Friday, September 21, 2007

Law and Disorder, Jason Leopold, Media Lens

This is from Media Lens' "The Media Ignore Credible Poll Revealing 1.2 Million Violent Deaths In Iraq:"

Another aspect of reality that has no place in the corporate media's painted window was highlighted last Friday with the release (September 14) of a new report by the British polling organization, Opinion Research Business (ORB). ORB is no dissident, anti-war outfit; it is a respected polling company that has conducted studies for customers as mainstream as the BBC and the Conservative Party.
latest poll revealed that 1.2 million Iraqi citizens "have been murdered" since the March 2003 US-UK invasion.
In February, Les Roberts, co-author of the 2004 and 2006 Lancet reports, argued that Britain and America might by then have triggered in Iraq "an episode more deadly than the Rwandan genocide", in which 800,000 people were killed. (Roberts, "
Iraq's death toll is far worse than our leaders admit," The Independent, February 14, 2007)
The key importance of the new poll is that it provides strong evidence for this claim, and strong support for the findings of the 2006 Lancet study, which reported 655,000 deaths. Roberts sent this email in response to the ORB poll:
"The poll is 14 months later with deaths escalating over time. That alone accounts for most of the difference [between the October 2006 Lancet paper and the ORB poll]. There are confidence interval issues, there are reasons to assume the Lancet estimate is too low but the same motives for under-reporting should apply to ORB. Overall they seem very much to align. (e.g. both conclude that: most commonly violent deaths are from gunshot wounds [in contradiction to IBC and the MOH*], most deaths are outside of Baghdad [in contradiction to the other passive monitoring sources which tallied ~3/4th of deaths in the first 4 years in Baghdad and have only recently attributed even 1/2 as being elsewhere], Diyala worse than Anbar….)."
[* MOH = Iraqi Ministry of Health] (E-mail to Media Lens and others, September 14, 2007)
And yet, despite its obvious significance, the ORB study has been almost entirely blanked by the US-UK media. At time of writing, four days after the findings were announced, the poll has been mentioned in just one national UK newspaper -- ironically, the pro-war Observer. It has been ignored by the Guardian and the Independent.

I'm not surprised about the Guardian. They ignored the Downing Street Memos. I'm less surprised by the Independent which -- remember I'm Irish-American -- really went to town on Catholics and the IRA because of a bar fight. Their political writers also seem to work really hard to carry the water for Barack Obama.

By the way, I had an e-mail asking why I don't highlight Dave Zirin anymore? I don't usually see his stuff. I stopped making a point to seek it out after he was treating Barack Obama like a sports star. If you see something by him you like, you can e-mail and I'll note it. Unless it has something to do with Barack Obama. He's one of Our Modern Day Carrie Nations and I'm not interested in getting the word out on him. I don't care if someone votes for him but I'm not pushing him at this site. He's a War Hawk. And he's a Carrie Nations. I still like Dave Zirin but I'm just not into searching online for his stuff since that appearence on Democracy Now! where he was going on about Obama. Obama is not Muhammad Ali.

Mike Whitney's latest is way over my head but I'm linking to it and encourage you to know about it because he had some criticism of an article, thought about it and ended up rewriting it. On things I don't understand, thanks to Heidi Boghosian for her questions during the first segment of Law and Disorder this week. I didn't care for the guest and his examples either weren't helpful or weren't anything I agreed with. (Can everyone stop praising the alleged 'peace' columnist for The Nation? Vietnam was before I was even born and he hasn't done sh*t during Iraq. Coward, coward on the wall, get your ass down the hall -- and out the door. I'm not interested.) I popped in the disc last night while I was at Elaine's office waiting for her to finish up her session with the vets. (Who are all really cool, by the way. They answer all my dumb ass questions when the session's over. :D And they do so nicely.) I was bored with the guest and irritated by him. If Heidi hadn't been asking questions, I would've turned it off. My problem with the guest was like his Jonathan Schell example, everything he was talking about was years and years ago. I felt like I was listening to a reunion of my folks' graduation and if there was a good story to be retold, for me to follow it, I'd have to say, "Wait, who's ___?" Heidi's first question woke me up and because she kept pitching, I kept listening. The Michaels handled the second segment (at least one was present for the first, maybe both, but Heidi's the one who made that segment listenable to me). (I also didn't care for the guy's 'shout out' to Iraq -- one mention -- and then "What we need to focus on is Iran." No, what we need to focus is on is an illegal war that is ongoing. Iran is a possibility. It's the side dish, it's not the main one.) The interview the Michaels did (Ratner and Smith) was with a guy who's written a book on Zionism, Joel Kovel who wrote Overcoming Zionism. This was a good interview with a lot of information. And Joel Kovel didn't sound like he was droning on. He was an engaged guest. He talked about the struggles with the book being published (which is happening a lot) and what stood out most was when he was juxtaposing the death of Rachel Corrie with the press myths about Jessica Lynch. (That's not an insult to Jessica Lynch. She has been very forthright and honest and I have nothing bad to say about her. But if you forgot, the US government created this entire fantasy storyline of lies about her to try to sell the illegal war.) He was talking about how you had the stories on Lynch dominating the press and you had Rachel Corrie, an American killed by a foreign government (Isreal) and the press just didn't give a damn. Those were two really strong comparisons to make. I bet he's a really great professor because he was a great guest. The other guy, I bet I'd snooze right through a class with him. But Kovel really made things interesting (and the Michaels did a really good job with the interview). Dalia wasn't on, Dalia Hashad, and that's probably just as well because I've already got my pick for "truest statement of the week." (I think we're going to have to go with two because C.I., Kat and I are pulling for something Elaine wrote this week and Elaine hates that kind of attention. So we'll have to find a second thing and have two truests or she'll nix it.) (And that's not an insult to the Michaels or Heidi. But Dalia really does just let it rip. She's pissed off and if you're not, you must be taking a decades long nap. The Michaels get pissed off too but usually they're more joking. Daliah should be writing editorials because in like four sentences, she can lay something out so clearly and so passionately, you're saying, "Hell yeah!" Heidi's usually the 'responsible' one and I'm not insulting her with that. She's the one making guests feel comfortable and doing the 'grown up' role. She's the one who seems to always know when a guest has just lost the audience and she'll step in and get the interview back on track. She can, and has, spoken very passionately about many topics. What probably stands out to me of all my time listening is when she spoke about the genocide in the early part of the last century in Turkey. I wish they'd cover that topic again because just searching around online, I see that there's a new group of people pushing the lie that it didn't take place.) (I like all four hosts. They all have their own strengths. And it's the only show I really make a point to listen to. I watch Democracy Now! on TV. )

This is from Jason Leopold's "Soldier Who Sued Army Facing Threats:"

An Army specialist stationed in Iraq said he has been repeatedly threatened by other US soldiers after word spread that he sued the secretary of defense and an Army major this week for allegedly retaliating against the soldier when he convened a meeting of atheists, according to the founder of a military watchdog organization that filed the lawsuit on behalf of the soldier and has been in close contact with him since then.
Jeremy Hall, 22, who is based out of Fort Riley, Kansas, is deployed in Iraq. The email said a fellow soldier has threatened to "beat his ass," called him an "atheist ass pirate" and "a f**got" and enlisted a "lynch mob" of other soldiers to intimidate Hall because of the allegations Hall made against the military in a lawsuit Weinstein's foundation and Hall filed Monday in US District Court in Kansas City.
Weinstein said he has been in contact with supporters of his foundation who have reported the posting of messages on military and civilian-based blogs, such as, apparently threatening Hall with "fragging," a term used by the military in which an unpopular soldier could be killed by intentional friendly fire during combat.
"Mikey, I hope I am not a victim of a hate crime while I sleep tonight," Hall wrote in an email to Weinstein Thursday evening. "I do not want to die for my country this way. [The soldier] is threatening to beat my ass and all sorts of things. I may be harmed or worse. I am afraid for my safety. I can't sleep, man.... I just lay in my bunk for two hours and I couldn't sleep."
Messages left for several Pentagon spokespeople Thursday evening - on cell phones and at the Defense Department - were not returned.
Weinstein said late Thursday evening that he has not yet been able to verify the authenticity of the blog postings threatening Hall with "fragging." But Weinstein said he takes the threat of violence against Hall seriously and has already reached out to senior officials in the Pentagon as well as senior Army operations officials to ensure Hall's safety. Weinstein is a former White House attorney under Ronald Reagan, was general counsel to H. Ross Perot, and was formerly an Air Force judge advocate general (JAG).

That's how they deal with being called out, they try to threaten and bully. I highlighted Leopold earlier this week on this topic and I hope you're paying attention to Jeremy Hall. War resister Eli Israel refused to continue serving in the illegal war while he was stationed in Iraq. That took a lot of guts. But he's made the point that one reason they couldn't disappear him and had to discharge him was because people were talking about it, knew the stand he'd taken. So take the time to tell someone about Jeremy Hall and how he's being targeted for speaking out.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, September 21, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, 'progress' is no where to be found in Iraq, the US loses weapons and the Iraqi resistance reportedly now has them, and more.

Starting with war resistance.
Alaam News reports that a US family of five (three children) is seeking asylum in Finland "with local media speculating that it is opposition to the Iraq war" that has led the family to leave the United States and start over in Helenski this week. If true, it would be only the second time this decade that an "American citizen . . . [has] filed an asylum application in Finland during the current decade." Meanwhile IVAW's Michael Prysner (PSL) reports, "The number of deserters is also steadily climbing, with official numbers now reaching over 10,000 since the war began. Many believe these numbers may actually be much higher. The G.I. Rights Hotline reports an average of 3,000 calls a month by new recruits and active duty soldiers who have decided they want to abandon the military. . . . Soldiers against the war have begun organizing within the military. Active duty soldiers started the Appeal for Redress, a petition calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. It was formulated less than a year ago, and has collected over 2,000 signatures of soldiers currently serving in the military. Membership in Iraq Veterans Against the War is nearing 600. . . . Soldiers like Lt. Ehren Watada and Camilo Mejia have set the example, publicly refusing deployment and condemning the war for its illegal and immoral nature."

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Derek Hess, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Zamesha Dominique, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key,
Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko,Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty-one US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters.

Peter Hart spoke with Anthony Arnove (
IRAQ: The Logic of Withdrawal) on this week's CounterSpin (airing on most radio stations today) about the issue of contractors.

Anthony Arnove: There is effectively a doubling of the US occupation in Iraq right now through the employment of private contractors of whom as many as 50,000 are armed -- effectively private mercenaries working in the employee of the US occupation. Blackwater is operating under the employment of the State Department. What's interesting is that very early on in the US occupation, Paul Bremer -- who was acting as the colonial viceroy -- in his capacity of head of the Coalition Provision Authority deliberately exempted these mercenaries and other US contractors from Iraqi law. And they've created basically a legal black hole in which these mercenaries can operate without any accountability. And the few times there have been incidents in which Iraqis tried to pursue contractors for violations they've been skirted out of the country so as not to have to face any prosecution. They do technically fall under rules of engagement set down for US contractors -- whether that's Pentagon rules or State Department rules. But like we've seen with active duty troops who've engaged in abuses of human rights in Iraq, there's really been no accountability certainly not up the chain of command.

No accountability. And Bremer and the CPA were nothing but a shell game. Bremer stripped Iraqis of oversight and, in fact, the US may not have any legal right to oversight as well. As Naomi Klein explains in her new book
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism:

Bremer's CPA would not try to stop the various scams, side deals and shell games because the CPA was itself a shell game. Though it was billed as the U.S. occupation authority, it's unclear that it held that distinction in anything other than name. This point was forcefully made by a judge in the infamous Custer Battles corruption case.
Two former employees of the security firm launched a whistle-blower lawsuit against the company, accusing it of cheating on reconstruction-related contracts with the CPA and defrauding the U.S. governments produced by the company that clearly showed it was keeping two sets of numbers -- one for itself, one for invoicing the CPA Retired Brigadier-General Hugh Tant testified that the fraud was "probably the worst I've ever seen in my 30 years in the army." (Among Custer Battles' many alleged violations, it is said to have appropriated Iraqi-owned forklifts from the airport, repainted them and billed the CPA for the cost of leasing the machines.)
In March 2006, a federal jury in Virginia ruled against the company, finding it guilty of fraud, and forced it to pay $10 million in damages. The company then asked the judge to overturn the verdict, with a revealing defense. It claimed that the CPA was not part of the U.S. government, and therefore not subject to its laws, including the False Claims Act. The implications of this defense were enormous: the Bush administration had indemnified U.S. corporations working in Iraq from any liability under Iraqi laws; if the CPA wasn't subject to U.S. law either, it meant that the contractors weren't subjected to any law at all -- U.S. or Iraqi. This time, the judge ruled in the company's favor: he said there was plenty of evidence that Custer Battles had submitted to the CPA "false and fraudulently inflated invoices," but he ruled that the plaintiffs had "failed to prove that the claims were presented to the United States." In other words, the U.S. government presence in Iraq during the first year of its economic experiment had been a mirage -- there had been no government, just a funnel to get U.S. taxpayer and Iraqi oil dollars to foreign corporations, completely outside the law. In this way, Iraq represented the most extreme expression of the anti-state counter-revolution -- a hollow state, where, as the courts finally established, there was no there, there.

Contractors in Iraq -- with the permission of the US government and sometimes on the orders of the US government -- have been allowed to act with impunity.
Daniel Howden and Leonard Doyle (Independent of London) provide a look at the rise of outsourcing governmental tasks and note, "A high-ranking US military commander in Iraq said: 'These guys run loose in this country and do stupid stuff. There's no authority over them, so you can't come down on them hard when they escalate force. They shoot people.' In Abu Ghraib, all of the translators and up to half of the interrogators were reportedly private contractors."
Rosa Brooks (Los Angeles Times) also addresses the reality of governmental tasks being sold off to the private section, "What's been happening in Iraq -- and in Afghanistan, Columbia, Somalia and the Pentagon and the State Department -- goes far beyond the 'outsourcing of key military and security jobs.' For years, the administration has been quietly auctioning off U.S. foreign policy to the highest corporate bidder -- and it may be too late for us to buy it back. Think I'm exaggerating? Look at Blackwater. Its $750-million contract with the U.S. State Department employees in Iraq is just one of many lucrative U.S. (and foreign) government contracts it has enjoyed (and it's a safe bet that Sunday's episode will be only a minor PR setback for Blackwater). As for Blackwater's most recent slaughter, Kim Sengupta (Independent of London) reconstructs the events on Sunday via eye witness testimony: " We have found no Iraqi present at the scene who saw or heard sniper fire. Witnesses say the first victims of the shootings were a couple with their child, the mother and infant meeting horrific deaths, their bodies fused together by heat after their car caught fire. The contractors, according to this account, also shot Iraqi soldiers and police and Blackwater then called in an attack helicopter from its private air force which inflicted further casualties." Apparently unable to speak to Iraqis, Sabrina Tavernise and James Glanz (New York Times) rely on a leaked report from the Ministry of the Interior which "has concluded that employees of a private American security firm fired an unprovoked barrage in the shooting last Sunday," "that the dozens of foreign security companies here should be replaced by Iraqi companies, and that a law that has given the companies immunity for years be scrapped" -- and the reporters offer: "The Iraqi version of events may be self-serving in some points." And the US version may be what? Tavernise and Glanz ignore that prospect. Blackwater's apparently ignoring some things as well. Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes, "In Iraq, the private security firm Blackwater USA is reportedly back on the streets of Baghdad despite an announced ban on its activities. The Iraqi government said it had revoked Blackwater's license this week after its guards killed up to twenty-eight Iraqis in an unprovoked mass shooting. But a Pentagon spokesperson said today Blackwater is guarding diplomatic convoys following talks with the Iraqi government." So, as Ian Thompson (PSL) judged it, "Even the Iraqi puppet government leadership spoke up -- but its words were hot air. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki wants to gain credibility and appear to be independent of his U.S. colonial masters." The events appear to answer Thursday's question ("For the US government, it's a quandry: Do they use this moment to provide al-Maliki with a chance to alter his image or do they continue to let greed rule?"): Greed again won out.

Self-serving? Sabrina Tavernise and James Glanz apply that to the report from Iraq's Interior Ministry and it's doubtful they'd ever use the term for the upcoming US report. Along with the issue of equality, there's also the fact that the term is flat out wrong. The Interior Ministry is not self-serving, it's US-serving.
Dropping back to the September 6th snapshot:

Turning to retired generals,
Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) reported today, "A panel of retired US generals is urging the United States to disband and reorganize the Iraqi police force because of infiltration by sectarian militias. The generals also report Iraq's security forces will be unable to fulfill their essential security responsibilities independently for at least another twelve to 18 months." Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) explains that the national police force as well as the Iraq Interior Ministry are "riddled with sectarianism and corruption" by the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq headed by James Jones (Marine general) in there 150-plus page report which also finds the Iraqi army at least a year to 18 months away from being able to handle "internal security". Tim Reid (Times of London) reports, "The 20 member-panel also said today that the Iraqi Army was incpable of acting independently from US forces for at least another 18 months, and 'cannot yet meaningfully contribute to denying terrorists safe haven'."

The militias of the Interior Ministry are thugs who terrorize. Who trained them? Who introduced the "Salvador option"? The US. Who has refused to disband them? The US. Self-serving? The Interior Ministry wishes it were self-serving. Then it could really go to town slaughtering 'enemies.' It wouldn't have to worry that one of the many torture chambers they are running might result in a US military 'rescue' of their torture victims. If they were independent and self-serving, all of their torture chambers would be signed off on and not just some.

Today on
NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, Rehm spoke with the Washington Post's Karen DeYoung, the Wall St. Journal's Neil King Jr. and Newsweek's Michael Hirsh about a number of topics. On the topic of Blackwater, Hirsh declared, "Often all that happens is that the employee is spirited out of the country. That happened last Christmas Eve when a Blackwater employee shot and killed a guard to a senior Iraqi official inside the Green Zone which was obviously a little politically toxic. And he left, the company has since refused to disclose his name and he has not been prosecuted."

Neil King, Jr. (Wall Street Journal): The thing that is extraordinary about it is that we had the Petraeus hearings last weekend or last week, and all the discussion "we want Iraq to be a country, we want it to step up, we want it to meet all these benchmarks" etc. And yet we don't really actually treat it as a country to the extent that we've got thousands of our own nationals driving around with machine guns and opening fire on people and then being totally immune from the law and as is the case of this shooting last week -- sorry, last December -- where a person shot a security guard who was the personal security guard of the vice-president of Iraq and the person's spirited out of the country. Nobody ever knows what his name was and he's gone. There'll never be -- I mean if you reverse the scenario and imagine any remote corrolary to that in the United States which is literally unimaginable.

A point the paper of record misses. Self-serving also wasn't applied by the New York Times to any of Gen. David Petraeus' many laughable reports to Congress. Rather strange considering
Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London via CounterPunch) was reporting in the midst of the dog & pony show on how Petraues was explaining how he wanted to be President as early as 2004 but thought 2008 would be too soon to run. As Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post) reported earlier this week, safety "is deteriorating in southern Iraq as rival Shiite militia vying for power have stepped up their attacks after moving out of Baghdad to avoid U.S.-led military operations, according to the latest quarterly Pentagon report on Iraq". If it all sounds familiar it's because it's the same story that's been playing out over and over across Iraq. But this was hailed last week as 'progress.' Let's stick with 'progress' for a bit. Remember how the meaningless soccer victories didn't change anything but were hailed with waves of Operation Happy Talk? Strangely, that's not been the case for a title Iraq actually won. The title? Kim Sengupta (Independent of London) reported mid-week that "Iraq holds the world record for both the first and second highest amounts taken in the history of bank robberies." Number one! Number one! In fact, the chart accompanies the article reveals that four of the top five Iraq bank robberies have taken place this year for a total of $282 million (US equivalent). And how about the 'progress' in the spreading of cholera? What had been a crisis for nothern Iraq is now reaching into Baghdad with Andrew E. Kramer (New York Times) reporting that there are now two confirmed cases of cholera in Baghdad. And it's not stopping at Baghdad. Katrina Kratovac (AP) reports that "a baby in Basra" is "the farthest south the outbreak has been detected." "Progress"? Robert Burns (AP) reports that Iraqis control approximately 8 percent of Baghdad -- only 8 percent -- which Burns points out is not a large growth even though Maj Gen Joseph Fil claims it is, "Despite the slow pace of progress towards having Iraqi forces maintain control of Baghdad neighborhoods with minimal U.S. troop presence, Fil said he was hopeful that it would accelerate in coming months." He's hopeful -- that's supposed to have us all glowing.

Well maybe there's 'progress' to be found in oil news? Tuesday
Press TV reported on the bombing outside Beiji of an oil pipeline "causing huge quanties of crude oil to spill into the Tigris River" which has "caused oil to seep into the Tigris River damaging water stations and triggering their temporary closure in Tikrit". And the Tigris flows. Last night AP reported, "City officials urged Baghdad residents Thursday to conserve water and fill up their tanks in case water treatment stations have to be shut down because of an oil spill in the Tigris River." Progress? Just more violence.

In some of today's reported violence . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Hawija bombing of the home "of the former chief of Hawija police". Reuters reports 1 Romanian soldier dead from a Tallil bombing that left five more injured, a Kirkuk roadside bombing that claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and 1 Iraqi police officer, an Iskandariya mortar attack that claimed 1 life (three more injured)


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 8 corpses were discovered in Baghdad and three female corpses in Basra. Reuters notes that three corpses were discovered in Yusufiya and 1 in Bajwan.

Today the
US military announced: "A soldier assigned to Task Force Lightning died in a non-combat related incident in Kirkuk province Sept. 20." And they announced: "A Task Force Lightning Soldier was killed in Diyala Province Thursday when an explosion occurred near his vehicle." The deaths bring the total number of US service members killed in the illegal war since it began in March of 2003 to 3794 (ICCC). That's six announced deaths away from the 3800 mark.

Finally, the
CBS Evening News' Armen Keteyian looks into the missing weapons "the U.S. military could not account for" (190,000 of them) and discovers a large number of the Glock pistols have ended up in the hands of the Iraqi resistance: "According to an intelligence source, the U.S. contractor in charge of the Glocks somehow lost track of an entire shipment. That mysterious disappeance is now part of a massive military bribery investigation centered around a contracting office run out of a small trailer at a military base in Kuwait. Eighteen federal investigators are digging into the actions of dozens of high-ranking U.S officers and military contractors."