Witness faces trial by War Criminals
AMERICAN soldier BRADLEY MANNING is the subject of a pre-trial hearing to decide whether he should face a full court martial on charges of taking classified material, and disclosing secrets that could "assist an enemy".
After months of being held in military cells, regularly stripped and treated like some dangerous terrorist, the former technician is having his supposed mental state, sexual inclinations and personal identity toosed around in public, before an investigating officer who must be impatient to proceed with the real business. Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, a reserve military judge who has also worked as a career prosecutor with the Department of Justice since 2002 until he went on reservist military leave to devote himself to the Manning case.
The military accuse Bradley Manning of "treason", which could incur the death penalty. Some politicians have been calling for his execution ever since he was identifed. But the information which Manning is accused of leaking through Wikileaks concerned actions by US forces in Iraq, which were hardly a secret to those at the receiving end, and diplomatic reports. They may have endangered America's reputation, but they assisted the American and allied public to know what has been done in our name. We are "the enemy".
The US colours were lowered in Iraq this weekend, and the "Last Post" played, before Defence Secretary Leon Panetta told troops: "You will leave with great pride, lasting pride, secure in knowing that your sacrifice has helped the Iraqi people to cast tyranny aside and to offer hope for prosperity and peace to this country's future generations."
The US forces are leaving behind some 700 "advisers" with Iraqi forces, and mercenary contractors no doubt to help look after the oil interests which Western companies have obtained. They are also leaving what was once among the more developed countries of the Arab world, but has been devasteated by sanctions and war, and torn apart by armed gangs, some imported, some covert foreign units, unleashed by the conquest.
Many educated Iraqis, doctors and engineers, have been killed or terrorised into leaving. along with Palestinian and others who had made their living there. "Aid" dollars and art treasures have gone missing from the country. And as American service personnel go home, many Iraqis have no homes left.
"Not far from where the speeches were taking place lay grim evidence which refuted the claims that the Americans were leaving behind a land of stability and prosperity. More than 8,000 people are living in squalor in a field of mud and foetid water, with huts made of rags and salvaged pieces of wood.
"The residents of Al-Rahlat camp are among 1.3 million refugees in their own country; families driven out of their homes by the sectarian violence spawned by the war. Another 1.6 million fled Iraq for neighbouring states, mainly Jordan and Syria. Those in Syria, with its escalating violence, are now having to seek another place of safety."Around 450,000 of the IDPs (internally displaced persons) are living in the worst conditions, crammed into 380 street settlements scattered around the country. They have little or no access to clean water, sanitation or medical care. Many of these people, deemed to be illegally squatting, cannot get the documents necessary to register for welfare relief or take up jobs, or enrol their sons and daughters in schools. The tension and claustrophobia of such an existence has led to psychological problems, especially among children. Domestic violence is rife.
In the speeches at the leaving ceremeny particular tribute was paid to the bravery of US troops who went into Fallujah. For many that name evokes other memories, and living reminders:
"FPIF reports (November 23rd): Seven years after the U.S. invasion of Fallujah, there are reports of an alarming rise in the rates of birth defects and cancer. But the crisis, and its possible connection to weapons deployed by the United States during the war, remains woefully under-examined. "Thirty to fifty thousand people were still inside the city when the U.S. military launched a series of airstrikes, dropping incendiary bombs on suspected insurgent hideouts. Ground forces then combed through targeted neighborhoods house by house. Ross Caputi, who served as a first private Marine during the siege, has said that his squad and others employed "reconnaissance by fire," firing into dwellings before entering to make sure nobody inside was still alive. "By the end of the campaign, Fallujah was a ghost town. Though the military did not tally civilian casualties, independent reports put the number somewhere between 800 and 6,000. As The Washington Post reported in April 2005, more than half of Fallujah's 39,000 homes were damaged, of which 10,000 were no longer habitable. "Of the current problems in Fallujah, the most alarming is a mounting public health crisis. In the years since the invasion, doctors in Fallujah have reported drastic increases in the number of premature births, infant mortality, and birth defects-babies born without skulls, missing organs, or with stumps for arms and legs. Fallujah General Hospital reported that, out of 170 babies born in September 2009, 24 percent died within the first seven days, of which 75 percent were deformed".
That's an article from Foreign Policy In Focus (FPIF), a project of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC. FPIF describes itself as a "Think Tank Without Walls" that brings together over 600 writers, scholars, academics, artists and activists seeking to make the United States a more responsible global partner. FPIF believes that "U.S. security and world stability are best advanced through a commitment to peace, justice and environmental protection as well as economic, political, and social rights".
But reports like their's on Falluja must surely be of assistance to the "enemy".
The high incidence of birth defects in Falluja has led some to wonder if it was linked to US chemical weapons or phosphorus, or depleted uranium munitions which the Western military leaders denied using in Iraq. But one authority has suggested that the culprit may not be depleted uranium.
"Professor Chris Busby, from the School of Biomedical Science, University of Ulster, believes that the United States severely overstepped the boundaries of international law and is the likely suspect in the use of not just deadly depleted uranium, a growing subject in the world, but actual U-235 enriched weapons-grade uranium from a neutron bomb.Those are the weapons that kill biological life but leave structures and landscape otherwise intact. You could call it the ultimate irony; discovering that illegal nuclear weapons were used in Fallujah, Iraq by the United States; the country that led the world down the trail of deceit by falsely declaring that Iraq had 'weapons of mass destruction'
Some commentators have seemed in a rush to discredit Professor Busby and his findings.
We don't know how well-founded his research was or what motives he is supposed to have had for coming up with his version.
But of Bradley Manning's evidence on one incident there is little room for doubt. He provided an official video from a US helicopter gunship of the airstrike in which it killed eleven individuals on the ground, two of them being Reuters news correspondents, as well as firing rockets into a residential block, and destroying a van in which two children were passengers.
The crew remarked that people should not have brought kids into a "battle zone" - a Baghdad street, They don't appear to have faced any recriminations let alone trial. But then it would appear they were only following orders and acting in line with the procedure they had been given.
All the same it is some "justice" that ubjects the man who exposed such actions to an ordeal and threatens this witness with the death penalty.
The same "justice " that leaves George Dubya Bush with a grin, and Tony B-Liar Blair getting richer than ever from the war that the two of them started.
By way of a follow up: