Fri, 02 Oct 2009 14:03:58 -0500
Special Briefing by Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer and Ambassador at-Large for War Crimes Issues Stephen Rapp
Daily Press Briefing Room
October 2, 2009
MR. CROWLEY: A hale and hearty bunch that we have here on a Friday morning. Good morning, and welcome to the Department of State. Several of you were with the Secretary of State during her trip to Africa and the important visit that she made to Goma on that trip, and then you’ve heard us this week here at the State Department express our concern about the violence in Conakry. And in both cases, you’re seeing the impact that conflicts have, particularly on women and girls, the most vulnerable parts of our global population.
This is a crucial priority for the Department, for Secretary Clinton. And you’ve had some significant activity this week in the intervention that the Secretary had in the United Nations, and we had follow-on testimony yesterday, and we thought we’d bring the two individuals who were up on the Hill yesterday down just to keep a focus on the issue of conflict and the impact that it has on women and the growing challenge of rape as a weapon of war in our world.
So this morning, we have Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer and Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues Steve Rapp, who are going to just give you an update on what we’re doing here at the Department. I think Melanne will start off the briefing.
AMBASSADOR VERVEER: Good morning. This past Wednesday, Secretary Clinton spoke on behalf of the United States-sponsored resolution in the Security Council, and yesterday, as P.J. just mentioned, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a groundbreaking hearing on the far-reaching global consequences of violence against women. And Ambassador Rapp and I testified at that hearing yesterday.
I just want to put the Secretary’s action at the UN in some context. Security Council Resolution 1888, which was adopted unanimously on Wednesday, strengthens existing UN tools to address sexual violence as a tactic of war. Women are being attacked as part of a deliberate and coordinated strategy in Sudan, DRC, Burma, as they have been elsewhere. The attackers viciously target women and children, who are rarely responsible for initiating the armed conflicts, because it works. Large populations become not only displaced, but destabilized. Women and girls in the DRC, for example, have been brutalized as rapes are perpetrated by security forces and rebel groups alike, and have become pervasive throughout society. Some 1,100 rapes are being reported each month in the DRC’s eastern provinces.
The UN established a clear link between maintaining international peace and security, and preventing and responding to sexual violence used as a weapon in armed conflict. The international community has made some progress. For example, many peacekeeping mandates – Chad, DRC, Sudan – include a request for strengthened efforts to prevent and respond to sexual violence. However, much more needs to be done.
Resolution 1888 now calls for the appointment of a special representative of the Secretary General to lead, coordinate, and advance efforts to end sexual violence in armed conflicts. It also requests that the Secretary General identify and deploy a team of experts to conflict situations where sexual violence is likely to occur in order to help governments strengthen the rule of law, improve accountability and impunity, which are very, very, very big problems. Peacekeeping forces should be focused on protecting women and girls while holding accountable those who commit rape and other forms of sexual violence.
So that’s the context in which the resolution was put forward and adopted unanimously, and we are looking forward to the positive impacts from that. And I will now turn to Ambassador Rapp to expand on this.
AMBASSADOR RAPP: Thank you very much, Ambassador. Very good to be here, first appearance here as having become War Crimes Ambassador about four weeks ago. Yesterday in our testimony, I spoke specifically about the legal tools that are available to attack this problem and what’s been developed in the last decade at the international courts, and I was able to speak of my own experience both as leading prosecution teams at the Rwanda tribunal and as chief prosecutor of the special court for Sierra Leone, the court that has convicted many people in Sierra Leone and its trials there, and is also trying Charles Taylor at The Hague.
As we saw in Rwanda, while 800,000 people were being murdered in 100 days, that crime of murder and genocide was accompanied by premeditated mass sexual violence against Tutsi women and girls. In the Sierra Leone conflict, where we had thousands – the famous mutilations, the long-sleeve/short-sleeves, incredibly brutal act – we had tens of thousands of murders, and we literally had hundreds of thousands of cases of sexual violence. And the widespread and systematic nature of the rape there showed that the sexual violence was not an isolated conduct by out-of-control combatants – sort of the old view of what sex in combat, sex in war was about – but it instead was the dominant tactic for terrorizing, punishing and gaining power over the population, and in entirely too many conflict zones.
And we’re talking also, of course, now about the Democratic Republic of Congo where it’s estimated that there are as many as 40 rapes a day in the small eastern Congo province of South Kivu. It is far more dangerous to be a civilian woman than it is to be a soldier. And we need to respond to this problem. It has been done in the past through these international and mixed accords, like the Sierra Leone accord.
But what we’re very excited about was the unanimous adoption of the resolution which we sponsored, Security Council Resolution 1888, which calls for the SRSG, as Ambassador Verveer mentioned, but also establishes this panel of experts to go into these situations and work on developing the restoration of the rule of law and accountability, and then to come back and to report on what needs to be done, because frankly, we need a stronger response in eastern Congo than presently is there.
There is and there are prosecutions in military courts that have resulted in some convictions. It’s possible to achieve results in the national system, but not sufficient results. And as the Secretary said in her statement after the passage of Security Council Resolution 1888 on Tuesday, we need to look at other alternatives, including mixed tribunals or international involvement, to provide accountability there, because the message clearly needs to be sent that this – that these crimes can’t be tolerated.
Ambassador Verveer has talked about the ways in which sexual violence destroys the very fabric of society, breaks down the ties that hold communities together, and it is exactly because of the fact that it does that, that it is used as a tool in these conflicts to intimidate, humiliate, destroy, captive in enemy populations, and it’s a tactic that the world cannot tolerate. And we intend to exercise our leadership, as we showed this week in the Security Council, to make sure that those responsible are brought to account.
QUESTION: Can I ask a couple things about – first, about 1888 and then what the U.S. can do specifically? One, is there any – is there anyone in mind, a candidate in mind, to be this special envoy, or even to be part of this team of experts?
AMBASSADOR RAPP: The – understand this is an appointment by the Secretary General, and we’ll be certainly weighing in, I’m sure, in terms of the candidates.
QUESTION: Well, does the U.S. have a preferred candidate?
AMBASSADOR VERVEER: We don’t have a preferred candidate, but there are several recommendations that are being discussed and put forward. But obviously, as Steve said, this is going to be the Secretary General’s decision. But there are excellent candidates. And there’s a pool of experts ready to be deployed in terms of the expert panel.
AMBASSADOR RAPP: We’re not looking. As I understand it, this is not a situation of now going out and trying to find people and hire them to be part of this team. It’s to draw on the expertise that is there, because we really do need to hit the ground running. And the real value of this process, I think, is it can lead to a multilateral response to the problem, and so we can be working together with other governments to achieve accountability.
QUESTION: Okay. And then, if it has been established that rape is a war crime, which I think it has –
AMBASSADOR RAPP: Sure. I mean, we’ve obtained convictions and –
QUESTION: Yeah. So why is the ICC not the – why is that not the right venue for this kind of thing to be done? And are you at all – you, meaning the United States – at all hamstrung by your non-membership in the ICC, at least in terms of influence?
AMBASSADOR RAPP: Well, first of all, keep in mind that it is indeed within the jurisdiction of the ICC to deal with situations like those in the DRC. But there can only be a hand – a relatively handful of cases brought in any place. And in the principle of the ICC is that – the preference is the cases be brought at the national level. And the ICC only becomes involved with high-level individuals, and only those cases that the state doesn’t have the capacity or the will to handle itself. In the DRC, the ICC has indicted four individuals, three of whom are now in custody. Thomas Lubanga is on trial. It’s part of the allegations and the evidence that’s presented against him that he was involved in sexual violence, though the case deals with child soldiers.
There are two other cases that are coming up for trial very soon – Katanga and Ngudjolo, both involved in the DRC and accused of the crime of sexual violence. And there is a fourth case of an individual, Bosco Ntaganda, who is still at large.
In terms of our policy with the ICC, that’s under review in our government. We’re actively involved in that. We are beginning – certainly, in the second term of President Bush, the United States began to take, I think, an approach of greater cooperation with the ICC. As you recall, we didn’t oppose the referral of the Darfur situation. And both the last administration and this have said that the Darfur situation to the ICC have opposed any effort to defer the prosecutor’s investigation and indictment there that does involve allegations of sexual violence against individuals in Darfur. We’ll see in the future, whether it’s possible, as we develop our policy, that we can work constructively with the ICC on cases in other places where it has jurisdiction.
But that said, if it indicts four or five people in the Congo, that alone won’t solve the problem. There are all these mid-level commanders and others whose units are committing these acts of gender violence. There are the men themselves that are responsible for those acts. That takes a major push within the national system and with international assistance if you’re really going to have accountability. It needs to be a continuum. And there’s no problem with us, at the moment, consistent with the work of the ICC, working at that level to develop a response.
QUESTION: You mentioned Sudan and Darfur, but didn’t the Bush Administration also cooperate with the ICC and the LRA?
AMBASSADOR RAPP: Well, obviously the situation – as you know, the American law, the American Servicemen’s Protection Act, permits cooperation with the ICC in cases involving the specific individuals – there are, of course, people listed there like Milosevic and Usama bin Ladin – but anyone that’s been alleged to have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and it is possible for us to collaborate in those cases.
I can’t speak to exactly what the Bush Administration did in regard to the LRA, the Kony case. But I do know that, obviously, when we’re talking about the people that have been indicted by the ICC in Uganda, the LRA, and we’re talking about those that – indicted in the DRC, we want to see those people brought to justice, and we want to see a fair trial. But we want to see, if they’re guilty of these defenses, that they’re imprisoned. And so it’s very much our policy that the ICC succeed in those cases. To the extent of how much we can cooperate to bring that about, that’s the matter that’s presently under review.
AMBASSADOR VERVEER: Can I just add a point to what Steve said? In terms of needing to have a more robust national response to prosecutions – and that’s one of the things 1888 will do, hopefully, is provide, through the experts and others, a strengthening of what’s currently available in countries to potentially explore the possibility of mixed chambers to deal with some of these issues. We are supporting, successfully, rule of law projects in eastern Congo. Some prosecutions have come out of that, but most of them are low-level operatives. Much more needs to be done.
As you will recall, the Secretary raised with President Kabila the issue of those five notorious commanders who have been implicated in rape. And so what we need is a system. Obviously, one system has just been discussed, but we need other tools available within countries to begin to really address this.
QUESTION: Excuse me. Can you address the question of what you can do – not on the legal front, which you’re addressing – but more at the systemic social, cultural front to stop this before it starts, before the crimes are committed?
AMBASSADOR VERVEER: Well, obviously, these are deeply entrenched in some ways. Much of the discussion yesterday in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee went to that point. There have to be efforts made across the board. Certainly, at its root, the kind of violence that is pervasive around the world against women has to do with their very low status, so efforts ranging both from growing their economic possibilities, as well as education, which clearly needs to be addressed and is fundamental across the board.
I mentioned yesterday in testimony about the case of the woman in Pakistan, who several years ago was gang raped. She was supposed to have killed herself because of the dishonor she brought to her family because of what others had done to her. She went on to take a very small settlement she got in a court proceeding to build two schools and she said – one for boys, one for girls, enrolled herself in the school for girls – and she said, “Nothing will change in my village until there is education.”
So certainly, there have to be efforts to go at the root causes. But beyond that, we really need to engage. We need to engage religious leaders, which is being done, for example, in places like Afghanistan where the mullahs are now raising this issue of violence in the Friday services, which is very important. We need to engage men more broadly in addressing this problem. And we need political will. Leaders have really got to confront that this is a serious violation of human rights. It is criminal behavior; it is not cultural behavior. We’ve seen many laws passed in the last several years, but regrettably, many of those laws have neither been implemented nor enforced. So we have a way to go, but there are obviously many, many steps that have to be taken.
QUESTION: I have a question about this panel of experts that you envision taking place. Who – what types of people would be – would these experts be, and what would their mission be on the ground? How quickly would you deploy them? Are they there to begin efforts to prosecute people who are already in custody? Are they there to educate people about the fact that this is considered a war crime? What do you see them doing? And what would be the American position about how we measure whether or not that’s been successful?
AMBASSADOR RAPP: Well – and understand we’re engaging in our own assessments here in terms of what we can do, the American Government, and through AID and the sorts of things that the Secretary was talking about in Goma.
But this is a multilateral effort, and it will look to experts on rule of law, look to medical experts, people that know about security and detention and witness protection. Those sorts of individuals will go out, and to some extent, it will also involve an assessment of what – of where the problems are in the domestic system and the ways to fix them. That then would lead to an assessment that I think would inform governments, and then jointly, assisting processes in the DRC and elsewhere to establish accountability.
But as we recognize, you can have a very good court, you can have very confident judges and prosecutors, but if the witnesses won’t come because they’re intimidated or killed on their way; if you convict people and they escape, which has sometimes happened in the DRC, and they go back and harass and commit the crimes again, you don’t solve the problem.
So it’s important, as I think justice is, that it’s part of an overall problem, and we just want to begin to find ways to impact this thing across the board.
QUESTION: Just from your experiences with the Sierra Leone case, would this type of panel of experts – what could they have done in that situation, and where would you see them doing – what would they do specifically right now and where?
AMBASSADOR RAPP: Well, keep in mind – I mean, many of these courts were preceded by panels or experts that came in and talked about what the problems were and what needed to be done. Then once they come back, it’ll be necessary to determine whether, for instance, what happened in Sierra Leone occurred, where there was then a partnership between the government and the United Nations to establish a court that would include international judges and prosecutors, but also include national people.
It may be that that not – need not be done through a United Nations agreement with the government. It could be done by various countries working together with the Congolese Government to establish, say, a mixed tribunal, where lots of Congolese people could be involved, but also international judges and lawyers and prosecutors and police and security officials could be seconded or detailed in there to assist the process. We want to do it in a cost-effective way.
One of the things you gain with a mixed tribunal – you gain international expertise, but you also gain a measure of independence. And one of the problems that we’ve all had to confront in these conflict zones – for instance, in Sierra Leone where we had cases against people that were allied with the government, is that it’s sometimes difficult for national assistance to do those cases. If you bring in international players, you can provide a greater level of independence and less of a perception, for instance, of victor’s justice.
And so that’s one of the options here. But keep in mind whenever you bring internationals in, there’s going to come a day when they leave, and you don’t want to – everything to go back the way it was. And that’s why it’s so important to partner with the local community to transfer the skills, to find in the legal tradition the talent and everything that exists, as I’ve seen in Africa, everywhere, the strengths that you can build on that would allow you to leave a legacy that will prevent these problems from happening again.
QUESTION: Is there – just technically, there are two mixed tribunals right now, right – Sierra Leone and Cambodia?
AMBASSADOR RAPP: Well, keep in mind --
QUESTION: Or are there more?
AMBASSADOR RAPP: -- the one that’s the more interesting model of it, sort of a follow-on from the Yugoslavia tribunal, is the state court in Bosnia, which the war crimes chamber has had national – an international prosecutor and a national prosecutor, and also mixed judges, which started out being a majority of international judges and have gone to a minority, and soon, the international judges will be phased out.
There are different models that have been followed. Sierra Leone had a majority all the time of internationals. Cambodia, with a little more controversially, has only a minority of internationals, but requires a super-majority to provide for the level of independence. Different approaches can be worked out, but what has to be borne in mind is that there’s a particular legal tradition here, a continental civil law system; whatever is done needs to be consistent with the procedure and the understanding of how law develops there. It’s not us to go in and tell them what to do; it’s for us to go in there and work with them to strengthen their system. And sometimes, the injection of internationals can do that.
We’re not saying that’s what needs to – what will be done here, but I think it’s one of the things that the Secretary talked about, one of the things that the human rights community has talked about. And it looks like it may be something appropriate, given questions of how independent this will be and whether there are those that have been, say, fighting on the government side that may also be implicated in these crimes.
QUESTION: Okay. And then just one – a final one on logistic or technically. On the ICTR, what’s the – is there any update on its status in terms of shutting down?
AMBASSADOR RAPP: Well, both the ICTR and ICTY are in completion strategy, originally proposed to complete their trials in 2008 and their appeals in 2010. It – that’s --
QUESTION: Well, but (inaudible) from the last – from the U.S. side, I mean, the last administration wanted at least the ICTR to wrap up quickly.
AMBASSADOR RAPP: Right. Well, understand we’re working to make sure that they finish the work of the court. The ICTR still has a dozen fugitives. The ICTY has two much more famous fugitives, Mladic and Hadzic – but they have 12. They’ve basically indicated that they’re prepared to transfer most of those cases to national jurisdictions but have had trouble transferring them to Rwanda, and are working to try to develop assurances of fair trial and the availability of witnesses and defense and independence if cases are transferred to Rwanda. It’s that difficult issue of how to deal with those fugitives.
Meanwhile, they have a number of very important cases that are very close to judgment where trials have been completed, and they’ll soon be (inaudible) in about a half a dozen cases that are yet to commence. It looks like it’s a situation where most of their – they’ll probably be finishing their trials in 2010 and their appeals thereafter. Obviously --
QUESTION: And that’s okay with this Administration?
AMBASSADOR RAPP: Well, there – we have supported a reasonable completion strategy and want to make sure that they complete their work and achieve accountability there, and we’ve supported budgets that allow for a longer period of this phase-out.
MR. CROWLEY: Dave from VOA.
QUESTION: Yeah. P.J. mentioned in his introduction the incidents in Guinea earlier this week, widely reported that there was a sexual component to some – to these assaults. And I’m just wondering whether Guinea can expect anything more than the rhetoric that the State Department put out earlier this week about those incidents as an action – taking action on that.
AMBASSADOR RAPP: Well, obviously, I mean, the Guinea situation remains quite unsettled in terms of the political resolution and the election and the involvement of Dadis Camara in the electoral process, which we oppose. It’s necessary that there be a fair election that occurs. But the issue of accountability still has to be faced.
After the violence that occurred in Guinea while President Conte was still in power, I know our French allies assisted in providing for a commission of inquiry that would investigate what was then, to some extent, similar acts of scores or hundreds of individuals killed, allegations of sexual violence, including allegations of sexual violence in detention. Frankly, that process didn’t go forward because of obstruction of the prior government, and it’s important that as we move toward what we hope will be a democratic resolution of the situation there, that accountability isn’t forgotten.
Because if you don’t hold people to account for these kinds of offenses, they’ll be repeated; this will be a tool, a technique to intimidate the population in order to keep people in power, in order to gain power. And it’s part of my responsibility, I think, is to make sure that we keep the issue of accountability front and center. There can always be an issue of timing; you may not be able to investigate situations when there are riots in the streets, but there will come a time when you will need to deal with that. And you’ll need to deal with the victims and accountability, and we want to make sure that that day does arrive.
AMBASSADOR VERVEER: And let me just add that it is absolutely critical in all of these cases, regardless where they occur, that prosecutions take place as they must in terms of the accountability. Because without that deterrent, we’re not going to see the kind of change that we need to see around the world. So it’s critically important not just that women who are traumatized and physically harmed in significant ways, but are enabled to heal but also understand why they need to cooperate with justice to bring these kinds of cases to justice. And that is one of the issues in DRC, trying to work with women to understand why, given what they’ve been through, which they just want to forget and heal themselves, why it’s really important for them to also cooperate in the system of justice so that these things cannot happen to other people in the future. And that will only be the case to the extent that all the things that have been discussed here in terms of a justice system work their way through, that there is accountability and that the people who perpetrate these crimes are prosecuted for them.
AMBASSADOR RAPP: One of the things that came out of the hearing yesterday that I was quite taken by was a discussion by several of the other witnesses about the need to involve women in the negotiating process. I mean, often it’s soldiers negotiating with soldiers to forget and sweep under the rugs the crimes committed by both sides, and that the involvement of civil society, of women’s groups, having worked in Africa with those groups that are out there, and they exist in Guinea as well – there’s a very active movement for women’s rights and victims’ rights in Guinea – that you include them in this process and insist that their agenda comes to the fore and that that’s not forgotten, because if it is forgotten, you’ll just have another incident like this in the future.
AMBASSADOR VERVEER: And one of the things that’s frequently put on the table in the situations trying to bring some settlement are amnesty, across-the-board amnesty on rape cases, that they not be viewed as significant or prosecutorial in the – in putting the wraps on a conflict in terms of ending the conflict. There will be a lot of discussion in the days ahead about the need to have women engaged more significantly in peace processes and settlements and reconstruction. Peace deals can’t hold unless the community buys into them, and women represent a great part of the needs that need to be determined, need to be dealt with, and their participation is absolutely critical to achieving what these peace settlements are designed to achieve: ending this once and for all in a way that takes the community forward, reconstructs, and brings justice to bear for all the people who have suffered under the circumstances.
AMBASSADOR RAPP: Thank you.
I really think the State Department is doing some important work that is not registering with the press. As C.I. always says, "I can't control what other people focus on but I can use my own time wisely."
I also believe that the important work that I am especially thrilled by comes from the Secretary of State. I really think that Hillary will have left that office having raised awareness of the damge done to girls and women around the world and I think she's the first Secretary of State to spend any significant time on this issue.
|Help Barbra Get To #1|
Having trouble viewing this message? Click here | Add to your address book
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Tuesday, October 2, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, Angelina Jolie urges the world not to forget Iraqi refugees, Cindy Sheehan urges the world to neither forget nor accept these continued wars, Ehren Watada historic struggle results in a victory, and more.
The US military announced: "CAMP VICTORY, Iraq – A Multi-National Corps-Iraq Soldier was killed today in an indirect fire attack on Camp Liberty. Release of the identity of the Soldier is being withheld pending notification of the next of kin. The name of the deceased service member will be announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Web site at http://www.defenselink.mil/. The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is currently under investigation." The announcement brings to 4348 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. Sun Yunlong (Xinhua) adds, "The term 'indirect fire' in the U.S. military statements usually refers to rocket or mortar attack." Iran's Press TV notes (two hours ago) that the US military released this statement today (not Thursday as dated) and they note 127 US service members have died in Iraq so far this year. Chelsea J. Carter (AP) also notes the announcement was made Friday and that AP's count of 238 deaths for the month of September.
In other violence, Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded four people and a Baghdad sticky bombing which wounded two people. In addition, Issa notes an attack on a religious minority, Faraj Khairi Bek who is both a Yazidi prince and Zummar's chief of police. His home was blown up today in Mosul. Issa also notes an attack on a mosque in Nineveh Province which claimed the life of 1 Imam and wounded four people.
This morning on The Diane Rehm Show, Susan Page filled in as guest host and was joined for the second hour by Jonathan S. Landay (McClatchy Newspapers), David Loyn (BBC) and Barbara Slavin (Washington Times).
Susan Page: In Iraq this week, we had the prime minister announce a broad coalition for the elections in January, a little bit of a change in strategy on his part, Jonathan.
Jonathan S. Landay: Absolutely. This is a man who led a party called the Dawa Party, which was a conservative Shi'ite party, aligned with the other Shi'ite parties in Iraq. And what he seems to be doing, what al-Maliki seems to be doing, is trying to harness what is a very uh uh growing disastisfication, discontent with reglious parties in Iraq among many Iraqis who see the religious parties as being part and parcel of the violence that was unleased after the 2003 US interven -- invasion. Uh, he-he calls his new party State of Law bloc, he's casting it as being uh sectarian -- non-sectarian, secular and embracing not just uh Shi'ites but also Sunnis as well as Kurds and other minorities in Iraq. The thing though being, at this point really, it doesn't appear that there are any real major leaders from those other uh uh uh groups uh that have joined his party. Nevertheless he-he himself went up to Kurdistan to try and bring the major Kurdish parties into his coalition. Right now that may not be happening because there's still no agreement on what -- on the future of Kirkuk -- the oil-rich that the Kurds and the Arabs all claim. And-and he's also facing opposition from a conservative Shi'ite bloc that has the backing of many of Iraq's Shi'ite religious leaders.
Susan Page: Meanwhile we heard from General Odierno who's the US commander in Iraq about troop levels. Barbara, what did he say about when more Americans could come home?
Barbara Slavin: Well, he had a pretty optimistic report and one thing also is good. Apparently, civilian casualties are down for Iraq in this month. After a pretty horrific -- rather in September compared to August when there was horrific bombings. That seems to have stopped. At least for now, or at least it is less than it was. So Odierno, is saying he can bring back an additional 4,000 troops by the end of the year that he hadn't expected [C.I. note, as he said to Congress Wednesday and he declared at the Pentagon yesterday this so-called 'addtional troops' was already planned -- it was also already announced.]. There are about 124,000 troops in Iraq right now so that would still bring the US down to about 120,000.
We're stopping there on Barabra and Odierno. Where she's getting her information, I do not know. I was at the hearing and I was even at the press conference. We've reported what Odierno said. I don't make a point to disagree when we do the transcripts but she's getting her information from where? She wasn't present and she's completely heard wrong. Did Odierno give an optimistic view to the US Congress? That's a judgment call. And if you're just going by the prepared statement (prepared by him and the White House) you are correct. But if you were actually at the hearing of the House Armed Forces Committee and you heard the testimony from Odierno, you know the general did issue qualifiers. Of course for the public to know that, it would require the press cover it. There were very few members of the press at the hearing. And that number thinned significantly by 30 minutes into the hearing. I'm not calling Barbara a liar. Nor do I believe she meant to spin Odierno's testimony. But she does not know what he said. And she's as uninformed on that as anyone dependant upon the press because the press did not report on Odierno's testimony. To do that, they would have been required to have been present and if I get in a really nasty mood about this topic, I may start naming the people who had bylines on 'reports' about the hearing but they weren't actually present.
No offense to Barbara Slavin and, repeating, I am not accusing of her lying or attempting to shade or spin the truth. I am stating the press reports she's relying to be informed are inaccurate. Odierno repeatedly stressed that he did have the power to speed up . . . and he did have the power to slow down. Reporters (reporting on the hearing) intentionally lied or just heard what they wanted to. As someone who takes notes throughout any hearing (sometimes just to stay awake), I know what was said. I know his qualifiers, I know when he squirmed, I know his nervous tic when he doesn't want to answer a question fully. And anyone present for the entire hearing -- his first Congressional appearance as the top US commander in Iraq -- would know those things to. However, most of the press corp skipped it and the few that showed thinned out by the first half-hour. (Added: You can stream the entire thing online at the committee website here. I've called a staffer to make sure my impressions weren't me being off the wall. No, his qualifiers were very clear.)
Susan Page: Although 50,000 troops still is a significant presence there.
Barbara Slavin: It is, but you know, most of these people will be trainers, will be sort of working in liason capacity with Iraqis and the Iraqis are very much taking the lead now on -- on policing their own country.
Barbara's second remarks quoted in full? I don't agree with them at all. I'm not going to comment on them. She's entitled to her opinion. But the point prior to that, of cutting off her response, wasn't that I was disagreeing. It was that the observations she was offering were incorrect. They were based on the (limited) press coverage (of the first minutes of the hearing -- often due to the fact that Odierno's opening remarks were distributed to the press). The press coverage was incorrect. I am not going to allow that to appear here without noting it was wrong. I could have been at home, I could be traveling (for fun), anything. Instead, I was -- Kat, Ava, Wally and I were -- in that hearing from the start to the end. We know what happened and we know the press didn't report it accurately. If I had to waste my time, I'm not going to further waste my time by having my already wasted time further wasted by allowing a 'recounting' of events when the summary is completely incorrect. Repeating, I am not calling Barara a liar or stating she was attempting to deceive. I am stating she was wrong and her errors are from the (limited) press coverage.
She, like anyone else, has a right to expect that press coverage is accurate. It wasn't. Kat covered the hearing again last night, noting humorous exchanges -- did anyone but Kat report that Stephen Colbert was mentioned in the hearing? No. Why? Because the (limited) press had long ago left. The same reason that Carol Shea-Porter's questions about contractors -- see yesterday's snapshot -- didn't make the press. (And yesterday's snapshot stated it was October 1st -- correct -- and Monday -- incorrect. That was an error when it was typed.) For more on the hearing, Wednesday's snapshot and Kat's Wednesday post covered it last night. UPI notes that Odierno notes yesterday's press conference and notes that 50,000 by next September, according to Odierno, will result from a judgment call as that time approaches. The spin that many in the press created is not reality. It does do its part to ensure that an already weak peace movement doesn't grow any stronger -- which, after all, is the point.
Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan knows the Iraq War has not ended (despite Barack's promise to end it in 16 months and then in 10 months) and that there is an undeclared war on Pakistan and the war in Afghanistan. Cindy (Cindy's Soapbox) writes:
I know that you are only fulfilling your campaign promises to increase the violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan and I notice that not a significant amount of troops have been withdrawn from Iraq. However, even with your hostile rhetoric and promises to escalate the violence, many people voted for you because they believed you were the peace candidate.
Since the election, you have betrayed the progressive base that gave you victory on many occasions already, but the cause that keeps many of us motivated is the continued carnage in the Middle East. What bothers me even more, especially, is the fact that the so-called anti-war movement has given you a nine-month free pass and thousands of people have died, including hundreds of our own troops.
Since you took office, 125 of our irreplaceable young have been killed in what you called a "dumb war" in Iraq and 223 in what I call the "other dumb war," Afghanistan. I have been waiting for a mother of one of those needlessly killed troops to demand a meeting with you to ask you: for "What Noble Cause?" her child was sacrificed.
No such mother has come forward and since your rhetoric is eerily similar to the Bush regime and you are reportedly considering strategies for Afghanistan before you condemn more than the 21,000 troops you have already condemned, I am requesting that you meet with a contingent of the true Peace Movement that will be assembling outside your house this Monday, October 5th at noon.
Yesterday, Nouri al-Maliki, thug of the occupation and holding the honorary title of Prime Minister, announced that he was putting together his own slate of oddballs and never chosen because this slate would allow him to be prime minister if the slate was successful in elections expected to take place in January. Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) observes that "few" of those on Nouri's slate "are truly national leaders likely to lure major blocs of votes." Mohammad al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) explains, "The announcement, made from a heavily guarded Baghdad hotel and broadcast live on television, ended weeks of speculation over whether Maliki's State of Law bloc would join the Iraqi National Alliance, a more Islamist faction that includes the largest Shiite party and supporters of rebel cleric Muqtada al Sadr." Alsumaria (link has video of the speech) explains, "Al Maliki pursues efforts to join 30 new political entities and parties to 40 other entities and political figures into the State of Law Coalition that gathers prominent figures mainly first deputy speaker Sheikh Khaled Al Attiye and a number of ministers including Oil Minister Hussein Al Shahristani, and ministers of Education, Health, Tourism, Labor, Immigrants, Youth and Sports as well as Parliament affairs." Jamal Hashim (Xinhua) reports on Nouri's speech which used terms such as "historic" -- offering a window into the deep pool of vanity overlooding Nouri's psyche. Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) slaps some cold water on the fantasies, "The prime minister will face tough competition in the Shiite south. He enjoyed a surge in popularity there following a military offensive against Shiite militants in the spring of 2008. Since then, Iraqis have grown frustrated with lagging basic services, such as adequate clean water. Mr. Maliki also has been criticized for recent security lapses, including those related to the August bombings." Ben Lando (Time magazine) offers an overview:
Now, with State of Law, he must go toe-to-toe with the Iraqi National Alliance (INA) which, in the shape-shifting politics of Iraq, is the current manifestation of the coalition that Maliki rode to power in 2006. To stay in charge of Iraq, Maliki must defeat his former coalition allies in what are expected to be tough elections on January 16. [. . .]
INA is a formidable organization. Its predominant partners are the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq -- the largest Shi'ite political party now led by Ammar al-Hakim, the son of the recently departed and revered cleric Abdulaziz al-Hakim -- and the militant Moqtada al-Sadr's party, which has its pulse on the much of the country's poor and frustrated Shi'a underclass. (Read how the shoe-thrower put Maliki in a sensitive spot.)
Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) speaks with a variety of Iraqis on the street in Baghdad about Nouri's slate.
Academy Award winning actress Angelina Jolie is also the UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. Today, visiting Syria, she issued a call for the world not to forget the Iraqi refugees who have been forced to flee their own country for safety. The UNHCR notes:
Tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have returned to their country from Syria and other nearby countries over the past year, but many more are unable or unwilling to return to a country still rocked by violence. As the Iraqi story has largely disappeared from global headlines, so has the plight of the refugees.
Jolie, returning to visit Iraqi refugees in the poorest suburbs of the Syrian capital of Damascus after a 2007 visit, said these refugees still needed vital help and support. "Most Iraqi refugees cannot return to Iraq in view of the severe trauma they experienced there, the uncertainty linked to the coming Iraqi elections, the security issues and the lack of basic services. They will, therefore, be in need of continued support from the international community."
The acclaimed American actress, travelling with her partner Brad Pitt, was welcomed into the homes of two Iraqi families in the Jaramana district of southern Damascus. The first family, grouping seven people, fled to Syria in 2006, while the second family, members of a minority religious group, fled to Iraq in July this year after a son, Waleed,* was twice abducted and his mother, Hoda,* physically abused. The family patriarch, Fares,* had to pay US$25,000 in ransom the first time Waleed was abducted.
The second time, both son and mother were snatched, and Fares had to find US$40,000. The two were released, but they had suffered a terrible ordeal, including torture. "I was assaulted every day for 13 days by up to 10 men," Hoda* recalled, her voice trembling. "I wanted to kill myself and the only reason I decided not to go ahead is because of my children," she added.
On the release of Hoda and Waleed, the family fled to Syria.
RadarOnline offers photos of Angelina's visit to Syria.
This afternoon Fort Lewis's Media Relations department announced that Ehren Watada had completed his out processing and was discharged from the US military. We're going to stay with this topic for a bit because (a) it is important and (b) it is historical. 1st Lt Watada was the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. As Ann noted last night, "there are people who have no idea what a brave thing he did." Ehren Watada was informed he would be deploying to Iraq in June 2005. He had not given much thought to Iraq. To prepare for the deployment, his superior advised him to study up on the war so that he could answer any questions that might come up from those serving under him. He started researching the basics about the country itself, topography and geography and continuing through the history up to the current war. He came across the Downing Street Memos which exposed that the 'intelligence' for the Iraq War was fixed. He was now firmly convinced that the Iraq War was illegal and immoral. From eager to serve in Iraq to realizing he'd be violating his oath to the Constitution, Ehren was now confronted with a decision. He could keep his mouth shut and just do as he was told. Or he could take a stand which would risk the wrath of the military as well as a portion of the public.
Ehren's mother, Carolyn Ho, has explained what happened next many times as she's spoken to raise awareness of her son's case. WBAI's Law and Disorder shared one of her talks on their January 22, 2007 broadcast. Carolyn Ho explained it was the new year, January 2006, and her son called her. He explained that he had something to tell her, he'd decided decided he wouldn't deploy to Iraq when the time came. She was very upset and asked him if he understood what might result from his decision? Ehren told her that he had no choide, he'd taken an oath to the Constitution, this was what he had to do and he was going to inform his superiors.
Ehren didn't hestitate to inform his superiors. This was in January 2006. They at first attempted to change his mind. He could not be budged. So they stated they wanted to work something out. They brainstormed together. Ehren came up with ideas including, he could deploy to the Afghanistan War instead, he could resign (his service contract expired in December 2006). His superiors appeared to be eager to consider every possibility; however, they were just attempting to stall. They appear to have thought that if they put him off and put him off, when the day to deploy came, he'd just shrug his shoulders and deploy.
They did not know Ehren. June 7, 2006 ("the day before his 28th birthday," Carolyn Ho likes to remind), Ehren went public with his refusal to deploy. Jake Armstrong (Pasadena Weekly) notes Ehren stated to participate in the Iraq War would be participating in war crimes.
In August 2006, an Article 32 hearing was held. Watada's defense called three witnesses, Francis A. Boyle of the University of Illinois' College of Law, Champagne; Denis Halliday, the former Assistant Secretary General of the UN; and retired Colonel Ann Wright. These three witnesses addressed the issue of the war, it's legality, and the responsibilities of a service member to disobey any order that they believed was unlawful. The testimony was necessary because Watada's refusing to participate in the illegal war due to the fact that he feels it is (a) illegal and (b) immoral. Many weeks and weeks later, the finding was released: the military would proceed with a court-martial.On Monday, February 5, 2007, Watada's court-martial began. It continued on Tuesday when the prosecution argued their case. Wednesday, Watada was to take the stand in his semi-defense. Judge Toilet (John Head) presided and when the prosecution was losing, Toilet decided to flush the lost by declaring a mistrial over defense objection in his attempt to give the prosecution a do-over. Head was insisting then that a court-martial would begin against Watada in a few weeks when no court-martial could begin.January 4, 2007, Head oversaw a pre-trial hearing. Head also oversaw a stipulation that the prosecution prepared and Watada signed. Head waived the stipulation through. Then the court-martial begins and Ehren's clearly winning. The prosecution's own military witnesses are becoming a problem for the prosecution. It's Wednesday and Watada's finally going to take the stand. Head suddenly starts insisting there's a problem with the stipulation. Watada states he has no problem with it. Well the prosecution has a problem with it and may move to a mistrial, Judge Toilet declares. The prosecution prepared the stipulation and they're confused by Head's actions but state they're not calling for a mistrial or lodging an objection. That's on the record. Head then keeps pushing for a mistrial and the prosecution finally gets that Head is attempting to give them a do-over, at which point, they call for a mistrial.The case has already started. Witnesses have been heard from. Double-jeopardy has attached. The defense isn't calling for a mistrial and Head rules a mistrial over defense objection and attempts to immediately schedule a new trial. Bob Chapman (Global Research) observes, "With little fanfare the Army at Fort Lewis, Wash., accepted the resignation of the 1966 Kalari High School graduate, and he will be discharged the first week in October." With little fanfare indeed. And to those 'lefty' sites that want to smear opposition of Barack Obama's ObamaBigBusinessCare passed off as something to do with "health care"? I'd say before you accuse anyone of racism, you might take a look at your own damn ass -- which, Red or not, appears highly racist when you claim to be "anti-war" and yet 'forget' all damn week to note Ehren Watada.
And, related, like Elaine, I was disgusted that Free Speech Radio News had time for a ceremony for Glenn Beck but not time to cover Ehren Watada. Today they sort of cover him (link has audio and text):
Lt. Ehren Watada, the first US Army officer to refuse to serve in the war in Iraq, will finally be allowed to resign from the US Army today at Fort Lewis in Washington. Mark Taylor-Canfield has more from Seattle.
Spokespersons at Fort Lewis have confirmed that First Lt. Ehren Watada will be allowed to resign from the US Army. In 2003, Lt. Watada was the first US military officer to refuse to serve in Iraq, which he claims is an illegal war. In 2007 his court marshal was declared a mistrial by a civilian judge. Watada's enlistment was supposed to be up two years ago but he has not been allowed to leave the service.
According to Watada's attorney, Kenneth Kagan, he will receive a "less than honorable discharge." Watada took a leading role in the anti-war movement, speaking out publicly against the war, and criticizing President George W. Bush at the Veterans For Peace national convention in Seattle in 2006. Watada has been under a military imposed gag order since his original court marshal proceedings. Mark Taylor-Canfield, FSRN, Seattle.
Sort of? Two hours before that aired, I'd confirmed on the phone that he'd been discharged and his paper's processed but they're broadcasting, two hours later, that he is supposed to be discharged. People, it's one damn call. You pick up the phone, you call public affairs at Fort Lewis and you explain what you need. So to find people who love and people who hate Glenn Beck, FSRN can do some work. But when they finally note this historic development, they're left with nothing really to say. Not "will be," was. News. You're the ones claiming to be reporters, not me. I rejected that years ago. You're the ones begging for money, not me, I think it's incumbent upon you to do the work that makes someone feel money is well spent. (For those note catching the connection between the two -- both events, Ehren's historic day and that party for Beck took place in the Seattle region. One got an actual report and one got a brief headline. What did our 'independent' news program give us a report on? Glenn Beck's party. Look next for FSRN to woo Suzy for audio reports or possibly Cindy Adams.)
TV notes. NOW on PBS explores Afghanistan which they wrongly dub "the forgotten war." Washington Week is not airing this week. Most PBS stations will be airing The National Parks: America's Best Idea, Ken Burns' latest documentary. Washington Week will return next week. Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Linda Chavez, Kim Gandy, Tara Setmayer and Patricia Sosa to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
The Swindler To understand how Bernard Madoff could have done what he did, listen to so-called "mini-Madoff" Ponzi schemer Marc Dreier tell Steve Kroft in his first television interview how he scammed $400 million. Watch Video
130 Million Tons of Waste If coal ash is safe to spread under a golf course or be used in carpets, why are the residents of Kingston, Tenn., being told to stay out of a river where the material was spilled last December? Lesley Stahl reports. Watch Video
The Great Migration Scott Pelley visits Kenya, the site of the great wildebeest migration, and looks at the threats to this natural spectacle comprised of over a million animals.
60 Minutes, this Sunday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
xinhuasun yunlongross johnsonpress tv
the new york timessteven lee myers
mcclatchy newspapersmohammed al dulaimy
the wall street journalgina chondolly partonjamal hashimxinhuaalsumaria
wbailaw and disorder
ben landotime magazine
sahar issathe diane rehm show
60 minutescbs newspbsto the contrarybonnie erbe