Monday, April 26, 2010

Free Lynne

Yesterday, two things went up. Kat's "Kat's Korner: My Best Friend Is Kate Nash" went up yesterday as did Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts' "Iraq's Got Tyrants."

Iraq's Got Tyrants

Taking Aim is in the archives now (WBAI lost the archives, they are back). It airs on WBAI at 5:00 p.m. each Tuesday. So listen for it tomorrow if you plan to catch it live. If you plan to catch it in the archives, keep your fingers crossed. Ralph Schoenman and Mya Shone did part two on the war on Afghanistan. They also included political prisoner Lynne Stewart's husband Ralph Poynter at the start of the program.

Ralph Poynter: I've noticed as people begin to recognize the Jeckyl and Hyde situation we have with the presidency that more people are beginning to look at the injustices brought on by the Obama-Bush continum. You know, I visited Lynne yesterday. She is in surprising health and good spirits considering the prison food fare. Sugared cereals are the only option and oatmeal if you have commisary but those without commissary who have diabetes or difficulties such as that are in trouble. Her mail has been freed up for maybe a week after having been frozen for weeks and constantly censored. Lynne thanks everybody constantly for the support she's been given. And she feels she can best be supported by our making the world aware of the government's persistanct selective prosecution of her through the Bush-Cheney years and continuing the Obama administration. The ability to look the other way when not seeing what happened with the Guantanamo lawyers heroic representation of the Guantanamo inmates. The Guantanamo lawyers totally disgregarded the court orders that would limit their representation of the Guantanamo detainees while Lynne Stewart is doing time for making a press release. This we must bring to the people -- that that whole thing of equal justice under the law, double standards in applying the law, separate but not equal, selective prosectution has been a problem ever since the beginning of this nation. And the Obama administration is determined to continue in this unjust direction and we must be more determined to do our work, to stop this.

Mya Shone: Well we should note particularly is that the persecution of Lynne, while starting under the Bush administration, is continued by the Obama administration Department of Justice which is insisting still on a thirty-year sentence for Lynne.

Ralph Poynter: That sentence for Lynne is what they're asking for.

Mya Shone: Yes, and Judge Koeltl himself stated that the Department of Justice was looking for a life sentence which in this case would be a death sentance for Lynne, because with thirty years, it would be anticipated she would be dying within prison.

Why is Lynne in jail? She is a grandmother, not a terrorist. She is an attorney, not a threat to anyone's personal security. She will be 72-years-old this October.

Why do they need to keep her imprisoned?

I do not believe she ever should have been. It is not easy for her to forget probably, but I do believe if Barack Obama ordered her released (pardoned, whatever), most of us would support it and consider her imprisonment to be one of the extreme examples of the Bush Regime's excess. But Mr. Obama does not want a clean slate, he wants to continue the policies.

So Lynne remains in jail. In prison, actually. And she could spend her entire life there.

For nothing.

She has not done anything illegal, she has not broken any law.

I do not know if most people grasp that even.

It is past time to release the woman.

She has suffered more than enough for the crimes of the U.S. Justice Department. Quit making her America's martyr and let her enjoy her life with her husband and her grandchildren and the huge family she has of all the people who needed an attorney but either could not afford one or else could not garner one easily because their cases were 'risky' or 'controversial.'

Let the woman out of prison. NOW.

You can write Lynne at:

Lynne Stewart
150 Park Row
MCC 53504-054 2S
New York, New York 10007

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Monday:

Monday, April 26, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri continues to monkey around with the system in an attempt to rig the elections, Jalal Talabani's throwing his own party, the Committee to Protect Journalists calls for an investigation into a US military assault, Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan is too 'dangerous' and 'scary' with those peaceful ways to speak in Madison, Wisconsin, and more.

In Iraq,
Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) reports that there's a snag in the Baghdad recounts which were expected to begin this week but will now be delayed until at least next week as a result of a lack of instructions. Most observers have estimated the recounts would take eight to ten days. Meanwhile Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London) insists that the US has entered the negotiations on who will lead Iraq: "The proposal is for Mr Maliki and Mr Allawi to split the four-year prime ministerial term, according to Dr Mahmoud Othman, who is a veteran member of the Baghdad parliament." Othman, Cockburn forgets to explain, is the Kurdistan Alliance leader. The Kurds would be kept in the circle but would they be informed of so much? Maybe they would, maybe they wouldn't but this is Patrick Cockburn, don't forget. The man who 'reported' a woman stoned to death was hanged -- only one of the many examples in which he continues his family's long tradition of estrangement from reality and facts. If it is an offer, it's an idiotic one. Nouri would want to go first and stepping down after two years? Now that's funny. In the real world, Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports that US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill spoke to the press in Baghdad today and expressed that it was time for Iraq to "get this show on the road [. . .] While we always knew this was going to be a tough period, we are approaching almost seven weeks" since March 7th's election. No, it doesn't sound as if Hill's expressing that the US has brokered or is brokering a deal. Jane Arraf and Mohammed al-Dulaimy (Christian Science Monitor and McClatchy Newspapers) quote Hill also stating, "We have not gone on to government formation as of yet and we share the concern of those who believe that its time that the politicians got down to business and started forming a government." This morning NPR's Quil Lawrence (Morning Edition) spoke with Ayad Allawi who states, "If no counting is going to take place in other places that have been disputed including what the Kurds have disputed, we are not going to acknowledge the results of the recount in Baghdad."

Allawi just had no idea.
Ian Black (Guardian) reports on what happened later in the day "52 candidates were disqualified, threatening the slight lead of challenger Ayad Allawi and risking heightened sectarian tensions. Two candidates were ruled out on grounds of links to the outlawed Ba'ath party by a judicial review panel of the independnet electoral commission. Both were elected for Allawi's Iraqiya list,w hich won two seats more than the State of Law bloc led by Nouri al-Maliki, the incumbent prime minister, in the 7 March polls. Spokesmen for Iraqiya said they would be replaced by members of the same list." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) adds, "The court's decision, at a minimum, will delay the formation of a new government through the months when the Obama administration has pledged to withdraw its combat troops, leaving a force of only 50,000 after September." Myers also notes that Ahmed Chalabi and Ali al-Lami are attempting to have nine other elected MPs forced out by the commission for alleged Ba'athist connections. But BBC News maintains that the Justice and Accountability Commission -- which is Chalabi and al-Lami -- are the ones who did the purge -- not some electoral body or "special elections court" -- and they add "The De-Baathificiation committee is seen as being led by political figures from Iraq's majority Shia population." That Justice and Accountability is responsible is backed up by Arraf and al-Dulaimy's reporting which notes that was the body reviewing the candidates and quotes Ali al-Lami crowing, "The decision is to disqualify 52 candidates, set aside all the votes they won in the elections and to rule out the winning candidates." Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) adds, "Meanwhile, some have questioned the intentions of AJC leaders Ahmed al-Chalabi and al-Lami - both Shiite politicians who ran in the elections. The commission has become somewhat controversial in recent months as some Iraqis and foreign observers say it is being used to eliminate political opponents, including prominent Sunni politician Saleh al-Mutlaq, who was among more than 500 candidates the AJC banned from running in the elections ahead of the vote."

Over the weekend,
Alsumaria TV reported that Allawi was stating he and al-Maliki could meet "at anytime" and "He showed willingness to ally with State of Law Coalition led by Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki, yet, he reiterated his attachment to Al Iraqiya List's constitutional right to form the government." Today, Alsumaria reports, Jalal Talabani, who occupies the figure head position of President of Iraq, called for unity and insisted "that winning coalitions are close to agree on the three presidencies." Yeah, Jalal, that's the pressing issue. Three presidencies? He means Iraq's president and it's two vice presidents. Despite announcing he would not seek the office again, Jalal's changed him mind and wants to hold on to the presidency. For him, it's the most important issue. More important than Iraq forming a national government.

At The Huffington Post, former Booz Allen Hamilton employee, current Truman National Security Project fellow and Georgetown PhD candidate Peter Henne advocates for Ayad Allawi as the new prime minister:

While Americans want out of Iraq, the stability of the country is far from assured, and reignited ethnic violence in that country can harm both US interests and the American conscience. The best course for the United States to take may be to fully support the outcome of the parliamentary elections, including its winner, Iyad Allawi.
As I
argued recently, the recent parliamentary elections represented a significant milestone in Iraq's democratic development. Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's secular coalition -- which many Sunnis supported -- won a plurality of votes, claiming victory. He beat out incumbent Nouri al-Maliki's coalition of Shia groups, and the more radical Shia bloc of Moqtada al-Sadr. Because no side gained a clear majority, difficult negotiations among the factions are needed before a new government is formed.
Yet, al-Maliki has hesitated in accepting Allawi's victory. Al-Maliki ominously pointed out that he remains the commander of Iraq's military, and accused Allawi of fraud. Also, he convinced Iraq's Supreme Court to allow him -- instead of Allawi -- to set up the next government. And there have been continuing moves to disqualify some candidates in Allawi's bloc for reputed Baathist ties, which could erase his lead. In addition to this, al-Maliki has been negotiating with al-Sadr to
merge their blocs, which would yield a majority.
If al-Maliki succeeds in holding on to power, the results could be disastrous. If he does so through extra-democratic means -- such as a coup (even a soft one) or disqualifying members of Allawi's coalition -- it could undermine the viability of Iraqi democracy and set the stage for a return to dictatorship. Even if he wins through an alliance with al-Sadr, ignoring the outcome of an election could degrade voters' confidence in the system.

We're not advocating on behalf of anyone. And you can refer to
Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts' "Iraq's Got Tyrants" for those who need a laugh -- and also Kat's "Kat's Korner: My Best Friend Is Kate Nash" went up Sunday. You can agree or disagree with Henne's argument. But if you disagree, don't do so stupidly the way one of the commentators does who rips apart Henne's argument and insists that the "60% Shia population" would not have "duly elected a Sunni as their leader." Who is the Sunni? Ayad Allawi? Allawi is a Shi'ite. Which goes to show just how poorly the media has handled this story. Iraqiya is not a sectarian slate. The political party was made up of Sunnis, Shias and anyone else who wanted to join. As for Allawi himself, you can't blame the media as much there. If someone doesn't know the second -- since the US invasion -- prime minister of Iraq, that's pretty much on them. And, no, Iraqis would not have tolerated a Sunni being installed by the US as their prime minister. Every prime minister Iraq has had since the invasion has been a Shi'ite. Allawi was the second, al-Maliki was the third. The first? He's reportedly still the choice of the Shi'ite blocs: Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

Meanwhile, Friday it was reported that Moqtada al-Sadr was reactiving the Mahdi Army.
AFP reports today: "The Iraqi government said on Saturday that an offer by radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to help boost security at strategic sites was unnecessary, in the wake of anti-Shiite attacks in Baghdad." Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reported Saturday that al-Sadr issued a statement clarifying that they had not been recalled and that they would be only if the government or 'government' out of Baghdad wanted it to be so. Also on Saturday, CNN reported, "A U.S. Department of Defense employee has died in Iraq of unknown causes, the U.S. military reported Saturday."

Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of an assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists. We will again point out that in real time, Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) reported, "The two Reuters staff members, both of them Iraqis, were killed when troops on an American helicopter shot into the area where the two had just gotten out of their car, said witnesses who spoke to an Agence France-Press photographer who arrived at the scene shortly after their bodies were taken away. The Reuters employees were Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, a photographer, and Saeed Chmagh, 40, a driver." Rubin quoted AFP's Ahmad Sahib stating, "They had arrived, got out of the car and started taking pictures, and people gathered. It looked like the American helicopters were firing against any gathering in the area, because when I got out of my car and started taking pictures, people gathered an American helicopter fired a few rounds, but they hit the houses nearby and we ran for cover." The Committee to Protect Journalists is calling for an investigation into the July 12, 2007 assault and has published an open letter from their executive director Joel Simon to US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates:

The Committee to Protect Journalists is disturbed by a video recently disclosed by the Web site WikiLeaks showing a U.S. military strike that took place on July 12, 2007. The attack killed an unspecified number of individuals, including Reuters photographer
Namir Noor-Eldeen and his assistant, Saeed Chmagh.
CPJ has made
numerous calls for thorough and transparent investigations into the deaths of these two men, as well as into all other cases of journalists and media workers killed by U.S. fire in Iraq . The U.S. military's Central Command said it has no current plans to reopen an investigation, Reuters reported on April 8. But in light of the fact that at least 16 journalists and three media support workers have been killed by U.S. forces' fire, according to CPJ's research, a systematic and comprehensive investigation is clearly warranted. The findings should be made public and lessons learned should be incorporated into military training to reduce the likelihood that journalists covering combat operations will come under fire.
The recently disclosed tape has been viewed by millions around the world. Several experts on international humanitarian law, including Amnesty International's Malcolm Smart and Bibi van Ginkel, a lawyer and senior fellow at the Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations, have called for investigations to determine whether U.S. forces complied with international humanitarian law.
In the video, U.S. forces can be seen opening fire on a group of men -- some of whom they said they believed were armed -- killing or critically injuring at least a dozen people. We are particularly concerned that the troops in the helicopter mistook a camera for a weapon. This is not the first such claim by the U.S. military. In August 2003, a U.S. soldier
killed Reuters photographer Mazen Dana after mistaking, according to the military's investigation, Dana's camera for a rocket-propelled grenade.
The WikiLeaks tape identifies one of the injured men in the July 12 strike as Chmagh. Soldiers are heard urging him to pick up a weapon so that they can fire. A van approaches to evacuate the man identified as Chmagh. Someone in the helicopter is heard informing a commander that the van is "possibly" picking up bodies as well as weapons. Despite the fact that no weapons are visible in the video, the helicopter is granted permission to fire and does so, killing Chmagh and several people in the van and injuring children.
It is crucial that any future investigation satisfactorily determine why an injured media worker who posed no threat to U.S. personnel was fatally shot as he was being evacuated from the scene of an initial attack, also perpetrated by U.S. fire.
The attached appendix lists the 16 journalists and three media support workers who have been killed by U.S. forces' fire in Iraq . (Another three media workers were killed by fire from the U.S. security contractor Blackwater Worldwide.) While we have not found evidence that U.S. troops intentionally targeted journalists in any of these cases, our research shows that the majority of the killings were either not sufficiently investigated or that the military failed to publicly disclose its findings.
In the aftermath of each of the journalists' killings caused by U.S. troops, CPJ has called on the Department of Defense to perform timely, thorough, and transparent investigations. Unfortunately, the Defense Department has conducted such investigations in only a limited number of instances. Since May 15, 2003, CPJ has submitted six Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests to the Pentagon Freedom of Information and Security Review office as well as one FOIA request to the U.S. Central Command. Three of those seven FOIA requests remain unaddressed to date. In January 2009, CPJ also
called on then President-elect Obama to order thorough investigations into these killings.
We renew our call for comprehensive, impartial, and public inquiries into all of these cases, including the events of July 12, which led to the deaths of Noor-Eldeen and Chmagh. These investigations would benefit both the military and the media so long as the lessons learned are integrated into future training.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to your reply.
Joel Simon
Executive Director

Iraq was slammed by bombings today.
Reuters notes a Falluja roadside bombing which has injured three police officers, a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured one person, a Baghdad roadside bombing which has injured two people, a Yusufiya roadside bombing which claimed 2 lives and left three more people injured, Ramadi roadside bombings which targeted the houses of police officers and claimed 1 life (police officers son) and left three people injured, and, dropping back to Sunday for the rest, a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed 1 life and left five people wounded, a Baghdad roadside bombing which left three people injured and a Taji roadside bombing which injured two people.

On the latest Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera, began airing Friday), Jasim Azzawi addressed the October 19, 2004 kidnapping of Margaret Hassan who was murdered (on camera) a month later. Michael Jensen (Irish Times) appeared early in the program to sketch out the details and how the 20th Revolutionary Brigade claimed credit and how Ali Lutif Jassar was arrested when, in 2009, he told the British Embassy he would tell them where Margaret's corpse was buried in exchange for one million dollars. He was sentenced to life in prison but is now getting a retrial. For a roundtable, Jasim was joined by Irish MP Michael D. Higgins, former UN Humanitarian coordinator in Iraq Denis Haliday Hans and former UN Humanitarian coordinator in Iraq and Hans Von Sponeck (Hans followed Denis in the position).

Jasim al-Azawi: Mr. Higgins, let me start with you. Regarding Margaret Hassan and her kidnapping and her death, it is almost impossible to separate the personal from the polical. The backdrop for her kidnapping was the attack on Falluja. What is your recollection about those days?

Michael D. Higgins: Well I met Margaret Hassan on three occasions. The very first time it was it was a discussion of a project that she had assisted in relation to the effects of uranium enriched ammunitions had on children's health. The second time, very much about, again it was about sanitation and water. And finally about what would happen to the distribution of food to the families. This is just about two to three weeks before the invasion. To answer your question very directly, I believe that it is impossible to separate the context that had been created. Margaret, remember, had spent 30 years in Iraq. She was committed to Iraq, its people, its children and, above all else, its suffering. Her compassion was great. She probably felt she was safer. But for months, the attack on Falluja had taken place. I think that the small groups competing with each other, certainly found it necessary to transfer hostages from one group to another. What I find -- I must say two things -- as I look at the image of Margaret pleading for her life, the horror, of what a horrific thing it was for the Iraqi group to visit this death on such a fine woman and the other which is the total neglect of her husband and their failure to help him make contact with her during days when it might have helped. I'm speaking about the inept behavior of the British Foreign Office.

Jasim al-Azawi: We shall come to that, Mr. Higgins, but before we do that let me engage Dennis Halliday who is also an expert on Iraq, he worked there and he knows the country very well. You were not surprised, Mr. Halliday, when she was kidnapped and Iraqis demonstrated in the Firdos Squar, that's the downtown Baghdad, asking for her release. And also a demonstration in Ramallah of all places because in her youth she was also involved in charity work with the Palestinian cause.

Denis Halliday: Well Margaret was an extraordinary person. A beautiful person and a dedicated person, with great compassion as Michael Higgins has just told us. And I met her in '97 and in 1998 on several occassions. She came to the UN office for coordination meetings, NGO and other UN inputs into Iraq. So she was well known in Iraq -- well known among ordinary people who saw the work she was doing in the health sector, in sanitation and water. And I went to see those projects with her. And again, when we had visits from ITV in London and again with RT, she was just very well known. So I was not surprised that the people in Baghdad came out looking for her well being and try to find her release. Clearly she was kidnapped by those who did not care or did not know and the motive is not understood by me even today.

Jasim al-Azawi: Hans Von Sponeck, you knew the woman very well also. She was a brave woman. She never cared about what might happen to her. And she sacrificed everything for the poor people that she wanted to help in Iraq. What is your recollection of Margaret Hassan?

Hans Von Sponeck: Well first of all, let me say that in my address book I have, until today, been unable to cross out her name because for me it is still incomprehensible that such a beautiful, such a powerful, such a dedicated person -- a European by birth maybe but an Iraqi at heart -- could be taken away from us so cruelly. I remember Margaret Hassan from ineumarable meetings in our office, in the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, but also in her office. Her office was a small command center. A strong woman with a small staff that tried to add to the oil for food program. A small but very important project in education, in water supply and in health. And we would sit together over a cup of tea in her office to try to develop what to her was so important and that is to protect people as much as she could with Care International funds, supplementing what we in the UN were doing at a large and national scale. She struck me as a woman with an immense sense of compassion for a people, a whole nation that was brought by down by -- we can say it easily today -- by a faulty sanction policy. So we would talk and I remember very vividly one occasion where she remarked how humilitating it had been that qualified, highly trained Iraqi doctors, engineers, pilots were -- had become vendors on the steets, were selling cigarettes and maybe chewing gum. And what -- she then looked at me and she said, "You know, a few days ago, I went to the market with someone to eat an ice cream and, when I had the ice cream in my hand, I looked at the man and I recognized him as a medical doctor whom I had known." So she was extremely sensitive the humiliation to which the Iraqi people were subjected. And this is what I remember so well.

Jasim al-Azawi: She was a remarkable woman, indeed. She was born in Dublin and then she was raised in England and she married an Iraqi engineer, Mr. Tahseen Hassan. And she lived many, many years in Iraq. And in the 90s and up to the war she was involved with charity relief. But let me go back to you, Michael D. Higgins. You said something important about the ineptness of the British Embassy in Baghdad in dealing with this. Exactly what do you mean?

Michael D. Higgins: Well what I mean by this is I think that Tahseen was left very much on his own. I've read the comments of Margaret's sisters, I've met Margaret's sisters and I've discussed this and I was involved myself when they visited Dublin and met the Taoiseach, and met the Irish Prime Minister and ministers. And I got the impression that people were managing a kidnapping in a public relations sense. And then I was quite horrified to hear that there had been telephone calls made on Margaret's phone to her husband Tahseen. And I visualized this poor man, in his apartment, on his own, without assistance. And then the suggestion 'well we would have to verify these from the calls were coming from those who held her' and so forth. Now Margaret's kidnapping had been preceeded by Ken Bigley's kidnapping [September 16, 2004] and I had met a brother of Ken Bigley's and we had made calls and different groups which might have information and whatever and I could see and I know today how important it was to act very quickly. I make that my point and that's why I make it. The second one, which I want to emphasize lest I forget it, is that I believe that there is an obligation on every form of Iraqi government to solve this issue of the whereabouts of Margaret's body and also to remove any suggestion of impunities from those who have been involved in her abduction and her killing -- whomever and however well conected they may be. And it's in that sense that in a way what I remember about this woman talking to me about the adequacy of diet during the oil for food program, the whole question of the treatment of children and whatever, the idea that her body is still not with her family is simply just incredible. I can barely bring myself to look at the images that have been put into print as she pleads for her life.

In addition,
please note the episode that began broadcasting April 17th is now online at Al Jazeera as well (it deals with the issue of whether Iraq is a satellite of Iran). December 7th, Margaret Hassan's name came up during the Iraq Inquiry in England. From that day's snapshot:

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: Part of this, perhaps particularly relevant for British opinion was the start of hostage taking. So we had in this period the Kenneth Bigley and Margaret Hassan cases. How aware were you of the danger to British nationals in Baghdad?

Edward Chaplin: Very aware. And, indeed, I think if you looked at the travel advice at the time, it would be "don't come anywhere near this place". They were terrible incidents. I mean, terrible obviously for the families, but terrible for the embassy in the sense that we were very helpless. Kidnapping was widespread at the time. This was often criminals rather than political. Of course, as we have seen elsewhere, often criminal gangs will carry out kidnappings of what they think are valuable people, valuable in the sense that they can be sold on to some political group. And I don't think we know even now exactly who was behind either kidnapping. I would have to refresh my memory. I mean, they were different in the sense that Ken Bigley, we didn't even now. He hadn't even registered with the embassy, we didn't know he was there. He was working with these two Americans for a Gulf company. The first thing we knew of his existence was when the news of the kidnap came through. Margaret Hassan was different. In fact, I had met her before when I was Ambassador in Jordan because she worked for CARE Australia, a very effective NGO, one of the few working inside Iraq before and after the invasion. So I admired the work that she was doing and the embassy kept in touch. So that was, if you like, an even greater blow. But just to explain -- I don't know if you want to go into detail about this, but I probably cannot because what happens when a kidnapping of a British citizen takes place is you have set up a really discrete team because this needs 24-hours-a-day attention. So that team was led my deputy and we had a lot of support particularly coming out from London, experience negotiators and so on. So after the initial phase, my job was really to keep it in the minds of Iraqi ministers who we thought would could help, the army and the police and so on, and do whatever else I could do to help.

Commitee Member Lawrence Freedman: What sort of response did you get from --

Edward Chaplin: Very positive and, of course, this was raised all the way to Allawi himself and it was raised by ministers, but they didn't have the capacity to help very much, I don't think. And, of course, they were dealing at any one time with lots of other kidnappings.

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: We had no evidence oursevles of who was holding her?

Edward Chaplin: I think the assumption early on was it was a criminal gang of some sort, but we never got very far in pinning down exactly who was behind it and -- let alone having contacts that might lead to some progress.

Commitee Member Lawrence Freedman: And in the aftermath of her murder, we still seemed to have been in the dark as to what had happened and, indeed, where her body was.

Edward Chaplin: Some time later some of her clothes and possessions were found. We knew her husband as well, who stayed on in Baghdad. So we would see him from time to time. I don't know what the investigation -- continued investigation showed.

It takes a lot of nerve to speak of kidnapping victims and claim that you suffered from it -- you suffered as the family did. It takes even more nerve to do that when the kidnapped victims both ended up dead. That Edward Chaplin was ever put in charge of diplomacy anywhere is a puzzler. That he's so inept goes a long way towards explaining why Italy was able to rescue kidnapping victims, the US was able to and, thus far, the UK really doesn't have a record to point to with any pride in Iraq. Long before Chaplin got to Iraq, Margaret Hassan was already there so his it's-not-my-fault-we-warned-people-not-to-come-to-Iraq excuse is b.s. For him to claim to have known her and admired her work and yet to tell the committee today that he has no idea what was or wasn't found out about her death? That makes no sense. He's lying. Margaret Hassan was the most prominent kidnapping victim the UK had. To this day. As for his attempt to farm off any responsibility to his deputy -- Chaplin was still in charge. His deputy was his responsibility. Edward Chaplin is now an international embarrassment for the UK.

David Brown (Times of London) reports that both of Margaret Hassan's sisters were present at the inquiry and hoped to hear some details about their sister. He quotes Deidre Fitzsimons explaining, "We have been waiting years for the chance to hear what happened to my sister but she was worth so little that she received just three minutes. We came to find out the truth even though we were skeptical, because we were told this would not be a cover-up. We have been betrayed. The authorities did not do one thing to help her when she was kidnapped and they are now doing nothing to find out why. As for Ken Bigley, it was almost as if he didn't matter at all [by Chaplin's testimony]. He was an innocent man who was murdered for no reason."

They Ban Peace Mongers, Don't They? Apparently they do.
This is Cindy Sheehan (Cindy's Soapbox) explaining new efforts to surpress talk of ending illegal wars:

I am in Madison to speak at an event against the "War Party" and its wars. I was to speak on how to do this outside of War Party Politics -- based on my history of peace activism and my independent run against Nancy Pelosi in 2008. On the way here, I was informed that the room was withdrawn because of "security concerns" because I am one of the speakers.
Getting down to the bottom of this is not easy. The student organizing this event here on the ground, Steve, was told on Friday that the organizers would have to put on some security because I have made "controversial efforts" in the past. There is no basis for any security, because there have been no threats of violence against me. The sponsors could not afford the hefty cost of the security, so the inside event was canceled.
So, the bottom line is, the University is not concerned FOR me, they are concerned ABOUT me.
Every so often, just for a reality check, I have to have my iPhone pinpoint where I am -- I am in Madison Wisconsin -- not Mobile, Alabama. Mobile was where the only actual physical attempt was made on my life (inside of the front tires slashed, in a car I was riding in, in a motel parking lot overnight). I have spoken several times in Madison (and at the Fighting Bob Fest -- where I also got an award), and have never felt anything other than support and love.
I have spoken in colleges and universities all over the world where I have actually received death threats and this is the first time, to my knowledge, that I have ever been shut out.
Hmm -- just in the past month, I have been banned by the Catholic Church from any free venue in Scranton, Pa (including pressure on churches of other denominations) by the Catholic Bishop-elect, there AND I have a stay away order from the White House -- first ever as far as anyone can recall.
Why have I, an avowed Peace Monger, started to get so many bans? Is it because I have changed? Is it because I am saying anything different than I have been saying for the last six years? Is it because the wars are over and I still won't stop? No, it's because the much of the country has gone insane while I remain the same.

Lastly, Sunday in "
TV: Network News for Dummies," Ava and I noted the coverage of Friday's bloody day in Iraq by the commercial, broadcast, evening news. From that, we'll note that CBS Evening News with Katie Couric chose to ignore what Rebecca Santana (AP) called "the bloodiest day of the year in Iraq". From that piece, I'll grab NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams:

"In Iraq today, in Baghdad and elsewhere, a wave of bombings. 58 people are dead. The attacks targeted mainly Shi'ites. They may have been in retaliation for that joint Iraqi-American raid that killed the top two leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq. That happened earlier this week."

and ABC World News with Diane Sawyer:

"Overseas in Iraq today, a coordinated series of explosions -- aimed primarily at Shi'ite worshippers --rippling across the country, mangled cars, buses clogging the streets outside two mosques, party headquarters and a market. At least 58 people were killed and nearly 200 were injured. The country's political turmoil continues to deepen. No clear outcome still in the recent elections."

A friend on Pacifica Radio board asked if we could note how they did -- thinking they did a great job. I don't have time to go through all the Pacifica programming. I'd wrongly assumed that Friday (or today) Free Speech Radio News would have noted it. Wrong. I was wrong. So often am. They had other -- whatever. But Amy Goodman was off air (Democracy Now!) before the Baghdad bombings were hitting the news cycle (and initially the death toll was less than ten when they started hitting the wire services). So she couldn't have noted them Friday. Today was her first day to have the chance to.
To her credit, she did:

In Iraq, at least seventy-two people were killed Friday in a series of coordinated bombings in Shiite areas of Baghdad. The blasts struck mosques, homes and shops near the office of the leading Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. It was the deadliest attack Iraq has seen so far this year. It comes four days after the US and Iraqi governments announced the killing of two top leaders with the group al-Qaeda in Iraq. On Sunday, an al-Qaeda front group confirmed the killing of the leaders but vowed to continue its fight.

Ava and I did not include PBS' news programming in our article (Washington Week -- public affairs -- gets a mention only to contrast the way you talk about the economy -- tax payers getting stuck with an $87 billion bill is not good news).
On PBS' NewsHour Friday, Hari Sreenivasan included this in the news rundown:

A new wave of bombings swept across Iraq today, killing at least 69 people. As many as 10 of the blasts happened in Baghdad, targeting Shiite worshipers as they gathered for Friday prayers. The deadliest attack was near the main office of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The string of bombings comes just days after U.S. and Iraqi forces killed the top two al-Qaida leaders in Iraq.

suadad al-salhy
the washington posternesto londono
the christian science monitor
jane arraf
mcclatchy newspapersmohammed al dulaimi
bbc news
jomana karadsheh
nprmorning editionquil lawrencepatrick cockburnthe independent of london
cindy sheehan
the new york timesalissa j. rubin
al jazeera
inside iraq
jasim al-azzawi
the times of london
the los angeles timesned parker