's been very tough. It's been very tough politically. It's been very tough to reconcile various sectarian communities. You know there are many Sunnis who feel that they are the big losers with the demise of Saddam Hussein -- even though they didn't like him he was a Sunni. And then frankly there are Shia who feel that they are winners but they always worry about what comes next. So it's a very nuanced picture but with respect to the view of the United States, that's also very complex there are a lot of Iraqis who feel that it has been such a tough time that, you know, why hasn't the US completely rebuilt this country? Well we have, as you suggested, spent billions of dollars but to just rebuild Iraq or to somehow turn it into something it never was would be costing trillions. So we have really tried to work with the Iraqi authorities, tried to stand up a uh market economy, try to get them to uh have uh a proper use of some their natural resources so they can bring in foreign investors and that sort of thing. So there's no question that progress is being made but it's very slow and it's very frustrating to a lot of people.

Jacki Lyden: I find that in Iraq and Iran too there's always and Steven I would be interested to see what you and David have to say about all of this, there is always that presence of people that you speak to that say I didn't know my own country we didn't know each other. But sometimes after a huge shift in leadership, however it comes about, whether it's deposing Saddam Hussein or revolution, that actors start to jockey for power and to even speak of the Iraqis can be tough because after all 66 million people there isn't monolithic opinion obviously. David?

David Ignatius: Well I-I-I would just like to take the moment to-to ask Ambassador Hill in these remaining months in which the US still has a significant troop presence in Iraq although not in the cities, how do you think we can use that leverage so as to leave behind solid political situation as possible? The hope at the time of the surge was that there would be a political reconciliation and yet I think many observers -- most observers would say that really hasn't happened. Ambassador, what tools can use in this remaining period when we're still there to try to make the outcome as good as possible?

Chris Hill: Well let me say, David, this issue of reconciliation is probably the name of the game. I mean if we can uh get some things uh squared away here politically I think Iraq can have a better future you know. Ironically it's the security situation that hits the headlines, the various hideous bombings that one sees but it's the it's the political situation that I think worries a lot of people because this idea of working together and trying to have some rules of the road for the political process is a bit of an elusive concept here. So to answer your question there are a couple of areas where I think the US can be very active and we are active One is on the internal boundaries the disputed internal boundaries and that's between the Kurdish areas in the sort of north and eastern part of the country and the rest of the country the more Arab parts and there are some really serious is agreements in some very key areas. A place called Kirkuk that actually has a lot of oil but there are 14 other features along that boundary. So we have been working really on a retail basis talking to the communities there but also talking to the Kurdish leadership up in Erbil and the leadership up here in uh Baghdad as well to see if we can find solutions. Now there are thoughts that somehow you can get some grand bargain in the process, you can you know sort out the oil, sort out all of these things and have it all come together. Unfortunately I think it's going to be a more retail business because it's local. Now the US forces have been very active here and I think this is where it's very important in the coming year. As you know, General [Ray] Odierno has been working with the Iraq National Police the Iraqi armed forces along with Kurdish counterparts to see if we can work out some joint-patrol and this sort of thing which I think could be extremely helpful. So I think we are trying to make use of this time during the last year. But I want to emphasize, you know, we have elections coming up and while uh Iraqis may have -- may have not totally embraced democracy they sure have embraced politics and so you know a lot of what is going on right now is various politicians are reaching out into other communities to try to put together a coalition they think can win for them in the parliamentary elections. That's kind of heartening stuff. So recently you had a sort of Shia -- Shia grouping put together. Those are mainly people mainly in the south but interestingly the Shia Prime Minister Maliki put a condition in there that he knew the others would not accept and so he's out there playing a sort of Dating Game with Kurdish partners and Sunni tribal partners so there's a lot of politics going on. That's the good news, the bad news is they sometimes you know don't get to the real homework of uh reconciliation in working some of these problems.

Jacki Lyden: Steven, you had, I think it was you. I saw a quote by I wish I could remember which Iraqi politicians said -- speaking to what the ambassador just said -- that sectarian politics are appealing, sectarian governments fail. Are people discussing that?

Steven Lee Myers: That was Ahmed Chalabi who many people will remember from his role supporting the invasion as part of the Iraqi National Congress. Uh, I-I think he's right and that this touches on what the ambassador just said, they need to translate the political process into governance. And I think that's one of the things we haven't seen very much of I mean there are pockets of stability, as I said before, but you don't really see on a national level the basics being done in terms of electricity or water or cleaning the streets and so forth. Going back to your previous question, I compare it to my previous time covering Russia, and the ambassador has seen this as well I assume in the Balkans, but what you have here is a country that's not just been through war but has been through a transformational period of moving from a dictatorship as Russia did after the Soviet Union collapsed to a new society and I think the violence here has prevented a lot of that still arduous transition from happening in terms of social values the economy the legal system. There's a lot that's involved in moving from dictatorship to democracy beyond just the elections themselves.

Jacki Lyden: We are going to take a few calls here in just a moment but Ambassador, I would like to ask you, based on your intelligence, who do you think is responsible for the August 19th bombings which was the worst in a very long time?

Chris Hill: Well I you know the investigations are very much continuing I'm not sure I want to sort of give you a running tab of an ongoing investigation but there are certain usual suspects here that we are obviously looking at very closely and one of course is this al Qaeda in Iraq -- so-called AQI. Now the government has some theories that it's more complex that you have possible ex-Ba'athist elements You know these are also Sunni who feel disenfranchised from the system but they're not sort of these extreme Wahhabists Sunnis that al Qaeda draws its ranks from. Yet there is you know talk in the analytical community whether they're Ba'athist in al Qaeda or AQI -- I want to stress this is al Qaeda in Iraq, a sort of franchised operation. And there's a lot of you know talk that perhaps they have some know -- tactical putting, you know, putting this thing together. It's really hard to say. What is clear though is that for many people in this country when those terrible bombings took place out came the fingers and pointing at each other. And to be sure there's a time for finger pointing, there's certainly a time to investigate and see what failures there were in the system. But there's also a times, as the United States, as we know very well in the wake of 9-11. There is a time to come together and one hope that that call will be better heard in Iraq. Because, uh, it's a very rough political climate here.

Steven Lee Myers is with the New York Times, David Ignatius with the Washington Post and
Post Global. Hill gets credit for alluding to the lack of sense made in al-Maliki's charges of (secular) Ba'athists working with the religious zealots of al Qaeda in Iraq. But it's amazing to listen to him and compare his remarks to those made on Inside Iraq on Al Jazeera (see yesterday's snapshot) where the audience last Friday was informed of charges that Iran was possibly involved. The bombs or the materials are said to have come from Iran (true or not, who knows). And the broadcast did cover it. But Al Jazeera covered Mohammed Abdullah al-Shehwani who handled the intelligence and who quit his post after declaring that Iran was responsible for the Black Wednesday bombings and being greeted with Nouri al-Maliki's rage. (al-Shehwani has now left Iraq.) That's not really going to be addressed by Hill apparently. Even though all of it -- the charges and the counter-charges -- are nothing but speculation. The Washington Post has covered the charges in their reporting and David Ignatius addressed it last week in his column for the paper which included this: "But forensic evidence points to a possible Iranian role, according to an Iraqi intelligence source who is close to Shahwani. He said that signatures of the C-4 explosive residues that have been found at the bomb sites are similar to those of Iranian-made explosives that have been captured in Kut, Nasiriyah, Basra and other Iraqi cities since 2006."

The previous administration wanted war with Iran very badly (as opposed to the current administration which just wants it badly at this point). That doesn't mean that, year after year, Iran gets a pass. Syria's being raked over the coals currently for -- key point often left out -- sticking to the law. When the government of one country wants to extradite someone, they present evidence to the government the person is in. That's how it works. That may be confusing to some since Colin Powell and the Bush administration demanded Afghanistan turn over Osama bin Laden and stated that, at some point after he was turned over, the US would present evidence. That's not how the law works. But the Syrian government is being raked over the coals as Nouri creates an international incident and finger pointing at Saudia Arabia has taken place at well (and made it into US outlets) so the idea that Iran is off limits? No. It's not. And it also needs to be stated that even if there is Iranian involvement, if, that doesn't mean involvement of the Iranian government.

When you declare this country or that country off limits (out of fear that the US wants to go to war with it), it becomes very difficult to have an honest conversation about what is taking place in the world. The broadcast featured Jackie Lyden, Steven Lee Myers and David Ignatius discussing possible Shi'ite on Shi'ite violence and that should have raised more issues. Such as: Is al Qaeda in Iraq going to be the scapegoat forever? Weren't we repeatedly told that al Qaeda in Iraq had been diminished and was a tiny element? (Yes, we were told that, repeatedly in Senate hearings from various military brass.) And haven't we repeatedly been told that al Qaeda in Iraq operates in one region? Remember which region that is? Hint, it's not the centeral region or the northern region and it's not a region Baghdad's in.

To buy the 'conventional' theory being proposed by Nouri and worked by too many in the US press requires that you also declare al Qaeda in Iraq has increased its presence, has added tremendously to its membership and has now expanded into other regions of the country. Of course, how al Qaeda in Iraq would be waived through checkpoints is the stumper. If you've seen the security camera footage of the trucks, there's no way anyone remotely doing their job waived those two trucks through by accident. So the catch all scapegoat of al Qaeda in Iraq really doesn't fit the way Nouri would like it too. Nor is there a reason Shi'ite dominated security forces in Baghdad would waive through Sunnis even for cash.

A Shi'ite 'gang' would be the League of the Rightous which has claimed credit for the slaughter of 5 US service members. Their leader and his brother were in custody but were set free by the US military in June. They were turned over to Nouri who then set them free and started claiming that they were ready to take part in the political process. The group was ready, Nouri insisted through his spokesmodels. Of course, the group also claimed responsibility for the May 29, 2007 kidnappings in Baghdad of British citizens. Five of the two are known to be dead (Jason Swindlehurts and Jason Creswell). Two were assumed dead (Alec Maclachlan and Alan McMenemy) and a fifth (Peter Moore) was hoped to be alive throughout the summer. Today there's a development in that long running story. Apparently to demonstrate that they now want to just be 'political,' the group has turned over another corpse to the Iraqi government. (When the US released the two brothers from custody in June, the group handed over the corpses of Jason Creswell and Jason Swindlehurst.)
CNN goes with caution saying it may be the corpse of a former British hostage. Catherine Philip (Times of London) reports the corpse is now in British custody, that UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband does not believe it is Peter Moore's body and quotes him stating, "We cannot yet definitievely confirm either that this is the remains of one of the hostages, or which one." Ben Livesey (Bloomberg News) notes that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a statement through his spokesperson that he was "deeply saddened" and that there would be "no stone unturned in the Government's efforts to secure the release of the remaining hostages." Not stated is that Brown is on vacation (still) and apparently is not willing to actually interrupt his vacation to make a statement directly. No stone unturned? BBC News adds, "BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said it was believed the body belonged to one of the two men [Alec Maclachlan and Alan McMenemy] and, in that sense, the news would not come as a big surprise. Diplomats say the identity could be established within 24 hours, our correspondent added, and the body is expected to be flown back to the UK by the end of the week." Colin Freeman (Telegraph of London) explains, "The men were abducted by gunmen posing as policemen by a group calling itself League of the Righteous, a group of Shia militants. They were recently understood to have been seeking to enter mainstream politics in Iraq, but attempts to release the hostages through dialogue have proved fruitless." The Daily Mail notes that the League of the Righteous had earlier attempted to use the five hostages to broker a release of "nine Iraqi militants" at Camp Cropper (the leader and his brother were two and, again, they were released in June) and that this "is Britain's longest running hostage crisis since Terry Waite and John McCarthy who were held for nearly five years in Lebanon in the 1980s." Nouri is very close with the League and last week Eli Lake (Washington Times) reported that Ahmed Chalabi was as well.

While the League of the Righteous can see their members (and their leader) released by the US military -- even after they have taken credit for the kidnapping of the 5 British citizens and the slaughter of five US service members, others aren't so lucky.
Michael Christie (Reuters) reports that a year ago today, "U.S. and Iraqi troops smashed in the doors of Iraqi journalist Ibrahim Jassam's home, shouting 'freeze' and holding back snarling dogs before they hauled him off into the night in his underwear." Ibrahim is still imprisoned despite the fact that Iraq's 'judicial' system found that he should be released. From the December 1, 2008 snapshot:
In other news, Reuters photographer Ibrahim Jassam has been a prisoner in Iraq since Sept. 1, 2008 when US and Iraqi military forces drug him from his Mahmudiyah home. He has been held a prisoner since then at Camp Cropper.
Reporters Without Borders and Journalistic Freedom Observatory have been calling for his release. Reuters reported yesterday that Iraq's Central Criminal Court has ordered that Ibrahim be released because "there was no evidence against" him; however, "There was no immediate response from the U.S. military to the ruling." Daryl Lang (Photo District News) adds, "Jassam's case resembles those of several other Iraqi photographers and cameramen working for Western news organizations, all of whom were eventually freed. And the decision comes as the U.S. is releasing thousands of security detainees and preparing to turn its much-maligned detainee system over to the Iraqi government."
Despite the finding that Ibrahim should be released, on December 9, 2009
Reuters reported that US Maj Neal Fisher disagreed with/disregarded the court finding and stated all the Iraqi court order meant was that when he is released Ibrahim "will be able to out-process without having to go through the courts as other detainees in his threat classification will have to do." Why is that? Because the court has found no reason to hold Ibrahim. So while others will go on to have their day in court, Fisher is admitting that Ibrahim's had his but the US military just doesn't want to release him. In June of this year, the Committee to Protect Journalists sent a letter to Nouri al-Maliki and they noted Ibrahim and requested, "Press the U.S. military to respect the decision of the Iraqi courts and immediately release Ibrahim Jassam." Last September, Reporters Without Borders pointed out that over "20 journalists have been arrested in Iraq in similar circumstances since 1st January 2008, all of whom have been released after spending days or even months in custody without any charges being made against them." CPJ notes him here (note that Adel Hussein, whose profile follows, has been released and shouldn't even be on the current list of journalists imprisoned). Reporters Without Borders notes that three journalists are currently detained in Iraq, there's Ibrahim starting September 1, 2008; Mountazer al-Zaidi starting December 14, 2008 (he's the one who threw his shoes at Bully Boy Bush and Nouri's joint-press conference in December) and Jassem Mohamed who has been imprisoned since February 2009.When Ibrahim was taken away, Iman Jassam, Ibrahim's sister, told NPR's Quil Lawrence in July, "One of the Iraqi soldiers said, 'Why are you still talking? If you only knew what we are going to do to your brother, you would be crying.' These words are still echoing in my ears." Those who can't stream audio or for whom streaming audio is of no use due to hearing issues can click here for a trasncript of the Morning Edition report in the July 21st snapshot. Ibrahim is supposed to be released. The US maintains he's a security release but will not present evidence to support that allegation and the Iraqi court looked into the arrest and found no cause for Ibrahim to be held. Yet he's still held and don't think the hypocrisy isn't being noted around the world. Daya Gamage's "Iraqi journalist under U.S. custody without trial but, Us critical of Tissanayagam jail sentence in Sri Lanka" (Asian Tribune):The United States criticized Sri Lanka Monday, August 31 for sentencing to 20 years in prison an ethnic Tamil journalist by Sri Lanka's judiciary after an open trial. "We were disappointed to learn of the verdict and the severity of the sentence," State Department deputy spokesman Robert Wood said at the daily media briefing after a Sri Lankan court handed down the sentence against J.S. Tissainayagam. The United States' criticism of Sri Lanka which gave due process of the law to Tissanayagam came at a time when an Iraqi photo-journalist Ibrahim Jassam lies in U.S. military custody in Iraq since 02 September 2008 without trial and denying him the due process of the law.

In other Iraq news,
Natalia Antelava (BBC News) reports that the abandoned Nigerian embassy in Baghdad has been turned into "the Academy of Peace through Art, a school created under the umbrella of Iraq's national Symphony Orchestra." She quotes the director Karim Wasfi stating, "We offer space, teachers, the instruments and a chance to be exposed to a bit of civilisation, something that everyone in Iraq deserves. Straight away I tell students: you have a choice in life. You can choose a weapon, a Kalashnikov, or you can try a musical instrument." Also in Baghdad, Anne Barker (Australia's ABC News) reports that "four security officers have been sentenced to death for their part in a multi-million dollar banks robbery in Baghdad." She's referring to the July 28th bank robbery in which 8 security guards were killed and millions were stolen as US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was visiting Iraq. (The two are not unconnected. When US dignitaries visit, security is channeled towards that and you often see a spike in store and bank robberies.) BBC adds, "The judges gave the condemned men one month to appeal the sentence. They all proclaimed their innocence during the proceedings. Correspondents say the case has potential for major political fallout despite Mr Abdel Mahdi's denials of any involvement of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council to which he belongs." And Kirit Radia (ABC News) reports Blackwater's contract to guard the US State Dept in Iraq has been extended (it "was due to expire this month").


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which left four police officers wounded, a Mosul roadside bombing which wounded two Iraqi soldiers and another one which injured a civilian. Reuters notes a Kirkuk roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left another injured and they drop back to Tuesday night to note a Baghdad car bombing which left two people injured.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 man shot dead at his home in Mosul and a Mosul home invasion in which 1 young woman was shot dead and her mother was wounded. Reuters drops back to last night to note 2 men shot dead in a Mosul mosque by unknown assailants.


Reuters notes 1 corpse was discovered in Mosul ("gunshot wounds to the head").

Peace Mom
Cindy Sheehan continues attempting to end the wars and was interviewed by Anastasia Churkina (RT, video link via Information Clearning House).

Anastasia Churkina: Through your eyes, what mistakes is Barack Obama making in his policies?

Cindy Sheehan: (Laughing) Am I supposed to limit my answer to two minutes? Well, you know, I think the-the administration made a bad mistake going after health care reform and staking the 2010 elections on that. And our health care system in America doesn't need to be reformed, it needs to be overthrown and replaced with a single-payer system. And not to -- and to let -- this is the biggest, I don't know if it's a mistake, I don't know if it's on purpose, I don't know what's happening but why do the Republicans in the House of Representatives and in the Senate have any say in what's going on? They're a minority. They have no power. We have a Democratic, a large Democratic lead in the House, in the Senate and we have a Democratic president. Every progressive agenda item should be able to be pushed through right now. As I see it, with them, Obama, using the Republicans to say "Well I can't do this because the Republicans say no," when it's actually the corporations like the health care, you know, the health insurance companies, Big Pharma and HMOs telling him "No, we can't have health care reform." He's exploiting the Republicans to say, "Well the Republicans say 'no'." And so they're going to lose seats in 2010. The Democrats are very vulnerable right now.

Anastasia Churkina: Barack Obama, on a number of occasions, has spoken about looking forward. You have compared this to putting blinders on. Why?

Cindy Sheehan: No American president has had to be held accountable for War Crimes, for crimes against humanity, for international crimes against humanity and, to me, that's a tragedy because we have had presidents that have committed War Crimes and international crimes against humanity. Specifically the Bush administration. And so they're not putting the full force of our law, of our Constitution and basic common law to -- and international law -- to investigate and prosecute the crimes of the Bush administration. And I think it's because the Obama administration is carrying on what the Bush administration did. So how can you prosecute somebody for -- for what you want to do and what are you doing because that would implicate you. And there can't be any healing in this country, there can't be any true change without accountability and I'm a firm believer in that. I don't think any one of us could break a law here and say I get pulled over for running a stop sign? And I can't say, "Well, officer, haven't you heard we're looking forward now? That-that crime was in the past. You can't ticket me." And so crimes happen in the past and they have to be investigated in the present. So I think that it is putting blinders on and it's ignoring the fact that millions of people are dead, wounded, displaced from their homes because of the crimes of the Bush administration.

There's not room for a highlight in the snapshot today but
Debra Sweet (World Can't Wait) covers the need for accountability here (that went up yesterday). Related, NOW on PBS has an online exclusive: US Lt Col Stuart Couch was tasked with prosecuting Mohamedou Ould Slahi for alleged involvement in the 9/11 attacks but then learned that Slahi had been tortured while in custody. He tells David Brancaccio, "I felt like what had been done to Slahi just reprehensible. For that reason alone, I refused to have any further participation in this case." In other TV news, this January Diane Sawyer becomes the anchor of ABC World News Tonight. ABC News posts Charlie Gibson's "Goodbye Cruel World" e-mail here. Still on TV, American Dad and Family Guy genius Seth MacFarlane wanted his Mallory. Mallory is the Family Ties character Justine Bateman made famous. He declares he wanted his Mallory while speaking with Kevin Pollack on Kevin Pollack's Chat Show (click here for the actual episode).

The Simpsons came along and made it actually funny. If you watch The Flintstones, if you see a slapstick gag, it's not, you know, there's the camera shake and there's the big effect of the Starburst that goes out beneath them . . . [But on The Simpsons,] these characters were being treated like three dimensional objects. When somebody would fall through a table, it played, you know, real. It played like you were watching the gas station scene from Mad, Mad World.

Along with It's A Mad Mad Mad World, Seth references Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Albert Brooks' Modern Romance and he reveals a security guard at his college was the inspiration for Peter Griffith's voice on Family Guy. Kevin Pollak does the weekly broadcast (live) each Sunday. He is a stand up performer and an actor and his many, many acting credits include A Few Good Men, Grumpy Old Men (and the sequel), and Miami Rhapsody.

David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which just won the CLR James Award. He is an independent journalist and a photographer with tremendous gifts and an exhibit of his work is currently running in Santa Rosa through October 10th.


Journalist and documentary photographer David Bacon highlights the difficult issues that are critical to California's indigenous farm workers. He explores the unique challenges that indigenous communities face, while celebrating the culture and community spirit that sustains them.
For the first time, this exhibition includes both color images from the Living Under the Trees traveling show, and black-and-white prints from the earlier photodocumentary project,

SANTA ROSA JUNIOR COLLEGE 1501 Mendocino Ave. Santa Rosa, CA 95401
SEPTEMBER 3 - OCTOBER 10, 2009 MONDAY - THURSDAY · 10 AM TO 4 PM SATURDAY · NOON TO 4 PM EVENT PROGRAM THURSDAY · SEPTEMBER 3, 4 - 7 PM · DOYLE LIBRARY 4201 Opening Reception with Danza Mexica Coyolxauhqui TUESDAY · SEPTEMBER 8, 4 - 6 PM · ART GALLERY Panel Presentation - "Immigrant Workers Speak" SATURDAY · SEPTEMBER 12, 4 - 7 PM · ART GALLERYCommunity Forum and Cultural Program "Living in Sonoma County: Housing for the Immigrant and Farm Workers Communities" MONDAY · SEPTEMBER 14, NOON - 1:30 PM · NEWMAN AUDITORIUM Guest Lecture · David Bacon "Living Under the Trees" TUESDAY · SEPTEMBER 15, NOON - 2 PM · ART GALLERY Cultural Presentation and Poetry Reading Ballet Sonatlan and Armando Garcia-Davila WEDNESDAY · SEPTEMBER 16, NOON - 2 PM Mexican Independence Celebration with MeChA Quad in front of the Frank P. Doyle library, SRJC THURSDAY · OCTOBER 1, 4 - 6 PM · ART GALLERY Panel Presentation "Immigration and California Farm Workers" MONDAY · OCTOBER 5, NOON - 1:30 PM · NEWMAN AUDITORIUM Guest Lecture · Dr. David Montejano "The Border as History: Immigration Debates, Past and Present" THURSDAY · OCTOBER 8, NOON - 1:30 PM · 1:30 - 4 PM · ART GALLERYStudent Presentations
"Immigration Policy Proposal
Living Under the Trees is a cooperative project with California Rural Legal Assistance and the Frente Indigena de Organizaciones Binacionales.
For more articles and images on immigration, see
See also Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press, 2008)
Recipient: C.L.R. James Award, best book of 2007-2008
See also the photodocumentary on indigenous migration to the US
Communities Without Borders (Cornell University/ILR Press, 2006)
See also The Children of NAFTA, Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border (University of California, 2004)

jackie lydendavid ignatiuswburon point with tom ashbrookal jazeerainside iraqcatherine philp
the washington timeseli lake
mcclatchy newspapers
cindy sheehan
ibrahim jassamreutersmichael christiedaya gamage
nprmorning edition
quil lawrencertanastasia churkina
anne barkernatalia antelava
kirit radia
seth macfarlanekevin pollakthe kevin pollak chat showamerican dadfamily guy
pbsnow on pbs

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Howard the Coward Zinn

An e-mail came in stating there was a topic I mentioned last week that I said I'd write about here if we didn't cover it at Third. It was covered at Third. See "When Coward met Zirin . . ." I think it turned out really well.

Howard Zinn was interviewed by Dave Zirin before a group of people. A transcript was printed up in International Socialist Review. It only demonstrated how little merit Howard gives to the women's rights struggle.

He is insulting and belittling.

He would not choose to go for laughs with the struggle of other groups.

He also refuses to deal with women's liberation.

So you can read the article at Third. Again, I believe it turned out very well.

I think Howard's behaved disgracefully for some time now.

In fact, I'll write about that.

He's played us.

In The Progressive, early in 2008, he's writing as if he's not supporting any candidate. Yet we now know differently. He was always for Barack. When he finally came out for Barack, there was a huge shock because Howard is not supposed to fall for corporate candidates.

Howard's supposed to be about independence. So Howard quickly retracted his public endorsement and stated he was instead endorsing Cynthia McKinney.


He did nothing for Cynthia's campaign.

But he did allow his name to be used as a sponsor for an inaugural party for Barack.

He wants to pretend that didn't happen. Just because he didn't attend. He stated he would attend and then backed off from that. But he allowed his name to be used.

That is not who Howard Zinn is supposed to be.

He's also a Socialist and you have to wonder what a Socialist is doing supporting Barack Obama or any Democratic Party candidate?

But he supports independence . . . when it comes to his career at least. Only then, apparently.

Barack Obama has not exposed himself. Everything being seen now was always visible. Those who knew his Chicago history (as I did and C.I. did) had a responsiblity to speak truth to power. Howard Zinn knew Barack's Chicago history but ignored it. Not only that, but in the interview, he lies for Michelle Obama. When Michelle is infamous for kicking people out of the hospital system.

In the interview, it appears obvious that Howard Zinn's 'revolutionary' politics is nothing more than "I'll vote for the Black candidate!" (Barack's bi-racial.) It's a lot like an episode of Will & Grace. (Remember that one?)

From those who've presented themselves as brave voices, one expects bravery.

The last two years have been a continuous presentation on just how non-brave Howard Zinn is.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, September 1, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, huge leap in the monthly death toll as reported by Iraqi ministries, Black Wednesday gets serious TV attention (from Qatar), Amnesty International reports over 1,000 Iraqis are on death row, an Iraq War veteran may have taken his own life (and possibly the life of his wife as well) while another fights for the right to see her daughter, and more.

Jasim Al-Azzawi declared at the opening of Friday's Inside Iraq (video links), "The powerful bombs that rocked Baghdad and other Iraqi cities in the last few weeks have shattered the myth of improved security." BBC reports that, according to Iraqi ministry figures, August saw the most civilian deaths in the last 13 months. AFP explains, "Statistics compiled by the defence, interior and health ministries showed that 456 people -- 393 civilians, 48 police and 15 Iraqi soldiers -- were killed, the highest toll since July last year when 465 died in unrest." Those figures are incorrect -- not a surprise. But they're incorrect just in terms of deaths reported by media outlets in August. As noted yesterday, there were 509 reported deaths and 1919 reported injured. A number from the second category would be expected to slide from the wounded into the death column. (True of any victims of violence in any country.) Ned Parker and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) cover the release of the ministry figures here. Today Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) lists the death toll for Black Wednesday as 132. I don't doubt that's possible, but I haven't seen that reported elsewhere. The day after, the death toll had risen from 95 to 101. Again, wounded frequently do not recover. That's 31 more deaths than we've included in the count. If Myers is correct, that would mean at least 540 deaths were reported in August. Tim Cocks and Philippa Fletcher (Reuters) observe that the ministry's number is also higher than August 2008 which was 382. As Jasim Al-Azzawi noted August bombings shattered the myth of improved security.

"In the aftermath of the horrific explosions,"
Jasim Al-Azzawi declared on Inside Iraq, "fingers of responsibility were directed not only at al Qaeda and the Ba'ath Party but have also included the political differences among the ruling coalition." His guests on Friday were Constitutional Movement of Iraq's Al-Sharif Ali bin al-Hussein, the Center for a New American Security's John Nagl and Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.

Jasim Al-Azzawi: Mr. Zebari let me start with you. Immediately after Black Wednesday, several statements were made. The most important perhaps was made by you when you said "The worst is yet to come." What did you mean by that?

Hoshyar Zebari: Yes, thank you Jasim. It's good to be on your program again. And as you said actually, Wednesday the 19th of August was a sad day in Iraq and I think it was a turning point. The attack was at the heart of the government, at the heart of the Iraqi state and the number of casualties were enormous. And because really that the terrorists managed to come this far we believe that still they are preparing for more and more attacks because still there goal is to bring this government down, to paralyze the government, to create as much chaos as possible and also we have to be mindful of the foreign intervention, of the regional interventions and efforts and attempts to destabilize the situation in Iraq. Some still believe in living in the past, they believe the situation in Iraq is reversible to pre-2003. They are dreaming actually. This will not happen. The Iraqi people as these attacks demonstrated are unified, united behind the government, behind their new political regime.

Jasim Al-Azzawi: Let me in that case, Mr. Zebari, let me engage Mr. Al-Sharif Ali bin al-Hussein. On the last sentence Mr. Zebari said and that is "This government is united," the other statement that I was alluding was the Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, when he said immediately, I believe the day after that explosion, he said, "The political differences is causing this." He said "The political differences is causing this." Did he put his finger on the right diagnosis, Shairf Ali bin al-Hussein?

Al-Sharif Ali bin al-Hussein: Well clearly the perception in Iraqi public opinion is that the reason, the reason for these explosions is rivalry between the different political parties. And they are using terrorist organizations to settle scores. Whether this is true or not, time will only tell. But I think it will have repercussions on the government parties for the main reason is that the Maliki government or the premiership of Maliki's main achievement is bringing security to the country. Clearly this is being severely undermined. Also there is the accusation as in -- as in your trailer [footage of Iraqis speaking about the bombings], it said that many believe that ISCI [Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq] was responsible. I think, whether this is true or not, perception is everything in politics and that the Iraqi man in the street and woman in the street believes that the reason for these explosions is political rivalry between government factions as opposed to a terrorist objective of bringing down the government and re-establishing the old regime.

Jasim Al-Azzawi: Let me bring in John Nagl who not only served in Iraq for awhile but he's also the president of the New American -- the Center for New American Century. You write about Iraq. Looking at the two suspects -- and that is the Ba'ath Party residing Syria as the Iraqi government is demanding the extradition of two senior officers of that defunct party as well as what the chief of the Iraqi intelligence, military intelligence, Mr. [Mohammed Abdullah al-] Shehwani said. He says he firmly believes that it is Iran, it's al Qaeda trained Iran. What is your take on the two culprits?

John Nagl: I'm not in a good position from Washington [DC] to say which of those two culprits conducted the attacks on Black Wednesday or if, in fact, it was a combination, or it could have been any number of insurgent groups dedicated to achieving political objectives through the use of violence against innocent people and in particularly through the use of extraordinarily aggressive and large attacks such as those that occurred on Black Wednesday. What I am most concerned about frankly is I don't think this is, uh, the beginning of something bigger. This strikes me as-as a reaction to some-some vulnerability, some openings that were actually created by the Iraqi government. And I well understand the desire of the Iraqis to return to normalcy but the insurgency is not yet over and it is not yet time to dismantle all of the protections that have been erected over the past few years.

Jasim Al-Azzawi: Exactly. That's what Mr. Zebari said immediately after the explosion. Mr. Zebari said "The worst is yet to come. We have to stop painting rosy pictures about improved security and we have to brace ourself for what is coming next." Exactly what is coming next, Mr. Zebari?

Hoshyar Zebari: I don't have the crystal ball, you see, to read the future. But this is political analysis. I said in my earlier remark, Jasim, that there are a number of countries and governments around us who believe that the situation in Iraq is reversible to pre-2003. And this attacks were the signal you see to-to bring down the government, to attack the heart of the government, to create as much chaos and devastation as possible. So if they still believe in that theory -- that the situation is reversible -- you would expect some even worse attacks actually to be perpetrated by these terrorist groups inside Iraq that come from outside --

Jasim Al-Azzawi: Being the consummate politician that you are, Mr. Zebari, let me see if I can ferret out the information out of you. There were a few statements made. One of them by a senior adviser to the prime minister, Haidar al-Abadi, he said, "Saudi Arabia is spending millions of dollars in order to destabilize Iraq." That is one accusation, one neighboring country. And now it is no secret Iraq is asking for these two senior Iraqi Ba'athist to come back and that is, in one way or another, blaming Syria for it. Am I right in assuming that Iraq is thinking that Saudi Arabia and Syria is behind this?

Hoshyar Zebari: No, no, Jasim. I mean few followed the statements of the Iraqi politicians and ministers and parliamentarians. Everyb -- everyone would accuse the country that fits his own political position or his flavor. There are those who accuse Iran, there are those who accuse Saudi Arabia, Syria, others and so on. Really we are talking here about intelligence, about evidence. Who was behind this Black Wednesday attacks? I said from day one, from the next day almost, after seeing the footage and the videos from our closed-circuit cameras about the truck that this is an archetypal attack of al Qaeda. It was well organized, executional, those were suicide bombers and the procedures of al Qaeda.

Jasim Al-Azzawi: Are you telling me that you disagree with the Iraqi government's assessment?

Hoshyar Zebari: You-you are putting words in my mouth, Jasim. Now let me finish. This is the first part. But this would not have happened without foreign assistance. I mean this was not the work -- these attacks -- of amateur al Qaeda or young people who would get all this material from the internet and so on. I think this was a very well organized attack. And what we have said -- we have not accused even Syria. In fact, we said this was organized and commanded by two leading Iraqi Ba'ath members who live in Syria. And there is a background to these two cases. We have repeatedly requested them and even there is an arrest warrant by Interpol. They have been served red notice. So even when the prime minister was in Damascus recently, he did raise this issue but he didn't get any response. So here we want these two people. We believe they are responsible. There's evidence to support that. There is a background. There is a history. It is true that the Syrian told us and my colleague the Foreign Minister that even when Iraqi opposition leaders were in Damascus in the past during Saddam, we didn't hand over anyone. That's true. And we appreciate that. But the situation is different. Saddam's regime was against Syria, against the Iraqi people, against the Iraqi democratic position. We are friend to Syria. The situation is different here.

Jasim Al-Azzawi: We will find out whether the Syrians, Mr. Zebari, will hand these two people. But I am puzzled, I don't know about you, Mr. Sharif Ali bin al-Hussein, when the man responsible for intelligence, Mohammed Abdullah al-Shehwani, thinks it is Iran and yet another branch of the Iraqi government says Syria, you must be lost as much as I am.

Al-Sharif Ali bin al-Hussein: Well, I-I think it's most likely that in the current upsurge in violence that there are probably many players involved and many interests that are intersecting. So one has to be clear that maybe the perpetrators -- the suicide bombers, the people on the ground -- have their own objectives, have their own purposes for doing this. But as Foreign Minister said, it would be very unlikely that this operation wasn't supported from outside and very likely from a foreign intelligence service. And that foreign intelligence service doesn't necessarily share the same ideology as the people that the suicide bombers. I think there is a-a, Iraq is now -- it's open season in Iraq for all regional countries to get involved. And each has their own agenda. So that's why it becomes very difficult to clarify who is doing what. What is clear is that there is a coming -- a campaign to destabilize the government and to undermine the security achievements which, in fact, weren't very great. I think the government and the Americans role in improving security was very limited. There is -- It was because mainly because of the rise of the Sahwa Awakening and the behavior of the al Qaede inside Iraq. When Mr. Shewani resigned in disgust at the government position, he clearly had intelligence that showed who was behind these campaigns and his conscience couldn't keep him in office watching this going on. So what we have to be careful about is-is to believe that only one group or one ideology or one faction benefits from this upsurge in violence.

Jasim Al-Azzawi: Yes.

Al-Sharif Ali bin al-Hussein: And, unfortunately, I think this will continue.

We'll stop there and hopefully note another broadcast later in the week.
Inside Iraq begins airing on Al Jazeera each Friday (repeating Saturday, Sunday and Monday) and also streams online. The discussion (which goes past the above excerpt) took place Friday on Al Jazeera. Not in the US. US broadcast television is not interested in Iraq -- and devote the bulk of their time to Ghoul Watch. As they make abundantly clear every day. Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Hoshyar Zebari stated yesterday if Syria doesn't hand over the two men Iraq wants their actions would be considered "unfriendly" ("Our accusation is directed toward the people in the Syrian territories who are involved in the explosions and we consider the Syrian stance of hosting them as unfriendly." Allam also quotes Bashar al Assad, Syria's president, stating, "When Syria is accused of killing Iraqis at a time it's hosting around 1.2 million Iraqis . . . the least that can be said about this accusations is that it's immoral."

While Hoshyar Zebari may think it's fine and dandy for countries to turn people over to Iraq (without meeting extradition requirements), others would disagree and Iraq's 'justice' system remains a joke.
Amnesty International continues its campaign to eliminate the death penalty worldwide. Today they note that over 1,000 people are on death row in Iraq with 150 of those having "exhausted all means of appeal or clemency and are at immediate risk of death. The majority of the condemned (some 750, including 12 women) are held by the Ministry of Justice, while serveral hundred are detained by the Interior Ministry. At least seven facing execution are held by the US military at Camp Cropper in Baghdad. Ten female death row prisoners have recently been transferred to the al-Kadhimiya Prison in Baghdad, which suggests that their executions may be imminent. One of these, 27-year-old Samar Sa'ad Abdullah, facing execution for mudred, has alleged that she was tortured into making a false confession, including with electric shocks and beatings with a cable. She reported received a trial lasting less than two days, where one of her lawyers was ordered out of the court by the trial judge. Amnesty has repeatedly expressed its concerns about trials conducted by criminal courts in Iraq, whose procedures fall short of international standards for fair trials."

CNN (link has text and video) spoke with Noor al-Deen Bahaa al-Deen, Iraq's Minister of Justice, about the report: "For us, there is no difference between men and women who commit crimes. A person who commits a crime should be punished. In general, this can't happen now or in a year or two, but I hope in the future, the death penalty would be abolished, because I am personally in favor of life sentences rather than the death penalty. [. . .] Even if I put in a request, this is a worthless request, because there is a law. As for abolishing the death sentence and replacing it with life imprisonment, that is an amendment of the law, and that has to happen through parliament. And parliament as the representative of the people decides if the punishment changes or doesn't." From CNN's video report:

Naamua Delaney: Six years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iraq has one of the highest rates of execution in the world. That is according to Amnesty International which just released a report that 1,000 Iraqis are currently on death row, about a dozen of them women. Arwa Damon met one woman who could be executed soon despite her claims of innocence.Arwa Damon joins us now from Baghdad. Hello, Arwa.

Arwa Damon: Hi, Naamua. And what is especially disturbing about that Amnesty International report is it says that many of the death sentences that were handed down followed court proceedings that did not meet international standards. Additionally many of the alleged confessions were extracted under duress. This is something that we have heard countless times from a number of different organizations over the last few years. Samar Sa'ad Abdullah's case is one which tragically embodies all the shortcomings of the Iraqi judicial system. We first met Samar Sa'ad Abdullah in the spring of 2007 at the al-Kadhimiya women's prison in Baghdad. She'd already been on death row for two years and she was terrified.

Samar Sa'ad Abdullah: Give me life in prison. Even 20 years. I don't care. Anything but this.

Arwa Damon: Samar was sentenced to death by hanging for being an accessory to the murder of three members of her uncle's family. She maintains her innocence and there are disturbing questions about her conviction. But now Samar is in a place that brings death a step closer. On the other side of this door is the corridor that leads to the cells here at Baghdad's maximum security facility. There are more than 500 prisoners who have been brought here waiting to be executed. We are not allowed to film anything outside of this room. And this is where we meet Samar again. This time we're not allowed to film her face. She looks frail, pale, her eyes bloodshot.

Samar Sa'ad Abdullah: (Crying) My life is meaningless. I can't think about anything else.

Arwa Damon: Once her life had meaning and joy. She had a financee, Saif.

Samar Sa'ad Abdullah: I was so happy before when he asked for my hand in marriage.

Arwa Damon: But she says one day Saif took her to her wealthy uncle's house. He shot three members of her family, including her cousin. They'd grown up like sisters. And then she says Saif turned the gun on her.

Samar Sa'ad Abdullah: There was nothing that made me suspect that this was a guy who would kill. I still remember him pulling the gun on me and saying take me to your uncle's room. I am in prison and he is outside wandering in the street -- happy. And I am in prison.

Arwa Damon: Her parents swear she's innocent. They say the Iraqi police picked her up the next day after Saif dumped her in front of their house and disappeared. "We keep trying to tell her everything is going to be okay and not be afraid," Samar's mother sobs. At her trial, Samar said that she'd been tortured by police into confessing that she went to her uncle's house to steal.

Samar Sa'ad Abdullah: They kept beating me. Finally they made me sign a blank paper, they filled it out afterwards.

Arwa Damon: Under Iraqi law, the courts should have investigated her claim that she confessed under torture but the judges disregarded that. Human rights groups say Samar's case is one of many where justice has failed. In a report about Iraq's Central Criminal Court which tried Samar, Human Rights Watch said, "It is an institution that is seriously failing to meet international standards of due process and fair trials. Abuse in detention typically with the aim of extracting confessions appears common." Local organizations welcome the support

OWFI's Yanar Mohammed: As a human rights organization in Iraq, we find out that we need some backup from abroad to put pressure on our government to -- as a first step to stop the executions of these women who -- some of whom are innocent and we also need to see a new Iraq where execution is not a right for the state anymore..

At Amnesty International's blog, Neil Durkin observes:

OK, so 1,000 is a lot of people and yet that's how many are
on death row in Iraq right now. It's a staggeringly large number and it's sort of taken the world by surprise. It's just not what people think of when they picture Iraq. Sectarian violence and horrible bombings, yes; courts sentencing people to death on a weekly basis, no. It's people like Samar Sa'ad 'Abdullah who we're talking about. She's a 27-year-old woman who's been found guilty of murder but only, she says, after she was viciously tortured (electric shocks, beatings with a cable) into making a false confession. If past examples are anything to go by, being beaten into making a phoney confession is common in Iraq, and meanwhile Samar's trial lasted a grand total of one and a bit days and one of her lawyers was even ordered out of the court by the trial judge.So Samar is now living (if that's the right word) in the shadow of the hangman, one of at least a dozen women on death row in Iraq and one of about 150 who've exhausted their appeals and are perilously close to execution. (Take action here, calling on the Iraqi authorities to halt Samar's execution and all others, and for a death penalty moratorium to be implemented in Iraq). Staying with numbers, a few years back we did some number crunching at Amnesty and worked out that there were about 20,000 people on death row in the world, with the largest number in Pakistan (about 7,000). The USA has about 3,500. The country that executes the most -- China, which kills thousands every year -- has an unknown number (massive secrecy) but may not have so many actually facing execution for the simple -- and very grim -- reason that killings are carried out quickly. So, from a figure of zero back in 2004 (rather ironically the American-led interim Iraqi government suspended Iraq's death penalty after Saddam's fall), Iraq five years later has one of world's biggest death rows and one of the planet's highest execution rates.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing wounded two people, a Mosul roadside bombing injured two Iraqi service members,

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 Iraqi army major shot dead in Mosul today and an attack on a Mosul mosque in which 2 people were shot dead and a third was injured.

OAIF's Yanar Mohammed was interviewed in the CNN segment on Iraq's death row and she is also cited in the current edition of Ms. magazine. From Anna Badken's "
Baghdad Underground:"

On a bullet-scarred side street in Baghdad's downtown, where U.S. Marines famously helped tear down the statue of Saddam Hussein in April of 2003, an inconspicuous entryway tucked between a steel-shuttered shop and a rickety candy stall leads to a flight of steep concrete stairs. Rusted water pipes run precariously over and across the poorly lit top step, tripping first-time visitors. The second-floor landing bottlenecks into a dark, empty hallway. Women in black abayas hurry across the buckled floor tiles in silence and quickly disappear through an unmarked plywood door on the right.
The decrepit two-bedroom apartment behind this unassuming portal is an essential junction of what activists in Iraq and their U.S. supporters call the Underground Railroad. This Railroad is a small, clandestine network of several shelters, located mostly in Baghdad, for the countless but commonly overlooked victims of the war in Iraq: women who have been raped, battered or forced into prostitution, or women who, accused of bringing dishonor to their families by having been abused, have been rejected or even threatened with death by their relatives.
In a country ravaged by war and fractured along sectarian lines, these shelters serve women who have nowhere else to turn for help. Operated despite recurring threats and lack of government support by a team of 35 Iraqi activists who call themselves the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), the shelters offer a glint of hope for civil society.
The Underground Railroad was founded in 2004 by Baghdad-born architect-turned-feminist-organizer Yanar Mohammed, head of OWFI, along with MADRE, an international women's rights group based in New York. It provides the only sanctuaries for victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence outside the quasi-autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, where the local government and NGOs operate several similar shelters. In addition to providing temporary asylum, it helps women resettle in places where their abusers cannot find them easily. Since its inception, says MADRE Policy and Communications Director Yifat Susskind, the Railroad has helped thousands of women. Several have been transferred to Turkey, at least two now live in the U.S., but most of the rescued women have remained in Iraq.

In other news, this morning
BBC Radio's Worldwide Service featured a report on the draft law in Iraq for a smoking ban in public places that would make Iraq the first Arab country to have such a ban and it's met with some resistance including the belief that the government is focusing on a minor issue when "fundamentals like electricity and jobs are scarce". Andrew North travels around Baghdad speaking to people and ends up at "cafe by the banks of the river Tigris" where a man tells him that the government should be focused on "bombs, terrorists. Not a smart thing [the ban], not a smart thing. This [smoking] is a pleasure." Another man declares of smoking, "It's really important, if it weren't for smoking, Iraqis would be dead right now. Cigarettes might kill one or two people but car bombs kill hundreds." Andrew North notes there may be resistance in Parliament where a "majority of members are thought to smoke." A medical study is mentioned in the report -- an alleged medical study. When Iraq carries off a census, we'll pretend Nouri's regime can carry out a medical study.

Meanwhile a political party officially has a new leader. As noted in
yesterday's snapshot, Sunday Abdul Aziz al-Hakim's will was read at his funeral and he left the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (Shi'ite political party) to his son Ammar Hakim. In addition, party elders nominated him for the post on Monday with the board to vote today. In this morning's New York Times, Steven Lee Myers states, "His father, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who died of cancer in Tehran last week, provided for the succession in his will, heading off any potential leadership challenges. The party's television network announced the nomination, and a spokesman said it would be ratified by the party's leadership on Tuesday." Suadad al-Salhy, Aseel Kami, Michael Christie and Philippa Fletcher (Reuters) report the party has declared Ammar al-Hakim has been appointed following a vote and they state that is has allowed the party "to avoid a power struggle, at least in public." They quote Ammar al-Hakim stating, "We will work hard to make ISCI achieve a distinguished position in the political process in Iraq with the help of all other political powers. We will work together to achieve the highest levels of cooperation and harmony among the leadership of ISCI to succeed in this major task."

Turning to the US and Iraq War veteran may have taken his own life and possibly the life of his wife this weekend.

"They gave me a gun" he said
"They gave me a mission
For the power and the glory --
Propaganda -- piss on 'em
There's a war zone inside me --
I can feel things exploding --
I can't even hear the f**king music playing
For the beat of -- the beat of black wings."
[. . .]
"They want you -- they need you --
They train you to kill --
To be a pin on some map --
Some vicarious thrill --
The old hate the young
That's the whole heartless thing
The old pick the wars
We die in 'em
To the beat of -- the beat of black wings" -- "The Beat of Black Wings," words and music by
Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Chalk Mark In A Rainstorm.Meanwhile husband and wife Chad Olson and Jessica Armstrong were found dead on Saturday. Brenda Starkey (Omak Chronicle) explains, "The shooting happened at Olson's parents' house. Olson's brother, who lives in a separate residence on the property, suspected something was amiss and discovered the doors to the home were barricaded from the inside, so he called authorities, [Ferry County Coroner Mike] Sandona said." KXLY reports that neighbor Lester "Godfrey says Chad served two tours in Iraq with the Marine Corps and when he came back nearly five months ago he was struggling with what Lester calls demons." The station also adds that Olson reported suffered from PTSD and had sought out help for that at the Spokane VA Hospital. The Spokesman-Review reports:Olson recently was charged with second-degree burglary, third-degree malicious mischief and third-degree theft after allegedly stealing a case of whiskey June 25 from the state liquor store in Republic, Sandona told the Chronicle. He and two other men were arraigned on those charges July 10 and a juvenile was arraigned July 24.Lester Godfrey, a neighbor of the Olsons and chaplain for the local American Legion, said that Chad Olson came from a solid, well-respected family and had a normal small-town childhood."I've watched them grow up," he said of the three boys."He was very well-liked," Godfrey said. "The whole family is very well-liked."He described Olson as strong, good-looking and charismatic. But he was apparently troubled with emotional problems caused by the violence he witnessed in Iraq, and had been drinking alcohol recently, Godfrey said.
In other stateside Iraq War veterans news,
David Kocieniewski (New York Times) reported in today's paper on Iraq War veteran Leydi Mendoza who is being refused her custodial rights to see and visit her daughter Elizabeth by the child father Daniel Llares who claims that "more than a few hours" of a visit disrupts Elizabeth's schedule. Kocieniewski explains:Custody disputes involving returning members of the service have long been an unpleasant fact of military life, but the increasing number of women involved in combat overseas has brought new wrinkles. The Pentagon does not keep statistics on such custody disputes, but military family counselors said they knew of at least five recent situations around the country like the struggle over Elizabeth, in which a mother who served overseas is fighting for more access to her child. Some advocates say an unspoken bias against mothers who leave their young children has heightened both legal barriers and social stigma when these women try to resume their role as active parents.

In an update,
Kocienewski reports that a Family Court in New Jersey today granted Leydi Mendoza "daily visitation and weekly sleepovers with" 2-year-old Elizabeth.

anna badkhen magazinebbc newsbbc radioandrew norththe new york timessteven lee myerstim cockssuadad al-salhyaseel kamimichael christiephilippa fletcheramnesty internationalmcclatchy newspapershannah allam
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