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Monday, March 12, 2007

One Year Ago Today US Soldiers Massacred Abeer And Her Family In Iraq

I just received the below email from a friend in the Watada campaign. Why are soldiers still willing to serve in Iraq when this war is such an abomination , a war crime?

Today is the anniversary of Abeer Qassim's rape and murder by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and the rest of her family. Please, let us all remember Abeer and her family and ALL of the other innocent Iraqis who have died since our illegal invasion of that country and let us all work towards ending the US occupation of Iraq. Nothing we can do now can rectify what we have done. But we owe them the same monies we are spending on the occupation for them to rebuild their country THEMSELVES. And please don't try to say they will mishandle the monies. WE are mishandling the monies putting billions in the pockets of our own war profiteers. Nothing our country has done directly in recent history is as evil as this illegal invasion which has resulted in the deaths of some 655,000 Iraqis. That blood is on OUR hands, now WE are the ONLY ONES responsible for this. I cannot agree (as stated below) that the perpetraters of this crime and others are "good kids gone astray under horrific situations". I do know people can "snap", but I also know what the military trains them to do, KILL. I heard this myself just recently when I was doing outreach talks to local universities about war resisters. Two marines spoke up and challenged me, BOTH said "We are trained to kill, and ask questions later" One young woman turned to one of the marines and said, "Why would you want to go do something like that?" I could NOT agree more. WHY would anyone volunteer for the military in these times of our country waging an illegal war. It is up to ALL parties not to commit war crimes, from the top down, all need to be held accountable and participating in an illegal occupation IS A WAR CRIME.

Dear folks:
Today, March 12, is the anniversary of the gang rape and murder of 14-year old Abeer Qassim Al-Janabi and the murders of her parents and 5-year old sister by five US soldiers in Iraq. Please remember Abeer and the Al-Janabi family.

Let us strengthen our resolve to
End this illegal and immoral occupation of Iraq
Stop the impending war on Iran
Hold those in the US government and military accountable for their war crimes and crimes against humanity
Build working relations and friendships -- for justice, for peace, for the future of our families and communities, for all humanity.

Please visit for more information, including these 2 articles:
This article is compiled from testimony given at the courts martial of Paul Cortez and James Barker, from accounts of the Article 32 Hearing and other court proceedings in the cases, and from previous WMC and newspaper reports. Former Pfc. Steven Green, Pfc. Jesse Spielman and Pfc. Bryan Howard are still awaiting trial. References to them are to alleged actions on their part according to the above sources.

The Women’s Media Center’s Action for Abeer campaign trains a spotlight on Abeer’s death while her alleged killers are brought to justice – and beyond. Their original articles and online resource center highlight the violent and often deadly conditions faced by women in Iraq and other war zones and in the military today. With Iraqi women’s rights rolling backwards, and an enduring culture of silence regarding U.S. military sexual assault, one thing remains clear - there are many Abeers. Through Action for Abeer, WMC calls for justice and change for all.
Please take care.
WMC Exclusive: The Casualties of War Crimes­Who Weeps for Abeer?
by Helen Zia

March 12

Sandwiched between International Women’s Day on March 8 and the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq on March 19 is another date that marks a tragic nexus of the two: the day one year ago when 14-year-old Abeer Qassim Al-Janabi was stalked, gang-raped, shot in the head and her corpse burned in her own home in Mahmoudiya, Iraq. Four U.S. soldiers and one former soldier are charged with the crimes committed March 12, 2006.

The soldiers were so confident of their abilities to achieve their intended crimes that they rounded up the Al-Janabi family from their daily chores in broad daylight. Pfc. Stephen Green allegedly shot Abeer’s parents and 5-year-old sister to death in the room next to where she was being raped by Sgt. Paul Cortez. His buddy, Pfc. James Barker held the struggling, crying teenager down while two other soldiers, Pfc. Jesse Spielman and Pfc. Bryan Howard, reportedly stood watch.

All this in the middle of the day under the hot afternoon sun, March 12, 2006.

Such are the unpleasantries of invasion, war and occupation. The medical journal Lancet estimated in 2004 that at least 100,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed, more than half of them women and children. Today, in the absence of accurate figures, that number likely has been far surpassed. To Americans, far from Iraq, these are presented as the sanitized statistics of collateral damage. But the Al-Janabi rape and murders were too well documented to ignore, just as the souvenir photos taken by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib forced Americans to see the torture being committed by their own troops.

The U.S. government and military are prosecuting the five accused men­a sixth was charged with dereliction of duty­without an inquiry into the pressures and rules of engagement that lead “a really good kid,” as Sgt. Cortez was called during at his court martial, to commit war crimes against civilians. In his sworn testimony describing how he and the others planned and carried out the rape and murders at the Al Janabi home, Sgt. Cortez pointedly stated that he and his fellow defendants “weren’t the only soldiers who talked about having sex with Iraqi women.” In Islamic Iraq, ‘having sex’ in this context can only mean rape.

Numerous observers, including soldiers themselves, say that abuses of Iraqi civilians are not uncommon. A report by Code Pink and the Global Exchange describes incidents where U.S. soldiers tortured female detainees, among them young girls, in the form of sexual abuse and rape, including stripping them naked, then burning their skin or dousing them with water. Sometimes women were tortured in prison cells near their husbands so that their screams could be used to torture the Muslim male detainees.

Under the War Crimes Act of 1996, which Congress passed overwhelmingly so that the U.S. could, under the Geneva Convention, prosecute North Vietnamese who tortured U.S. soldiers during the war in Vietnam, it is a federal crime for any U.S. national, whether military or civilian, to violate the Geneva Convention by engaging in murder, torture, or inhuman treatment. Significantly, the statute applies not only to those who carry out the acts, but also to those who order it, know about it, or fail to take steps to stop it. Yet no officers or military brass have been questioned for their gross failure to stop the crimes in Abeer’s home­let alone for any military policies that contributed to these abuses. This is not surprising in an administration that has demonstrated, time and again, its predilection for blaming a fall guy and refusing to hold accountable those higher up in authority.

The White House and Pentagon choose to eschew prosecution for such crimes under the War Crimes Act, since it could implicate their own responsibility. However, their failure to recognize such war crimes also makes it impossible to acknowledge the psychological harm done to the soldiers who have been placed in horrific situations that can turn a really good kid into a war criminal. Where will returning soldiers get the treatment they need if they have been witnesses to or participants in war crimes and abuse of Iraqi civilians?

Family counselors and military mental health workers have long recognized the psychological trauma exhibited by veterans of Iraq­and that too little help is available for them. Only six counseling sessions are allowed for soldiers who are referred for service under the military’s One Source plan, an Employee Assistance Program that was created only after a string of domestic homicides occurred in 2002 at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, committed by soldiers who just returned from Afghanistan.

Soldiers can also get counseling services through mental health clinics, but unlike the EAP sessions, mental health visits are noted on their military records­and can be used against them. For example, airborne soldiers cannot fly if they are being treated for depression, a career ender for troops in the 101st Airborne Battalion­to which the five soldiers involved in the rape and killing of Abeer and her family belonged.

About 1.4 million soldiers, reservists and National Guard have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. So have several hundred thousand private contractors, such as truck drivers who must traverse roads laced with Improvised Explosive Devices. All are subject to the serious effects of post traumatic stress disorders and other mental health problems, yet the resources to help them and their families are too few. Even as politicians call for national probes into the lapses at Walter Reed Hospital in the medical treatment of returning soldiers, little mention is made of their mental health needs. If these veterans and private contractors don’t get treatment for their invisible wounds, all of society will suffer with them.

At the end of his court martial, Sgt. Cortez apologized to brothers of Abeer Qassim Al-Janabi for turning them into orphans. His sentence for the capital war crimes he committed: 100 years, with possible parole in 10, minus his time served. For committing the gang rape of Abeer and four murders, he could be out in nine years. One can only hope that he receives the treatment he needs during his confinement before he rejoins the general population.

Cortez paused to wipe his tears at several points during his testimony, becoming most emotional when he expressed his remorse for letting his fellow soldiers down. But one year after the war atrocities that took her young life with violence and terror, who weeps for Abeer?

Helen Zia, an author and Women’s Media Center board member, attended the court martial of Sgt. Cortez in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky for the WMC.

End note­a report by , “War Crimes Committed by the United States in Iraq and Mechanisms for Accountability,” ended with the following admonition:
“Each citizen of the United States is challenged to be willing to recognize first that fellow citizens in the executive branch of the Federal government and in the military have repeatedly violated international law in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The next step is to open our minds to not only the possibility but the absolute necessity to hold our fellow citizens to account."

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