Archive | April, 2010

Imam Assassination Sparks Fears of Violence

The assassination of Sheikh Ghazi Jabouri, a prominent Sunni Imam in the Al- Adhamiya district of Baghdad, has raised fears of renewed sectarian violence in the wake of the Mar. 7 elections.

Tensions have been reported in the area following the assassination Wednesday last week. At least two gunmen killed Sheikh Jabouri, 42, as he walked home after completing morning prayers at the Rahman Mosque.

His brother Sarmad Faisal Jabouri, like many Iraqis in Adhamiya district, blames the government. “We hold the government fully responsibility for the killing of my brother, because they are supposed to be in control of security at the entrances and exits to the area,” Jabouri said.

The attack came on a morning when a high-ranking officer in Iraq’s anti- terrorism police was killed by a bomb planted in his car. The attack also killed two nearby policemen.

The violence comes amidst a wave of increasing attacks across the capital, and amidst political instability in the wake of last month’s elections, that have yet to yield a clear winner.

The U.S. fears that rising sectarian violence could begin to match the 2006- 2007 sectarian violence that resulted in tens of thousands of deaths across the war-torn country.

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Soldier Jailed for Rap Lyrics Is Discharged

Army Spc. Marc Hall, jailed for writing a song protesting the stop-loss policy, was discharged Sunday morning. (Photo: Courage to Resist; Edited: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t)

Army Spc. Marc Hall, jailed for writing a song protesting the stop-loss policy, was discharged Sunday morning. (Photo: Courage to Resist; Edited: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t)

Until April 17, US Army Spc. Marc Hall sat in a military brig at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, facing an imminent court-martial for challenging the US military’s stop-loss policy in a song.

Sunday morning, Spc. Hall was granted a discharge by the military.

On December 17, 2009, Hall was jailed for writing a song about the personal impact of being forced to remain in the military beyond the scope of his contract by the stop-loss policy.

Stop-loss is a practice that allows the Army to keep soldiers active beyond the end of their signed contracts. According to the Pentagon, more than 120,000 soldiers have been affected by stop-loss since 2001, and currently 13,000 soldiers are serving under stop-loss orders, despite public pledges by President Barack Obama to phase out the policy.

Hall’s song included lyrics the Army claimed were veiled threats of violence.

He was charged with five specifications in violation of Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Conduct, two of those for wrongfully communicating a threat based on song lyrics. Article 134 is a vague rule that outlaws anything “to the prejudice of good order and discipline.”

Lyrics included Hall saying he may “go Fort Hood,” a reference to the mass shooting at Fort Hood on November 5, which prosecutors for the Army claimed was a threat of violence.

“I explained to [my first sergeant] that the hardcore rap song was a free expression of how people feel about the Army and its stop-loss policy,” Hall said at the time. “I explained that the song was neither a physical threat nor any threat whatsoever. I told him it was just hip-hop.”

According to Jeff Paterson of Courage to Resist, an Oakland-based organization dedicated to supporting military objectors like Hall, he was not jailed for the song, but was instead jailed “in retaliation for his formal complaint of inadequate mental health services available to him at Fort Stewart. The Army used an angry song that Spc. Hall, a combat veteran of the Iraq War suffering from post-traumatic stress, had produced criticizing the stop-loss policy as the pretext.” Continue Reading →

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Iraq Vets: Coverage of Atrocities Is Too Little, Too Late

(Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Spc. Jeffery Sandstrum / U.S. Army, thomas.merton)

(Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Spc. Jeffery Sandstrum / U.S. Army, thomas.merton)

The WikiLeaks video footage from Iraq taken from an Apache helicopter in July 2007 showing soldiers killing 12 people and wounding two children has caused an explosion of media coverage. But many Iraq vets feel it is too little and too late.

In contrast to most of the coverage that favors the military’s stated position of forgiving the soldiers responsible and citing that they followed the Rules of Engagement (ROE), Iraq war veterans who have spoken to the media previously about atrocities carried out against innocent Iraqis have largely been ignored by the mainstream media in the United States.

This includes Josh Steiber, a former US Army specialist who was a member of the Bravo Company 2-16 whose acts of brutality made headlines with the WikiLeaks release of the video “Collateral Murder.”

Steiber told Truthout during a telephone interview on Sunday that such acts were “not isolated incidents” and were “common” during his tour of duty. “After watching the video, I would definitely say that that is, nine times out of ten, the way things ended up,” Steiber was quoted as saying in an earlier press release on the video, “Killing was following military protocol. It was going along with the rules as they are.”

Steiber was not with his unit, who were the soldiers on the ground in the video. He was back at his base with the incident occurred. While not absolving of responsibility those who carried out the killing, Steiber blames the “larger system” of the US military, specifically how soldiers are trained to dehumanize Iraqis and the ROE.

“We have to address the larger system that trains people to respond in this way, or the same thing will probably happen again,” Steiber told Truthout.

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Iraq Election Sets Off New Political Tussle

BAGHDAD – The March elections have only deepened political divisions, and brought more violence.

Violent incidents come now amid tensions fueled by post-election arrests of victorious MPs, and disputes over vote fraud.

Incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has successfully appealed to the Supreme Court to disqualify more than 50 candidates on the opposition list, accusing them of being former members of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party.

Leaders from Maliki’s group declined to talk to IPS, saying they were busy with meetings to form alliances for the next government.

Members of former interim prime minister Ayad Allawi’s list of the Iraqiya Party, that won 91 parliamentary seats to 89 for Maliki’s State of Law party, were more forthcoming.

“We have a national project to reform the political process, including the starting point for reform of the Iraqi situation, and we will work to promote the reality of Iraq for the better,” Khalil Ismail al-Qubaisi from the Allawi list told IPS at his office in Baghdad.

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