Saturday, July 01, 2006  

This is unacceptable

BEIJI, Iraq - Investigators believe a group of U.S. soldiers suspected of raping an Iraqi woman, then killing her and three members of her family plotted the attack for nearly a week, a U.S. military official said Saturday.

Up to five soldiers are being investigated in the March killings, the fifth pending case involving alleged slayings of Iraqi civilians by U.S. troops.

The Americans entered the Sunni Arab's family home, separated three males from the woman, raped her and burned her body using a flammable liquid in a cover-up attempt, a military official close to the investigation said. The three males were also slain.

The soldiers had studied their victims for about a week and the attack was "totally premeditated," the official said on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing. The family had just moved into the home in the insurgent-riddled area around Mahmoudiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad.

The U.S. military issued a terse statement about the killings Friday, saying only that Maj. Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of the 4th Infantry Division, ordered a criminal investigation into the alleged slaying of a family of four in Mahmoudiya.

U.S. officials said they knew of the deaths but thought the victims were killed in sectarian violence. But Mahmoudiya police Capt. Ihsan Abdul-Rahman said Iraqi officials received a report on March 13 alleging that American soldiers had killed the family in the Khasir Abyad area, about 6 miles north of Mahmoudiya.
the rest


More war crimes...

The latest allegations coming out of Iraq are the rape of an Iraqi woman and the murder of several of her family members as well as herself by members of the 502nd Infantry Regiment.
BAGHDAD, June 30 -- The U.S. Army is investigating allegations that American soldiers raped and killed a woman and killed three of her family members in a town south of Baghdad, then reported the incident as an insurgent attack, a military official said Friday.

The alleged crimes occurred in March in the insurgent hotbed of Mahmudiyah. The four soldiers involved, from the 502nd Infantry Regiment, attempted to burn the family's home to the ground and blamed insurgents for the carnage, according to a military official familiar with the investigation, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was providing details not released publicly (snip)Another local resident, Sadeq Muhammed al-Janabi, a farmer, said the woman who was raped and killed was an elementary school teacher.
Washington Post
The US military is investigating whether American soldiers raped an Iraqi woman and then killed her and three members of her family, including a child, south of Baghdad in March, officials said yesterday. It is the latest in a series of military investigations in which US troops are suspected of killing civilians in Iraq.
The Independent

The alleged crime is hard to piece together because details float up out of news stories.

Some stories say that the soldiers followed the woman home, others say they had had their eyes on her for a few days. Several stories mention that the body had been burned and the house torched in an effort to hide the crime.

An anonymous US military official seems to think the kidnappings and subsequent torture and murder of two soldiers from the same company are unrelated. I think he is either dogpaddling for dear life or seriously full of it.

The two were kidnapped nearly three months later from a town, Yusufiah, very near Mahmudiyah, where the alleged murder took place. The soldiers were brutally tortured and killed. Very little has been said of the state of their bodies, except that one had been beheaded. I suspect that one or both may have been tortured in such a way as to avenge the rape and murder.

How this official comes to this conclusion is beyond me. It is the same kind of reasoning that looked at the ambush and killings of the Blackwater contractors outside of Fallujah and saw no reason (and then approved of the horrendous seige of Fallujah which included the use of white phospherous- another war crime). We find out later about Abu Ghrab, but what no one seems to be able to connect to the contractor deaths is that news about Abu Ghraib and the torture and rape going on there had reached Fallujah at least a month before.

Interestingly enough, someone else must have made the same connection between the rape and kidnapping/murders. A soldier involved in the incident is alleged to have come forward in June after the soldiers were kidnapped, out of guilt for what he had done in March.

Fog of war is not going to explain this one away.

While I understand war is hell, etc., etc. (really, no shit...what did you think it was going to be, like going clubbing?), what I don't get are the following:

a) do US soldiers think that women in an occupied country are some kind of prize to be awarded for hanging in there- that they can help themselves to whomever they want?

b) what part of rape and murder are crimes is not clear? If these allegations are true- in the US, this would probably be a special circumstances case given the fact they tried to burn the bodies and the house. It really doesn't matter where you are, if you rape someone, you are a rapist. If you murder someone, you're a murderer- simple as that.

Rape is not a crime of passion, it is a crime of power. And under an occupation army, it is doubly so, and has been classified as a war crime. Recently, rape has been treated as such in the cases of Bosnia and Rwanda.

Here is what David J. Scheffer, Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes had to say at Fordham University in 1999:
In the past, as many in this room are all too aware, rape and acts of sexual violence against women went unrecognized and unchallenged. In many conflicts, some soldiers, perpetrators, and world leaders viewed rape as a fringe benefit of war, an unspoken perk. While some observers have dismissed incidents of rape, with the reason that men, or as so often seen, boys, simply get out of hand or out of control after a rough day on the battlefield, recent history has shown that organized, systematic patterns of rape are a component of deliberate ethnic cleansing. The world community, on occasion, ignored the truth that these acts are not simply acts of recklessness, but acts of torture.

I wonder what David Schiffer would say today...

Friday, June 30, 2006  

SCOTUS decision: Hamdan v. Rumsfeld

The US Supreme Court delivered two rulings this week that are particularly important to the war on terror and the rights of individuals as laid out in the Vienna Conventions, article 36,
Under Article 36 of the VCCR, local authorities must notify all detained foreigners “without delay” of their right to have their consulate informed of their detention. At the request of the national, the authorities must then notify the consulate without delay, facilitate consular communication and grant consular access to the detainee. According to the State Department the VCCR establishes a “baseline” for most obligations with respect to the treatment of detained foreign nationals in the United States as well as US citizens detained abroad.

In this post,I am going to look at Hamdan v. Rumfeld., a decision handed down Thursday.

If you want to read the slip report for yourself, you can find it on the recent decisions page. The Washington Post has a much more user-friendly link here

IN brief, the Supremes found for Hamdan and ruled against Rumsfeld, saying that military tribunals violate both the Uniform Code of Military Justice, 10 USC 801 et seq, and Common article 3 of the Third Geneva Convetnion.

As a reminder, article 6 of the US Constitution make any foreign treaty which the US has signed and ratified the law of the land. (I'll bring this up again in regards to the Vienna Conventions), so articles therein have to be followed.
Either that, or the US has two choices: a)change article 6 of the Constitution, or b)opt out of the Geneva Conventions and become a pariah with no back up plan or protection.

In a 5-3 decision, the Court basically handed Bush and co their heads back on a plate, insisting that due process- which includes charges- be brought to bear on the cases of the 400+ known detainees in Guantanamo.
Until now, less than a handful have actually been charged with anything.

Background: Salim Hamdan,a Yemeni, and a former driver for Osama bin Laden, has been in Gitmo 4 years. He was brought there in 2002 and a year later charged with unspecified crimes. In 2004, he was charged with conspiracy to commit offences triable by a military commission.(pretty much terrorism and other things against the US)

In the past, prisoners have been brought before military tribunals and defense lawyers have complained of having limited access to their clients, not being able to examine the evidence the government has, or of having been given documents so heavily redacted as to render them useless.

Hamdan's lawyer filed filed a petition for writs of habeus corpus, etc. stating that Bush had no authority to move forward with these charges because a) Congress has not granted him these powers, b) it is against the basic rules of war, and c)these tribunals are against national and international law and go against the right of a defendent to see and hear the evidence against him. (nb: this completely in contradiction to US law).

The majority opinion agreed with Hamdan's lawyer:
Recognizing, as we did over a half-century ago, that trial by military commission is an extraordinary measure raising important questions about the balance of powers in our constitutional structure, Ex parte Quirin, 317 U. S. 1, 19 (1942), we granted certiorari. 546 U. S. ___ (2005).

For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the military commission convened to try Hamdan lacks power to proceed because its structure and procedures violate both the UCMJ and the Geneva Conventions. Four of us also conclude, see Part V, infra, that the offense with which Hamdan has been charged is not an "offens[e] that by ... the law of war may be tried by military commissions." 10 U. S. C. §821.
The opinion details the charges against Hamdan which include charges to conspire against the US since 1996, various unspecified actions and statements about Al Qaeda activity which do not even mention Hamdan.

The Court goes on to say:
The charge against Hamdan, described in detail in Part I, supra, alleges a conspiracy extending over a number of years, from 1996 to November 2001.30 All but two months of that more than 5-year-long period preceded the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the enactment of the AUMF--the Act of Congress on which the Government relies for exercise of its war powers and thus for its authority to convene military commissions.31 Neither the purported agreement with Osama bin Laden and others to commit war crimes, nor a single overt act, is alleged to have occurred in a theater of war or on any specified date after September 11, 2001. None of the overt acts that Hamdan is alleged to have committed violates the law of war.

These facts alone cast doubt on the legality of the charge and, hence, the commission; as Winthrop makes plain, the offense alleged must have been committed both in a theater of war and during, not before, the relevant conflict. But the deficiencies in the time and place allegations also underscore--indeed are symptomatic of--the most serious defect of this charge: The offense it alleges is not triable by law-of-war military commission. See Yamashita, 327 U. S., at 13 ("Neither congressional action nor the military orders constituting the commission authorized it to place petitioner on trial unless the charge proffered against him is of a violation of the law of war").32

The Court strongly recommended court martial hearing where at least a modicum of legal procedure is followed.

In fact, the Court found that Bush had violated both US/UCMJ and international law by pushing for the tribunals.

Judge Stevens adds an interesting point: that military tribunals are inherently unable to try conspiracy charges (what Hamdan is charged with) and that there is no provision for conspiracy charges either in the Geneva Conventions, the Nuremburg Trials or law-of-war military commissions.

In a dissenting opinion, Scalia makes an interesting comment: "It is not clear where the Court derives the authority- or the audacity- to contradict this determination," in reference to the Military Order of 11/01, in which the president basically suspended the rights to a fair trial on people arrested on suspicion of terrorism.

I would suggest Justice Scalia review the Court's mandate as laid out in the Constitution- and chief among them is to determine the constitutionality of such behavior, and to uphold the Constitution, including article 6, which recognizes the authority of international treatis, etc. signed and ratified by the US.

Judge Thomas also disagreed, in part, because he supports the Bush administration's view that Hamdan is "an illegal combattant." Thomas was incensed enough with the Majority opinion that he read his opinion from the bench.

Alito also disagreed, saying that he felt the military tribunals met the definition of a regularly consituted court.

On the other hand, the Court did not rule on whether to close Gitmo itself, nor did it rule on the issue of speedy trials.

In fact, the Court acknowleged that a suitable legal solution for trials should be found by Congress.

What the Court did do has far-reaching consequences.

By stating that Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions apply to Hamdan, the Court rejects the Bush adminstration's designation of enemy combatant and renders those held in Guantanamo under the protection of the Geneva Conventions. And since Hamdan is charged with conspiracy with Al Qaeda, this may indicate that the Court sees a future case in which Al-Qaeda combatants captured in Iraq (if we don't kill them first, like Zarqawi) also fall under the protection of the Geneva Conventions.

The Court (the majority) also rejects the Bush administration's practice of using the war on terror to undercut both the powers of Congress and the Constitution. Stevens specifically stated, ""The court's conclusion ultimately rests upon a single ground: Congress has not issued the executive a blank check."

The Court found that federal courts still have jurisdiction over the Gitmos detainees, the Court has opened the door to more oprn hearings, and, hopefully, greater disclosure of evidence held by the prosecution.

In addition, in ruling that the president could not interpret congressional authorization for the "use of military force" issued shortly after 9/11, as a blanket permission to establish military tribunals, the Court opened the door to questioning the legality of the secret wiretapping and the monitoring of bank accounts and internet traffic.

All this is a substantial blow to Bush who has vowed to find a way around Thursday's rulings. Judge Stevens is either too decent or very naive to believe that following is going to happen:
The executive is bound to comply with the Rule of Law that prevails in this jurisdiction
(end of opinion)

This ruling may well be the bell on the cat. The government will probably do its best to keep any federal hearings of Gitmos detainee cases as closed as possible, but by sending the Executive a message that it cannot twist federal and international law into a pretzel and then hogtie Congress with it, the Court made it very likely that legal demands for transparency will prevail, although the Bush administration will fight them tooth and nail.

The other thing that will probably come out of all this is the info that will be revealed in the trials themselves (once Congress figures out what to do and that will takes awhile). We know now that many detainees were sold to the Americans, that confessions were obtained under torture, that people were caught up in wholesale raids. We also know that the conditions in Gitmo went beyond deplorable, and that by putting the detainees beyond the protection of the Geneva Conventions, Bush put them beyond the pale of human decency and due process.

At this point, it is not an issue of close Gitmo or not. Closing Gitmo would necessitate one of two things: warehousing the remaining detainees in some other black hole and thus engaging in a shellgame, or b)Kangeroo Courts that send them swiftly towards eternal incarceration. Neither of these is acceptable.

What is needed, is clear and concise guidelines on trying the detainees- guidelines that are in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and federal law, and if they are guilty, then they are guilty, but if they are innocent- they need to be released and compensated.

I would imagine that Hamdan's lawyers are working on a motion for a speedy trial-after 4 years in Gitmo, he deserves that much, at least.

And we should be grateful that the Supreme Court stood up to Bush and upheld the power of the Judicial and Executive branches as well as the Constitution and the obligation to observe international treaties. In 2004, the President declared himself above both and set up the military tribunals and most people didn't care because it was the Gitmo detainees, but, by the same token, he declared Congress had authorized him to spy/record citizen's phone conversation and bank accounts - now it's domestic. And he may continue to cite the "use of military force" as domestic justification for suspending sections of the Constitution, and for indefinite detainment without trial of citizens and permanent residents charged with intent to commit terror, conspiracy to commit terror, thinking about committing terror, to charges of conspiting to undermine the authority of the president.

Sounds a bit far-fetched, I am sure- but then wholescale domestic wiretapping (transcripts and all) being done in the event of a future need would never have been though possible six years ago.

And, finally, and maybe most importantly, the Court's ruling on Hamdan v. Rumsfeld may put the US back on the path of being a law-abiding, fair-minded nation which stands as an example to its enemies and friends alike.

However, unlike Stevens, I have my doubts.
tech tags:, , , ,

Thursday, June 29, 2006  

Supremes II

Well, the decision on Hamdan v. Rumsfeld is in and the Supremes rose to the occasion and decided military tribunals are not constitutional in this case, which will have far-reaching consequences.

I'll have more after work and after eblogger fixes some of the problems.

[shout out to Donkephant- thanks for the props!]

For an excellent look at Iraq from the inside, Donkephant brings you the thoughts of an anonymous Iraqi blogger.


Grannies v Recruiters

Ingrid over at Blogger Roundtable is looking into the arrest of several "grannies" at a recruiting station and revisiting the No Child Left Behind recruiter section that basically makes any military-age qualified kid fair game for recuiters and high schools at risk of losing federal funds if they don't fork over all the contact info for said kids.

This country has no shame - tying education to military recuiter accessibility. It's another form of child abuse, to be quite frank.

This morning, a scroll (is that what you call it) below the news caught my eye; several elderly members from grannies for peace arrested. My first thought was,"Oh George, not the grannies!! But I can't say they were innocent after I investigated. However, don't mess with grannies. They've been around longer than we have and they have no fear, afterall, they've made it that long. Apparently, some grannies were arrested as they were not willing to leave a military recruitment office. Read the full story as to how and why!!

the rest


The legacy of

liberte, egalite et fraternite (ummm, can someone help me with the accent problem- this is getting frustrating...thanks) is being expressed in a way that (only sort of) counteracts Vichy France. Ethan Heitner has an interesting look at how some people in France are protecting the children of illegal immigrants from being deported under Sarkozy's harsh anti-illegal immigrant policy:
Some background: rightist French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has vowed to deport 25,000 immigrants this year. Muslim illegal immigrants are estimated to number between 200,000 and 400,000 in France (or about .6 percent of the population of France—about a fourth of whom are school-aged children). Popular outcry earlier this spring led him to declare a temporary truce from deporting thousands of French schoolchildren unfortunate enough to have been born elsewhere. Now he has announced that on July 4, the end of the French school year, the deportations will begin anew.

And in response, parents, teachers, army wives and religious figures (The Christian Science Monitor calls them “French soccer moms ”) have taken truly inspiring action. They have pledged humanity in the face of a bureaucracy that tears apart families, by taking hundreds, if not thousands of children into hiding all over France.


Heitner suggests some interesting parallels with both Vichy France and the US, neither of which quite work, but do contribute to his point. I won't go into great detail here, but under Vichy France, 1,000's of French Jews, many of whose families had been in France for 100's of years, were summarily deported. There were a few people who defied Vichy and hid French Jews but not many, and to France's ever-lasting shame, liberte, egalite et fraternite was not extended to its most targetted population.

The other parallel with the US comes up a bit short while still being worth looking at. The US, of course, is, engaged in a divisive discussion over illegal immigration, what to do with the children of illegal immigrants (some illegal themselves) and protecting its borders, But what Heitner fails to mention is that France, and to some extent other European countries, is experiencing the legacy of colonialism and an addiction to cheap, second class labor.

The parallel is not Eurabia/Atzlan, but disenfranchisement of native populations as in the French colonial structure and the draconian dahir berbere( 1930), the creation of tiers of classes in Algeria and the broken promises of the Treaty of Guadeloupe Hildago (Mexico/USA, 1848).

While the US has not actively (although in the case of Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and the Phillipines, this is arguable) maintained colonies, France did. With former colonies and protectorates spread throughout a good part of Africa, the Middle East and Asia (+ Haiti), there is a definite legacy of colonization, appropriation, metissage and noblesse oblige. In some cases, independence was relatively simple, in others, such as Algeria, France dug its heels in and a nasty, brutish and bloody war for independence ensued.

The parallel that does have some purchase here is the addiction to cheap, anonymous labor. However, the need for it has different origins. For the most part, the US has basically turned a blind eye to workers coming up from the South because of the growing economy, a seasonal agricultural product, and a nativist population that was increasingly reluctant to do stoop labor.

France, on the other hand, lost two generations of young men to war, and in the early 20's, looked to their colonies for labor. It also looked to them for cannon fodder, while at the same time marginalizing them both in France and at home, building on Lyautey's position of the beaux indigenes who were both fierce and quaint, but in all likelihood, not that bright.

In the 80's, that position started to erode as the sons and daughters of immigrants joined natives at school and excelled. As did a number of other students, products of a slightly bastardized school system in North Africa, products of carefully constructed schools in Lebanon, who came for university.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the Front National (and not unlike Tancredo in some respects) was heard to howl- you must beware, they aspire to sit at your table and sleep with your daughter!

In the US, despite howling to the contrary, the children of Latino immigrants have done very well. Latinos are a rising economic and cultural force, contributing cutting edge entrepreneurs and artists to the mix.
(and to those who are having fits over the "encroachment" of Spanish- get over it. The whole Southwest + California were originally Spanish speaking, even after the border was established.)

But where Heitner has a point, is that people need to look at the illegal immigration rulings and decided where they stand on their implimentation. For example. HR 447 was just draconian- making anyone who assisted an illegal in any way a felon. Personally, I suspect the intention of HR447 was much further reaching than simply controlling illegals. I think it was about striking fear into various populations, discouraging a domestic sanctuary movement and reducing the liberal-leaning voting population by designating them as felons-and hence no voting rights.

I would like to see an intelligent immigration policy that takes labor needs, humanitarian concerns and historical legacies into consideration. While France needs to confront the realities of the repercussions of its colonial past, the US needs to confront its own legacy of manipulation, betrayal and support for repressive regimes. From the El Salvadar option to the betrayal of the Kurds to the collaboration with governments to maintain a rich-poor divide into which we can insert our factories - we need to realize that we have helped create sub-standard economies and regimes from which people wish to escape.


B is for ...

If regicide means killing the king and fratricide means killing your brother, what would you call killing Barbie? (a: barbicide!)

Sorry, couldn't resist. I know for a fact there are barbershop jars with suspended Barbies in them, but couldn't find a pict. But I did find this!
The nail in Barbie's grotesquely proportioned coffin is last winter's study by a British university about how ferociously little girls mutilate their Barbies, just for fun. They scalp them and dismember them and burn them and microwave them. Frankly, Barbie had it coming. She's just too unreal. How do you bond with something that looks like a taffy pull with a face? Stuffed animals are more flesh and blood than Barbie.

The study flooded me with endorphins. Around my house, Barbie was fair game. We used her as swords, for duels. But the best was Marie Antoinette Barbie. On a scaffold built of encyclopedias, we whacked off her head but good, tiara and all, over and over again. The last couple of times, after the game got old, we got out the ketchup for a good, gory, splashy finish.
Wow! I am not alone...
Actually, we never really played much with Barbie- I was not much of a doll person, kittens were much more interesting, and Barbie wasn't really on the wish list- more of a curiosity, than anything else. One of us did get a Barbie, which was promptly mishandled, mis-combed, and pretty much turned into an urchin. Post modernism had not quite raised its head at that point - or maybe I wasn't that aware of it at 10- or else Barbie would have made a stunning baglady or a model for consciousness raising tattoos and practice conversations that I have uttered since (like what? oh, like iron your own shirt, what do you think I am, genetically programmed to do housework? I don't see you fixing the car!) (for the record, I have no case you were wondering).

A very funny doc: I, Doll (read more at Women Make Movies and check out RtMark and the Barbie LIberation Organization here

And as for resuscitating Barbie? Patt Morrison has other, more nefarious plans. Oooooh, can I help? Can I? Can I?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006  


AFI has released a list of its 100 most inspriational movies.

4 ROCKY 1976
It's an interesting list, although I am not sure I would include Pinnochio...

What's your idea of an inspirational film and why did it inspire you?
(NB: I am turning on the comments moderation- so do yourself a favor and try to stay on topic and off porn. Thanks)
the other 90.


Commentary manana

Sorry, folks, it's been so hot, even T. and S. the cats are wilting.
Here are two stories I will be commenting on tomorrow:

Gaza - this really looks bad in soooooo many ways.
Check out Christopher Brown at Crossing the Line: Life in Occupied Palestine for some updates.

The Supreme Court decisions on Hamdan v Rumsfeld (donw tomorrow) and Sanchez-Llamas v Oregon (today- which I need to read). You can check out the slip opinions at


More from Hitchens HQ

I can't decide if Christpher Hitchens is a colossal ass or simply a tone-deaf soloist who somehow drugged the true singer and took his place. Not that C.H. would care what I think, but still...

From the man who thinks invading Iran might be interesting comes this lighted-hearted suggestion to lefties who want to appear, well, more substantial a la Hitchens:
By way of restitution, may I propose some ways in which those who don't want to be associated with Michael Moore, George Galloway, Ramsey Clark, and the rest of the Zarqawi and Saddam apologists can make themselves plain? Here are four headings under which the anti-war types could disprove the charge of bad faith.

Hmmmm...I wasn't aware Michael Moore has become a Zarqawi apologist...
And here (in microform) are C.H.'s suggestions:
1)Landmines- are NASTY- especially those pesky IED's - talk among yourselves.
(note to CH: let's make a deal- I will say my piece on IED's when you say your piece about the cluster bombs that lurk, unexploded, all over Iraq, For your lead, may I suggest you interview Fernando Suarez del Solar, whose son, Jesus, was killed by such a thing- courtesy of the US of A.)
2)Human Shields- get thee to some place being assaulted- like a hospital.
OK, he has a point. But there is one teeny, weeny problem, a number of hospitals have been incapacitated by US personnel (Dahr Jamail has lots to say on this), and one suspects that the Ministry of the Interior goons are the bastard Frankensteins of John Negroponte.
And CH, dear, btw- Rove has had way too many opinions which have filled Dubya's otherwise unused brain space and look where that has gotten us.
3)Say something about the sanctions...
Say something about the sanctions? Are you DEAF? Quite a number of people had quite a bit to say about them, and isn't it a bit late at this point in time?
4)Time to revive the demand for Gays in Uniform! (and I don't mean the Village People kind)- what, exactly, is behind this? I get the need to be recognized as full-fledged citizens who would like to serve their country if they so desire- but, to paraphrase Virgil, beware of Republicans bearing reconsideration- note to CH: it's usually rigged.
Why now?
Well, I have a few thoughts:
a) the military desperately needs warm bodies. They are not meeting their quotas and the stop loss program is very unpopular. (and this may be one of the reasons behind Bush's illegal immigration stance- get enough young illegals, dangle greencards/citizenship and presto! War on Terror? You're good to go!)
b)Remember the Nisei Regiment- that amazing, well-decorated WWII regiment of Japanese-Americans who generously decided to go even though the US government had interned them and their families (and many were US citizens)? Maybe the US government has a little trade in mind- you prove you are good, brave soldiers and we'll throw you a few civil rights rulings and call of the dogs once in awhile. Oh, and btw, it's easier to honor a dead Gay soldier than a live one, cause, well, you know...they're gay.
And C.H., all those countries that torture and imprison gays (like, you know, that place by the Nile?)- apparently we don't mind- if Bush and co aren't real keen on domestic Gays, do you really think they care about foreign ones, especially the ones persecuted by our allies?
Read Hitchens in the flesh.

And a counter-opinion as expressed by Alexander Cockburn of (although I must mention that neither appreciates the existance of the other- hence
the tone)

Hitchens Hails "Glorious War"

The recent memorial for long-term New York Review co-editor Barbara Epstein, sadly felled by cancer on June 15, was disfigured by an unseemly outbursts from Christopher Hitchens. There was a list of invitees for the private ceremony and C. Hitchens -- a sometime NYT contributor ? was not on the list. He implored to be admitted, and some misguidedly decent soul gave him the green light.

Visibly taken with drink, in the estimate of at least one observer, Hitchens showed up and soon made his way to Jean Stein, a close friend of Barbara Epstein, also editor of Grand Street in recent years. Hitchens spared Stein the habitual presentation of his hairy cheek but made a low, facetious bow and offered his hand.

Stein icily declined, saying she had no desire to shake hands with him for many reasons, not least the fact that Hitchens had attacked one of her best friends, Edward Said, while he was on his death bed.

As Hitchens retreated, someone remarked to him, "So your glorious war has turned out to be a total disaster, hasn't it?"

"It is glorious," the sodden scrivener blared, "and it IS my war because it needed Paul Wolfowitz and myself to go and convince the President to go to war."

As mourners digested this megalomanic outburst, Hitchens continued, "And we are going to kill every Al Qaida terrist and Baathist in the country and that's a good thing. They need to be killed and we will kill them."


Blogosphere bopping

Here are a few interesting tidbits I found while perusing the great info way, thought I'd toss them your way:

Arabic 10something:

An interesting and actually useful explainer of the use of "al" in Arabic (probably a first)
The New York Times reported on Wednesday that an insurgent named Haitham al-Badri masterminded the bombing of the Samarra shrine, at least according to Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie. Al-Badri used to be a member of an insurgent group called Ansar al-Sunna. Now he's part of al-Qaida in Iraq, which used to be run by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, until he died and Abu Hamza al-Muhajer took over. What's the deal with this "al-" prefix?
(more from Slate).

Cool Archeology:

Two intriquing finds popped up today:
From Egypt:
LUXOR, Egypt - Archaeologists hoped the first tomb discovered in the Valley of the Kings in 80 years would hold the mummy of King Tut's mother. They opened the last of eight sarcophagi Wednesday, revealing no mummies but finding something almost as valuable: embalming materials and ancient woven flowers.

From Brazil:
Anthropologists have long known that local indigenous populations were acute observers of the stars and sun. But the discovery of a physical structure that appears to incorporate this knowledge suggests pre-Columbian Indians in the Amazon rainforest may have been more sophisticated than previously suspected.

"Transforming this kind of knowledge into a monument; the transformation of something ephemeral into something concrete, could indicate the existence of a larger population and of a more complex social organization," Cabral said.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006  


The Supremes! (as in Court). Don't have much time to ruminate- good little worker bee has to do some (oh, horrors!) work. And that crack about this blog being more interesting than cleaning the house? Man, you'd better believe it. Time to pretend I listened to my poor mother who tried so hard to civilize me...

Anyway, before I do battle with dust bunnies (and frankly, probably get my ass kicked- them things is feral!), back to these interesting folks, otherwise known as the Judicial Branch of the checks and balances system (Note to "W"- you have heard of that concept, haven't you?). Slate's Dahlia Litwick is engaged in an interesting breakfast conversation on Monday's rulings and anticipating Wednesday's:
Yet to come are decisions involving the constitutional right to mount an insanity defense, regulation of prisoners' access to magazines and newspapers, whether there will be any meaningful judicial limits on partisan redistricting, the potentially explosive issue of whether the Vienna Convention creates individual rights that can be asserted in state courts and whether those state courts must respect rulings of the International Court of Justice—and, of course, the deeply important case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld on the use of military trials in "war on terror" cases.

read more

Wednesday is going to be a particularly important day, decision-wise. Hamdan v. Rumsfeld will have major import for any of the up-coming (supposedly) military trials for the "war on terrorism." It will be harder for the Bush administration to throw a snit fit over the Court's decision if it rules against them, than it was in the case of the International Court of Justice ( Vienna Conventions) when it ruled against the US in Mexico v. US, also known as the "Avena Cases", where Mexico accused the US of ignoring the Vienna Conventions requirement to inform countries when their nationals have been picked up for legal reasons. The ICOJ found that in 52 cases of Mexicans on death row in the US, all 52 had experienced some violations of their VCR rights.

Bush sent the cases back to the courts and then the US promptly withdrew from the Optional protocal recognizing the ICOJ's authority. Which basically means, a) we are poor sports, b)we can't sue anyone and c)more importantlyno one can sue us- like Iraq...
Think about that for a moment.
For an article about the VCR and the cases before the Supreme Court:
LOS ANGELES, May 24 (IPS) - Moises Sanchez-Llamas said he was drunk when, in 1999, he aimed a gun and almost hit an Oregon policeman.

Though he was told in Spanish and English of his rights to remain silent and have a lawyer, the Mexican never was notified that, as a foreigner, he also had a right to contact his consulate.

Sanchez-Llamas eventually was found guilty of attempted murder, but the U.S. Supreme Court will decide this term whether that conviction should be reversed.

Though the Mexican is not on death row, his fate, along with that of Honduran Mario Bustillo, whose case has been merged with Sanchez-Llamas, has significant implications for the estimated 120 foreign nationals from 31 different countries who are awaiting execution in the United States. Bustillo was found guilty in 1998 of murdering a Virginia man with a baseball bat.

Many of these prisoners may have had less than adequate representation, said a Death Penalty Information Centre official, because their rights to contact their consulate were violated under a 1969 treaty.

"What the treaty says is pretty clear, but it doesn't get done that way here (in the U.S.)," Richard Dieter, Executive Director of the centre, told IPS.

Article 36 of the Vienna Convention requires that police contact foreign governments when their citizens are arrested in another country. The U.S. added that provision to the convention when it was written and U.S. is the most frequent user of it for its roughly 6,000 citizens who are arrested abroad each year.

more at

Monday, June 26, 2006  

TODAY IS International Day in Support of Survivors and Victims of Torture (as designated by the UN)

Today is International Day in Support of Survivors and Victims of Torture, please devote some spare time to meditating on torture, its uses, and the harm it does us all, be we the tortured, the torturer, or those in whose name it is done.
You can check out the Bloggers Against Torture (see link) sites for local events and actions.

Some may ask why I have chose to put the majority of the emphasis on the US today. The answer is simple. I have already mentioned Latin America and North Africa, areas I have either studied and/or lived in. I have spoken of the School of the Americas and the disappeared of Argentina. But today, I look closer to what is presently home, the US. And I see that everything I learned as a child and in school, has been compromised: the US as moral beacon, the US as safe haven, the US who doesn't do that. And I feel particularly betrayed by this administration. We have a covert history of torture both direct and third party, but this administration has enshrined torture as a mode of behavior. And worse, they has preyed upon the worst tendancies of certain countries by making them complicit in this charade of a "war on terror" and invigiled them into allowing rendition, and persuading them to torture those rendered. And so we have become both pusher and user.

So, today, I'm putting the spotlight on my country. If we truly believe that this is a country of "we the people," then we the people need to take a stand. We cannot say, I didn't know, I didn't see, it wasn't me - we do know, we do see, it is us, and we the people need to say no!. And tell the people who are our servants- the White House and the Congress.
Green indicated the countries that have ratified the Conventiona Against Torture:
The Convention has received new attention in the world press because of the Stress and duress interrogation techniques used on the detainees by United States military personnel, most notably at the Abu Ghraib prison and Bagram prison. The United States ratified the Convention, but declared that "... nothing in this Convention requires or authorizes legislation, or other action, by the United States of America prohibited by the Constitution of the United States as interpreted by the United States." [1], footnote #11).
the rest

"From Brazil to Saudi Arabia, from Russia to Indonesia, from the USA to Cameroon, state parties to the Convention are falling short of their obligation to take the necessary steps to prevent and sanction torture," Amnesty International said. "Torture should be confined to the history books. Instead, it is still widely used to extract confessions, to intimidate opponents or to punish, discipline or humiliate prisoners," the organization added.

Torture methods range from severe beatings -- such as the one suffered in April this year by Chinese labour activist Gu Baoshu after his arrest in connection with workers' demonstrations -- to electric shocks, sexual abuse, and deprivation of food and sleep.

"To put an end to all this, states should ratify the Convention against Torture without reservations and as a matter of urgency, and adopt concrete measures to turn the commitment to eradicate torture into real, measurable change," Amnesty International said.
Amnesty International
Watch this from AI Denmark



What if this were you?

But it wouldn't be, would it?
Are you sure?
The war on terror has created monsterous bedfellows, some of which are complicity, rendition and justifications for doing horrible things to one fellow human beings.
If you see one "activist movie," see this: The Road to Guantanamo:
he Road to Guantánamo (Roadside Attractions), Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross' half-feature film, half-documentary about three British youths who spent over two years in military prison for no justifiable reason, is exhausting, depressing, slightly nauseating, and unfortunately necessary. It turns an abstract debate about human rights and the Geneva Conventions into a visceral experience of lived injustice: What if you were rounded up with friends on the eve of your own wedding; shipped to an American airbase to be shackled, beaten, and interrogated; and then sent without trial to languish in a cage in Cuba?

read the rest


Pardon me, have you

seen my head?
This screamingly funny article on Phillip K. Dick -android (of course), his maker, and a missing head:
The robot, Mr. Hanson said, referring to the author by his initials, "realizes science fiction, it transitions it from fiction to reality, to some extent."

"It implies that transition," he continued. "And it's supposed to provoke one to consider issues that P.K.D. was considering."

However satisfying to those with a sense of irony, Mr. Hanson is not comforted by the idea of his homage to Mr. Dick on a jaunt somewhere or, more likely, stuck in storage.

"It's almost like it has some free spirit to it," he said. "A lot of people have said that it's almost like a P.K.D. narrative, like one of those absurd twists that would occur in a P.K.D. novel. But emotionally it doesn't feel that way to me."
The rest.
And if you have seen Phillip K. Dick- the android's head, please return it to Mr. Hanson, he's feeling a bit bereft.


Car eviscerates Piggybank...

Got your attention? Good.
From Slate comes an interesting take on the Yaris ad:
The Spot: A pink piggy bank materializes inside a white room. The piggy looks around for a moment to get its bearings, then notices it's not alone: There's a mean-looking car a few feet away, eyeing the piggy with bad intentions. The pig trembles with fear as the car extends a long, metal tentacle from under its hood. The tentacle attacks the piggy with a laser, a circular saw, and a hammer, reducing the little pig to crumbled shards. Then it grabs one of the gold coins the piggy bank had held and snatches its loot back under the car's hood. "Starting at $12,405," reads an on-screen graphic. "Yaris, from Toyota," says the announcer.

Personally, I find the ad a little disturbing although I love the animation. The problem I have with the ad is that (like soooooo many things...) there are different ways of reading it. And one that I find bubbles up to the surface, is the US occupation of Iraq: we came, we smashed it, we took what we wanted, and it is still smashed...
But then, that's just me...
Like Magritte says: ceci n'est pas un(e)...
Slate's take.

Sunday, June 25, 2006  

This is how we look to others...

This courtesy of The Guardian:
If wanton murder is essential to the US campaign in Iraq, it's time to leave

The reported atrocities by American soldiers are not isolated incidents but the inevitable offshoots of occupation

Gary Younge
Monday June 26, 2006
The Guardian

Every four years it's the same. The hand of God, the sending off, the miskick that finds only our net - the fluke that shatters the dream. Each World Cup some freakish incident dashes England's hopes with such predictable regularity that the only truly surprising thing is the surprise itself. Rather than resign ourselves to the fact that our national team is good, but not that good, we delve into the detail of each particular defeat as though it alone holds the key to us winning the trophy in four years' time.

Both logically and statistically there is only so long that we can continue to describe a regular occurrence as anomalous and still be taken seriously. To treat the consistent as aberrant not only defies common sense but prevents any intelligent assessment of the nature and scale of the problem at hand.

So it is with the slew of alleged atrocities committed by the US military in Iraq. Many have produced their own investigation, occasionally their own sanction, and inevitably their own version of shock and bore among the American public. Amazement that American soldiers could be involved in such despicable actions is soon followed by a lack of interest in the consequences.

Last week the US military charged eight marines with kidnapping and murdering a disabled Iraqi civilian in Hamdania on April 26. According to the charges, they dragged Hashim Ibrahim Awad, otherwise known as "Hashim the lame" because of the metal plate in his leg, from his home and bound his feet and hands. Locals say the marines then shot him four times in the face. According to prosecutors they put an AK47 and a shovel next to his body to make it look as though he had been digging a hole to plant a roadside bomb.

This is not to be confused with the alleged execution of 11 Iraqi civilians, including four children, near the city of Balad. Or the investigation into the murder of three Iraqis held in custody in Salahaddin province, north of Baghdad. Or the two soldiers charged in connection with the murder of an unarmed man near Ramadi who then placed an AK47 next to his body. Which, in turn, should not be mistaken for the atrocities at Haditha, where marines killed 24 civilians - including 10 women and children and an old man in a wheelchair.

Let us leave aside for the moment that these are just a few of the atrocities reported in Iraq, that there have almost certainly been atrocities that haven't come to light and that untold thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed by US forces in conditions considered insufficiently atrocious to be worthy of investigation.

To treat even these few incidents as isolated chapters is to miss the broader, enduring narrative. For these are not the unfathomable offshoots of this war but the entirely foreseeable corollaries of it. This is what occupation is; this is what occupation does. There is nothing specifically American about it. Any nation that occupies another by force will meet resistance. For that resistance to be effective, it must have deep roots in local communities where opposition to the occupation is widespread. Unable to distinguish between insurgent and civilian, occupiers will regard all civilians as potential insurgents and all territory as enemy territory. "Saying who's a civilian or a 'muj' [mujahideen] in Iraq, you really can't," one marine under investigation told the New York Times recently. "This town did not want us there at all." Under these circumstances, dead women, children and disabled people are the price you pay for being invaded.

Take Haditha. It lies deep in the Sunni-dominated Anbar province, where several US troops have been killed by insurgents. On November 19 a 13-man squad of marines were about two miles from their base when a roadside bomb exploded, killing one soldier and seriously injuring two others.

Civilian survivors say the marines then went on the rampage, killing five unarmed men in a car and bursting into houses and shooting people at close range as they tried to protect their children or prayed for their lives. The death certificates describe well-aimed shots to the head and chest: a massacre by any definition of the word. "I think they were just blinded by hate ... and they just lost control," said James Crossan, one of the injured marines, referring to his colleagues.

The US squad leader now under investigation describes things differently. He says that after the bombing he saw young men jump out of a white car and run away. So he shot them, understanding that the rules of engagement allowed him to shoot men of military age running away from the site of a bombing.

Then, believing they were under fire from nearby houses, he says, they broke into a house. One threw a grenade into a room where they heard voices while another sprayed the room with gunfire. This is called "prepping the room". They murdered seven civilians, including a four-year-old boy.

They claim they then saw a back door open and, believing they were in "hot pursuit" of a gunman, broke into a second house and prepped another room, killing eight civilians, including two women and five children aged from three to 14. The imperialist "wears a mask", wrote George Orwell, "and his face grows to fit it".

Bear in mind that this is the marines' account, according to their lawyers - in other words, the account they feel puts them in the best possible light. Let's assume they were telling the truth. Given everything we know about the treatment of Iraqi prisoners by the US, what military-aged Iraqi male in his right mind would not run from a battalion of American soldiers after a bomb has gone off? How does blindly spraying a room of civilians with gunfire square with winning hearts and minds?

After Haditha was exposed, the US military pledged to provide its troops with a course on "core warrior values" to ensure they were aware of battlefield ethics. But the problem is not just that these marines did not play it by the book - the book itself is the problem. These atrocities are not contrary to the ethics of this particular occupation but the natural and inevitable consequence of it.

In response to news of Haditha, George Bush said: "If, in fact, laws were broken, there will be punishment ... The challenge for us is to make sure the actions of a few do not tarnish the good work of the many."

International law was broken but there will be no punishment. The few who are responsible remain in the White House while the many who are embroiled in the conflict are brutalised or murdered, or both. "You've got to do whatever it takes to get home," said one marine. "If it takes clearing by fire where there's civilians, that's it." There is, of course, another option. Just go home. If the wanton murder of civilians is what it takes to complete your mission, there is clearly something wrong with the mission. You can only talk about a few bad apples for so long before you need to take a serious look at the barrel.


More on the Miami 7

Andrew Cohen, legal analyst for CBS, has an interesting take on the "plot that probably wasn't." He is not against preventative surveillance exactly, but here is what he has to say:
The federal indictment Friday of seven Miami men is extraordinary for what it does not contain. It does not contain allegations that the men ever met with a genuine al Qaeda operative — just an informant playing the role for the government. It does not contain allegations that the men ever purchased any munitions or went anywhere near Chicago to case the building. It does not contain allegations that the men had any sort of a specific plan or detailed plot to take down the Sears Tower. The indictment is only 11 pages long. Read it yourself and decide whether the feds have broken up al Qaeda Lite or just the Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight.

What does the indictment say? It says that the men said they wanted to do harm to America. It says that they asked the "al Qaeda representative" (which, quotation marks and all, is how the indictment refers to the guy who infiltrated the group and then ratted them out) for "materials and equipment" needed in order to wage jihad, including "radios, binoculars, bullet proof vests, firearms, vehicles, and $50,000 cash." It says the men asked for and obtained from the al Qaeda representative "military boots" and a "digital video camera" as part of their training, preparation and reconnaissance. You read that correctly. We have a highly touted federal terrorism indictment based in part on the transfer of boots from an informant to a group of suspects.

You might want to read the rest


"why do they hate us?" (Sound of more handwringing..)

Do you really want to know?
Courtesy of The Arabist comes an article by Sara Korshid on how the abuses of a regime (in this case, Egypt) helps to create the next generation of terrorists. And while you read the article, please remember that the US is a vociferous partner in Torture, Inc, and supports regimes that treat their own people this way and then are happy to torture the people the US renders to them.

Published September 15, 2005
A police officer summed up the situation very clearly to political detainee Abdel Moneim Mohammed, who has spent 13 years in the custody of the Egyptian interior ministry: "We can't release you [regardless of whether you are innocent or guilty]. After spending years in prison, you hate us - and setting you free will be a great risk."
The statement that was probably made by a low-ranking officer, with no authority to keep or release a detainee, is still worth pondering.
Charged with endorsing violence, Mohammed was arrested by the State Security body in 1993, leaving behind a wife and a months-old baby daughter. He signed a "repentance declaration" in detention and was consequently transferred to Wadi Al Natron II prison, also known as the "repenters' prison". His wife, who insists that her husband is innocent, has filed many complaints over the years and has had tens of release verdicts issued by courts. But Mohammed remains in detention.
His case is by no means unique.
read the rest here.


"support the troops..."

For people who like to sport this on their cars (often an SUV- like I said, irony is not dead, just wasted on some people), since I can't call you a f-g moron to your face, here is something to think about:

"I'm just an ordinary person who served. I'm not embarrassed about my homelessness, because the circumstances that created it were not my fault," said Beckford, 30, who was a military-supply specialist at a base in Iraq that was a sitting duck for around-the-clock attacks, "where hell was your home."

Thousands of veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan are facing a new nightmare -- the risk of homelessness. The government estimates that several hundred vets who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan are homeless on any given night around the country, although the exact number is unknown.

The reasons that contribute to this new wave of homelessness are many: Some are unable to cope with life after daily encounters with insurgent attacks and roadside bombs; some can't navigate the government red tape; others simply don't have enough money to afford a house or apartment.
the rest
These are not the stories of aberrations- a few "bad apples" having trouble staying in the barrel. Nope. The number of homeless vets of the present conflict(s) is on the rise. And in Stand-Downs across the country, these vets are being noticed.
"The government says one thing, but does another," says Noel. "I came back to New York thinking there would be support; that I would have a job, but I was sadly mistaken." After eight months of cold sleepless nights in his car, the 25-year-old veteran finally has a place he can call home. If it weren't for an anonymous donor who paid for a year's rent, Noel would still be on the streets of Brooklyn, unable to see his wife and four kids.

Noel says he contacted several government programs, including the VA, but was told he'd have to wait up to a year for services. "It's time for the government to wake up," he says. "If soldiers come back and find out they were lied to, we're going to have a rebellion on our hands."

(the rest)

When I talked to my local Stand-down while researching an article last year, I heard that last year almost 400 vets from the current conflict showed up at stand-downs around the country.

Ilona on the Daily Kos has a good run-down on just what benefits have been reduced or cut:
The President wishes to:

* Drive out 1.2 million veterans from the VA system (created specifically for them).
* Continue to turn middle-income veterans away from receiving care at VA hospital and clinics.
* Increase veteran fees for medical care by $6.8 billion.
* Introduce a new $250-per-year enrollment fee for VA care, and increase $8 prescription drug co-payment to $15.
* Force nearly half a million Minnesota veterans to pay more for health care.
* Cause 800,000 Illinois veterans to lose their health care.
* Grant $52 million to acquire land for Colorado VA hospital, but doesn't include the $539 million in funds necessary to build it.
* Leave funding out entirely for a veteran's medical center in Las Vegas that is scheduled to break ground this year. (Nevada has the fastest growing veteran population in the nation.)
* Refuse to add to the 500,000 active-duty Army, although some in Congress believe the Army is overstressed and think we should be adding another 30,000 to 100,000 troops to the Iraq theater.
* Draw down troops to 2002 levels (to below 100,000 in Iraq by year's end).
* Cut full-time Air Force personnel by 40,000.
* Shift some Guard brigades from combat roles to support units (6 of the current 34). Heavy armored units in Idaho, Louisiana, North Carolina, Minnesota, Mississippi, Tennessee and Washington are the likely targets.
* Reduce funding to Army and Air National Guard forces. 75 Senators have signed a letter urging the Pentagon to back off the proposal (Congress had already approved pay for 205,000; the Pentagon only wants to pay for 188,000.)
* Force reductions in the National Guard. All 50 governors have signed a letter last week urging Bush to reconsider.
* Decrease New Jersey National Guard troop strength by 500 (to 5,400). (Isn't New Jersey near New York?)
* Leave CARES (Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services) underfunded (again).
* Take a $13 million bite out of VA research.
* Fail to provide sufficient funds for staffing and training the Veterans Benefits Administration to address a claims backlog fast approaching one million. Yes, one million.
see her links and read the rest here.

So, Cher thinks donating money for helmet protection is supporting the troops. Well, that's one way of looking at it. But I would suggest donating money to vets' groups and pushing for additional psych services and rehab is another, more productive way.

And for the rest of you yellow ribbon squad out there, lower your SUV or get rid of the thing all together, drive a Prius or something and donate ALL THAT MONEY YOU ARE GOING TO SAVE to a cause that helps vets. If you think mouthing platitudes about how great the troops are, and how they are fighting to save our rights (I sure hope you have interesting phone conversations and colorful bank accounts 'cause the Feds are watching you, too), then don't turn your head when a young homeless vet asks for help. He answered your call, and paid the price.
And for you Hummer drivers out there with the yellow ribbon slapped on- what do you need that thing for? You miss the war? Then get your ass out of the driver's seat and volunteer to defend your right to drive one of the most uneconomical vehicles on the road today (an H2 gets about 9 count 'em, nine miles per gallon).

Just for fun, Code Pink has a list of reasons why buying a hummer is not a good thing.


Yes, sir! Just

following orders, sir!

The sudden "swiftness" in charging soldiers with murder, etc. is starting to get suspicious. Not in the sense that these charges may not be justified but in that they are so timely. Many of these events happened months ago and it is interesting that it is now the military is getting around to the enforcement of ethics and that part of the Geneva Conventions that basically states: you shall not kill (unarmed) civilians in a place you occupy.

Please note that it is not the Iraqi government that is charging these soldiers with harming an Iraqi citizen. Why? Because Iraqi sovereignty is a myth. Otherwise it would be like the recent charges in Japan.

Here is the latest, courtesy the NYT:
Lynn and Sgt. Milton Ortiz, Jr., both of the 1st Battalion, 109th Infantry (Mechanized) of the Pennsylvania National Guard, were each charged with one count of obstructing justice for allegedly conspiring with another soldier who allegedly put an AK-47 near the body of the man in an attempt to make it look as though he was an insurgent.
It is beginning to officially seem that the incident in which an Iraqi was dragged from his home, shot, and then posed with a shovel is not an isolated case.

The soldiers need to be held to account- and then their direct command and their direct command need to be held to account- because, who has been telling them this is acceptable?

What was it Rumsfeld said during the invasion of Iraq to Iraqi soldiers who might resist us?
Those who follow orders to commit such crimes will be found and they will be punished. War crimes will be prosecuted, and it will be no excuse to say, "I was just following orders." Any official involved in such crimes will forfeit hope of amnesty or leniency with respect to past actions.

read the rest here


A portrait of the terrorist

as potentially delusional young man, boosted by wishful thinking on the part of the FBI.
From across the pond comes this assessment of the Florida Seven, they of the sect of various parts of various religions:
The alarming news flashed across America's TV screens on Thursday evening: government agents had thwarted an al-Qa'ida plot, using home-grown American terrorists, to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago in a ghastly repeat of 9/11.

When the dust had settled barely 24 hours later, a rather more modest version of events had emerged. The seven young black men arrested at a warehouse in Miami and Atlanta had never been in touch with al-Qa'ida, and had no explosives. Their "plan" to destroy America's tallest building was little more than wishful thinking, expressed by one of them to an FBI informant purporting to be a member of Osama bin Laden's terrorist organisation.

Even the FBI admitted as much. John Pistole, the bureau's deputy director, described the plan on Friday as "aspirational rather than operational" and admitted that none of the seven (five US citizens and two Haitian immigrants) had ever featured on a terrorist watch list.

It is really too early to tell if we are witnessing a new version of the thought police or baby terrorists on the hoof. It's just too early for that.

But it is not too early to see that the shooting gallery is already set up and being run by Chicken Little- the same Chicken Little who tortured a supposedly high ranking al Queda type by waterboarding and other fun stuff until he sang like a bird and mentioned malls and stadiums and all kind of things that got Chicken Little happy as a jaybird because he could the raise the terror alert and scare the bejeezus out of all the good little who's who still believed in him (for some strange reason...), Sadly for Chicken Little, turns out key operative was a) mentally ill and b)saying anything to get the torture to stop. Both facts seem to have bothered Chicken Little not a whit.

For more on the Brit take on this story, go here.


Quick! Name an Asian country that starts with M!

Courtesy of the The Guardian:
The facts: 10 things you never knew about Mongolia

1 In one Ulaanbaatar nightclub you can dance with Stalin - at least with his statue. A 12ft-high monument of the Soviet dictator disappeared from the national library, only to appear on the dance floor four years later.

2 Mongolia, which is the size of Britain, Germany, Italy and France put together, has the lowest population density of any country in the world.

3 Foreign diplomats are banned from taking domestic flights with MIAT, the national carrier, because its planes are considered too dangerous.

4 Before taking the first sip from your glass of vodka, it is polite to dip the knuckle of your ring finger into the drink.

5 Passengers find the step up on to the public buses donated by the Japanese too high. The joke is that the donors were confused by a mistranslated document that said Mongolians had high steppes.

6 Throat singing, in which the performer is able to activate two parts of the voice box simultaneously, is popular.

7 Yak polo is becoming one of the nation's favourite sports.

8 Everyone has heard of the Gobi Desert. But "gobi" just means "desert", and Mongolians say the country has 33 kinds of gobi.

9 Roy Chapman Andrews, a maverick archaeologist who found fossilised dinosaur eggs in the Gobi Desert in 1933, is the model for Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

10 Mongolia is the only place where true wild horses still live.

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