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Ali Hassan al-Majeed, aka "Chemical Ali" has been executed by hanging in Iraq.
Ali remained in U.S. custody from 2003 until yesterday, when the U.S. turned him over to Iraqis to be killed.
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It was six years ago today that Saddam Hussein was found hiding in a spider hole. Mark Green, an Army physician assigned the duty of sitting him, provides his recollections. More from Dr. Green in an interview here.
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The beginning of the end of the US presence in Iraq is providing us with a bit of a preview of what we can expect. Baghdad bombings:
A series of devastating car bombings rocked Baghdad on Tuesday, killing at least 121 people and wounding hundreds more, according to preliminary accounts by witnesses, the police and hospital officials. Five bombs in all, including at least three suicide attacks, struck near a college, a court complex in western Baghdad, a mosque and a market and a neighborhood near the Interior Ministry in what appeared to be a coordinated assault on the capital.
[. . .] The attacks came as Iraq’s Presidency Council announced a date — March 6 — for the country’s long-delayed parliamentary elections. [. . .] Many victims linked the attacks to the protracted political jockeying over holding the election, which was originally scheduled for January. “Are we cursed?” yelled a young woman near the mosque that was struck in Qahira, in northeast Baghdad. She had burns over her arms and legs. “When will we be finished with this election issue?”
(Emphasis supplied.) Of course elections are not the issue. Power is. The struggle between Sunni and Shia, and different factions of Sunni and Shia, will continue long after the US is gone.
That is Iraq's future.
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After convicting Steven Green of hideous crimes in Iraq -- multiple murders and the rape of a 14-year-old girl -- the government tried to persuade Green's jury that Green deserved the punishment of death. A two week sentencing trial, followed by two days of deliberations, failed to produce a unanimous verdict. As Jeralyn noted here, Green will therefore be sentenced to life.
Some jurors who voted against death were apparently persuaded by evidence that combat stress impaired Green's ability to distinguish between Iraqis who posed a threat and those who didn't. That argument doesn't easily explain the rape of a teenage girl. The argument that probably had greater impact was eloquently capsulized by defense attorney Scott Wendelsdorf: "America does not kill its broken warriors." Juries are increasingly reluctant to impose death sentences, but they've always been disinclined to believe that men in uniform deserve death sentences.
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So that he could keep saying this:
We decided to confront the regimes that sponsored terrorists . . . We turned special attention to regimes that had the capacity to build weapons of mass destruction, and might transfer such weapons to terrorists. . . .
We had the training camps of Afghanistan, and dictators like Saddam Hussein with known ties to Mideast terrorists.
(Emphasis supplied.) Cheney approved of torture not because it helped to combat terrorism - it not only does not work, it foments terrorism - he approves of it because it allowed him to foment the Iraq Debacle. Funny how the Iraq Debacle was not mentioned in his speech today.
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The U.S. soldier who opened fire at a counseling center at Camp Liberty in Baghdad today is in custody. He killed five people, presumably fellow soldiers.
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Last year, Jeralyn wrote about the 110 year sentence imposed upon Jesse Spielman for his role in what she called "the ugliest singular atrocity [she could] remember coming out of the Iraq War." Spielman was one of the soldiers tried in courts-martial proceedings for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl and the murders of her parents and younger sister in Mahmoudiya. Today Jeralyn wrote about the conviction and upcoming death phase of the trial of Steven Green, who fired the shots that killed the family.
The 110 year sentence should have disturbed "truth in sentencing" advocates, given that Spielman is eligible for parole after serving 10 years. But parole eligibility is only the opportunity for release, not freedom itself. Much more disturbing is the news that Spielman (and two other soldiers who were sentenced to terms of 100 years and 90 years) may be released after serving only 7 years, thanks to a deal they received for testifying against Green.
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As I wrote here, one of the ugliest atrocities to come out of the Iraq war was the rape and murder of an Iraqi teen and murder of her family members in Mahmoudiya. Jesse Spielman was sentenced to 110 years for his part in the crime, which LNILR said should have been prosecuted as a war crime. Another soldier, Spc. James P. Barker, pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty.
On Friday, the alleged ringleader of the group, Pvt. Steven Green was convicted of the rape and murders in a federal criminal court trial. He was tried in federal court because he was no longer in the military when the charges were brought. Relatives of the murder victims want the death penalty for Green.
The facts are really ugly. [More...]
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The promised troop withdrawal and the distraction of a sucky economy should not prevent us from pausing to remember that members of our military continue to die in Iraq.
Two American Marines and a sailor were killed during a military operation in Anbar ... on Thursday “while conducting combat operations against enemy forces,” the [military command] statement said. ... The deaths brought the total for American troops in April to 18, according to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, making it the deadliest month for American forces in Iraq since September.
Total U.S. military deaths to date: 4,281 according to the Coalition Casualty Count.
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What will Iraq be like when the US disengages next year? I predict it will be a mess. But I think it would be a mess if we stayed. Today, a suicide bomber in Mosul killed 5 US soldiers:
Five American soldiers and two members of the Iraqi security forces were killed in a massive suicide truck bombing Friday near the headquarters of the Iraqi national police in the northern city of Mosul, a United States military spokesman said. . . . At least 60 people, many of them residents of the area, were wounded in the Friday attack and a number of homes and businesses were severely damaged . . .
Make no mistake, withdrawal from Iraq by the US will not solves Iraq's problems. But neither will staying in Iraq.
Speaking for me only
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Six years ago today:
The biggest American strategic blunder of the last century.
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This is pretty funny from Chris Bowers:
In September of 2007, President Obama refused to promise to remove all troops from Iraq by January 20th, 2013. Now, he has promised to remove them all by December 31st, 2011. That is a positive shift. This is huge for no residual forces proponents.
Heh. Now I support President Obama's policy, and always understood the residual forces "issue" to be nonsense (I think Richardson did not even know what he was saying when some seized upon it as a rallying cry.) But I like Chris' declaring victory on the "issue" - so residual forces for 3 more years is "victory" now for the anti-"residual forces" folks. Well, good for Chris. Me, I think the declaration of a date certain for the end of our combat mission in Iraq is the big win here. But to each his own.
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President Obama heads to one of the nation’s most storied military bases Friday morning to unveil plans to pull most troops out of Iraq by August 2010. . . .“The combat, current combat mission in Iraq will end on August 31, 2010,” a senior administration official told reporters . . . At that point, the U.S. forces remaining in Iraq will undertake a new mission, a more limited mission.”
. . . After August 2010, the Obama plan will leave behind 35,000 to 50,000 of the 142,000 American troops now in Iraq to advise and train Iraqi security forces, conduct discrete counterterrorism missions and protect American civilian and military personnel working in the country, including State Department reconstruction teams.
Unlike some on the progressive side, who railed vehemently against the concept of residual troops (Bill Richardson became their favored candidate during the primaries because he said he was against leaving residual troops), I always thought this approach was reasonable. I support President Obama's policy. For an intelligent opposing view, here is Robert Stein. I've added a poll question below on whether you support or do not support President Obama's Iraq policy.
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Sgt Michael Leahy Jr, a 28 year old army medic, was found guilty of the murder of four Iraqis at a courts-martial trial in Germany today. He faces up to life in prison and a dishonorable discharge.
Leahy was one of a group of soldiers who took detainees away after it was decided there was not enough evidence to charge them. Blindfolded and gagged, the four were then shot and dumped in a canal.
Leahy admitted killing one of the Iraqis. His lawyer's argument:
His lawyers argued that the stress of being in a conflict zone for so long meant he was unable to reason properly. ...His lawyer, Frank Spinner, argued that Leahy went along with the killings because he was dazed from a lack of sleep.
"The tragedy resulted not so much by design but rather the working of fear, danger and madness attendant on many combat operations," Mr Spinner said in his closing arguments.
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The reporter who threw his shoes at former President Bush appeared in court this week. He told the judge:
"I am charged now with attacking the Prime Minister's guest," he said stoically, making his first public remarks since the incident. "We Arabs are famous for being generous with guests. But Bush and his soldiers have been here for six years. Guests should knock on the door. Those who come sneaking in are not guests."
After his appearance he was whisked away by Iraqi officials. The judge took the matter under advisement. The issue: Whether's Bush's visit was an official visit:
Zeidi, 30, who is charged with assaulting a foreign head of state, posited that Bush's Dec. 14 trip to Baghdad was not an official visit by a foreign dignitary because he arrived to the country without prior notice and didn't leave the Green Zone, which at the time was still under American control.
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