Sunday, November 19, 2006

Justice for Abeer and her family?

On March 12, 2006, in their family home,

Qassim Hamza Raheem and Fakhriya Taha Muhasen and their five-year old daughter Hadeel Qassim Hamza were murdered. Their fourteen-year-old daughter Abeer was raped and murdered and there was an attempt to burn her body to hide what had happened.

The original story was that it was the work of 'insurgents.' In May, when US troops were kidnapped and killed, there was talk that it was an attempt at retaliation for what was done to Abeer and her family.

Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) reported that it was during this time that Justin Watt heard rumors and direct statements from some, that US troops were the ones who raped and murdered, not 'insurgents.' In one of the worst cases of Giddiest Gabor in the Green Zone, the US military attempted to play damage control and repeatedly put out the falsehood that Abeer was in her twenties. (26 was the initial claim. For more on Abeer, you can read Ellen Knickmeyer's "Details Emerge in Alleged Army Rape, Killings.") They downgraded it a bit under pressure but only when an old passport was found revealing her age to be 14 (she would have turned 15 last fall) did they finally give up the spin.

For various reasons, Watt didn't trust the usual channels and instead shared what he had heard with a military counselor. An investigation was begun.

One recently discharged US soldier would be charged and four serving would be as well. The reaction from the press was underwhelming. (The reaction from the blogs? "Don't you dare call any US soldier a baby killer!"). Friday, June 30th, Steven D. Green was arrested in Asheville, North Carolina and charged with murder (the government press release noted the maximum penalty was death) and with rape ("the maximum statutory penalty for the rape is life in prison"). Green had been discharged in May of this year. Green dropped out of high school in the tenth grade and was arrested for possesion of alcohol (he was underage) right before he signed up -- the kind army recruiter arranged a moral character waiver that allowed him to enlist. (Remember, we're not supposed to talk about lowered standards so recruiters can meet their quotas!) November 8th, in a federal court in Kentucky, Green entered a not guilty plea. Due to being discharged before the revalations came out, Green will be tried in a civilian court.

Some press accounts paint Green (discharged for 'anti-social behavior') as the ring leader.

The other four charged were still serving so they faced military justice. They are Paul Cortez, Jesse Spielman, Bryan Howard and James P. Barker. Howard was allegedly the lookout and not in the house when the crimes took place, he was allegedly involved in the planning stages. A fifth soldier, Anthony W. Yribe, was charged with derelection of duty for failure to report the incident.

In August, an Article 32 hearing was held for Cortez, Barker, Spielman and Howard in order to determine whether or not there was sufficient evidence to move forward with the charges. Strangely enough, (see "The New York Times rendered Abeer invisible yet again"), The New York Times, in a supposed article, made a case for the accused that was the same one the defense would used (The Times article is "G.I. Crime Photos May Be Evidence"). The stress, fatigue, blah blah blah defense wasn't a natural or a given. In fact, Andy Mosher ("At Rape Hearing, U.S. Soldiers Describe Stress of War") noted military law expert Eugene Fidell who "said Tuesday that the defense attorneys were most likely emphasizing combat stress to argue that their clients not face a possible death penalty in the event of a court-martial. 'This is not a defense known to the law,' Fidell said. 'But this kind of evidence could come in during the court-martial, and it might be pertinent to the sentence. They could be setting the stage to avoid a death penalty'."

Somehow, psychic ability, the paper of record argued a defense in print, before the trial began, that was "not a defense known to law," according to a military law expert.

The Times also couldn't name the victims. Abeer was "a fourteen-year-old girl" over and over. She was, to judge by that paper, "a fourteen-year-old girl without a name."

But Abeer was the forgotten and the invisible. (Indymedia didn't do a better job than The New York Times. In fact, they did a worse job. They were all over the Israel-Palestine-Lebanon conflict, wall-to-wall, while the Article 32 hearing was going on and couldn't spare even a moment to note Abeer.)

Last week, James P. Barker pleaded guilty to his involvement in the deaths of the family and the death and rape of Abeer.

At least with regards to Barker, we can now drop the preface "alleged."

Spielman will enter some plea (guilty or innocent) next month. Cortez is playing mum.

On Barker's statement last week admitting guilt, The Guardian of London noted he declared (in writing) that: ". . . Green dragged the father, mother and younger sister into a bedroom, while Abeer was left in the living room. . . . Barker said Cortez appeared to rape the girl [Abeer], and he followed. He said he heard gunshots and Mr. Green came out of the bedroom, saying he had killed the family, before raping the girl and shooting her with an AK-47."

Ryan Lenz (AP) reported that Barker testified to Lt. Col. Richard Anderson that Steven D. Green came up with the plan and, of the rape of Abeer, that "[Paul] Cortez pushed her to the ground. I went towards the top of her and kind of held her hands down while Cortez proceeded to lift her dress up." Kind of held her hands down?

Kind of?

Two men, according to Barker, gang rape a fourteen-year-old girl (Green, according to Barker, has his 'turn' after they've finished -- he's in another room, according to Barker, killing Abeer's parents and sister) and Barker says he "kind of held her hands down"?

Kind of. Barker's a twenty-three-year-old male. Engaged in the gang rape of a child and he "kind of held her hands down." No doubt when the US soldiers entered the home, when they separated Abeer's family from her, when Cortez lifted the young girl's dress, Abeer more than "kind of" struggled. If she hadn't, he wouldn't have needed to "kind of" hold her hands down.

Nine years older than the child, a full grown male, Barker can only admit to "kind of."

Let's drop back a bit and note that Barker talked before. At the August Article 32 hearing, US military investigator Benjamin Bierce testified to what Barker had confessed to him, that he'd held Abeer's hands down while Cortez was having his 'go' and then he took his turn.

The same paper of record that runs with every official statement played dumb to Bierce's testimony. In August, Reuters would note: "A U.S. military court heard graphic testimony on Monday on how U.S. soldiers took turns holding down and raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl before murdering her and her family."

Let's go a bit further back. As C.I. noted: "The 14-year-old had noticed and been made nervous by the way those alleged to have raped her (it seems crazy to say "alleged" to have killed -- she's dead, she was a fourteen-year-old girl, she was killed, no alleged). Her family was about to send her to another home for her own safety."

They'd watched her. A point the military prosecutor made clear in the Article 32 hearing and a point that gained additional confirmation in last week's reporting which noted that they entered the yard of the house through a hole they'd previously cut into the fence.

In August, Elaine noted:

People are acting, including Scotland's Sunday Herald, as though the US troops just snapped. That's now what's been reported. They were "eyeing" Abeer. Fourteen-years-old and she's got to deal with the disgusting ogling of adult males, adult males with guns, adult males who are part of the foreign forces occupying her country. Do you think the press has given much thought to what that must have been like for Abeer?

To be so nervous, so bothered by the unwanted attention that she complained to her parents who quickly decided that, for her own protection, they needed to have her go live with neighbors.Abeer never got to do that. She was murdered. She was allegedly raped. Fourteen-years-old.

I don't think the press gets how disgusting this is.

We still don't believe the press gets how disgusting this was.

They were on duty, the soldiers. They were on duty and they decided to drink a little (a violation), then they got the idea (supposedly Green got the idea) that the thing to do that day was to go rape her and kill her and her family. It was such the thing to do that they could leave their traffic check point, the area they were supposed to be guarding. The area they were assigned to be in. (The area they'd observed and leered at Abeer from.)

So, according to Barker, they stop their card game and presumably their drinking, leave their assigned post, change into civilian clothes, head over to Abeer's, through the hole one of them (or more) cut into the fence, Green rounds up the parents and the five-year-old sister and hustles them off to the bedroom where he will shoot all three dead, Cortez and Barker take turns holding Abeer down and raping her (or trying to), then Green comes back in the room, rapes Abeer, kills her by shooting her repeatedly (including once under the left eye) and they think, "Hmm. Evidence. We should burn the body." That didn't quite work out, but they tried.

There is no longer any "alleged." Barker has confessed. Barker pleaded guilty. People can toss "alleged" in front of Green, Cortez, Spielman and Baker's name -- for legal reasons or because they've yet to be tried or admit guilt, but there's no "alleged" any more that Abeer was raped and murdered, that three members of her family were murdered.

That's what a guilty plea and a confession do, they wipe away the "alleged."

So where's the outrage?

Hell, where's the coverage.

Where's the oversight?

Barker's lawyer, to the press, tried to play the whole thing off as a staffing issue -- they were understaffed. Would additional staff have acted as baby sitters for grown men who damn well knew that murder and rape was wrong?

"These things happen in war." We hear that b.s. all the time when the military's 'smart' technology, 'precision' weapons kill an innocent civilian. It's b.s. It's especially b.s. when we're dealing with the case of Abeer and her family.

Though they would blame it on 'insurgents' initially, there's no 'insurgent' issue here. There's no, "He went after one of my men and we were so angry and we couldn't think straight, and we started hitting him, and hitting him, and then, next thing we knew, he was dead."

Abeer's 'crime' was to be attractive to apparent bullies with pedophile inclinations. Not only was she not an 'insurgent,' she wasn't even thought to be. She was a way to get off.

Her five-year-old sister couldn't be mistaken for a 'sucide bomber.' Her parents were minding their own business in their own home.

Picture yourself as a fourteen-year-old girl. Men come into your home with guns, military, you know them, you've seen them ogle you. They kill your parents and your little sister. They gang rape you. How would that make you feel?

We can guess how it made Abeer feel but we can't know because they killed her.

Three grown men, according to Barker, wanted a gang rape. Another loved the idea so much he was willing to stand lookout in an Iraqi city. In civilian clothes. Just stand around and wait, while the country is consumed in violence and chaos. He wasn't worrying that 'insurgents' might rush through the unmanned check point. He wasn't worrying that his fellow soldiers who didn't know what was up might end up attacked because his group decided screw-the-checkpoint-we-want-some-fun! He wasn't worried about himself or anyone else. That also includes not worried about a family being murdered, a fourteen-year-old being raped and murdered.

As Rebecca noted:"i don't know an american adult male who doesn't know the concept of the age of consent and grasp that they'll go to jail for sex with a minor that's consensual. add in that we're talking about rape." She's right. The men, the Americans, participating in those crimes knew better. They knew it was wrong, they knew it was illegal, they knew it was inhumane. They should have grasped it was a war crime, but who knows whether that was stressed in training or not? If it wasn't, that might have been because their trainer assumed that since murder and rape are illegal in the United States, any half-wit would know they were illegal in another country.

But, according to Barker, legality and humanity wasn't on their minds. What was? Barker declared in his confession, "I hated Iraqis, your honor. They can smile at you, then shoot you in your face without even thinking about it."

Yeah, a five-year-old girl is a pistol packing mama, right?

They wanted this, they committed the crimes. They wanted violence for kicks.

Barker's expressed sentiments aren't out of the norm for troops serving in Iraq. Fortunately, most are smart enough and moral enough to grasp that violence for kicks, that rape and murder to ease the boredom, is unacceptable.

According to Barker, that wasn't an issue for them. Where's the outrage?

They left the house, took care of the bloody clothes, drank some more and grilled some chicken wings. Raked with guilt? No.

Barker's got a sentence that's being pimped by many in the press as a "life sentence." Ninety years. But, as Amy Goodman noted, "Barker will be eligible for parole after twenty years." He'll be forty-three-years-old then. Maybe he'll have learned something? Maybe he'll be rehabilitated? Abeer and her family? They'll still be dead.

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