The following is an archived copy of a message sent to the CASI Analysis List run by Cambridge Solidarity with Iraq.
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[ This message has been sent to you via the CASI-analysis mailing list ] This is an automated compilation of submissions to email@example.com Articles for inclusion in this daily news mailing should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a full reference to the source of the article. Today's Topics: 1. FW: helping the United States out of the mire in Iraq (Hassan) 2. U.S. Troops Surround Chalabi's House!! (Hassan) 3. More Photos Surface (Hassan) 4. Blow by blow account of Reuters staff abuse issue (k hanly) 5. INC Funding (Nicholas Gilby) 6. Questions on Berg beheading (k hanly) --__--__-- Message: 1 Date: Thu, 20 May 2004 03:13:18 -0700 (PDT) From: Hassan <hasseini@DELETETHISyahoo.com> Subject: FW: helping the United States out of the mire in Iraq To: CASI newsclippings <email@example.com>, IAC discussion <firstname.lastname@example.org> [ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] http://www.helsinginsanomat.fi/english/article/1076152746456 The near-impossibility of helping the United States out of the mire in Iraq EDITORIAL It has become frighteningly difficult to believe or even to try to convince= others that the United States' heedless adventure in Iraq could lead to a = happy ending. Of course, military supremacy remains in the hands of the occ= upying force, but the political - and above all the moral - credibility is = spent. "Sovereignty" should pass to the Iraqis at the end of June, but alre= ady today the transfer of authority is understood as nothing more than an e= mpty conjuring trick. It has not even been possible to agree on whom should= take over the trappings of apparent power. For the occupiers, supremacy without authority is already something of a wo= rthless commodity. The forces themselves can no longer move on the highways= of Iraq except in armoured columns. The reconstruction of the country shou= ld be put into high gear, and political life got onto a healthy footing for= subsequent elections, but all the conditions for this seem to be lacking. When the administration of George W. Bush has frittered away its most impor= tant expedients for the carrying out of the task it took on, the only alter= native currently in play is to internationalise the crisis. This means that= responsibility for the running of the transition period would be handed ov= er to the United Nations. The maintenance of security could be entrusted to= NATO, with troops from the United States joined by others from as many mem= ber-states as possible. In theory the proposal is a good one. In reality its hour has probably pass= ed. The security situation on the ground is so bad that only the power of t= he United States is sufficient any longer to protect an international inter= im administration. However, such an arrangement would take away any credibi= lity and semblance of independence a UN-led caretaker government might enjo= y. Washington is seeking to borrow international authority, but in practice= even this would be laid waste in the wake of Washington=92s own, which has= already been destroyed If the might of the United States and international legitimacy have become = an impossible combination, from where can we seek a solution henceforth? In= this situation the Bush administration must find its own way out of the ca= tastrophe that it has wrought through its own blindness and repeated mistak= es. There is every reason to help the United States, but all aid is somehow= rendered useless before a fundamental political change has been made in Wa= shington. An ideal solution would probably be if Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld= were to tender his immediate resignation and if President Bush were to adm= it the mistakes of the Iraq policy. The guiding of Iraq towards independenc= e would be transferred into the hands of some non-partisan American enjoyin= g general respect, who would then hurry forward the transfer of power - a r= eal transfer and not an ostensible one - using all means available. Naturally, no such scenario will be played out in the real world. The Bush = government will cling doggedly to the occupation and to the shreds of its b= ankrupt policy until Election Day comes around in November. The solution will then be solely in the hands of the U.S. voters, and the r= est of the world will have to await the outcome of the election in an unusu= ally heightened state of excitement. In the past few months we have seen th= e emergence on this side of the Atlantic of an ever-firmer conviction that = the world=92s only superpower now has its most hapless government in living= memory. Bush could naturally still win in November. Then we shall have to hope that= against all the laws of probability he will be able to be born again and s= tart afresh from the beginning. Otherwise we shall find ourselves in the uncharted waters of a situation wh= ere the world has an overwhelming leader-state whose ability to lead is gra= vely weakened. Not even the most enthusiastic of neo-conservative ideologue= s in the United States could be expected to wish for such an outcome. Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 16.5.2004 --------------------------------- Helsingin Sanomat --------------------------------- Do you Yahoo!? Yahoo! Domains - Claim yours for only $14.70/year --__--__-- Message: 2 Date: Thu, 20 May 2004 05:27:20 -0700 (PDT) From: Hassan <hasseini@DELETETHISyahoo.com> Subject: U.S. Troops Surround Chalabi's House!! To: CASI newsclippings <email@example.com>, IAC discussion <firstname.lastname@example.org> [ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] Interesting news!!! Do the Americans care at all for their freinds and stooges?? Who is next?? ------------------------------------------------------------ http://abcnews.go.com/wire/World/ap20040520_273.html U.S. Troops Surround Chalabi's House U.S. Troops, Iraqi Police Surround Chalabi's House; Aide Says It Was Politi= cally Motivated Raid The Associated Press BAGHDAD, Iraq May 20, 2004 =97 U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police surrounded th= e residence of Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi on Thursday, and an aide said= the troops raided the house ostensibly to search for fugitives. The aide, Haidar Musawi, accused the Americans of trying to pressure Chalab= i, a longtime Pentagon favorite who has become openly critical of U.S. plan= s for how much power to transfer to the Iraqis on June 30. He said the Americans also raided offices of Chalabi's Iraqi National Congr= ess. "The aim is to put political pressure," Musawi told The Associated Press. "= Why is this happening at a time when the government is being formed?" There was no comment from the U.S. military press office.Police sealed off = the residence in the city's fashionable Mansour district and would not allo= w reporters to approach. At least two Humvees could be seen, with a dozen U= .S. troops milling about. Several armed Westerners were also seen, wearing flak vests and using SUVs = without license tags vehicles associated here with U.S. security. Some people could be seen loading boxes into vehicles, and neighbors said s= ome members of Chalabi's entourage were taken away. Musawi said the U.S.-Iraqi force surrounded the compound about 10:30 a.m., = while Chalabi, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, was inside. They to= ld Chalabi's aides that they wanted to search the house for Iraqi National = Congress officials wanted by the authorities. The aides agreed to let one unarmed Iraqi policeman inside to look around. "The Iraqi police were very embarrassed and said that they (the Americans) = ordered them to come and that they didn't know it was Chalabi's house," Mus= awi said. "The INC is ready to have any impartial and judicial body investi= gate any accusation against it. There are American parties who have a list = of Iraqi personalities that they want arrested to put pressure on the Iraqi= political force." Musawi said the Americans also seized computers from INC offices. For years, Chalabi's INC had received hundreds of thousands of dollars ever= y month from the Pentagon, in part for intelligence passed along by exiles = about Saddam Hussein's purported weapons of mass destruction. Chalabi has come under criticism since large stockpiles of such weapons wer= e never found. Chalabi has complained recently about U.S. plans to retain control of Iraqi= security forces and maintain widespread influence over political instituti= ons after power is transferred from the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Auth= ority to an Iraqi interim administration at the end of June. Musawi said Chalabi "had been clear on rejecting incomplete sovereignty....= and against having the security portfolio remain in the hands of those who = have proved their failure." --------------------------------- Do you Yahoo!? Yahoo! Domains - Claim yours for only $14.70/year --__--__-- Message: 3 Date: Thu, 20 May 2004 05:32:50 -0700 (PDT) From: Hassan <hasseini@DELETETHISyahoo.com> Subject: More Photos Surface To: CASI newsclippings <email@example.com>, IAC discussion <firstname.lastname@example.org> [ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/may2004/051904morephotos.htm More Photos Surface Soldiers Shown Giving Thumbs Up Sign By Body of Dead Iraqi Prisoner ABC News | May 19 2004 ABCNEWS has obtained two new photos taken at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq = showing Spc. Charles Graner and Spc. Sabrina Harmon posing over the body of= a detainee who was allegedly beaten to death by CIA or civilian interrogat= ors in the prison's showers. The detainee's name was Manadel al-Jamadi. According to testimony from Spc. Jason Kenner, obtained by ABCNEWS, the man= was brought to the prison by U.S. Navy Seals in good health. Kenner said h= e saw extensive bruising on the detainee's body when he was brought out of = the showers, dead. Kenner says the body was packed in ice during a "battle" between CIA and mi= litary interrogators over who should dispose of the body. The Justice Department opened an investigation into this death and four oth= ers today following a referral from the CIA. The photos were taken by Sgt. Charles Frederick, who in e-mails to his fami= ly has asked why the people responsible for the prisoner's death were not b= eing prosecuted in the same manner that he is. Frederick, Graner, and Harmon are among six reservists from the 372nd Milit= ary Police Company who are facing charges in the abuse scandal. A lawyer for Graner, Guy Womack, told ABCNEWS the photo of his client repre= sents inappropriate "gallows humor." Womack questioned why U.S. officials h= ave not opened a criminal investigation into alleged murders at Abu Ghraib,= while the investigation of his client has proceeded at a rapid pace. A seventh member of the unit, Spc. Jeremy Sivits, pleaded guilty today to f= our counts for taking pictures of naked Iraqi prisoners being humiliated. Sivits received the maximum penalty of a year in prison and a bad conduct d= ischarge. --------------------------------- Do you Yahoo!? Yahoo! Domains - Claim yours for only $14.70/year --__--__-- Message: 4 From: "k hanly" <khanly@DELETETHISmb.sympatico.ca> To: "newsclippings" <email@example.com> Subject: Blow by blow account of Reuters staff abuse issue Date: Thu, 20 May 2004 22:10:59 -0500 http://184.108.40.206/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1000515956 Reuters Stands by Iraq Abuse Reports, Releases Timeline on Incident By Greg Mitchell Published: May 20, 2004 4:00 PM EST NEW YORK Despite official military statements denying any wrongdoing -- and an announcement today that the case is "closed" -- Reuters is standing by allegations that three of its employees were abused by U.S. soldiers while confined near Falluja in January. A chronology produced by Reuters detailing events surrounding the alleged abuse of three of its staffers in Iraq, obtained by E&P today, appears to support the agency's contention that it has repeatedly pressed the military for a full and objective probe of this incident from the beginning, with sometimes disquieting results. The detailed chronology reveals that the agency's Baghdad bureau chief, Andrew Marshall, received an e-mail from the military on Jan. 29 containing an executive summary of the U.S. investigation and its final results, which claimed no abuse of the staffers -- while the investigation, according to the Pentagon, was still underway. And none of the three Reuters detainees had been interviewed by the military. The military said the summary had been sent in error, but when the final report was sent to Reuters nearly a month later, the executive summary had not changed. On Wednesday, General Ricardo Sanchez reiterated his belief that the investigation of this case was "thorough" and he stood by the military's conduct in the matter. (The official military report on the incident was posted today at Raleigh's newsobserver.com.) "Our investigation found no abuse of any kind," Maj. Jimmie Cummings, spokesman for the 82nd Airborne Division, which was responsible for detaining the Reuters' employees, told the Associated Press today. "This is a closed case." Reuters told E&P today that it had "no reason to doubt" the testimony of its staffers. Responding to questions about why Reuters seemingly "waited" until now to press this issue, Stephen Naru, Reuters' global head of media relations, said, "The suggestion that Reuters has not been prepared to go public on this story until now is just not true. Since the incident first occurred in early January, we have been open about and consistent in our efforts to secure a fair and independent investigation into the incident. ... Reuters took significant steps to provide information and evidence to the Pentagon and field commanders in this case. This includes testimonies of the three individuals, which we have no reason to doubt. These testimonials took place many months before any prisoner abuse claims became public. "Suggestions that the three are motivated by 'anti-coalition' motives are totally unfounded. Given the awful experiences these individuals went through these kind of remarks are regrettable. Until the U.S. army takes the time to interview the three individuals as part of a thorough investigation it is not really in a position to evaluate the veracity of their evidence." Here is the internal timeline, created by Reuters, and obtained by E&P, that details the agency's version of its reaction to the alleged abuse of its staffers in early January, and the response from the U.S. military since: Jan. 2: First indication of detentions of three Iraqis working for Reuters and an Iraqi working for NBC in Falluja following the shooting down of a U.S. helicopter. Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt tells a Baghdad news briefing that "enemy personnel" posing as journalists had fired on U.S. forces and had later been detained. Baghdad bureau informs 82nd Airborne and other military personnel of identity and status of the detainees within first hours of their detentions. Jan. 3-4: Baghdad Bureau Chief Andrew Marshall working with [Combined Joint Task Force] and [Coalition Provisional Authority] officials in Baghdad and 82nd in Falluja/Ramadi to try to secure employees' release. Marshall and Baghdad office manager Khaled al-Ramahi travel to [Forward Operating Base]Volturno near Falluja but are not allowed inside and not allowed to see the detainees. Captain Ryan Deruoin tells Marshall outside the base that the detainees are well and are being properly treated. Jan. 4: Marshall and NBC Bureau Chief Karl Bostic meet Kimmitt in Baghdad to seek releases. Kimmitt said the detainees would be released the following day. Jan. 5: Marshall provides 82nd Airborne, at its request, with footage shot in Falluja on 2 Jan by Salem Ureibi. Footage is of worshippers in Falluja at Friday prayers at a mosque and demonstrates that there is no basis for U.S. assertion that Ureibi and others were seen in the area where the helicopter was shot down. Jan. 5: Washington Bureau Chief Rob Doherty, Reuters Global Managing Editor David Schlesinger and Reuters Americas Television Editor John Clarke meet with [Chief Pentagon spokesman Lawrence] Di Rita and [Pentagon spokesman Bryan] Whitman at Pentagon. Detainees released shortly before meeting. Reuters party says it is seeking retraction of Kimmitt statement alleging "enemy personnel" posing as journalists fired on US forces. Jan. 5: Reuters runs first story on the detainees. Jan. 6: Reuters seeks clarification at a Baghdad press briefing on the statement about "enemy personnel posing as media." Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack, [Commanding Officer] of 82nd Airborne, tells reporters in Baghdad the detainees had probably been in the wrong place at the wrong time and says there is no credible evidence they were involved in wrongdoing. Jan. 8: Marshall obtains disturbing taped testimony from released three detainees detailing specifics of physical and emotional abuse. Schlesinger and Doherty meet Di Rita and Whitman again in order to detail abuse verbally and express Reuters concerns. Jan. 9: Formal letter of complaint from Schlesinger to Gen. [Ricardo] Sanchez (copied to Paul Bremer) urging a full investigation, seeking retraction of the statement on "enemy personnel posing as media" and offering full assistance to the military to facilitate an investigation. Letter also raises Jan. 6 remarks by Kimmitt to Marshall and protests them. Jan. 12: Reuters receives a response to its Jan. 9 letter from HQ 82nd Airborne, Ramadi, signed by Staff Judge Advocate Lt. Col. Thomas Ayres advising that Swannack has ordered a division-level investigation of the allegations by a field-grade officer. "In our view, evidence still exists for the U.S. to reasonably suspect these three individuals of involvement in the downing of the U.S. helicopter on January 2, 2004," the letter states, adding the three remain under investigation. The letter contains a request to Reuters to hand over all documents in its possession related to the incident, as well as employment records or contracts of the three. It is accompanied by a list of 25 questions to answer, relating to the three, their background, relationship with Reuters, work practices and "any indication at all of their leaning/feelings about the Coalition". Jan. 16 Jan: Schlesinger responds to Lt. Col. Ayres. The 42-page reply answers the 25 questions, appends the Reuters Trust Principles and medical reports and provides full transcripts of the taped testimony of the three. It also offers to make available copies of the tapes of the testimony, video footage, cameras and other equipment. Letter says Reuters agrees that the military may conduct further interviews with the three, as well as question Reuters driver Alaa Noury, who witnessed the events, in the presence of Marshall. Jan. 16: [Another] Reuters story about detainees and abuse. Jan. 16: U.S. military press office in Baghdad releases statement announcing that Sanchez has ordered a criminal investigation into reported incidents of detainee abuse at an undisclosed Coalition detention facility in Iraq (the first word of events that would later be exposed at Abu Ghraib). Jan. 23: Reuters outside counsel Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering writes to William (Jim) Haynes, [Department of Defense] General Counsel, about the Falluja abuse and suggesting that he may wish to take up the matter with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz as "an institutional imperative". Jan. 27 Schlesinger writes to Di Rita, copied to Sanchez and Bremer, noting it has been over three weeks since the detentions. Letter repeats call for a retraction or correction of the "enemy personnel" statement and for a full investigation into the treatment of the detainees, with all the evidence to be made available to Reuters. The letter states: "It has become clear that the military either does not yet appreciate the significance of the matters we have raised or -- even worse -- fully understands their seriousness but is deliberately attempting to downplay them or ignore them." Jan. 27: Reuters issues a press release and story on the letter and the news agency's concerns at the apparent lack of action. Jan. 29: Marshall in Baghdad receives an e-mail from 82nd [Public Affairs Officer] Cpt. Tammy Galloway containing an unclassified executive summary of the military investigation and its results. Galloway then again contacts by e-mail Marshall asking to "recall" the document. In subsequent e-mail exchanges, she advises first that the document was sent in error, then states that it was sent prematurely. She then says it is not intended for public use. Simultaneously, Sanchez tells a news conference in Baghdad in response to questions from a Reuters reporter that the investigation should be completed within a week and "is right on the verge of being released". Jan. 29: Schlesinger writes to Di Rita about receipt of the executive summary and requesting an urgent telephone conversation to ascertain whether the executive summary is the final word. Letter states, among other criticisms of the investigation, that the military's failure to interview the staff detained raises questions about its seriousness and credibility. Feb. 3: Schlesinger receives a fax ... from Whitman ... The Whitman fax says the Pentagon takes the matter seriously, is "looking into each of your requests" and will respond shortly. Around the same time, Kimmitt tells a Reuters reporter at a news briefing in Baghdad that "most of the conclusions" of the investigation have already come out in the executive summary. Schlesinger again contacts Whitman by e-mail asking how the two assertions can be reconciled and follows up with a message to Whitman's Blackberry seeking an urgent conversation and advising that Reuters intends to go public with its concerns. Feb. 3: In light of Kimmitt's comments, Schlesinger sends a letter to Di Rita, copied to Bremer, Sanchez, Haynes and Whitman about Reuters concerns with the investigation and advising that Reuters intends to issue a press statement about those concerns. The letter describes the investigation as "woefully inadequate" and criticizes gratuitous speculative conclusions in the summary that two of the detainees may have purposefully exaggerated their allegations for anti-coalition purposes. It repeats earlier criticisms of its conduct and demands a reopening of the investigation in a more thorough and objective manner at senior levels in the DoD. The letter also states: "Moreover, many of the allegations are startlingly similar to allegations made by detainees at other U.S.-controlled facilities, and there is no indication that our staff were aware of these reports." Feb. 3: Whitman calls Schlesinger soon after the Reuters story runs. According to Schlesinger's, note, Whitman says he has contacted Kimmitt, who advised him that while the executive summary contained "conclusions" the investigation had not been completed and the outcome needed to be vetted by the chain of command. Schlesinger quotes Whitman as telling him that "Mr. Di Rita, Larry, is very adamant to getting to the bottom of this ... Those are appalling allegations that we take very seriously." Whitman adds: "Regardless of what has been provided you to date, we don't consider this a closed matter by any means." Feb 20: Marshall receives e-mail from Major Harper of the 82nd Airborne with the same executive summary sent to him "prematurely" on Jan. 29. Harper characterizes the attachment as the "final executive summary," implying the 82nd considers the investigation closed. Feb. 20: Schlesinger speaks with Whitman about the Harper e-mail and the Dana report. On Falluja, Schlesinger minutes Whitman as telling him off the record: "This does not sufficiently address the issues you have raised and we know that." Schlesinger quotes Whitman as saying Sanchez himself is involved in the issue now and he and Sanchez have discussed it. Whitman said the e-mail represented the fact that the 82nd has finished its work, but now Sanchez was looking into the issue. "I'm confident this will work faster than your other issues," Whitman said. Feb. 23: U.S. Army announces that 17 military personnel have been suspended pending investigations into reports of the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Reuters story also refers to investigations into the treatment of the Falluja detainees. March 11: Reuters CEO Tom Glocer and Schlesinger visit Pentagon to meet Di Rita and Whitman ... Schlesinger minutes quote Di Rita as saying that the Sanchez investigation into Falluja is "nearly complete". (Note this is SIX days after the date on the letter we ultimately received from Sanchez declaring the matter closed.) March 20: Kimmitt announces that six soldiers have been charged with offences stemming from the alleged abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. "The coalition takes all reports of detainee abuse seriously and all allegations of mistreatment are investigated. We are committed to treating all persons under coalition control with dignity, respect and humanity," Kimmit says. Reuters story makes reference to the Falluja detainees. April 28: CBS "60 Minutes II" airs graphic photographs of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, triggering widespread international condemnation and a crisis in the U.S. military. May 2: Schlesinger resends his Feb. 3 letter to Di Rita. In a cover e-mail, Schlesinger states: "In light of the recent reports and pictures detailing the conditions for some prisoners held by the U.S. military in Abu Ghraib, I think it is imperative that our staffs' complaints, which were independent of and predate the current public reports, be reviewed thoroughly, objectively and with a new view towards their veracity." May 12: Marshall advises the Reuters Iraq Security Group in an e-mail of his view that Reuters should consider another statement and story if the May 2 e-mail/letter to Di Rita fails to elicit a response. He advises that the Reuters detainees may want to go public. May 14: Doherty speaks by telephone to Whitman to press for a report on the detentions and a response to Schlesinger's May 2 e-mail/letter. Whitman tells Doherty that he had been advised by CJTF-7 that a response from Sanchez had been sent to Reuters several weeks earlier. Doherty again advises Whitman that no correspondence has been received. Whitman says he has requested a copy of the Sanchez letter and is awaiting it. May 17: Marshall e-mails [Political and General News Editor Paul] Holmes and [Middle East and Africa Editor Barry] Moody informing them that the Reuters detainees are now prepared to go public with specific details of the abuse and requesting advice on how to proceed. Holmes and Moody advise they support issuing a story on news grounds. May 17: Whitman e-mails [Washington Bureau Chief Rob] Doherty a copy of the Sanchez letter, dated March 5. The Sanchez letter, addressed to Schlesinger, states that the general is confident the investigation was thorough and objective and that its conclusions, clearing military personnel of any wrongful conduct, was sound. Iraq Security Group decides to go ahead with story detailing the abuse. May 18: Reuters issues story, bylined Andrew Marshall in Baghdad, detailing the abuse. An [update] to the story quotes Di Rita as saying: "The commander in Iraq reviewed the investigation in this matter and was persuaded that it was thorough and appropriate. Should there be new information provided sufficient to cause reconsideration of these particular allegations, such information would be reviewed and acted upon as appropriate." May 19: Reuters issues story, bylined Vicki Allen in Washington, detailing General Sanchez's defense of the investigation. He tells reporters: "My belief is that the investigations that were conducted as a result of those allegations were thorough and the decisions were made at that time." Sanchez spoke to reporters after testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- ---- Greg Mitchell (firstname.lastname@example.org) is editor of E&P. --__--__-- Message: 5 Subject: INC Funding Date: Fri, 21 May 2004 17:39:23 +0100 From: "Nicholas Gilby" <Nicholas.Gilby@DELETETHISmori.com> To: <email@example.com> May 20, 2004 The General Accounting Office (GAO) today released the following reports, testimony, and correspondence: LETTER REPORT State Department: Issues Affecting Funding of Iraqi National Congress Support Foundation. GAO-04-559, April 30 http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-04-559 Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d04559high.pdf These and other recent GAO reports and testimonies may be found at http://www.gao.gov/docdblite/recent.php. Printed copies of any of these items are available from GAO's Document Distribution Center, 202-512-6000. 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For further information visit http://www.mci.com --__--__-- Message: 6 From: "k hanly" <khanly@DELETETHISmb.sympatico.ca> To: "newsclippings" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Questions on Berg beheading Date: Fri, 21 May 2004 16:27:42 -0500 http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/FE22Ak03.html Middle East Berg beheading: No way, say medical experts By Ritt Goldstein American businessman Nicholas Berg's body was found on May 8 near a Baghdad overpass; a video of his supposed decapitation death by knife appeared on an alleged al-Qaeda-linked website (www.al-ansar.biz) on May 11. But according to what both a leading surgical authority and a noted forensic death expert separately told Asia Times Online, the video depicting the decapitation appears to have been staged. "I certainly would need to be convinced it [the decapitation video] was authentic," Dr John Simpson, executive director for surgical affairs at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, said from New Zealand. Echoing Dr Simpson's criticism, when this journalist asked forensic death expert Jon Nordby, PhD and fellow of the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators, whether he believed the Berg decapitation video had been "staged", Nordby replied: "Yes, I think that's the best explanation of it." Questions of when the video's footage was taken, and the time elapsed between the shooting of the video's segments, were raised by both experts, reflecting a portion of the broader and ongoing video controversy. Nordby, speaking to Asia Times Online from Washington state, noted: "We don't know how much time wasn't filmed," adding that "there's no way of knowing whether ... footage is contemporaneous with the footage that follows". While the circumstances surrounding both the video and Nick Berg's last days have been the source of substantive speculation, both Simpson and Nordby perceived it as highly probable that Berg had died some time prior to his decapitation. A factor in this was an apparent lack of the "massive" arterial bleeding such an act initiates. "I would have thought that all the people in the vicinity would have been covered in blood, in a matter of seconds ... if it was genuine," said Simpson. Notably, the act's perpetrators appeared far from so. And separately Nordby observed: "I think that by the time they're ... on his head, he's already dead." Providing another basis for their findings, in the course of such an assault, an individual's autonomic nervous system would react, typically doing so strongly, with the body shaking and jerking accordingly. And while Nordby noted that "they rotated and moved the head", shifting vertebrae that should have initiated such actions, Simpson said he "certainly didn't perceive any movements at all" in response to such efforts. During the period when Berg's captors filmed the decapitation sequence, circumstances indicate that he had already been dead "a quite uncertain length of time, but more than ... however long the beheading took", Simpson stated. Both Simpson and Nordby also noted the difficulty in providing analysis based on the video, the inherent limitations presented by this. But both also felt that Berg had seemed drugged. A particularly significant point in the video sequence occurred as Berg's captors attacked him, bringing the supposedly fatal knife to bear. "The way that they pulled him over, they could have used a dummy at that point," reflected Simpson regarding what the video portrayed. Separately, Nordby said Berg does not "appear to register any sort of surprise or any change in his facial expression when he's grabbed and twisted over, and they start to bring this weapon into use". Subsequently, Nordby said it was likely that the filming sequence was manipulated at the point immediately preceding this, allowing Berg's corpse to be used for the decapitation sequence. Nordby also emphasized that the video "raises more questions than it answers", with the most fundamental questions of "who are you, and how did you die", being impossible to answer from it. But broad speculation exists regarding a number of factors surrounding both Berg's death and the video, and its timing in regard to revelations of US prison atrocities. In a May 13 article, the Arabic newsgroup Aljazeera reported that a Dubai-based Reuters journalist first broke the story, "but while Fox News, CNN and the BBC" were able to secure the video from the "Arabic-only website" that hosted it, Aljazeera was unable to locate it. And also on May 13, the Associated Press (AP) reported that the US Central Intelligence Agency had determined that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was the individual who beheaded Berg. Since Secretary of State Colin Powell's United Nations presentation of February 5, 2003, al-Zarqawi has been portrayed as the single most dangerous element facing the Bush administration's "war on terror". Powell's UN presentation has since been widely accepted as empty; nevertheless, al-Zarqawi appears to have surpassed even Osama bin Laden as the administration's No 1 terror target. And on May 15, Brigadier-General Mark Kimmitt, the Coalition Provisional Authority's chief Iraq military spokesman, declared that al-Zarqawi will be eventually caught, though that may prove particularly difficult. On March 4, Brigadier-General David Rodriguez of the Joint Chiefs of staff revealed that the Pentagon didn't have "direct evidence of whether he's [al-Zarqawi] alive or dead", providing commentary on the nature of prior "evidence" linking al-Zarqawi to attacks and bombings. But that same day, AP reported that an Iraqi resistance group claimed al-Zarqawi had been killed the April prior in the US bombing of northern Iraq. Speaking off the record, intelligence community sources have previously said they believe it "very likely" that al-Zarqawi is indeed long dead. Such a fact makes al-Zarqawi's alleged killing of Berg difficult to reconcile, and there has been broad speculation that blaming al-Zarqawi is an administration ploy. Further anomalies surrounding Berg's death have fueled added speculation. According to e-mails sent from a US consular officer in Baghdad, Beth Payne, to the Berg family, Nick Berg was being held in Iraq "by the US military in Mosul". A May 13 AP report notes that a US State Department spokesperson subsequently said this was untrue, an error, and that Berg was being held by Iraqi authorities. But another May 13 AP report quoted "police chief Major-General Mohammed Khair al-Barhawi" as claiming that reports of Iraqi police having held Berg were "baseless". And Berg is seen on the beheading videotape in what appears to be US military prison-issue clothing, sitting in what appears to be a US military-type white chair, virtually identical to those photographed as used at Abu Ghraib prison. However, the taking of hostages has occurred in the region, and beheadings are not unheard of. According to a February 2003 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), on September 23, 2001, radical Islamists captured a group of 25 Kurdish fighters in the Iraqi village of Kheli Hama. "Some prisoners' throats had been slit, while others had been beheaded," HRW reported, noting that the television station KurdSat had broadcast pictures of the dead that September 26. The report also noted that a videotape "apparently filmed" by those committing the atrocities had been found. The strict Islamist community in Iraq denied that the acts were committed by their people, stating that the incident was fabricated. Additional reports of beheadings also exist, with the victims usually noted as killed with a bullet before the beheading occurs. But HRW's report also raised an issue that the Berg video's makers, and Berg's father, both raised: prisoner exchange. HRW noted that Iraq's radical Islamists did pursue exchanges of captives, and the Berg video specifically noted that his captors claimed they were killing him as their attempts to exchange Berg had been rebuffed by US authorities. Berg's father, Michael, has pressed the administration of US President George W Bush as regards what the facts of this allegation are, with the administration denying any knowledge that such a trade was offered. And added questions still exist. Because Iraq's radical Islamists speak in a particular manner, and live by a closely proscribed code, apparent contradictions between these ways and the way Berg's captors appeared has generated speculation. Some observers have speculated on the possibility that the individuals weren't native Arabic speakers. Conversely, it is reported that in Saudi Arabia, where Sharia law allows for beheadings in cases of severe crimes, the condemned is heavily drugged with tranquilizers prior to the execution, reportedly leaving them in a state similar to that which Berg appeared in during parts of the video. Again, Nordby emphasized that the video "raises more questions than it answers". Ritt Goldstein is an American investigative political journalist based in Stockholm. His work has appeared in broadsheets such as Australia's Sydney Morning Herald, Spain's El Mundo and Denmark's Politiken, as well as with the Inter Press Service (IPS), a global news agency. 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