Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Ballet, Blackwater

Last week, I noted the Monday broadcast of WBAI's Out-FM which featured The Ballet's "I Hate The War" song at the mid-point. "Best war song you may not have heard" (The Third Estate Sunday Review) provides you with information on the group:

From the band's official site page: "Mattachine! is our first CD. We're currently on the third edition. The CDs are for sale exclusively at shows and through our site: click here to order a hard copy. Or here to download it from iTunes." On that page, they also offer "I Hate The War" as a free download.

If you have not already heard the song, I hope you will consider listening to it.

Here are the opening lyrics to The Ballet's "I Hate The War:"

It's over, I'm done writing songs about love
There's a war going on
So I'm holding my gun with a strap and a glove
And I'm writing a song about war
And it goes
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Oh oh oh oh

A lawsuit has been filed against the mercenaries Blackwater and Amy Goodman discussed it with attorney Susan Burke today, how Blackwater has a pattern of attacking civilians, in "EXCLUSIVE...Blackwater Sued Again For Sept. 9th Attack, Five Iraqis Dead, Ten Wounded" (Democracy Now!):

AMY GOODMAN: And what is understood in the community there about what happened?
SUSAN BURKE: Well, sadly, the Iraqis, you know, they suffer from this a lot. Although the Nisoor Square shooting received a lot of press attention, the reality is that this has been an ongoing tragedy for the Iraqis. The Blackwater shooters have no regard for human life, and they use an excessive amount of force repeatedly. We have discovered information in our investigation that Blackwater has a substantial problem with uncontrolled drug use, steroid use. And that just adds to this terrible sense of, you know, slaughter.

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

Wednesday, December 19, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, sexual assault victims of American contractors tell their story, Steven D. Green finally gets a court date, Operation Happy Talk's effects are noticed and more.

Starting with war resistance. We're noting
s3nn5 video online, whic is one of the PSAs in support of war resisters in Canada, entitled "Let them stay: US war resisters in Canada (2 of 3)" and we're focused on Ryan Johnson, Jeremy Hinzman and Clifford Cornell.

Ryan Johnson: The contract, when you go to sign your contract, it's about 30 pages long. And you go, 'Okay, I want to flip through this real quick.' And the sergeant that's helping you with your contract and stuff, they say, 'No, you don't have time to read it. I'll just tell you what each page basically says that you're -- or what the contract basically says. And he just goes, 'Well the contract basically says that you're going to be signed up for four years and after that, you have four years of call-back basically -- if there's a military action we can call you back. At the end of the contract, it says that everything in this contract that we have promised, as in the army, 'can be changed at any time without your notice. And, uh, it also states in there that everything I promised is non-negoitable so I have to serve my four years no matter what.

Jeremy Hinzman: I did break a contract. I signed up for four years, I didn't stay for four years. But a contract is two ways. It's two people agreeing to certain terms and conditions and the army didn't live up to it's to its terms and conditions. It-it's not defending the Constitution of the United States . . .

Ryan Johnson: Most units, just like mine, are saying they aren't going to accept any Conscientious Objector claims. You can apply but you won't be granted.

Clifford Cornell: My first sergeant who's my higher supervisor, he got up in front of a formation and basically told us there was like two guys who applied for [CO] status. He got up there and told us those two guys who applied for it and that he didn't want anyone else to apply for it because we was going to Iraq whether we liked it or not.

Ryan Johnson: There is I think when I left there was 15 other people that went AWOL from my unit alone So I mean if you look at how many units are deploying in any given time, if there's five or fifteen or twenty from that unit that go AWOL, that's a lot of people going AWOL. Being AWOL in the States, it's impossible to do and actually like have a real life. I mean you have a choice to going back to jail or living underground for the rest of your life. That's what choices you have unless you go to Canada. That's the only other options that I know of.

The Canadian Parliament has the power to let war resisters stay in Canada. Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper ( -- that's pm at who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion ( -- that's Dion.S at who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua ( -- that's Bevilacqua.M at who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use. Both War Resisters Support Campaign and Courage to Resist are calling for actions from January 24-26.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb,
Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).

IVAW is organizing a March 2008 DC event:

In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers.
In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.
Click here to sign a statement of support for Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan

March 13th through 15th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation.

Turning to the US Senate. Yesterday, Senator
Russ Feingold declared, "The issue I heard most about this year as I traveled around the state was anger over the President' war in Iraq and Congress' inability to end it. If those of us in Congree who want to end this war don't take every opportunity to push back against this administration, we will be just as responsible for keeping our troops in Iraq." The statement came on the day the issue of funding the illegal war rose again, "just days after the Senate authorized another $189 billion dollars in war funding," as Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted. Feingold proposed an amendment to the bill on funding (link has text and audio):

The amendment is one I have offered before and I will not hesitate, if I must, to offer again and again and again. I'd add the 17 cosponsors is the greatest number we've ever had for this amendment. It requires the President to begin safely redeploying U.S. troops from Iraq within 90 days of enactment, and requires redeployment to be completed within 9 months. At that point, with the bulk of our troops safely out of Iraq, funding for the war would be ended, with four narrow exceptions: providing security for U.S. government personnel and infrastructure; training the Iraqi Security Forces; providing training and equipment to U.S. servicemen and women to ensure their safety and security and conducting targeted operations, limited in duration and scope, against members of al Qaeda and other affiliated international terrorist organizations.
Some of my colleagues complain that we have spent too much time debating Iraq this year. They'd rather be talking about issues. Well, we have a lot of important priorities here, but nothing is more important to me or my constituents than ending this disastrous war. As I do every year, I held a townhall meeting in every county in Wisoncsin this year. That's 72 meetings, for those of you who aren't from the Badger state. I heard a lot from my constituents at these meetings about health care and education. But the number one issue I heard about was foreign affairs, particularly the war in Iraq. Let me tell you, they weren't asking why Congress is spending so much time on this issue. They weren't asking us to give the President more time for his so-called surge. Like Americans all across the country, they want an end to this war and they want to know what's stopping us.
The Senate needs to address the concerns and demands of our constitutents, who more than a year ago voted for a change in congressional leadership in large measure because of the debacle in Iraq. But we have yet to follow through and end this misguided war, before more Americans are injured and killed. And we are about to adjourn for the year and let the war drag on even longer.

Goodman noted, none of the senators who are campaigning for the Democratic Party's 2008 presidential nomination were present for the vote. (Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd and Barack Obama.) The vote was 24 in favor and 71 opposed with no Republican crossing over to vote in favor. Independent Bernie Sanders voted in favor of the Feingold amendment. Carl Levin, a Democrat, did not. Along with the four Democrats on the campaign trail who didn't vote, Dianne Feinstein also didn't vote. Levin proposed a toothless timetable (non-binding) which would not-demand or require troops out of Iraq in a year. CNN reports that 50 voted in favor and 45 against. Here's how the 'purpose' of the Levin amendment was worded: "To express the sense of Congress on the transition of the missions of United States Forces in Iraq to a more limited set of missions as specified by the President on September 13, 2007." Yes, it really was that weak. With both amendments stripped from the bill, the bill passed. "A critical victory," was how Manu Raju (The Hill) described it, for the White House when the vote was 70 in favor of funding and 25 against leading Raju to observes, "Ultimately, Democratic leaders declined to levy pressure on their caucus to block the latest round of unfettered Iraq money." Goodman noted it is "a $555 billion omnibus spending bill that includes another $70 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."

What Feingold proposed was not "TROOPS HOME NOW!" and, in fact, isn't significantly different from much of what Clinton, Obama and John Edwards (not a senator anymore, he didn't miss the vote) have pushed at various times (especially Obama and Clinton). Levin's was just a joke.
He explained to the Senate that "our amendment expresses the sense of the Congress that we should have a goal for the removal of most of our forces in a reasonable time mainly as a way of telling the Iraqi leaders they must accept responsibility for their own future. Our amendment expresses the sense of the Congress. It is not legally binding, but it puts us on record, and it sends a message. It says it is the sense of" blah, blah, blah, nonsense. It didn't pass. It wouldn't have done a damn thing if it had. He wasted everyone's time with something that didn't take a stand (the amendment itself did not take a stand, I'm not referring to the vote) and something that, in his own words, was "not legally binding" because he wanted to be "on record". He's on record now. As someone who did not vote for Feingold's amendment (which would not have ended the illegal war) and as someone who is so foolish that he grandstands in the Senate with a non-proposal.

Moving over to the US House of Representatives. Today the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security held a hearing on the sexual assaults of
Jamie Lee Johnson and Tracy Barker while working in Iraq. Barker [PDF format warning] submitted a statement to the committee where she noted that "under the direct supervision of Crystal Daniels and Byron Marcee, I was exposed to physical threats, verabl abuse, and sexually explicit conversations on a daily basis" and "[n]othing was done to resolve the sexually hostile work environment or investigate the complaints" but "[d]espite the promise of confidentiality under the HDRP" ", Kara Hall, a human resources supervisor received several of my complaints and forwarded them to Marcee and Daniels. As a result, Daniels and Marcee retaliated against me by escalating the abusive behavior and screaming at me for filing the formal complaints with human resources. After filing yet another complaint, Wesley Lane, a human resources supervisor, called me in to her office and informed that Daniels and Marcee had filed a report complaining of my job performance. While in Hall's office, I was not permitted to leave or call anyone. Lane followed me into the bathroom and watched me as I urinated. When I asked her why she was doing this she said it was to keep me from calling Houston again, or anyone else, to report the abuse. Hall then instructed me to return to my living container and remain there for three days, I was not permitted to speak with anyone, and if I was seen outside, I would be fired." Iraq or not, US corporations operate under US laws. And what Barker's describing are serious violations. She was moved to the Basra compound where "I was assigned to a shared office space with Sherman Richardson. Richardson had hung pictures of prostitutes and animals having sex with one other on his office walls and he often talked about how he took his Rest and Relaxtion time in Thailand where he would hire prostitutes. Other male employees would visit Richardson in the office to seek information on how to obtain a prostitute while on R&R." Let's be clear that this is paid for with US tax dollars. The work environment that wouldn't be allowed in the US (and shouldn't have been allowed in Iraq) was paid for with US tax dollars. Basra Camp contained no HR personnel and she took her complaints to the camp manager Craig Grabien who 'dealt' with them apparently by sexually harassing Barker "on a daily basis by insisting that I sleep with him because he was camp manager and he could provide benefits in exchange for sexual favors." Complaining to the hotline did not good and, in fact, only caused Grabien to increase his sexual harassment. Barker explains the physical assualt by an employee (still an employee) of the US State Department: "On June 23, 2005, I accompanied U.S. Department of State employee, Ali Mokhtare, to his living quarters to complete a work order for an alleged faulty air conditioner and to discuss employment opportunities within the U.S. State Dept. Once we arrived, Mokhtare said the air conditioner was working fine. I immediately felt uncomfortable expressed that I was going to leave. Mokhtare said he wanted to explain the war to me and a story about a 'Filipino woman.' As Mokhtare began to talk about the war, he poured two drinks of Jack Daniels and Coke and offered me one. I declined but eventually took the drink in my hand anyway. Mokhtare then began to talk about a Filipino woman in Saudi Arabia who was repeatedly raped by a prince, and although she reported it to the police, no one believed her and the prince continued to rape her. Finally, the woman became so distraught she committed suicide by jumping out of a window. In the midst of telling this story, Mokhtare grabbed my breasts and tried to kiss me on the mouth. I screamed 'No!' and escaped Mokhtare's hold and began to run toward the door. Mokhtare grabbed hold of me again, put his hands around my throat and tried to force his lips on my mouth and against the back of my hand; I pushed him away, escaped his hold, and ran from the living quarters. Mokhtare followed after me screaming in Arabic as I ran in the direction of my living quaters." Barker immediately reported the assualt and was told, by Grabien, that the State Dept's Diplomatic Security would investigate. Barker turned over a statement to them and asked for protection but was told by Grabien and the State Dept's Brian Hathaway "to just avoid Mokhtara." Barker explains that when Mokhtare was interviewed, he initally refused to talk but opened up in a second interview with the State Dept's Diplomatic Security: "During the interview, Mokhtare admitted to the agents he inappropriately grabbed my breast and attempted to kiss me. He also admitted to telling me the story of a Filipino woman who was raped by a prince in Saudi Arabia. Mokhtare's story was exactly as I had explaiend to agent Hathaway, he even goes so far as to admit his actions were 'inappropriate' and he 'made a mistake'." He committed assault and he damn well knew better. Barker continues: "According to the agents notes, when they confronted him about an inconsistent statement he made regarding his alcohol consumption he became agitated and angry." Now pay attention because as bad as it all is it just continues. As you pay attention remember that woman, Condi Rice, heads the State Dept. Barker explains that she brought her clothes, as ordered, worn the night of the attack (slacks, a shirt and a vest) so that Hathaway could photograph them and then Grabien stated she had to wear the outfit "the following day . . . so that Hathaway could determine whether it was sexually provocative to men." What the hell kind of a department is Condi Rice mis-running? That's Tracy Barker. Videos of the hearing are here.

Jamie Leigh Jones was gang-raped by employees of Halliburton/KRB and then held in a container to keep her from talking. "I went to support Operation Iraqi Freedom in the Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq on July 25, 2005. Upon arrival at Camp Hope, I was assigned to an all male barrack." Though she complained, nothing was done, she was verbally harassed. On her fourth day, she was offered, by fellow employees, drinks and one told her not to worry "I saved all my Ruffies for Dubai." Jones, "I thought he was joking and felt safe with my co-workers." She was drugged, she was gang-raped. She complained to KBR and a rape kit was taken. The doctor "confirmed that I had been penetrated both vaginally and anally and that I was, quote: 'quite torn up down there'. She indicated that based upon the damages to my genitalia, it was apparent that I had been raped." Jones had to pause there before continuing, "The KBR security then took me to a trailer and locked me in a room with two armed guards outside my door. I was imprisoned in the trailer for approximately a day. One of the guards finally had mercy and let me use a phone. I called my dad who contacted Congressman Ted Poe who took actions to get me out of the country. I believe he saved my life. I was later interviewed by Halliburton-KBR supervisors and it was made clear to me that I had essentially two choices: '(1) Stay and get over it or (2) Stay with no guarantee of a job in Iraq or Houston.' Because of the severity of my injuries, I elected to go home despite the obvious threat of being fired." In the US, Jones sought treatment, physical and mental, and Halliburton required her to see a doctor whose first question was: "Are you going to sue Halliburton?" Jones explains that when asked that question, she and her mother walked out of the office. In May 2007, the State Department phones to say that there was no rape kit or photographs. When Jones insisted the kit and photos existed, a few things turned up with most of it missing. Jones explains, "I have had reconstructive surgery on my breasts and pectoral muscles due to disfigurement caused by the brutal attack. I am still waiting for a follow up surgery because I am still not back to normal." Jones noted that "there has been no prosecution after two and a half years." Nor did the State Department employee who assaulted Barker get fired. The question goes to Condi Rice who appears either totally ignorant of what's going on in her department or just doesn't care. The Justice Department's response? While the State Dept apparently gives away money with no supervious and isn't concerned about incidents that they are aware of, the Justice Dept is supposed to prosecute assaults. What do they say? They refused to attend the hearings. We're neither quoting from or linking to the nonsense that Brian A. Benczkowski (Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General) sent (via letter) to the committee. Rep John Conyers is the chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
He asked, "Does anyone in this room feel it is acceptable for an American citizen like Ms. Jones to be drugged, raped and falsely imprisoned? Does anyone think it is appropriate that almost 2 1/2 years after the incident, there has not been a single prosecution in the case? Does anybody believe it is appropriate that the DOJ victims' rights ombudsman summarily rejected Ms. Jones complaint 6 months ago, and she was not even seen by a federal prosecutor until October? This is no small matter given that there are some 180,00 civilian contractor employees in Iraq, including more than 21,000 Americans, plus additional security contractor employees. And there are other troubling reports of similar sexual assaults against contractor employees." DoJ is clearly not doing their job but, repeating, Rice's department was over the contractors and it's time Rice faced some serious questions about exactly what she sees as women's 'role' in the combat zone because by doing nothing (the two incidents took place on her watch, no doubt many took place on Colin Powell's as well) she sends a message that these assaults are tolerated.

Anna Driver (Reuters) notes Rep Ted Poe stated that, "The individuals who assaulted Jamie must be rounded up and tried. Nonfeasance by civilian contracting companies cannot be tolerated." Driver also notes that Conyers and Hillary Clinton "have called for action".

Staying with sexual violence. March 12, 2006, US soldiers carried out a criminal conspiracy to gang-rape and murder Abeer Qassim Hamza and to murder her parents, Qassim Hamza Raheem and Fakhriya Taha Muhsasen, and her five-year-old sister Hadeel Qassim Hamza. The conspiracy included blaming the War Crimes on 'insurgent.' Jane Fonda has noted (
here for video, here for text):

Abeer was a 14-old-girl, living with her family about 50 miles south of Baghdad, trying to grow up as best she could in a country ravaged by violence and war.Until March 12, 2006, when her life was cruelly cut short. On that night, five American soldiers, dressed all in black, allegedly burst into the home where Abeer lived with her family.After spending the evening drinking whiskey mixed with energy drinks and playing cards, the soldiers must have decided to execute the crime they allegedly had been planning for weeks. According to the charges, the men took turns raping 14-year-old Abeer before shooting her. In the next room, her mother, her father, and her five-year-old sister were executed. When the men were done, they drenched the bodies in kerosene and set them on fire.Then, the prosecutors say, they went back to base and grilled up some chicken wings for dinner. It was months before this crime came to light.
Robin Morgan has noted, "Abeer means 'fragance of flowers.' She was 14 years old. According to a statement by one of the accused, the soldiers first noticed her at a checkpoint. On March 12, after playing cards while slugging whisky, they canged into civvies and burst into Abeer's home. They killed her mother, father and five-year-old sister and 'took turns' raping Abeer. Finally, according to the statement, they murdered her, drenched the bodies with kerosene, and set them on fire. Then the GIs grilled chicken wings." In the Article 32 hearing in August 2006, Captain Alex Pickands noted of the War Crimes of those then still serving in the military, whose defense tried to say life is hard in Iraq and boring and golly gee, gotta blow off some steam,: "Murder, not war. Rape, not war. That's what we're here talking about today. Not all that business about cold food, checkpoints, personnel assignments. Cold food didn't kill that family. Personnel assignments didn't rape and murder that 14-year-old little girl." Ryan Lenz (AP) notes that four soldiers have been convicted "in one of the war's worst atrocities" and that Steven D. Green, who was not part of the US military when the crimes became known having already discharged out, is now scheduled to be tried on "April 13, 2009, in Paducah, Ky." Lenz notes how long this has dragged on and it has. The US government issued their press release on the arrest of Green July 3, 2006. (Lenz report is also here.)

In some of today's reported violence . . . Well, only one organization really worked on that today. Want to guess which one?


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that claimed the life of 1 police officer and left three more wounded.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a gun battle that left three people not engaged in the battle injured.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad.

Meanwhile, the
Center for Constitutional Rights is representing over 250 Iraqi "torture victims". Attorney Susan Burke explained to Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) today:

Well, this is actually a continuation of a lawsuit that we previously filed back in June of 2004. We had brought it as a class action after the leaking of the Taguba Report and after we had been approached by some of the victims of the Abu Ghraib torture.
And one thing I would point out is that this--CACI's conduct in this instance--CACI employees were directly involved in torturing prisoners. This is information that's known. It's information that is known to the Department of Justice. Yet, there have not been any criminal prosecutions. So when you think about the passage of time here, you have to ask: why have there been no criminal prosecutions? It's very troubling, and it's very concerning that our civil action is the only current mechanism for accountability for the private participation in the Abu Ghraib scandal. The other comment I would make is that there's a perception that it was just the Abu Ghraib scandal and that that's the only place where the torture occurred. You know, sadly, that's just not true. The same type of conduct was happening elsewhere. People were being mistreated in other facilities. And again, CACI was not in all of the facilities, but they were in a substantial number, and their employees participated.

Burke was also on to discuss with Goodman the lawsuit against the mercenary company Blackwater:

AMY GOODMAN: Explain this latest suit.
SUSAN BURKE: This is a lawsuit on behalf of the family of Ali Abbas [phon.]. This gentleman was a rug merchant, and he was gunned down for absolutely no reason, leaving behind a twenty-day-old baby daughter and family. It is again another instance in which Blackwater shooters, you know, shot first, asked questions later.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain exactly what you understand transpired on September 9.
SUSAN BURKE: What happened is that Blackwater was driving through an area and began to engage in fire. This particular gentleman was inside his rug store. He had just put his fifteen-year-old younger brother in the cab to go home. Hearing the shooting outside, he walked outside, concerned about his younger brother, because he heard the shots. So he walks out of the rug store and gets shot and killed.
AMY GOODMAN: And how did you learn about this?
SUSAN BURKE: We learned about this from the family members. What happened is, as you know, we have--we represent a fair number of Iraqis in a separate suit, so we do have offices over in Baghdad. We were approached by the family of this victim to try to bring some form of accountability to Blackwater.

On the September 16th slaughter, Democracy Now!, in a broadcast exclusive, also broadcast of footage of one witness being interviewed:

ALI KHALAF SALMAN: [translated] OK, he said: They stopped in a semicircle.


ALI KHALAF SALMAN: [translated] The cars. One was right here, and one here, one here, one here, in a semicircle.
SUSAN BURKE: So all four were in the actual round part of the square?

ALI KHALAF SALMAN: [translated] Yes, yes. OK, he said: The man in the third car started firing his gun towards this direction, the Yarmouk direction, and he fired three to four shots randomly.
SUSAN BURKE: What did that man look like?
ALI KHALAF SALMAN: [translated] He was big, big mustache.
SUSAN BURKE: Mustache. Strong.

ALI KHALAF SALMAN: [translated] He was white. He said: Actually, he was facing the convoy. When he started shooting, I turned my back to see if there are anybody moved from the traffic towards the--he was trying to make sure that nobody was moving, actually.

SUSAN BURKE: So he turned to see if a movement had provoked the shooting?

ALI KHALAF SALMAN: [translated] Yes, exactly.


ALI KHALAF SALMAN: [translated] As you just said, he thought that he was shooting above the car level, but when he turned his face towards traffic, he heard this woman crying, "My son! My son!" And then he ran into that direction, and he saw her son, who was a medical student. He was all covered in blood. He said he went--when he heard the woman crying, he went towards that direction, and he tried to help the medical student who was covered in blood, help him out of the car. But the mother inside was holding tight to her son. And he raised his hand to stop--
SUSAN BURKE: Stop the shooting.

ALI KHALAF SALMAN: [translated] Stop the shooting. He was telling them, "Don't shoot, please." He said, while he raised his hand and asking them not to shoot, this time the man in the fourth car shot the mother dead. A machine gun. He said, the car was number four in line. And then, when the person in car number four, a security man, started shooting, he shot the mother dead. And the cars in front of this car, the civilian cars, actually, they spread around to the sides. I think they were scared.
And he said the doctor's car was an automatic car. Because he died behind the wheel, the car started moving by itself, because it was an automatic car, towards the square. And at this moment, they started shooting the car with big machine guns, and the car exploded.
Finally, Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism notes the effects of Operation Happy Talk. As Iraq has fallen off the radar, surprise, surprise, more people think the illegal war is going well.
PEW's summary of the findings:For years, public views of the war in Iraq were increasingly negative and seemingly unlikely to change direction. But as the troop surge resulted in lower levels of violence in Iraq, public perceptions of the war improved markedly. In November, 48% of Americans said things were going very or fairly well in Iraq, up 18 points from February. However, improved public impressions of the Iraq did nothing to lift war support: 54% favored bringing the troops home as soon as possible, a proportion largely unchanged from earlier in the year.
The November 28th "
Iraq snapshot" addressed the Project for Excellence in Journalism's [PDF format warning] "Journalists in Iraq: A survey of reporters on the front lines" and noted:In other findings, 62 percent say that their "editors back home" have lost interest in reports of day-to-day violence (no kidding) and the only significant increases have been in reports on contractors (79%) and "U.S. military strategy" (67%). The respondents rated the "Impact on Iraqi civilians" as the most under reported (40%) while the respondents rated "U.S. Military strategy" as the most over reported (29%).When the press loses interest (and when reporters internatlize the tastes of their bosses), reality doesn't stand much of a chance. While the violence didn't disappear, while things are not 'better' and even the myth of the Great Return has fallen apart, how are most Americans supposed to know that when the bulk of All Things Media Big and Small won't cover Iraq?

jeremy hinzman