"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

My Photo
Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Thursday, October 21, 2004

A Schoolgirl Riddled With Bullets. And No One Is To Blame

Questions remain after Israeli unit commander is cleared of Palestinian pupil's death

The undisputed facts are these: it was broad daylight, 13-year-old Iman al-Hams was wearing her school uniform, and when she walked into the Israeli army's "forbidden zone" at the bottom of her street she was carrying her satchel. A few minutes later the short, slight child was pumped with bullets. Doctors counted at least 17 wounds and said much of her head was destroyed.
Beyond that there is little agreement between the army top brass and Palestinian witnesses as to how Iman came to die last week, or even among members of the military unit responsible for killing the child in Gaza's Rafah refugee camp.

Palestinian witnesses described the shooting as cold-blooded. They say soldiers could not have failed to see they were firing at a child, and she was killed as she already lay wounded and helpless.

"Some soldiers were lying on the ground and shooting very heavily toward her," said Basim Breaka, who saw the killing from her living room. "Then one of the soldiers walked to her and emptied his clip into her. For sure she died on the second or third bullet. I could see her lying on the ground, not moving. I can't imagine why that soldier wanted to shoot her after she was dead."

This week an army investigation cleared the unit's commander after some of his own soldiers accused him of giving the order to shoot knowing the target was a young girl, and of then emptying the clip of his automatic rifle into her.

On the day she died, Iman left home shortly before 7am for the short walk to school in Rafah's Tal al-Sultan neighbourhood. The school, facing the heavily militarised border with Egypt, is under the shadow of a towering camouflaged Israeli gunpost.

Like almost every other building in the area, Iman's school is pockmarked by bullets. Last year, a 13-year-old boy was shot dead by the army outside the school. This year, two pupils and a teacher were wounded by bullets inside the grounds.

Iman walked past her school with her satchel over her shoulder, crossed the road and climbed down a small sandy bank to an area that was an olive and citrus orchard until the army's bulldozers flattened it in April. She had entered the "forbidden zone" next to the watchtower where any Palestinian risks being shot.

The schoolgirl kept on walking toward the tower but was still several hundred metres away when two shots caught her in the leg. She dropped her bag, turned, tried to hobble away, and fell.

Four or five soldiers emerged from the army post and shot at her from a distance. Palestinian witnesses and some Israeli soldiers say that the platoon commander moved in closer to put two bullets in the child's head. They say that he then walked away, turned back and fired a stream of bullets into her body.

Iman's corpse was taken to Rafah's hospital and inspected by Dr Mohammed al-Hams. "She has at least 17 bullets in several parts of the body, all along the chest, hands, arms, legs," he said. "The bullets were large and shot from a close distance. The most serious injuries were to her head. She had three bullets in the head. One bullet was shot from the right side of the face beside the ear. It had a big impact on the whole face. Another bullet went from the neck to the face and damaged the area under the mouth."

The doctor said that the nature of the wounds suggested that Iman was already dead when some of the bullets hit her. The army swiftly blamed Iman for her own death by entering the forbidden zone. At first, the military said soldiers suspected the girl was carrying a bomb in her satchel. When it turned out there was no bomb, it said she was being used by Palestinian combatants to lure troops from their post.

But some soldiers in the unit responsible, the Shaked battalion, were outraged at what they saw as a cover-up. One told Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that a soldier in the watchtower had told the company commander that he was about to shoot a child: "Don't shoot, it's a little girl".

"The company commander approached her, shot two bullets into her, walked back towards the force, turned back to her, switched his weapon to automatic and emptied his entire magazine into her. We were in shock. We couldn't believe what he was doing. Our hearts ached for her. Just a girl of 13," a soldier told the newspaper.

Other soldiers said that if the company commander was not dismissed they would refuse to serve under him: "It is a disgrace that he is still in his position. We want him kicked out."

The accounts of Palestinian witnesses back the claims of the protesting soldiers.

Fuad Zourob was working at a small brick factory overlooking the area where Iman was shot. "The girl was walking in the sand. She was shot from the army post. She was hit in the leg and she was crawling.

"Then she stood up and started to try and run and then she fell. The shooting went on. The soldiers arrived by foot. One came close to the girl and started to shoot. He walked away, turned back and then shot her some more," he said.

Yousef Breaka watched from the balcony of his second floor flat. He owns the 12 acres of bulldozed land beside the building which Iman crossed minutes before she was shot.

"The first shot came from the army post. It hit her in the leg. She was starting to walk on and then fell. She dropped her bag. They were firing, heavy shooting. I am sure she died before the two soldiers came and shot her bag and then her," he said.

Mr Breaka's living room wall is decorated with the holes of nine bullets fired from the Israeli army watchtower two years ago. A tenth bullet killed his 80-year-old mother, Jindiya.

Neither Iman's father, Samir al-Hams, nor the witnesses know why the girl walked into the forbidden zone.

"I can't explain why she was there. I've asked everyone and no one can explain it. Perhaps she just wanted to walk on the sand. Perhaps she was confused. I don't know," said Mr al-Hams.

Mr Zourob was surprised to see Iman walking at the back of his factory. "I was astonished. I didn't know why she was there. No one goes toward that area. She was alone but some of the schoolchildren were calling her: Iman, why are you there?" he said.

The watchtower sits atop a large hill of sand. It is surrounded by barbed wire and other defences. Even before she was hit in the leg, it would have taken Iman 10 minutes or more to scramble up the hill. Once she was wounded, there was little chance she could have got to the watchtower.

If she was carrying a bomb, it could have harmed Israeli troops had she got close enough to them. But after Iman was shot in the leg she dropped her school bag.

Palestinian witnesses say soldiers pumped it full of bullets, establishing that it was not a bomb, but still went on to shoot the girl.

The Israeli army's rules of engagement permit soldiers to wound a person who enters a security zone and does not heed warning shots to leave. But once the person is wounded, soldiers are only permitted to kill if there is an imminent threat to their lives. Witnesses say Iman was helpless and posed no such threat.

Her father is a teacher at a primary school neighbouring his daughter's. "The day Iman was killed, the headmistress of her school called me at 8.15 and asked why she wasn't at school. I said I had no idea.," he said.

"I ran to the school. The teachers and headmistress told me the army shot toward a small girl but she was fine, don't worry. I calmed down a bit when I heard that and thought maybe they shot toward her to make her afraid and arrested her for interrogation and they will release her. But then they declared her dead. That was the worst moment in my life."

This week, the officer responsible for the Gaza strip, Major General Dan Harel, completed his investigation and pronounced that the company commander had not acted unethically in the shooting of Iman but was being suspended for losing the confidence of his soldiers.

The speed of the investigation has revealed once again the cursory nature of the army's inquiries into such shootings. A more thorough investigation usually only follows if there is external pressure, such as in the case of three Britons shot dead by Israeli soldiers over the past two years.

The military has quietly dropped an investigation into the killing by an Israeli sniper of a brother and sister, both teenagers, in Rafah in May. The army falsely claimed that the pair were killed by a Palestinian bomb and only began the investigation after journalists found the bodies of the children and reported that both had a single shot to the head.

Under pressure from the revelations of the Shaked battalion soldiers, the military police has launched a separate investigation into the death of Iman al-Hams. The soldiers say they will insist that it is completed.

Chris McGreal in Rafah
Thursday October 21, 2004
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

Denver Archbishop: Voting for Known Pro-Abortion Candidates is a Sin

Criticizes use of liberal Catholic 'seamless garment' philosophy to
sideline abortion issue

DENVER, October 20, 2004 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In an October 6 interview with New York Times writer David Kirkpatrick, Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput laid out the Catholic Church's reasoning as to why voting for known pro-abortion politicians is sinful.

Responding to a question about voting for pro-abortion politicians and it's sinfulness, the Archbishop explained, "Does our voting for someone make us responsible for what that person does as a legislator or as a judge?…And the answer is yes, because we are in some ways materially -- we use the word "materially" -- cooperating in that person's activity because we've given [him or her] the platform to be elected."

Chaput continued, "Now, if the person does something wrong, are we responsible for that? Well, if we didn't know they were going to something wrong, our participation is remote, but if we knew they were going to do something wrong and we approved of it, our responsibility would really be close, even if we knew they were going to do something wrong and we voted for them for another reason, we would still be responsible in some ways."

Concluding the point, he said, "The standing is that if you know
someone is going to do evil and you participate in that in some way, you are responsible. So it's not…'if you vote this way, should you go to confession?' The question is, 'if you vote this way, are you cooperating in evil?' Now, if you know you are cooperating in evil, should you go to confession? The answer is yes."

Archbishop Chaput also criticized the controversial 'seamless garment' philosophy which attempts to equate abortion with other issues affecting life such as poverty and environmental
concerns. "A lot of Catholic Democrats, whether they are clergy or laity, have used the "seamless garment" as an excuse to sideline the abortion issue, making it one among many others. And, we can't do that," he said.

The Denver church leader encouraged Catholics to be as "determined and stubborn ... persistent" in their pro-life stand as abortion supporters are in their stand.

Chaput used strong language in an attempt to drive his point home to a generation of Catholics who are uneducated in the teachings of the faith. "I think Catholics have to grapple with the fact that their moral positions impact their relationship with the Church. And they haven't often thought of that, you know? 'I know abortion is wrong, but if I vote for abortion, that doesn't have any impact on me.' Well the Church says, 'Like heck it doesn't. It means you're not a Catholic and you shouldn't receive communion, if you are in favor of abortion.'"

See the full interview (pdf) from the Archdiocesan website:

Support the Right to Refuse!

Rally in support of members of the 343rd Quartermaster
Company who refused orders to go on a suicide mission.

Saturday, 2 pm
Times Sq. Recruiting Station

On Wednesday, October 13, an entire platoon refused to go
on what they called a "suicide mission" in Iraq.

It is vitally important for the antiwar movement to
support members of the military who take a stand.

These soldiers have been placed in danger by the policies
of the U.S. government that have created a climate of
hatred throughout the Arab and Muslim world. The illegal
war against Iraq, the support for the brutalization of the
Palestinian people, the bombing of civilians in Fallujah
and throughout Iraq, and the torture chambers at Abu
Ghraib and elsewhere have engendered a justifiable outrage
throughout the region.

The Pentagon and the brass have repeatedly demonstrated
their disregard for human life by brutalizing and
murdering Iraqi people and by their callous disregard for
the safety and well being of their own troops. Pentagon
officials and the officer corps view front-line troops,
drawn largely from poor and oppressed communities, as
expendable, in the same way they view the Iraqi people as
less than human.

The war in Iraq is illegal. Therefore, every shot fired,
every bomb dropped, every act that supports the war and
occupation is also a crime. Soldiers are obligated under
International Law not to participate in war crimes.
Resistance and refusal is not only justified, it is an
obligation. We support the decision by these soldiers to
refuse orders and we call upon others to also take action
to stop the war.

Join us to demand:

*The immediate release and return home of all of the
soldiers who refused the suicide mission.

*That all charges against them be dropped.

Come out and support the right to resist an unjust &
illegal war.

for more information: 212-633-6646

The International Action Center
mail to:iacenter@iacenter.org

Do They Send Cuban Criminals Back, Too?

Back in Homeland and Behind Bars

Haitians deported by the U.S. for criminal backgrounds find themselves in custody -- and alone -- on arrival in native land.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Clifford Estera was 3 years old when his family left Haiti for Boston, and he puts his chances of re-integrating into the society of his birth at close to zero.

"I have no ties here. I don't know what I'm going to do," he said at the Port-au-Prince airport this week.

For now the 24-year-old will not get a chance to try to fit in. Like two dozen other handcuffed passengers aboard his flight from Miami, Estera was taken directly from the airport to prison, though he has been convicted of no crime in his homeland.

Ending a six-month hiatus that gave the U.S.-backed interim government time to restore some semblance of order after a rebellion, the Department of Homeland Security this month quietly resumed deporting Haitians who were being held at U.S. detention centers for visa violations or those who had served prison terms for criminal convictions.

Returnees such as Estera, who had done time in the U.S. for drug trafficking, were detained on arrival here for fear they would join forces with local gangsters in the interest of survival, Haitian police and justice officials said.

"They already have bad records, and considering the circumstances that prevail in this country, we have to fear they will resume lives of crime," said Wiener Cadet, head of the national security directorate of the Interior Ministry. "We would like to do something to steer them in a different direction, but even those who haven't ever committed crimes can't find jobs here."

Washington has the legal right to deport foreigners who commit crimes in the United States, including boat people who entered the country illegally, acknowledged Smith Barthelus, the Haitian Interior Ministry official responsible for foreign liaison.

But, he said, repatriating longtime U.S. residents with criminal histories contradicts White House pledges to help restore security here after former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled into exile in February to escape the rebellion. Dozens of people have been killed in violence this month, despite the presence of more than 3,000 peacekeepers.

"The government of the United States is not interested in what is going on in Haiti," Barthelus said. "They say they want to help us recover. But if that is true, this [the deportation effort] is certainly counterproductive."

Interim Justice Minister Bernard Gousse asked U.S. officials in April to suspend the deportations because Haiti's police force was in such tatters then that a few hundred armed rebels managed to take control of the country and free all 4,000 detainees in jails and prisons. The freed felons, along with deportees from U.S. correctional facilities, organized kidnapping and drug-running gangs, Gousse said.

U.S. officials informed the Haitian government last month that deportations would resume because American prisons and detention facilities were becoming overcrowded, Barthelus said he was told.

The U.S. Embassy referred queries to the Department of Homeland Security, which did not return numerous phone calls.

Human rights groups agree that the deportations are legal, but they lament the policy adopted eight years ago that allows even long-term U.S. residents to be expelled without recourse.

"Unfortunately, due to many of the changes in the 1996 laws, the list of convictions for which an individual can be deported has increased dramatically, while simultaneously eliminating the ability of a federal immigration judge to even hear a discretionary waiver case," said Jack Wallace, a lawyer with the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center.

Michael Francois, 34, an Orlando construction worker whose family immigrated to Florida when he was 14, served a year in county jail in Panama City, Fla., for a 1995 drug conviction. Free and out of trouble since then, he married a U.S. citizen and had four children. His application for a green card last year triggered a review of his background and alerted authorities to his criminal record, which led to his deportation.

"I know they most likely won't let him back now that he's already in Haiti," said his brother, Frank, who had been petitioning members of Congress to thwart the deportation since Michael was placed in a Miami-area detention center in November. His family was unaware that he had been deported until contacted by a reporter.

Politicians from states with large Haitian American populations have been lobbying for temporary protected status for Haitian natives.

"It is simply unconscionable that the Bush administration should continue to deport Haitians — some of them long-standing U.S. residents — under these circumstances," said Rep. Kendrick B. Meek (D-Fla.), noting that the State Department last week deemed the Caribbean nation so unstable that it recalled nonessential diplomatic personnel.

Haitian authorities have no grounds to indefinitely imprison the deportees because they are not wanted for any crimes here, said Cadet, the national security chief. Yet all but one of the 49 flown here since Oct. 4 remain in a dank penitentiary because authorities fear they might align with street gangs, he said.

"They will stay in jail for a while. We'll have a committee look into each case and see if there is some family member who will take them," he said, speculating that it would be at least a couple of weeks before any were released.

The sole deportee not jailed was released by police en route to the prison, an unauthorized move that was being investigated, officials said.

One returnee said it was wrong that he was back in jail.

"I done paid my dues already," said Arrioce Almonor, a warehouseman from Fort Lauderdale who has spent nearly half of his 27 years in Florida. He served six months in a county jail for cocaine possession in a plea bargain — unaware, he said, that he could face deportation.

"I have a green card. I work and pay my taxes. My people are all [U.S.] citizens and I don't know nobody here. Why is it one strike and I'm out?"

Carol J. Williams, Times Staff Writer