Saturday, June 01, 2013

Bad reviews come rolling in






Jason Ditz ( offers this look at the month's violence:’s own daily round-ups from Margaret Griffis tracked Iraq violence counts, and came up with 1,077 dead in the month of May, and 2,258 others wounded. Such a level has not been seen since the last sectarian civil war in Iraq in early 2008.
Perhaps most troubling is that the toll wasn’t a straight line throughout the month, and that much of the violence came in the second half of May. 

Over a thousand in May?  That's certainly a surprise to some people.  Alex Thomson (Channel 4) reports on new poll of the British that asked them how many people died in Iraq.  Here's a summary of the polling results:

  • Two-thirds (66 per cent) of the public estimate that 20,000 or fewer civilians and combatants have died as a consequence of the war in Iraq since 2003.
  • One in 10 (10 per cent) think that between 100,000 and 500,000 have died and one in 20 (6 per cent) think that more than 500,000 have died.
  • According to public estimates, the mean number of deaths in Iraq since the invasion is 189,530.
  • Women in Britain are more likely to underestimate the number of deaths in Iraq since the invasion than men. Half (53 per cent) of women think 5,000 or fewer deaths have occurred since the invasion compared to one-third (35 per cent) of men.
Perhaps that last figure is the most startling – a majority of women and more than a third of men polled say fewer than 5,000 deaths have occurred.

Thursday, May 23rd, I dictated (the Iraq snapshots are dictated), "Amnesty International's State of the World report was released today.  We will cover it tomorrow."  We did not cover it the next day.  A number of things, including the Associated Press' Matthew Lee's strong questioning of the State Dept, grabbed my focus.  My apologies.  In the Iraq section, the opening includes this -- remember this is the description of a government the US props up, funds and arms:

Thousands of people were detained; hundreds were sentenced to death or prison terms, many after unfair trials and on terrorism-related charges.  Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained rife and were committed with impunity.  At least 129 people were executed, including at least three women.  Armed groups opposed to the government continued to commit gross human rights abuses, killing hundreds of civilians in suicide and other bomb attacks.  Harassment, intimidation and violence against journalists and media workers continued to be reported.

After I missed noting the report last Friday, a number of e-mails speculated I was ignoring the report because of current problems with Amnesty.  When possible, the last four years, we've noted Amnesty UK because a friend with the UK chapter is someone I speak to regularly so it's very easy, in the course of our conversation, for me to get a heads up about Iraq.  But we haven't dropped Amnesty International's US chapter.  I understand why people would wonder and I heard the radio report this week about the woman in charge of Amnesty US -- thing is, she stepped down from that post back in January.  When you make a dumb mistake like that, SF, you make it very easy for every thing else you say to be dismissed.  Once upon a time, we could pick and choose with regards to Iraq.  That's not possible anymore.  We'll even note Commentary and other conservative sources -- with links -- these days.  Yes, it's usually to disagree with them but once upon a time, we didn't note them at all.

Amnesty International has never been the ideal that so many wished it had become.  The outrage being expressed currently is, to me, laughable.  Francis A. Boyle can and has written and talked about Amnesty.  His criticism has been serious criticism.  A lot of what's going on right now isn't serious.  It's conjecture and it's Hillary hatred (the woman who stepped down in January had worked under Hillary Clinton).  I don't mind conjecture.  I do mind it when conjecture is presented as established fact.  A number of voices on the radical left give the radical left a bad name by repeatedly insisting conjecture is fact.  They are largely attacking Amnesty because of Bradley Manning.  I consider Bradley a political prisoner.  Amnesty currently has not made that call.  Is that fair?  Actually, by Amnesty standards, it is.  By the standards in the 70s, they're being true to their guidelines.  Amnesty has not spoken to Bradley and cannot speak to him.  His attorney is an ego maniac -- yeah, I said it -- who doesn't know what he's doing and that has impacted the coverage.  (He refused to give interviews -- I was at his little presentation when he bragged about that.  What an idiot.  When your client can't speak to the world, when he's gagged, you do every interview you can to humanize him.)  How is Amnesty supposed to determine he's a political prisoner?

If they declare him one and he reveals something different in his testimony at the court-martial, they'll look too eager to label people "political prisoners."  Bradley is one person.  Amnesty's ability to shine a light on those in need is a great power -- it's why some of his supporters are attacking Amnesty for not labeling him a political prisoner.  But that ability is lessened when a non-political prisoner is wrongly labeled by them.

They've been unable to interview him, his attorney is a joke (civilian attorney), what's been presented to the court as the foundation of an argument created an uproar among his supporters but could have laid the groundwork for declaring him a political prisoner (but were Amnesty to now do so on the basis of gender issues, they would be attacked for that by some of Bradley's supporters).  He gave a statement in court.  That's all anyone has to go by.

And it appears he's going to plead guilty in some form or manner to partial or full charges.

If you think back to 'reporter' Sarah Olson, it's actually similar.  We supported Lt Ehren Watada (the first officer to publicly refuse to serve in the Iraq War).  Olson was among the journalists who interviewed him.  The military wanted to call her as a witness for the prosecution.

And Sarah distracted from the story from that moment on.  And all of her supporters were as loud as they were stupid.  We didn't support Sarah.  We couldn't.  I noted repeatedly that if she would say, "I'm not going to testify," we could support her.  We supported Judith Miller's right to refuse to answer questions about her sources.  If Sarah had refused, I would have led every snapshot addressing the issues involved.  But regardless of the outlet and the interviewer, she refused to say what she was going to do.  And she was all over the place getting publicity.  In the meantime, Ehren had stated what he was going to do.  And his story was lost as Sarah sucked up all the media oxygen.  (And then, in the end, when Ehren saved her cry baby ass, she 'rewarded' him by giving an interview shortly after where she trashed him.)

I can't defend her if she can't discuss her "strategy" (her term).  By the same token, Amnesty can't call Bradley a political prisoner.  Is he going to plead guilty in part or in full?  No one knows (but it looks that way).  Bradley needs to do what he thinks is right and we've stated that all along.  That mean if he gets offered a deal that works, he should grab it if he can live with it.  But he could issue statements through his attorney that would assist Amnesty in labeling him a political prisoner.  That's not happened.  (Monday on NPR's Here and Now, Slate's Emily Bazelon will be a guest to discuss the issues involved in Bradley's court-martial.)

I wish Amnesty would declare Lynne Stewart a political prisoner and I've lobbied for that to friends with Amnesty.  We don't always get what we want.  I haven't attacked them for not labeling Lynne a political prisoner (and I label Lynne one hear whenever I write about her).  Amnesty International is an organization, it's not pizza delivery -- you can't just place an order and expect to get what you want.

Does Amnesty have value?  Yes.  And if you doubt it, let's drop back to yesterday's snapshot:

The US State Dept today issued "Country Reports on Terrorism 2012."  The annual report focuses on terrorism or 'terrorism' around the world.  The Iraq section includes these claims:

We then included some of the claims and then I noted:

We're not going to spend a lot of time on the above because, first of all, it's almost June 2013.  Iraq's far too fluid for a look at 2012 violence to offer a great deal of insight.  Second of all, it's a dishonest report.  When you're praising the ability to 'secure' the Arab League Summit and you're not noting that Baghdad shut down the week before the Summit? You're not being honest.  If you can shut down Baghdad for the week before and the week of a Summit, it's not a surprise that there's no violence in Baghdad.  Was it worth it to the Iraqi people?  Was it worth it to them for all that money for security (and painting and prettying Baghdad) and for the inconvenience of the city shutting down for two weeks?  Probably not.  But that's not even considered in the report which fails to note any of the details of the Arab League Summit -- which was a huge failure and avoided by the leaders of all the major countries in the region.  So we'll note the ridiculous claims but we're not going to focus on them.  And the 'international' meet-ups in Baghdad continue to be a laugh.

If Amnesty is nothing but a cheap megaphone of the State Dept, then surely this report that they released Thursday of last week will track with the State Dept report released this week, right?

So let's see what it says about the Arab League Summit:

In March, the League of Arab States held its summit meeting in Baghdad for the first time since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.  Prior to the meeting, the security forces carried out mass arrests in Baghdad, apparently as a "preventive" measure.

I'd forgotten about that, the mass arrests.  I don't just mean that it slipped my mind when I was dictating the snapshot yesterday, I mean, until I read the Amnesty report today, I had forgotten about it.  Amnesty didn't forget and they didn't was on the way the State Dept did.  Know what else they noted:

Young people, particularly those seen locally as nonconformists, were subject to a campaign of intimidation after flyers and signs targeting them appeared in the Baghdad neighbourhoods of Sadr City, al-Hababiya and Hay al-'Amal in February. Those targeted included youths suspected of homosexual conduct and those seen as pursuing an alternative lifestyle because of their distinctive hairstyles, clothes or musical tastes.

You know who didn't note that in their recent report?  The US State Dept.

There's no better example of terrorism than groups who are targeted because of who they are.  That's the Jews during WWII, it's the Armenians during the Turkish genocide, it's gays and lesbians (or people suspected of being gay or lesbian) in oppressive societies.

"B-b-b-but, that's your definition of terrorism and the State Dept was focusing on the Iraqi government."  No.  Read through all of what they wrote and the lists of violence they compiled.  It's 'terrorism' when they don't have to take a stand.  Also grasp that the targeting was done by the government. The Ministry of the Interior, specifically.  (That's the police ministry, by the way.)  They had put out a paper about the Emo, demonizing them.   March 5th, we noted:

In the meantime, the attack on Emo youth or suspected Emo youth in Iraq continues. Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports that those with longish hair, suspected of being Emo are being threatened and killed. Grace notes that there are lists of Emo youth (or accused of being Emo youth) publicly displayed in Sadr City, Shula and Kadhimiya with the promise that, one by one, each will be killed. An unnamed official in the Sadr City municipal court states that people have, on their cell phones, the names of young people to "liquidate" because they are Emo. This is beyond insanity and what happens when the US government turns a country over to thugs. And where is Nouri calling this out? Oh, that's right, he's not a leader. Well where's the United Nations? A segment of Iraqi youth is being targeted for "liquidation." That's pretty disturbing. Note the silence.

Four days later, March 9, 2012, Dan Littauer (Gay Star News) reported:

The report from the local LGBTQ activist indicates that Jaish Al-Mahdi (Mahdi Army) and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous) are at least partially responsible for the murders.
An anonymous official in Sadr city’s municipal council affirmed that some people are recruited by extremist armed militias who carry lists stored in their phones with the names of emo youths and LGBTQ people to be murdered.
It has also emerged that some officials are actually behind the killings.
Colonel Mushtaq Taleb Muhammadawi, director of the community police of the Iraqi Interior Ministry, stated on 6 February that they had observed the so-called Satanists and emos. He added that the police have an official approval to eliminate emo people because of their ‘notorious effects’ on the community.
The colonel declared to Iraq News Network that: ‘Research and reports on the emo phenomenon has been conducted and shared with the Ministry of Interior which officially approves the measures to eliminate them.
‘The Ministries of Education and Interior are taking this issue seriously and we have an action plan to “eradicate them”. I will be leading the project myself and we have the necessary permits to access all schools in the capital,’ added the colonel, thus possibly indicating at the very least Iraqi state complicity with the massacres.

The Ministry of the Interior tried to deny involvement but got caught in their lie by Al Mada which printed the handout the ministry passed out during school presentations calling for death of the Emo. Scott Lang's wrote a column for the Guardian that addressed this:

Iraq's brutal interior ministry issued two statements in February. The first announced official approval to "eliminate" the "satanists". The second, on 29 February, proclaimed a "campaign" to start with a crackdown on stores selling emo fashion. The loaded language suggests, at a minimum, that the ministry incited violence. It's highly possible that some police, in a force riddled with militia members, participated in the murders.

That's not terrorism?  If you don't think that's terrorism, I think there's something seriously wrong with you.  Children were targeted for death and other children were encouraged to kill them -- encouraged by the Ministry of the Interior.  Shame on the US State Dept for turning a blind eye to it in their supposed 2012 report.  They should be ashamed of themselves.  Amnesty's far from perfect and I agree with Francis A. Boyle's criticism of Amnesty (which is much harsher than "they didn't label my hero a political prisoner!).  But to call them just a mouth for western government's foreign policy is selling them short. 

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