Saturday, August 05, 2006

Law and Disorder on tasers, Iraq

Saturday, first morning of the weekend! I'm beating Elaine to posting! She's downstairs talking to Ma. (And yes, to those asking, Ma is planning on posting later today.) It was a long night. We watched a third of Sir! No! Sir! at the group last night and we plan to do that the next two Fridays. Then we discussed it and how it related to today. There was a lot to discuss about Iraq and let's go ahead and kick things off with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Chaos and violence continue in Iraq today, August 4, 2006 and one of the locations is only a surprise to those not paying attention to yesterday's (US) Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. There was a key section that was apparently missed by several. Mosul's one of today's hot spots so let's draw back to this exchange from yesterday's hearing:
Senator John McCain: So, General Abizaid, we're moving 7,500 troops into Baghdad, is that correct?
General John Abizaid: The number is closer to 3,500.
[. . .]
McCain: And where are these troops coming from?
Abizaid: Uh, the troops, the Styker Brigade, is coming down from Mosul.
McCain: From Mosul? Is the situation under control in Ramadi?
Abizaid: Uh, the situation in Ramadi, is better than it was two months ago.
McCain: Is the situation under control in Ramadi?
Abizaid: I think the situation in Ramadi is workable.
McCain: And the troops from Ramadi came from Falluja, isn't that correct?
Abizaid: I can't say senator, I know that --
McCain: Well that's my information. What I' worry about is we're playing a game of
whack-a-mole here. We move troops from -- It flares up, we move troops there. Everybody knows we've got big problems in Ramadi and I said, "Where you gonna get the troops?" 'Well we're going to have to move them from Falluja.' Now we're going to have to move troops into Baghdad from someplace else. It's very disturbing.
transcript of this (Congressional Quarterly) can be found at the Washington Post. For audio of the above (most), check out Leigh Ann Caldwell's report which aired on Thursday's The KPFA Evening News and Free Speech Radio News.
Mosul? That's where the 172nd Stryker Brigade (scheduled to be back home before their year deployment got four additional months added to is) was pulled from, Abizaid testified.
Reuters is reporting: "Heavily armed insurgents battled U.S. and Iraqi troops in the restive northern city of Mosul on Friday where at least four policemen, including a top officer and four militants were reported killed."
That is the "strategy" (being generous) and it's the very point McCain was making yesterday. (McCain generally uses that type of observation to support adding more troops to the slaughter, I believe the troops themselves add to the conflict.) The exchange was not heavily stressed in most reporting but McCain was outlining what currently passes for "strategy" in Iraq -- a "strategy" that once again (always) blew up in the military geniuses' (and the administration's) faces.
BBC notes that the US announced last week the withdrawal of 5,000 troops "to re-deploy them in the capital, Baghdad". AP places the figure at 3,500. China's Xinhua notes that "Mosul, some 400 km north of Baghdad, has been a bastion of insurgency against U.S. and Iraqi forces since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003." Reuters reports that, in Mosul, "authorities have ordered everyone off the streets until Saturday and closed the city's bridges across the Tigris river."
AFP notes that, today, "Mosul woke to a dawn blitz of six bombs and a hail of mortars which killed at least nine police officers and triggered a six-hour gunbattle in which an unknown number of insurgents were killed." One bomb, Reuters notes, resulted in the deaths of "police Colonel Jassim Muhammad Bilal and two bodyguards". The Times of London estimates that, in Mosul alone, 24 people died today from car bombs of various kind.
AFP reports a man was shot dead in Amara. The Associated Press reports that two police officers were shot dead in Falluja and describes one of the incidents: "armed men attacked several government buildings and police patrols in central Fallujah at about 8:30 s.m. (0430 GMT), leaving a policeman dead and two others wounded".
AFP notes that a couple enroute to a hospital in Baquba for the impending birth of their child were killed by a roadside bomb (cab driver and mother-to-be's sister were wounded) and that, in Baghdad, a civilian was killed by a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol. Reuters reports that a bombing in Hadhar, during a football game, resulted in 10 dead and 12 wounded. A police officer described the attack ("suicide car bomber") to the AFP: "He drove into the police guarding the pitch, and blew up." KUNA notes of the attack on the football game: "the football field was for the use of Hadhar policemen and police department staff only."
CBS and AP notes one corpse was discovered (in the country). AFP notes the interior ministry declared twelve corpses were discovered in Baghdad. The AP notes that six corpses were found in Kut with "four of them decapitated".
In court news,
prosecutor/Captain Joseph Mackey delivered his closing argument in the Article 32 hearing of Corey Clagett, William Hunsaker, Raymond Girouard and Juston Graber, who stand accused in the May 9th deaths of three Iraqis. Mackey argued that the three Iraqis were not killed while trying to escape but had, instead, been released by the four US troops and then killed by them, "For this they are not war heroes, they are war criminals. And justice states that they face trial." As Reuters notes, all four accused elected not to provide testimony to hearing (the military equivalent of a grand jury).
In Australia, the inquiry into the April 21st Baghdad death of Jake Kovco continues.
Eleanor Hall and Conor Duffy discussed the latest development's on The World Today (Australia's ABC) noting that "military standing orders" were not followed with the transportation of Jake Kovco's body (contractors with Kenyon International were used instead) and that, while the Australian government alleges this was for speed, Jake Kovco's roommates say it was due "to cost and they told the inquiry that they thought that if it had been a foreign dignitary or even a more senior officer, that military aircraft and US military morgue would have been used throughout the whole procedure."
For anyone arriving late to this story and wondering why Kovco's destination back to Australia matters, Kovco's body was somehow switched and the body of Bosnian Juso Sinanovic was sent to Australia while Kovco's body remained at the motuary.
AAP notes that Alastar Adams ("first secretary at the Australian Embassy in Kuwait") testified that "he had not checked the photo against the corpse of a Bosnian carpenter . . . he had taken a quick look . . . told the mortuary staff they could close the coffin and stamp it with the embassy's official seal."
AAP also notes the following which appears to back up Kovco's roommates' judgement: ". . . air force warrant officer Chris Hunter told the inquiry he believed the body mix-up could have been prevented if the civilian morgue had not been used. He said Pte Kovco's body was transferred from a professional and clean mortuary facility in Baghdad run by US troops to a rund-down morgue remsembling 'a third world country hospital'. WO Hunter stopped eight of PTE Kovco's soldier mates, who had accompanied the boday as a bearer party, from entering the morgue, fearing they might start a riot upon noticing its condition."
In court news in the United States, the
Justice Department is announcing that Faheem Mousa Salam "has pleaded guilty to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by offering to bribe an Iraqi police official" at the start of this year by offering "approximately $60,000 in exchange for . . . [help] facilitating the sale of approximately 1,000 armored vests and a sophisticated map printer for approximately $1 million." Though the Justice Department fails to note it, he was then employed by Titan Corporation.
In peace news, Phil Runkel is in "a federal courtroom in Alexandria" today facing "a maximum of six months in jail and a fine of $5,000 for his war protest last March"
reports Dennis Shook for Runkel and other peace activists (51 in total) were arrested March 20th in front of the Pentagon. Brian Huber (GM Today) notes that the activists were wanting to meet with Donald Rumsfeld and that some climbed or went "under a temporary fence that Runkel said was erected to stop them, resulting in their arrests."
Activists on the
CODEPINK and Global Exchange sponsored trip to Amman, Jordan --including Cindy Sheehan, Ann Wright, Medea Benjamin, Tom Hayden and Diane Wilson -- have arrived in Amman. Cindy Sheehan (Truth Out) reports: "The most horrifying testimony of the day was when we met with "Dr. Nada," an Iraqi doctor who stayed in Baghdad to help her people during the sanctions and the invasion. She didn't abandon her country, or sell it out like many privileged people who exited during the Baathist regime (like Iyad Allawi or Ahmed Chalabi) or the sanctions ... which she, as a supervisory physician at a major Baghdad hospital, said killed two million children. The children died of pollution and sicknesses from depleted uranium during the first gulf mistake of George the First. The babies died because of the war, but also because there is no medicine and very limited medical facilities to treat them. Dr. Nada brought the daughter of a friend, three-year-old Farrah, who had short brown hair and big brown eyes. There were so many young children playing in Queen airport yesterday when I got here and dozens running around the hotel. My heart almost bursts with sorrow when I think of all of the children in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan who have had such horrible lives and had many of their lives cut short by the evil war machine that seems to be running our world."
Troops Home Fast continues ("We will keep the fast going until September 21, International Peace Day, when there will be a week of mass actions against the war")
with at least
4,350 people participating from around the world on the 32nd day since the action began. Some are fasting long-term, some are grabbing a one-day, one-time fast, some are grabbing a one-day fast each week. More information can be found at Troops Home Fast.
Michelle Tan (Army Times) reports that Ehren Watada will likely face an Article 32 hearing August 17th because Eric Seitz's pretrial offer of a "reprimand, fine and reduction of rank" has not yet been accepted. As noted before, this offer was twice refused. Courage to Resist and are calling for a "National Day of Education" on August 16th, the day before Ehren Watada would be due to "face a pre-trial hearing for refusing to deploy to Iraq." ThankYouLt.Org notes: "On August 16, the day prior to the hearing, The Friends and Family of Lt. Ehren Watada are calling for a 'National Day of Education' to pose the question, 'Is the war illegal?' This day can also serve to anchor a 'week of outreach' leading up to the pre-trial hearing."

The discussion group? It was pretty incredible. We had it at Nina's parents' house. (Next Friday, it's back at our home.) Elaine and Wally were there. Wally's here through next week visiting (and a guest with us -- I'll write about the fun we're having soon but I've got a lot to cover this morning and Wally, Dad and me are going to do some fun stuff this morning which is why I rushed through breakfast and logged on to post). Elaine's coming in for this meeting and staying overnight Friday and Saturday. But, there was so much to talk about, with the Jordan meeting, the events in Mosul and all of it. Just a lot going on in Iraq -- not that most in the news and "news" media seem to be paying attention.

I had an e-mail about Mexico earlier this week and actually responded but ended up pulling it from my post. On Mexico. Mexico City is Obadore's town, turf. It's not a surprise that he could mount a protest there. Maybe it will spread. If so, it will be the people leading it -- not the news media trying to force it on you. I spoke to people while I was down there and I exchange e-mails with three guys I met (my age, college students) now. They don't think it's spreading yet. They think it might. They say it's the people who elected him mayor and that's the only real support right now. So if you see some gas bag (you know who I mean) telling you it is the story of our times, he's still pushing his own agenda. Nothing much has changed except the protests in Mexico City are pissing some people off. One new friend says that if that leads to press attacks (and Fox has already said the protests need to stop), they might get some sympathy and the protests could build that way. But right now, it's just Mexico City. Obabore's supporters who supported him in every election. Another new friend in Mexico wrote that it's not that different from the GOP having their people "pose as Florida voters in 2000 and storming that area where people were counting votes."

So Mexico? Still not a pressing story. But watch the gasbags come out. They were trying to make it a big story the first of July. They're probably eager to do so again especially now that they could say, "See I don't have egg on my face." Yeah, you still do. You always will. Even if Mexico erupts in protest next week, massive, in every city, you still tried to push something that wasn't happening on the ground, you played schill for your guy (a centerist or center-left), you trashed the Zapatistas and, in doing so, you trashed any notion that you were a journalist.
There's no comeback for you. Accept it. You're a hack as bad as any Fox "news" hack.

Now let me do WBAI's Law and Disorder which I've put off all week because I've been busy. Cedric's already talked about his favorite part of the show "Law and Disorder, Three Cool Old Guys, Iraq." I'm covering Dalia Hashad's interview with Paul L. Mills from LA Police Watch. He's an attorney. This is the latest and final installment in their series on Tasers. If you remember when they had the man telling people how to act with the police and saying (Michael Ratner had a big problem with it -- this Michael did too) that it was the job of attorneys and human rights activists to educate law enforcement, you'll like this interview a lot because it's sort of the other view.

On this taser installment of Law and Disorder. Mills talked about Eddie Alvarado and I didn't know anything about this. Maybe you do, but if not, here's a rough sketch. He had epilepsy, he was 33, he had just gotten his associates. He was having a seizure ,or episode, and the police were called. They chose to handcuff him. That wasn't enough, he was still some kind of threat, even handcuffed! So they tasered him.

Mills talked about how the officer had tested the battery that morning to make sure it was fresh and what happened was they ended up emptying the full battery to taser Alvarado. He died.

This is the problem that Dalia and Michael Ratner have been talking about repeatedly: police get a new toy and it's not even really tested but it's a "we'll only use it in extreme instances" and what happens is, because they have it, they use it. They didn't need to use it on a man who was handcuffed. (If you've listened to the series, you probably feel like I do that they don't need to use it at all -- ever.) So a man's handcuffed and that's not enough, got to use that toy. Got to use it because you got it. Now the man's dead.

A lot of people have died after being tasered. This is a big issue. And Dalia and Mills were talking about how it's easy to look at something like that and think it's a civil rights issue only but it's a human rights issue too since governments can (and do) use stuff like that to oppress.
It was a really strong segment to end their taser series with. And they didn't just leave it at where it was now. They talked about where it was heading.

Right now Taser is working on a wireless version. You know that it uses darts, prongs, barbs right now. They shoot out from the gun and both have wires connected to them (going back to the gun) to make the electric circuit. Now they're working on a wireless version.

Why do they need a wireless version should be your first question? Who would be forced to wear some device that would allow the police to shock them at will? They talked about how currently you have some people on house arrest who have to wear the ankle bracelets and how the wireless taser could be used on them. Or maybe it would be used in immigration as an incentive to be allowed into the country. Or maybe it would be used on protestors.

The way those mass arrests work is that they're usually arresting people from out of town. They know they have lives to get back to so they can usually screw them over and say, "Plead to this and we'll just give you probation." People who've traveled, say to DC from Oklahoma or some place far, we'll take a deal because they don't have the time to be coming back to DC for court dates and all that stuff. Well, they could use that on protestors. "Let us put this device on you or in you, put you on probation and you're free to go." You could end up with a police force hitting a button to send out a frequency and cause a mass group of people who are just demonstrating to collapse from the taser shock. This is really serious.

If you looked the other way while it was just incidents involving one person maybe how it could be used in the future will make you rethink the way it is used today?

Mills also talked about how it could be used on people deemed "troublesome" or the mentally ill and that made me think of Ava and C.I.'s TV commentary from last Sunday. They're addressing Primetime, but they've got a lot more in it. They take on a columnist who is an autism advocate but wrote a column tying in William Lash III's murder of his son William Lash IV to autism even though there's no indication that had anything to do with it. This is from their commentary, read it and think about the points Mills and Dalia were making about tasers because if they start embedding them, it could get embedded on persons with autism:

And on top of that, Susan Senator wants to rush in and grab the Lash incident to advance her own cause -- with no proof that autism had anything to do with the murder of a child. The article covering the memorials doesn't note a violent child, quite the contrary. Based on the reporting, a stronger conclusion might be that Lash and his wife's "altercation" alarmed him that he might lose contact with his son so, facing that, he decided to kill his son and himself. Parents Who Love Too Much doesn't fit in with Senator's advocacy so she ignores that.
What happened? No one knows at this point from the reporting. They know there was an altercation between Lash and his wife. They know the wife was locked out of the house and called the police for assistance. But Senator wants to tell you tales of an autistic child's violent episodes, she wants you to understand, really, really understand, how hard it is for parents.
Senator's on very dangerous ground as she uses her personal story to make a case that doesn't hold up in the press by correlating her own's son's violence with similar events that may have stressed out Lash. There's no foundation for that argument at present. So it's dangerous grounds journalistically.
Guess what? We don't give a damn about that. The dangerous grounds we worry about are the pleasing narrative. A father killed his son -- but don't be alarmed, it's stressful raising a special needs child. (It's stressful raising any child and if she disagrees with that she might want to ask the Menendez parents -- oh wait, she can't. They're dead.)
In our shock, some need a pleasing narrative to explain how such an awful crime could have taken place. The narrative, though false, then results in trend stories (that are never heavy on facts or reality) and lead to "solutions." With no evidence to back her up, Senator wants to present her own child's violent episodes as somehow the equivalent of the 'pressure' Lash must have been under (and tie in two other cases which may or may not be related to her central thesis -- we don't know those stories). She's spinning a trend in that one op-ed. In Lash's case, her "trend" is not supported. But that doesn't matter when the trend gathers traction. And if this becomes a trend story and if the solution includes we need to (in order to be sympathetic to the parents -- and, of course, 'protect' the children) lock the autistic away (it was done before), she'll be the one responsible for setting that trend off. That's the dangerous ground that has us concerned. (We're guessing Susan Senator has no interest in setting off such a trend. Her intent doesn't matter if a trend gets rolling -- just like actual reporting on the case didn't matter to her column.)

To read Susan Senator's a ridiculous op-ed, use the link. I'm now rushing. Dad's ready to go. So here are two headlines from Free Speech Radio News:

Iraqis March for Hezbollah
Tens of thousands of Iraqis marched through the streets of Baghdad today to show their support for Hezbollah in Lebanon. The march took place in the Shiite dominated Sadr city in the Iraqi Capitol. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, has also criticized Israel over its assault on Lebanon and Gaza. We'll have more on Lebanon later in the newscast.

Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza
In Palestine, Israel carried out air and ground strikes in the Rafah area, and troops have been carrying out house-to-house searches. The operations are causing a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the UN reports that Israel fires more than 150 shells a day into the region. Saed Bannoura has more.

Be sure to check out Like Maria Said Paz for Elaine's thoughts later this morning.