Monday, October 17, 2011







Starting with journalists, Aswat al-Iraq's Adel Fakhir has won the first prize in the Open Eye journalistic tournament for "Absence of health observation is a terrorism threatens health and economy" and the news agency also scored second place with Ali Nakeel's "The Marshes: Paradises of Water Changed to Barren Deserts." Aswat al-Iraq reports on Adel Fakhir and Ali Nakeel's wins as well as all the other jounalists who won awards at the Open Eye tournament held in Erbil.
On this week's Law and Disorder Radio -- a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI (didn't air today due to a WBAI pledge drive) and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) -- topics explored include Occupy Wall Street with attorney Magaret Ratner Kunstler. Michael Ratner and Margaret Ratner Kunstler are the authors of Hell No, Your Right To Dissent and they discuss the attacks on dissent and your rights with regards to the Occupy Wall Street protests and beyond. We're going to stay with the topic of journalists and note the section at the start of the show on Jose Couso.
Michael S. Smith: Michael, reporter Jose Couso is back in the news. People have probably forgotten but it was a very important incident years ago. Bring us up to date.
Michael Ratner: Let's go back about eight years, April 8, 2003. The US has been bombing the heck out of Baghdad. They sent in troops. It's the Iraq illegal, unconstitutional war. And what do they do? The US kills 3 journalists who are living -- staying at the Palestine Hotel -- a big, modern looking hotel in the middle of central Baghdad. The US put a tank on a bridge and fired shots directly into the hotel, murdering Jose Couso and two other journalists. The US, of course, claimed some b.s. mistake or that they thought that they were doing something, etc. And Couso is a Spanish journalist. And the Spanish journalists have been extremely upset about this. In fact, one day they all went into Parliament in Spain, 50 or 100 of them put their cameras down on the floor of the Parliament, saying, "We want justice." Well eventually, of course, after there was no justice, not even a look at it by the United States, as far as I know, a case was filed in Spain against the US Army really but against the individuals who it was believed were in the chain of command in the division that not only shot Couso but also who ordered him to do the shooting. And amazingly on the 4th of October of this year the Spanish court which has now been investigating this case for a number of years came out with an order going ahead with the prosecution not only of the three but of two of their supervisors. And what the judge says -- it's Judge Santiago Pedraz -- what he said is first that it's not only the three soldiers but two higher ranking officials who are being prosecuted and secondly that one of the assignments of the division -- that division that shot Couso -- was "to prevent international media from reporting on the military operations during the taking of Baghdad." And what this reporter who wrote this article says -- from Al Jazeera says -- "that is why they managed to not have us report it and that there's no image of the attacks right after that." And this ruling, which is in Spanish -- but if you go online you can find it, it offers a precise account of the events on that day and that the Pentagon knew clearly where the journalists were staying and that it was clearly intentional. And what's interesting is that the Spanish judge didn't just do this abstractly, he took a visit to Iraq and he went to the very bridge and he noticed from the bridge that the tank had an unimpeded view of the balconies of the hotel where Jose Couso was standing and you had a good enough vision you could even see what people were holding on the balcony. So here we have this intentional case of the killing of journalists and unfortunately and sadly it's not the first time and unfortunately and sadly it appears that the US directly targeted them and it's all about really suppressing the news and suppressing journalists -- journalists that they don't like.
Staying with that topic, Spain Review notes, "The National Court has shelved the Couso case twice, but reopened it on orders from the Supreme Court." And they note, "The US has pressured the Spanish government and judiciary to block the investigation, according to secret US diplomatic documents obtained by the whistleblower WikiLeaks and quoted by the daily El Pais." November 30th, El Pais published this State Dept Cable. The May 14, 2007 Cable was sent from the US Embassy in Baghdad to several reciepiants including the State Dept and this is the section on Jose Couso:
A couple of other key issues will be in the air, if not actually on the agenda. For our side, it will be important to continue to raise the Couso case, in which three US servicemen face charges related to the 2003 death of Spanish cameraman Jose Couso during the battle for Baghdad. XXXXXXXXXXXX. I raised this issue with Vice President de la Vega on April 30. She was supportive but uncertain that direct GOS involvement would be productive. DCM spoke late last week with the Deputy Justice Minister and we continue to prod the GOS to appeal. We were informed Monday morning that the Chief Prosecutor of Spain's National Court has indeed filed an appeal, which will go to the same court which originally dismissed the case (in 2006) on procedural grounds. The Deputy DIGENPOL in MOD told the Embassy last week that MOD completely supports the US position, and said that he would raise with h is superiors the possibility of making a statement to the court or otherwise demonstrating support. The Deputy Justice Minister also said the GOS strongly opposes a case brought against former Secretary Rumsfeld and will work to get it dismissed. The judge involved in that case has told us he has already started the process of dismissing the case.
December 1st, Monica Ceberio Belaza (El Pais) reported that the US Embassy in Madrid had made getting charges dismissed against the three US soldiers -- Col Philip de Camp, Sgt Thomas Gibson, Capt Philip Wolford -- their big objective for the last seven years. Monica Ceberio Belaza reports that the US ignored the case the first year because it was moving slowly through the Spanish justice system; however, by July 22, 2004, they made their interest very clear and among those involved on the US side were Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and US Ambassador to Spain Eduardo Aguirre Reyes Jr.
Over the weekend, Lara Jakes and Rebecca Santana (AP) reported that they were told the White House has given up attempts to keep US soldiers in Iraq (beyond those which will fall under the State Dept umbrella) after 2011.[To be very clear, I do not agree with that take based on phone conversations since Saturday; however, I do not question that Lara Jakes and Rebecca Santana have accurately reported what they were told. And they may very well end up being correct and I may end up being wrong and wouldn't be the first time I was wrong or the last time. And if they're right, we all win -- or at least those of us who are against the Iraq War win. So I will happily be wrong if I am wrong.] As Reuters noted, the report was followed by denials from the Pentagon (spokesperson George Little: "Suggestions that a final decision has been reached about our training relationship with the Iraqi government are wrong") and the National Security Council (spokesperson Tommy Vietor: "President Obama has repeatedly made it clear that we are committed to keeping our agreement with the Iraqi government to remove all of our troops by the end of this year."). What I was told this weekend by friends at State and the White House and one at Defense and continue to be told is that this is part of the negotiations and that AP sources had authority to speak. The US position to the Iraqi government is that the US walks away from the table if immunity is not provided for US soldiers. Dan De Luce (AFP) notes today, "The question of legal immunity for US troops remains a 'sticking point' in talks between the United States and Iraq over a possible US military presence beyond a year-end deadline, a defense official said Monday" and quotes the unnamed official stating, "Nobody's thrown in the towel yet." This morning Barbara Starr, Adam Levine and Chelsea J. Carter (CNN) reported the latest on negotiations between the US and Iraq to extend the US military presence in Iraq beyond 2011. Noting the immunity issue as a stumbling block, an unnamed "senior U.S. official" tells CNN, "I think the discussions on numbers are over." The report includes the denials that talks have stopped -- denials in this article by the Pentagon and the National Security Council -- and notes that "while an agreement has not been reached yet, the United States will maintain a military presence nearby should Baghdad and Washington come to terms" -- nearby is Kuwait. If correct, it would now be Iraq's move if the White House knows how to bargain. (Meaning, if the report is correct, the White House should be ceasing all talks on the subject with Nouri and other members of the Iraqi government. The only way, from a position of strength, the talks would resume is if Nouri came back to the table and said, "Okay, we can do that immunity.") Starr, Levine and Carter updated their report this afternoon with more information, click here. Fox News quotes Ali al Dabbagh, Nouri's official spokesperson, stating, "Iraq and (the) USA collectively are looking for any other options which will make the training mission doable." Yochi J. Dreaen (National Journal) speaks to US military officers (unnamed) who feel that the negotiations are over ("the talks have effectively broken off in recent days") and that "U.S. officials publicly insist that Washington is continuing to discuss a possible troop extension with Baghdad, and it's possible -- though highly unlikely at this late date -- that a deal will be cobbled together to allow several thousand American troops to remain in Iraq past the end of the year."
We're not the foolish at Truth Dig where a "K.A." (we don't link to the site, look it up if you need it) babbles on about how it's a withdrawal. No, not yet.
These same fools distracted and deflected attention from the Iraq War -- Truth Dig lost interest in the illegal war as soon as Bush was out of office -- and now they want to do it again. I'd love it if the Iraq War were over -- I'd get my life back among other things and after nine years in February of going around the country speaking out against this damn war, I'd love to have my life back, believe me. But although I can be and often am stupid, I'm not stupid enough to believe that the illegal war has come to end before it has.
Yochi weakens his otherwise strong report by insisting "it's possible -- though highly unlikely at this late date -- that a deal will be cobbled together to allow several thousand American troops to remain in Iraq past the end of the year." Really? At this late date? What's your measure for that?
It's October 17th. When Nouri notified the United Nations at the end of 2007 that the renewal of the UN mandate for the occupation would be the final one, that's where you find your comparison measure. Throughout 2008, there was panic that an agreement wouldn't be reached. I was at the April 2008 hearing where then Senator Joe Biden was urging the State Dept and Defense Dept to speak to Nouri about renewing the UN mandate because it appeared that nothing would come about. The Status Of Forces Agreement did go through. Took a lot of strong arming and 'gifts' from and by the US, but it went through.
When did that go through?
November 27, 2008. If that hadn't gone through, over 150,000 US troops would have had to have left (really stayed in Kuwait and on US bases -- that was outlined by the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee). So State and Defense testified to Congress last week that 43,500 US troops were in Iraq still and it's October 17th? Or 39,000 US troops are still in Iraq (CNN's numbers via DoD) and it's October 17th? By the 2008 measure, the current hysteria's being overplayed.
Christopher Preble (Cato Institute) notes no final decision has been made and points out:
The scale of violence is way down from 2007 or 2008, but this has not ensured an enduring political order. Yochi Dreazen's story in the current National Journal documents how Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has consolidated power and systematically marginalized and intimidated his political rivals, including former prime minister Ayad Allawi, and that he has done this under the noses of tens of thousands of U.S. military personnel. Perhaps Malki would have been more imperious in the absence of a major U.S. presence? Perhaps he will become more so after the last of the U.S. troops leave? Who knows? The obvious point is that the political reconciliation that the surge was supposed to facilitate hasn't materialized. Iraq remains a bitterly divided society, and it is likely to remain that way for a very long time.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
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"The itch he can't scratch alone"