Monday, October 18, 2010

Any takers?






Turning to the 'pranking' of Iraqis by US soldiers. We covered this last month and, on this week's best of War News Radio segment (from last month), they speak with a 'pranker.' Excerpt:
Kyle Crawford: The video which was posted in April begins with American soldiers from the 172nd Stryker Brigade stopping an Iraqi driver at a routine checkpoint outside of Mosul in northern Iraq. After quickly planting a grenade in the man's car without his knowledge, Dunson and his partner repeatedly demand an explanation.
US miilitary voice 1: What the f---?
US military voice 2: What's that? What's that? What is that? What is that? What is that?
Kyle Crawford: The Iraqi gestures in denial and after about 30 seconds Dunson announces that it was all a joke and shakes hands with the relieved man. Dunson says he was surprised by the attention his video produced
Sgt Leo Dunson: I was pretty shocked. I mean I was -- I woke up -- Honestly, I woke up to like uhm all these calls and a lot messages, you know, a lot of messages. And I had no idea what was going on.
Kyle Crawford: Although War News Radio first reported on the video in July, it wasn't until and CNN reported on the prank last week that Dunson's video drew national attention. Gawker wrote, "It's hard to believe Iraqis really appreciate having a grenade stuck in their trunk by US soldiers no matter how well intended.
Sgt Leo Dunson: What they had to say in the article was pretty shocking as well. I didn't think so many people would take it so offensive.
Kyle Crawford: In the wake of prisoner abuses in Iraq, the US military has operated under the microscope of global criticism but Dunson suggests his detractors are misinterperting the video of the incident.
Sgt Leo Dunson: It was all in fun and even the guy he laughed with me and then that was it, you know? It wasn't that big of a deal. I remember the day like it was yesterday. I remember not like he was petrified of his life situation. I was there. I mean it might look to them like he was but he was not petrified of his life.
Kyle Crawford: As a guest on Russia Today, an English language Russian TV network. American army Col Joel Hamilton vehemently criticized Dunson's actions stating that the behavior was unacceptable and it would not be tolerated in his battalion but Dunson has strong words in response.
Sgt Leo Dunson: The Lt Col that goes on TV and attempts -- attempted to bash me or slam me -- I can't think of his name. But he said I would never let somebody under my -- in my unit act that way and I'm thinking to myself, 'Well, sir, you're not even out in the field so you don't know what those guys are doing.
Kyle Crawford: Dunson explains that people don't understand the pressure weighing on soldiers in Iraq. He says joking around is one way to relax and pass the time.
Sgt Leo Dunson: I'm here for a year and a half. You want me to be serious the entire time? Do you want me to sit here with my gun pointed at everybody and shoot and kill everybody I come across?
Those are the choices? Really? You get to goof on duty while you're supposed to be working -- not in your down time, let's be clear -- or you're going to "shoot and kill everybody I come across"?
That service member needs some help, some serious help and a serious talk for that reason only. Do I want him to be serious the whole time? I don't want him or any US service member over there. As for how he conducts himself on duty, that's a code of conduct and, unless he's attempting to resist that code of conduct, he needs to follow it. Foreign occupiers -- we covered this before -- do not get to 'prank' the occupied. It's dangerous in many ways -- including the Iraqi could panic and run off, end up seen as a 'fleeing suspect' (and suspects get shot in Iraq) and end up dead or wounded or the US military could 'prank' the wrong people and find themselves being assaulted with AK-47s or they could give a person a heart attack or even just a panic attack. There's no reason for it. It's dangerous. It's not part of the code of conduct. It's not funny, it's not right and it shouldn't be happening. Leo Dunson clearly needs a sit-down with superior officers because he's just not getting it. And, in fact, if he's still not getting it, the problem may well be superior officers above him.
Today on Law and Disorder Radio (WBAI -- airs on other stations throughout the week and streams online) attorney Margaret Ratner-Kunstler discussed the FBI raids and the issues of grand juries. If you're asking what FBI raids (because you missed it or because there are so many FBI raids), Friday, September 24th raids took place in at least seven homes -- the FBI admits to raiding seven homes -- and the FBI raided the offices of Anti-War Committee. The same day the raids took place the National Lawyers Guild issues a new report, Heidi Boghosian's [PDF format warning] "The Policing of Political Speech: Constraints on Mass Dissent in the US." Heidi is one of Law and Disorder's three co-hosts, the other two are Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner. And they addressed the raids on the program that began broadcasting September 27th. Excerpt:
Heidi Boghosian: You are our resident expert in grand juries and you've been doing this kind of work for decades so you've seen the historical impact especially in the wake of 9-11. Can you talk generally -- and we'll be talking a little bit about the raids that happened to activists -- but can you talk generally how grand juries have been misused historically to target activists?
Margaret Ratner-Kunstler: Well the threat of a grand jury subpoena, just the mere threat of a subpoena, has been used since 1968 when the immunity law changed -- and I'll explain that a little bit later -- to threaten activists with incarceration. The grand jury functions in a very insidious way. Before 1968, if you were subpoenaed before a grand jury and you asserted your Fifth Amendment right then that really was the end of your participation in the grand jury because you asserted immunity and if you were given immunity, you couldn't be indicted so --
Michael Ratner: Now by immunity you mean we have a Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate ourselves and you're asked to speak before a grand jury or answer questions, you say 'I have a Fifth Amendment right not to say anything and I'm not going to say anything' and that would be the end of the matter. Now why was that the end of the matter?
Margaret Ratner-Kunstler: Why was it the end of the matter? Because if you were given immunity than that was the end of the potential for indictment.
Michael Ratner: Because immunity meant that you no longer?
Margaret Ratner-Kunstler: That nothing you say not only could not be used against you, but anything you testified about could not be the subject of a criminal indictment against you.

Michael Ratner: So they really couldn't indict you anymore.
Margaret Ratner-Kunstler: They really couldn't indict you anymore. What happened subsequent to that, it didn't prove to be a good tool obviously for getting or testimony for people so immunity was changed. And the immunity that was once a full immunity became a transactional immunity. And your testimony then was only if you asserted your Fifth Amendment right before the grand jury, then you were given immunity. But the immunity was so tiny, it only covered what you said. Your very words could not be held against you or the fruits of those words. But it was so easy to get around that just by a prosecutor saying, 'Well this didn't come from that, it came from something else.' If you then refused to testify once you were given this kind-of minor immunity, you could be subject to imprisonment.
Michael Ratner: So let me give you an example. I'm sitting at home one day -- and maybe something like the activists who were given subpoenas for a grand jury in Minneapolis or Chicago. And I'm given a piece of paper served by an FBI agent but it comes from a United States Attorney and it says, 'Michael Ratner, you have to go down to wherever the courthouse is and you have to go into a room with 23 jurors or something -- grand jurors, all in secret, and I don't have my attorney in there, my attorney -- let's say it's you, Margie, -- can stand outside but I have to go in the room. And I'm there with the US Attorney and these 23 grand jurors and they ask me questions. And they say, "Michael Ratner, what's your name?" I say, "My name is Michael Ratner." They say, "Were you in Chicago on such-and-such a date?" And I say, "Well I'm not going to testify because that might incriminate me if I testify." Then they say, "Okay, don't answer. We'll get you immunity." Then they get me immunity, they drag me in again, and then they say, "What's your name -- were you In Chicago on such-and-such date?" And I say, "I take the Fifth Amendment." And they say, "Well you can't anymore because you've been given immunity." And I mess around and say something about the First Amendment right of association but, at that point, they can haul me before a judge and do what with me?
Margaret Ratner-Kunstler: This is assuming that you didn't use certain procedures that are available to you before that. But at that point, they haul you before a judge and you have a contempt hearing. The judge says, "What are your reasons for refusing to testify?" And listens to them. Generally, people assert the First Amendment claims which are not deemed sufficient to overcome the immunity issues so the judge then orders you to testify. You go back into the grand jury room if you testify, that's one thing. If you refuse to testify, your brought back before the judge and the judge then holds you in what is known as civil contempt. That means that whatever length of the grand jury -- Normal grand juries are 18 months. The grand jury that we're concerned about today is a grand jury that's a federal grand jury in Chicago that was impaneled in August and it's a special grand jury which means that it's twice as long -- it's a thirty-six month grand jury -- and can be extended because it's called "special." Now that's significant because the time you can -- If you are held in civil contempt, it's so-called, the keys to the jail are in your pocket. You're in jail for as long as you refuse to testify. It used to be that we would stal and stall and stall so that if a person refused to testify, there was only three months left for the life of a grand jury and the person would only have to do three months. But since grand jury lives are longer and since this is the beginning of a grand jury, people who refuse to testify and are held in contempt can easily face thirty-six months in jail, something near that.
Michael Ratner: They don't get a fixed sentence, they go to jail and the judge says, as you said Margie --
Margaret Ratner-Kunstler: Until you -- until you agree.
Michael Ratner: -- you have the keys to the jail. If you agree to talk, you can get out.
Margaret Ratner-Kunstler: Right.
Michael Ratner: They ask you, name all of your friends. That's the kind of thing they'll ask you.
Heidi Boghosian: But this is called coercion. The point of incarceration is to coerce the person to change their mind.
Margaret Ratner-Kunstler: Right. And that's why it's civil.
Michael S. Smith: But isn't it punative?
Michael Ratner: Yeah.
Margaret Ratner-Kunstler: Of course it's punative. It's punative because if a person is going in saying "I know I am not going to testify," then there's no coercion and it's all 100% punative.
Michael Ratner: You're not allowed to torture people anymore now, you just go to jail.
Margaret Ratner-Kunstler: But that's all you do, you go to jail.
Michael Ratner: Right, it's not like --
Heidi Boghosian: But they say theoretically it's not supposed to be punative.
Margaret Ratner-Kunstler: But you know at that point, after you have served your civil contempt time, you are still, you are still potentially subject to criminal contempt and that has happened.
Michael Ratner: To some of your clients. Puerto Rican clients, right?
Margaret Ratner-Kunstler: Yes. After they were held in civil contempt and did their civil contempt time, they were indicted for criminal contempt. And a criminal contempt trial is a joke because you've already been held civilly, you've been in a court room refusing to testify so the evidence against you is quite simple so there is very little you can do in terms of adjustification.
Heidi Boghosian: Now I remember I went to a training that you did a couple of years ago that you did with Bob Boyle and I remember the advice, "Do not say anything." Even sometimes admitting your address or your name --
Michael Ratner: This is in the grand jury, Heidi?
Heidi Boghosian: This is in the grand jury. Is it true that somehow that could be manipulated? That one really shouldn't say anything?
Margaret Ratner-Kunstler: Well there is the potential of waiving. If you say something, you could waive your Fifth Amendment right by already participating in the conversation. So if you talk, then you might lose the ability to assert your Fifth Amendment and go through the immunity process.
Michael S. Smith: So, Margaret, what's at stake now with these various people in Chicago and Minneapolis being subpoenaed to the grand jury, the FBI going into their homes and taking their computers and their records and everything. What's goin on?
Margaret Ratner-Kunstler: Well I think it's really interesting what's going on. I mean it really represents the tremendous sea change we have in this country in terms of the ability of people to actively oppose this government's policy. This is a situation that, if it happened in 1983, for example, with the groups that were opposing the US intervention in Central America and the propping up of various dictators, there were many groups in this country who were joining forces with the progressive groups in Central America and aiding them in various ways. You had the Committee of Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, you had the people working with the Nicaraguans, you had a whole host of people supporting the progressive movements in Central America. Now if that happened today, these people would be subject to -- as the people who have been subpoenaed to these grand juries -- would be subject to very serious criminal actions against them based on the Patriot Act that now is in existence.
Iraq War veteran and IVAW member Adam Kokesh has a radio show that airs daily on KIVA -- streams live online -- from 9:00 pm to 11:00 pm Mountain Time (which is 11:00 pm to 1:00 am EST) and is entitled Adam vs The Man. Video archives of the radio show are here. Adam is part of the Campaign for Liberty and, of course, ran for the Republican nomination for the US House District 3 race in New Mexico where he received 29% of the vote in the GOP primary which is a more than respectable showing for a first time run. There are a lot of things we ignore because (a) they're not related to Iraq and (b) they're inaccurate. And, in the case of someone's attack on Angelina Jolie, it was both of those plus I've known Angelina since she was a little girl. But we will stop to note Jessica Simpson's latest mess (because it is related to the wars and because a friend at US asked if I could work it in). US magazine reports that 4Troops -- Iraq War and Afghanistan War veterans who have formed a signing troop -- were scheduled to be a part of Jessica Simpson's upcoming Christmas show for Detroit Public Television but they were cut at the last minute and they've been told it was because Simpson's manager father didn't like the costumes they were performing in (camouflage fatigues). Joe Simpson would be the bad guy in this story but Jessica's not 14-years-old and she can't hide behind Daddy her whole life. More importantly, she and ex-husband Nick Lachey had the gall to call their non-special in 2005 Nick & Jessica's Tour of Duty. When you've tried to hawk your bad film (Dukes of Hazzard) on the backs of service members, you damn well make sure they appaear. Which defeats the newest spin an unnamed spokesperson offers for Jessica, lack of time. You don't cut 4 Troops after you've used the service members as props in your previous special. 4 Troops has more information about their performances, recordings and news at their site and their Twitter feed is here. This isn't meant to excuse Simpson but 4 Troops is lucky to miss out. She's a faded non-star without talent or looks and she peaked some time ago. More importantly, her 'specials' are embarrassments. As Ava and I noted of the 2005 one:
As the "special" continued, the entertainment casualities continued to pile up, far too many to mention. (Maybe Nightline can do a special on that?) But among the more noteable fatalities would have to be Simpson's laughable attempt to cover Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walking." While stamping across the stage and sticking out her nothing to brag about ass, Simpson managed to chirp each word correctly even while never demonstrating that she had the first inkling as to what the song was actually about. It was as though you were watching a five-year-old scuffle around in Mommy's high heels.
Which is puzzling when you consider another fatality -- "God Bless America." Who knew it was an ode to orgasms?
Watching little Jessie wet her lips and tousle her mane (as a person she makes a great little pony), we were left to wonder what that or heaving bossoms had to do with either God or a country. Simpson apparently learnt the song at Our Lady of Lap Dance.
[. . .]
It takes tremendous vanity or stupidity to dub an "entertainment special" a "Tour of Duty." We're guessing it took equal parts stupidity and vanity on the part of of the couple front and center. Both continue to push themselves as "stars" when the reality is that Krista and Ryan qualify for that honor far more than Simpson and Lachey. Having achieved little but magazine covers fretting over the state of their business merger, er, marriage, we're guessing that the star system has so imploded that soon Kathie Lee Gifford will be spoken of with the sort of awe usually reserved for Meryl Streep.
Journalist Ron Brynaert has posted "I'm Back And I Still Got A Sledgehammer Break!" at his old website Why Are We Back In Iraq? and he has a longer post which is an introduction to his earlier reporting on spikes of activity. So a Blogspot/Blogger welcome back to Ron, you have been missed at Good Intentions Paving Company. I don't know how long he'll be blogging at his own site. You'd be smart to check it out now while he is. And we'll close with this from David Edwards and Muriel Kane's "Whistleblower Reveals Systematic Humiliation of Detainees" (World Can't Wait):

Note -- On October 20, Ethan McCord will be joining World Can't Wait for a live webcast on the Collateral Murder video released by Wikileaks. Ethan is the soldier in video carrying the young girl from the van. Today, he has also just released some videos showing humiliation of detainees...
A former US soldier in Iraq has come forward with video of his fellow soldiers subjecting Iraqi detainees to what he describes as "mental, emotional, degrading" abuse.
US Army Specialist Ethan McCord was a member of Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry, the same unit that was involved in a 2007 helicopter attack in Baghdad shown in a leaked video released last April by WikiLeaks.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"WikiLeaks and stalemates"
"The media silences on the wars"
Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "No Lift Off"
"And the war drags on . . ."
"CBS on the government's right to hide"
"Burn pits and stop-loss"

"A wedding"

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