Tagged: Iraq

Blackwater thugs finally convicted of killing Iraqi civilians

Blackwater and Bush

Three security guards working for the private US contractor Blackwater have been found guilty of the manslaughter of a group of unarmed civilians at a crowded Baghdad traffic junction in one of the darkest incidents of the Iraq war.

A fourth, Nicholas Slatten, was found guilty of one charge of first-degree murder. All face the likelihood of lengthy prison sentences after unanimous verdicts on separate weapons charges related to the incident.

The Nisour Square massacre in 2007 left 17 people dead and 20 seriously injured after the guards working for the US State Department fired heavy machine guns and grenade launchers from their armoured convoy in the mistaken belief they were under attack by insurgents.

But attempts to prosecute the guards have previously foundered because of a series of legal mistakes by US officials, and the case had attracted widespread attention in Iraq as a symbol of apparent American immunity.

Now, after a 10-week trial and 28 days of deliberation, a jury in Washington has found three of the men – Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard – guilty of a total of 13 charges of voluntary manslaughter and a total of 17 charges of attempted manslaughter.

The fourth defendant, Slatten, who was alleged to have been first to open fire, was found guilty of a separate charge of first-degree murder. Slough, Liberty and Heard were found guilty of using firearms in relation to a crime of violence, a charge which can alone carry up to a 30-year mandatory sentence…

Federal prosecutor Anthony Asuncion said: “These men took something that did not belong to them: the lives of 14 human beings. They were turned into bloody bullet-riddled corpses at the hands of these men.”

“It must have seemed like the apocalypse was here,” said Asuncion in his closing argument, as he described how many were shot in the back, at long range, or blown up by powerful grenades used by the US contractors.

“There was not a single dead insurgent on the scene,” claimed the prosecutor. “None of these people were armed.”

Sounds like the qualities sought after by your local police department – guaranteeing these gangsters a job when they return to the States. That’s not just a smartass remark. It’s already part of the process of turning our local PD’s into military police.

RTFA for all the details. Personally, I think the GUARDIAN is too kind referring to “a series of legal mistakes by US officials”. Because never in over a half-century of civil rights activism have I ever seen any American officials make “legal mistakes” on behalf of someone poor, Black, working class.

The 14 victims killed by the Blackwater guards on trial were listed as Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y, Mahassin Mohssen Kadhum Al-Khazali, Osama Fadhil Abbas, Ali Mohammed Hafedh Abdul Razzaq, Mohamed Abbas Mahmoud, Qasim Mohamed Abbas Mahmoud, Sa’adi Ali Abbas Alkarkh, Mushtaq Karim Abd Al-Razzaq, Ghaniyah Hassan Ali, Ibrahim Abid Ayash, Hamoud Sa’eed Abttan, Uday Ismail Ibrahiem, Mahdi Sahib Nasir and Ali Khalil Abdul Hussein.

Someone in the United States ought to remember their names.

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Darwin Award winner of the year candidate — Suicide Bomb Instructor kills himself and 22 trainees

ISIS
Pay attention in class and follow instructions

A group of Sunni militants attending a suicide bombing training class at a camp north of Baghdad were killed on Monday when their commander unwittingly conducted a demonstration with a belt that was packed with explosives…

The militants belonged to a group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, which is fighting the Shiite-dominated army of the Iraqi government, mostly in Anbar Province. But they are also linked to bomb attacks elsewhere and other fighting that has thrown Iraq deeper into sectarian violence.

Twenty-two ISIS members were killed, and 15 were wounded, in the explosion at the camp, which is in a farming area in the northeastern province of Samara…Eight militants were arrested when they tried to escape…

The militant who was conducting the training was not identified by name, but he was described by an Iraqi Army officer as a prolific recruiter who was “able to kill the bad guys for once…”

A State Department official, Brett McGurk, said that ISIS had about 2,000 fighters in Iraq, and that its longer-term objective is to establish a base of operations in Baghdad, led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who has been officially designated as a global terrorist by the State Department.

The dude qualifies all the way round. Especially since he took out 22 candidates with himself, wounded 15 more and survivors were arrested. Phew.

Please read Catch-22 on your vacation, Mr President

As the Obama family heads to their annual summer vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, perhaps the president should take along a copy of Catch-22 for some beach reading. Joseph Heller’s classic, satirical anti-war novel, published in 1961 and based on his experiences as a bombardier in the second world war, is sadly relevant today, as Obama’s wars, in Afghanistan and beyond, drag on.

Heller’s title refers to a fictional military rule that said you could get out of military duty if you were crazy, but if you requested relief from military duty, you were clearly sane, so must serve. He wrote:

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr [a pilot in the novel] was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions.

Barack Obama ran as the anti-war alternative when he was a primary challenger to Hillary Clinton, whose nomination as Democratic presidential candidate in 2008 was widely held to be inevitable…

As a US senator, he pledged to filibuster any bill that granted retroactive immunity to large telecommunication corporations that co-operated with the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping of US citizens. And on his first day in office, you might recall, he vowed to close the military prison at Guantánamo Bay.

Has Obama ended the war in Iraq? Certainly not for the Iraqis. July was one of the bloodiest months there since the height of the insurgency against the US-imposed Iraqi government…

Obama’s embrace of the surveillance state is now well-known, following revelations from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden…Now, President Obama is refusing to meet with President Vladimir Putin in Russia next month, since Putin granted Snowden temporary asylum…

Then there’s Guantánamo. The hunger strike among up to 100 prisoners there, out of the total of 166, has just passed the six-month mark. The Pentagon is force-feeding many of them. Eighty-six have been cleared for release. A majority of the 166 have never been charged, with some held that way for more than 11 years…

Heller’s protagonist in Catch-22, Captain Yossarian, holds a wounded comrade – named Snowden, coincidentally – who dies in his arms. The experience cements Yossarian’s opposition to war…

Heller’s depiction of war – grim and stark – was fiction, though based on his own experience. Obama’s wars, his drone strikes, his war on whistleblowers, are all too real.

American foreign policy like most failed politics in history is imperial war or the threat of war to impose obedience to the requirements of the ruling class of an imperial nation. The Romans, the rule of the British Empire, the short-lived 3rd Reich followed by our own Cold Warriors all relied on military might to supplant any other political means.

Like his predecessors, Obama follows the essential guidance of Imperial America. It doesn’t matter if you are Republican or Democrat, the Pentagon and Congress are there to line up our version of the colonial armies and treat the citizens of every other nation as potential fodder for red-white-and-blue cannons.

Bush’s Iraq War is officially over — guess who got the oil?

sinochem

Since the American-led invasion of 2003, Iraq has become one of the world’s top oil producers, and China is now its biggest customer.

China already buys nearly half the oil that Iraq produces, nearly 1.5 million barrels a day, and is angling for an even bigger share, bidding for a stake now owned by Exxon Mobil in one of Iraq’s largest oil fields…

Before the invasion, Iraq’s oil industry was sputtering, largely walled off from world markets by international sanctions against the government of Saddam Hussein, so his overthrow always carried the promise of renewed access to the country’s immense reserves. Chinese state-owned companies seized the opportunity, pouring more than $2 billion a year and hundreds of workers into Iraq, and just as important, showing a willingness to play by the new Iraqi government’s rules and to accept lower profits to win contracts.

“We lost out,” said Michael Makovsky, a former Defense Department official in the Bush administration who worked on Iraq oil policy. “The Chinese had nothing to do with the war, but from an economic standpoint they are benefiting from it, and our Fifth Fleet and air forces are helping to assure their supply…”

Notably, what the Chinese are not doing is complaining. Unlike the executives of Western oil giants like Exxon Mobil, the Chinese happily accept the strict terms of Iraq’s oil contracts, which yield only minimal profits. China is more interested in energy to fuel its economy than profits to enrich its oil giants…

The Iraqi government needs the investment, and oil remains at the heart of its political and economic future. Currently OPEC’s second largest oil producer after Saudi Arabia, the Iraqi government depends on oil revenues to finance its military and social programs. Iraq estimates that its oil fields, pipelines and refineries need $30 billion in annual investments to reach production targets that will make it one of the world’s premier energy powers for decades to come…

But the kind of investment that is necessary has required contracting the services of foreign oil companies that are not always enthusiastic about Iraq’s nationalistic, tightfisted terms or the unstable security situation that can put employees in danger. Some like Statoil of Norway have left or curtailed their operations.

But the Chinese, frequently as partners with other European companies like BP and Turkish Petroleum, have filled the vacuum. And they have been happy to focus on oil without interfering in other local issues. “The Chinese are very simple people,” said an Iraqi Oil Ministry official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not have permission to speak to the news media. “They are practical people. They don’t have anything to do with politics or religion. They just work and eat and sleep.”

Just as the Chinese arriving in Iran speak Farsi with an Iranian accent, the managers of China’s enterprises in Iraq speak Arabic with an Iraqi accent. Getting along with commercial partners isn’t as difficult as Congress tries to make it. If you watch the world news on a Chinese channel like CCTV9 you’re as likely to hear American-accented English as a British [or actually Hong Kong] accent. It all depends on the focus.

The Chinese decided long ago their commercial policies didn’t have to depend on politics. Good, bad or indifferent as your own analysis may be – China’s business partners appreciate the difference. That’s been pretty much maintained as policy by private/shareholder-owned enterprise as state-owned. Even though state-owned business is now the minority of Chinese commerce.

But, I have to think Dick Cheney didn’t plan it this way. :)

May was the most violent, the deadliest month in Iraq for years

The United Nations says more than 1,000 people were killed in Iraq in May, the highest monthly death toll for years.

The violence makes it the deadliest month since the wide sectarian violence of 2006-7, and raising concern that the country is returning to civil war.

The vast majority of the casualties were civilians, and Baghdad was the worst hit area of the country…

Figures released on Saturday showed 1,045 civilians and security personnel were killed in May, far higher than the 712 who died in April, the worst recorded toll since June 2008…

Analysts say al-Qaeda and Sunni Islamist insurgents have been invigorated by the Sunni-led revolt in neighbouring Syria and by the worsening sectarian tensions in the country…

On some days, Shia areas across Baghdad appear to have been the main target, while on others, the Sunni areas outside the capital saw most explosions.

One explanation is that Sunni militant groups linked to al-Qaeda want to provoke civil war in Baghdad and undermine the government in areas they see as their strongholds, our correspondent says.

But other explanations link the violence to the civil war in neighbouring Syria, he adds.

The bloodshed has been accompanied by unconfirmed rumours about sectarian militias roaming Baghdad for revenge, which have caused fear in many areas of the capital.

It’s not only inside Iraq that folks lay the responsibility for continued violence on Bush’s War. As violent and corrupt as was Saddam Hussein, the invasion demonstrated sovereignty means nothing in a world facing United States military power.

The people of Iran will never forget the democratic government overthrown by the United States. Good, bad or indifferent, Iraqis will never forget the hundreds of thousands of civilians killed and maimed in the name of liberation by the United States. Afghanistan, Pakistan, even Saudi Arabia watch the way we ignore accepted global law – and take whatever we want, however we wish. No one forgets.

Tammy Duckworth applauds end of ban on women in combat

A congresswoman who lost both of her legs while serving in the Illinois Army National Guard in Iraq applauded the Pentagon’s decision to to lift combat restrictions on women.

“The decision to allow women to serve in combat will allow the best man or woman on the frontline to keep America safe,” U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, said in a statement Wednesday. “As a combat veteran, I know the inclusion of women in combat roles will make America safer and provide inspiration to women throughout our country.”

Duckworth was the first woman injured in combat ever elected to national office, when she ousted former Republican Rep. Joe Walsh – a well known fool – this past November.

Duckworth operated a black hawk helicopter in the war in Iraq, one of the few combat roles open to women at the time, serving as a lieutenant in the Illinois Army National Guard. In 2004, during a mission north of Baghdad, the helicopter she was co-piloting was ambushed, struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. She lost both of her legs and partial use of one arm in the attack. Duckworth was awarded decorations for her military service, including the Purple Heart, the Air Medal and the Combat Action Badge.

There has always been some level of opposition to increasing the diversity in our military whether it has been minorities or women. It is clear that the inclusion of groups like African Americans and Asians has made our military stronger,” Duckworth added.

And why not women? By the time this is fully implemented in 2015 folks will be busy electing our military’s next commander-in-chief. Quite probably a woman. :)

Army general charged with rape, forcible sodomy

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, who served five combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, faces possible courts martial on charges that include forced sex, wrongful sexual conduct, violating an order, possessing pornography and alcohol while deployed, and misusing a government travel charge card and filing fraudulent claims…

Defense officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to provide details on the case.

Sinclair, who served as deputy commander in charge of logistics and support for the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan, was sent home in May because of the allegations, the officials said…

The charges were announced at a brief news conference Wednesday at Fort Bragg, the sprawling U.S. Army base in North Carolina that is home to the 82nd Airborne.

After reading a prepared statement, base spokesman Col. Kevin Arata refused to take questions. Reporters were told all questions would have to be made in writing and that no response was likely to come until the following day.

The next step will be an Article 32 investigation, including a preliminary hearing to determine if the matter should go to trial. No date has been set for the hearing, which Arata said would be open to the public…

Sinclair…who has been in the Army for 27 years, was serving his third deployment to Afghanistan. He had also served two tours in Iraq, as well as a tour in the first Gulf war.

It’s rare for an Army general to face court martial. There have been only two cases in recent years.

Was this behavior something new – has he been taking advantage of rank to protect himself for years?

The biggest problem with courts martial of officers ranking this high is that they can demand a jury exclusively of their peers by rank. So, the pool is small and dispersed around the globe. And I would wonder about their willingness to bash fellow brass.

This is not how I want to remember Motherly Love!


Mom…

Lawrence, Ohio — Authorities say a woman accused of stealing her son’s state and federal income tax refunds while he was serving his country in Iraq and Afghanistan was arrested on felony warrants…following a traffic stop in Brewster.

Jennifer L. Fletcher, 42, was booked into the Stark County Jail on charges of identity fraud, forgery and two counts of theft, said Lawrence Township Police Chief Mark Brink.

Fletcher reportedly was stopped by Brewster police after officers did a license-plate check and discovered the vehicle she was driving had been reported stolen out of Akron. After the stop, Fletcher was transferred to the custody of Lawrence Township police and interviewed by Sgt. Paul Stanley.

She admitted to taking the money,” Brink said. “It was a good stop by Brewster, and a good job by our guys getting a confession out of her.”

According to court records, Fletcher withdrew roughly $7,500 from Scott Davis’ bank account between the fall of 2010 and the spring of 2011. The theft occurred after Fletcher reportedly agreed to file her son’s taxes while he was stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq as a member of the U.S. Army.

Court records show Fletcher used her son’s personal information to obtain checks in his name, then cashed them after forging his signature. Fletcher also is accused of depositing nearly $1,400 of Davis’ state and federal income tax refunds into her account to pay bills.

Wow! A contemptible series of crimes on just about any level you might consider.

Who would oppose a jobs bill for veterans? Yup – you guessed it!

Congressional Republicans, resolute in their commitment to deny the Democrats anything that looks like an accomplishment in an election year, have spent the week obstructing passage of the Veterans Job Corps Act of 2012. It’s a perfectly inoffensive bill from Senator Patty Murray, the Washington Democrat, meant to increase hiring and job training for veterans, especially those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Who could oppose hiring more veterans as cops, firefighters and national-parks workers? Who could be against helping veterans apply their military training to earn civilian occupational licenses? The unemployment rate for new veterans hit nearly 11 percent in August, compared with 8.1 percent nationwide. Veterans and active-duty soldiers are committing suicide at alarming rates. The men and women who defend America in uniform are 1 percent of the population. Why shouldn’t the 99 percent give them a hand?

I’ll let the Republicans explain.

Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma says it is dishonorable and cowardly to help veterans find jobs when there are more important things (what?) to do

Rand Paul of Kentucky went further, saying he would block the bill until Pakistan freed Shakil Afridi, the doctor who helped the United States find Osama bin Laden…

Ms. Murray…has tried to make her bill as bipartisan as possible, by incorporating wholesale additions from Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican. The Senate could have rallied behind this bill, shown its dedication to the troops, and been done with it by now. But Democrats will have to pass this bill the hard, slow way, with repeated large votes overcoming Republican procedural objections…Or it might be killed by Republicans committed to making a bigger point about honor, valor, sacrifice and obstruction.

There hasn’t been a bloc of cowards, bigots and liars so infesting Congress like poison maggots since the days of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. A sleazy group of politicians about as unAmerican as they come.

The Party-formerly-known-as-Republican is out to raise the bar of those years of racism, reaction and indolence. Nothing concerns their stony little hearts more than opposing any legislation offered by our sort-of-Black president and members of his party. Even at the expense of screwing our veterans returning home to unemployment and diminished opportunities.

Opportunities diminished, I might add, courtesy of the previous batch of conservative ideologues.