CELEBRITY IN CHIEF BARRY O GOT PIMPED SLAPPED BY THE A.P. AGAIN TODAY: "IN PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA'S SALES PITCH FOR HIS JOBS ILL, THERE ARE TWO VERSIONS OF REALITY: THE ONE IN HIS SPEECHES AND THE ONE ACTUALLY UNFOLDING IN WASHINGTON."
2011 HASN'T SHAPED UP TO BE BARRY O'S YEAR. NO, AMERICA'S PRINCESS NEVER REALIZED THAT BEING PRESIDENT MEANT THAT YOU GOT HELD ACCOUNTABLE.
SAID BARRY O TO THESE REPORTERS, "CAN'T I JUST SMILE PRETTY. PEOPLE USED TO LIKE MY PRETTY SMILE. OR I COULD SMILE AND TAKE MY SHIRT OFF. DOES ANYONE WANT TO SEE ME NUDE?"
FROM THE TCI WIRE:
The editorial board of the Arab News has a few comments and a question, "America's audacity is breathtaking. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has demanded that Iraq provide total immunity to the US troops staying on beyond the scheduled pullout later this year. First, the US must invent a pretext to maintain its military presence in Iraq, not to mention thousands of 'advisers,' private security contractors and mercentaires, notwithstanding President Barack Obama's promised withdrawal from the Arab country. And now it has the temerity to deman 'immunity' from Iraqi laws for its forces. Talk of adding insult to injury. The question is: What are America's brave soldiers afraid of if their hands are clean?"
The general offered no apologies
He said, "The soldiers erred in judgement
They should have hired a hooker"
to the outraged Japanese
No "Sorry little girl"
The pigs just took her
Tire skids and teethmarks
What happened to this place?
Lawyers and loan sharks
Are laying America to waste
-- "No Apologies," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Taming The Tiger
Joni's song is based on the comments of a US general following the September 4, 1995 gang-rape of 12-year-old girl by three US troops. In June of 2001, as another rape case was getting attention in Japan, ABC News noted, "Okinawa is home to most of the 50,000 U.S. troops based in Japan, and crimes committed by soldiers against Japanese there have raised public outcries in the past. The biggest case involved the gang rape of a 12-year-old schoolgirl in 1995 by two U.S. Marines and a sailor, which sparked the biggest anti-U.S. demonstrations in Japan in decades." Sailor Marcus Gill and Marines Rodrico Harp and Kendrick Ledet first abducted the young girl, then tehy beat, then they tied her up before beginning the gang rape (Kendrick Ledet has always asserted he was just 'pretending' to take part in the rape) -- Gill would enter a plea of guilty to the rape while Rodrico and Ledet would plead guilty to conspiracy. (In 2006, Lauren Cooper was found dead in her apartment in Kennesaw, Georgia. She had been beaten, sexually assaulted and choked to death. Also in the room was the body of Kendrick Ledet who had taken his own life after, presumably, raping and killing Lauren Cooper.) These actions and others like them are why immunity is a sticky issue for some countries.
Saturday Chelsea J. Carter (CNN) reported US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was speaking to US sailors in Naples Friday and, asked about the issue of whether or not US troops would stay in Iraq (as US troops under the US Defense Dept -- as opposed to under the State Dept umbrella or NATO) without a guarantee of immunity, responded, "If they want the benefits of what we can provide, if they want the assistance, if they want the training, if they want the operational skills that we can provide, then I think they have to understand that they've got to give us some protections in that process. [. . .] If you're going to play a large role in dealing with another country where it requires, as I said, a large group of troops to be on the ground and to be dealing with that country, I want to make damn sure that you're protected."
The problem for the Arab Times editorial board is that they fail to address all the issues. Yes, some US troops have behaved not just poorly but criminally while stationed overseas. That is an argument against immunity. But Iraq isn't Japan, nor is it Germany or Spain or any number of functioning countries. Not only is it among the most corrupt [PDF format warning, Transparency International ranked it fourth most corrupt on the globe in their latest study] it does not have a functioning legal system.
That is among the reason Iraqis have been protesting for most of 2011. Let's drop back to the April 1st snapshot:
The Great Iraq Revolution reports Iraqi security forces attempted to disperse protesters. As usual and, as usual, barbed wire is roped around to stop mobility and hinder access and the press are being harassed. Alsumaria TV reports that they were "calling for the release of detainees and urging to end unemployment and corruption in Iraq mainly in governmental institutions. Protestors urged to provide them with ration cards." Chanting and carrying banners (video here) what appeared to be thousands occupied Liberation Square. Al Mada reports that many more attempted to join the protesters but Iraqi forces surrounded the scene of the protest and blocked access. As with last Friday, those protesters who had family members imprisoned carried photos of their loved ones. They were easy to spot amongst the crowd with their photos and generally clad in black.
[. . .]
Kitabat has multiple videos on their home page of today's protest in Baghdad. One woman holds photos of four missing men. She yells out for Allah to help her while others around her note that [Nouri al-] Maliki does nothing. In another video, twenty-one women dressed in black and holding photos gather together chanting while one woman wipes her tears with the back of one hand, displaying the photo of her missing family member with the other hand. A woman, Um Ahmed attempted to set herself on fire, the Great Iraqi Revolution notes. They explain she is "the mother of a detainee" and the other protesters prevented the fire and rescued her.
The two main groups behind this protest were the Youth Movement of Liberty and the Coalition of the Revolution. The Youth Monument of Liberty states, "We are not asking, we are calling for the immediate trial of all detained Iraqis who were not brought before a judge within 24 hours of their arrest because that is a violation of the Constitution's Article 19's thirteenth paragraph." That paragraph reads:
["]The preliminay investigative documents shall be submitted to the competent judge in a period not to exceed twenty-four hours from the time of the arrest of the accused, which may be extended only once and for the same period.["]
Leaving aside Pentagon press releases, the Iraqi legal system has won no praise in recent years. At the end of 2008, Greg Bruno (Council on Foreign Relations -- link is audio) interviewed The Century Foundation's Michael Wahid Hanna about the system and Hanna noted the forced confessions (among other problems). In December 2008, Human Rights Watch published "The Quality of Justice." For a discussion of the special issues female prisoners face click here (link is video). Many outlets have reported on the Iraqi legal system over the years but Ned Parker and the Los Angeles Times have owned the issue with repeated filings on the legal system, on the prison system and on the secret prison systems (click here, click here, click here, click here, click here, click here, click here, click here, click here, and here -- among other reports). Outside of the Los Angeles Times, Michael Gordon had an interesting article in July 2007, "Justice From Behind the Barricades in Baghdad" (New York Times).
And those are among the reasons that there are concerns about immunity. (Though, to be clear, the US government always expects other countries to grant US troops immunity.) Those concerns aren't addressed or acknowledged in the Arab Times' editorial. They are not minor concerns. We don't note 'confessions' here -- check our archives -- unless it's to question them. The Iraqi legal system is infamous for forced confessions. The system is infamous for torturing prisoners. Muntadar al-Zaidi was not a violent person or someone who needed to 'confess' -- he's the reporter who threw the shoes at Bully Boy Bush. That was on tape. But he still got tortured while awaiting his trial. The Iraqi legal system is a joke and were the White House to make a deal without immunity, they'd risk anger some Americans and, if something went wrong, they'd risk angering even more.
Aswat al-Iraq notes Moqtada al-Sadr declared "today that the continued presence of occupying forces under the pretext of training police and military force is 'an organized occupation in new attire'." This morning Suadad al-Salhy had a report for Reuters billed as an "exlusive" and it's apparently so exclusive that other Reuters reporters filing this morning missed it. al-Salhy reports Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri "Maliki told Reuters U.S. troops could be attached to the existing U.S. embassy training mission, or join a broader NATO training group, rather than seek a bilateral deal requiring U.S. immunity that would fail to pass Iraq's parliament." That Nouri said it is the news factor. We've covered those options Saturday and last week. These are options both the White House and the State Dept have been weighing seriously since Wednesday. And those are only two of the options. Dan Zak (Washington Post) reported late Saturday, " A State Department official said Saturday that while Iraq is not likely to budge on its resistance to military immunity, there are other paths to continuing the U.S. training mission in the country." Iraqi MP Mahmoud Othman is quoted stating, "Americans misuse immunity. They've had it for eight years. They made a lot of violations . . . Sometimes they killed people, attacked people, captured people, and no one could tell them anything. Iraq doesn't want a repeat of that." In addition, Camilla Hall and Anna Fifield (Financial Times of London) report this afternoon that Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh stated today that they could use "commercial" trainers -- meaning something other than US military personnel. He is quoted stating, "We are ready to discuss the options available without immunity and a different definition for the trainers." However, Aswat al-Iraq cites a statement from the Ministry which states that US security forces will not be replaced with "private security companies."
It would be interesting to see Nouri get private trainers into Iraq and most interesting to see just how long that would take. This morning Dar Addustour reported that Nouri was going to announce Abdulkarim Aftan as Minister of Electricity, following yesterday's vote in Parliament to confirm Aftan. (AFP notes that the announcement took place and provides background of Aftan.) Raad Shallal al-Ani was the Minister of Electricity until questions arose about what the Iraqi press dubbed "phantom contracts" which appeared to enrich individuals while robbing Iraq.
For some, that was too long, the two months to name a new Minister of Electricity. But if Nouri had only taken two months to name a Minister of National Security, a Minister of Interior and a Minister of Defense, many would be applauding him. Instead, those posts remain empty. Per the Constitution, Nouri was supposed to nominate individuals for those posts and Parliament was to vote on the nominees. And this was to take place before he could move from prime minister-designate (a post to last no more than 30 days during which the prime minister nominee proves he or she is up to the job by creating a full Cabinet) onto prime minister. Per the Constitution, when Nouri was unable to do that after 30 days (the end of Decembe 2010), a new prime minister-designate should have been named.
When Nouri got wavied through Political Stalemate II began. The Erbil Agreement -- hammered out by the US and Iraqi political blocs -- allowed Nouri to become prime minister-designate after over 8 months of Political Stalemate I. It also promised things to other political blocs. Nouri became prime minister-designate and then prime minister and trashed the Erbil Agreement, refusing to follow it because he got what he wanted. At the end of December 2010, Nouri, 'informed observers' in the US press assured us, would name ministers for those three security positions in no time. It's over nine months later and he hasn't named them.
While the US press insisted it would be just a little bit before these ministers were named, in the foreign press, Iraqis could be heard voicing the opinion that this was, in fact, a power grab on Nouri's part and that he had no intention of naming people to head these three ministries. They may have indeed been right about it being a power grab. (Nouri would argue that he named two ministers, he named "acting ministers" -- they have not been approved by Parliament. Without being approved by Parliament, the 'acting ministers' are nothing but Nouri's rubber stamp, they can be removed at any time by Nouri and Parliament can't protect them. Anyone in such a position is not independent nor do they have any real power.)
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