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Amygdala will move to an entirely new and far better blog template ASAP, aka RSN, aka incrementally/badly punctuated evolution.
Tagging posts, posts by category, next/previous post indicators, and other post-2003 design innovations are incrementally being tweaked/kludged/melting.
Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.
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If you like my blog, and would like to help me continue to afford food and prescriptions, or simply enjoy my blogging and writing, and would like to support it --
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"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
A United States Army private close to four soldiers charged with killing an Iraqi family and raping a 14-year-old girl in March described today how he became the whistleblower in the case and how, once he spoke to military investigators, he feared for his life.
Pfc. Justin Watt, who was in the same platoon as the four soldiers and another former soldier accused of the crimes, said he came forward after piecing together evidence from soldiers whom he suspected were involved in the rape and killings. He felt obligated to say something, he told a military prosecutor Monday at a hearing for the four accused soldiers, out of a sense of loyalty to the friends who had fought in Iraq and died.
"We’d come through hell with each other, and there were a lot of good men who died,” Private Watt testified.
“And this happened -- for what? We’re just trying to do a little good over here,” he said, describing his decision to alert his superiors about his suspicions that members of his own platoon were involved, “and it had to be done."
Private Watt described how he first heard of the murders from Sergeant Yribe, who confided in him about the grisly incident. Sergeant Yribe told him a shotgun shell had been found at the scene of the murders; Watt had never seen an Iraqi with a shotgun during his 11-month deployment, he testified.
Unable to stop thinking about what he suspected, he approached Private Howard and asked about what he knew.
"I wanted to see if I could confirm my suspicions that there were more people involved," Private Watt testified. "I believed there were American forces involved."
Private Watt first reported his suspicions to a combat stress team in Mahmudiya, describing a need to learn the truth of the matter and the disillusion that followed.
"Investigation is not my job,” he said under cross-examination by Specialist Barker’s military lawyer today. “But if something went down — something terrible like that — then it’s my obligation to come forward."
Private Watt added: "I find out that guys in my squad, guys I trusted with my life, are allegedly responsible for one of the most brutal rapes-slash-murders I’ve ever seen.”
Eventually, he said, he grew uneasy about working with the accused soldiers at traffic checkpoints, flashpoints for violence often directed at stationary American soldiers. ”Everyone has a weapon and grenades," he said, referring to his fellow soldiers at such checkpoints.
It took guts to do the right thing. Going against your squadmates violates a very strong ethic in the military; But PFC. Watt did it. He stepped forward.
There should be a medal for that. Because some fellow soldiers will always say he's a rat.
Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5. PFC Watt deserves it.
[...] Just then, the voice of a lieutenant crackled across the radio. He reported that he had rounded up 19 civilians, and wanted to know what to do with them. Henry later recalled the company commander's response:
Kill anything that moves.
Henry stepped outside the hut and saw a small crowd of women and children. Then the shooting began.
Moments later, the 19 villagers lay dead or dying.
Back home in California, Henry published an account of the slaughter and held a news conference to air his allegations. Yet he and other Vietnam veterans who spoke out about war crimes were branded traitors and fabricators. No one was ever prosecuted for the massacre.
Now, nearly 40 years later, declassified Army files show that Henry was telling the truth — about the Feb. 8 killings and a series of other atrocities by the men of B Company.
The files are part of a once-secret archive, assembled by a Pentagon task force in the early 1970s, that shows that confirmed atrocities by U.S. forces in Vietnam were more extensive than was previously known.
The documents detail 320 alleged incidents that were substantiated by Army investigators — not including the most notorious U.S. atrocity, the 1968 My Lai massacre.
Though not a complete accounting of Vietnam war crimes, the archive is the largest such collection to surface to date. About 9,000 pages, it includes investigative files, sworn statements by witnesses and status reports for top military brass.
The records describe recurrent attacks on ordinary Vietnamese — families in their homes, farmers in rice paddies, teenagers out fishing. Hundreds of soldiers, in interviews with investigators and letters to commanders, described a violent minority who murdered, raped and tortured with impunity.
Abuses were not confined to a few rogue units, a Times review of the files found. They were uncovered in every Army division that operated in Vietnam.
Among the substantiated cases in the archive:
• Seven massacres from 1967 through 1971 in which at least 137 civilians died.
• Seventy-eight other attacks on noncombatants in which at least 57 were killed, 56 wounded and 15 sexually assaulted.
• One hundred forty-one instances in which U.S. soldiers tortured civilian detainees or prisoners of war with fists, sticks, bats, water or electric shock.
Investigators determined that evidence against 203 soldiers accused of harming Vietnamese civilians or prisoners was strong enough to warrant formal charges. These "founded" cases were referred to the soldiers' superiors for action.
Ultimately, 57 of them were court-martialed and just 23 convicted, the records show.
Fourteen received prison sentences ranging from six months to 20 years, but most won significant reductions on appeal. The stiffest sentence went to a military intelligence interrogator convicted of committing indecent acts on a 13-year-old girl in an interrogation hut in 1967.
He served seven months of a 20-year term, the records show.
Many substantiated cases were closed with a letter of reprimand, a fine or, in more than half the cases, no action at all.
AN AMERICAN soldier told a military tribunal in Iraq yesterday how his comrades smiled before shooting dead three handcuffed Iraqi prisoners and threatened to kill him if he told anyone what they had done.
The murder charges, already controversial for a military prosecuting cases of massacre, rape and murder by its troops in Iraq, has been made all the more difficult for the Army by the accused soldiers’ defence that they were following orders to kill all military-aged males.
They claim that the order was issued by the same officer who in 1993 led the ill-fated raid in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, featured in the film Black Hawk Down.
The trial, held at a US army base in Saddam Hussein’s home town of Tikrit, heard testimony from Private Bradley Mason that three of his comrades bound and shot three Iraqi prisoners during a raid on a suspected al-Qaeda training camp on a river island near Samarra, 60 miles (97km) north of Baghdad.
The soldiers, from the 3rd Combat Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division, arrived early on the morning of May 9 at the suspected base in a disused chemical factory by helicopter.
Private Mason, 20, testifying against the defendants, said that he shot one man at the window of a house at the site, who later turned out to be “old and unarmed”. The squad then detained three other men and two women found hiding inside two houses. Inside the buildings they found an assault rifle, a pistol and ammunition, not unusual for an Iraqi home. None of the men had weapons on them, Private Mason told the tribunal, which was to decide whether there were grounds for a full court martial for premeditated murder.
Private Mason said that Staff Sergeant Raymond Girouard, the squad leader, told him that two of the defendants, Private Corey Clagett and Specialist William Hunsaker, were going to kill the detainees.
“They just smiled,” he said, describing the men’s reaction to Sergeant Girouard’s comment. “I told him that I’m not down with it. It’s murder,” Private Mason said. He then reported gunshots and found the detainees dead.
He said that Sergeant Girouard then warned him: “If you say anything I’ll kill you.”
“Clagett told me that one of the detainees had broken out of his flex cuffs,” Private Mason said. Specialist Hunsaker said that the mark on his face was a knife wound inflicted by one of the escaping detainees. Private Mason said that he looked for a knife but could find none.
Paul Bergrin, the attorney for the accused men, who also represented defendants in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse case, told the court that his clients had been obeying orders that if the soldiers encountered any Iraqi men they were to kill them.
Mr Bergrin said that the order had been issued before the raid by the commanding officer of the unit, Colonel Michael Steele, who led the raid in Mogadishu in 1993 in which 18 US soldiers and hundreds of Somalis were killed.
Colonel Steele has signed a document declaring his intention to refuse to testify in the case to avoid incriminating himself.
[...] Then, on June 15, Sergeant Lemus offered a new and much darker account.
In a lengthy sworn statement, he said he had witnessed a deliberate plot by his fellow soldiers to kill the three handcuffed Iraqis and a cover-up in which one soldier cut another to bolster their story. The squad leader threatened to kill anyone who talked. Later, one guilt-stricken soldier complained of nightmares and “couldn’t stop talking” about what happened, Sergeant Lemus said.
Just before leaving, the soldiers had been given an order to “kill all military-age men” at the site by a colonel and a captain, said Paul Bergrin and Michael Waddington, the lawyers who are disputing Sergeant Lemus’s account. Military officials in Baghdad have declined to comment on whether such an order, which would have been a violation of the law of war, might have been given.
The colonel, Michael Steele, is the brigade commander. He led the 1993 mission in Somalia made famous by the book and movie “Black Hawk Down.”
It is very rare for any commanding officer to refuse to testify at any stage of a court-martial proceeding, said Gary D. Solis, a former military judge and prosecutor who teaches the law of war at Georgetown University.
During the raid, the soldiers discovered three Iraqi men hiding in a house, who were using women and children to shield themselves, Sergeant Lemus said in his statement. The soldiers separated out the men, blindfolded them and bound their hands with plastic “zip ties,” restraints that are not as strong as the plastic flex cuffs often used in Iraq.
Then, Sergeant Lemus told investigators, his squad leader, Staff Sgt. Raymond L. Girouard, was told by another sergeant over the radio, “The detainees should have been killed.”
Sergeant Lemus gave investigators the following account of what happened next: About 10 minutes later, the squad leader gathered Sergeant Lemus and three other soldiers in a house nearby, telling them to “bring it in close” so he could talk quietly to them. Sergeant Girouard spoke in a “low-toned voice” and “talked with his hands,” making clear he was going to kill the three Iraqis.
“I didn’t like the idea, so I walked toward the door,” Sergeant Lemus said in his statement. “He looked around at everyone and asked if anyone else had an issue or a problem.” No one spoke.
At one point, Sergeant Lemus said in his statement, Sergeant Girouard gathered the men who had been present before the killing and told them “to be loyal and not to go bragging or spreading rumors” about what had happened. Sergeant Girouard added that “if he found out who told anything about it he would find that person after he got out of jail and kill him or her.”
Sergeant Lemus said he laughed off the threat at the time. But there may have been other threats. In addition to murder, the four accused soldiers are charged with threatening to kill Pfc. Bradley L. Mason, one of the men in the squad, if he told what he knew about the shootings.
In his testimony on Wednesday, Pfc. Bradley Mason of Company C said that on May 8, the night before the raid, Colonel Steele told soldiers to “kill all of them.”
Three other soldiers gave similar testimony. First Lt. Justin Werheim said Colonel Steele had told 100 soldiers before the raid, “We’re going to hit the ground shooting and kill all the Al Qaeda in Iraq insurgents.”
Under cross-examination, Pfc. Jason R. Joseph said Company C soldiers had been told that their rules of engagement were to “kill all military-age males that were not actively surrendering.”
Capt. Jason A. Sienko, who had recommended that charges be brought against the four defendants, told military prosecutors, “We were to kill or engage any males on the island that were military-age.” The only exceptions, he said, were any men “actively surrendering” or men who could not be killed without harming civilians.
But Captain Sienko also said Colonel Steele had told his men not to kill indiscriminately.
“Colonel Steele specifically said during our combined arms rehearsal that we’re not just going to the island and shoot everyone,” Captain Sienko said. “Make sure you have well-aimed shots. Make sure you’re killing people that need to be killed.”
The four soldiers’ accounts on Wednesday varied slightly, about what the orders for engaging the enemy were, or who issued them. Taken together, though, they reinforced accusations that ranking officers had approved broad use of deadly force.
“We are now talking about the possibility of command responsibility, not just unlawful orders and simple murder,” said Gary D. Solis, a former military judge and prosecutor who teaches the law of war at Georgetown University.
Colonel Steele, who led the 1993 mission in Somalia later made famous in the book and film “Black Hawk Down,” has a reputation for aggressive measures. In Iraq, as a commander involved in harrowing assaults against insurgents, he inspired the use of “kill boards” to track how many Iraqis each soldier had killed over time.
On the bottom of Company C’s kill board, Private Mason said, was a phrase to inspire soldiers in combat: “Let the bodies hit the floor.”
Three other Company C soldiers also testified Wednesday about directives they said they had received from senior officers urging them to kill Iraqi men during the raid.
After the May 9 episode, according to testimony on Wednesday, Specialist Hunsaker and Sergeant Girouard threatened at least one soldier, and Private Clagett admitted to staging the Iraqi detainees’ escape as a pretext to kill them.
Private Mason said Specialist Hunsaker had approached him and said that “if he goes to jail, that he’ll kill me.” Around the same time, Private Mason said, Sergeant Girouard told him “that if I say anything, he’d kill me.”
Private Joseph told prosecutors that in late May, Private Clagett admitted that the soldiers had staged the Iraqis’ escape and intentionally killed them. “He told me they cut the detainees loose, and shot them,” he said. “Him and Specialist Hunsaker.”
Sgt. Brian D. Hensley, a squad leader who missed the May 9 assault because of a knee injury, also testified that Private Clagett had told him that the Iraqis’ attack on them was fiction. “I was frozen,” Sergeant Hensley said. “I didn’t know Private Clagett to be that kind of person.”
Civilian lawyers for Private Clagett and Specialist Hunsaker said the four accused were scapegoats for superior officers who had ordered them to kill almost without question. “There’s not a scintilla of credible, logical evidence to prove that they did anything wrong,” said Paul Bergrin, Private Clagett’s lawyer.
When the burst of machine-gun fire stopped, two of the three Iraqi men were dead, their bodies chewed by bullets sprayed at them by two American soldiers a few yards away. But a third man, brains spattered on his face, was somehow still alive and, with eyes closed, was gasping for air.
Several soldiers have said in sworn statements or testimony at the hearing that senior officers, including the Third Brigade commander, Col. Michael Steele, told them in a gathering the night before the raid to kill any military-age male they encountered on the island, where 20 fighters loyal to Al Qaeda were thought to be.
In a statement to investigators, Colonel Steele has denied giving any such order. On Friday, he declined, through his military lawyer, to comment for this article.
“Hit the first house, kill all military-age males, hit any secondary houses, then stand by for follow-on missions,” was the way Sergeant Girouard described his squad’s mission to investigators in a May 29 statement.
Sgt. Armando Acevedo, another member of Company C on that day’s mission, later told prosecutors that he heard Sergeant Geressy reply, “We’re bringing back these detainees when they should be dead.” Sergeant Geressy denied saying that.
About that time, Sergeant Lemus and Private Mason told investigators, Sergeant Girouard appeared to have second thoughts about the four detainees in custody. “He mentioned that First Sergeant Geressy transmitted over the radio that the detainees should have been killed,” Sergeant Lemus wrote in a sworn statement in June.
Sergeant Girouard gathered Sergeant Lemus, Specialist Hunsaker and Privates Clagett and Mason around him in a room in the house and, according to Sergeant Lemus, laid out a plan: Specialist Hunsaker and Private Clagett were would kill the detainees after cutting off their wrist ties and ordering them to run away. Sergeant Lemus and Private Mason told investigators they wanted no part of the plan and left.
Sergeant Girouard walked Mr. Shelish, the man they had taken from the mud hut, toward the pickup zone, handing him to Corporal Helton. Minutes later, Private Mason, inside the house with the two women, heard Specialist Hunsaker shout an expletive. He and soldiers at the landing zone then heard fire from Private Clagett’s machine gun and Specialist Hunsaker’s M-4.
Sergeant Ryan and Corporal Helton saw the three men sprinting barefoot toward the mud hut. “That was followed by gunshots as the men fell,” Sergeant Ryan wrote in a sworn statement.
Private Clagett and Specialist Hunsaker told investigators they had cut the flimsy wrist ties off all three detainees at once — a procedure considered tactically unsound — to replace them with thicker plastic cuffs that would not break. They said one man had suddenly attacked Specialist Hunsaker with a knife as a second man punched Private Clagett.
Sergeant Girouard radioed his report to headquarters, saying he no longer had three detainees but three “K.I.A.’s” — killed in action.