Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Trivializing us into obscurity



The study finds that the uptick in positive Obama coverage stemmed from horse-race considerations — the president’s slight but steady lead in certain polls, in other words, prompted favorable coverage of his slight but steady lead in certain polls. Talk about a nice, self-perpetuating news loop. Get a lead in the polls, get some media assistance in maintaining that lead.




It was supposed to be so easy for Barack Obama.  He squeaked by earlier this month, just winning the popular vote in the race for US president.  Re-election was one thing but having opponents -- Republican, Green, Libertarian, Constitutional, Socialist Equality Party, etc -- who refused to call him out for negotiating with terrorists was even better.  Now it appears the British press may force the American press to do the job they should have done on their own.  Colin Freeman (Telegraph of London) observed Saturday:
If a prisoner exchange was done, though, it was a high price to pay, particularly for the Americans, who believed that Khazali brothers's militant group, the League of the Righteous, was involved in the Kerbala attack. Not long after Moore and Qais al Khazali were released, I spoke to Vanessa Chism, the stepmother of one of the murdered soldiers, Specialist Johnathan Bryan Chism. While she didn't object to a prisoner swap in principle, she lamented the prospect of not getting justice for her stepson.
"We were informed that this was going to happen, and while personally we would like the people who did this to our child to be punished, they will have to live with what they did," she said. "But if some good came out of it, by the release of that British man, then I am fine with that."
It wasn't just Westerners, though, who lost their chance for a day in court. The League is also believed to have been behind the abduction of 30 Iraqi Red Crescent workers in Baghdad in 2006, most of whose fate remains unknown. When I was last in Baghdad, the family of one of the workers told me that they felt that they too should have been consulted over any prisoner swap. They argued that as part of any deal, the League should have been made to hand over some of its Iraqi hostages as well as Mr Moore – or at least say where the bodies lay.
Iraq's homegrown League of Righteous with the help of Lebanese terrorist Ali Musa Daqduq are believed by the US government to have been behind the murders of 5 US soldiers.

The White House has never had to explain why they negotiated with a terrorist group, let alone why they released it's leader, it's leader's brother and other high ranking members.  No one went to the American people and said, "Look we have the killers of the 5 Americans in custody.  But there are four dead British security guards and one IT hostage we think is alive.  We're thinking of releasing these terrorists, in fact, we're in talks with them, so that the corpses and maybe the one hostage can be released.  Does that sound like justice?  Because that's what we want to do."

It's that crap that has so many in the military and who are veterans feeling betrayed by the White House.  And don't get them started on the press that has refused to press on this issue.  The official US public position is: We do not negotiate with terrorists.  Yet Barack did just that.  Not because some mythical bomb would go off in 24 hours.  Not because the League of Righteous was a threat to the American people.
Dropping back to July 9, 2011 when the League told Barack the deal was off:
Al Mada reports they have issued a statement where they savage the US government for not honoring -- and quickly honoring -- the agreement made with them. As a result, they say Alan McMenemy will not be released.
Peter Moore, the only one released alive, was a computer tech working in Iraq. Four British bodyguards were protecting him. The bodyguards were McMenemy, Jason Swindlehurst, Alec MacLachlan and Jason Cresswell. The families of the four have continued to publicly request that Alan McMenemy be released.
They [Leauge of Righteous] condemn the "procrastionation" of the US government after the deal was made and state that a promise was also broken when "US forces did not stop attacks" -- apparently Barack made very grand promises -- so now Alan McMenemy will not be released. The statement is credited to Akram al-Ka'bi.
What the statement really does is demonstrate what many condemned in 2009: The US government, the administration, entered into an agreement that did not benefit the US or Iraq. They freed known killers from prison. Killers of Iraqis, killers of American citizens. There was nothing to be gained by that act for Iraq or the US. At some point, history will ask how Barack Obama thought he was fulfilling his duties of commander in chief by making such an ignorant move?
Alan McMenemy's corpse was finally released and sent back to England where his loved one could hold a proper funeral for him.

Barack has never had to answer for the deal he made with the League of Righteous.  Outside of military and veterans circles, the issue is never raised when we speak.  College students we speak to usually don't know about it.  Not because they're uninformed but because the press has really refused to cover this story.  From the June 9, 2009 snapshot:

This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."

After Barack made the deal with the League of Righteous (and after they mocked him publicly and repeatedly in the Iraqi press after they were released), the US still had Ali Musa Daqduq in custody.

And many senators were calling for Daqduq to be brought to the United States and tried.  Instead, in 2011, the White House turned him over to Iraq and received 'promises' regarding Daqduq's fate.

'Promises" turned out not be all that.  As noted in Friday's snapshot, " Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports that the rumors Ali Musa Daqduq had been released from Iraqi custody are true (see Wednesday's snapshot).  It's a huge embarrassment for the White House.  Victoria Nuland, State Dept spokesperson, was asked about it in today's press briefing.Michael R. Gordon (New York Times) reported Friday:

In a phone call on Tuesday, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. told the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, that the United States believed that Mr. Daqduq should be held accountable for his actions and that Iraq should explore all legal options toward this end, an American official said. Robert S. Beecroft, the United States ambassador in Baghdad, made a similar appeal to Mr. Maliki that day. But Mr. Maliki told Mr. Biden that Iraq had run out of legal options to hold Mr. Daqduq, who this year had been ordered released by an Iraqi court.
Susan Crabtree (Washington Times) notes of that phone conversation between Joe Biden and Nouri al-Maliki, "The Whie House previously released a read-out of Mr. Biden's call with Mr. al-Mliki Tuesday that contained no mention of Mr. Daqduq."
Right wing commentator Max Boot noted at Commentary, "The fact that he [Daqduq] was set free anyway is hardly a sign of Maliki's respect for the rule of law.  It is a sign of how little influence the U.S. now wields in Iraq and how much influence Iran now has."
As we've pointed out before, Daqduq was found innocent by an Iraqi court.  The US government then complained so he was, in effect, retried.  That went over and above what should have been done. Iraq is a struggling whatever it is right now.  And if it's ever going to be a democracy, rule of law has to be in effect.  There are many cases -- criminal cases -- in the US where the guilty walks.  That's part of the process of having a functioning justice system.  Some will walk, some will luck out. In Iraq, all that could be done was done.  The verdict was not guilty.  That was it for the Iraqi courts.  It was wrong of the US government to attempt to get another trial (in the US, we'd call that double jeopardy -- trying someone for the same crime twice).  Extradtion requests?  No problem on that.  But throwing a fit because you didn't like the verdict?
Max Boot's arguing that setting Daqduq free was less about rule of law and more about ties to Iran.  I honestly believe he's probably right.  But I also believe that if Nouri al-Maliki had not released Daqduq (to the US or, as Nouri did, to go free), this would have shown arrogance and disrespect for the law.  I consider Michael Rubin to be even further to the right of Max Boot.  He's a leading neocon which might seem trendy if this were 2002.  The neocons (called out in Peggy Noonan's 1990 biography What I Saw at the Revolution: A Political Life in the Reagan Era) -- Pushed?  It's such a mild word.  Tricked? Lets Bully Boy Bush and the others off.  They cheerleaded and demanded the Iraq War.  Then, when they got it, they didn't have the spine to stand up and say, "Yeah, we screwed up big time.  Boy, were we wrong!"  Not about WMD -- they knew that was lie.  They were wrong about how this illegal war would lead to peace and stability in Iraq.  At any rate, Michael Rubin argued at Commentary yesterday:
Rather than wring hands with outrage at Maliki -- any Iraqi prime minister in the same position would likely make the same decision, even Ayad Allawi -- the question that the American audience and someone in Congress should ask is why, if the United States wanted to try Daqduq for terrorism and murder, they would not just keep him in the first place. That is certainly a quip I heard from Maliki's inner circle last month in Baghdad. State Department and Pentagon lawyers might fall over themselves talking about the letter of law and process, but by doing so they lost track of the greater American interest for an artificial and debatable intellectual point.
And, as Michael R. Gordon notes in his New York Times article, Daqduq was captured by British forces in March 2007 and quickly handed over to US forces which imprisoned him until December 2011.  (In 2008, Gordon reported US forces captured Daqduq in March 2007, FYI.)  The US could have tried him in Iraq, in the US or even in Guantanamo (I do not support Guantanamo being open -- but Barack's the one who promised to close it and didn't -- having kept it open, it was an option for Daqduq).  Michael Gordon's latest book with Bernard E. Trainor is The Endgame: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Iraq, from George W. Bush to Barack ObamaJulian E. Barnes (Wall St. Journal) reminds that when the White House announced their plan to hand Daqduq over to Iraq, many members of Congress objected before the transfer took place, "Ms. [Senator Kelly] Ayotte and 18 other Senators called on U.S. officials not to hand him over to Iraq, but the Iraqi government insisted on taking him into custody." 


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