Afghan civilians slaughtered for sport


 

 

US Soldiers pose with their victims’ bodies

As reported by the U.K. Guardian’s Jon Boone:

The face of Jeremy Morlock, a young US soldier, grins at the camera, his hand holding up the head of the dead and bloodied youth he and his colleagues have just killed in an act military prosecutors say was premeditated murder.

Moments before the picture was taken in January last year, the unsuspecting victim had been waved over by a group of US soldiers who had driven to his village in Kandahar province in one of their armoured Stryker tanks.

According to testimony collected by Der Spiegel magazine the boy had, as a matter of routine, lifted up his shirt to reveal that he was not hiding a suicide bomb vest.

That was the moment Morlock, according to a pre-arranged plan, threw a grenade at the boy that exploded while other members of the rogue group who called themselves the “kill team” opened fire.

They would later tell military investigators that the boy, a farmer’s son, had threatened them with the grenade.

The pictures include a similar photograph of a different soldier posing with the same victim and a photograph of two other civilians killed by the unit.

There was no sign on Monday of the anticipated public outrage. But withAfghanistan on holiday for the Persian new year celebrations, and media outlets initially unable to get hold of the images, anger may yet build.

The US ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, recently confided to officials that he feared it might trigger the same kind of scandal as that at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, where images of prisoners being abused by US soldiers sparked anti-American protests.

For weeks the US government has been working to pre-empt any outrage, with top officials, including the US vice president Joe Biden, in talks with Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president.

Despite being a setback in the propaganda war between the western coalition and its insurgent enemies, Nato will be relieved that for the time being only a tiny sample of a total collection of roughly 4,000 images and video clips have found their way into the public domain.

The publication of the photos will also mark the ultimate disgrace of the group of young US soldiers, who are currently facing military justice for killing innocent civilians for sport and mutilating their bodies by cutting off fingers and ripping out teeth to keep as trophies.

Morlock has turned on his former colleagues, agreeing to testify against them in return for a reduced jail sentence. Some of the activities of the group are already public, with 12 men currently on trial in Seattle for their role in the killing of three civilians. Morlock has told investigators that Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs was the ringleader. In videotaped evidence, he has said Gibbs would pick out a possible target with a comment such as: “You guys wanna wax this guy or what?”

Gibbs, if found guilty, could receive a life sentence.

Hans-Ulrich Stoldt, a spokesman for Der Spiegel, said the magazine had other, more graphic photos.

“We published three but not others, and we even pixilated those we did print so that the victims could not be identified,” Stoldt said. “We needed to document [the accusations] in some form, and were as restrained as possible.”

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Race for 1st Middlesex district turns bitter


With just 13 days left before the state’s primary, the candidates for the 1st Middlesex district state senate seat are lobbing bigger accusations against each other. On Monday, the Doherty campaign released a statement against Donoghue stating that she is a hypocrite when it comes to illegal immigration.

According to the flier, Donoghue willingly accepted a case against an individual, Lilliana Rivera, who was supposedly indicted for conspiracy to create and sell alien registration receipts and social security cards. The document goes on farther to state Donoghue was fundamental to Rivera receiving a substantially reduced sentence. The effect is that Donoghue is portrayed not only as soft on illegal immigration, but someone who misleads the public.

On its face, the Doherty campaign’s assertions are alarming to say the least. Factually, the campaign’s claims against Donoghue are half-truths.

The first claim: The flier seemed to indicate that Rivera was a key player in creating the forged alien registration receipts and social security cards.

One of the statements made was that Rivera was indicted for the federal charges of conspiracy to produce and sell false alien registration receipts and social security cards. To support this claim, the flier included a copy of a federal court’s filing for the case. The filing describes, in detail, the role of each person involved in the operation. It even lays out the offenses the individuals were charged with, of which Rivera was one out of two people indicted.

The document, which the Donoghue campaign says isn’t accurate, details the specific charges that Rivera faced. Though Rivera was found to be a part of the operation, she was found to play a minimal role. Namely, Rivera’s role was to transport the fake ids from the people who created them to the people who would buy them. In regards to specific offenses, she was charged with possession and transportation of falsified documents.

This information was verified by Conor Yunits, spokesman for the Donoghue campaign. According to Yunits, Rivera was forced to transport the ids because one of the people involved abused her. “Rivera got involved because one of the people who created the ids was her boyfriend. She was in an abusive relationship with him and he forced her to transport the ids. Rivera eventually sought a restraining order against her boyfriend.”

The second claim: that Donoghue willingly accepted the case when she could have refused.

Looking at the court document alone, it makes mention that the lead attorney was Donoghue and that she was retained. In legal speak, a retained lawyer is an attorney that been paid to take a case.

Yunits explained that wasn’t true. “Eileen speaks Spanish and was often assigned to cases to where one of the parties involved didn’t speak English. Rivera didn’t know a lot of English, so Eileen was appointed to the case. She only represented Rivera and not the individuals who actually forged the documents.”

What seems particularly odd is that the listed firm Donoghue was supposed to have been working for at the time, Gallagher & Cavanaugh, didn’t exist when the case was being processed.

The third claim: that Donoghue was responsible for Rivera’s reduced sentence.

The court document shows that Rivera was charged with possession and transportation, which are outlined in 18 U.S.C. 1546 (a) and 1028 (a) (2). In reading the text of 18 U.S.C. 1546 (a), a person who knowingly possesses false alien registration receipt cards or other documents can be fined, imprisoned or both.  According to the same section, a person can’t be imprisoned for more than 10 years for this violation if the offense wasn’t committed to facilitate international terrorism or drug trafficking. A person charged with transporting such documents can’t be imprisoned for more than 15 years, according to the terms of 18 U.S.C. 1028 (b).  It is also possible to be fined under this statute. Under both sections, no one can receive a higher sentence unless the offense was completed in order to commit international terrorism or drug trafficking.

The attached document included with the flier makes no mention of either terrorism or drug trafficking in list of charges against Rivera.

Notice that both of these sections of the United States Code establish maximum sentencing limits for these offenses. With that in mind, it’s possible that Rivera was given a lesser sentence because she wasn’t a major player. Or maybe her lesser sentence has something to do with the fact that the U.S. Attorney General, as evidenced by the included court document, dropped one of the charges against Rivera.

Why Rivera got a lesser sentence is murky at best given the court document is possibly inaccurate and nearly 20 years old at this point.

“This is another attempt by the Chris Doherty campaign to smear Eileen Donoghue’s name and reputation. Eileen worked hard to ensure 6th Amendment rights for everyone when she was an attorney,” remarked Yunits.

No Women, No Play project launched


With a concert and much fanfare, the Institute for Gulf Affairs (IGA) launched their “No Women, No Play” project in Washington, D.C. The aim of the project is to improve women’s rights in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) by boycotting the country from the Olympics. The IGA is a think tank that focuses on improving U.S. – Middle East relations by regularly meeting with members of the government and the media, so as to ensure that everyone is well-informed of developments in the area.

The concert took place in DuPont Circle, a major hub of activity within the district, on July 31st. The concert included performers Yvette Benjamin (aka Free) and Muneer AlAsheq. Speakers included Erin Matson, Vice President of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and Palestinian-American women’s rights activist, Besama Adriana Alghussein.

According to a recent press release on the IGA’s website, the program was created to put pressure on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to enforce their charter.  The IOC is specifically mandated to “act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement,” and to “encourage and support the promotion of women…with a view to implementing the principle of of equality between men and women.”

The logic behind the project is straightforward. Currently, though women have separate athletic facilities within the country, the KSA bars them from participating in the Olympics. The KSA’s practice is a direct violation of the principles which created the Olympic movement. As specifically stated with the Olympic Charter:

The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind…any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on the grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement. Pg 11

The charter also explains that any member country must abide by the charter. Furthermore, the IOC is “supreme authority” of the Olympic Movement and is thus charged to enforce the charter. Any decision made by the IOC is considered binding and must be followed.

Essentially, the project is relating the KSA’s practice to South Africa’s race apartheid. The comparison being if South Africa was banned until they stopped discriminating against blacks, then KSA should be banned until they stop discriminating against women.

For more information on this project, please visit the IGA’s website which is http://www.gulfinstitute.org. Email questions and comments directly to nowomennoplay@gulfinstitute.org or rachel@gulfinstitute.org. Updates are sent to Twitter and Facebook as well.

5th Congressional district candidate discusses immigration, part 2


It sounds like you believe that this is an issue for states to handle. Is that correct?

Yes.  Illegal immigration is an issue that should be left to the states because they are the ones being directly affected.  The federal government shouldn’t force the states to enact specific policies.  I support the deportation of illegal immigrants, which is something that I’ve said on my website.  However, I don’t believe that the states should be mandated to deport illegal immigrants.

What sort of provisions would you endorse if you are elected?

I would encourage Massachusetts to enforce the federal laws already in place.  I think that the local authorities should be allowed to report illegal immigrants if they choose.  That’s why we have the police—they’re here to enforce the law.  The states should work together to fix immigration since it’s an issue that affects them.

Shapiro is running against three other candidates for the Republican nomination.  To find out more about him, visit his website www.shapiro4congress.org.  The state primary is on Tuesday, September 14th and the general election is on Tuesday, November 2nd.

5th Congressional district discusses immigration, part 1


Robert Shapiro (R-Andover), who is a candidate in the race for the 5th Congressional District, is just as moved by the immigration debate as the rest of us.  The invalidation of key parts of S.B. 1070 has stoked passions on both sides of the immigration debate, and more people are making themselves heard.  In light of this latest development, Shapiro agreed to discuss the ruling yesterday.

A few days ago, U.S. District judge Susan Bolton struck down the most controversial provisions of the Arizona immigration law. What is your response to the ruling?

Arizona has a right to take to take action because illegal immigration endangers states.  People that come into this country illegally have access to our public services.  Public services were created for the benefit of legal citizens, not for illegal immigrants.  It’s not fair to everyone that is here legally to have to support people that are here illegally.

Do you agree with the judge’s decision to strike down parts of the law?

The Arizona law enforced federal regulations that were already in place.  Arizona was merely doing what was asked by the federal government.

What makes you say that states have a right to pass immigration legislation?

Like I said, illegal immigration harms states because illegal immigrants can use public services.  A state can’t support itself economically if the services its paying for are being used by people that don’t have legal access.  That’s why, if elected, I would support measures to close loopholes that currently allow illegal immigrants to use public services, many of which are supported by federal funds.  People shouldn’t be rewarded for breaking our laws.

To read the rest of Shapiro’s interview, read 5th Congressional district candidate, part 2.

Voter frustration causes locals to run for Congress, part 2


In regards to specific actions, Weaver (R-Westford) doesn’t mention many on his site. However, he supports reduced government spending by cutting back on small business regulations. Weaver would probably back efforts to downsize the federal government given his strict interpretation of the Constitution. Given his stances, Weaver seems to fall squarely into the free-market mentality. He hints at making health insurance very competitive to help lower costs, so don’t be surprised if Weaver support efforts to buy across state lines.

Shapiro (R-Andover) seems to follow the “starve the beast” government philosophy by slashing taxes, especially by opposing the Administration’s energy tax. He also suggests adopting an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would put a dollar limit on federal spending. In addition, Shapiro would try to bring down the deficit by ending all spending on alternative energy sources. He might be taking a page from Senator Brown’s book because Shapiro promises to repeal the health care reform legislation.

The candidates also take stands on immigration as well. If Steven Camarota, of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), is correct about the public wanting enforcement before reformation, then the nomination could end up going to either Meas or Golnik. This might end up being the case as they appear to have policy ideas that are more similar to the public’s wishes. Keep in mind that the Republican National Committee (RNC) is advising both Meas and Golnik on their campaigns, which suggests that they could be the heavy hitters for this race.

Yesterday’s Gallup poll showed that Democrats tend to get an overwhelming majority, a 42% advantage over the Republicans, of the non-white vote. With this latest poll in mind, the Republicans could end up favoring Meas in an effort to steal votes from Tsongas. This would be a smart move for the RNC as minorities tend to vote more frequently and in higher numbers than white voters. Tsongas’ challenge is to not only ensure she doesn’t lose minority voters, but to also appeal to the Independent voting base.

For more information on this topic, please read Voter frustration part 1, which can be found here and on my Examiner.com page.

Voter frustration causes locals to run for Congress, part 1


Four local residents are competing for the Republican party’s nomination in order to challenge Niki Tsongas for her seat in Congress. As the public gets increasingly more frustrated at Washington, which can be seen in many letters written to local papers, first time candidates are running for office everywhere.

The Fifth Congressional District covers most of Middlesex county, as well as parts of Essex and Worcester Counties. Some of the cities and towns include Lowell, Haverhill, Lawrence, as well as Berlin and Lancaster.

Tsongas (D-Lowell) won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2007 special election. Tsongas has been an important advocate for our veterans and higher education. After meeting with our troops, she was key in passing a bill that created lightweight body armor which has helped them protect our country. Tsongas helped to improve the economy by fighting predatory credit and lending practices to make consumers feel safe. She has been a resident of Lowell for over 30 years.

When it comes to the economy and job creation, Golnik (R-Carlisle) is strongly supportive of small businesses. He sees small businesses as, “…the engine of job creation” and proposes that smaller banks get tax breaks for lending to comparably sized companies. Voters can probably expect Golnik to support movements that allow individuals to purchase health insurance across state lines and to not support further stimulus spending. Given Golnik’s pro-business and limited spending philosophy, he appears to be a free-market conservative.

Meas (R-Haverhill) shares Golnik’s belief that small businesses are the key to improving the economy. Thus, Meas suggests that the small business tax should be cut in half so that they can focus more on expanding. He also supports the continuation of the Bush tax cuts.  Voters could see Meas close Medicare loopholes to cut health insurance costs. Meas seems to be a fair trade conservative because he will support regulations that, “…create a level playing field for all participants.”

To continue reading, see Voter frustration, part 2.