Troy Davis Gets A Stay

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Will Georgia Execute In Spite Of Reasonable Doubts

Troy Davis is scheduled to be killed tonight despite retraction of witness statements and another man confessing, enough doubt one would think to get a retrial, but -speaking of repressive militaristic regimes- they instead have opted to try and kill him (ht2 Tom).

Campaigners are making final pleas to halt the execution of a man in the US state of Georgia, saying there are serious doubts about his conviction. Troy Davis was found guilty in 1991 of killing a policeman and faces lethal injection at 1900 (2300 GMT).

His case has attracted attention because since his trial, key witnesses have recanted their testimonies. Pope Benedict XVI and former US President Jimmy Carter are among those who have called for a reprieve.

Since the trial, most of the prosecution’s witnesses have recanted or contradicted their testimonies. Some said they were pressured by the police to provide signed statements. Davis’s lawyers also say post-trial information has emerged implicating another man as the gunman. Amnesty International is among those calling for a last-minute reprieve.

More @ Amnesty Int. US

Win Tin Released In Burma

As noted below though this does appear a PR move by the junta, people’s lives are just pawns in their political game and right now they want to defuse the anniversary of the crackdown, nevertheless this is good news-

One of Burma’s most prominent political detainees, Win Tin, was released from jail today after 19 years’ imprisonment, and vowed to continue to fight for democracy in the country.

The ailing journalist, one of Burma’s longest-serving political detainees, was one of the founders of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD).

The 79-year-old, suffering a host of medical problems after long years in Rangoon’s notorious Insein prison, was freed along with seven leading political figures, as part of a wider amnesty for 9,002 prisoners — the vast number of them drug dealers and petty criminals. State-controlled media announced they were being released “so they could participate in the fair elections to be held in 2010”.

Although exiled dissidents welcomed the release of Win Tin and the others, they dismissed it as a cynical ploy by the junta to defuse tensions as world leaders gather for the UN summit in New York amid calls for even tougher sanctions.

“We’re happy for those who have been released,” said Bo Kyi, of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma. “But they were freed because the UN general assembly is starting and leaders want to put more pressure on Burma. The regime thinks this is a way to relieve it.”

The other freed political prisoners included four MPs and an activist from the NLD — Mae Win Myint, Aung Soe Myint, Khin Maung Soe, Dr Than Nyein and Thein Naing — and an aide to the detained Suu Kyi, 63, Win Htein.

All had spent more than a decade in jail, long ago serving out the sentences they were originally given, but detained on the regime’s whim.

They were among Burma’s 2,130 political prisoners — from a prison population of between 80,000 and 100,000 — many of them detained around the army crackdown on the pro-democracy uprising a year ago that left at least 31 people dead.

Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan: Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupations

Click to buy from Amazon

Click to buy from Amazon

‘We Blew Her to Pieces’
Dahr Jamail: MARFA, Texas, 16 Sep (IPS) – Aside from the Iraqi people, nobody knows what the U.S. military is doing in Iraq better than the soldiers themselves. A new book gives readers vivid and detailed accounts of the devastation the U.S. occupation has brought to Iraq, in the soldiers’ own words. ‘Winter Soldier Iraq and Afghanistan: Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupation,’ published by Haymarket Books Tuesday, is a gut-wrenching, historic chronicle of what the U.S. military has done to Iraq, as well as its own soldiers. Authored by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and journalist Aaron Glantz, the book is a reader for hearings that took place in Silver Spring, Maryland between Mar. 13-16, 2008 at the National Labour College.

‘I remember one woman walking by,’ said Jason Washburn, a corporal in the U.S. Marines who served three tours in Iraq. ‘She was carrying a huge bag, and she looked like she was heading toward us, so we lit her up with the Mark 19, which is an automatic grenade launcher, and when the dust settled, we realised that the bag was full of groceries. She had been trying to bring us food and we blew her to pieces.’ Washburn testified on a panel that discussed the rules of engagement in Iraq, and how lax they were, even to the point of being virtually non-existent.  ‘During the course of my three tours, the rules of engagement changed a lot,’ Washburn’s testimony continues. ‘The higher the threat the more viciously we were permitted and expected to respond.’

His emotionally charged testimony, like all of those in the book that covered panels addressing dehumanisation, civilian testimony, sexism in the military, veterans’ health care, and the breakdown of the military, raised issues that were repeated again and again by other veterans. ‘Something else we were encouraged to do, almost with a wink and nudge, was to carry ‘drop weapons’, or by my third tour, ‘drop shovels’. We would carry these weapons or shovels with us because if we accidentally shot a civilian, we could just toss the weapon on the body, and make them look like an insurgent,’ Washburn said.

Four days of searing testimony, witnessed by this writer, is consolidated into the book, which makes for a difficult read. One page after another is filled with devastating stories from the soldiers about what is being done in Iraq. Everything from the taking of ‘trophy’ photos of the dead, to torture and slaughtering of civilians is included.

‘We’re trying to build a historical record of what continues to happen in this war and what the war is really about,’ Glantz told IPS. Hart Viges, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division of the Army who served one year in Iraq, tells of taking orders over the radio.

‘One time they said to firre on all taxicabs because the enemy was using them for transportation…One of the snipers replied back, ‘Excuse me? Did I hear that right? Fire on all taxicabs?’ The lieutenant colonel responded, ‘You heard me, trooper, fire on all taxicabs.’ After that, the town lit up, with all the units firing on cars. This was my first experience with war, and that kind of set the tone for the rest of the deployment.’

Vincent Emanuele, a Marine rifleman who spent a year in the al-Qaim area of Iraq near the Syrian border, told of emptying magazines of bullets into the city without identifying targets, running over corpses with Humvees and stopping to take ‘trophy’ photos of bodies. ‘An act that took place quite often in Iraq was taking pot shots at cars that drove by,’ he said. ‘This was not an isolated incident, and it took place for most of our eight-month deployment.’

Kelly Dougherty, the executive director of IVAW, blames the behaviour of soldiers in Iraq on the policies of the U.S. government. ‘The abuses committed in the occupations, far from being the result of a ‘few bad apples’ misbehaving, are the result of our government’s Middle East policy, which is crafted in the highest spheres of U.S. power,’ she said. Knowing this, however, does little to soften the emotional and moral devastation of the accounts. ‘You see an individual with a white flag and he does anything but approach you slowly and obey commands, assume it’s a trick and kill him,’ Michael Leduc, a corporal in the Marines who was part of the U.S. attack of Fallujah in November 2004, said were the orders from his battalion JAG officer he received before entering the city.

This is an important book for the public of the United States, in particular, because the Winter Soldier testimonies were not covered by any of the larger media outlets, aside from the Washington Post, which ran a single piece on the event that was buried in the Metro section. The New York Times, CNN, and network news channels ABC, NBC and CBS ignored it completely.

This is particularly important in light of the fact that, as former Marine Jon Turner stated, ‘Anytime we did have embedded reporters with us, our actions changed drastically. We never acted the same. We were always on key with everything, did everything by the book.’

‘To me it’s about giving a picture of what war is like,’ Glantz added, ‘Because here in the U.S. we have this very sanitised version of what war is. But war is when we have a large group of armed people killing large numbers of other people. And that is the picture that people will get from reading veterans testimony…the true face of war.’

Dehumanisation of the soldiers themselves is covered in the book, as it includes testimony of sexism, racism, and the plight of veterans upon their return home as they struggle to obtain care from the Veterans Administration.  There is much testimony on the dehumanisation of the Iraqi people as well. Brian Casler, a corporal in the Marines, spoke to some of this that he witnessed during the invasion of Iraq.

‘But on these convoys, I saw marines defecate into MRE bags or urinate in bottles and throw them at children on the side of the road,’ he stated.

Numerous accounts from soldiers include the prevalence of degrading terms for Iraqis, such as ‘hajis,’ ‘towel-heads’ and ‘sand-niggers’. Scott Ewing, who served in Iraq from 2005-2006, admitted on one panel that units intentionally gave candy to Iraqi children for reasons other than ‘winning hearts and minds’.

‘There was also another motive,’ Ewing said, ‘If the kids were around our vehicles, the bad guys wouldn’t attack. We used the kids as human shields.’

Glantz admits that it would be difficult for the average U.S. citizen to read the book, and believes it is important to keep in mind while doing so what it took for the veterans to give this historic testimony. ‘They could have been heroes, but what they are doing here is even more heroic — which is telling the truth,’ Glantz told IPS. ‘They didn’t have to come forward. They chose to come forward.’

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Tariq Ali On The Marriott Bombing

His piece is in the Guardian, the bits that stood out for me-

In my view, however, the expansion of the war relates far more to the Bush administration’s disastrous occupation in Afghanistan. It is hardly a secret that President Karzai’s regime is becoming more isolated each passing day, as Taliban guerrillas move ever closer to Kabul.

When in doubt, escalate the war, is an old imperial motto. The strikes against Pakistan represent – like the decisions of President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, to bomb and then invade Cambodia – a desperate bid to salvage a war that was never good, but has now gone badly wrong.

While there is much grieving for the Marriott hotel casualties, some ask why the lives of those killed by Predator drones or missile attacks are considered to be of less value. In recent weeks almost 100 innocent people have died in this fashion. No outrage and global media coverage for them.

Why was the Marriot targeted? Two explanations have surfaced in the media. The first is that there was a planned dinner for the president and his cabinet there that night, which was cancelled at the last moment.

The second, reported in the respected Pakistani English-language newspaper, Dawn, is that “a top secret operation of the US Marines [was] going on inside the Marriott when it was attacked”. According to the paper: “Well-equipped security officers from the US embassy were seen on the spot soon after the explosions. However, they left the scene shortly afterwards.”

The country’s largest newspaper, the News, also reported on Sunday that witnesses had seen US embassy steel boxes being carried into the Marriott at night on September 17. According to the paper, the steel boxes were permitted to circumvent security scanners stationed at the hotel entrance.

Mumtaz Alam, a member of parliament, witnessed this. He wanted to leave the hotel but, owing to the heavy security, he was not permitted to leave at the time and is threatening to raise the issue in parliament.

These may be the motivations for this particular attack, but behind it all is the shadow of an expanding war.

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