Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The rape of the Sabrine woman

I try to treat any claims about Iraq with a healthy scepticism, so I knew the (alleged) gang rape of Sabrine al-Janabi was going to cause me some difficulties. I really don’t want to suggest that she is lying, nor do I think she is, but so far I only have her word, and the accusation is culturally powerful and is already having significant political repercussions, so a little caution is called for. Unlike Riverbend (note: she has two posts on the subject), I don’t consider it impossible that an Iraqi woman would lie about being raped “simply to undermine the Baghdad security operation.” Lying publicly about rape would be a new, previously unthinkable phenomenon in Iraq, but so is suicide bombing. Indeed, telling the truth about being raped is also nearly unthinkable in Iraq, which, as Riverbend herself has pointed out in the past, is why there is almost certainly much more rape being perpetrated under cover of this war than we will ever hear about.

Maliki went into full cover-up mode with a blatant lack of interest in discovering the truth. With unaccustomed efficiency he had “investigated” and completely exonerated the three policemen within hours and “ordered that the honourable officers accused be rewarded.” No word on what the reward is for not gang-raping a prisoner. Is it money? A medal? He accused “known groups,” which he did not name, of being behind the charges. Janabi is accused of taking money, and of having recanted her story, by other government officials. Maliki’s office is saying medical examination proved that she had not been raped, but other Iraqi officials, Sunni ones of course, are saying the opposite. She seems to have been examined by US military doctors, who aren’t talking. Al Jazeera says she was (also?) examined at an Iraqi hospital which an official in the vice president’s office describes as an “unbiased hospital.” (Update: the unbiased hospital is American-run, not Iraqi. A military spokesmodel for the hospital, trying to be as uninformative as possible, said “She received the care she needed.” Actually, that implies that she needed medical care for something.) Much more sliming and lying to come, I’m guessing.

Oh, the alleged crime for which she was arrested was suspicion of having cooked for insurgents.

Speaking of which, oh goody, presidential election ads already. Here’s Romney’s ad, if you want to see a white guy speaking before an all-white audience with a giant flag in the background.

Well, I think he’s running for president. It says “Mitt Romney. President.” Also “Strong. New. Leadership.” “Period. Button. Stuck.” “.......”

Interestingly, it called him “the Republican governor who turned around a Democratic state.” Should presidential candidates be defining states, even their own, as Republican or Democratic?

At least he didn’t call it a Democrat state.

Romney has also been having difficulties explaining why he voted in the 1992 Democratic presidential primary. He’s attempting to portray himself as having been a rabid R for longer than he actually was (he also contributed to D candidates) and he’s contradicting his previous explanation that he voted for Paul Tsongas because he was from Massachusetts, but let’s put that to one side, because what he’s saying now about that vote tells us something about what sort of a politician he is. He’s saying that he wasn’t voting in favor of Tsongas, he was voting against Clinton, that he was voting for the weakest Democratic candidate because he actually wanted Bush the Elder to win; Bush had the R primary locked down, so Romney was free to use his ballot... to cause mischief. A terrible civics lesson from a man with an impoverished, cynical understanding of democracy.

Michael McConnell, the successor to John Negroponte as Director of National Intelligence, was sworn in today at an Air Force base, for some reason.

Remind you of anyone?

And Chimpy was there too. “I’m comfortable in knowing this is a good man who cares about one thing only, and that’s his country. And I thank his family for supporting him as he returns to government service.” Especially since Bush just said he only cares about one thing, and it’s not his family.

“I’ve asked him to ensure that our intelligence agency focus on bringing in more Americans with language skills and cultural awareness necessary to meet the threats of this new century.” Honestly, Bush talking about language skills takes all the fun out of blogging, it’s just too damned easy.

“He’ll find that I value the intelligence products that you create. He’s going to find that the intelligence product is an important part of my strategic thought, and important part of helping me get this government to respond to do our most important duty, which is to protect you.” Bush had to call it “intelligence product,” because otherwise that sentence would have been “He’s going to find that intelligence is an important part of my strategic thought and... why is everyone laughing?”

McConnell warned that “today’s threats move at increasing speeds. The time needed to develop a terrorist plot, communicated around the globe, and put it into motion has been drastically reduced. The time line is no longer a calendar, it is a watch.” So any Muslim found in possession of a watch will henceforth be sent to Gitmo.

That would have been a funnier joke if people hadn’t actually been sent there for having a brand of watch (Sanyo?) favored by terrorists.

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