Report Shows Pentagon Missed Chances to “Correct” Detainee Abuse
A number of recent news stories have revealed that the military is refusing to take responsibility of the actions of its members with regard to the abuse of detainees. In many cases the military has declined to prosecute soldiers engaged in abusive behavior, and by virtue of their silence, have decided to provide a kind of tacit endorsement to the tactics being used against detainees. While the Pentagon has absolved itself and its top officials of responsibility in the abuse of detainees in Iraq and Guantanamo, a new report by Navy Inspector General Vice Admiral Albert Church argues that the military, by virtue of a lack of oversight and clarity in interrogation methods, contributed to the abuse of detainees. The report has been criticized by Human Rights Watch and some Democrats for failing to adequately address the involvement of higher-ranking officials in the Pentagon. Avoiding prosecuting higher ranking soldiers and officials has been a common feature of recent instances of abuse, with well-publicized deaths of detainees in Afghanistan only resulting in disciplinary action against two reservists The military has also failed to investigate abuses of Iraqi civilians, with a recent article reporting the military’s failure to investigate sexual assaults.
Meanwhile, a new video of abuses of detainees by United States soldiers has been made available. The video, made by members of the Florida National Guard serving in the 124th Infantry Regiment, shows soldiers beating detainees, swearing at them, and playing with dead bodies. The military recently concluded an investigation of the video and has determined that the video depicts “inappropriate rather than criminal behavior” and has decided not to prosecute the soldiers involved.
Questions Continue Surrounding U.S. Attack on Italian Journalist
After US troops opened fire on a car carrying Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, Italian intelligence officer Nicola Calipari, and another intelligence officer, resulting in the death of Nicola Calipari, questions continue regarding the circumstances of the shooting, While the United States has sought to justify the shooting by stating that the car was speeding towards a US checkpoint and failed to respond to warning shots and hand signals, the both the Italian government and occupants of the vehicle have disputed the United States claims. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told Italy’s parliament that the vehicle was traveling slowly and stopped at the checkpoint, in addition to claiming that Calipari had notified United States forces that he was escorting a freed hostage. Giuliana Sgrena has also disputed the military’s account of the event, while others have suggested that the military may have purposely targeted Sgrena in order to stop her from writing a story on refugees from Fallujah who now live in Baghdad.
If Sgrena’s vehicle was not specifically targeted, then this incident does illustrate that the U.S. miltary’s rules of engagement in Iraq have become quite lax. So-called “friendly fire” incidents have been increasing in Iraq as the United States military tries to protect itself from insurgent attacks that often use car bombs at checkpoints, using these attacks as a pretext for aggressive security measures that occasionally result in the deaths of innocent civilians. While “friendly fire” incidents involving foreign nationals get the most attention in the corporate press, Iraqi civilians have felt the brunt of these policies.
Military Facing Problem Meeting Recruiting Goals
Over the past year, the United States military has begun to see a significant drop in the number of recruits, with recent reports announcing that the Marine Corps and National Guard have failed to reach their recruiting goals. Overall, the military has seen a significant drop in recruitment of African Americans and women. In 2000 African Americans made up 23.5% of recruits and women 22% and in 2004 these percentages dropped to 14% and 16%, respectively. The military has faced difficulties attracting new recruits with the ongoing occupation of Iraq and deadly insurgency, as well as the publicity surrounding recent policies designed to keep soldiers in the military after their enlistments expire.
Antiwar activists have also started to target military recruiting more aggressively in the past few months, as recent arrests at anti-recruiting protests have resulted in more coverage of the movement in the corporate press. Across the United States activists working as “counter recruiters” at high schools and colleges are becoming more common, as activists begin to see an opportunity to affect the military’s capacity to occupy Iraq by hindering recruiting efforts, following the simple logic that without an adequate number of soldiers in Iraq the military will be unable to continue the occupation. Anti-recruiting tactics vary, with some groups giving presentations in schools to directly counter the efforts of recruiters while others distribute handbills outside of high schools. Most efforts focus on providing students with other options and highlighting the lies told by recruiters to attract students to the military. In some cities, antiwar groups have begun providing counseling where they meet with students individually and help them explore options outside the military. Locally, the Confronting Empire working group has begun to look into organizing against military recruiters while the Institute for Global Education has been working on setting up a campaign of their own through their Committee for Military Dialogue. In Lansing, activists with Direct Action have been distributing copies of their anti-recruiting zine Through the Wire at area high schools.
Demonstration Against the Occupation of Iraq Planned in Grand Rapids
A demonstration against the ongoing occupation of Iraq will take place in Grand Rapids on the second anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. The demonstration is on Saturday, March 19 at 1:00pm at the Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids (Calder Plaza is on Ottawa between Michigan and Lyon). The demonstration will consist of a brief rally followed by a march through downtown. The demonstration is organized by the West Michigan Justice and Peace Coalition with input from the Confronting Empire working group. A flyer for the protest can be downloaded here.