« Unintended Legal Consequences | Main | Cheerfully Blitzed... »

July 16, 2004

Comments

Well, the guy did start out as a Baathist death squad member, and was later a paid terrorist who's list of credits include blowing up a schoolbus full of kids.

I was inclined to dismiss it at first, but, well, read (from another article by the same journalist):

The witnesses did not perceive themselves as whistle-blowers. In interviews with The Age they enthusiastically supported Dr Allawi for the killings. One justified the alleged killings and said: "These criminals were terrorists. They are the ones who plant the bombs. Allawi said they deserved worse than death; that they didn't need to be sent to court."

The two witnesses were independently and separately found by The Age; neither approached the newspaper. Nor were they put forward by, or through, others. They were interviewed on different days in a private home in Baghdad, without being told that the other had spoken.

A condition of the co-operation of each man was that no personal information would be published, but others known to The Age have vouched for their credibility. Both interviews lasted more than 90 minutes and were conducted through an interpreter - with another journalist in the room for one of the meetings. The witnesses were not paid for the interviews....

The Age has established the names of three of the prisoners alleged to have been killed. Two names connote ties to Syrian-based Arab tribes, suggesting they were foreign fighters: Ahmed Abdulah Ahsamey and Amer Lutfi Mohammed Ahmed al-Kutsia.

The third was Walid Mehdi Ahmed al-Samarrai. The last word of his name indicates that he was one of the two said to come from Samarra, which is in the Sunni Triangle.

The three names were provided to the Interior Ministry, where senior adviser Sabah Khadum undertook to provide a status report on each for The Age. He was asked if were they prisoners, were they alive or had they died in custody? But he later cut short an interview by hanging up the phone, saying only: "I have no information - I don't want to comment on that specific matter."

All seven were described as young men. One of the witnesses spoke of the distinctive appearance of four as "Wahabbi", the colloquial Iraqi term for the foreign fundamentalist insurgency fighters and their Iraqi followers.

He said: "The Wahabbis had long beards, very short hair and they were wearing dishdashas (the kaftan-like garment worn by Iraqi men)."

Raising the hem of his own dishdasha to reveal the cotton pantaloons usually worn beneath it, he said: "The other three were just wearing these - they looked normal."

One witness justified the shootings as an unintended act of mercy: "They were happy to die because they had already been beaten by the police for two to eight hours a day to make them talk."

After the removal of the bodies, the officer in charge of the complex, General Raad Abdullah, is said to have called a meeting of the policemen and told them not to talk outside the station about what had happened. "He said it was a security issue," a witness said.

The witnesses say that as many as 30 people, including the victims, may have been in the courtyard. One of the witnesses said there were five or six civilian-dressed American security men in each of a convoy of five or six late-model four-wheel-drive vehicles shepherding Dr Allawi's entourage on the day.

Like the US military, Dr Allawi's office refused to respond to questions about the composition of his security team. It is understood that the core of his protection unit is drawn from the US Special Forces units.....

US officials in Iraq have not made an outright denial of the allegations.

An emailed response to questions from The Age to US ambassador John Negroponte said: "If we attempted to refute each (rumour), we would have no time for other business. As far as this embassy's press office is concerned, this case is closed."

Edward, before one calls for an investigation, the date and time of the alleged execution should be forthcoming from the journalist who is making the accusation.

BTW, it isn't yet a scandal, unless you are projecting.

Edward, before one calls for an investigation, the date and time of the alleged execution should be forthcoming from the journalist who is making the accusation.

I didn't call for an investigation. I was simply wondering, if it comes to that, is the Iraqi government developed enough that it would not involve the US.


BTW, it isn't yet a scandal, unless you are projecting.

What's your definition of a scandal. Someone accused him. He denied it. The press is picking up the story. Sounds like a scandal to me.


There is ample justification for the embassy to informally ask any U.S. forces who provide security for Allawi whether they witnessed this.

Negroponte's dismissal is extremely disheartening.

(that journalist won Australia's equivalent of the Pulitzer last year, by the way.)

Negroponte's dismissal is extremely disheartening.

Indeed. But is it surprising?

I think at the very least it is important to know this information because regardless of what happens next, the rest of the world will be quite aware of this and discussing it.

It sounds like a significant story. We'll just have to wait and see how it develops. Whether true or not I wouldn't be surprised if Allawi floated this story himself. Best possible outcome: story is not true but is widely believed in Iraq to be true.

Best possible outcome: story is not true but is widely believed in Iraq to be true.

So the Iraqi's have a nice healthy start to their new democracy?

I don't get it?

Dave, please explain why it would be best if Iraqi's believed this is true, even if it's false?

To have them thinking we've installed a Saddam-like killer would be beneficial how?

I have zero confidence that the U.S. press will pick this up. Zero. It seems too important to ignore, but so did the Arar case, the recent allegations of child abuse in U.S.-run Iraqi prisons, the allegations that the U.S. asked Pakistan to send an Australian citizen to Mamdouh Habib to Egpyt & he was tortured there....

They pay more attention to the Drudge Report than to credibly reported, incredibly important stories in the foreign press.

Great work guys...

Always willing to criticize... and spread rumors before we have facts.

The Islamic terrorist couldn't have better puppets than some of you guys.

Always willing to criticize... and spread rumors before we have facts.

If you'd be so kind as to point out the criticism here, I'd be thankful.

Great work guys...

Always willing to criticize... and spread rumors before we have facts.

A good point. Despite the fact that Dr Allawi has a well-documented background as assassin, Baathist thug, terrorist, and kid-killer doesn't necessarily mean that he's reliving the good old days of getting actual blood on his hands. Let's give him a chance, he may have reformed himself.

Why would it be good if it weren't true but if Iraqis believed it was? It would be good if it weren't true because it would suggest that Dr. Allawi is, indeed, reformed. It would be good if it were believed to be true because, as polls have indicated, security is the number 1 concern of Iraqis. After, what, 40 years of Baathist rule I suspect that Iraqis have different expectations of what constitutes solid law enforcement than you or I might.

Interesting situation, when you think about it. I would tend to be wary of leaders shooting folks in the head (to put it mildly), but I do wonder what the difference is between this and him personally authorizing assassinations.

I do believe that irregulars or spies may, if need be, be summarily executed in the field during wartime, and I do believe that leaders should be able to authorize assassinations.

Now, is Iraq legitimately at war with foreign fighters and Baathist loyalists? If so, then I suppose that Mr. Allawi can be Iraq's equivalent to Charles Bronson.

What we have to establish here is whether the event actually occurred, whether Iraq is at war with these insurgents (or, is it a law-enforcement issue), and what Iraqi law says about the legal rights (if any) of irregulars (if they are at war).

Now, were I an Iraqi, I can only assume that I would be more pleased than not about Allawi shooting these fellows. Then again, I am a conservative, therefore lacking in nuance and possibly mentally disturbed.

Dave, security is a huge concern for Americans too but we want the rule of law to prevail, not Charles Bronson. Isn't that what we are selling them, that they no longer have to fear Saddam's style of rule because we are giving them something better in it's place?

looks like mr. bronson is popular today! funny, i almost wrote rambo in my post but thought it too inflamatory!

here's the webs address to an interview today between the Australian Broadcast Corp. and the journalist who broke the story. Promise to try and get my link skills on this site up after i get back from vacation.

http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2004/s1155990.htm

Re: Bronson

Weird, man.

Nathan S.: I would tend to be wary of leaders shooting folks in the head (to put it mildly), but I do wonder what the difference is between this and him personally authorizing assassinations.

I would think custody is an important difference.

I do believe that irregulars or spies may, if need be, be summarily executed in the field during wartime, and I do believe that leaders should be able to authorize assassinations.

Speaking strictly in the hypothetical, would "in the field" include "inside an Iraqi security center", and would "if need be" encompass "just because he felt like it"?

wilfred:

What's the standard for the rule of law in Iraq? I'm sure I don't know. And don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that this is a good thing. The critical question is do the the Iraqis think it's a good thing?

The critical question is do the the Iraqis think it's a good thing?

For that matter, should they think it's a good thing?

The critical question is do the the Iraqis think it's a good thing?

Last I heard, about a third of Iraqis wanted Hussien back.

Anarch:

It's certainly not perfect. As my wife says "You can lead a horse to water but that's not going to make him into a duck."

Do we need to turn Iraq into Vermont for the whole adventure to succeed? Or will an end result that's better than Saddam Hussein (even a little) be acceptable?

Once again—beats me. But then I'm no neocon and I've always been skeptical of the whole Iraq thing. I'm just amazed that it's gone as well as it has.

I'd say the critical question is does Allawi think it's a good thing?

And if he does, should we let him start a secret intelligence agency?

If the story is true, then the Bush administration has (as predicted) installed just another lawless dictator, "our guy" in Iraq, just as Saddam Hussein used to be.

If the story is just a rumor with no substantiation in fact, well, it appears that Iraqis believe that the Bush administration has installed just another lawless dictator, and all their claims about being pro-democracy and for the rule of law were so much hot air.

There really isn't a good side to this, whether the story is either true or only believed to be true.

And if he does, should we let him start a secret intelligence agency?

I didn't care much for that story either, Edward.

Jes:

Your points are well taken but I think this may be a question of degree. Do the Iraqis perceive this (whether true or not) as being a lawless act? I don't know. Is Allawi just another lawless dictator? Don't know that, either and I suspect it's too early to tell.

Gromit,

Well, that is where the questions come in. If irregulars can be summarily shot in the field, what happens if they are transported somewhere else for questioning? Do they now gain rights because they are of some use? Now, this all assumes, of course, that one accepts that irregulars can be summarily executed.

Why should "in custody" matter? Or, rather, how are they not always in custody? Once they have been captured in the field, they are in custody. If they can be shot then, how can they not be shot later? Is their irregular nature indefinite and can they only be given rights (to be POWs or citizens) by the authority of someone like Mr. Allawi?

I would think that "if need be" does, basically, mean "because he felt like it". Whether an irregular is executed or not is decided by the executioner. I would think that it ultimately depends on the feelings and judgement of the potential executioner.

One other thing to consider in this assessment of what it says about Allawi.

If this is true, he killed these people before he was officially the Prime Minister. A point at which he technically had no power to make such a Commander-in-Chief sort of judgement call.

I would think that it ultimately depends on the feelings and judgement of the potential executioner.

Well, Nathan S., that's certainly not what we mean by the rule of law.

Dave Schuler,

Well, yeah, definitely for citizens and whatnot. But, as I understand it, agents of the government (mostly military) are typically allowed to summarily execute irregulars and spies. Maybe that is no longer the case.

So, if the soldier (let us say) is allowed to summarily execute someone, then whether he did so would rest upon his feelings and judgement. What else would it rest on?

Um, I should link, but given the earlier rumors that Allawi personally did this, that, and the other, I'd suggest that a perusal of Iraqi websites, and the historic, recent, Iraqi prediclection to pass on exciting rumor, might be taken into account.

But, no, being gullible for rumors isn't just Iraqi. Why wait for fact when it's probable that Allawi eats dog testicles, or whatever? It's not as if stories about Allawi personally shooting people are new. They must be true! It might take sheer hours, or even a couple of days to get facts. I say we post that stuff as soon as possible.

Because, after all, Matt Drudge isn't irresponsible. He's not as reliable as the god on earth, Reverend Moon. By all means, let's consider his paper credible. Let's take all the words from that paper as equally credible.

I'd say "no," but who am I to argue with those who believe it is a fine newspaper?

Also, let's get more stories in from the Weekly World News. I'm having an alien baby, myself, and, who knew, Ob Wings now has no credibility to say it isn't so.

Also, the two Johns touch each other too much. I read it in the Moonie paper, so it must be true.

Gary, you forgot the obligatory sneer about the methods employed by Australian reporters - and you should probably add something caustic about Iraqi "eyewitnesses" as well.

Nathan S.: If irregulars can be summarily shot in the field, what happens if they are transported somewhere else for questioning? Do they now gain rights because they are of some use?

Well, they are no longer in "the field" for starters.

Why should "in custody" matter? Or, rather, how are they not always in custody?

When I hear the word "assassinate" my presumption is that the target is not in physical custody of the assassin. "Execute" more properly encompasses the idea of lining folks up against a wall in blind folds and handcuffs inside a police station and shooting them (again, speaking strictly in the hypothetical here, not suggesting this actually happened). I think custody makes a pretty big difference in distinguishing between the two, which was your original question.

As for the notion of summary execution in the field, I don't know much about the laws of war, but when I hear the words "if need be" my first thought is a circumstance in which keeping the irregulars in custody is impractical and releasing them would endanger the lives of civilians or friendly troops. Practical considerations, not passions nor whims, would influence the decision in any reasonable scenario I can imagine, not that I am prepared to condone summary execution under any circumstances at the moment.

Re "execution" - Mark Kleiman says this is an abuse of English - "murder" is what's being alleged.

Dave: Do the Iraqis perceive this (whether true or not) as being a lawless act? I don't know.

Well, it was a lawless act. If the Iraqis perceive it as the kind of brutality which is to be expected from a ruler, well, that is what they got used to under Saddam Hussein - and what the US promised was something rather different.

Is Allawi just another lawless dictator?

Well, that depends whether or not this story is true.

If it is true, then yes, he is.

If it is not true, then he already has the bad reputation of being a lawless dictator, as well as being in fact a dictator appointed and backed by a foreign military occupation.

Nathan, attempting to rationalize the execution of prisoners? You need to take a deep breath and think hard about what ideological loyalty is worth.

Gary, what constitutes evidence? One man's rumor is another man's corroboration.

Why wait for fact when it's probable that Allawi eats dog testicles, or whatever?

The facts are reflected in the post. Two high-profile newspapers ran the story. That's what the post says happened.

All the other ranting by various commenters suggests they didn't read the post.

(that journalist won Australia's equivalent of the Pulitzer last year, by the way.)

Didn't Walter Duranty win a Pulitzer.

Two high-profile newspapers ran the story.

The Washinton Times and who else? And I'm still waiting for the facts (date and time), if you please.

A little more background for Edward.

Another widespread and preposterous rumour is that Ayad Allawi has been showing up at IP stations and executing criminals himself, and I have heard this one from a very large number of people.

[Via Tim Blair]

Timmy,

At what point is a story worth blogging on? With a half dozen caveats including the fact that Allawi has denied the charge and therefore we're in a waiting game, I'm still being grilled over this? What's the standard?

The Washington Times is clearly not blogworthy (and honestly, I'm happy to make that the standard)...got it. But after that, when is a story OK to bring up and discuss?

"But after that, when is a story OK to bring up and discuss?"

Edward, I personally think that you handled this properly. Mind you, I think that this story is going to turn out to be bogus, but you properly gave the links and noted the circumstances in a reasonably balanced and neutral fashion. It was blogworthy.

And let me take the time here to note that orl's comment upthread was way out of line, not to mention a violation of the Posting Rules: our readers and contributors here are NOT puppets for Islamic terrorists, thank you, so if you want to retain posting privileges, orl, make sure that you read those rules first.

But after that, when is a story OK to bring up and discuss?

Edward, I have no problem with you bringing up the story. My issue was with the title and the weakness of the story as offered (grain o'salt or something).

If I was too snarky, then I apologize.

My issue was with the title and the weakness of the story as offered (grain o'salt or something).

I'll give you the title didn't convey the degree of scepticism it could have. I'll take care of that. But how big a grain o'salt do you want?

If I was too snarky, then I apologize.

Not at all. I'm actually serious about this: what should the standard be? Clearly, being opposed to the war, and having a bet riding on the belief that the transition will be much more complicated than the Administration planned for, I'm not totally free of interest in the topic, but I still don't feel I'm recklessly spreading malicious rumors for its own sake here.

I actually was emailed the Sydney paper link and decided not to write on this, feeling that I don't know enough about that paper's reputation to judge how seriously to take the story.

When it was reprinted in the Washington Times (very staunch supporters of the war in Iraq, mind you), however, I felt the story had become blogworthy.

Edward, I personally think that you handled this properly. Mind you, I think that this story is going to turn out to be bogus, but you properly gave the links and noted the circumstances in a reasonably balanced and neutral fashion. It was blogworthy.

Thanks Moe. I agree. On all points. Actually, however, if I were 100% sure it would turn out to be bogus, I'd have avoided the story, so I guess I have a bit of doubt. Which is actually what I think is really blogworthy here: how much do we really know about Allawi?

Anything can get reprinted. It's the reporter's apparent history of credibility, his interview account of why he thought this was not an ordinary Baghdad rumor, & the naming of the three alleged victims that convinced me it should be taken seriously.

I'm actually serious about this: what should the standard be?

Well so am I.

Again, my issue is simply the weakness of the report, nothing more. There certainly is the strong possibility this story may have legs, no denial there, but at the same time there is nothing wrong with pointing out it weakness, my intent here.

Edward, you do an excellent job on this blog, I read all of your posts and only comment when I have something to point out or the ability to add a twist or turn in order to provide some background.

On the reporter's credibility, it was a sound report; that is you didn't get a different story when you read south to north. Notwithstanding, I still have the same questions, the day and time this event was to have occurred. By not incorporating that into the article, I have my doubts (and a simple issue to be resolved by the reporter), which is all that I'm saying.

IOW, Timmy is indulging in the Slartibartfastian pause. Otherwise known as Waiting and Seeing.

Some new info up at Atrios - Iraq's Human Rights Minister (interesting title that) and Robin Cook showing interest.

sidereal & Gromit,

Yeah, I hope that I am not coming across as necessarily supporting arbitrary shootings like this, but I do hope that any actions taken against things like this do not result in undue restrictions on soldiers during wartime, especially nebulous wars like the one we are in now.

Also, I honestly do not know what legal rights we should give irregulars. Too much and we tie our hands, too little and we become something that we very much do not want to be. That is why I was asking so many questions.

Now, if Allawi did do this, and he was just a private citizen at the time, then it would be murder. However, I would think that the harm involved to Iraq by bringing down a Prime Minister for something like this would be worse than the harm of leaving him in power. Provided, of course, that we keep an eye on him so that he doesn't try to suspend elections and whatnot.

This also raises the issue of what we do with foreign fighters who come into Iraq and kill some people. Do they get trials just like Iraqi citizens? Military tribunals? What if we do not know what country they came from? What really chaps me is when folks complain about indefinite imprisonment of such people, but do not seem to consider the alternatives. Things like this are, unfortunately, one of them.

Something there for everyone.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad