Tuesday, January 29, 2008
That was the humorous segment of todays post, now for the not so funny stuff.
Pioneering Blackwater Protesters Given Secret Trial and Criminal Conviction
By Jeremy Scahill, AlterNet. Posted January 29, 2008.
Last week in Currituck County, N.C., Superior Court Judge Russell Duke presided over the final step in securing the first criminal conviction stemming from the deadly actions of Blackwater Worldwide, the Bush administration's favorite mercenary company. Lest you think you missed some earth-shifting, breaking news, hold on a moment. The "criminals" in question were not the armed thugs who gunned down 17 Iraqi civilians and wounded more than 20 others in Baghdad's Nisour Square last September. They were seven nonviolent activists who had the audacity to stage a demonstration at the gates of Blackwater's 7,000-acre private military base in North Carolina to protest the actions of mercenaries acting with impunity -- and apparent immunity -- in their names and those of every American.
The arrest of the activists and the subsequent five days they spent locked up in jail is more punishment than any Blackwater mercenaries have received for their deadly actions against Iraqi civilians. "The courts pretend that adherence to the law is what makes for an orderly and peaceable world," said Steve Baggarly, one of the protest organizers. "In fact, U.S. law and courts stand idly by while the U.S. military and private armies like Blackwater have killed, maimed, brutalized and destroyed the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis."
A month after the Nisour Square massacre, on Oct. 20, a group of about 50 activists gathered outside Blackwater's gates in Moyock, N.C. There, they reenacted the Nisour Square shooting and staged a "die-in," involving a vehicle painted with bullet marks and blood. The activists stained their clothing with fake blood and dramatized the deadly shooting spree. Some of the demonstrators marked Blackwater's large welcome sign -- with the company's bear claw in a sniper scope logo -- with red hand prints. The demonstrators believed these "would be a much more appropriate logo for Blackwater," according to Baggarly. "We're all responsible for what is happening in Iraq. We all have bloody hands." It took only moments for the local police to respond to the protest, the first ever at Blackwater's headquarters. In the end, seven were arrested.
The symbolism was stark: Re-enact a Blackwater massacre, go to jail. Commit a massacre, walk around freely and perhaps never go to jail. All seven were charged with criminal trespassing, six of them with an additional charge of resisting arrest and one with another charge of injury to real property. "We feel like Blackwater is trespassing in Iraq," Baggarly later said. "And as for injuring property, they injure men, women and children every day." The activists were jailed for five days and eventually released pending trial.
When their day in court arrived, on Dec. 5, the activists intended to put Blackwater on trial, something the Justice Department, the military and the courts have systematically failed to do. Their action at Blackwater, the activists said, was in response to war crimes, the killing of civilians and the fact that no legal system -- civilian or military -- was holding Blackwater responsible. The Nisour Square massacre, they said, "is the Iraq war in microcosm."
But District Court Judge Edgar Barnes would have none of it. So outraged was he at Baggarly, the first of the defendants to appear before him that day, that the judge cleared the court following his conviction. No spectators, no family members, no journalists, no defense witnesses remained. The other six activists were tried in total secrecy -- well, secret to everyone except the prosecutors, sheriffs, government witnesses and one Blackwater official. Judge Barnes swiftly tried the remaining six activists behind closed doors and convicted them all. It was as though Currituck, N.C., became Gitmo for a day.
It's not unusual for a judge to clear a courtroom when there is a disruption by the public. Nor is it rare for judges to try to prevent activists from turning the tables and attempting to put the government -- or in this case a mercenary company -- on trial. But witnesses that day report that there was no disruption -- and the defendants say they were immediately cut off when they strayed from the narrow scope of the trespass charge to discuss Blackwater's actions or the war. So why clear the courtroom? That may be a question for Judge Barnes in the end, but it's hard not to view his conduct through the same veil of secrecy that shrouds all of Blackwater's actions -- and the seemingly endless lengths to which the Bush administration will go to protect Blackwater.
That was certainly how the activists saw it. "He didn't want people influenced by our message," Baggarly said. "There have been hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties in Iraq. If we're going to speak about that, nobody is allowed to hear it."
The North Carolina chapter of the ACLU quickly stepped in, saying it knew of no similar action in any previous criminal trials in the state. "It's a clear violation of constitutional rights, not only of the defendants but the press and public," said Katy Parker, the group's legal director. "They have a right to a public trial, so any trial that goes on behind closed doors is a farce." She added, "We are very concerned about this reported disrespect for the laws of our land by a member of the judiciary, especially in a controversial and politically laden case such as this." The ACLU filed a complaint against Barnes with the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission, asking it to investigate him.
Secret trials? WTF??? Could fascism be even more entrenched into American society than previously thought? Well I tell you what, January next year the Democrat elected needs to get right on the goon squads and put them back in hell where they came from.
Blogging from the house today, enjoying the liquid diet prep for the colonal invasion ahead tomorrow, fresh coffee in the corner and fruit juice on the side, dig in!