Monday, Monday, bah-dah, bah-da-da-dah. :D Well it's a Monday. It's a different kind of Monday because I'm not trying to write and watch NBC's Chuck. It's off until next year. It has been so long since I got caught up in a TV show that I've forgotten what that's like.
You probably have to go back to something from when I was like 12 or something. I had an e-mail over the weekend (only saw it today) from a guy who says I lust after the CIA because I like Chuck and the last James Bond movie. :D I'm still laughing at that. James Bond doesn't work for the CIA. He's British. I liked Casino Royale a lot. Elaine didn't like it as much (and may not have liked it all). What I liked were the explosions and the fights and I won't pretend otherwise. I didn't confuse it with anything more than a rollercoaster ride and was noting the abuse and breaking the law after we saw it at the movies. But James Bond is like Batman or Spiderman to me, I don't take him seriously, I see him as comic book and just want to be entertained. I thought Daniel Craig did an amazing job as James Bond and think he's tied with Sean Connery as the best Bond ever.
But if you don't care for Bond, that's cool. As for Chuck, that's not a pro-CIA show. Sarah can't tell Chuck she loves him or even her middle name because she's CIA. She wants out and wants a normal life. In the next year, the government decides it is time to take Chuck out, to kill him. Something like Alias was pro-CIA and saying the CIA would save us and we should just damn well get on board with what the CIA does even when it breaks the law. Chuck's message isn't that. Chuck is always objecting and calling things out. That may be why Sarah connected with him. (I'm getting deep! :D) With James Bond, even if you didn't see Casino Royale, if you don't like Bond, you won't like it. I wouldn't say, "You need to see the movie!" We all know of Bond. But in terms of Chuck, the show the guy's describing is not the show that's on TV so I would suggest he consider checking it out if he wants to slam someone for liking it.
Chuck got kicked out of Stanford, to give just one example, because his best friend Bryce set him up for stealing an exam. Chuck didn't steal the exam. Why did Bryce do that? Because Bryce was CIA and found out the CIA was going to recruit Chuck. He didn't want Chuck to be recruited and, to protect him, he set Chuck up. So even before you factor in Sarah or the NSA wanting to kill Chuck, you've got that.
I'm not pro-CIA. I think Alias pushed the CIA (and torture, and extraordinary renditions and more). That's not really what Chuck is. It's a comedy with some action and some romance and the bulk of the regular characters are not CIA. Or working for the government.
Okay, let's talk The Third Estate Sunday Review:
Truest statement of the week -- there really wasn't a strong war statement last week that we were aware of. So we had two other choices that we were going to debate. Then Margaret Kimberley's piece on AIDs was seen and that was obviously the hardest hitting and truest statement of the week.
A Note to Our Readers -- Jim breaks down the edition for everyone. It was a long edition. Jim does a pretty good job of explaining it and I'm not thinking of anything I can add to his note. Oh, we killed two pieces online. They went into the print version. One was on Buzzie and Cookie and opened with a rhyming thing. The first three lines were great, the next three weren't. We thought we'd fix those last three. We couldn't. It was print-edition only for that article and another one and I'm not even remembering what the other one was.
Editorial: It's not an issue to be 'dropped' -- Tomorrow, in Canada, their parliament (like our Congress), is going to hear testimony from war resisters. Is anyone going to cover it? That part at the end about reminding people years from now that this event was known and calling out (years from now) those who don't cover it is for real. Sir! No Sir! is probably my favorite documentary of all time to this day. If you haven't seen it, you need to. It demonstrates how widespread the movement against the war was during Vietnam and how G.I.s were calling it out and forming coffee houses and standing up. It's lost history, like Howard Zinn provides. And is using reports from that period to demonstrate it. Where are our reports today? Except for Ian Williams, I'm having a really hard time thinking of a reporter in independent media (in the US) who has bothered to cover any of the war resisters that emerged this year. And the year's almost over! Joel at In These Times, did. I just remembered that. So he and Williams were the only ones. That's disgusting. And it's harmful. See who bothers to cover it.
TV: 60 Wasted Minutes -- Ava and C.I.'s amazing commentary. This was a killer for C.I. in terms of waiting. Members were writing about it (it aired last Sunday) all last week and C.I. had to put up a note that it was being reviewed Sunday at Third. There were some people who thought C.I. was ignoring it. That wasn't the case. But because of the writers' strike, they aren't reviewing entertainment television. So that leaves them very little to review. They watched 60 Minutes two Sundays ago to review it -- it's the only news magazine they've never reviewed Jim says but, actually, they never reviewed 48 Hours if that's still on. They were about to break (take a nap) and the rest of us go to sleep and then about our day when Jim read this to us. It's amazing. But I do disagree with Jim on this (he knows I do) and it's that their news magazine commentaries are any more important than their entertainment reviews. I think both are amazing and I also know that their entertainment ones have always brought in a huge audience. I don't mean Ava and C.I.'s loyal and large regular audience. I mean people who search for their favorite show and stumble by. They do an incredible job with this one but I know they're sick of watching the news magazines.
Who's killing the peace movement? -- This, Jim says, is the sort of piece that they started their site for and I would agree with that. This is really something, isn't it? There was a question in my inbox about why Joshua Frank was covered? That'll probably come up next week because Ty asked that when we were working on the piece (or working on what C.I. had already written last week). The reason was that other than the comments about Ron Paul, C.I. didn't disagree with Frank and the Paul remarks are Frank's own personal thing and not the sort of thing that's going to have C.I. responding. Frank's piece is really strong so use the link in the article to read it.
Dope of the week (US division) -- Oh, Katrina, you provide so very many chuckles. :D Katrina vanden Heuvel, ruining The Nation one issue at a time.
Dope of the week (British division) -- I'm really sick of supposed 'lefties' endorsing nuclear power. If you are as well, you'll enjoy this.
Green Party -- We thought this would be a bigger piece and then found out that many Green presidential candidates do not have websites. Primaries start shortly. If you're running, you need to put up a website.
About those permalinks -- That was Friday when C.I. added some links to Thirds and rearranged the order. And I was there. We'd just finished speaking when Jim called about that. We were all supposed to be eating lunch and I know C.I. wasn't thrilled to instead have to spend 30 minutes fixing the links. (Jim didn't ask for that. He was just saying, "We've got more complaints.") C.I.'s sick of it which I understand because I can't believe how much work it is to do links at that site. It's easier in that you don't have to type in the code and then the web address. You just add the web address. But then you have to hit these tiny dahses (probably tinier due to it being a laptop) to move them up and down and get them in order. And there's a step (the one Dona misses) that I think is the "save" step and I can see how it's easy to miss that because it's up, you see it on your screen and you could think you were done. But, anyway, adding links takes a lot more work with their template.
Here come the revisonary tactics -- Jim has a typo! Ha. :D He won't care. I just noticed that. They were rushing to get stuff up Sunday evening. This is an important feature and the guy who's made at me about Chuck should watch the show because maybe I'm missing something? Maybe he'll watch it and see something I should find objectionable big time. But what he's offering now isn't objectionable. But this article is about standing up to thing that are wrong and if the guy sees it in Chuck, he can e-mail again. But he needs to know the show before he calls it out. (We're calling out a movie and we have seen the movie.)
KPFK ballots due by midnight December 11th -- Just a reminder.
Highlights -- Cedric, Betty, Rebecca, Kat, Wally, Elaine and I wrote this and picked out the highlights unless we note otherwise.
Note -- Jim explaining how the edition is on delay.
As well as Dallas and Ruth of Ruth's Report, here's who worked on the edition:
The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz,
and Wally of The Daily Jot
Scott Horton was on Democracy Now! today for two segments. One of them is in the snapshot so I'll note the second one, "Did CIA Destroy Tapes Showing Waterboarding and Involvement of Psychologists in Torture?:"
AMY GOODMAN: The Justice Department and the Central Intelligence Agency have launched a joint probe into the CIA's destruction of at least two tapes documenting prisoner interrogations at a secret CIA prison. CIA Director Michael Hayden said the tapes were destroyed because they posed a "serious security risk." Hayden says if they were to become public they would have exposed CIA officials and their families to "retaliation from Al Qaeda and its sympathizers." But critics have accused the CIA of deliberately destroying evidence that could have been used to hold agents accountable for the torture of prisoners.
One of the tapes is believed to have shown CIA agents waterboarding the al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah. Defense lawyers for Guantanamo prisoners say the destruction of the tapes could open new challenges in cases based largely on information Zubaydah gave to interrogators.
Meanwhile, new questions are being raised about the role of senior lawmakers in backing the alleged torture. The Washington Post reports the CIA has regularly briefed senior members of the House and Senate intelligence committees on its secret prisons and the interrogation techniques used there since 2002. The lawmakers include four Democrats: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Pelosi, Congressmember Jane Harman, Senators Bob Graham and Jay Rockefeller.
CIA officials say the controversial practice of waterboarding was among the techniques on display. But except for one known instance, no lawmaker is said to have voiced objection through the course of some thirty private briefings. Democrats and some Republicans have raised increasing criticism of waterboarding, but only after its use became publicly known.
I'm joined now by two guests. Scott Horton is remaining with us, teaches at Columbia Law, is a contributor to Harper's Magazine, where he writes the blog, "No Comment." Joining me from Washington, Mark Benjamin, national correspondent for Salon.com. His latest piece is called "For the CIA’s Eyes Only."
I want to start here with Scott Horton. Talk about the man that is now being accused of the destruction of the tapes.
SCOTT HORTON: Well, it's an interesting point of continuity with your last segment, because the man in the crosshairs here, Jose Rodriguez, Jr., was the head of operations at the CIA. He's the man now being fingered as the person who actually authorized the destruction, and he has been recruited very aggressively for a period of over a year, according to our sources, by Blackwater--not surprisingly either, because he was very, very close to Cofer Black, who of course is the vice chair of Blackwater. And Cofer Black's name also comes up here over and over again as being right in the middle of this process leading to the application of these procedures, the preparation of recordings and then the destruction of the recordings.
AMY GOODMAN: Mark Benjamin, your piece asks the question: was the agency's destruction of the video recordings a cover-up? Explain what you understand happened and what you think they’re covering up.
MARK BENJAMIN: Well, the thing that's important to understand about these tapes is that they were made in 2002, and this is a period of time when the CIA, in particular, but also the military are starting to experiment and utilize these so-called "enhanced" interrogation techniques--waterboarding, stress positions, isolation, that sort of business--to break people down. So what the CIA did in 2002 is--and we've talked about this on your show before--is enlist a group of psychologists as CIA contractors who know a lot about Cold War methods used by the Soviets and others to break down our soldiers, which include the same techniques. So the agency at that period of time was just starting to use these techniques and with some--with brutal--and they're very, very brutal techniques.
[. . .]
AMY GOODMAN: Your take on this, overall, Scott Horton?
SCOTT HORTON: Well, I think that these tapes would have shown the procedures that the APA has described at one point as safe, humane and legal. Of course, they've argued that psychologists participating in them would make them so. I think it would show just exactly the opposite.
But I want to come back to another point. My sources are saying that the destruction actually occurred in mid to late November of 2005. That really puts it in a different context. Two things going on at that point: one, the Justice Department has decided that it's going to bring criminal charges against Jose Padilla; two, we have the Musawi case going on in the Eastern District of Virginia, and in that case Judge Leonie Brinkema is pushing, demanding, that the government turn over any tapes that existed of interrogation. In fact, I went back and examined the transcripts. She is specifically asking about the al-Zubaydah tapes, asking if there are any, and the government’s giving a reassurance: "No, no, no, there are no tapes. We've checked." They say they relied on certifications from the CIA. Well, those representations are false. So we have false statements made to a court, and we have a clear attempt to evade a court order. That makes it obstruction of justice. That's a crime.
Okay, here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Monday, December 10, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, Bilal is not freed but has a day in what someone thinks is 'court,' tomorrow the Canadian Parliament holds hearing on war resisters and more.
Starting with war resisters, Stuart Neatby (The Dominion) reports "The Canadian Supreme Court refused to even hear the case of Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey, the first two war resisters to have publicly travelled to Canada in order to refuse to fight the war in Iraq. They are expected to face deportation proceedings. The War Resisters support campaign held protests in eight Canadian cities and is appealing to supporters to bombard Canadian MP's with letters and faxes asking for a parliamentary provision allowing Hughey and Hinzman to remain in Canada." Tomorrow the Canadian Parliament will hold hearings on the issue of war resisters.
BBC Radio One's Newsbeat explained of the US military "more and more of their soldiers say they're so disgusted with how innocent civilians are treated out there they've got no choice but to quit. Even if it means they're thrown into jail." Noting that "more than 4,500 troops have deserted this year," Newsbeat spoke with US war resisters Phil McDowell and Dean Walcott who are now in Canada.
Phil McDowell: We were in convoys we were being instructed to run civilian cars off the road. I refused to do that because it didn't seem right to invade another country under false prestense and say that you're there to help them and start running their cars off the road.
Newsbeat: Since the US invaded Iraq in 2003, there's been an 80% increase in soldiers quitting in combat.
Phil: The invasion was never approved by the United Nations. In terms of that Iraq was never threating the United States. The whole weapons of mass destruction argument was, uh, ceased to exist.
Newsbeat: If they're AWOL for more than 30 days soldiers are issued with an arrest warrant but for some, like Phil McDowell, they'd rather do time behind bars than go back to Iraq and see the mistreatment of civilians.
Phil: They would have them tied up and hooded and they were laying on the ground. And their required to let them use the washrooms but they would take them into the washrooms but a soldier would refuse to untie their hands or take off their blindfold.
Newsbeat: Another of the deserters is Dean Walcott, a corporal in the Marine Corps. He saw US forces destroy a tent they had suspected of harboring terrorists but the fire spread rapidly to other tents burning innocent people.
Dean Walcott: There's no way for me to accurately describe what a human being looks like when he's been set on fire. It's horrible and there's screaming that I can only compare to some of the things you hear in movies.
Newsbeat: We put the soldiers' claims to the US Defense Department and the Pentagon. They told Newsbeat many deserters are on the run because of their shame about abandoning comrades. As a result they now face spending the rest of their lives looking over their shoulders wondering when they'll be discovered.
Phil McDowell: It's an internationally condemned war
Newsbeat: But isn't it your job as a soldier to obey orders even if you don't like them?
Phil McDowell: It is absolutely but there comes a point when what you're being asked to do if it breaks the law, you're not supposed to do it.
Cindy Sheehan (OpEdNews) urges people to utilize Courage to Resist's easy to mail or e-mail resources to allow the Canadian government to know you are watching and to support organizations supporting war resisters as well as supporting war resisters:
Support actual war resisters in Canada by sending them expense money. From my friend Ryan (I gave him and his wife money to get to Canada over two years ago):
In light of the recent Supreme Court denial in Canada, I (Ryan Johnson), My wife (Jen Johnson) and Brandon Hughey need help raising funds to travel to Ottawa to attend hearings before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, where War Resisters will be giving Testimony to the committee. At these hearings the committee will be deciding on whether or not to make a provision to allow war resisters to stay in Canada. This is one of our last chances to be able to continue living in Canada. We will be leaving December 7th because the hearings are December 11th, 2007 so we need to act fast. They may try to send guys back soon and we need to have a strong War Resister Presence. We appreciate all of the support and Want to thank all of you who can help.
Checks/money orders can be sent for Ryan, Jen and Brandon to: 312 Tower Rd Nelson, BC V1L3K6
Checks and money orders can continue to be sent. They obviously will not get their in time since the hearing is tomorrow but they will help with expenses. In addition, the links offered should continue to be used. Tomorrow is the hearing. No one expects the Parliament to listen to testimony and say, "Okay, then! Here's our decision."
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, 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, Blake LeMoine, 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, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty 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. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).
The voice of war resister Camilo Mejia is featured in Rebel Voices -- playing now through December 16th at Culture Project -- that's ten more days -- and based on Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove's best-selling book Voices of a People's History of the United States. It features dramatic readings of historical voices such as war resister Mejia, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Malcom X and others will be featured. Musician Allison Mooerer will head the permanent cast while those confirmed to be performing on selected nights are Ally Sheedy (actress and poet, best known for films such as High Art, The Breakfast Club, Maid to Order, the two Short Circuit films, St. Elmo's Fire, War Games, and, along with Nicky Katt, has good buzz on the forthcoming Harold), Eve Ensler who wrote the theater classic The Vagina Monologues (no, it's not too soon to call that a classic), actor David Strathaim (L.A. Confidential, The Firm, Bob Roberts, Dolores Claiborne and The Bourne Ultimatum), actor and playwright Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride, Clueless -- film and TV series, Gregory and Chicken Little), actress Lili Taylor (Dogfight, Shortcuts, Say Anything, Household Saints, I Shot Andy Warhol, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, State of Mind) and actor, director and activist Danny Glover (The Color Purple, Beloved, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Rainmaker, Places In The Heart, Dreamgirls, Shooter and who recently appeared on Democracy Now! addressing the US militarization of Africa) The directors are Will Pomerantz and Rob Urbinati with Urbinati collaborating with Zinn and Arnove on the play. Tickets are $41.. The theater is located at 55 Mercer Street and tickets can be purchased there, over the phone (212-352-3101) or online here and here. More information can be found at Culture Project.
Meanwhile IVAW is organizing a March 2008 DC event:
In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers.
In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.
Click here to sign a statement of support for Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan
March 13th through 15th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation.
IVAW's Michael Blake will speak on the harassment of anti-war service members at Fort Drum at the "Witness to War: U.S. Out of Iraq" Tuesday at 7:00 p.m., the Unitarian Church Annex, 208 E. Buffalo St. Also speaking will be Beth Harris (professor at Ithaca College) on the Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Syria, The Catholic Worker's Peter DeMott about civil disobedience and Finger Lakes for Peace in Iraq's Ellen Grady. That's Tuesday, December 11th. More information here at The Ithaca Journal.
On Sunday, the New York Times' Stephen Farrell reported on the realities of Kirkuk -- an oil rich city which both the central (puppet) government in Baghdad and the northern Kurdish region of Iraq would like to claim. Currently, it is under the control of Baghdad. The Iraqi constitution is supposed to guarantee an election on the issue, by the residents of Kirkuk, but the central government has noted earlier this fall that it will not take place. In anticipation of an election, the northern region has forced Kurds to move to Kirkuk and Kurdish militias have targeted Sunni and Shi'ites already living in Kirkuk. Farrell quotes Iraqi president, and Kurd, Jalal Talabani absurdly claiming that the Kurdish region has not displaced Kurds and ordered them to Kirkuk and Farrell also interviews many of the displaced Kurds who are now homeless in Kirkuk and were told that they had to leave the northern region and threatened with loss of employment, loss of food rations and violence. He also speaks with non-Kurds who explain that they were forced out of their homes in Kirkuks by the Kurdish gangs. The Kurdish region -- which has a lot of money to toss around, none of which goes to those they've evicted -- has repeatedly been cited -- and not just in the business press -- as the 'model' region which required ignoring the ethnic cleansing that goes on there as well as the non-stop attacks on religious minorities. Money bought a lot of easy press and a lot of advocates for the region. It has been repeatedly floated throughout the illegal war that Kirkuk would become part of the northern region and then the northern region would break off and become their own nation-state. Those US academics offering the partitioning of Iraq as a solution are frequently on the payroll of the Kurdish region -- a fact that's rarely disclosed.
Sunday also provided more reasons to Free Bilal.. Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes today, "In other Iraq news, a criminal hearing was held on Sunday in Baghdad in the case of imprisoned Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein, who has been held by the U.S. military without charge for nearly 20 months The hearing marked the first time that Hussein or his attorneys have seen any evidence in the case. No formal charges have been lodged yet against Hussein who was part of a team of AP photographers who won a Pulitzer Prize. Last week the Committee to Protect Journalists said Hussein is one of at least 127 journalists behind bars worldwide. China is currently jailing 29 journalists more than any other country. The United States is jailing two journalists without charge Bilal Hussein in Iraq and Al-Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Haj, who has been held at Guantanamo Bay for the past five years." The US military is targeting journalists but to stay on Bilal specifically, there is already a gag order in place. Daryl Lang (Photo District News) reports that yesterday's proceedings, the first time Bilal has appeared before the judiciary, is under wraps by court order: "Bilal Hussein, the Iraqi Associated Press photographer who has been held as a security detainee for nearly 20 months, was present for most of a seven-hour hearing Sunday in a Baghdad court. Beyond those basic facts, nothing else about the hearing was made public. A judge ordered the proceedings be kept secret." And AP has released the following statement from Paul Colford (Director of Media Relations):Bilal Hussein and his lawyers have finally had a chance to learn about the allegations that the U.S. military has withheld from them since they imprisoned Bilal 20 months ago. But, they were not given a copy of the materials that were presented today, and which they need to prepare a defense for Bilal. We would hope that we have an opportunity to review the material. There is still no formal charge against Bilal, and The Associated Press continues to believe that Bilal Hussein was a photojournalist working in a war zone and that claims that he is involved with insurgent activities are false. Bilal continues to be detained by the U.S. military.Because the judge ordered that the proceedings today be kept secret, we are restricted from saying anything further.Bilal's attorneys were not provided with court documents. Reuters notes that "Iraqi journalists working for Reuters have also been detained by the U.S. military for months and later released without charges." Bilal's lead attorney is Paul Gardephe and Kim Gamel (AP) reports that he "strongly protested the refusal of the U.S. military to allow him to meet with Hussein privately. Since the U.S. decided Nov. 19 to send the case to the criminal court, a U.S. soldier and a military interpreter have been in the room whenever Gardephe has seen Hussein, allowing no privacy to plan a defense." Gamel quotes Gardephe explaining, "You cannot prepare a defendant for a criminal trial with the prosecutor in the room." Earlier, similar nonsense was attempted on CBS camera operator Abdul Ameer Younnis Hussein whose 'crime' was also doing his job filming the aftermath of a bombing led to his being shot by US forces in Mosul and imprisoned for over a year when he finally got a day what in passes for 'court' in Iraq, the 'terrorist' was released because he was not a terrorist, he was a reporter. In April of 2006, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) interviewed attorney Scott Horton about the events:
AMY GOODMAN: So, you went to the gates of Abu Ghraib to free the CBS cameraman?
SCOTT HORTON: I did, yes. After the decision of the Iraqi court was handed down acquitting him, actually finding there was not a shred of evidence supporting the charges that were brought against him, they ordered his release, but he was still carried in manacles back to Abu Ghraib, because his release depended upon the U.S. forces. But fortunately, in this case, they acted very quickly, and within about a day, he was released.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think it helped that you were there, that CBS was involved with this, as well, to get him out?
SCOTT HORTON: Well, I was told by a number of Iraqi lawyers and some of the judges that that made a critical difference.
AMY GOODMAN: He was held for a year?
SCOTT HORTON: That's correct.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what happened the day he was shot by the U.S. forces and taken to prison.
SCOTT HORTON: Well, he was shot, and I think the immediate assumption was it was a mistaken shooting, that, you know, the sniper was aiming for or targeting perhaps another sniper or a gunman or something like that at the scene, and mistakenly hit this cameraman.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, he had just raced to the scene of this car bomb?
SCOTT HORTON: That's right. After he had gotten a tip from an A.F.P. reporter--
AMY GOODMAN: Agence France-Presse.
SCOTT HORTON: Exactly, that the event had occurred, and he got there about 30 minutes after the incident, and it's just as he picked up his camera and started to film that he was shot. Within about 48 hours, there were announcements made, basically saying, 'It was a mistake. We're very sorry about this. He is being treated and will be released shortly.'
But then, very disturbingly, about five or six days later, suddenly reports began to circulate, not in Iraq, but in Washington, D.C., amongst Pentagon correspondents for CNN and other major networks, FOX News, as well, quoting unnamed, unidentified official Pentagon spokesmen, saying that the Pentagon had extremely disturbing evidence that this man was a terrorist. And specifically, they said that he had on his videotape camera four separate incidents involving attacks on U.S. forces, where there was clear evidence of prior knowledge, that he was there before the attack itself actually occurred, filming.
If it sounds familiar, it should. It's the same nonsense that's led to Bilal being imprisoned for nearly 20 months (it will be 20 this week) for the 'crime' of reporting. Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) blogs at Baghdad Observer about the dangers of Iraqis being reporters in their country and notes the son of a female Iraqi journalist who must hide the fact that his mother is a journalist. Bilal is a news photographer. As such he is taking photos out the open. There was no way for him to hide his profession and, as such, he was at risk. This was not the 'cover' or secret identity for a 'terrorist.' Bilal is a reporter and needs to be freed immediately.
Also on Sunday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown flew into Iraq. Adrian Croft (Reuters) reported that the 4,500 British troops currently station in Iraq were "a tenth of the force that Brown's predecessor Tony Blair dispatched in 2003" and that Brown will be cutting it down "to 2,500 by mid-2008". In an attempt to deal with the death squads/militias in Baghdad, Reuters noted :the central government in Baghdad was adding a new detail to the eternal crackdown the city's been under since June 2006, starting now there will be "a ban on official vehicles driving without number plates in a bid to counter death squads and gangs who use unmarked government vehicles in attacks." The vehicles are most often reported to be fake or stolen. Accepting that nonsense (which requires ignoring the thug militias in the Interior of Ministry) requires believing that vehicles can't even be kept track of. How the ban will add any security is something no one's supposed to notice. In many instances, including an attack on US forces, regardless of checkpoints, vehicles have been waived through by Iraqis. The ban will most likely have little effect.
Among the deaths reported in Iraq over the weekend, one has gotten more attention that most murdered Iraqis receive. Yesterday, Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reported on the continued targeting of officials and the roadside bombing in Hilla which claimed the life of the Babil province's police chief Brig. Gen. Qais Al Mamouri (two other people also died in the bombing). Adrian Croft (Reuters) noted that there have been multiple attempts on Mamouri's life over the years and quotes a historian specializing in Iraq's history, Reidar Visser, declaring, "For several years, Mamouri stood out as an honest figure of authority in the mixed governorate of Babel, and had fought hard against militias regardless of their sectarian affilaitons." In this morning's New York Times, Paul von Zielbauer noted this "assassination of the police chief, Brig. Gen Qais al-Mamori, who led the police forces in Babil Province, was the latest of several attacks against provincial leaders in the mainly Shiite Arab region in recent months. General Mamori, who was 48, had become known for cracking down on militia leaders. He and the two bodygruads were killed as their police convoy rolled past a gas station in Hilla, the provincial capital, a local police official said. The leader of the provincial council's security committee, Hassan Watwet, said an investigation into Sunday's explosion was under way." von Zielbauer also noted that Muhammad Ali al-Hassani and Khalil Jalil Hamza -- governors of the Muthanna Province and the Qadisiya Province respectively, were assassinated several months ago "in what appeared to be a power struggle among rival Shiite militias for control of the oil-rich region." CBS and AP note: "The death of Brig. Gen. Qais al-Maamouri, chief of Babil's provincial capital of Hillah, was the latest in a series of assassinations of provincial leaders in the mainly Shiite region. Hundreds marched along dusty roads in Babil to mourn al-Maamouri, chanting and firing guns into the air."
In some of the violence reported today . . .
Reuters reports a mortar attack on an Interior Ministry jail in Baghdad today that claimed the lives of 7 prisoners and left at least 21 prisoners and guards injured. CBS and AP note that the number wounded has climbed to 23 and "A hospital official said the inmates were still asleep when the mortars hit, one landing directly on a cell and two others nearby."
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing that wounded five people ("targeting a patrol for the national police"), a Baghdad bombing that wounded two national police officers and a Salahuddin car bombing that injured one Iraqi soldier. Both McClatchy and Reuters note a fire at an oil refinery which some say was caused by a rocket attack but other sources insist was not caused by an attack. Reuters also notes 4 police officers killed in a Tuz Khurmato roadside bombing (seven more people wounded).
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 people were shot dead in Baghdad and a man wounded when he was shot in Kirkuk. Reuters notes: "Gunmen killed a Christian girl in a market in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, on Sunday, police said." On the issue of Christian in Iraq, Ava and I addressed 60 Minutes' report on the issue Sunday. (As noted, all comments were held on that last week due to the fact that we would be reviewing 60 Minutes.)
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 6 corpses discovered in Baghdad and, in Basra, the corpse of a woman ("shot in different areas of her body"). Reuters notes a corpse was discovered in Ramadi.
Today the US military announced: "A Task Force Iron Soldier was killed from injuries sustained as a result of a suicide vehicle improvised explosive device explosion in Salah ad Din Province Dec. 10. Two soldiers were also wounded as a result of the attack near their vehicle."
Returning to the topic of the female corpse found in Basra, Sinan Salaheddin (AP) notes that, "Religious vigilantes have killed at least 40 women this year in the southern Iraqi city of Basra because of how they dressed, their mutilated bodies found with notes warning against 'violating Islamic teachings,' the police chief said Sunday. Maj. Gen. Jalil Khalaf blamed sectarian groups that he said were trying to impose a strict interpretation of Islam. They dispatch patrols of motorbikes or unlicensed cars with tinted windows to accost women not wearing traditional dress and head scarves, he added. 'The women of Basra are being horrifically murdered and then dumped in the garbage with notes saying they were killed for un-Islamic behavior,' Khalaf told The Associated Press. He said men with Western clothes or haircuts are also attacked in Basra, an oil-rich city some 30 miles from the Iranian border and 340 miles southeast of Baghdad."
Turning to the issue of the mercenary company Blackwater USA. Today on Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman conducted a discussion on the latest developments which included the topics of Cookie and Buzzy (brothers in arm), the use of Blackwater in the US and in other countries and more. From the discussion:
AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Jeremy Scahill, author of the book Blackwater. Scott Horton also joins us. He teaches law at Columbia Law School. He participates in the blog "No Comment" at Harper's Magazine and was the chair of the International Law Committee at the New York Bar Association. What do you see as the issue of Blackwater here, the problem of Blackwater here?
SCOTT HORTON: Well, I think Jeremy puts his finger right on it. It really is--it's a massive privatization of national security operation, including intelligence operations. But we have a major aspect of it that's now in focus in Congress, and that's the accountability problem. If we look at the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq today, we see that US men and women in uniform, if they do something wrong, there's a proper accountability process for it, including discipline and court-martial. If it's Blackwater or if it's another contractor, nothing happens. It's effective impunity. And, in fact, we have thousands of recorded incidents out there that have gone without punishment of any kind. At most, the employee who's involved gets fired and sent back to the States. But then, frequently enough, they're back on another plane, back working for a different contractor in Iraq or Afghanistan within a matter of weeks.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Jeremy, the status of the September 16th killings that took place in Baghdad?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Where seventeen Iraqis were killed, twenty-four others wounded. And actually those--some of the victims' families and survivors are suing Blackwater, not just for wrongful death, but for war crimes under the Alien Tort Statute. And what's interesting now is that there is the federal grand jury that's been convened, and we understand it's looking at a number of cases, not just at this case. But some witnesses and potentially people who were involved with the shooting in Nisour Square have testified in front of the grand jury. And we understand from media reports--this is a grand jury that was convened in Washington, D.C.--we understand from media reports--and maybe Scott can add to this--that there potentially could be an attempt to prosecute as many as three of the Blackwater individuals involved at Nisour Square. And the way that they would most likely be prosecuted is under US civilian law, called the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, essentially saying that contractors commit a crime abroad, they can be prosecuted criminally for that at home. The problem is, is that the law was written in a way that it applies only to contractors accompanying the Armed Forces or working directly for the Armed Forces. Blackwater works for the State Department. And so, some legal observers say it's like trying to cram a square into a circle, and if they go forward with this prosecution under a law that doesn't exactly appear to apply to Blackwater, that it ultimately could be a step backwards. Now, Congress is trying to amend that so that it would apply to Blackwater, but it can't be applied retroactively. And many of the legal experts I've talked to say there almost literally is no law that could be applied to Blackwater, except war crimes. And, I mean, that's something that Scott has been looking at.
AMY GOODMAN: Scott Horton?
SCOTT HORTON: Well, that's exactly correct. I'll just say, first, if they go forward with this prosecution, this will be the first time ever that the Department of Justice has prosecuted a security contractor in Iraq with respect to a crime involving violence against locals. That's never happened before, notwithstanding thousands of incidents. If they do it and they go forward with the prosecution on the basis of the MEJA alone, then I think there is--you know, there's a serious question as to whether or not it's going to apply. I'm not quite sure I come out exactly where Jeremy does. I think there is a basis for saying that it'll cover them. The question is not whether they're DOD contractors, but whether or not they're involved in the contingency operation. And there, of course, they're going to say that their function is just to provide security for Department of State personnel. I think you could look at it fairly and say, no, they're really a part of this overall operation in Iraq. But the bottom line is, really, it's a war crime question. There clearly is jurisdiction and a basis to act against them under the War Crimes Act. But the Bush administration doesn't want to go there, doesn't want to touch that. I think they've made that point clear.
In other contrator news, Jamie Leigh Jones has come forward to reveal she was gang-raped while in Iraq by KRB/Haliburton employees and the company then held her in a container to keep her from talking from which the US State Department rescued her; however, despite the fact that the State Department and the Justice Department were aware of the incident two years ago (as was at least one member of Congress) nothing has been done and Jones has now filed a lawsuit.
Lastly, an issue has come up in the e-mails according to Martha and Shirley. Let's use Jamie Leigh Jones, a victim of gang-rape. She should talk about what happened and not be silent. However, if she were to say that she wanted others to be gang-raped so that they could understand what she went through, it would be an indication that she had issues that needed to be addressed and she would be not be in place where she could be a public advocate. (Jamie Leigh Jones has said no such thing, she's being used an example.) The same would be true for someone tortured or the victim of any other crime or tragedy. So when someone makes comments that are similar, it needs to be remembered that he clearly needs help and that he's in no position to be a public advocate. The site he's posted over has no controls and no qualms. They rush anything up quickly -- which explains how, not that long ago, they thought it was 'cool' to post a hack actor making fun of mentally disabled children -- which is not funny and which never should have been posted. The man in question is on the road to finding himself and dealing with what he has experienced. He needs help. Clearly the answer to an illegal war is not to send more people over there. That is as much as we're going to note that subject. Again, that site has no built-in controls and regularly posts things that should never be posted. In this instance, we're talking about someone carrying a lot of issues and a lot of damage which he didn't ask for and is attempting to deal with. He's not to be pitied but he should be understood as coming from a lot of pain. And he's finding his way back from a devasting experience. It's also true that he, like many, are suffering from the mistaken impression (given them by 'elders' who continue to repeat the lie) that the draft stopped the war in Vietnam -- which it clearly did not. (One thing to add to the piece at Third, if the draft was what stopped Vietnam, it wouldn't have lasted so many damn years. There was a draft in place before Vietnam started -- which didn't end the Korean War -- and it operated throughout the Vietnam.)
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